Lisa Miller and Stephen Colbert on Heaven

Lisa Miller, religion editor of Newsweek, mixes it up with Stephen Colbert on the topic of heaven, the subject of her new book, called, well, "Heaven."  Enjoy. 

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James Martin, SJ

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David Nickol
8 years 7 months ago
Colbert never fails to amuse. 
I have the book, but have not yet read it. When I think of heaven, I always remember this passage from C. S. Lewis's book A Grief Observed:
. . . . But don’t come talking to me about the consolation of religion or I shall suspect that you don’t understand.
Unless, of course, you can literally believe all that stuff about family reunions “on the further shore,” pictured in entirely earthly terms. But that is all unscriptural, all out of bad hymns and lithographs. There’s not a word of it in the Bible. And it rings false. We know it couldn’t be like that. Reality never repeats. The exact same thing is never taken away and given back. How well the Spiritualists bait their hook! “Things on the other side are not so different after all.” There are cigars in Heaven. For that is what we should all like. The happy past restored. . . .
Lewis goes on to ask why, when he is suffering from bereavement, Joy Davidman [who is never called by name] should be thought to be happy in the afterlife. Because she is in God's hands? ''But if so, she was in God’s hands all the time, and I have seen what they did to her here,'' Lewis says. 
Devon Zenu
8 years 7 months ago
I suppose I'll have to pick up the book to see what Lisa Miller has to say, but it seems to me from the interview that she is conflating several concepts that should be kept distinct. What the Jews came to believe in during the last several hundred years before Christ was not ''heaven'' in the sense of a blissful place where the spirits of the righteous go to reside after death. Rather they came to believe that at the end of the age there would be a resurrection. First, the dead would rise bodily from their graves to be judged. Then the righteous would enjoy eternal life in an earth restored to its created goodness, and the wicked would be punished. In this conception of the afterlife, heaven remained the realm of God, and humans returned to inhabit the earth which had come under the reign of heaven. (See the very bodily terms in which the Jewish martyrs expressed their hope in 2 Maccabees 7.) While our modern inclination is to see the language of a bodily resurrection as a metaphor for ongoing spiritual existence after death, N.T. Wright has argued persuasively in his big book on the resurrection that it is in fact the language of ''shining like stars'' (cited by Miller in the Colbert interview) that would have been understood in late-2nd Temple Judaism to be a metaphor for resurrected bodily existence.
I am quite curious as to when a purely spiritualized concept of heaven appeared and how it became such a deeply rooted part of popular Christian piety. About the only biblical example of this kind of heaven I can think of is in the story of Lazarus and the rich man. Did it start with the gnostics or did it come from Neo-Platonic influences on Christian theology?
8 years 7 months ago
I am certainly not an expert of this but Plato was very influential after his death and up to this very day.  His view was that there was an eternal spirit called the soul within each individual which would never die.  While this is not anything like Catholic belief which is a revealed belief, it indicates what some were thinking a couple thousand years ago.
Bill Collier
8 years 7 months ago
I'm surprised Colbert did not allude to the revealed truth about heaven in the Book of The Simpsons:


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