On TV last night, Barbara Walters talked for two hours about heaven and hell.
Watching parts of it reminded me how unintelligible such discussions are outside the means of grace.
What is heaven? Where is it? Who goes there?
Sure Richard Gere, Mitch Albom, and Caroline Kennedy can offer their answers. But they are just words. They sounded hollow to me, even when religious leaders rather than celebrities offered the answers.
I tried to figure out why this is.
Part of it is that Christianity does not have a settled answer to questions about what heaven is like. It does not even have settled answers to the question of what happens after we die, not in the immediate term. The answer to the question “who goes there?” is contested, too. Any simplistic answer to the question is incomplete and implies more unity than we have.
The other part has to do with Scripture, liturgy, the sacraments, and other means of grace. Heaven as the kingdom of God cannot be abstracted from these.
So, in one sense, if Barbara Walters asked me these questions, I would have answers I could give, but I’d want to insist before I gave them that we first turn to the Psalms and read. Let’s pray the Lord’s Prayer. Let’s talk about the liturgy for our baptismal service.