Theological question

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader and his lovely wife Mrs Villain got to talking about religion today. Here is a little bit for you to puzzle on…

Assume there is a God. Assume that there is some form of “afterlife” (heaven, hell, different planes of existance…).

Now… Start thinking… A person who has lived their whole life in accordance to their understanding of “God’s will” dies. A person who has lived a life in opposition to their understanding of “God’s Will,” but shortly before the moment of death recognizes the error of their ways and is genuinely contrite and seeks mercy. Are these two people accorded the same treatment in the afterlife? Should they be? Is this even a topic on which we should expend any thought whatsoever?

Mrs Villain was getting a little expasperated at your Maximum Leader’s take on this hypothetical. But it made for 20 minutes of interesting conversation.

Carry on.

6 Comments »

I think we may all assume that we’ll fall short of God’s “will” no matter what we do. For why would we worship or seek the will of someone lesser than ourselves? We seek the greater.

It remains as to whether we sought his Face even more than his Will. For to know the un-gno-able is to repent from every thought that is lesser. I submit that when opposing positions, “see the error” of their ways, they will be in agreement with Truth, and not its divided interpretations.

They will see His face, and that one sight, that one knowing, will render all prior understanding to be false, regardless.

And besides, C.S. Lewis covers this subject beautifully in The Last Battle.



Mr. MoK said:

I think the answer depends on the theology of the God in question (since you use the phrase “a God” instead of “God,” which would seem to postulate a deity other than the one generally recognized as the Judeo-Christian God).

If your theology posits some kind of ranking system, whereby a believer accumulates some kind of reward–crowns, or quatloos, or some kind of “glory”–based on length of service, or magnitude of works, or some such; then clearly the life-long adherent would have a greater reward than the death-bed convert. But both would be admitted to the desired afterlife, that admission serving as the lowest common denominator of reward.

If you were, in fact, asking that question with the Christian God in mind, the answer will be different depending on which interpretation of the Scriptures you admit. Having been raised a Baptist, I was taught that the more we hew to the acting-out of God’s will, the more crowns (literal or figurative, I can’t tell) we earn for ourselves. Apparently these crowns will be cast at the feet of the throne of God once we are in the afterlife, and I suppose this is supposed to increase our bliss at being in Heaven. I admit I find this prospect, not unpleasant, but less than satisfying. If it were up to me, my version of Heaven would include a well-stocked library, and a greater reward would translate to a better collection of books to enjoy throughout eternity. But that’s just me.

I know a little bit about Mormon beliefs, and am led to believe that in their theology, the believers who work out God’s will in a more enthusiastic or complete way are rewarded by being allowed to become the Gods of their own universes; those who don’t quite reach this ideal inhabit various levels of Heaven instead. (For and LDS who read this, I apologize if I have mischaracterized your beliefs, or have repeated the belief of only a faction of your religion; I do it out of ignorance, and not malice.)

If you think two data points are significant, you might conclude that some parts of Christianity teach that there *are* degrees of reward, based on some criteria.

But since your question was phrased generically (”_a_ God”), it seems you’re really asking whether there *should* be differentiation of reward, and not whether there *is* differentiation. In my opinion, there should not; but I realize that approach would have (sometimes serious) repercussions in the way that people live their lives in the here-and-now. As long as someone was reasonably certain of being able to enjoy a death-bed conversion, he might live a life of extreme license. (One could call into question the sincerity of the conversion, since it would be a pre-meditated get-out-of-Hell-free card, so maybe I am wrong given the parameters of your question.)

But I think that if we, once we have reached the afterlife, are aware that some are enjoying more “reward” than we are, and others (including perhaps loved ones) are enjoying less, that would cause us to experience less-than-perfect bliss, and that would contradict the definition of Heaven. But your question doesn’t define Heaven as pure bliss, but simply posits an afterlife, so in your construct there would be no expectation of pure bliss. In that case, my sense of justice tells me that there should indeed be degrees of reward based on whatever your theology is.



TeaFizz said:

Well, it depends…
Did the person who lived their whole life in accordance with their understanding of “God’s will” do so out of fear of the consequences of *not* doing so or out of a genuine belief that it was the right thing to do?



deborah said:

I’ve been mulling this question over for a little bit now. According to the protestant Bible, in the aspect that both men would receive eternal lfe (or “go to heaven”), they would be treated the same.

However, there are several verses that indicate that the man who lived according to God’s will - doing works of service - would receive a greater reward while there. Some of the verses that indicate this are 2 Cor 5:10, 1 Cor 3:8 and Matt 5:12. The man who lived a life according to God’s will had more time to produce these good works and is therefore rewarded for them.

The fact that the idea of greater rewards are found in the Bible also answers your last question - it is a topic worthy of some thought.



Kevin Kim said:

The scriptural answer (or one scriptural answer, at least) for Christians is from Matthew 20:1-15 (parable of the vineyard workers). This is the classic response to the very question discussed by you and the Missus.

Kevin



Ecclesiastes said:

This is weird.

OK, You explicitly assume a God. I think you have implicitly assumed that he is our creator, You have implicitly assumed that he has a “will” for our lives,

One guy lives according to that will all his life and the other sees the error of his ways at the end.

OK, so now you have assumed not just that God has a “will” but also has prescribed a moral system. Just because I turn left instead of right doesn’t make it a sin.

Are these two accord the same treatment?
He’s God. He will do as he pleases. When your time was up, your time was up.

Should they be accorded the same treatment?
What? OK. Because you have asked this question and not “why does God do X?”, you have now assumed that we are properly entitled and equipped to judge God’s morality.

Leaving aside the entitled issue, you’re need to provide much more information regarding the nature of this “afterlife”. Are they each given their 15 minutes of fame before winking out of existence, or is it more of a “Beetlejuice” kind of thing?



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