Sunday, August 30, 2009

Is heaven just a bribe?

One might ask, are people really moral if they are told that they will be rewarded in heaven for what they do? Wouldn't that be like offering someone $50 to be kind to their annoying little sister for a week?

In the $50 case, the reward is extrinsic to the deed, or the character necessary to do the deed. One idea that, for example, comes out of C. S. Lewis, is that if we are going to live forever, then unless our characters are properly formed, they will cause more and more harm to ourselves and others. The only way to be the kind of person who can enjoy eternity is someone allows God to create in him a Christlike character. Sex, drugs, and rock and roll will become boring or worse after a million years. So on this view, heaven isn't just a cash reward, it becomes possible for a person because they open themselves up to character transformation. Morally good acts reflect the kind of character that will make a heavenly life possible for a person.

HT: Steven Clauer


unkle e said...

But doesn't the christian doctrine of salvation by grace, and not good deeds, resolve this? We are not asked to be good with heaven as the bribe, but asked to be good because we already have been given eternal life by grace. I think christianity is unique among religions in this, so the argument may be valid against other believers.

Doctor Logic said...

All those people who go to heaven have a good character?

I find that difficult to believe.

Unless heaven is much like planet Earth, God must fix those graduating to the other side. Which, of course, makes it seem odd that he wouldn't simply fix everyone in a similar fashion.

(Has anyone else noticed that Christian theology reads like the plot of a bad episode of Star Trek: Enterprise? Actually, that's redundant. All episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise had nonsensical plots.)

Sorry if this comment causes a religious argument. I know that some people actually liked Star Trek: Enterprise.

Brings up another thought I had... Christians sometimes give a free will argument when trying to explain God's hiding from us. But wouldn't it be a better test of human character if God showed himself, and instead hid the consequences for disobedience?

Doctor Logic said...


Can we be given eternal life by grace, and then subsequently be naughty? Or, indeed, very naughty?

(I'm assuming that eternal life by grace isn't like true Scottish citizenship.)

unkle e said...

"Can we be given eternal life by grace, and then subsequently be naughty? Or, indeed, very naughty?"

Naughty? - I certainly hope so! Not many christians would claim to be perfect after receiving God's grace!

Very Naughty? - check out the life of King David in the Bible (admittedly not a christian but nevertheless a recipient of God's grace).

1 John 1:8-9: "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."

The Plutonian said...

Dear Victor Reppert:

Be aware that Trollblog [] has called you a WEASEL, among the nicer things that Hays has said about you.

I have also posted to Trollblog, not to give my opinion, but to give other readers advice as to what they can do about the HATE SPEECH on Trollblog, ie, use the FLAG BLOG button. Steve has castigated me [] for making this suggestion on Trollblog and on Classical Armenian. My suggestions were removed from Trollblog and Classical Armenian, under obviously great pressure.

There was no debate or question on Classical Armenian as to whether Trollblog did indeed commit the infraction of HATE SPEECH in violation to their contract with I POWER BLOG. That part was deleted, along with my instructions on the use of the FLAG BLOG button. Of course, most of my comments on Trollblog was deleted, and many of my quotes were taken out of context when Trollblog criticized me. Hays made it sound that I came out of the blue with the wild-eyed idea of using FLAG BLOG button, when in fact I and others ran out of patience over the years of gratuitous abuse by this blog.

I invite you and your readers to go to Trollblog, and liberally use the FLAG BLOG button. Such Pseudo-Christain blogs only make the job of evangelizing harder for REAL Christains.


Jeremy said...

Careful that you don't fall into the very same traps of insults and circle drawing that you're against, mate.

Anyway, the more I read the bible, the less I think of heaven as much more than something to look forward to...a promise that things will one day be alright. The primary thrust seems to me to be in trying to place yourself in "right relationship" with God. This has very little to do with heaven.

I would, however, not want to downplay Christian eschatology as unimportant. In my experience, it is something that is very important to someone in India where life is hard and there is little to no justice. Humans can endure a great deal when they think that it will not always be so unbearable.

That said, if your entire goal of "getting saved" is "going to heaven," I think we have issues.

Jeremy said... clarify, the first part of my comment was pointed at Plutonian.

unkle e said...

The Plutonian said: "I invite you and your readers to go to Trollblog, and liberally use the FLAG BLOG button. Such Pseudo-Christain blogs only make the job of evangelizing harder for REAL Christains."

I've never frequented the site you are discussing, but I can imagine I too would find it frustrating and contrary to the Spirit of Jesus. But I can't help feeling a different approach would be better. Jesus' advice to his followers was to leave towns which didn't welcome them, and move on. I wonder whether the same applies here?

I know that some unbelievers berate "decent" christians for allowing "nasty" christians to continue in their behaviour, but really, we cannot control that. Your actions are unlikely to change things, but rather provoke further situations where the name of Jesus is dishonoured.

My suggestion: wipe the dust from your feet, or pray for them without antagonising them - the less people visit, the less is their impact!

Steven Clauer said...

That is a really good question! Ha ha.
I already responded in class so I'll just enjoy my fifteen minutes.