Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Degrees Of Reward And Contentment In Heaven

"But who can conceive, not to say describe, what degrees of honor and glory shall be awarded [in heaven] to the various degrees of merit? Yet it cannot be doubted that there shall be degrees. And in that blessed city there shall be this great blessing, that no inferior shall envy any superior, as now the archangels are not envied by the angels, because no one will wish to be what he has not received, though bound in strictest concord with him who has received; as in the body the finger does not seek to be the eye, though both members are harmoniously included in the complete structure of the body. And thus, along with his gift, greater or less, each shall receive this further gift of contentment to desire no more than he has." (Augustine, The City Of God, 22:30)

12 comments:

  1. Hmmm...I've not thought much about this topic, but off the cuff it seems to be a logical and Biblical conclusio , just as alternatively there seem to be degrees of punishment in hell.

    Maybe something I need to explore more deeply.

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    1. I’ve heard that the disappointment or regret will be momentary/initial before the eternal state, and that it’s not Christ doing the shaming but the believer who shrinks back and feels the shame themselves, perhaps realizes he didn’t steward as well as he could’ve, sort of like commencement where you get the diploma and walk across the stage regardless but if you worked harder then you and your family would be that much more elated and celebratory in proportion to your effort. Also wedding example, where bride (or groom) feels sense of unpreparedness, should’ve would’ve could’ve but nonetheless the groom lifts the chin of his blushing bride and there is no condemnation in his eyes

      1 John 2:28

      Passive voice and autou suggests that the believer withdraws in shame, perhaps for sense of guilt not having anything to lay down for Christ, etc. the believer produces the action rather than Christ putting the believer to shame. Clint Archer from cripplegate blog did his dissertation on this topic of heavenly rewards.

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  2. The founder of the Salvation army William Booth, had a vision of heaven before he died. He spoke of the Judgment seat of Christ. Jesus looking at some Christians with pity who had no service to show him. Whereas Booth said he would have given anything to receive the look of love that Jesus gave martyrs.

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  3. So in view of the doctrines of grace, would the following perspective be correct:
    We can’t earn our entrance into heaven. Monergistic grace is necessary to “get us in” but then it’s up to us to then earn a higher degree of reward and contentment thereafter?
    I have a hard time conceiving of being in heaven on account of Christ’s merit but then being “disappointed” I didn’t perform well in my earthly walk...

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    1. On the one hand, the Bible seems to teach there are degrees of reward (e.g. Mt 6:1-4; Lk 19:11-27; 1 Cor 3:8-15; 2 Cor 5:10). The Bible also seems to teach it's God who has "prepared beforehand" the good works we perform in this life (Eph 2:10).

      On the other hand, there's no sin in the glorified state in the world to come. As such, we won't be jealous or discontent with our rewards in the world to come, even if our rewards are far less than the rewards of other Christians. If anything, we'll be happy for other Christians. And the least of all Christians will be thankful simply to be among the redeemed if nothing else (cf. Ps 84:10).

      In the end, all will agree God is perfectly just in how he has apportioned rewards in the world to come.

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    2. Eyezayah wrote:

      "it’s up to us to then earn a higher degree of reward and contentment thereafter? I have a hard time conceiving of being in heaven on account of Christ’s merit but then being 'disappointed' I didn’t perform well in my earthly walk"

      You object to the notion that "it’s up to us to then earn a higher degree of reward and contentment thereafter", but Augustine doesn't refer to earning contentment.

      Christians live under different conditions in this life, and those different conditions are often determined to some extent by how well they've lived. People in general, not just Christians, are already living with different degrees of reward and punishment.

      Are you suggesting that there's nothing wrong with not performing well? Or that there's something wrong with it, but that we shouldn't be disappointed or have some other such reaction to it?

      You're not giving us an alternative that's comparable to or better than a view like Augustine's.

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    3. There's also the Reformed position that while *justification* is monergistic *sanctification* is synergistic.

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    4. Jason wrote:
      “Are you suggesting that there's nothing wrong with not performing well? Or that there's something wrong with it, but that we shouldn't be disappointed or have some other such reaction to it?”

      I don’t have anything better than Augustine to offer. Not sure what I’m suggesting really.
      I admit I struggle with being motivated to “do well” if there won’t be any regret for not.
      If, assuming, one will be ignorant/oblivious to what they could have earned...if one will be fully content despite their lack of performance...if Christ will say “well done good and faithful servant” to the high achievers and the slackers alike, its hard to light a fire under your but to do good works.
      I suppose love of the Lord and neighbor should be the biggest motivating factor, maybe not so much the rewards.
      Being used of God is reward enough?
      I can see the Roman Catholic buttressing for purgatory using potential dissapointment in the afterlife over failures in their Christian life...saved but as through fire...

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    5. A few things:

      1. I don't think God will necessarily say "Well done, good and faithful servant" to all Christians. Not necessarily about rewards, per se, but compare Luke 12:41-48.

      2. How one responds to Christ is itself revealing. For example, see Luke 7:47. If one believes they've been forgiven much, then they will love God much. If one believes they've not been forgiven much, then they might not love God much. Or so seems the prima facie logic at least.

      3. Love of God may be its own reward. The more we love God, perhaps the more of God we'll receive. I realize this is rough hewn.

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    6. Eyezayah,

      Whether we'll be content in the future isn't the only factor involved. There's also our contentment before then, the nature of what we'll be content with later, and other factors, including some you and Hawk have brought up. As Hawk mentioned, your suggestion that every believer will be told "Well done, good and faithful servant." is dubious. The parable you're alluding to isn't meant to be exhaustive, and it makes reference to another scenario that it doesn't fully develop (the potential for a slave to earn interest on what he was given, which seems to fall somewhere between the earlier scenario of doubling what you've been given and the second scenario of burying what you've been given). Your reference to purgatory doesn't address the fact that the evidence is heavily against the existence of purgatory, nor does it address the transition to heaven after purgatory under the Roman Catholic view, which means that the Catholic perspective also has to address issues like the ones you're raising.

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    7. Jason has made good points. I want to add one thing about motivation if it might be a help to you. Consider we are redeemed in Christ, and we are called to trust and obey him. As such, grace precedes law. And it's God's grace which provides motivation to obey God's law.

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