Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in.
Aim at earth and you get neither.
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
Lewis masterfully rendered profound insights about Heaven in both thought and image; I still remember the brilliant hope I felt when I first read the end of The Last Battle. I believe, however, that Lewis left a gap in both kinds of treatments that others have only partially filled, resulting in damaging thoughts and practices in Protestant Christianity. Based on Scripture and pertinent literature, I propose to address this lack by describing the characteristics of Real Heaven, exploring its implications in integrated written, spoken, and video poetic form.
I started writing about Heaven while researching Creating Local Arts Together (WCL 2013) in 2011. While drenching myself in biblical discussions of the kingdom, along with Alcorn, Spurgeon, Lewis, Willard, N.T. Wright, Middleton, and Ladd, I discovered that every goal we wanted to help communities reach intimated something that will be fully true when God reclaims everything. The promise of “Your kingdom come, your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven” fueled my descriptions of shalom, justice, witness, spiritual formation, church life, and Scripture. Heaven exists on Earth concretely—even measurably—and can increase.
During this time, my journal was punctuated with poems that God seemed to pour through my head, heart, and pen in short bursts, all beginning with, “Soul, when you first wake in Heaven…”. He outlined clear contrasts between the old and new in relation to worship, memories, slavery, laughter, insanity, relationships, senses, suffering, legalism, God, our bodies, and Adonis. I recorded these as Spoken Word audio files, and video editors are now helping turn them into word videos.
Why So Focused on Heaven?
Western Christians by and large think and live as though Heaven exists as a vague, future reality, as consisting entirely of corporate worship, or as a set of good works we do with little regard for Christ’s lordship and ultimate return. Alcorn, Lewis, Wright, and others offer articulate engagement with ideas about Heaven, but the church has not embraced their import. And many missions organizations—including the World Evangelical Alliance and my own, Wycliffe and SIL—remain staunchly immune to the clarifying, holistic theology of Real Heaven. Witness Christopher Wright’s magisterial The Mission of God--(2018): though he tucks away references to the kingdom of Heaven in support of his primary arguments, none of the headings or sub-headings in the nine-page outline includes either the word Heaven or kingdom. I believe the combination of novel theological presentations with imagination-engaging artistry will draw people into a more complete view of Heaven and its implications for their lives.
If we are created in the image and likeness of God, then whatever good, true, or beautiful things we can say about humanity or creation we can also say of God exponentially. God is the beauty of creation and humanity multiplied to the infinite power. —Richard Rohr
Real Heaven is Like This (in part, of course)