joi, 29 mai 2008


Where have we come from, and where are we going? Can we know the answers? One person certainly did. 'I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father,' he said (John 16: 28).

The man of the world believes this life is the only life he has, and lives and acts according to that belief. If there is an after life, he thinks, we do not know much if anything about it, and the best thing to do is to enjoy the life we have on this earth and make the most of it.

Most religions, on the other hand, place a strong emphasis on the after life. Most religious people believe that the next life will either be wonderfully happy in heaven or horribly miserable in hell for ever. Our final destination depends on our faith or actions in this life. Many people hold this theory, but few of them are able to live in accordance with what they believe. Most of them watch the majority of their fellow beings, usually including many of their own relations, heading for eternal torment, and feel powerless to do anything about it.

Hindus and Buddhists believe in reincarnation. We progress through many lives on this earth, they believe, hopefully making spiritual progress each time we come, until we finally attain enlightenment and do not need to return. I do not believe this teaching, but I do find it more logical than the idea that we have one short - maybe very short - life on earth after which we will go immediately to eternal bliss or eternal torment (more probably the latter) depending on decisions often made with little on which to base them.

I believe in the eventual restitution of all things or universal reconciliation. God plans 'to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross' (Col 1: 20). I also believe that we pre-existed as spirits with God before we entered our earthly bodies.

These two beliefs change the whole perspective of our earthly life. It becomes a smaller part of something very much larger. The vast differences in our experiences and opportunities in this world become much smaller when seen against a background of what went before and what comes afterwards.

We will examine the scriptural evidence for our pre-existence, but, before we do so, we will consider how such a view could be correct if so few people now believe it or have seen it in scripture.

Why truth is hidden
Firstly, truth is hidden until God chooses to reveal it. In the old covenant, truth was hidden in types and shadows - pictures and stories - and later revealed when Jesus came as the mediator of the new covenant. The truth was there, but hidden until the time came for its revelation.

Most obviously this was true when the apostle Paul re-read the Hebrew scriptures with enlightened eyes, and saw things which he said were 'the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him' (Rom 16: 25, 26).

In the new testament, Jesus spoke in parables so that truth could be revealed to those whom he chose, but not to the multitudes.

So we will find some truth stated clearly in scripture for all to understand. Other truth we will find hidden in all kinds of ways, limited only by the imagination of God. Laws, stories, words, numbers and much more, all contain truth that God is able and willing to reveal when and to whom he pleases.

Secondly, we find that truth is hidden by man's sin and corruption. The doctrine of universal reconciliation is hidden by mistranslation of key Greek words. The church in general knew little of a gospel of grace and mercy, and needed a doctrine of eternal damnation to control its members and frighten them into submission. The ecclesiastical authorities were more than happy with inaccurate translation.

Thirdly we find that truth is hidden behind other truth. The traditional church view of eternal judgement makes it quite impossible for anyone to believe in any kind of pre-existence. Jesus said that he came from the Father and went back to the Father. Could it make any sense that we also came into this world from the Father, and the majority of us then went on to the devil? What father could send his children on any venture that in all probability would end in their suffering unspeakable torment for ever and ever?

If you hold the traditional majority teaching that most of the human race is destined for perpetual and indescribable torment, then pre-existence with God becomes an absurd impossibility.

The teachings of universal reconciliation and pre-existence are linked. If you believe in eternal damnation, you cannot possibly believe in. pre-existence as a spirit with God. If you believe in pre-existence, it is a strong argument for believing in universal reconciliation.

Fourthly, I must add that many in the early church believed both in universal reconciliation and in pre-existence. I've read that 'Until the sixth century A.D., early Christianity taught that we had a pre-earth life. Then the doctrine of a pre-existence was condemned by the council of Constantinople in A.D. 553.' Like many other truths, these truths were lost until the reformation and more recent times.

We will look now at universal reconciliation. I have written separately on this subject, under the title Universal Reconciliation, and so will write only briefly here.

The Life to Come
Does the Bible really teach that unbelievers will suffer eternal torment? I believe the answer is an emphatic NO.

Most English Bible translations contradict themselves on the subject of salvation. The following verses state directly or indirectly that all mankind will eventually be saved:

For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive (1 Co 15: 22)

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross (Col 1: 19, 20).

And every created thing that is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, "To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honour and glory and dominion and power for ever and ever" (Rev 5: 13).

For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things (Rom 11: 36).

Other scriptures indicate that the majority of mankind will go into everlasting torment. Here are 3 of them:

Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels (Mat 25:41).

They will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up for ever and ever ... (Rev 14: 10,11).

Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life (Mat 25: 46).

They will be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power (2 Thes 1: 9).

At face value these, and many other scriptures contradict each other. The problem is solved when we turn to the original Greek. The words translated for ever and ever (eiV aiwnaV aiwnwn) should rightly be translated for ages of ages. The word translated everlasting or eternal (aiwnioV)should be translated age-lasting.

Future, corrective punishment exists, but its duration is not for ever and ever. Fire and brimstone (sulphur) are both purifying agents. The lake of fire - the second death - will serve its purifying purpose, and will cease to exist when Christ overcomes death, the last enemy. The time will then come when, according to John's vision, 'every created thing that is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, (will be) heard saying, "To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honour and glory and dominion and power for ever and ever"' (Rev 5: 13).

We can now consider the scriptural arguments for pre-existence as spirits with God.

Jesus pre-existed
Many scriptures testify to the pre-existence of Jesus. 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God' (John 1: 1). 'He made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness' (Phil 2: 7). He himself said, 'I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father' (John 16: 28). He had no doubts about where he came from, and none about where he was going. He came from the Father and was returning to the Father. He also said, 'Before Abraham was, I am' (John 8: 58).

Jesus had no doubts about his own pre-existence, but what did he say of his disciples? Referring to them, he said: 'As you sent me into the world, I sent them into the world' (John 17: 18). In Greek the verb sent is in the simple past tense in both parts of this statement, though some English translations change it to have sent in the second part.

In Ecclesiastes chapter 12 we find a poetic description of old age and death. It ends with the words: 'Remember your creator in the days of your youth … before the silver cord is severed, or the golden bowl is broken; before the pitcher is shattered at the spring, or the wheel broken at the well, and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it' (Ecc 12: 6, 7). This is a clear and unambiguous statement. The spirit came from God and the spirit returns to God.

Jeremiah describes his call to God's service as follows: 'The word of the Lord came to me, saying, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations"' (Jer 1: 4, 5). God knew Jeremiah before he entered his mother's womb. This also indicates that Jeremiah (and we) existed as spirits before we entered our human bodies.

Dead and alive
Turning to the New Testament, we find the truth of our pre-existence implied, rather than stated. The New Testament describes the unbeliever as being in a state of death. Jesus said, 'I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has passed from death to life' (John 5: 24). You can't pass from death into life, unless you are in a state of death. Paul wrote, 'God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions' (Eph 2: 5). John uses similar language: 'We know that we have passed from death to life' (1 John 3: 14). Jesus, Paul and John all describe unbelievers as being dead. The word dead, according to both my dictionaries, means no longer alive. In other words, you have to be alive first before you can be dead. You know whenever you see a dead animal or bird or plant that it was previously alive. The scriptural teaching that the natural man is in a state of death implies that in some way he has previously been alive.

Similarly Paul describes people as alienated from God: ‘Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behaviour. But now he has reconciled you’ (Col 1: 21). You can only be alienated from people whom you previously knew and with whom you had good relationships. You cannot be alienated from people you never knew in the first place. If we start our lives on earth in a state of alienation from God, then we must have previously existed in good relationship with him.

Paul writes at some length on the subject of reconciliation to God: 'All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God' (2 Cor 5: 18-20). Reconciliation does not mean making friends with someone you've never met and don't know. It means restoring a relationship that previously existed and has been broken. So we cannot be reconciled to God unless we previously knew him and were in relationship with him. If indeed it is true that 'I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me' (Ps 51: 5) then that previous relationship can only have been in a previous existence.

The word redeem with its imagery tells us the same story. The meaning of the word redeem is to buy back what one previously owned. You cannot redeem something that was not previously yours. The meaning comes from the laws of the Old Testament. We find a clear illustration in Leviticus 25: 25: 'If one of your countrymen becomes poor and sells some of his property, his nearest relative is to come and redeem what his countryman has sold.' Not only property, but also people could be redeemed: 'he retains the right of redemption after he has sold himself. One of his relatives may redeem him: an uncle or a cousin or any blood-relative in his clan may redeem him. Or if he prospers, he may redeem himself' (Lev 25: 48, 49). Again we see clearly that redemption brings a person back to the free status he previously enjoyed. We see that we belonged to God before birth into our physical bodies and consequent sin separated us from him.

We must now take a fresh look at John chapter 3, the chapter where Jesus speaks about the new birth. Or does he? You may be surprised to know that the phrases new birth and new life occur nowhere in the Bible. Instead we find the words rebirth and resurrection. In fact new birth and re-birth are almost opposite in meaning. One has happened before, and the other has not. Nicodemus misunderstood Jesus when he asked, 'How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?' Jesus was not referring to a repeat physical birth, but to a repeat spiritual birth. When we enter this world, we suffer spiritual death through sin. We must be born again into spiritual life.

We experience spiritual death when we enter this world. Jesus was without sin, and therefore did not experience spiritual death when he took a human body. For him, both physical death and spiritual death took place when he carried our sin and suffered on the cross. Similarly he experienced both physical and spiritual resurrection when he rose from the dead. Our spiritual resurrection is the same as our spiritual rebirth. It takes place when we receive Jesus as our saviour. Our bodily resurrection is yet to come.

So we find that the words redemption, reconciliation, rebirth and resurrection all tell us the same story. We are returning to a state we previously experienced and enjoyed.

Chosen before the foundation of the earth
Paul wrote, 'He chose us in Him (Christ) before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him' (Eph 1: 4). Were we chosen before we existed? It's possible, but it certainly makes better sense if we already existed before the foundation of the world at the time when we were chosen. This scripture also suggests an existence before we came into this world.

Living in tents
'Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling' (2 Cor 5: 1). Paul here describes the human body as a tent or temporary dwelling. In normal thinking we do not progress from tents to houses. We live in houses and move temporarily into tents and then return to houses. Bible imagery was the same. Abraham dwelt in tents, but was born in a solid house in Ur of the Chaldees. God instituted the festival of tabernacles (tents) to remind the people of Israel that they had dwelt in tents during their journey from Egypt to Canaan. To describe the body as a tent naturally implies both pre-existence and post-existence in a more permanent state.

Strangers and foreigners
We find this phrase in 1 Pet 2: 11: 'Dear friends, I urge you, as strangers and foreigners in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul' and Heb 11:13: 'confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth.' You can only be a stranger or a foreigner if you have come from somewhere else. The Greek word for foreigner (parepidhmoV) means someone who comes from a foreign country.

Came naked into the world
'For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either' (1 Tim 6: 7). These words of Paul also imply both pre and post existence. To take something out implies going to another place or existence. To bring something in implies coming from another place

An Alternative Explanation
At this point we must consider an alternative explanation for some (but not all) of the above scriptures. Paul wrote, 'As in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive.' Death, alienation, reconciliation and redemption can all be seen as happening to the human race as a whole, rather than to each individual member of it.

The story of the children of Israel in Egypt supports this view. God redeemed the people as a whole from Egypt rather than as individuals. Jacob went down into Egypt with 70 people. Many more were then born and died in Egypt. Generations later Moses then brought a million or so people out of Egypt. No individual went down into Egypt, lived there, and then returned to the land of Canaan. Only the people as a whole did that.

So is it individual members of the human race that die and become alive, are alienated and then reconciled, and are sold into sin and then redeemed? Is it not rather the human race as a whole?

The answer is not either .. or, but both .. and. These things happen both to the human race as a whole and to its individual members.

The scriptures have many interpretations and fulfilments. All too often one valid interpretation of scripture has blinded our eyes to any other! Every one knows that the Holy Spirit descended on the church as a whole on the day of Pentecost. Generations of believers have been blind to the fact that he also falls on individuals.

Books have been written about the wonderful way in which Jesus fulfilled the festivals of the old covenant and the Tabernacle. We thrill to the greater understanding of Jesus that such writings have given us. However we are thrilled a second time when we see that the ancient festivals also are a pattern for our own spiritual growth and walk with God.

The scriptures contain heavenly patterns, which often have more than one earthly fulfilment. So also death and resurrection, alienation and reconciliation, slavery and redemption happen in different ways to the Jewish people, the human race as a whole, and also to its individual members.

An Anecdote and a Poem
One day a very little girl told her parents that she wanted to go and talk to their new baby on her own. The parents had installed an intercom so that they could hear when baby cried. They told her to go ahead and wondered what she was going to say. With the intercom switched on in the baby's room, they were able to listen to everything the little girl said. She went over to the crib and the parents heard her say, "Since I have been on the earth I have forgotten what Father was like. Could you tell me what He is like?"

This beautiful little story is reminiscent of the following lines from the ode: Intimations of immortality from recollections of early childhood by the English poet William Wordsworth:

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting
The soul that rises with us, our life's star

Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar;
Not in entire forgetfulness
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy.
Shades of the prison-house begin to close
Upon the growing boy,
But he beholds the light, and whence it flows,
He sees it in his joy.
What implications does pre-existence have, and how does it change our attitudes?

We will consider first general implications and then personal implications.

General Implications
Traditional teaching has presented this life as the start of our existence. This life might be long or short, happy or miserable, privileged or unprivileged, lived in heathen darkness or with every opportunity for spiritual light. Some people are born into a good family in a free country and live many years in health and happiness and plenty. Others are born into poverty and depravation or under evil governments, or live their lives with every kind of suffering for no obvious fault of their own.

The man of the world repeatedly tells us it is unfair. How can God be just when existence is so unequal?

In the past we might have replied that this life is not the whole story. Anyone who repents of his sins and believes in Jesus for salvation will go to heaven when he dies, and his sufferings will turn to infinite joy. The unrepentant will go into eternal torment.

Our friend replies that this is even less fair. Not only is this life unjust, but the next is infinitely worse. Many people live out this life in suffering and misery, only to find that far worse awaits them in the eternity that follows.

Thank God the true gospel is infinitely better than this. Our life in this world is a small part of a vastly greater picture. It is neither the beginning nor the end. Our true beginning with God was good. Our eventual state with him will be better far. That state of heavenly blessing can begin for us even now.

Paul wrote: 'our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all' (1 Cor 4: 17). Jesus himself suffered beyond anything we may imagine, when the inconceivable darkness and burden of the sins of the world broke his hitherto perfect communion with his father. In varying degrees all other members of the human race suffer a breach in their relation with our Father. Finally all will return to perfect communion with him. Long or short, small or great, the suffering of this life will seem little compared with the glory that will eventually come for all mankind.

Someone looking at one square inch of a great oil painting could easily say that it made no sense. Reveal the whole picture to him, and he would see a brilliant masterpiece. When we look at this life with our limited human sight, we are seeing only a small part of a vastly greater whole. God’s creation is like an enormous and perfect tapestry. For now, we can see only an infinitesimal part of it. He looks at the whole from eternity to eternity and declares, as recorded in the book of Genesis, that it is very good.

Personal Implications
What difference does our pre-existence make for us at the personal level?

We are returning, like the prodigal son, to a father we have previously known and loved. We are not going to a new country, where we have never been before. We come back like a traveller from a foreign country to the home and place where we belong.

Reconciliation with God is not making friends with someone we've never met before. It is restoring a lost and broken relationship, and lifting it to a new and far more wonderful level.

We are not purchased by a new owner whom we have never met, but redeemed by our original loving heavenly Father.

marți, 27 mai 2008

God, Zen and the Intuition of Being

It is within the context of the intuition of being that the question of the existence of God must be placed. Without this intuition, the conceptual statements that are framed to prove the existence of God will remain flat and unconvincing. Logic alone does not have the ability to make us see. St. Thomas could never have imagined a metaphysics without God at the center of it, and God was not superimposed on his metaphysics because of religious reasons, but was the very heart of the intelligibility of his metaphysics. We start with the most basic facts of everyday existence and by means of the intuition of being we follow them inwardly and see that they point towards existence itself. Existence as received and contracted, this or that existing being, is not possible without there being existence unreceived. The intuition of being is the opening of our eyes to how every existing thing points to existence itself. St. Thomas gives his five ways leading to the existence of God, and Maritain adds a sixth, and there are others, but they must share the common essential ingredient of an intuition of being which vivifies them. Once the basic insight is in place, it is possible to grasp why St. Thomas gave God the attributes that he did.
There is no intellectual intuition of God Who is Himself existence. The limited and received existence of the beings of our experience demand there be a center to the circle on pain that there would be no beings. As soon as we disengage being as being from the empirical being of this or that existent, we must posit existence in itself. Essence must be finally understood as a certain capacity to exist and essence-existence or being must be finally understood in relationship to unreceived existence.

Here we have reached the limits of conceptual or essentialistic understanding. God does not possess a capacity to exist. He is without essence in this sense. There is no reception or contraction of His existence by His essence. He is His existence. All essences are measured in relationship to Him. God is not a being among beings. He is not something among other things. It is possible to call Him no essence, no-thing, if we keep clearly in mind that this is not nothingness or no nature, but no potential or capacity.(30) He is not nothing, for existence is all actuality and reality. We cannot contain God within our concepts. We can say true things about Him basing ourselves on the very structure of the things that exist around us, but the way He exists in Himself is beyond our comprehension. Maritain writes that the concept of being:

"Is one in a certain respect, in so far as as it does make incomplete abstraction from its analogates, and is disengaged from them without being conceivable apart from them, as attracted towards, without attaining, a pure and simple unity, which could alone be present to the mind if it were able to see in itself - and without concept - a reality which would be at once itself and all things. (Let us say the concept of being demands to be replaced by God clearly seen, to disappear in the face of the beatific vision.)" (31)

In the intuition of being we glimpse the transessential nature of existence, but this is simply a weak reflection of what existence itself must be, of what God, esse subsistens, is like. Maritain again:

"The analogical infinitude of the act of existing is a created participation in the unflawed oneness of the infinity of the Ipsum esse subsistens; an analogical infinitude which is diversified according to the possibilities of existing. In relation to it, those very possibilities of existing, the essences, are knowable or intelligible." (32)

duminică, 25 mai 2008

How do we know that we exist?


by Ryder Penn

Look at me! I am an essay! Wow! Look how well I am written! I am the best essay! I am eight pages long, double-spaced, with 12 point font. Or am I? My author believes in the law of existence, a crazy notion by Rene Descartes and will argue that I exist, but I, believe in Friedrich Nietzsche's nihilism, and will prove the essayist wrong. The author will start off by giving a philosophy, but I am going to state hard facts. It will be up to you, the reader to decide who is right, who is wrong.

The author argues: “This paper is real! Look at it! I can feel it and you can feel it! You are becoming an active part of this realism, and because you are using your faculties to read, all this becomes real. Descartes would say: “I think therefore I am,” this comes from his Discourse On Method. In addition, according to The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, the word "exist" means, “To have actual being; be real.” To be real you have to be genuine and authentic, not artificial or spurious. These words are all authentic. My own hand formulates the words on this paper. They come out of my mind; these words do exist. If I were to push the delete button then the paper would not exist. If I were to run my finger along its edge, I would feel the pain of a paper cut. I would feel that wound for days.

The pragmatic view is what William Shakespeare states in his play called the Merchant of Venice: "If you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? If you poison us do we not die? And if you wrong us shall we not revenge?" Shakespeare's words live on today. His words inspire other writings; his words can make you cry, laugh, and marvel at the phenomenal writer he was. Shakespeare died almost 400 years ago; he had to exist to write. He had to be real to have thoughts; he had to have an imagination. Other philosophers beside Descartes argue for existence like Pete Mandik and Chris Eliasmith. The Metaphysics of Science by philosopher Craig Dilworth says:

Briefly, a realist about x holds that x enjoys mind-independent existence, that is, x exists regardless of whether anyone thinks, hopes or fears that x exists. It may sound odd to demand of minds and other things mental that they have mind independent existence, but the claim, for instance, that my mind is mind independent just means that I have a mind regardless of whether anyone thinks, hopes, or fears that I do. As well, a realist insists on there being explanations of the empirical world (including minds) in terms of the real world. Thus, a complete theory of the mind should explain the existence and functioning of minds in terms of the reality lying behind their empirically testable properties. This expectation strongly contrasts with the strictly empiricist position of phenomalists.

Hold on! Hold on! I have to interrupt. I mean this author is rambling on and on, sighting this example, then another, but is utterly failing to prove existence. The writer, comments about existence, even giving a definition, but she fails to site the definition of realism. Basically the author gives circular logic stating: "the meaning of real is to exist." This circular reasoning gives me room to wonder where this logic is coming from. Does the argument give hard facts? No, the rational isn't factual, how can you argue using examples from nonexistent playwrights and nonexistent philosophers?1

In fact, there is nothing that can be proven without some doubt, which means nothing at all and that existence is futile belief. I could be a great wonderful dream an Ethics teacher was having one night. You, the reader could be a brain in a jar, being stimulated by probes, I was a part of that mental stimuli. There is no logic in saying that feelings prove existence.

Moreover, that can also be said for pain, perception and my list can go on and on, but I, unlike the author, won't bore you with trivialities. I am no more real then the air you breathe; that isn't real either. I cannot feel the air, nor touch it, but you say it exists? Does air cause you pain to breath it? Does it give you any feelings of any kind? No it doesn't! That is the author's whole logic! I hope you are reading this. Simply because you touch something doesn't mean it's there. It means only that your brain was fed a signal that understands it to mean something is there. In reality, all you really know is that you are somehow being fed simultaneous impulses that seem to be the movement of your eyes, arms, etc. How can you confirm that your arms and legs actually exist?

In other words, have you ever had a dream that seemed completely real? Had a dream where you did things, said things, ate things, experienced things that seemed absolutely real? Well, here's the thing -- you had that dream while lying flat in a bed with your eyes closed. You didn't actually see or hear or touch or experience anything, but your brain was being fed impulses that it processed into the dream experience you had. We dream in the REM stage of sleep, yet those dreams are not real, how can one know for certain that we are not dreaming all the time?

The author is pushing me out of the way, so the propagation of the writer's argument continues. Be careful! Her logic is very random and vague. The author says: “How is haphazard logic such as a brain in the jar proving anything? Goodness! The paper even goes so far as to site dreaming as an example! Those are its' "hard facts?" Who does it quote from? Where are its scientific facts? The paper raises too many questions and so few answers. Therefore it is my belief that relativism holds truth and value are relative to an observer or group of observers. We are all observers. There is no way to explain the truth behind the fact that millions of Americans watched the destruction of the twin towers in New York. That event existed along with countless others throughout history. The mere fact is that by me, the author, creating this essay, it will be read by many and will by that fact live on.

Let ME interject! There is no ME! I am just paper! I cannot breathe! I do not have an essence! I do not have the power to debate! The only reason I am debating is because my author has created me to do so. I have no soul. This is a mere paper in which if there were no trees, there would be no me. If I was real; paper, and papers come from trees. Trees are predominately in the forest then I must be in a forest. To put it another way “Man's life is but a jest, /A dream, a shadow, bubble, air, a vapor at the best.” George Walter Thornbury, The Jester's Sermon. Or better shown is the passage in A Psalm of Life by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. In which he says: “Tell me not, in mournful numbers, / Life is but an empty dream! /For the soul is dead that slumbers, /and things are not what they seem.”

I laugh at the paper! Did the paper not say that quoting from "unreal, nonexistent" authors was futile? In this last argument the paper hypocrisy of deceit finally plays itself out. However, I believe what Descartes said:

Reason instructs us that all our ideas must have some foundation of truth, for it could not be that the All-Perfect and the All-True should otherwise have put them into us; and because our reasonings are never so evident or so complete when we sleep as when we wake, although sometimes during sleep our imagination may be more vivid and positive, it also instructs us that such truth as our thoughts have will be in our waking thoughts rather than in our dreams.

It is only with our belief in God that we are able to live and be. Without God, life is not worth knowing. Also only from God we have eternal knowledge and know-how. Our life, power, all our know-how comes from Him.

WHOA! Hold on, the author is now pulling god in this discussion! Does the writer suggest that in order to prove existence there has to be a god? What a joke! It is based on this "god" joke that her argument will now fail. God is an invisible friend for grown-ups; he is non-existent and senseless being. For this god is a conclusion someone made up one day to explain the universe. In actuality the universe doesn't exist any more then I do. Sure, the author will debate that pictures and telescopes show the magnificence of god's creation, but nothing can be proven with certainty. Even the fact that I am arguing is senseless and meaningless, for isn't the author stimulating all these arguments? If I am just a complex puppet being typed on a page, then why wouldn't the author also be a pawn masquerading by stimuli? How can the author prove otherwise?

Stop! These crazy ramblings by the paper! The paper is now reverting back to previous arguments and going nowhere with them. Lets say for a minute that the paper is right and we are puppets being pulled by strings, then someone has to pull those strings, right? The paper just proved that God exists! There has to be a master puppeteer, and creator of the puppets; that is God. Again if the paper does not exist, then why does it waste time by arguing at all? For doesn't the meaning of nihilism come from the Latin nil which means: nothing? Would the paper say… anything?

Outside Descartes and Nietzsche realms of the mind, what is real? What is imagined? Can we truly ever really know? As a sentient being, I have argued with Descartes for existence, but I failed to prove it! As a forced character, the paper tried to prove Nietzsche's nihilism, but failed in that respect. In Shakespeare's Hamlet, Hamlet says: “yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?” Philosophers all alike follow the labyrinth of the quagmire of humanity. However, it is my opinion, the answer of existence lies in-between. There is no god, no imaginary friend, but existence, that belief is held by most of humanity and because so many people believe it, it is true. Existence will fail if enough people believe it doesn't exist. Even this paper exists because you and I deem that it is there, but is it? If we stopped our fallible belief, then it would be nil.

joi, 15 mai 2008

Divine Destiny And Human Free Will Be Reconciled?

The nature of human free will

Our free will is not visible and does not have material existence. However, such factors do not render its existence impossible. Everyone has two (physical) eyes, but we also can see with our third (spiritual) eye. We use the former to see things in this world; we use the latter to see things beyond events and this world. Our free will is like our third eye, which you may call insight. It is an inclination or inner force by which we prefer and decide.

Man wills and God creates. A project or a building’s plan has no value or use unless you start to construct the building according to it, so that it becomes visible and serves many purposes. Our free will resembles that plan, for we decide and act according to it, and God creates our actions as a result of our decisions. Creation and acting or doing something are different things. God’s creation means that He gives actual existence to our choices and actions in this world. Without God’s creation, we can do nothing.

To illuminate a magnificent palace, we must install a lighting system. However, the palace cannot be illuminated until we flick the switch that turns on the lights. Until we do so, the palace will remain dark. Similarly, each man and woman is a magnificent palace of God. We are illuminated by belief in God, Who has supplied us with the necessary lighting system: intellect, reason, sense, and the abilities to learn, compare, and prefer.

Nature and events, as well as Divinely revealed religions, are like the source of electricity that illuminates this Divine palace of the human individual. If we do not use our free will to flick the switch, however, we will remain in darkness. Turning on the light means petitioning God to illuminate us with belief. In a manner befitting a servant at his lord’s door, we must petition the Lord of the Universe to illuminate us and so make us a “king” in the universe. When we do this, the Lord of the Universe treats us in a way befitting Himself, and promotes us to the rank of kingship over other realms of creation.

God takes our free will into account when dealing with us and our acts, for He uses it to create our deeds. Thus we are never victims of Destiny or wronged by Fate. However insignificant our free will is when compared with God’s creative acts, it is still the cause of our deeds. God makes large things out of minute particles, and creates many important results from simple means. For example, He makes a huge pine tree from a tiny seed, and uses our inclinations or free choice to prepare our eternal happiness or punishment.

To better understand our part, and that of our will power, in our acts and accomplishments, consider the food we consume. Without soil and water, air and the sun’s heat, none of which we can produce or create despite our advanced technology, we would have no food. We cannot produce a single seed of corn. We did not create our body and establish its relationship with food; we cannot even control a single part of our body. For example, if we had to wind our heart like a clock at a fixed time every morning, how long would we survive?

Obviously, almost all parts of the whole complex and harmonious universe, which is a most developed organism, work together according to the most delicate measures to produce a single morsel of food. Thus, the price of a single morsel is almost as much as the price of the whole universe. How can we possibly pay such a price, when our part in producing that morsel is utterly negligible, consisting of no more than our own effort?

Can we ever thank God enough for even a morsel of food? If only a picture of grapes were shown to us, could all of us work together and produce it? No. God nourishes us with His bounty, asking in return very little. For example, if He told us to perform 1,000 rak‘as (units) of prayer for a bushel of wheat, we would have to do so. If He sent a raindrop in return for one rak‘a, we would have to spend our whole lives praying. If you were left in the scorching heat of a desert, would you not give anything for a single glass of water?

How can we thank Him enough for each bodily limb? When we see sick and crippled people in hospitals, or when we ourselves are ill, we understand how valuable good health is. But can we ever thank Him enough for this blessing? The worship God Almighty orders us to perform is, in fact, for our personal benefit and spiritual refinement, and well as for a good personal and collective life. Furthermore, if we believe in and worship God, He rewards us with infinite happiness and bounties in Paradise.

In sum: Almost everything we have is given to us for practically nothing, and our part in the bounty we enjoy here is therefore quite negligible. Similarly, our free will is equally negligible when compared with what God Almighty creates from our use of it. Despite our free will’s weakness and our own inability to really understand its true nature, God creates our actions according to the choices and decisions we make through it.


Is Islamic viewpoint of Destiny and human free will compatible with fatalism?


Most Western Orientalists accuse Islam of being fatalistic. Whereas, except a small sect-Jabriya-no one in the history of Islam has defended fatalism. Almost all the Western philosophies of history and, to some extent, Christianity with all its sects, are, by contrast, fatalistic and based on the irresistibility of what they call historical laws. The outlines of those philosophies of history may be summed up as follows:

Mankind are in a continuous progress towards the final happy end.

This progress depends on the fatalistic, irresistible laws of history which are completely independent of humanity, so humanity must, in any case, obey these laws, otherwise they are certain to be eliminated.

All the stages, primitive, feudal or capitalistic, through which mankind inevitably pass in the course of time to the final happy end should not be criticized, because mankind have nothing to do other than passing through them.

What is implied concerning the political conditions of time by all such philosophies of history may be this: The present socio-economic and even the political conditions of the world are inevitable, because they were dictated by nature, which decrees that only the able and the powerful can survive. If the laws of history dictated by nature are in favor of the West, the communities that choose to survive must concede to the dominion of the West.

What distinguishes the Quranic concept of history from other philosophies is that, first of all, while philosophers of history or sociologists build their conceptions on the interpretation of past events and present situations, the Quran deals with the matter from the perspective of unchanging principles. Second, contrary to the fatalism of all other philosophies, the Quran lays great emphasis on the free choice and moral conduct of the individual and community. Although Divine Will, emphasized by the Quran, could be regarded as, in some respects, the counterpart of the ‘Geist’ in the Hegelian philosophy and of absolute, irresistible laws of history in other philosophies, the Quran never denies human free will. God, according to the Quran, tests humanity in this life so that humanity should sow the ‘field’ of the world to harvest in the next life, which is eternal. For this reason, the stream of events-successes and failures, victories and defeats, prosperity and decay-all are the occasions which God causes to follow one another for mankind, to the end that the good may be distinguished from the evil. Testing must evidently require that the one who is tested should possess free will to choose between what is lawful and unlawful or what is good and bad. Thus, according to the Quran, what makes history is not a compelling Divine Will, rather it is humanity’s own choice, the operation of which God Almighty has made a simple condition for the coming into effect of His universal will. If this point is understood well enough, then it will be easy to see how groundless are the Western philosophies of history especially with respect to their conception of some “inevitable end.”

Destiny and human free will can be reconciled in the following seven ways:

This subject is quite difficult and has long been discussed by exacting scholars who have attached to it great significance.The Divine Destiny and man’s free will can be reconciled in seven ways.

First way

The absolute order and harmony displayed by the whole of creation bear witness that God is All-Wise and Just. Wisdom and Justice demand that man should possess free will so that he may be chastised or rewarded for his acts. Although we cannot know the exact nature of this free will, and we may not be able to reconcile it properly with Divine Destiny, this does not mean that free will does not exist.

Second way

Every person feels himself to possess free will, and perceives it to exist. Knowing the nature of something is different from knowing that it exists. There are many things the existence of which is obvious to us while their nature is not understood. Man’s free will may be one of them. Also, existence is not restricted to the number of the things of which we know, so our ignorance of something does not indicate that it does not exist.

Third way

Man’s free will does not contradict Divine Destiny, rather, Destiny confirms the existence of free will. Divine Destiny is in some respects identical with Divine Knowledge, which goes parallel with man’s free will, in determining his actions, thus it confirms free will, and does not nullify it.

Fourth way

Divine Destiny is a kind of knowledge, and knowledge is dependent on the thing known. That is, conceptual knowledge is not fundamental to determine the external existence of what is known. The known in its external existence is dependent upon the Divine Power, acting through the Divine Will.

Also, past eternity is not, as people imagine, just the starting-point of ‘time’ so that it becomes essential for the existence of things. Past eternity is in fact like a mirror in which the whole of time, past, present and future, is reflected. People tend to, excluding themselves from the passage of time, imagine a limit for past time which extends through a certain chain of things, and they call it azel-past eternity. But to reason according to such an imagining is not right and acceptable. For better understanding of this subtle point, the following example may help:

Imagine that you are standing with a mirror in your hand, that everything reflected on the right represents the past, while everything reflected on the left represents the future. The mirror can reflect one direction only since it cannot show both sides at the same time as you are holding it. If you wish to reflect both directions at the same time, it would be necessary to rise high above your original position so that left and right directions are united into one and nothing remains to be called first or last, beginning or end. As already mentioned, Divine Destiny is in some respects identical with Divine Knowledge. It is described in a Prophetic saying as containing all times and events in a single point, where first and last, beginning and end, what has happened and what will happen, are all united into one. And we are not excluded from it so that our understanding of time and events could be like a mirror to the space of the past.

Fifth way

‘Cause and effect’ are not separable in the view of Destiny, that is, it is destined that this ‘cause’ will produce that ‘effect’. It cannot therefore be argued that, for example, ‘killing a man by shooting him’ should not be regarded as a crime because the slain was destined to die at that time anyway so he would have died even had he not been shot. Such an argument is baseless since that man is actually destined to die as a result of being shot. The argument that he would have died even if he had not been shot would mean that he died without a cause, and in this case we should not be able to explain how he died. It should be remembered that there are not two kinds of destiny-one for the cause, and the other for the effect. Destiny is one. Having been deceived by such a paradox, the Mu’tazili school of thought concluded that ‘the man would not have died if he had not been shot’ (forgetting that it was his destiny to be shot) while the Mujabbira (Fatalists) argued that he would have died even if he had not been shot. The Ahl al-Sunna wa’l-Jama‘a follow the correct view by judging that ‘we do not know whether he would have died or not if he had not been shot’.

Sixth way

The followers of Imam al-Maturidi, one of the sub-schools of the Ahl al-Sunna wa’l-Jama‘a, regarded man’s inclination upon which his free will is based as having nominal value and existence, and accordingly originating in man himself, while the Ash‘arites do not ascribe that inclination to man because they consider it to have a real existence. According to them, man has, however, a nominal or theoretical disposal of that inclination and, because of this, the inclination and man’s disposal of it are a relative matter, not having a definite external existence. Something of nominal and relative existence does not require a perfect efficient cause which would annul man’s free will in his actions; rather, when its cause acquires the weight of preference, it might have an actual existence. In which case, where the Qur’an says, ‘Do not do this, because this is evil’, he may refrain from committing it. If man were the creator of his own actions, then he would himself be the ultimate cause of them, and his will would be cancelled. According to the science of established principles or methodology and logic, if a thing is not necessary, it will not exist. That means there has to be a real complete cause before something can exist, but a complete cause makes the existence of something compulsory so there will be no room for choice.


Man’s actions are the result of his preference between two alternatives, which is of nominal significance. If a necessary cause does not exist which forces him to make a preference, then this means that the act of preference takes place without a necessary cause. Is it not a logical impossibility which contradicts one of the most important principles of theology?


It is not an impossibility that man makes a preference without a necessary cause, it is an attribute of his free will to do such things. It is, however, an impossibility that something can be preferable by itself without a necessary cause for its preference.


Since it is God Who creates the act of murder, why is he who kills called a murderer?


According to Arabic grammar, the active participle functioning as the subject is derived from the infinitive, which denotes a relative affair or deed, not from another word derived from the infinitive which expresses an established fact. Therefore, since it is man himself who does the deed denoted by the infinitive, he is the murderer.

That is, man wills to do something and accordingly does it, so he is the doer or agent of his acts. It is the man himself who does the act of killing, so he should be called the murderer. God creates man’s acts in that He gives external existence to them; He does not perform those acts. It would have been meaningless for man to have free will if God had not created the acts which are the outcome of that free will.

Seventh way

Although man’s free will is too inefficient to cause something to happen, Almighty God, the absolutely Wise One, has made its operation a simple condition for the coming into effect of His universal Will. He guides man in whatever direction man wishes by the use of his free will so that he remains responsible for the consequences of his choice. As an example, if you were to take a child upon your shoulders, and then leave him free to decide where he would like to go and he elected for you to take him up a high mountain, and in consequence he caught cold, he would have no right to blame you for that. Indeed, you might even punish him because he wanted to go up the mountain. In like manner, Almighty God, the Most Just of Judges, never coerces His servants into doing something, and He has accordingly made His Will somewhat dependent on man’s free will.

In sum: As man, you do possess free will, which makes almost no contribution to your good acts, although it can cause deadly sins and destruction wherever it operates. Therefore, exploit your free will for your own benefit by praying to God continuously, so that you may enjoy the blessings of Paradise, a fruit of the chain of good deeds, and attain to eternal happiness. Further, you should always seek God‘s forgiveness for your sins in order to refrain from evil deeds and to be saved from the torments of Hell, a fruit of the accursed chain of evil deeds. Prayer and putting one’s trust in God greatly strengthen the inclination to good, and repentance and seeking God’s forgiveness cut the inclination to evil and break its transgressions.

We may summarize the discussion so far in seven points:

Divine Destiny, also called Divine determination and arrangement, dominates the universe but does not cancel our free will.

Since God is beyond time and space and everything is included in His Knowledge, He encompasses the past, present and future as a single, undivided point. For example: When you are in a room, your view is restricted to the room. But if you look from a higher point, you can see the whole city. As you rise higher and higher, your vision continues to broaden. The Earth, when seen from the moon, appears to be a small blue marble. It is the same with time. So, all time and space are encompassed by God as a single, undivided point, into which the past, present and future are united.

Since all time and space are included in God’s Knowledge as a single point, God recorded everything that will happen until the Day of Judgment. Angels use this record to prepare a smaller record for each individual.

We do not do something because God recorded it; God knew beforehand we would do it and so recorded it.

There are not two destinies: one for the cause, the other for the effect. Destiny is one and relates to the cause and the effect simultaneously. Our free will, which causes our acts, is included in Destiny.

God guides us to good things and actions, and allows and advises us to use our willpower for good. In return, He promises us eternal happiness in Paradise.

We have free will, although we contribute almost nothing to our good acts. Our free will, if not used properly, can destroy us. Therefore we should use it to benefit ourselves by praying to God, so that we may enjoy the blessings of Paradise, a fruit of the chain of good deeds, and attain eternal happiness. Furthermore, we should always seek God’s forgiveness so that we might refrain from evil and be saved from the torments of Hell, a fruit of the accursed chain of evil deeds. Prayer and trusting in God greatly strengthen our inclination toward good, and repentance and seeking God’s forgiveness greatly weaken, even destroy, our inclination toward evil and transgression.

marți, 29 aprilie 2008

The 4 Primary Arguments for God's Existence

by Michael J. Vlach, Ph.D.

Perhaps the hottest topic in all of philosophy concerns the existence of God. Thus the question—“Does God exist?”

Our answer to this question affects how we view the world, how we behave, and what we expect for the future.

If God exists, then we are probably accountable to this God. The universe may have meaning and purpose. Plus, our own existence may not cease at physical death. If God does not exist, however, then we are probably here by chance and are not accountable to some transcendent being. This life may be all we have, so live your life however you see fit and enjoy it.

Traditionally, there have been four major arguments for God’s existence: (1) the cosmological argument; (2) the teleological argument; (3) the ontological argument; and (4) the moral law argument. Below are explanations of each of the arguments and the common responses to them.

1. Cosmological Argument
The term “cosmological” comes from the Greek word “kosmos” which means “world.”

The cosmological argument for God’s existence goes like this: The world could not exist on its own so there must have been a first cause that brought it into being. This first cause is God. Or put another way, the universe could not just exist on its own—someone or something must have made it. This cause of the universe is God.

Three criticisms of the cosmological argument have been offered. First, some say matter is eternal and is not in need of a “first cause.” Second, some say “If everything needs a cause, what caused God?” Third, some say that even if it is true that some being caused our universe to exist, this does not prove the existence of the Christian God. All it shows is that there is some powerful being that created the universe, but this does not necessarily mean that this creator was the God of the Bible.

2. Teleological Argument
The teleological argument is also known as “the argument from design” (The Greek word “telos” means “purpose” or “design.”). The argument goes like this: The universe evidences great complexity or design; thus, it must have been designed by a great Designer or God.

The argument from design can be likened to a watch. A watch is obviously made by a watchmaker. The world, which is much more complex than a watch, must also have been designed by a great Designer or Divine Watchmaker (God).

In sum, the teleological argument asserts that the universe evidences too much complexity to be the product of random chance. We know that the celestial bodies move with perfect accuracy in their orbits. Our bodies, too, are incredibly complex. According to the teleological argument, there’s just no way all this complexity could “just happen.” God must have created it all.

There have been three responses to the teleological argument. First, some say the teleological argument is guilty of a “weak analogy” because it assumes a significant resemblance between natural objects (ex. rocks, trees) and objects we know have been designed (ex. watches, skyscrapers). Thus, comparing natural objects with objects we know have been created by humans is like comparing apples and oranges. The analogy just doesn’t work. Second, some say that the theories of the big bang and evolution better explain the complexity in the universe. Third, some say that even if the teleological argument is true, it does not prove the existence of the Christian God.

3. Ontological Argument
The third argument for God’s existence is the ontological argument. This argument is unlike the cosmological and teleological arguments in that it does not argue from evidence in the natural world. Thus, it is not a “cause and effect” argument.

The ontological argument can be stated in this way: “God is the greatest being imaginable. One of the aspects of perfection or greatness is existence. Thus, God exists.” Or put another way—“The fact that God can be conceived means that he must exist.”

This argument for God’s existence was developed by the twelfth century theologian and philosopher, Anselm. It is based on Anselm’s declaration that God is “that which nothing greater can be conceived.”

The ontological argument has been very controversial. Even many who believe in God’s existence question its validity. A contemporary of Anselm named Guanilo responded to Anselm. Guanilo said that one could imagine a perfect island but that did not mean a perfect island exists. Others have said you can imagine a unicorn but that does not mean unicorns exist. Thus, many challenge the idea that the idea of God must mean that God exists.

4. Moral Law Argument
Another argument for the existence of God is the moral law argument. It goes like this: Without God morality would be impossible. There must be a Lawgiver (God) who originates and stands by moral law. A universal moral law cannot exist accidentally. There must be a basis behind it—God.

According to this view, every person is born with an inherent understanding of right and wrong. Everyone, for instance, understands that killing an innocent person is wrong. Everyone understands that helping a drowning person is right. Where did this internal understanding of right and wrong come from? According to adherents of the moral law argument, this understanding comes from God. He put it into the hearts of every person.

There have been two responses to the moral law argument. First, some deny that there are universal truths. Many today believe that truth is subjective and relative. Societies and individuals determine what is true for them, but there is no God that does this. Second, some say that the presence of evil in the world argues against a Moral Lawgiver. If God is all-powerful and all-good, how can evil exist in the world?

The arguments and counterarguments for God’s existence remain controversial. The cosmological, teleological, and moral law arguments remain popular with Christian apologists today. The ontological argument is not as well received although some today still asserts its validity.

It should be noted that most Christian theologians and philosophers believe that God never intended for his existence to be something that could be proven with 100% certainty. They point out that faith is an important component in understanding God and his existence.

marți, 22 aprilie 2008


by Joseph Hontheim

This subject will be treated under seven headings:


The Name of Heaven
Heaven (Anglo-Saxon heofon, O.S. hevan and himil, originally himin) corresponds to the Gothic himin-s. Both heaven and himil are formed from himin by a regular change of consonants: heaven, by changing m before n into v; and himil, by changing n of the unaccented ending into l. Some derive heaven from the root ham, "to cover" (cf. the Gothic ham-ôn and the German Hem-d). According to this derivation heaven would be conceived as the roof of the world. Others trace a connection between himin (heaven) and home; according to this view, which seems to be the more probable, heaven would be the abode of the Godhead. The Latin coelum (koilon, a vault) is derived by many from the root of celare "to cover, to conceal" (coelum, "ceiling" "roof of the world"). Others, however think it is connected with the Germanic himin. The Greek ouranos is probably derived from the root var, which also connotes the idea of covering. The Hebrew name for heaven is thought to be derived from a word meaning "on high"; accordingly, heaven would designate the upper region of the world.
In the Holy Bible the term heaven denotes, in the first place, the blue firmament, or the region of the clouds that pass along the sky. Genesis 1:20, speaks of the birds "under the firmament of heaven". In other passages it denotes the region of the stars that shine in the sky. Furthermore heaven is spoken of as the dwelling of God; for, although God is omnipresent, He manifests Himself in a special manner in the light and grandeur of the firmament. Heaven also is the abode of the angels; for they are constantly with God and see His face. With God in heaven are likewise the souls of the just (2 Corinthians 5:1; Matthew 5:3, 12). In Ephesians 4:8 sq., we are told that Christ conducted to heaven the patriarchs who had been in limbo (limbus patrum). Thus the term heaven has come to designate both the happiness and the abode of just in the next life. The present article treats as heaven in this sense only.

In Holy Scripture it is called:
the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3),
the kingdom of God (Mark 9:46),
the kingdom of the Father (Matthew 13:43),
the kingdom of Christ (Luke 22:30),
the house of the Father (John 14:2),
city of God, the heavenly Jerusalem (Hebrews 12),
the holy place (Hebrews 9:12; D.V. holies),
paradise (2 Corinthians 12:4),
life (Matthew 7:14),
life everlasting (Matthew 19:16),
the joy of the Lord (Matthew 25:21),
crown of life (James 1:12),
crown of justice (2 Timothy 4:8),
crown of glory (1 Peter 5:4),
incorruptible crown (1 Corinthians 9:25),
great reward (Matthew 5:12),
inheritance of Christ (Ephesians 1:18),
eternal inheritance (Hebrews 9:15).

The Location of Heaven
Where is heaven, the dwelling of God and the blessed?
Some are of opinion that heaven is everywhere, as God is everywhere. According to this view the blessed can move about freely in every part of the universe, and still remain with God and see everywhere. Everywhere, too, they remain with Christ (in His sacred Humanity) and with the saints and the angels. For, according to the advocates of this opinion, the spatial distances of this world must no longer impede the mutual intercourse of blessed.
In general, however, theologians deem more appropriate that there should be a special and glorious abode, in which the blessed have their peculiar home and where they usually abide, even though they be free to go about in this world. For the surroundings in the midst of which the blessed have their dwelling must be in accordance with their happy state; and the internal union of charity which joins them in affection must find its outward expression in community of habitation. At the end of the world, the earth together with the celestial bodies will be gloriously transformed into a part of the dwelling-place of the blessed (Revelation 21). Hence there seems to be no sufficient reason for attributing a metaphorical sense to those numerous utterances of the Bible which suggest a definite dwelling-place of the blessed. Theologians, therefore, generally hold that the heaven of the blessed is a special place with definite limits. Naturally, this place is held to exist, not within the earth, but, in accordance with the expressions of Scripture, without and beyond its limits. All further details regarding its locality are quite uncertain. The Church has decided nothing on this subject.


There is a heaven, i.e., God will bestow happiness and the richest gifts on all those who depart this life free from original sin and personal mortal sin, and who are, consequently, in the state of justice and friendship with God. Concerning the purification of those just souls who depart in venial sin or who are still subject to temporal punishment for sin, see PURGATORY. On the lot of those who die free from personal sin, but infected with original sin, see LIMBO (limbus pervulorum). On the immediate beginning of eternal happiness after death, or eventually, after the passage through purgatory, see PARTICULAR JUDGMENT. The existence of heaven is, of course, denied by atheists, materialists, and pantheists of all centuries as well as by those rationalists who teach that the soul perishes with the body — in short, by all who deny the existence of God or the immortality of the soul. But, for the rest, if we abstract from the specific quality and the supernatural character of heaven, the doctrine has never met with any opposition worthy of note. Even mere reason can prove the existence of heaven or of the happy state of the just in the next life. -->
We shall give a brief outline of the principal arguments. From these we shall, at the same time, see that the bliss of heaven is eternal and consists primarily in the possession of God, and that heaven presupposes a condition of perfect happiness, in which every wish of the heart finds adequate satisfaction.
God made all things for His objective honour and glory. Every creature was to manifest His Divine perfections by becoming a likeness of God, each according to its capacity. But man is capable of becoming in the greatest and most perfect manner a likeness of God, when he knows and loves His infinite perfections with a knowledge and love analogous to God's own love and knowledge. Therefore man is created to know God and to love Him. Moreover, this knowledge and love is to be eternal; for such is man's capability and his calling, because his soul is immortal. Lastly, to know God and to love Him is the noblest occupation of the human mind, and consequently also its supreme happiness. Therefore man is created for eternal happiness; and he will infallibly attain it hereafter, unless, by sin, he renders himself unworthy of so high a destiny.
God made all things for His formal glory, which consists in the knowledge and love shown Him by rational creatures. Irrational creatures cannot give formal glory to God directly, but they should assist rational creatures in doing so. This they can do by manifesting God's perfections and by rendering other services; whilst rational creatures should, by their own personal knowledge and love of God, refer and direct all creatures to Him as their last end. Therefore every intelligent creature in general, and man in particular, is destined to know and love God for ever, though he may forfeit eternal happiness by sin.
God, in his infinite justice and holiness, must give virtue its due reward. But, as experience teaches, the virtuous do not obtain a sufficient reward here; hence they will be recompensed hereafter, and the reward must be everlasting, since the soul is immortal. Nor can it be supposed that the soul in the next life must merit her continuance in happiness by a continued series of combats; for this would be repugnant to all the tendencies and desires of human nature.
God, in His wisdom, must set on the moral law a sanction, sufficiently appropriate and efficacious. But, unless each man is rewarded according to the measure of his good works, such a sanction could not be said to exist. Mere infliction of punishment for sin would be insufficient. In any case, reward for good deeds is the best means of inspiring zeal for virtue. Nature itself teaches us to reward virtue in others whenever we can, and to hope for a reward of our own good actions from the Supreme Ruler of the universe. That reward, not being given here, will be given hereafter.
God has implanted in the heart of man a love of virtue and a love of happiness; consequently, God, because of His wisdom, must by rewarding virtue establish perfect harmony between these two tendencies. But such a harmony is not established in this life; therefore it will be brought about in the next.
Every man has an innate desire for perfect beatitude. Experience proves this. The sight of the imperfect goods of earth naturally leads us to form the conception of a happiness so perfect as to satisfy all the desires of our heart. But we cannot conceive such a state without desiring it. Therefore we are destined for a happiness that is perfect and, for that very reason, eternal; and it will be ours, unless we forfeit it by sin. A natural tendency without an object is incompatible both with nature and with the Creator's goodness. The arguments thus far advanced prove the existence of heaven as a state of perfect happiness.
We are born for higher things, for the possession of God. This earth can satisfy no man, least of all the wise. "Vanity of vanities", says the Scripture (Ecclesiastes 1:1); and St. Augustine exclaimed: "Thou hast made us for Thyself (O God) and our heart is troubled till it rests in Thee."
We are created for wisdom, for a possession of truth perfect in its kind. Our mental faculties and the aspirations of our nature give proof of this. But the scanty knowledge, that we can acquire on earth stands in no proportion to the capabilities of our soul. We shall possess truth in higher perfection hereafter.
God made us for holiness, for a complete and final triumph over passion and for the perfect and secure possession of virtue. Our natural aptitudes and desires bear witness to this. But this happy goal is not reached on earth, but in the next life.
We are created for love and friendship, for indissoluble union with our friends. At the grave of those we love our heart longs for a future reunion. This cry of nature is no delusion. A joyful and everlasting reunion awaits the just man beyond the grave.
It is the conviction of all peoples that there is a heaven in which the just will rejoice in the next life. But, in the fundamental questions of our being and our destiny, a conviction, so unanimous and universal, cannot be erroneous. Otherwise this world and the order of this world would remain an utter enigma to intelligent creatures, who ought to know at least the necessary means for reaching their appointed end.
Very few deny the existence of heaven; and these few are practically all atheists and epicureans. But surely it cannot be that all the rest have erred, and an isolated class of men such as these are not the true guides in the most fundamental questions of our being. For apostasy from God and His law cannot be the key to wisdom.
Revelation also proclaims the existence of heaven. This we have already seen in the preceding section from the many names by which the Bible designates heaven; and from the texts of Scripture, still to be quoted on the nature and peculiar conditions of heaven.


(1) In heaven the just will see God by direct intuition, clearly and distinctly. Here on earth we have no immediate perception of God; we see Him but indirectly in the mirror of creation. We get our first and direct knowledge from creatures, and then, by reasoning from these, we ascend to a knowledge of God according to the imperfect likeness which creatures bear to their Creator. But in doing so we proceed to a large extent by way of negation, i.e., by removing from the Divine Being the imperfections proper to creatures. In heaven, however, no creature will stand between God and the soul. He himself will be the immediate object of its vision. Scripture and theology tell us that the blessed see God face to face. And because this vision is immediate and direct, it is also exceedingly clear and distinct. Ontologists assert that we perceive God directly in this life, though our knowledge of Him is vague and obscure; but a vision of the Divine Essence, immediate yet vague and obscure, implies a contradiction. The blessed see God, not merely according to the measure of His likeness imperfectly reflected in creation, but they see Him as He is, after the manner of His own Being. That the blessed see God is a dogma of faith, expressly defined by Benedict XII (1336):
We define that the souls of all the saints in heaven have seen and do see the Divine Essence by direct intuition and face to face [visione intuitivâ et etiam faciali], in such wise that nothing created intervenes as an object of vision, but the Divine Essence presents itself to their immediate gaze, unveiled, clearly and openly; moreover, that in this vision they enjoy the Divine Essence, and that, in virtue of this vision and this enjoyment, they are truly blessed and possess eternal life and eternal rest" (Denzinger, Enchiridion, ed. 10, n. 530--old edition, n, 456; cf. nn. 693, 1084, 1458 old, nn. 588, 868).
The Scriptural argument is based especially on 1 Corinthians 13:8-13 (cf. Matthew 18:10; 1 John 3:2; 2 Corinthians 5:6-8, etc.). The argument from tradition is carried out in detail by Petavius ("De. theol. dogm.", I, i, VII, c. 7). Several Fathers, who seemingly contradict this doctrine, in reality maintain it; they merely teach that the bodily eye cannot see God, or that the blessed do not fully comprehend God, or that the soul cannot see God with its natural powers in this life (cf. Francisco Suárez, "De Deo", l. II, c. 7, n. 17).
(2) It is of faith that the beatific vision is supernatural, that it transcends the powers and claims of created nature, of angels as well as of men. The opposite doctrine of the Beghards and Beguines was condemned (1311) by the Council of Vienne (Denz., n. 475 -- old, n. 403), and likewise a similar error of Baius by Pius V (Denz., n. 1003 -- old, n. 883). The Vatican Council expressly declared that man has been elevated by God to a supernatural end (Denz., n. 1786 -- old, n. 1635; cf. nn. 1808, 1671 -- old, nn. 1655, 1527). In this connection we must also mention the condemnation of the Ontologists, and in particular of Rosmini, who held that an immediate but indeterminate perception of God is essential to the human intellect and the beginning of all human knowledge (Denz., nn. 1659, 1927 -- old, nn. 1516, 1772).
That the vision of God is supernatural can also be shown from the supernatural character of sanctifying grace (Denz., n. 1021 -- old, n. 901); for, if the preparation for that vision is supernatural. Even unaided reason recognizes that the immediate vision of God, even if it be at all possible, can never be natural for a creature. For it is manifest that every created mind first perceives its own self and creatures similar to itself by which it is surrounded, and from these it rises to a knowledge of God as the source of their being and their last end. Hence its natural knowledge of God is necessarily mediate and analogous; since it forms its ideas and judgments about God after the imperfect likeness which its own self and its surroundings bear to Him. Such is the only means nature offers for acquiring a knowledge of God, and more than this is not due to any created intellect; consequently, the second and essentially higher way of seeing God by intuitive vision can but be a gratuitous gift of Divine goodness.
These considerations prove, not merely that the immediate vision of God exceeds the natural claims of all creatures in actual existence; but they also prove against Ripalda, Becaenus, and others (Recently also Morlias), that God cannot create any spirit which would, by virtue of its nature, be entitled to the intuitive vision of the Divine Essence. Therefore, as theologians express it, no created substance is of its nature supernatural; however, the Church has given no decision on this matter. Cf. Palmieri, "De Deo creante et elevante" (Rome, 1878), thes. 39; Morlais, "Le Surnaturel absolu", in "Revue du Clergé Français", XXXI (1902), 464 sqq., and, for the opposite view, Bellamy, "La question du Surnaturel absolu", ibid., XXXV (1903), 419 sqq. St. Thomas seems to teach (I, Q. xii, a. 1) that man has a natural desire for the beatific vision. Elsewhere, however, he frequently insists on the supernatural character of that vision (e.g. III, Q. ix, a. 2, ad 3um). Hence in the former place he obviously supposes that man knows from revelation both the possibility of the beatific vision and his destiny to enjoy it. On this supposition it is indeed quite natural for man to have so strong a desire for that vision, that any inferior kind of beatitude can no longer duly satisfy him.
(3) To enable it to see God, the intellect of the blessed is supernaturally perfected by the light of glory (lumen gloriae). This was defined by the Council of Vienne in 1311 (Denz., n. 475; old, n. 403); and it is also evident from the supernatural character of the beatific vision. For the beatific vision transcends the natural powers of the intellect; therefore, to see God the intellect stands in need of some supernatural strength, not merely transient, but permanent as the vision itself. This permanent invigoration is called the "light of glory", because it enables the souls in glory to see God with their intellect, just as material light enables our bodily eyes to see corporeal objects.
On the nature of the light of glory the Church has decided nothing. Theologians have elaborated various theories about it, which, however, need not be examined in detail. According to the view commonly and perhaps most reasonably held, the light of glory is a quality Divinely infused into the soul and similar to sanctifying grace, the virtue of faith, and the other supernatural virtues in the souls of the just (cf. Franzelin, "De Deo uno", 3rd ed., Rome, 1883, thes. 16). It is controverted among theologians whether or not a mental image, be it a species expressa or a species impressa, is required for the beatific vision. But by many this is regarded as largely a controversy about the appropriateness of the term, rather than about the matter itself. The more common and probably more correct view denies the presence of any image in the strict sense of the word, because no created image can represent God as He is (cf. Mazzella, "De Deo creante", 3rd ed., Rome, 1892, disp. IV, a. 7, sec. 1). The beatific vision is obviously a created act inherent in the soul, and not, as a few of the older theologians thought, the uncreated act of God's own intellect communicated to the soul. For, "as seeing and knowing are immanent vital actions, the soul can see or know God by its own activity only, and not through any activity exerted by some other intellect. Cf. Gutherlet, "Das lumen gloriae" in "Pastor bonus", XIV (1901), 297 sqq.
(4) Theologians distinguish the primary and the secondary object of the beatific vision. The primary object is God Himself as He is. The blessed see the Divine Essence by direct intuition, and, because of the absolute simplicity of God, they necessarily see all His perfections and all the persons of the Trinity. Moreover, since they see that God can create countless imitations of His Essence, the entire domain of possible creatures lies open to their view, though indeterminately and in general. For the actual decrees of God are not necessarily an object of that vision, except in as afar as God pleases to manifest them. Therefore finite things are not necessarily seen by the blessed, even if they are an actual object of God's will. Still less are they a necessary object of vision as long as they are mere possible objects of the Divine will. Consequently the blessed have a distinct knowledge of individual possible things only in so far as God wishes to grant this knowledge. Thus, if God so willed, a blessed soul might see the Divine Essence without seeing in it the possibility of any individual creature in particular. But in fact, there is always connected with the beatific vision a knowledge of various things external to God, of the possible as well as of the actual. All these things, taken collectively, constitute the secondary object of the beatific vision.
The blessed soul sees these secondary objects in God either directly (formaliter), or in as far as God is their cause (causaliter). It sees in God directly whatever the beatific vision discloses to its immediate gaze without the aid of any created mental image (species impressa). In God, as in their cause, the soul sees all those things which it perceives with the aid of a created mental image, a mode of perception granted by God as a natural complement of the beatific vision. The number of objects seen directly in God cannot be increased unless the beatific vision itself be intensified; but the number of things seen in God as their cause may be greater of smaller, or it may very without any corresponding change in the vision itself.
The secondary object of the beatific vision comprises everything the blessed may have a reasonable interest in knowing. It includes, in the first place, all the mysteries which the soul believed while on earth. Moreover, the blessed see each other and rejoice in the company of those whom death separated from them. The veneration paid them on earth and the prayers addressed to them are also known to the blessed. All that we have said on the secondary object of the beatific vision is the common and reliable teaching of theologians. In recent times (Holy Office, 14 Dec., 1887) Rosmini was condemned because he taught that the blessed do not see God Himself, but only His relations to creatures (Denz., 1928-1930 -- old, 1773-75). In the earlier ages we find Gregory the Great ("Moral.", l. XVIII, c. liv, n. 90, in P.L., LXXVI, XCIII) combating the error of a few who maintained that the blessed to not see God, but only a brilliant light streaming forth from Him. Also in the Middle Ages there are traces of this error (cf. Franzelin, "De Deo uno", 2nd ed., thes. 15, p. 192).
(5) Although the blessed see God, they do not comprehend Him, because God is absolutely incomprehensible to every created intellect, and He cannot grant to any creature the power of comprehending Him as He comprehends Himself. Francisco Suárez rightly calls this a revealed truth ("De Deo", l. II, c. v, n. 6); for the Fourth Council of the Lateran and the Vatican Council enumerated incomprehensibility among the absolute attributes of God (Denz., nn. 428, 1782 -- old nn. 355, 1631). The Fathers defend this truth against Eunomius, an Arian, who asserted that we comprehend God fully even in this life. The blessed comprehend God neither intensively nor extensively — not intensively, because their vision has not that infinite clearness with which God is knowable and with which He knows Himself, nor extensively, because their vision does not actually and clearly extend to everything that God sees in His Essence. For they cannot by a single act of their intellect represent every possible creature individually, clearly, and distinctly, as God does; such an act would be infinite, and an infinite act is incompatible with the nature of a created and finite intellect. The blessed see the Godhead in its entirety, but only with a limited clearness of vision (Deum totum sed non totaliter). They see the Godhead in its entirety, because they see all the perfections of God and all the Persons of the Trinity; and yet their vision is limited, because it has neither the infinite clearness that corresponds to the Divine perfections, nor does it extend to everything that actually is, or may still become, an object of God's free decrees. Hence it follows that one blessed soul may see God more perfectly than another, and that the beatific vision admits of various degrees.
(6) The beatific vision is a mystery. Of course reason cannot prove the impossibility of such a vision. For why should God, in His omnipotence, be unable to draw so near and adapt Himself so fully to our intellect, that the soul may, as it were, directly feel Him and lay hold of Him and look on Him and become entirely immersed in Him? On the other hand, we cannot prove absolutely that this is possible; for the beatific vision lies beyond the natural destiny of our intellect, and it is so extraordinary a mode of perception that we cannot clearly understand either the fact or the manner of its possibility.
(7) From what has been thus far said it is clear that there is a twofold beatitude: the natural and the supernatural. As we have seen, man is by nature entitled to beatitude, provided he does not forfeit it by his own fault. We have also seen that beatitude is eternal and that it consists in the possession of God, for creatures cannot truly satisfy man. Again, as we have shown, the soul is to possess God by knowledge and love. But the knowledge to which man is entitled by nature is not an immediate vision, but an analogous perception of God in the mirror of creation, still a very perfect knowledge which really satisfies the heart. Hence the beatitude to which alone we have a natural claim consists in that perfect analogous knowledge and in the love corresponding to that knowledge. This natural beatitude is the lowest kind of felicity which God, in His goodness and wisdom, can grant to sinless man. But, instead of an analogous knowledge of His Essence He may grant to the blessed a direct intuition which includes all the excellence of natural beatitude and surpasses it beyond measure. It is this higher kind of beatitude that it has pleased God to grant us. And by granting it He not merely satisfies our natural desire for happiness but He satisfies it in superabundance.


It is a dogma of faith that the happiness of the blessed is everlasting. This truth is clearly contained in the Holy Bible (see Section I); it is daily professed by the Church in the Apostles' Creed (credo . . . vitam aeternam), and it has been repeatedly defined by the Church, especially by Benedict XII (cf. Section III). Even reason, as we have seen, can demonstrate it. And surely, if the blessed knew that their happiness was ever to come to an end, this knowledge alone would prevent their happiness from being perfect.
In this matter Origen fell into error; for in several passages of his works he seems to incline to the opinion that rational creatures never reach a permanent final state (status termini), but that they remain forever capable of falling away from God and losing their beatitude and of always returning to Him again.
The blessed are confirmed in good; they can no longer commit even the slightest venial sin; every wish of their heart is inspired by the purest love of God. That is, beyond doubt, Catholic doctrine. Moreover this impossibility of sinning is physical. The blessed have no longer the power of choosing to do evil actions; they cannot but love God; they are merely free to show that love by one good action in preference to another. But whilst the impeccability of the blessed appears to be unanimously held by theologians, there is a diversity of opinion as to its cause. According to some, its proximate cause consists in this that God absolutely withholds from the blessed His co-operation to any sinful consent. The beatific vision does not, they argue, of its very nature exclude sin directly and absolutely; because God may still displease the blessed soul in various ways, e.g., by refusing a higher degree to beatitude, or by letting persons whom that soul loves die in sin and sentencing them to eternal torment. Moreover, when great sufferings and arduous duties accompany the beatific vision, as was the case in the human nature of Christ on earth, then at least the possibility of sin is not directly and absolutely excluded.
The ultimate cause of impeccability is the freedom from sin or the state of grace in which at his death man passes into the final state (status termini), i.e. into a state of unchangeable attitude of mind and will. For it is quite in consonance with the nature of that state that God should offer only such co-operation as corresponds to the mental attitude man chose for himself on earth. For this reason also the souls in purgatory, although they do not see God, are still utterly incapable of sin. The beatific vision itself may be called a remote cause of impeccability; for by granting so wondrous a token of His love, God may be said to undertake the obligation of guarding from all sin those whom He so highly favours, whether by refusing all co-operation to evil acts or in some other manner. Besides, even if the clear vision of God, most worthy of their love, does not render the blessed physically unable, it certainly renders them less liable, to sin.
Impeccability, as explained by the representatives of this opinion, is not, properly speaking, extrinsic, as is often wrongly asserted; but it is rather intrinsic, because it is strictly due to the final state of blessedness and especially to the beatific vision. This is substantially the opinion of the Scotists, likewise of many others, especially in recent times. Nevertheless the Thomists, and with them the greater number of theologians, maintain that the beatific vision of its very nature directly excludes the possibility of sin. For no creature can have a clear intuitive view of the Supreme Good without being by that very fact alone irresistibly drawn to love it efficaciously and to fulfil for its sake even the most arduous duties without the least repugnance. The Church has left this matter undecided. The present writer rather inclines to the opinion of the Scotists because of its bearing on the question of the liberty of Christ. (See HELL under the heading Impenitence of the Damned.)


We distinguish objective and subjective beatitude. Objective beatitude is that good, the possession of which makes us happy; subjective beatitude is the possession of that good. The essence of objective beatitude, or the essential object of beatitude is God alone. For the possession of God assures us also the possession of every other good we may desire; moreover, everything else is so immeasurably inferior to God that its possession can only be looked upon as something accidental to beatitude. Finally, that all else is of minor importance for beatitude is evident from the fact that nothing save God alone is capable of satisfying man. Accordingly the essence of subjective beatitude is the possession of God, and it consists in the acts of vision, love, and joy. The blessed love God with a twofold love; with the love of complacency, by which they love God for His own sake, and secondly with the love less properly so called, by which they love Him as the source of their happiness (amor concupiscentiae). In consonance with this twofold love the blessed have a twofold joy; firstly, the joy of love in the strict sense of the word, by which they rejoice over the infinite beatitude which they see in God Himself, precisely because it is the happiness of God whom they love, and secondly, the joy springing from love in a wider sense, by which they rejoice in God because He is the source of their own supreme happiness. These five acts constitute the essence of (subjective) beatitude, or in more precise terms, its physical essence. In this theologians agree.
Here theologians go a step farther and inquire whether among those five acts of the blessed there is one act, or a combination of several acts, which constitutes the essence of beatitude in a stricter sense, i.e. its metaphysical essence in contradistinction to its physical essence. In general their answer is affirmative; but in assigning the metaphysical essence their opinions diverge. The present writer prefers the opinion of St. Thomas, who holds that the metaphysical essence consists in the vision alone. For, as we have just seen, the acts of love and joy are merely a kind of secondary attributes of the vision; and this remains true, whether love and joy result directly from the vision, as the Thomists hold, or whether the beatific vision by its very nature calls for confirmation in love and God's efficacious protection against sin.


Besides the essential object of beatitude the souls in heaven enjoy many blessings accidental to beatitude. We shall mention only a few:
In heaven there is not the least pain or sadness; for every aspiration of nature must be finally realized. The will of the blessed is in perfect harmony with the Divine will; they feel displeasure at the sins of men, but without experiencing any real pain.
They delight greatly in the company of Christ, the angels, and the saints, and in the reunion with so many who were dear to them on earth.
After the resurrection the union of the soul with the glorified body will be a special source of joy for the blessed.
They derive great pleasure from the contemplation of all those things, both created and possible, which, as we have shown, they see in God, at least indirectly as in the cause. And, in particular, after the last judgment the new heaven and the new earth will afford them manifold enjoyment. (See GENERAL JUDGMENT.)
The blessed rejoice over sanctifying grace and the supernatural virtues that adorn their soul; and any sacramental character they may have also adds to their bliss.
Very special joys are granted to the martyrs, doctors, and virgins, a special proof of victories won in time of trial (Revelation 7:11 sq.; Daniel 12:3; Revelation 14:3 sq.). Hence theologians speak of three particular crowns, aureolas, or glorioles, by which these three classes of blessed souls are accidentally honoured beyond the rest. Aureola is a diminutive of aurea, i.e. aurea corona (golden crown). (Cf. St. Thomas, Supp:96.)
Since eternal happiness is metaphorically called a marriage of the soul with Christ, theologians also speak of the bridal endowments of the blessed. They distinguish seven of these gifts, four of which belong to the glorified body — light, impassibility, agility, subtility (see RESURRECTION); and three to the soul — vision, possession, enjoyment (visio, comprehensio, fruitio). Yet in the explanation given by the theologians of the three gifts of the soul we find but little conformity. We may identify the gift of vision with the habit of the light of glory, the gift of possession with the habit of that love in a wider sense which has found in God the fulfilment of its desires, and the gift of enjoyment we may identify with the habit of love properly so called (halitus caritatis) which rejoices to be with God; in this view these three infused habits would he considered simply as ornaments to beautify the soul. (Cf. St. Thomas, Supp:95)


There are various degrees of beatitude in heaven corresponding to the various degrees of merit. This is a dogma of faith, defined by the Council of Florence (Denz., n. 693 -- old, n. 588). The Bible teaches this truth in very many passages (e.g., wherever it speaks of eternal happiness as a reward), and the Fathers defend it against the heretical attacks of Jovinian. It is true that, according to Matthew 20:1-16, each labourer receives a penny; but by this comparison Christ merely teaches that, although the Gospel was preached to the Jews first, yet in the Kingdom of Heaven there is no distinction between Jew and Gentile, and that no one will receive a greater reward merely because of being a son of Judah. The various degrees of beatitude are not limited to the accidental blessings, but they are found first and foremost in the beatific vision itself. For, as we have already pointed out, the vision, too, admits of degrees. These essential degrees of beatitude are, as Francisco Suárez rightly observes ("De beat.", d. xi, s. 3, n. 5), that threefold fruit Christ distinguishes when He says that the word of God bears fruit in some thirty, in some sixty, in some a hundredfold (Matthew 13:23). And it is by a mere accommodation of the text that St. Thomas (Supp:96, aa. 2 sqq.) and other theologians apply this text to the different degrees in the accidental beatitude merited by married persons, widows, and virgins.
The happiness of heaven is essentially unchangeable; still it admits of some accidental changes. Thus we may suppose that the blessed experience special joy when they receive greater veneration from men on earth. In particular, a certain growth in knowledge by experience is not excluded; for instance, as time goes on, new free actions of men may become known to the blessed, or personal observation and experience may throw a new light on things already known. And after the last judgment accidental beatitude will receive some increase from the union of soul and body, and from the sight of the new heaven and the earth.

Publication information
Written by Joseph Hontheim.
The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VII. Published 1910. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, June 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York