Two Bad Views on What Happens When You Die

Two super-popular Christian leaders have recently made public statements about what happens when you die. And they’re both terribly wrong.

First, our friend, Rick Warren, tweeted this:

This is, of course, about as unsubtle as Rick usually is. He’s obviously talking about gay people. And if he thinks, as he seems to be implying, that someone’s eternal destiny is dependent on what they think about gay marriage, he’s dead wrong. Indeed, the implication that anyone on the marriage equality side of the debate has ever insinuated that is silly.

The church has been on the wrong side of history many times, and on the right side sometimes, too. The church in America is currently split fairly evenly — as are Americans as a whole — on the question of whether GLBT persons should be able to marry. But those stats aren’t stagnant. They’re shifting, and fast. Within five years, many evangelical churches will marry gays, just as most now perform weddings of divorced persons and hire divorced clergy.

Meanwhile, the pope’s proxies made the much ballyhooed announcement that Catholics who follow World Youth Day on Twitter will get years off of Purgatory. Yes, the Catholic Church still believes in Purgatory.

In 2007, the Vatican hedged on Limbo:

“This theory, elaborated by theologians beginning in the Middle Ages, never entered into the dogmatic definitions of the Magisterium. Still, that same Magisterium did at times mention the theory in its ordinary teaching up until the Second Vatican Council. It remains therefore a possible theological hypothesis.

However, Purgatory stayed. And indulgences are making a comeback.

Of course, Purgatory doesn’t apply to Protestants, since we don’t believe in it. So I suggest a new evangelism tactic for us: Tell your Catholic friends and neighbors to convert to Protestantism, and they’ll be able to avoid Purgatory altogether!

In the meantime, let’s disabuse ourselves of the medieval metaphysic that says we’ll be suffering year after year in a physical place when we die.

  • Scott Paeth

    I dunno. I say we should keep Purgatory and ditch Hell. Purgatory seems much more in keeping with the idea I have of God’s grace than any conception of an eternal Hell.

  • Terry Clees

    My favorite popular opinion on what happens when you die is that you become an angel. Where in the world do people get that notion???

  • http://www.fivedills.com Greg Dill

    How in the world did you get Warren talking about gay marriage in this tweet? There is not even a subtle allusion to it. None. Zero.

    Tony, I like your material. But, I think this is a classic case of twisting someone’s words to propel you onto a soapbox.

    • Jacob

      Because of all the gay marriage developments going on right now. We’re talking about being on “the right side of history” with this issue. I don’t know of anything else going on currently Rick Warren would be referring to.

      • http://www.fivedills.com Greg Dill

        Ironically, Warren is more moderate on the issue than most mainstream evangelicals, including doing charitable work to help people stricken with AIDS. I’m still not convinced he is referring specifically to LGBT issues in this tweet. We can’t just assume things. I am more inclined to believe he is talking about whether or not someone is believing in other things/people other than Jesus Christ who is the Truth.

        • RollieB

          If not the LGBTQ issue within the church then what?!? Name another issue confounding the church at the level of the gay issue.

          • http://www.fivedills.com Greg Dill

            Read my comment above. I clearly state what I think he is referring to.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Atheism.

        • Jacob

          I’m not addressing his treatment of the gay community. He has done many good things. His kind treatment of gay people doesn’t mean he’s okay with gay marriage, though.

          And what else would he be talking about? I’m not trying to assume. If you have an idea of what else he could be talking about, I would happy to hear it. But that’s the only current issue I know about which the church is using that phrase.

          • http://www.fivedills.com Greg Dill

            Read my comment above. I state what I think he is referring to.

      • TheodoreSeeber

        A few other things conservatives are accused of being on the “wrong side of history” on:
        -Abortion
        -Euthanasia
        -War
        -The Death Penalty
        -Usury
        -Money
        -Music
        -Movies
        -Games

        the list goes on and on.

    • andrew

      seems pretty obvious to me.

    • Jakeithus

      It’s very possible that he’s making a reference to gay marriage, since that is the most common area I have heard the phrase “wrong side of history” used to describe recently.

      Where I disagree with Tony is with his thinking that Rick is implying one’s eternal destiny is tied up with gay marriage in particular. Personally, I take it more as simply him raising the point that being on the right/wrong side of history shouldn’t be the primary concern that Christian’s have when arriving at a position, considering history’s position when contemplating eternity. YMMV of course.

    • Guest

      Tell me, what do you think Warren is talking about?

      • http://www.fivedills.com Greg Dill

        Read my comment above. I state what I think he is referring to.

  • Simon

    Tony Jones is so evangelisticly saavy. Can’t explain all the reasons here.

  • Johnson

    sadly,
    when people refuse to acknowledge the sinfulness of
    homosexuality–calling evil good and good evil (Isaiah 5:20)–they do so
    at the expense of many souls.

    • LoneWolf343
      • Johnson

        I see you lack understanding in context and hermeneuticse. Leviticus 11 lists the dietary restrictions God gave to the nation of Israel. The dietary laws included prohibitions against eating pork, shrimp, shellfish and many types of seafood, most insects, scavenger birds, and various other animals. The dietary rules were never intended to apply to anyone other than the Israelites.

        The purpose you may ask, the food laws was to make the Israelites distinct from all other nations and health reasons at the time.
        Shaving-
        The Old Testament law forbade priests from shaving their heads or beards Leviticus 21:5. In the ancient( Hebrew culture), men usually had long beards. In fact, it was considered a disgrace for an adult man not to have a beard 2 Samuel 10:4-5.
        “cloths made out of more then one material”
        Again context!
        “‘Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material.

        If you look at the context of the statement, it is talking about the cross contamination of similar things. This could be taken to speak about the separation that God commanded Israel to keep from all other nations, they were separate and it would be sinful for them to mix, at that time not since the new covenant.

  • Johnson

    It
    is clear, that the Bible condemns homosexuality as an immoral
    and unnatural sin. Leviticus 18:22 identifies homosexual sex as an
    abomination, a detestable sin. Romans 1:26-27 declares homosexual
    desires and actions to be shameful, unnatural, lustful, and indecent.
    First Corinthians 6:9 states that homosexuals are unrighteous and will
    not inherit the kingdom of God. Since both homosexual desires and
    actions are condemned in the Bible, it is clear that homosexuals
    “marrying” is not God’s will, and would be, in fact, sinful.
    The
    biblical viewpoint of marriage has been the universal understanding of
    marriage in every human civilization in world history. History argues
    against gay marriage. Modern secular psychology recognizes that men and
    women are psychologically and emotionally designed to complement one
    another. In regard to the family, psychologists contend that a union
    between a man and woman in which both spouses serve as good gender role
    models is the best environment in which to raise well-adjusted children.
    Psychology argues against gay marriage. In nature/physicality, clearly,
    men and women were designed to “fit” together sexually. With the
    “natural” purpose of sexual intercourse being procreation, clearly only a
    sexual relationship between a man and a woman can fulfill this purpose.
    Nature argues against gay marriage.

    • LoneWolf343

      It also condemns the consumption of pork and shaving. I’m willing to bet you have done both. It also says, through Peter’s vision, that no man should be called unclean. The Bible is in fact clear on the treatment of homosexuals, but not in the way you think it is.

      Homosexuality was commonplace in history, at least as early as Ancient Egypt, where there is a myth of Seti attempting to seduce Horus. Some Greeks actually believed that homosexual love was superior to heterosexual, because no woman could love a man like a man could.

      You need to look more into the psychology of gender identity. It’s not remotely what you seem to think it is.

      Homosexuality is commonplace in nature. Sheep and bats are among the most notoriously gay creatures out there, and homosexuality has been observed in Bonobos monkeys, a close genetic cousin of humans.

      You are demonstrably wrong on all points. Good day, sir.

      • Johnson

        I see you also lack understanding in context and hermeneuticse. Leviticus 11 lists the
        dietary restrictions God gave to the nation of Israel. The dietary laws
        included prohibitions against eating pork, shrimp, shellfish and many types of seafood, most insects, scavenger birds, and various other animals. The dietary rules were never intended to apply to anyone other than the Israelites.

        The purpose you may ask, the food laws was to make the Israelites
        distinct from all other nations and health reasons at the time.
        Shaving-
        The Old Testament law forbade priests from shaving their heads or beards Leviticus 21:5. In the ancient( Hebrew culture), men usually had long
        beards. In fact, it was considered a disgrace for an adult man not to have a beard 2 Samuel 10:4-5.
        “cloths made out of more then one material”
        Again context!
        “‘Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material.
        If you look at the context of the statement, it is talking about the
        cross contamination of similar things. This could be taken to speak
        about the separation that God commanded Israel to keep from all other nations, they were separate and it would be sinful for them to mix, at that time not since the new covenant.

    • Science:AGoodPlacetoStart

      What psychologists?

      Not the American Psychological Organization, the professional association that guides the practices of American psychologists:
      http://www.apa.org/about/policy/parenting.aspx
      Their research showed that “Overall, results of research suggest that the development, adjustment, and well-being of children with lesbian and gay parents do not differ markedly from that of children with heterosexual parents.”

      Maybe you meant psychiatrists? Let’s hear from the American Psychiatric Organization, the professional association that guides the practices of American psychiatrists:
      http://www.psychiatry.org/lgbt-sexual-orientation
      Their research showed that “Numerous studies have shown that the children of gay parents are as likely to be healthy and well adjusted as children raised in heterosexual households. ”

      Or maybe you meant to say pediatricians. Nope, not even the the American Association of Pediatrics endorse that position:
      http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/131/4/827
      Their research showed that “Scientific evidence affirms that children have similar developmental and emotional needs and receive similar parenting whether they are raised by parents of the same or different genders.”

      Are you misinformed, or lying?

      • Johnson

        The Bible is a better place to Start.

    • Sven2547

      Marriage does not exist in nature. Anywhere. It is a purely artificial construct.

      • Johnson

        SVEN that’s nonsense, marriage is Gods Idea.

        • Sven2547

          How is it nonsense? Marriage existed long before religions ever got involved in the process (it was originally a property transfer), and only humans practice it.

    • Dorfl

      “The biblical viewpoint of marriage has been the universal understanding of marriage in every human civilization in world history.”

      No it hasn’t.

      Mostly, marriage has been between one man and as many women as he could get. Sometimes it has been between one woman and many men. Sometimes it has even been between one man and one woman. Nothing described in the bible matches all the forms that marriage has taken historically – and still takes.

      You are right that marriage has generally tended to be between some number of men and some number of women – for one simple reason: historically marriage has mostly been about producing huge numbers of babies, to replace those lost to starvation, feuding, warfare and the occasional plague. That need does not exist in a relatively peaceful society with a stable food supply, a functioning police force and modern medicine. If you don’t want marriage to become entirely obsolete, you have to find another use for it.

      “Modern secular psychology recognizes that men and women are psychologically and emotionally designed to complement one another.”

      No it doesn’t.

      No modern science recognises men or women as having been ‘designed’ in the first place. Modern psychology recognises that for some mental traits, the average for women and the average for men are far enough away from each other that the overlap between the distributions is fairly small, but that’s pretty much it.

      “In regard to the family, psychologists contend that a union between a man and woman in which both spouses serve as good gender role models is the best environment in which to raise well-adjusted children.”

      No they don’t.

      There isn’t much data about same-sex households yet, but the little we have doesn’t support this idea.

  • http://coolingtwilight.com/ Dan Wilkinson

    Why are “wrong side of history” and “wrong side of truth” necessarily at odds with each other? Of course we want to be on the side of truth…and when we join the side of truth, history will reflect that shift. Those in the church that argued in favor of slavery and against civil rights were on the wrong side of history AND the wrong side of truth.

    • Jakeithus

      I don’t think they necessarily are at odds with one another, or that that position is implied by the tweet. One the other hand, I don’t believe it’s been demonstrated that being on “the right side of history” always means one is on the right side of truth.

  • rick allen

    I’m surprised that you find Catholic belief in the purgation of the soul after death surprising. In every mass we pray for those who have died, and the requiem mass and the customs of All Soul’s Day presuppose it. Obviously, as a Protestant, you don’t believe it. But I hope you had your tongue in your cheek in suggesting that belief or disbelief in something has anything to do with whether that thing actually exists.
    And though I am no fan of Mr. Warren, I think, in his asserting the irrelevance of being on the “wrong side of history,” he is simply disavowing being in the “progressive Christian” box. It is, to me, an odd belief, that history itself is the cause of some dynamic, rather than the actions of human beings or God. I understand how much can be said for treating history as a sort of active agent in Hegel or Marx. But I think Mr. Warren is correct not to buy it, looking to the commandments of Christ rather than an anticipatory, and necessarily speculative, future judgment of history. We really have no idea whom among us our ancestors will consider crazy, and whom exemplary.

    • rick allen

      Whoops. Read “descendants” for “ancestors.”

  • curtismpls

    God is a God of the living. Let the dead bury the dead.

  • Ryan Hite

    How can this man be so sure about what eternity is like? There is no evidence for such besides a book that is thousands of years old that is flawed and out of date at best.

  • Johnson

    Listen to a Man that speaks the truth.

    • http://www.fivedills.com Greg Dill

      John Piper? Now, his theology is even scarier.

      • Johnson

        Scarier?

  • TheodoreSeeber

    2007? What happened to 1963? Limbo, after all, went away with Vatican II, not with Pope Benedict XVI.

    You do know what CS Lewis said about purgatory and Hell in the great divorce: If you go on to Heaven, twas only purgatory, if you stay in it, it is Hell.


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