Christopher Morse on heaven

An interesting wee interview with Christopher Morse appeared in today’s Salisbury Post in which Morse (the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Professor of Theology and Ethics at Union Theological Seminary) speaks about his latest book The Difference Heaven Makes: Rehearing the Gospel as News. Here’s a few snippets:

‘The reason I titled my book “The Difference Heaven Makes” is that I find that the subject of heaven is trivialized today in both academic and popular contexts. One reviewer has commented that it was surprising to find a professor from Union seminary writing about heaven. When schools of the church cease to explore afresh the traditions of scriptural and doctrinal testimonies regarding heaven other voices in the public media, often with little knowledge of these traditions, presume to speak for Christianity in their place without any accountability. Heaven becomes, as one author has written, whatever we want it to be. But rather than complaining that such popular writings sell many times over our books as professors, we should work harder as theologians and scholars to convey as clearly and vitally as possible how it all really matters’.

‘To pray that “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” is to acknowledge that heaven involves a doing. Notice, it is a doing based upon a coming. But what in practice does this mean? In the Gospel this heavenly doing is said to be a coming to us from God that is described as “at hand” but not under our control, not in our hands or originating from us. From this Gospel standpoint what we call ethics, or our human responsibility, is actually our being enabled to respond to what is taking place. Jesus called his disciples to seek this kingdom at hand in the promise that it is the Father’s good pleasure to give it to us. In doing so we are said to become witnesses of what is being done in heaven’.

Read the entire interview here.


  1. in the Summer of 1971 I was a student in the Graduate School of Columbia University. One Sunday I attended the famous Riverside Church. The speaker that day was a professor of NT from Scotland. the point of his message was that we needed less of this pie-in-the-sky idea that most Christians seem to be advocating. My only thought at the time was, “Cabbagehead!” Thatwas the name of my grandfather, who had spent most of his life as a sharecropper in Arkansas and had died in 1968. The Gospel had been a transforming power in his life, and the idea of Heaven was a joy to him, a subject which occupied his interest continually. When he died, one of his neighbors said that he thought that if anyone from that area made it to Heaven, it had to be him. That is why I thought of my grandfather. He was not so heavenly minded that he was no earthly good, but, rather, as C.S. Lewis implied the teaching of Heaven brought out the best in him. I would say Heaven does make a difference, and the author is right on to have made that point.


  2. Is there any bad weather in heaven?
    Or earth quakes, volcanoes or tsunamis?
    Or mosquitoes, piranhas and crocodiles?
    What happens when you die?
    The world continues on exactly as it was the moment before you died.
    You inevitably get reborn into more or less the same mind-created limited condition in and as which you lived in this life time.
    And so on in ever repeating unconscious automatic cycles of fear saturated bewilderment until somehow or other you wake up to your always already Real Condition by the intervention of Divine Grace.


  3. We can never be too interested in the subject of heaven. Ignoring it is like a chef cooking a superb meal then saying, I don’t really care what it tastes like, or whether you eat it. Or a groom at his wedding saying, I don’t really care what happens after today: getting married was the main thing.
    Theologising about heaven is endlessly inspiring and fruitful.


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