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Pray Tell: Questions about Heaven

December 02, 1994|ROY RIVENBURG

Where is heaven? Possibly in Oregon. There, a self-described "bureaucrat for Jesus" named Paul Revere has been issuing Kingdom of Heaven license plates and passports from a 34-acre estate that he says belongs to God. Oregon officials aren't quite convinced, noting that Heaven owes more than $10,000 in property taxes.

Are there animals in the afterlife? Thomas Aquinas, the great medieval Catholic theologian, said no. But others--including an Anglican archbishop who believes monkeys have immortal souls--contend that God will renew and perfect all creation in the next world. Even "ants, bugs and all unpleasant, stinking creatures will be most delightful and have a wonderful fragrance," predicted Protestant reformer Martin Luther. Scholars disagree over whether dead pets will be resurrected.

Is there sex after death? Not likely. Although a case has been made in the past for celestial sex (medieval visionaries saw virgin women receiving kisses and sensual embraces from Christ, and 19th-Century clergy allowed for lovemaking between reunited spouses), most theologians don't buy it. They note that Jesus said there would be no marriage in heaven, and that post-mortem procreation seems illogical. Not to worry, though. "Spiritual intercourse" with God and other souls will reportedly make earthly sex seem insignificant. People who worry about no sex in heaven are like children who wonder if they will be able to eat candy during intercourse, philosophers say. They can't imagine a pleasure so fantastic it renders candy obsolete.

Will rock music be allowed inside the Pearly Gates? In theory, yes, says heaven expert Peter Kreeft. Even if rock composers end up in hell, their tunes could be saved under a philosophical ploy called "spoiling the Egyptians." Just as the Israelites justified plundering gold from Pharaoh because it was for God's service, early Christians decided they could lift ideas from pagan philosophers because "all truth is God's truth." Kreeft concludes that "good music written by bad people belongs to heaven by right." OK, but what happens to disco?

Is there food in the next world?: Jesus dined after the Resurrection, so it stands to reason that other residents of heaven also will be able to eat--although purely for pleasure, not survival, theologians say.

* Sources: Associated Press, the Sunday Telegraph, L.A. Times interviews, "Heaven: A History" and "Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Heaven."

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