I was thinking tonight…what if all isn’t “well with my soul”? This hymn which has meant so much to so many just doesn’t seem to do full justice to the need for self-expression in grief. It can at times function more to repress genuine feelings of grief, anger, and despair. It can at times serve only to attempt to ignore the pain of sorrow. Is there still a place in our hymnody for raw expressions of pain and sorrow as the ancient Israelites held to in their psalms? Can we sing songs of despair or anger over injustice? I love this hymn, but wonder if we have too quickly dashed from the valley of the shadow of death into a pleasant meadow of our own self-making? Am I less than Christian if at any time all is not well?
As I’ve worked my way through Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, I’ve become convinced that the notion of “heaven” should be rejected as falling short of orthodox Christian confession. What do I mean by such a thing? It strikes me that our world largely embraces the notion of “heaven,” but that is not the confession of the historic Church. We do not confess belief in “heaven”, but in “the resurrection of the dead and life everlasting”. It is not faith in the Christian sense that is necessary to believe in heaven (most everyone I know believes in “heaven”), but it is Christian faith that is essential for belief in Christ Jesus leading to the resurrection of the dead and life everlasting. These two beliefs should not be confused.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not abandoning the truth of God’s presence and kingdom as now, but not yet. What I’m abandoning is the contemporary embrace of “heaven” as a place of disembodied existence. This fails to account for the very bodily resurrection from the dead of which Christ is the first-fruit. As the Church, we confess, and long for, a bodily existence that is transformed by the life-giving power of the Spirit which is in Christ Jesus. Our bodies will most assuredly be raised at the last day, even as we already are living resurrected lives of obedience…yielding our very lives to the Spirit.
Talk of “heaven” though is a disembodied talk. It is a talk of immaterial “spiritual” existence. It is not the Biblical doctrine of last things. The end is an end where the dead in Christ are raised because they have died and been buried with Christ. This has everything to do with bodily life now. It is not a sloughing off of this body and an immaterial entrance into a better plane of existence. It is the transformation of this body, because this body belongs to Christ as we yield all that we are to the obedience of Him.
So I reject the notion of “heaven” and embrace the resurrection and life everlasting…where death has been swallowed up in victory! Come, Lord Jesus!