"Soft immortality" or eternal life?

Shiao Chong

Shiao Chong
September 12, 2014

When considering "soft immortality," Christians must remember that the Bible suggests eternal life is qualitatively, not merely quantitatively, different from our current lives.

September 12, 2014

Such a great post, Shiao. I always hear someone musing about how heaven sounds boring--like one really long church service where we have the dubious "privilege" of singing God's praises forever, like the umpteenth million time through "How Great Is Our God." Even to the sincerest of believers, that sounds pretty tortuous.

But you're so right: eternal life in Christ is something no eye has seen and no ear has heard. I think one of the pinnacles of faith is trusting that eternal life is something so wonderful we simply can't conceive of it in these sin-tainted bodies of ours.

Thanks for sharing!

September 13, 2014

Shiao and Jkana, great posts, and I’ve actually been thinking about this a lot lately—- specifically how will art be quantitatively better in heaven. Part of what makes TV shows and movies like Breaking Bad and The Godfather so interesting is the conflict and resulting pain they contain. What would the blues be without heartbreak? What would novels be without a villain?

So it makes me wonder what really good TV shows and movies will look like in heaven. What will heaven's great novelists write about? Will it be an eternity of praise music?

But then I'm reminded: In the broken world we live in now, God has blessed us with SO MANY different musical styles, movie styles, lit styles, art styles, etc., so I find it hard to believe that in the new world God will turn us into praise robots only to sing in an eternal chorus of "How Great is Our God," with harps. An eternity without human creativity and art does sound torturous. But as Shiao says, things will be quantitatively better in heaven, so I have to think the things we enjoy here (creating, reading, painting, acting, playing in a rock band/orchestra, etc) will also be present in heaven...only better!

But then I come back to:

How WILL we experience really good art in an eternal existence that doesn't have pain and suffering? How will art become quantitatively better in eternity? Will we still be able to appreciate the great artistic creations by humans from this life? Thoughts?

Shiao Chong
September 13, 2014

Hi Steve and JKana.
Thanks JKana for the comment. I agree that simply singing the same praise songs over and over for eternity sounds more like punishment than reward! I believe that God does not plan to have us spend eternity in a disembodied heaven but in an embodied (resurrected bodies) new heaven and earth (Revelation 21). Hence, although we would sing praises to God, I doubt that is all we will do. Worship, for me, means more than simply singing or praying. Worship is placing God at the center of all our lives. Singing praise is one tangible expression and reminder of that.

Steve, my reply here to your question is purely conjecture.

If we look to Jesus' post-resurrected body/reality as our guide, then, even though we may no longer experience pain and suffering in the new heaven and earth in our resurrected bodies, we may still retain the memories of pain and suffering. I always found it intriguing that Jesus' scars from his crucifixion remain in his resurrected body. Those scars are tangible reminders of the pain and suffering he went through.

Would it be similar for us in our resurrected bodies in the new heaven and earth? Do we carry both physical and emotional scars, albeit healed scars, from our past? Do they shape us to become better servants for God in the new heaven and earth? And hence, can we still remember and understand pain and suffering, even if we no longer experience them again? Would that help us to continue creating and appreciating art that involves conflict and resolution?

Furthermore, there is also a difference between theoretical knowledge and experiential knowledge. By God’s grace, I have never tried hallucinogenic drugs or got addicted to them, and I hope that I never do. But never experiencing the horrors of drug addiction does not mean that I cannot theoretically know and fear its evils. And that is with a sin-tainted mind. With a resurrected body and mind freed from the shackles of sin, no one knows what and how much theoretical knowledge we might appreciate and understand without ever having to experience them. The human imagination, freed from sin’s restraints, might be able to imagine even more than we have now. We might be able to imagine evil without ever practicing, embracing or succumbing to it.

So, I think – though as I say, this is conjecture – that we will still be able to create great art in the new heaven and earth, and I dare say, we can still do great science – imagine the discoveries and inventions we can make of the new earth with our new redeemed minds and hearts!

September 14, 2014

Interesting ideas. Thanks for taking the time to consider my questions and reply!

September 15, 2014

Immortality in a fallen world? I'll pass.

Eternal life with the One who is the source of all that is good? Sign me up!

Add your comment to join the discussion!