"Theism raises the ceiling on our hopes for happiness"
October 6, 2014
Today Justin Taylor posted one of my favorite sections from C. S. Lewis's sermon, "The Weight of Glory." In that sermon, Lewis speaks eloquently about the "desire for our own far-off country"--the desire for heaven. I worry that much contemporary teaching and preaching fails to speak with Lewis's eloquence about this far-off country because it fails to speak properly about that which makes this far-off country so desirable.
Much is said in contemporary preaching about the resurrection of the body, about the glories of a renewed creation, about the cessation of conflict and strife--much is said about many of the great things that will characterize the new creation. But far too little is said about the greatest blessing of the new creation, namely, the glorious presence of the triune God. God will dwell in the midst of the new heaven and earth in unveiled glory, and we will see his face (Revelation 21-22). This, according to Scripture, is our greatest inheritance (Psalm 16), and this is the greatest source of joy: we will behold "the king in his beauty" (Isaiah 33.17).
What is it about God's glorious presence that makes the Christian's blessed hope "blessed"? Jerry Walls explains in words that echo Lewis:
Theism raises the ceiling on our hopes for happiness for the simple reason that God provides resources for joy that immeasurably outstrip whatever the natural order can offer. However great the delights of this planet, it must be remembered that earth is only a tiny speck in a universe whose dimensions are truly staggering. What theism claims is that, while this universe reveals and reflects the glory of God, it is still only a pale image of his infinitely surpassing beauty, power, and goodness. Whatever is wonderful and joyful in this life was created by him, and insofar as it brings joy, it points to an author who is even more fascinating, exciting, and overflowing with vitality. The partial, fleeting happiness that leaves us wanting more is an image and a promise of a happiness that is truly without limit and without end, a happiness that is not only an implication, but also a gift, of a God who is himself boundless in his own happiness and creative joy.
This is the happiness that Jesus promised to the pure in heart, to those who possess an unmixed desire for a far-off country: "blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God" (Matthew 5.8).