SPACE IN HEAVEN
In an old book that recently came into my possession, there was a newspaper clipping that is worth sharing with our readers. It reads in full:
SPACE IN HEAVEN
Plenty of Room in the Celestial City for AU Mankind “And he measured the city with the reed, 12,000 furlongs. The length and the breadth and height of it are equal.” —Rev. xxi, 16. Twelve thousand furlongs, 7,920,000 feet, which being cubed is 496,793,088,000,000,000,000 cubic feet. Reserving half of this space for the throne and court of heaven, and half of the balance for the streets, we have the remainder of 124,198,272,000,600,000,000 cubic feet. Divide this by 4,096, the cubical feet in a room sixteen feet square, and there will be 30,321,843,730,000,000 rooms. We will now suppose the world always did and always will contain 990,000,000 inhabitants, and that a generation lasts 33% years, making in all 2,970,000,000,000 every century, and that the world will stand 100,000,000 years, or 1,000 centuries, making in all 2,979,000,000,000,000 inhabitants. Then suppose there were 100 worlds equal to this in number of inhabitants and duration of years, making a total of 297,900,000,000,000,000 persons, and there would be more than a hundred rooms sixteen feet square for each person.
The mathematics are interesting, but the theology is not very good. Apart from its universalism, the obvious mistake is that the kind of space found in this earthly creation is to be duplicated in heaven; while Scripture teaches that the bodies of the elect in the resurrection will be spiritual bodies, inhabiting a spiritual heaven which is not like this material creation in any respect. Yet this is a common mistake. One hears it often made when, for example, ministers preach over the radio on Easter day that the resurrection body of Christ was visible at the moment He arose—if only we had been there to see Him.
THE POPE IN PALESTINE
The pope has finished his visit to Palestine. The whole world watched and most of the world rejoiced. Landing in Jordan, the pope spent the greater part of his time in Palestine visiting. such places as the Via Dolorosa (“The Way of Sorrows” over which Christ supposedly walked on His way from Pilate to Golgotha), The Church of the Holy Sepulchre (supposedly built on the site of the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea where Christ was buried), the Garden of Gethsemane, Nazareth, the Sea of Galilee, Cana, Capernaum, and Bethlehem.
There were many reasons given for this visit of Paul, all of which perhaps have an element of truth.
The pope himself said that he was going as a pilgrimage to sacred shrines. This is, of course, in keeping with Romish theology which claims that there is special merit to be attached to these holy pilgrimages. For example, the Church promises 100 days off from purgatory for praying the Lord’s Prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane—which the pope also did.
Some interpreted the visit as a political move to soften Jewish feeling against the Romish Church. It was thought that Paul intended to show the Jews that the Church had no anti-Jew feeling. This had become an issue since Pope Pius had been charged with doing nothing to help the Jews during World War II when the Jews were systematically slaughtered by the Nazis.
Others thought that the Pope was making an effort to improve relations between the Israelis and the Arabs who have long been at each other’s throats.
But the main reason for the visit was the meeting of the pope with Patriarch Athenagoras, patriarch in the Eastern Orthodox Church. Although Athenagoras is considered the “primate” in his church, he does not have the authority over his 200,000,000 subjects that Paul has over his 580,000,000. Athenagoras is only one patriarch among others as, e.g., the patriarchs in Antioch, Jerusalem, Alexandria, etc.; while he is from Istanbul. And he must consult with the other patriarchs and gain their approval on any matters of church policy.
The Eastern Orthodox Church split from the Roman Catholic Church in the Great Schism of 1054. There were two basic reasons why that split came about better than 900 years ago: one was the insistence of the Church of Rome to add the so-called “filioque clause” to the Nicene Creed. This “filioque clause” was added to teach that the Holy Spirit proceeds not only from the Father but also from the Son within the trinity. The Eastern branch of the Church would not accept this and split away. The second reason for the split was the gradual development of the bishop of Rome into the pope of the church. The bishop of Rome was taking to himself more and more power, and beginning to insist that he was the supreme bishop of the church. The Eastern churches could not swallow this; and it became a partial reason for the split. In the intervening time other issues have naturally developed: Rome denies the cup of wine to the laity in the celebration of the mass; the Eastern Churches do not. Rome condemns marriage after divorce; the Eastern Churches do not. Rome has made its doctrines of Mary infallible truths; the Eastern Churches speak of them as “pious beliefs.” And there are others.
In 1439 the two churches came together again briefly; but the issues were never really resolved, so that the break came again.
Now Paul and Athenagoras have met in Jerusalem and have opened the way to discussion concerning unity. They are both interested in bringing these two branches of the church together again. The work has begun. Both face opposition within their churches—the pope from his curia and the patriarch from his fellow patriarchs. But the future is filled with optimism, etc.
That the pope really ties to take the place of Christ also became evident on this trip. Along one place of the route the people who crowded around began to strew the way with palm branches in imitation of the triumphal entry of Christ into Jerusalem. One news broadcaster was so carried away that he said that the pope “today occupies the place that Jesus occupied when he was on earth.”
According to the Presbyterian Journal, Pope Paul offered the following prayer at the anniversary of the opening of Vatican II, attended by more than 2,000 cardinals, patriarchs and bishops:
O Mary, we pray to thee for our Christian brothers still separated from our Catholic family. See how a glorious group of them celebrates your cult with fidelity and love. See how, in other groups, there is such firmness in calling one’s self and in being Christian. May there now dawn the recollection and worship of thee, most pious. Call all these sons of yours in the same unity, under your maternal and celestial protection.
Watch over, O Mary, all mankind—this modern world in which the divine plan calls us to live and work in, a world that turns its back on the sight of Christ; watch over this world, so that it may emerge . . . from the frightful shadows created by its own actions. Your sweet, most human voice, O most beautiful among virgins, O most worthy among mothers, O blessed among women, calls upon this world to turn its glances toward the light which is the light of men—towards thee, who are the supporting light of Christ, only and highest light in the world.
The Journal asks, “Had you been there would you have said Amen?
Commenting on all the movements toward church union, a certain Addison H. Leitch, writing inChristianity Today makes some very interesting observations. We quote the last part of his article:
Getting back to that article in Time Magazine, I was thinking long and hard on the gesture toward church union genuinely made by John XXIII and responded to by Protestants with almost girlish glee. The more I thought of it the less I thought of it, and I went along with Time’s query, “What Went Wrong?
Once when I was a boy a high school track coach told me how to win a race: “Just get in front and don’t let anybody pass you.” Volleyball and tennis are very simple games. You just knock the ball back one more time than your opponent. I was bowling last night, and all I needed to get a strike every time was to curve into the pocket between one and three. I am impressed by these simplicities, but somehow they don’t always work.
I am not being naive when I suggest that the union of the churches is simple in the same sort of way . . .
For example, let us take up the simple problem of the position and power of the pope. This may or may not be a “nontheological factor” or an “unavowed motive,” but it will do for a start. We point out immediately that along with 217,000,000 Protestants in the world there are 137,000,000 Eastern Orthodox who do not believe in the supremacy of the Roman pontiff. Now these 350,000,000 people must have something that bothers them about this pope business. According, to Rome, the pope’s spiritual titles are “Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Patriarch of the West, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province, and Sovereign of the State of Vatican City.” So Rome and we divide. Now let’s get together.
We can begin very simply with an exegesis of “Thou art Peter and on this rock I will build my church.” Now all we have to do is agree that Peter founded the church in Rome and was the first pope and had the right to pass the office on; and, just in passing, all we also have to do is to get used to the idea that Peter, of all disciples, could have accepted the ring kissing, the kneeling, and all those parades.
This idea of the pope seems very .basic to all the Roman Catholics and utter nonsense to 350,000,000 non-Catholics. So let us clear up this problem first, and then go on. It is as simple as that.
MEETING OF THE NCC
The National Council of Churches is the liberal association of churches in this country. It is the object of extensive criticism by conservative groups for its liberal Christ-denying theology. It is also often criticized for its seemingly communistic leanings. It has gone on record as favoring the admittance of Red China into the United Nations, the establishing of diplomatic relations between our country and Red China, etc.
The organization met December 1-7 at its Sixth General Assembly in Philadelphia. President Kennedy was to speak at this Assembly, and Dr. Carl McIntyre had strongly opposed this. But the president’s assassination made that impossible.
As a result the Assembly spent a considerable amount of time passing all kinds of resolutions that had to do with this assassination in one way or another. They sent a letter of gratitude to Mrs. Kennedy which spoke of “the power of the Christian faith to cope with the evils and Sorrows of this world as that power has been manifested in” her life. They thanked God for the leadership of the late president. They sent their thanks to the broadcasting industry and the press for their coverage of the assassination. They expressed their interest in the mental, spiritual, and material welfare of the family of Lee Oswald and the family of the shot Dallas policeman.
One of the members, Bishop George W. Baber of the African Methodist Episcopal Church prayed, “In this hour of our national and world sorrow, we pause to thank Thee for John Fitzgerald Kennedy who now moves with Thee in glorious realms of eternal light; and for the impact of his dedicated personality upon the lives of so many, great and small, known and unknown, of all creeds and colors.” The Roman Catholics did not dare to take him out of purgatory yet.
For the rest, the NCC busied itself mostly with questions of how Christians can be of greater service. And evidently, the Assembly was of the opinion that this can be done mostly in the field of race relations. The meeting went on record as favoring current civil rights legislation before Congress, of urging Congress to get busy and act on it; they turned their collective wrath against the people in this country who are doing nothing or opposing the cause of the Negro, and they busied themselves with trying to make their voice heard as far away as possible that they stood on the side of Negro rights.
About the gospel, the truth of Scripture, they had nothing at all to say.