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‘Will heaven get boring?’
This was the question I found myself debating with my brother one night. As children, it was a genuine concern for both of us – we were convinced that even if something is really, really fun, it would eventually grow old and mundane.
I believe I won that argument (my brother may tell you differently) by pointing out that boredom is a bad thing and if in heaven everything is good then boredom won’t belong there. Not necessarily the most theologically robust argument, I know, but cut me some slack… I was only seven.
The question of whether heaven will get boring is dealt with in the final episodes of the popular NBC series The Good Place, a philosophical comedy about the afterlife.
After much to-ing and fro-ing, our four heroes finally reach ‘The Good Place’, where they have everything they’ve ever wanted. From a door that will take you to explore any place at any time on earth, all the way through to frozen yoghurt that tastes how you feel when your phone battery is full… our heroes want for nothing.
And yet what they discover there is that the other residents are bored. In the words of one character: ‘when perfection goes on forever, you become this glassy-eyed, mush person.’
In his book God is the Gospel, John Piper poses this fascinating question: ‘Could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ was not there?’
Heaven without Jesus. This is what The Good Place offers us… and admits even to itself that it is lacking. Because our heroes realise that ‘the way to restore meaning to people in the Good Place is to let them leave’. When people get bored of this utopia, they can go through a door and just be absorbed into the universe once again: a gentle, cosmic suicide.
The Good Place puts human ability to control our own destiny as the ultimate meaning-maker: freedom to make our own choices gives us a god-like status, and what makes our lives purposeful is the ability to decide when we die.
Look at it from a different angle, however, and we see that when we try to create our own meaning, it ends in the destruction of our very selves.
Human beings cannot ultimately satisfy themselves; the only one who can is the one without whom we can never truly be satisfied, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in him.
Church Partnerships Manager for International Justice Mission UK