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Woman believes in ‘secular heaven’

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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A non-operational, empty escalator at King's Cross underground railway station on the northern edge of London at the junction of Euston Road and York Way, in the London Borough of Camden on the boundary with the London Borough of Islington (Credit: Chris Jones via Flickr)

I read yesterday a terrific essay titled, “No One Ever Loses to Cancer.”  The author tells of a man she loves who is fighting terminal malignancy.  When she heard someone say that a person had “lost the battle” against cancer,” she realized:

“Our vernacular is all wrong.  I resent how cancer is represented.  Just because something kills you cannot possibly mean it defeats you.  If that were true, we would all—masters and poets and liars and sinners and dancers and writers and heroes—be destined in the end to be losers.”

As the father of a cancer survivor, I resonate with her victorious spirit.  But then I read her next paragraph: “I believe that my human is a winner who will one day go, triumphant, to his own secular heaven, where he will survey the newspaper over freshly pressed coffee, eat delicious food, sip the best scotch, partake in really good sex, jog on a long beach, and spend a lot of time watching over the people he loved and left here, including me.”

She is buoyed by her belief that this man will go “to his own secular heaven.”  But what if she’s wrong?  If the Bible is right, there is no such thing as a “secular heaven.”  She is basing a dying man’s eternity on her opinion.  Unfortunately, she is by no means alone.

When Mother Teresa died, 78 percent of Americans thought she was in heaven.  However, 87 percent were certain they would go there.  Only two percent of Americans are afraid of going to hell.

People have often said to me over the years, “I don’t believe in hell,” as if their belief had anything to do with reality.  Imagine saying, “I don’t believe in ISIS” and therefore ignoring the threat it represents.  Or saying, “I don’t believe in diabetes” and therefore rejecting your doctor’s warnings about your diet.  Or saying, “I don’t believe in lung cancer” and continuing to smoke.

Recently I tweeted that “God loves us even when we do not love him.”  A follower replied, “My love for fictional characters stops at Lord of the Rings and superheroes.” He or she is apparently certain that God is fiction.  Upon what factual or logical basis, I wonder?

There are outstanding reasons to believe that God exists and that Jesus Christ is his Son and our Savior.  (For an overview, read my article entitled Why Jesus?)  It is important that Christians know why we believe what we believe, and that we are able to communicate our faith in a cogent and compelling way.  Scripture commands us to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15).

However, the spirit in which we share our faith is vital: “But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander” (v. 16).  When people see the certainty of your faith and its transforming power in your life, they are likely to want what you have.

There’s no doubt how the story ends.  One day every knee will bow and every tongue will acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:10-11).  But when that day comes, it will be too late for those who have not already chosen him as their Lord and King.  As C. S. Lewis noted, “When the author walks onto the stage, the play is over.”  Our only day to be ready is today.