instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Is rocky road ice cream paved with gold in Heaven?

A good question was asked this week at RCIA (good in the sense that I've asked it myself):

Doesn't Jesus try to bribe us to be good by promising that those who are good and believe in Him go to heaven?

The answer, of course, is, come back and talk after you've raised some kids. Say what you want about bribery, properly employed it works.

I jest, but there's some truth to it. Young children don't understand the goodness of virtue in the abstract, but they sure do get the hang of going out for ice cream afterwards. Since, as Bl. John Henry Newman observed, "too many, or rather the majority, remain boys all their lives," it's little wonder Jesus points out to the crowds the rewards of believing in Him.

Moreover, the rewards of believing in Jesus may attract people, but they aren't really a bribe properly speaking. The rewards are (by God's grace) the result of believing in Jesus. When you follow Jesus, you wind up in His Father's home, because that's where He's gone. Eternal life isn't accidentally associated with faith in Christ, like ice cream if you behave in the shoe store. It's like ice cream if you don't jump out of the car while Dad drives to the ice cream store.

And eternal life as the result of faith in Jesus is a key part of His revelation to us. It completes what He has to teach us about who God is, why He created us, and what our relationship with Him is supposed to be. Virtue may be its own reward, but saying so doesn't tell us about the Father.

Finally, just what is the reward Jesus promises? "Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ." God isn't just the host in Heaven, keeping the chip bowls full while we hang out with friends, Mozart, and our childhood pets. God is what heaven is all about; everything else comes through, and after, our knowing, seeing, and loving our Father, and His Son, and their Holy Spirit. Anyone who's banking on Pascal's Wager paying out in skittles and beer is going to be disappointed, either in this life or the next.