Eternal Life – Will We Still Need God?

This past month, I have been reading through Kathryn Tanner’s book Jesus, Humanity, and the Trinity. It is a thoroughly good read so I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in theology. For this post though, I’d like to discuss my thoughts that have originated from her final chapter on the character of Christian Hope.

Since I’m no real theologian of my own right (yet), this post will be entirely critical without too much of a constructive element to it, but here it goes anyways. When thinking about what the average American Christian layperson or pastor believes about Eternal Life, it seems as if this is how the belief could be laid out:

1. We will be in a state of greater moral capacity or perfection. Our wills will be transformed so that we desire the good above all else and there will be no more sin.

2. Our existence will not be subject to decay or death. I choose to write “existence” because, although, most would say that our physical bodies are resurrected on the Last Day and our “souls” are reunited to them in Heaven, I have met many average Christians who tend to believe that our souls will just be floating around in heaven as if we are flying angels without tangible physical bodies (I’m not a substance dualist so I don’t think there are “souls” and “bodies” anyways, but that’s for another post).To state this as clearly as Tanner does in her critique of these positions, there will be a new set of natural laws unlike those ones ordering our world today so that our bodies and cells do not break down or die, leading to our possession of immortality.

Our existence will not be subject to decay or death. I choose to write “existence” because, although, most would say that our physical bodies are resurrected on the Last Day and our “souls” are reunited to them in Heaven, I have met many average Christians who tend to believe that our souls will just be floating around in heaven as if we are flying angels without tangible physical bodies (I’m not a substance dualist so I don’t think there are “souls” and “bodies” anyways, but that’s for another post).To state this as clearly as Tanner does in her critique of these positions, there will be a new set of natural laws unlike those ones ordering our world today so that our bodies and cells do not break down or die, leading to our possession of immortality.

There you have it.

Many of you reading this could very well be thinking, “Well, that’s exactly what I believe!” I’m surely not here to dogmatically say that you are wrong, but I would like to rethink this particular view of eternal life so common in contemporary eschatology.

If we possess perfect wills without an inclination to sin, and our existence will not be affected by death and decay, in what sense could one say we still needed God?

Yes, that was the question. Why would we still need God?

To put it more clearly, at this point in our glorification, what more use will we have of God?

As expressed earlier, our wills no longer need transforming and our bodies no longer need sustaining, so why else would one need God? There will not be any sin, so God will not be needed to comfort us or give us mercy. It seems as if we will be completely fine without God at this point.

You may be thinking that because our wills will be without sin, our desire will always be for God. Sure, I will grant that, but a DESIRE for God is different than a NEED for God. Or, one could say that the act of God transforming our bodies and wills is an indication that without God we could not be in that state of perfection without decay. I will grant that as well, but once again, this only says that we needed God at some past point and not after the fact of our complete transformation.

Where does this leave the situation? I think that it leads to a discussion of whether or not a need for God is necessary. Is it necessary to have a theology in which a continual need for God exists in eternal life?

Without going into a lengthy discussion, I think that positing a need for God even in the afterlife is absolutely necessary. Then how might one get to that place? Well, like I said in the beginning, I’m not ready to offer a constructive theology just yet, but I will say a few things.

I think the most important tenant to hold to when constructively thinking about eternal life is that our life will be IN Christ. I’m not here meaning a literal, physical, existence inside the spatial Christ, but I mean it to be that our eternal lives will be in Christ similar to how our Christian lives on earth are said to be life in Christ. At this point though, I feel the need to leave my readers hanging. Both to allow me time for an upcoming constructive blog post and to allow the reader to think through the issues on their own.

Try to think about whether or not your own eschatology requires a need for God, and determine whether or not a need for God is necessary.

In Christ,

Vincent

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One thought on “Eternal Life – Will We Still Need God?

  1. Pingback: An In-Depth look at “Jesus, Humanity, and the Trinity,” by Kathryn Tanner – Part 4: The End | School of Religion

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