Saturday, December 17, 2011

Time & Eternity I

Christopher Hitchens' death has occasioned all sorts of public reflection on the nature of death and life after death and faith and its opposite certitude. It feels like the moment I might finally get around to writing about an issue I've been thinking about for many months – the nature of eternity.

First though, my own opinion of Hitchens. I didn't like him. Not because of his atheism or his drinking. Drunk atheists aren't uncommon – just as drunk true believers aren't uncommon. What bugged me was his arrogance. He decided that the US was right in attacking Iraq and could not bring himself to show a little humility when he turned out to be wrong. Salon has a great article about Hitchens' errors and his inability to back down on the Iraq question.

Hitch wasn't the only death that awakened thoughts of eternity. The Duggers, of the TV show "19 and Counting" fame, “lost” their 20th child. Michelle Dugger was told at her December 9 doctor's appointment that the child she was carrying no longer had a heartbeat. She miscarried the baby two days later. UK's Daily Mail reported on December 15:
Amy Duggar, a cousin who frequently appears on their hit TLC reality show tweeted the picture, saying: 'RIP precious Jubilee Shalom Duggar! Can't wait to meet you someday, thank you Lord for giving our family peace.'

So what happened to Hitchens after his death? What happened to “Jubilee Shalom Duggar” before her life?

Some evangelical thought would, of course, put Hitchens in a gruesome sadistic place of torment – thrown there for endless torturing by the will of a vengeful and hatefilled absolute deity – a power lacking the moral sensibility that most humans are capable of. On the other hand, the Dugger cousin, and probably the Duggers too, seem to picture a world that is essentially like this one, but without a the finality of death.

Eternity then isn't qualitatively different from time. It is essentially the same as time, but longer and without death. That's the only difference.

But if that's the only difference, eternity isn't eternity. It's just overtime. Like the overtime at the end of a regular soccer game – if you've been interrupted or play has stopped in life you get to have an extra three minutes, only the extra three minutes just keeps going on and on and on.

1 comment:

David Ainsworth Cook said...

Carl, like you, I spend a fair bit of time thinking about death, eternity, the afterlife, wondering what Heaven is like, etc. The death of Hitchens did not prompt me to question his fate but the subsequent public articles have all made me wonder where various ideas people express about his fate came from, as well as where various ideas about God have come from. As far as Hitchens is concerned, I can't help but think of two things from the Bible, which are that God "introduces" who He is to the Hebrew people in the 10 Commandments by saying that He is a jealous God, and the other thing I keep thinking about is the oft repeated statement regarding Jesus, "Whoever denies me publicly then I will deny." As far as the rest of it about Hitchens, I agree with you, he's actually a common type. As far as the Duggers go, having been through three miscarriages of our own family, I deeply sympathize. I wonder about those babies -- not every day, but often, because of what King David said about going to where his infant son "is", and a feeling that David understood a lot of things better than I do and perhaps in a spiritually inspired way. I find myself missing parents and friends and wanting to go talk to my ancestors, so I probably have what some people would call "a morbid preoccupation with death" as in I am heartily ready for the ticket, my bags are packed, let's go. The Bible has many passages where eternity and judgment are spoken of so enthusiastically that it sounds like cheering at the game.

God bless,