Monday, June 16, 2014

The Fault in Our Stars - thoughts, part II

Saturday night I shared some random thoughts on The Fault in Our Stars. You might say it was my review, of both the book and the movie.

I left one topic for a separate blog post though, mainly because it tied so closely to two recent posts and so I wanted it to get top billing, so to speak. That topic was a conversation between Hazel and Augustus about the afterlife. The conversation was in both the book and the movie.

Here is the context for the conversation:.

Augustus, Hazel, and Hazel's mom have traveled to Amsterdam to meet the author of a book that Hazel loves. The book about cancer and death rings true, and since Hazel has terminal cancer (not a spoiler - we know this from the first moments of the story) she wants to ask the author some questions about the ending. So, as she and Augustus are at dinner in a luxurious romantic restaurant in Amsterdam, Augustus asks her about whether she believes in an afterlife. Obviously, this is not just hypothetical speculation for them.

The conversation went something like this: Hazel thinks that forever is an incorrect concept. After a little joking, she first says a short no - no afterlife. Then she wavers, admitting she's not sure. The Augustus gives his thoughts: yes, absolutely. And then he elaborates, and this is the part I want to focus on:
Yes. Yes, absolutely. Not like a heaven where you ride unicorns, play harps, and live in a mansion made of clouds. But yes, I believe in Something with a capital S. Always have.
- The Fault in Our Stars, p. 168.

Now, I didn't expect the characters in this story to believe in a Biblical picture of heaven. It's not that kind of story. But his comments are telling.

They tell me a lot about what the world thinks a Christian view of heaven is. In summing up what he does not believe in, Augustus mentions several things that I think are the typical picture of heaven. This is the picture reinforced in movies and books such as Heaven Is for Real, and in the tendency of people to imagine their loved ones in a heaven that they have fashioned from their own minds. I don't know where the image comes from, because it's not Scripture.

So Augustus, I agree with you: The true heaven is not a place where you ride unicorns, play harps, or live in the clouds. It's also not just a place for our spirits to live forever. People do not become angels. And it's not just floating around in the light feeling happy and singing hymns.

So what is that "Something with a capital S"? This is the picture painted by Scripture: Jesus rose physically from the dead, preceding those of us who believe in him and will be raised one day. When a believer dies, he/she is in the presence of Christ right away, but that's not the end of the story. When the Messiah returns to the earth, he will redeem it, bring heaven and earth together in one reality, and we will reign over the redeemed creation with him forever. Nothing about harps. No unicorns. Just a world where man will bear the image of God forever, as we were originally intended to do. And it will be all about him, not us. It's going to be awesome!

It's soooooo much better than the images that Augustus rejects. No wonder people don't get more excited about it than they do. But if they had a true picture....oh yeah!

I love that a book like The Fault of Our Stars raises these hard questions. The skepticism of Hazel and Augustus reflects the uncertainty of our day. Stories like this make us examine life and question where our beliefs come from. Jesus came to bring us the answers to these hard questions. And that is good news.
References for further reading:
Surprised by Hope - NT Wright
Heaven - Randy Alcorn

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