Dr Frank Mobbs (June 2015) criticised my article, “Our homeland is in heaven” (AD2000, May 2015). He says that it is common throughout Christian history to put into Scripture what is not there. Is he aware that the Church teaches that both Scripture and Tradition are sources of Revelation?
The saints, e.g. St.Ephrem in “Hymns on Paradise”, the Fathers of the Church, Popes, philosophers and theologians, including St Thomas Aquinas, have written about heaven. In my article, I was merely trying to put into simple language some of the ideas expressed by the above.
With regard to the “intellectualist” understanding of God, let me explain again.
God is a pure spirit and does not have a body.
The saints in heaven, before the resurrection of the body at the end of the world, do not have a body; they are separated souls. The saints see God “as he is”.
This is a spiritual vision which is only possible through understanding. The soul has two faculties: intellect and will. The intellect knows and the will loves. So the beatific vision of necessity is “an intellectual vision” which causes love.
In St Thomas’ words, we look forward to “the knowledge of the highest Truth, the love of the highest Good.”
If we see God “as he is”, we shall see each one of the Three Persons, that is, the Trinity (a word which is not found in Scripture).
We shall see Christ, the God-Man and therefore we shall have an insight into the mysteries of the Incarnation and the Redemption.
Of course, we shall not only have an intellectual vision. Dr Mobbs refers to Germain Grisez who, as a philosopher, has attempted to explain the nature of heaven. He says that heaven must furnish “experience of human goods, such as achievement, playfulness, exercise of skill.”
I agree with Grisez and said explicitly: “We shall enjoy the delightful company of saints. The bonds of friendship made on earth will be continued with those in heaven. In our resurrected bodies we shall be able to delight in all the pleasure of the senses. We shall appreciate all the beauty of creation, be enchanted by harmonious music, etc.”
Dr. Mobbs, I find it difficult to reconcile your statements: (1) “We know that the state of being in heaven is everlasting. But what makes it worthwhile attaining? (2) the New Testament reveals little in the way of an answer.”
I thought the Good News is all about Jesus teaching us how to get to heaven and dying to make it possible for us to attain this.
Sydney, New South Wales