My Musings

Going to Heaven, Part I

Going to Heaven, Part I

This came to me in a personal e-mail from a Stanford University professor:

    I view the focus on going to heaven as a selfish aspect of Christian faith that I refuse to embrace…l I’m not convinced that what matters MOST is going to heaven, not if that leads to hell on earth.

POW returning home

Is it selfish for a prisoner of war to want to go home and see his family? Is it egocentric for a wayward son yearning for pig food to want to return to his father’s house? Jesus called it “coming to his senses.” (Luke 15:17)

Desire is not synonymous with selfishness. Jesus appealed to our best desire when he said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8). It is no vice to desire that for which we were made–eternity with our Maker.

C.S. Lewis (1898 – 1963) answered this objection with a similar point, saying, “Marriage is the proper reward for the real lover and he is not mercenary for desiring it.” (from. The Weight of Glory, a sermon delivered at Oxford, England on June 8, 1941). Lewis went further, noting that God actually finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. In the same sermon, he wrote:

    We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

I also question the professor’s suggestion that longing for heaven leads to hell on earth. Completely unlike Lewis, Adolf Hitler held the desire for heaven in great disdain. He thought it took the people’s minds off of seeking supremacy here and now. Hitler loved to tell a story about the fruitful garden he tended compared with a nearby weed patch which he neglected and called “God’s garden.” His point was that reliance upon God diminishes our focus on being productive on earth. Hitler preached, “We don’t want people who keep one eye on the life in the hereafter. We need free men who feel and know that God is in themselves.” (quoted by Hermann Rauschning in Hitler Speaks, 1939).

Harz National Park

When it comes to tending gardens, I’ll take God over Hitler any day. Behold the gorgeous Rhineland, the Swiss Alps, Yosemite (California), Harz National Park (Germany) or the Isle of Skye in Scotland. Not bad, eh? Moreover, it was actually Hitler’s unheavenly focus that, in his case at least, led to a lot of hell on earth.

C.S. Lewis again affirmed the desire for heaven in his classic, Mere Christianity:

    A continual looking forward to the eternal world is not a form of escapism or wishful thinking… If you read history, you will find that the Christians who did the most for the present world were just those who thought the most of the next. (Book III, Chapter 10, ‘Hope’)

Lewis comfortably carried his desire to be with God in heaven alongside his desire to live well here on earth. In Mere Christianity, he advised, “Aim at heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in.’ Aim at earth and you will get neither.”


The professor cited above proceeded to ask me where I thought heaven was; a question I plan to take up in part II. .


Photo Credits:

Featured Image

Harz National Park

POW Returning Home


About the Author:

Joel graduated from Pepperdine University with a B.A., completing two majors: Art and Religion. He went on to earn the Master of Divinity degree from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. The views expressed on this blog are personal and belong to Joel Solliday unless otherwise stated. They are not, intended to characterize the views of the Lewiston Church of Christ or other organizations to which I may refer.

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