A friend of mine showed me an article in the Wall Street Journal last November written by Andrew Stark titled, "There Is Always Something", with the subheading, 'Time without end - heaven knows what it is like or whether we want any part of it.'
Mr. Stark has conveniently imparted his own skeptical views while quoting Carlos Eire, author of the book "A Very Brief History of Eternity" which Stark's critiquing Stark uses the kind of strategy that seemingly allows him to avoid blame for the errors he spouts, in essence saying "that this is not my view but Mr. Eire's". Such posing is a prominent practice of progressives. Both Stark and Eire are progressive professors feeding fallacies to their students at the University of Toronto and Yale respectively. Though there is really very little to respect in those educating our youth in colleges today. These two professors bear out such an indictment. It's interesting to note that before teaching at Yale, Eire was on the faculty of the radical liberal curriculum at St. John's University, a supposedly "Catholic" university.
The Protestant stench Stark emits is concealed at the beginning as he cunningly starts out right when he says the following in his paraphrase:
It begins with the premise that God is one and indivisible, a whole without any parts at all, including temporal parts. For such a God to be possible, he must exist outside of time, and it is this quality, not his existing in time forever, that makes him eternal.
The Triune God stands outside and inside of time which is impossible for man to fully comprehend but possible for God to do nonetheless. After all, He is the author of time and eternity.
Bingo. So far so good.
But something further follows. Just as a person standing outside of his house can take in the entire structure at a glance, God, situated outside of time, can see all of time spread out before him. Time's beginning, its ending and everything in between-all exist together in his gaze.
Mr. Eire lucidly recounts the theological mind-bends involved as Christian thinkers of the first millennium struggled to get their heads around this idea. "If future and past events coexist," an exasperated Saint Augustine declared in the late fourth century, "I don't know where they are."
The writer of this article is getting it right to this point. I remember reading Augustine's Confessions and he was breaking his brain trying to figure this out.
I knew it couldn't last because what follows is where Andrew Stark or Eire, (or both it seems) start going haywire.
Augustine's use of the word "where" is tell-tale. It underscores the fact that for us timebound humans, the only way that a timeless eternity makes sense is if we think of it as a kind of place: a place where God sits and where all of time is present to his view. That place came to be known as heaven.
We are talking about an omnipotent God here. That means He knows more than we could ever imagine knowing more than all the intellects of all the human beings and Angels in history. The heavenly Father stooped down to our level and simplified things for us in a way that we could understand by sending His only-begotten Son Jesus Christ to make Heaven possible for those who were willing to live by God's laws, believe and be baptized (cf. St. Mark 16: 15-16). The best way to explain what this naturalist writer (and or Eire) cannot understand and therefore cannot believe because the Holy Trinity is absent in their world and they cannot fathom it to be possible is to describe eternity as the "eternal moment" where the past, present and future are all present.
We cannot wrap our intellects around the mysteries of God any better than we can wrap our intellects around God Himself. For the informed Christian will readily admit the fact that as sure as God exists is as sure as there are things we will never fully understand. I know this ruffles modern man's feathers but a fact is a fact no matter how unwilling we are to admit it and no matter how supreme we deem our intellects to be to those who existed before us. We must also remember that man gauges time in linear terms, yet, for God, time is infinite, and one might have a better scope by picturing the symbol for infinity in the eliptical figure 8 where there is no beginning or end. This mystery is impossible for man to comprehend.
Saint Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologica explains the mysteries of God better than they have ever been explained since the history of man. God revealed these mysteries to us and gave them to His Church to guard and protect and the Angelic Doctor expounded upon them within the confines of the Church. If the writer truly cared to know the answer to his question he would have studied his query within the Church which Christ revealed Himself to. Before figuring out the mystery of eternity he would have tried to figure out God Himself and gone straight to the source of Divine Revelation to do so. He would understand that God does not "sit" in the way he imagines but that God is Pure Spirit. He would figure out that a pure spirit does not sit because a pure spirit never stands. He simply is.
And this, Mr. Eire argues, was a key innovation. It ultimately allowed the medieval church to argue that if God can see us from heaven, then under the right circumstances heaven should be visible to us. From this one idea, Mr. Eire shows, flowed much of European religious culture and custom up till the 1400s. Earthly visions of heaven were regularly reported, provoking much clucking of tongues. Pilgrimages and shrines played upon the belief that "specific earthly points" are "closer to heaven and eternity" than others. The interplay between heaven and Earth got so intense that a few people recounted not simply seeing eternity but actually visiting it.
The author of this writing displays his ignorance en masse in the above paragraph which causes the thinking man of sound theological sense to regurgitate such rubbish. It shows the dumbed-down Protestant mindset of demeaning the Church with such terms as "medieval church" and "European religious cultures." What Stark fails to comprehend, and most likely Eire as well, is that with man such earthly visions of Heaven are impossible, but, as Christ said in St. Matthew 19: 26, St. Mark 10: 27 and St. Luke 18: 27, "with God all things are possible." What Stark has done is limit the Almighty.
They mystery of Heaven or more precisely, the Beatific Vision, is explained as well as is humanly possible by Christ through His Church, known to the secular humanist author of this piece as the "medieval church" as follows: The Beatific Vision, without discounting a location, is better described as a state where we "see" "know" "encounter" God as He is (in the fullness of His glory) with all the accompanying ecstasy (that is anything but mundane, boring or "repetitive") that comes with it. Man cannot see God in the fullness of His glory and live unless he be in a state of sanctifying grace and cleansed from all the stain of his sins and this normally does not happen until after death and usually after a time of purgation after death. However, Saint Paul, one of the early members of the "medieval church", seems to describe this Beatific Vision in Scripture, and he himself does not even know if he was taken to a location or not. And I doubt he would have, even if he had a telescope on hand to "bring with him". One place he definitely was in: a State of Grace.
Apparitions also explain how the faithful and others can be visited by heavenly guests. But if such had not happened to the writer(s) we are to suppose such is not possible and as a result we come to realize, that therefore not everything is possible with God. Again see above for the asinine idea that we can limit God. We are also to suppose that Christ became man and suffered a tortuous death just so we could enjoy a boring mundane eternity. I hope Mr. Stark does not get paid for his work.
Saint Catherine of Siena, famously, announced that she had wed Jesus at a heavenly ceremony attended by saints and angels. And with "one foot in eternity," Mr. Eire says, clerics developed the practice of selling indulgences, interceding directly with heaven on behalf of a parishioner's soul in return for a donation to the Church.
All this traffic between heaven and Earth reached a fever pitch in the early 16th century, when it struck Martin Luther as infuriatingly presumptuous and corrupt. And so his Protestant Reformation systematically set about abolishing masses for the dead, shrines and indulgences and otherwise cutting off contact between heaven and earthbound humans. In this life, Luther held, we should keep our sights fixed firmly on this world, seeking-at most- signs that heaven might be our destiny in the next one.
Here with slight of hand and twist of pen we are to suppose that Christ suffered, died and rose from the dead, establishing His Church on the Rock of Peter and the Apostles for no reason other than to keep them in the dark for 1500 years until the blasphemous, foul-mouthed, adulterous Luther came along. The staggering amount of what I hope is willful ignorance as opposed to inculpable ignorance on the part of the writer is almost as difficult to comprehend as God Himself. In case we were giving him the benefit of the doubt before as unbiased against the Catholic Church built on the Rock of Saint Peter and founded by Christ Himself we are awakened to the fact that this could not be farther from the Truth as the writer goes out of his way to capitalize "protestant reformation" while avoiding the capitalization of "Church" or "Mass" or "Heaven". He also goes out of his way to capitalize "earth" while making sure he never capitalizes Heaven. I am afraid that this childish humanistic child of the enlightenment gives us a most accurate picture of the man who questions God.
While we cannot deny the corruption of men from the time of Judas through the time of Luther until now within the Church, we rightly deny that selling indulgences is authorized by that Church. The Church cannot sell anything that is blessed including the brown scapular which must be bought before it is blessed. These items cost money to make and if those of the intellect of this writer's ilk are aware of that fact they should soon be infuriated by how secular manufacturers of other items dare to charge a price for their material and labor. Any Catholic priest, who will not offer a Mass unless he is paid, sins and risks losing his soul by doing so. He has a right to a stipend as he has given everything up for the sake of the Kingdom and needs to eat in order to survive but his interceding on behalf of a particular soul with the Angels and Saints in Heaven is not contingent on being paid for doing so. One does not buy his way out of Purgatory or Hell per se, though giving alms (willingly, not by force or by necessity) for the sake of God's Church can help to expiate the punishment due to forgiven mortal sins and or venial sins.
We were not made for earth. Earth is where fallen man works out his salvation in fear and trembling. We are made for Heaven which is the final destination of those who belong to the Church founded by Christ and who keep His Commandments until the end. We should keep our sights fixed firmly on our final, eternal, destination and nothing else as our eternity depends on it.
And then came Galileo, whose telescope failed to disclose any evidence of heaven at all, making it no longer possible for anyone "who was well educated,"
The phrase above "who was well educated" is rightly put in quotes as I am sure Mr. Stark and Mr. Eire consider themselves to be "well educated" i.e. filled with the thoughts, true or false, they have been taught in our government subsidized propaganda machine which is the result of the "great" "enlightenment."
Mr. Eire writes, to "envision heaven or eternity itself as part of the visible universe."
The Catholic Church has never declared or "envisioned" Heaven or eternity as part of the visible universe. And thus topples the second straw man the writer invented.
That is why today we routinely equate eternity not with a timeless place but with the vast timespan of the cosmos. And, thanks to the Enlightenment, we think less about what it all means for God than ourselves.
The enlightenment, which was the beginning of the dark age we are currently living in, indeed has taken the focus off God and put it on ourselves as Satan, his rebelling angels, and to a lesser extant Adam and Eve did; thus the problems of modern man having technologically "evolved" (dissolved) in to a depravation that would make Sodom and Gomorrah look like a Traditional Catholic Benedictine Monastery by comparison.
The result has not been pretty. We now live, Mr. Eire writes, in an age of futile "outrage": outrage that the timespan of the universe is so vast while we mortals are allotted but a stingy, "tiny scrap." The modern mindset-no timeless heaven for us in the next world, no eons of time in this one-has left mankind, and certainly Mr. Eire, in a serious funk.
Mr. Eire finds himself in this state because he trusts his own intellect over Divine Revelation, the result of which always leads to error and ultimately heresy and eternal damnation; quite a funk indeed. He is a product of this Modernist age where man feels entitled to something he has not earned and shows no propensity to learn or earn.
It's a fascinating story, but a bit too dark. For it may well be, to paraphrase Churchill, that mortality is the worst possible predicament for human beings, except for all the others. Existentialists suggest that if we lived forever we would ultimately do everything there is to do, and then we'd start repeating ourselves. Think of Sisyphus, rolling his boulder eternally up the hill. If instead we chose to transcend this process, New Age philosophers tell us, then the best thing we can do is live in an empty, egoless state, passing our time in the contemplation of nothingness. Let's see: Doing everything over and over or contemplating nothing forever. Can I get back to you on that one?
Happily, there is consolation in "A Brief History of Eternity," hidden in plain sight: The timeless eternity once occupied by God doesn't sound all that appealing, at least from a human point of view. Since all of time is spread out before him in a single vista, Mr. Eire's timeless God can see in a blink everything that has ever happened and that ever will happen. Not much suspense or excitement in that kind of knowledge. Nor, as many theologians have recognized, would a timeless God actually be able to do anything-at least, anything that resembles human action-since actions take place only in time. Doing nothing while knowing everything there is to know? Thanks, but . . . maybe not.
As long as God's problems with living in eternity mirror what our own would be, maybe mortality isn't so bad after all.
Remember that part about regurgitating? Well I lost my lunch reading Stark's last scatological screed. But that is what this University of Toronto professor (why is it that all the professors are progressive?) has provided: yet another onslaught of puke-worthy sentiments. Poor God, the Author of all things could not make His existence less boring.
For Mr. Stark, Mr. Eire's view is a bit too dark and Divine Revelation is a bit too bright. The happy medium lies in a concoction of truth and error ready-made to shun the possibility of hell by sacrificing the possibility of Heaven as God has revealed it to us. The reality is, objectively speaking, that writers such as these will have all eternity in hell to see the error of their ways. Let us pray that they see the Light and act accordingly before they die. Otherwise, they're going to have a hellavu time explaining to the divine Judge why they misjudged Him so and mislead so many souls.