Monday, March 14, 2011

Thought Exercise: Jesus or Heaven?

The following parable was written by Peter Rollins in his book, The Orthodox Heretic: And Other Impossible Tales.  When I first read it a few years ago, it rocked my faith (in a very good way).  If you are a person of faith, do yourself a favor and take a minute to read it.  It is a very challenging and worthwhile thought exercise:

You sit in silence contemplating what has just taken place. Only moments ago you were alive and well, relaxing at home with friends. Then there was a deep, crushing pain in your chest that brought you crashing to the floor. The pain has now gone, but you are no longer in your home. Instead, you find yourself standing on the other side of death waiting to stand before the judgment seat and discover where you will spend eternity. As you reflect upon your life your name is called, and you are led down a long corridor into a majestic sanctuary with a throne located in its center. Sitting on this throne is a huge, breathtaking being who looks up at you and begins to speak.
“My name is Lucifer, and I am the angel of light.”
You are immediately filled with fear and trembling as you realize that you are face to face with the enemy of all that is true and good. Then the angel continues: “I have cast God down from his throne and banished Christ to the realm of eternal death. It is I who hold the keys to the kingdom. It is I who am the gatekeeper of paradise, and it is for me alone to decide who shall enter eternal joy and who shall be forsaken.”
After saying these words, he sits up and stretches out his vast arms. “In my right hand I hold eternal life and in my left hand eternal death. Those who would bow down and acknowledge me as their god shall pass through the gates of paradise and experience an eternity of bliss, but all those who refuse will be vanquished to the second death with their Christ.”
After a long pause he bends toward you and speaks, “Which will you choose?”


Korey said...

Wow, I've heard of Rollins, but have never read any of his works. Now I will.

As for the thought, I would like to think I'd choose Christ, but I have been surrounded by an ideology that seemingly only needs Christ for heaven's sake.

As humans, we want in the hereafter what we think we deserve, an eternity of bliss; this parable certainly puts things in perspective.

Anonymous said...

The problem is that this hypothetical is a false choice. Unless the author is trying to suggest Christ at the point of His death for our sins (and leaving aside the mysteries of the Trinity that would also make the scenario impossible) a defeated Christ trapped eternally in the second death is not the actual Christ of the Bible. That Christ, the real one that Christians follow, has promised eternal life and triumph. Heaven is what it is because of Christ's holiness, power, and His victory.

The hypothetical posits a false Christ, not equal to the devil. God would not send us His person as such a Christ, and Christians are commanded by the true Christ himself not to follow false ones.

(I'm leaving out the detailed bits about people's misunderstanding of heaven - God is creating a new heaven and earth, after all.)

Korey said...

I thought it was written in the style of a parable. I don't think it's about dissecting the parable's ability to pose as a valid hypothetical; parables are not meant to be viewed in the same way. Nor is it about discrediting that which you directly see but rather your ability to see what is indirectly suggested.

It's allegorical; it doesn't necessarily stand up to the same tests as beliefs or doctrines or even philosophical arguments.

I think the author is asking the reader to examine their motives for following Christ. Has He affected you in the sort of way that you would follow him even if eternity or heaven weren't part of the deal, or is claiming your prize at the end of life your driving motivation to follow Him?

Holly Cardone Stauffer said...

Why does Hell or Heaven have to be someplace else other than where we are now? We don't know what happens when we pass on, (well, I do, because my friend Shawn died tragically in a drowning accident and then visited me in a dream but that will have to be a conversation for another day) but we have the opportunity to live eternally today with Christ, not tomorrow or sometime in the distant future or when we die but now. The eternal now that in union with God makes every moment on alive heaven. That whole Lucifer thing, please, he sounds like a big a bully with a little penis.

The Broken Pastor said...

It's a parable. And though it's not one of Jesus' parables, it does seem to get at the sort of thing Jesus' parables did: the heart of the hearer(s). What's going on in me? How do I hear these words and why? Is there anxiety? Do I question, even for a moment, if there's a teeny-tiny bit of truth?

Those who have ears, let them hear.

Anonymous said...

It's a trick, it's a trick! Could be just a test of your faith. You never know.....

That's why faith is bad.

StillThinking said...

My honest visceral first response: Nice try.

Lucifer you're deluded--you have dreamed, yet again, yet again, that it's over.

Wake up.

Kyle Mullaney said...

Quite simple. Heaven is where Christ is! That is where I will go!
It is IMPOSSIBLE that it be otherwise.
Why worry about this? Well simply it is the hope of the christian life! That there is a day coming free of sin, free of death, free of suffering, when Christ calls us home to be with Him for all eternity! We are here to endure those things that we would be a witness of light and joy, which Christ will supply in the here and now, till he calls us home.

Keith Brenton said...

"Yeah, dude. I've seen what your kind of bliss is like, on earth, while I was alive. You're not the one I bow the knee to."

Sure, it's an impossible tale. So it deserves an impossible answer!

Fajita said...

This is a great parable because if it is entered into, then it forces to the surface what life is all about.

Closer to home, we have this choice every single day. Do we not answer this question now?

This is a lot less theoretical than we want it to be.

Look at how churches spend their budgets, how we spend our budgets. i look at myself and find i am taking the choice of Lucifer...sometimes not even aware of it.

I am really bothered by this Rollins guy.

Jane Hinrichs said...

I still haven't read Rob Bell's Love Wins yet, but i love your take on it. It is sad to me how easily we Believers criticize other Believers. In fact, it seems in the case of Rob Bell, that other "famous" Christians or those who wish they were as famous as Bell, were eager to slam him even before the book came out. Where's the love? They will know we are Christians by our love? I sure hope so.