Is Heaven Boring?

By definition, heaven should be endlessly rich and appealing. Perhaps what's bothering us is not boredom so much as fear.

There’s a rumor going around about heaven. It’s been bruited about by well-known theologians, sharp-tongued satirists and social critics (Mark Twain among others), but it’s not really a very subtle point: The life of eternal blessedness sounds boring. My five-year-old son Andy voiced this concern early one morning while he was bouncing on the bed where I was trying to sleep. “Momma,” he said, “you’re Mary and I’m the baby Jesus. And up here is heaven, downstairs is earth. And in the basement there’s a secret passageway that goes to another world.” To which I gave a half-asleep “Uh-huh.”

Then Andy, still bouncing, said, “Let’s go downstairs. There aren’t enough rooms in heaven.” To which I replied, hoping to buy more time in bed, “But I thought you said your father’s house has many mansions!"

Given eternity, many of us fear that there will not be enough mansions to keep us occupied and fulfilled. Heaven, we fear, will be endless church services, a terrifying prospect to any reasonably vigorous child. That’s why the little girl asked (in The Gates Ajar, the 1868 novel by Elizabeth Stuart Phelps), if she were very good up in heaven, whether they’d let her go down to play in hell on Saturday afternoons.

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But boredom is in the eyes of the beholder. My children think it’s boring to go to a museum, to sit still or to do anything contemplative for very long. We all have different boredom thresholds--is it too much to hope that our boredom threshold will be raised when we are raised? Even in this life there are moments when church is truly enthralling. Why should it not be the case that inability to be bored will be one of the gifts with which the Holy Spirit endows the blessed?

By definition, heaven cannot be boring. If our picture of heaven is boring, then the fault lies with the picture and not with heaven. It’s a sign that we have not yet taken seriously the promise that we are to be renewed, transformed and remade in the image and likeness of the One who made us. (Eastern Christians call this “deification.”) The only boring heaven would be one from which the prospect of personal relationship with God is absent. What could be more dreary than life everlasting without God? Conversely, conceptions of heaven with God as center and source are, or should be, endlessly rich and appealing. As Jonathan Edwards puts it, “They shall see every thing in God that gratifies love. They shall see in him all that love desires.”

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