Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Will Everyone Go to Heaven? Part III

(For commentary on the Readings for this Sunday, scroll down to a lower post)
It is appropriate to blog on the topic of universal salvation on the Feast Day of St. Bernard (Aug. 20), who made a comment that is very relevant to the discussion: "What we love, we shall grow to resemble."  I affirm this principle articulated by St. Bernard, and would further propose that the live of Christian discipleship is a training in love, such that we learn to love what is true, good, and beautiful, and in this way become suited for the experience of heaven.  On the contrary, a lifestyle that turns its back on Jesus Christ and his teaching tends invariably toward love of self, and becomes a mis-formation in
love such that we end up loving that which is false, evil, and ugly, and thus become unsuitable not only for heaven but even to desire heaven.

To explicate these ideas, I propose to engage in some thought-experiments.  I warn the reader in advance that the thought experiments are not pleasant, but then, what we are dealing with is extremely serious.

We are trying to grasp how anyone could not desire heaven. (continued below break)

Let's look at it this way.

Imagine you died and went to heaven and stood at the gates with St. Peter.  Gazing into heaven, you see that persons of a certain race are enjoying peace and comfort, while persons of other races are being oppressed and made to serve every whim and desire of the favored race.  Looking in, you feel shocked.  Can this be?  You turn to St. Peter and say, "What's going on?" And he says, "Well, you know, God has favored races after all, and the best of heaven is only for the master race ..."

What would your reaction be?  Perhaps it would be this: "This is terribly wrong! This cannot be!  You cannot be the St. Peter who's intercessions I sought, this cannot be the heaven of the true God, this must be some kind of demonic illusion!" And if given the choice of entering this kind of heaven, perhaps you would say, "No! If this is heaven, then give me the alternative instead!"  For who could be eternally happy living in comfort at the expense of the sorrow of others?

Now, let's place the shoe on the other foot, and imagine Adolf Hitler dying and going to heaven.  As he looks in the pearly gates, he sees the souls of millions of unfavored races he despised, including millions of those killed by his orders or because of his policies.  And all mankind are gathered around the Son of David, Jesus the Christ, the heir of the people of Israel, revealed now as the true God.  Shocked, Hitler turns to the man at the gate, whom he doesn't recognize, and says, "This is awful!  What is going on?"  And St. Peter says, "You're in heaven, and seeing that God made one man and woman from whom the whole family of humanity has descended, and he loves no race or nation above another, save that he chose the descendants of Abraham, the people of Israel, not for their own sake, but as the instruments of salvation for all people.  And I hate to break it to you, Adolf, but you've gone done in history by common consensus as easily one of the top three most evil and despised persons in the human race."

What would Hitler's reaction be?  Perhaps we'd like to think there was instant repentance and confession of sin, but I suspect more likely his reaction would have been the same as ours in the first scenario.  "What!  This is awful!  This cannot be!  This cannot be the ultimate truth of the god I served!  If this is heaven, give me the alternative!"

I propose that when a person like Hitler has so constructed him- or herself around a false ideology, good becomes evil and evil good for them.  They cannot see the goodness of the Good, and the Good loses its attractiveness for them.  They no longer desire it, and choose something else of their own making.  The choice of that other thing--whatever it may be (pleasure, power, wealth, ideology, etc)--is ultimately only a proxy choice for choosing themselves. Ultimately, there is only one choice in life: the choice of self or God, which is the same as the choice of selfishness or Love (self-less-ness).

to be continued

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