Challenges Facing The Library At West Africa Theological Seminary, Affiliate Of University Of Nigeri

INTRODUCTION

The library has become “a place entrusted with the acquisition, organization, preservation, storage, retrieval and dissemination of information in whatever format it might appear” (Olanlokun and Salisu 1993, ix). West Africa Theological Seminary Library is at the crossroad. The traditional library practices and modern technological advances must be developed and embraced if it is to be relevant in this information age. It is a very high price which must be paid otherwise the library will eventually become like the legendary character who slept for twenty years at Gasgill Mountain in Gulliver’s Travels and eventually woke up to find the world completely changed.

BRIEF HISTORY OF WEST AFRICA THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY

The history of the above seminary could be realistically traced to the historic visitation by two American missionaries (Rev. Dr. and Rev. Mrs. Gary Maxey) who led a group of Nigerian and expatriate Christians to Owerri, Imo State, Nigeria in April 1989. (The Maxeys had initially worked creditably in religious education in Port Harcourt for seven years). The establishment of the seminary in 1989 was a practical demonstration of the need to actively participate in the training of pastors, evangelists, missionaries and teachers not only in Nigeria but also in other parts of the continent and the west. Presently, the seminary is the largest non-denominational evangelical holiness seminary in Nigeria that has attracted students from a broad spectrum of Nigerian Christian denominations, (and) ethnic groups. During a recently completed semester, WATS has students from thirty of Nigeria’s states, from over forty language groups, from (several) other African countries, and from well over eighty different church groups (West Africa Theological Seminary Prospectus 2004, 5).

The name of the seminary was changed from Wesley International Theological Seminary to West Africa Theological Seminary on 1 June 2001, the same year it relocated to 35/37 MM International Airport Road, Lagos, Nigeria. The institution is affiliated to the University of Nsukka, Nigeria and presently offers several programs of study including : Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies, Bachelor of Arts in Theology, Diploma in Theology, Certificate in Computer Studies, Diploma in Computer Studies, M.A. in Biblical Studies, Master of Divinity, M.A. in Christian Leadership and M.A. in Intercultural Studies. The seminary started publishing the West Africa Theological Seminary Journal in 2002.

One of the immediate plans of the seminary is to automate its library collection. A crucial aspect is to identify software that will be able to meet the needs of the seminary. In selecting software, the seminary must think in terms of networking and bear in mind that automation programmes normally require annual support fees.

WEST AFRICA THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY LIBRARY

It is a truism that “the library is the nerve center of educational institutions” (Olanlokun and Salisu 1993, vii) and West Africa Theological Seminary Library is no exception. This library uses the second edition of the Anglo American Cataloguing Rules (AACR2) and the twentieth edition of Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC 20). The card catalog is divided, “a file of authors and titles kept in a single alphabetical order and a file of subject cards in alphabetical order” (Newhall 1970, 38) and the filing system is letter by letter, a system in which “entries are filed without considering the spaces between words” (Nwosu 2000, 61). There is a book catalog, which contains the projects (undergraduate and graduate) submitted by students of the seminary and some members of staff who studied in other institutions.

In 2003 the library benefited from a subscription paid by Asbury Theological Seminary to use the ATLA (American Theological Library Association) Database on CD Rom. This is a comprehensive tool designed to support religious education and faculty research. The library serves students, academic and administrative staff of the seminary and external users (academic staff and students from other theological institutions).

Other relevant information include:

OPENING HOURS:

A. During term: Mondays to Saturdays: 9:00 a.m. ? 10:30 p.m.

B. Holiday: Mondays to Fridays: 9:00 a.m. ? 9:00 p.m.

NO OF BOOKS: 36,500

NO OF journal titles: 98

NO. OF VIDEO AND AUDIO CASSETTES: 114

PHOTOCOPYING MACHINE: 1

THE BOOK CATALOG: Projects (both card and book catalog)

NO. OF REFERENCE MATERIALS: 1,722

LIBRARY STAFF

With the exclusion of the presenter, WATS library is presently manned by seventeen members of staff, nine of whom are student workers. These student workers mostly work in the evenings, manning the security and circulation desks (although no external borrowing is done during this period). In addition, they clean they library.

CHALLENGES

1. Training and recruiting professional librarians

Nine out of the seventeen members of staff are student workers who use this opportunity to raise a significant portion of their fees and, in some cases, some extra funds to maintain themselves as they pursue their theological studies. The presenter is unaware of any who has expressed interest in the library profession. Services rendered cannot be classed as professional. Unfortunately, only two of the regular members of staff have completed some form of library training at the senior supporting level. The implication is that the library is seriously in need of professional librarians otherwise it would continue to run sub-standard services. An irksome dimension is that in most cases, junior members of staff who are in the majority “are allowed to do professional duties in the absence of the right cadre who should do them” (Nwosu 2000, 103).

The card catalog for instance will be used to demonstrate the effect the paucity or lack of professional librarians is having on the library collection.

The most common form of library catalog in West Africa is the card catalog and “there is need for (one) to know the design of the system to be able to use it effectively” (Nwosu 2000, 57). A challenge for the library is to maintain a consistent filing rule. Although WATS library operates the system known as the “letter-by-letter” or “all-through” method, there are evidences of the other method, that is the “word-by-word” or “nothing before something”. The former is the common approach to alphabetization, where B must always come before C. In the latter, the space between words is taken into account since the focus is on each word. When it gets to the turn of the word in the alphabetic sequence, all its associates are considered along.

Marrying the two methods of filing or alphabetization may cost one the information that is needed.
Another problem is misapplication of the filing rules. The American Library Association Code (Rule 6) stipulates that “abbreviated words should be filed as if they were spelled out in full, with one exception, that is, the abbreviation Mrs. St. is therefore filed as if it were spelled Saint, and Mc… as Mac” (Harrison and Beenham 1985, 82). The above rule is unfortunately misapplied in WATS library. If the rule is not taken into consideration, the word scan will be filed before St. when it should be the other way round. In the same manner, the Dr. (doctor) will also be filed before down and not the other way round.

A third issue in filing (Rule 5) states that initials should be filed before words. (However, acronyms are treated as words, for example UNICEF, UNESCO, ECOWAS etc.) There are instances in the WATS catalog that this rule is not taken into consideration. A word like Aaron erroneously comes before A.G.M and A.L.A.

It is frightening that there is no clear room for upward mobility of library staff. In the absence of a professional scheme of service or promotion guidelines, members of staff have worked in one position since they received their appointment letters.

2. Computerizing the library

Some libraries in Nigeria have automated their services. Examples include the Institute of Tropical Agriculture Library at Ibadan and the Federal Institute of Industrial Research Library, Oshodi, Lagos. Others, including WATS Library, are on the verge of putting their automation plan into action.
Automation can benefit the Acquisition, Cataloging and Serial Departments in the following ways :
Acquisition : Automation can help in fund control as well as in generation and dissemination of reports. List of items, including the accession list can also be printed.

3. Acquisition

Acquisition is generally defined as “the process of obtaining books and other documents for a library, documentation center or archive” (Prytherch 1986, 61). Incontrovertibly, it is “one of the most important functions of any library system” (Ali 1989, 66). Some means of acquisition of library materials include purchase, donation, exchange, Legal Deposit Legislation and membership of professional organizations. In most libraries in West Africa, it is observed that
acquisition rates are grossly inadequate to support both teaching and research even if judged by minimal standards accepted in developed countries. Attempts to alleviate the situation with various forms of aid though intrinsically meritorious offer little hope for long term improvement (Allen 1993, 232).

Donated materials extensively stock West Africa Theological Seminary Library. Since beggars are not choosers, there is a significant proportion of dated publications. There are many reading materials which are not even relevant to the general curriculum of the seminary. Weeding ‘unwanted’ stock is a big problem to the library since there are no suitable replacements.
An often-overlooked means of acquisition is membership of professional associations. If the library continues to distance itself from the professional register of library institutions, it will not be aware of current trends in the professional which will negatively reflect on the type and quality of services rendered.

4. Internet connectivity

The WATS administration released a letter on 2nd January 2005 announcing a significant reduction (about 75%) of the internet service provided on campus. This was attributed to the reduction in the bandwidth which made it impossible to support all the former work stations. A technological blow was dealt on the library cyber café since it fell prey to this decision. Students were advised to use the cyber café on the ground floor. The seminary administration must support the library in its embryonic stage to judiciously embrace the new technology. On the other hand, the theological librarians have a very crucial role “to ensure that the resulting use of computers and telecommunication and any other appropriate technology contributes in cost effective ways to the needs of scholarship and research since (they) have the expertise in acquiring materials in a variety of formats and make them accessible for a variety of purposes” (Simpson 1984, 38).

5. Online resources

An online resource that was used at West Africa Theological Seminary (and which is highly recommended for other theological libraries in Africa) is the American Theological Library Association (ATLA) Religion Index, useful for accessing articles, reviews, essays, dissertations and monographs. The use of databases, which overlap subject fields, that is, interdisciplinary database searching, is an often over-looked aspect of online searching.Users of West Africa Theological Seminary Library do not have access to an incredible amount of online resources because it is not subscribing to use these materials. An example of a very important online resource is the Online Computer Library Centre (OCLC). This center, a bibliographic utility based in Dublin, Ohio is a global electronic information co-operative serving about 39,517 libraries in seventy-six countries. It runs an Online Union Catalog. There are approximately twenty eight million cataloguing records and the database (using MARC tapes and other online input data for users) provides reference services and interlibrary loan, qualifying it probably as the world’s most comprehensive database of bibliographic information that produces the First Search System through which a library can subscribe to thousands of academic and professional titles from about seventy publishers available electronically.

6. Functional photocopier

Although the library has a photocopier, the machine is frequently out of order. This second hand machine needs to be replaced to enable the library to realistically benefit from its services. The seminary administration even took a decision recently to hand over photocopying services to a student who is presently running a better business.

7. Audio visual collection

Audio visuals are non-paper based information carriers. They have been introduced into the library through advances in technology. They are called audio-visuals because they require auditory and visual appreciation. One of their chief advantages is storing a large amount of information in a small space. Audio visuals include audio tapes, microforms, filmstrips, charts, slides, video tapes, television etc. Some of these appeal only to the sense of hearing (audios), some only to the sight (visuals) and others to both the auditory and visual senses (audio visuals). Although WATS library has received quite a few audio visual materials, there is need to purchase the necessary supporting equipments to make the audio visual collection a reality.

The seminary has been receiving several research tools in the form of CD ROMS for a considerable period. The library is yet to make these available to users by installing them in a functional computer.

8. Bindery

It is true that “once any item is selected for the collection, the library promises to preserve it” (Goodrum and Dalrymple 1985, 65). The absence of a bindery collection within the library is adversely affecting the physical condition of books. It must be borne in mind that since a significant portion of library materials are donated, many are received in a very poor physical condition.

The bindery could also be very instrumental in binding back issues of newspapers and journals to facilitate a relatively easier storage, retrieval and dissemination of information.

9. User instruction

A major weakness of library practice is the failure to instruct users in the use of the library to the best advantage. From experience, “surveys have shown that public use of such tools as catalogues are minimal, largely because they have never been shown how they operate” (Jackaman 1989, 3). Many students in WATS go through the seminary without a reasonable grasp of basic library principles. This means that the one hour orientation conducted at the start of every semester is insufficient.

10. Serial collection

Various journals subscribed to by the library are selected, ordered and received, processed and shelved by this collection. It is constantly checked to determine if there are any missing issues already due but have not been received in order to make such claims. This section also stocks newspaper. The relevance of such an invaluable collection in the library cannot be overemphasized. It is unfortunate that WATS library is not subscribing to journals and this explains why there are many distinct gaps in periodical literature. The library is at the mercy of donors who normally send journals at random.

Newspapers are directly purchased by the WATS administration and these are subsequently sent to the library in most cases not on the day of purchase. This defeats the purpose of newspapers since they come late to the library. Providing recent information must be the primary concern for the library or information worker. Consequently, “currency should therefore be a requirement and not an option” (Wilson 1993, 636).

11. Heat in the library

The present heat in the library is detrimental to the books since humidity is a threat to their survival. If not sprayed periodically, fungi easily develop within the pages and damage the writing. Many researchers are unable to stay for a considerable period simply because of the discomfort caused by a very hot environment.

12. Internet searching

When the library cyber café was functioning, user statistics of users indicated that ninety percent of those who used the Internet did so to send mails and chat with friends. The remaining ten percent use it to conduct research and perform other functions. The insignificant percentage that uses it for research purposes heavily rely on Google. A student and a library staff opined that they adopt the ‘google only’ approach because they are not aware of any other cite.
It is observed that “most users locate (information) through subscription-free search engines such as Google” (Harding 2004). This over-reliance is a serious limitation. The effectiveness of Google is assessed thus:

A recent search on Google of ‘Ancient Near East’ resulted in over 150,000 results. While many of these are probably excellent sites, many more are probably not. The ETANA site, interestingly, does not appear in the first one hundred listings. Thus, the researcher who would benefit from access to ETANA but who does not know of its existence will likely not stumble across it using Google (Limpitlaw 2003, p.5).

It is rather unfortunate that even lecturers are incredibly proliferating reliance upon one web site (Google). The issue is that “if faculty researchers themselves are relying almost exclusively upon Google, however, how many of them are likely to encourage students to expand their searches beyond Google, to at least explore the resources and materials their libraries maintain?” (Norlin 2004, 56). The library staff must be very instrumental in directing users to many other relevant sites and free online libraries, for instance Africa Digital Library in South Africa. Continuing education for the library staff must be encouraged to enable them to be abreast of technological changes. It is opined that “a successful training program is also dependent on the commitment that top management shows for the training process” (Martey 2002, 14). An incontrovertible reality is that “librarians need to know how to access and filter what is on the web” (Rosenberg 1997, 15). Among several suggestions to shake the evident frost off the African church in its theological mission, Tienou (1990) proffers the improvement of theological libraries, and (by implication), the theological librarians who intersperse between the information and the user. The training of library staff and information professionals is very crucial in coping with the astronomically fast development that is evident in the information age. It is rather unfortunate that the theological librarians have not generally accompanied the introduction of Internet service at West Africa Theological Seminary Library with a thorough training on its use.

Indubitably, unless … librarians receive this staff training, there is a danger that the potential of this technology for sourcing and repackaging for information transfer will remain insufficiently exploited and that it will not become integrated with more traditional print-based library services” (Asamoah 2003, 17).

13. Funding

It is incontrovertible that “every good collection is an expression of adequate and sound financial backing, and no collection development can achieve this objective if it is financially handicapped” (Alemna 1994, 47). In their commentary on the challenge in the field of librarianship, it is observed that “library funding will probably be the issue which consumes the energy of library managers to the end of this century (and the next)” (Moore and Shander 1993, 19). WATS library must be realistically budgeted for if it is to continue to be the academic nerve center of the seminary.

THE WAY FORWARD

Like Ato Yawson in Ama Ata Aidoo’s The Dilemma of a Ghost, the question is, shall WATS library go to Cape Coast (representing the traditional) or Elmina (representing the modern’)? In the field of librarianship, a realistic response lies “in preserving traditional services and embracing the technological advances” (Harding 2002, 9).

The following are proffered for consideration to assist WATS library to face the inescapable challenges:

1. Professionally trained staff

The library profession is in crises. It is observed that “the need to find and retain quality leadership for libraries is a core issue for the future” (Hisle 2002, 211). Library staff at WATS must be professionally trained. Acquisition of relevant library qualifications cannot be overemphasized. Relevant training must include use of software applications. The modern theological librarian is standing on a crossroad and must maintain a very useful balance between traditional and modern research techniques to be relevant in this information age. Substandard services will continue to be provided if staff are employed just because they are Christians with little emphasis on professional training. Theological librarians need the kind of training conducted by ACTEA (Accrediting Council for Theological Education in Africa) East Africa Library Staff Training Institute in Daystar University in Kenya in July 2004. Untrained librarians need courses in cataloguing and classification, management of the library and answering reference questions. Furthermore, they must receive training in searching the internet, using Boolean operators to consult full-text journals, accessing reference materials on CD Roms, using MARC, and compiling lists of important websites and reference CDs.

Seminary, library, training, recruiting, librarians,

2. Scheme of service

In order not to make a continued mockery of the library profession, it is recommended that the professional guidelines for the appointment and promotion of library staff at all levels be drafted and implemented. The seminary administration could compare the scheme of service of several institutions in Nigeria and the sub-region as a guide to reasonably maintain the standard.

Positions which should be taken into consideration within the various categories include:

a. Junior staff

i. Messenger/cleaner

ii. Library attendant III

iii. Library attendant II

iv. Library attendant I

v. Library assistant I

vi. Library assistant II

vii. Library assistant III

b. Senior supporting staff

i. Trainee Librarian/Senior Library Assistant II / Admin. Assistant II

ii. Senior Library Assistant I / Admin.

c. Senior staff

i. Library Officer

ii. Librarian II

iii. Librarian I

iv. Senior Librarian

v. Deputy Librarian

vi. Head Librarian

The criteria for scoring senior library staff should be taken into consideration. Some of these areas include :

Academic and professional qualifications

Professional/working experience

Professional activities

Research and publications

Administrative experience

3. Revamping of internet services in the library

The library cyber café must be resurrected if the library is to be relevant in this technological age. The library staff should receive training that will enable them to creditably handle databases in their library.

4. User instruction

The library should be more proactive in user education strategies. More current awareness or selective dissemination of information should be done to attract students and staff. A course on the use of the library could be introduced as a compulsory subject for all categories of students. It is evident even in West Africa Theological Seminary that “librarians can no longer assume the same level of interest in and support for the library from a faculty that increasingly rely upon their own search strategies and abilities in an electronic world they can access from their offices” (Norlin 2004, 56). Theological librarians need to be carefully attuned to the concerns of the students and faculty. If librarians at WATS discharge professionalism in identifying the problem of the researcher, searching for specific pieces of information efficiently and expeditiously and transmits the result of the search by any convenient means to both faculty and student users (telephone, email, personal call, short letter to mention a few), the interest in the library as information intermediary would gradually be revamped.

The library of West Africa Theological Seminary should spend several weeks offering “faculty only” and “students only” training sessions on the use of American Theological Library Association database (after paying the current subscription). An incontrovertible fact is that “unless theological librarians consciously view the faculty (and students) as the primary target for (their) activities, (they) would become irrelevant to…students, faculty, administrators and institutions” (Norlin 2004, 55).

5. The role of the seminary administration

Management at WATS must recognize that the library is not an optional extra and that the impending doctoral programme in the seminary will only become a reality when the library attains a particular professional standard. Seminary authorities must support its progress by developing existing collections (for instance, subscribing to scholarly journals for the serials collection) and by assisting in the setting up of a vibrant Digital Library Collection which should be manned by a professional librarian. Providing server upgrades and disk storage space must be seriously considered. There should be regular in-service training to assist library staff gain relevant skills in information technology.

The issue of funding cannot be overemphasized. The WATS Library can only be relevant in this information age if the seminary administration would recognize “the centrality of its academic nerve centre (the library) and ensure the sustainability of the library programmes and services” (Harding 2002, 9). Introduction of user charges, more fund raising activities in the library (such as book sales), increase in the support from donor agencies could yield an increase in income needed to purchase and maintain necessary equipment.

When the library is adequately funded, it will be in a position to subscribe to relevant journal titles, purchase standard theological texts, build a vibrant audio visual collection, provide air conditioning facilities to control the heat, replace the photocopier and provide other necessary services as and when necessary.

Professionally trained staff, scheme of service, revamping of internet services in the Computerize, cataloging, acquisition, internet, user instruction, audio visual, serial, bindery, funding, scheme of service,

6. Membership of professional organizations

WATS library should enroll as an institutional member of professional library associations such as Nigeria Theological Library Association, Christian Librarians’ Association for Africa, American Theological Library Association and Christian Librarians’ Fellowship. (The presenter is a member of all but the former). It was through the American Theological Library Association that the author was informed that the twenty second edition of the Dewey Decimal Library (DDC) classification has been published. (WATS is using the twentieth edition). The DDC numbers include all headings newly mapped to the 200 Religion Schedule, as well as others considered to be of interest to theological libraries.

Below is an illustration:

Subject heading Call number

All Souls’ Day in art 704.9493943

Islamic modernism 297.09

Nymphs (Greek deities) in art 704.9489221

Open-air preaching 206.1, 251

Social capital (Sociology) ? Religious aspects 201.7

Venus (Roman deity ) in art 704.9489221

(Osmanski 2003, 2-1)

7. Computerization

CONCLUSION

It is indubitable that the role of the library as information intermediary would never change. However, the means to fulfill this invaluable role keeps changing and the library must adapt to maintain its relevance. WATS library is a unit of a self-supporting institution with several challenges. Traditional library practices must be fully developed and the best of modern technology must be embraced. This high price must be paid as the library journeys to ‘Cape Coast’. The seminary librarians have a major challenge to move from being mere keepers of the book to guides through a universe of knowledge, thereby playing an invaluable role as information intermediary (Kargbo 2002). Since the mission of the library to facilitate the free flow of information endures even in the midst of technological changes, the librarians in all types of libraries, including WATS, “must find a very useful balance between the conventional/traditional library functions and the methods of the new challenges in order to maintain their leadership role in (the) information age” (Harding 2002, 10). Librarians in West Africa Theological Seminary could only be relevant in this age if they gear up to possess the necessary skills to enable users to creditably use materials for reading, study and consultation in whatever format they might appear. This cannot be realized without the invaluable support of the seminary administration. With this realization, “the students will be taught the art of electronic information retrieval, which they can use to write their project work and thesis” (Asamoah 2003, 17).

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A Supreme Deity Versus Physics

Various theologians and other religious philosophers have over many, many centuries, given a list of what traits or properties a Supreme Deity or Maximally Greatest Being would have. Physicists refrain since the list in question makes little if any physical sense, as we’re about to discover. Much of what follows stems from an on-line debate I had with my old ‘friend’ the “Accidental Meta-Physician”. While I admire his all gun’s blazing theological faith, his physics leaves a lot to be desired.

Author’s Note: Rather than name names and thus include and exclude certain gods from various theologies, I’ll just use an all-encompassing phrase “Supreme Deity” or “SD”. Persons of differing faiths can substitute their own specific deity as they wish.

According to one well known modern religious theologian, William Lane Craig, the entity (i.e. – Supreme Deity) behind the creation of the Universe had to have been itself uncaused, beginning-less, changeless, eternal, timeless, space-less, an immaterial all-powerful being who is a personal agent, endowed with freedom of the will. Hopefully, by the time you’ve reached the conclusion of this essays, these characteristics will be viewed as total nonsense.

PHYSICS: DEBATING THE EXISTENCE OF A SUPREME DEITY

“Things”, like a Supreme Deity (SD), would have certain properties. Things with certain properties have structure and substance. Things with structure and substance are physical things. Physical things can have an effect on other physical things. Non-physical things, like Wednesday, have no structure and substance. The concept of Wednesday cannot have any physical effect on say a billiard ball. A billiard ball cannot have any effect on the concept of Wednesday. So, non-physical things (concepts) cannot affect physical things, and vice-versa. Since a SD, being, according to some theologies, a non-physical entity (a concept with no structure and substance), cannot therefore have any effect on or create or destroy physical things. However, non-physical concepts can have an effect on other non-physical concepts. The concept of a SD might give some the concept to be a more moral person, but that is not imposed on anyone by a non-physical SD but rather that morality comes from within. A physical deity of course could tell you to be moral or else physical consequences will follow.

If the Universe was say composed of a total of 1000 atoms, then any Supreme Deity (SD) who created the Universe couldn’t be composed of any atoms otherwise the sum total of atoms in the Universe would add up to more than 1000. Thus any SD, any supernatural creator, must be non-physical according to some theists. Unlike theists, I say that the non-physical cannot create the physical. Not even a SD can create something from nothing, especially if that Supreme Deity was also non-physical.

Once upon a time there was this Supreme Deity, who was non-physical, who was eternal but not infinite. For some unknown and unexplained reason(s), He / She / It decided* somewhere on down the track, to create a physical universe, complete with life and just everything. How do you do that if you have nothing physical to work with? Even if this SD were physical in and of itself, it wouldn’t have any raw materials from which to work on or with. So, here’s a variation on some standard cosmology. The SD – a physical SD – literally went all to pieces, came apart at the seams, and scattered Himself / Herself / Itself into the void and became as one with the Universe. The SD is the Universe and goes by the name of Mother Nature!

*How you can decide anything if you are non-physical and lack any neurological infrastructure or system is quite beyond me.

So here we have this omnipotent entity, this Supreme Deity (SD), who is non-physical, who has existed for all eternity (but not infinitely so which seems a contradiction to me but apparently not to religious theologians), and in a timeless state to boot. Then for some totally unexplained reason this entity crossed over the Rubicon into time by creating a physical cosmos, but not an infinite cosmos; created it out of absolutely nothing for no apparently good reason other than “what the heck; why not; I’m bored” (my quotes). Do you, the reader, have any comprehension of how utterly ridiculous that sounds? If you came across that scenario or concept for the very first time in a novel, you’d be right to question the author’s sanity or their drug use.

Timelessness is a ridiculous impossibility since that would require an operating temperature of absolute zero (negating any possible change, therefore motion taking place, therefore making the concept of time meaningless). A state of absolute zero is not actually achievable. If you have even the smallest amount of change, therefore motion, you have time. I wish those advocating pockets of timelessness might, using their powers of philosophical deduction, point out a place(s) in the Cosmos that currently exist(s) in a state of timelessness.

The transition from a state of timelessness to a state of time by anyone is impossible since a change (a mental thought, electrons in motion at the minimum is required) would of had to have occurred while still in a timeless state which cannot be. You have to think of going from your timeless state into a state of time before you actually do it.

Further, it’s an impossibility to create an absolute something from an absolute nothing, especially if you are non-physical to begin with.

An actual non-physical thing is nonsense. A “thing” here is an actual something with substance and structure. Non-physical ‘things’ are just mental concepts without associated substance and structure. One can imagine a Santa Claus of course, but that Santa is non-physical. That non-physical Santa cannot make a transition from that mental state of non-physicality ‘reality’ into a physical reality. That equally applies to the mental concept of a non-physical Maximally Great Being. As in the case of Santa, just because you can imagine it doesn’t of necessity make it so in a physical reality.

So why can’t those of the faith, various theologians, produce their invisible ‘friend’, their Supreme Deity’s body, for all to admire? Oh, of course, how silly of me – their invisible ‘friend’ is of course non-physical so nobody could see, hear, touch, taste or smell Him / She / It – How very, very convenient when asked to produce the goods.

And therein lies the central problem. Theologians can’t do a “show and tell” and give us the SD’s body to gawk at. Religious theologians can’t give us the physical mechanism or even the theoretical equations that make the something from nothing mechanisms real mechanisms. Then some theologians toss around meaningless and nonsense terms like existence in a state of timelessness or existence in non-space, and then they expect people to take them seriously on just their say-so.

If their waffle were as convincing as they seem to think it is, well the whole world would be their oyster now, wouldn’t it?

I’ve thus far briefly hinted at the concepts of non-physicality; the creation of something from nothing; and existence outside of time and space. I’ll now examine these in greater detail.

PHYSICS AND NON-PHYSICALITY

Any Supreme Deity (SD) is most certainly is a physical object. Firstly, according to various religious theologians, He / She / It crossed over from a timeless state of ‘reality’ into a reality state where time (thus change through motion) exists. If you are in a physical reality and you change or cause change in that physical reality, you in turn must be physical. Anyway, the evidence that a SD (assuming a SD of course which I don’t) is physical is found in the Old and New Testaments and similar religious texts. A SD exists at specific times in specific places and does specific physical things. He / She / It speaks. You cannot speak if you are not physical! In the Old Testament, for example, a SD controls the weather and drowns lots of animals and people. A non-physical being cannot cause physical rain for 40 seconds, minutes or days. This SD transports Himself / Herself / Itself from place to place via a cloud. A cloud is a physical thing! This specific SD has a throne in Heaven. What need of a throne if you aren’t physical? The Old Testament in particular is full of a SD’s actions, interactions and reactions. I’m sure if you could go back in time and chin-wag with Moses (assuming Moses actually existed of course), he’d tell you that his encounter with a SD had physical reality. This Supreme Deity was a physical something with structure and substance.

I’ve argued long and loud elsewhere that a Supreme Deity (SD), if there be a SD as described in the Old Testament (and similar texts), must be physical on the grounds that creation of physical things (the Earth, seas, animals, humans, etc.) as related in Genesis requires a physical creator. Non-physical auto workers can’t construct a physical automobile!

So I’m here to debate the physical existence of one possible SD known by lots of different names to lots of different people, not the metaphysical non-physical existence of a SD or the SD in Alice’s Wonderland SD, or the SD from Never-Never-Land, etc. I want evidence – no, make that proof – for a physical SD that could get into the boxing ring with the current heavyweight champ and punch his lights out. That kind of a physical SD!

The current heavyweight champ has nothing to fear from a non-physical SD in the boxing ring since a non-physical SD couldn’t lay a non-physical glove on him (or her – thou shall not be sexist)!

I continue to note that religious theologians STILL aren’t answering the eternal question of how their non-physical* Supreme Deity (SD) created something from nothing. They can’t worm their way out of this. They can’t just avoid the issue and procrastinate indefinitely by not answering. Attention all religious theologians: Either please explain or just fess up and admit you haven’t a clue. The more you delay the worse you and your thesis look.

* Even Casper the Friendly Ghost has way more substance and structure than any theologians’ SD, since their SD is non-physical and all that nonsense. I mean how could their SD even see anything if He / She / It is non-physical? It’s the same paradox that faced “The Invisible Man”. Light photons would pass straight through and never register. So both “The Invisible Man” and any non-physical SD are blind! Ghosts on the other hand are physical. If you can see them and hear them and touch them and they have some physical impact on their immediate environment, they have some degree of substance with structure.

Being non-physical isn’t the same thing as being non-green. Something non-green is still a physical something. Something non-physical isn’t a physical something. A red billiard ball can interact with a green billiard ball. A non-physical thing cannot interact with physical billiard balls of any colour.

PHYSICS: THE CREATION OF SOMETHING-FROM-NOTHING

Philosophers give us loads of theoretical philosophical waffle. Meta-physicians give us loads of theoretical metaphysical waffle. Religious theologians give us loads of theoretical theological waffle. A prime example is that something (the Universe) was created out of nothing (by a Supreme Deity). They go further when they collectively say that there is necessarily physical evidence for a Supreme Deity (SD) because the Universe had a beginning, although they often qualify that necessity by use of the phrase “metaphysical necessity” not physical necessity. Regardless, even though there is evidence the Universe had a beginning, it’s just theoretical waffle that this beginning is also evidence for a SD.

Okay, fine, the physical Universe came into existence, but philosophers, meta-physicians and religious theologians weren’t there to witness that event so they therefore haven’t ever seen the creation of something-from-nothing; they have never personally witnessed the non-physical or the immaterial interact with the physical or with the material. To be blunt about it, they’re guessing. My guess in turn is that if they went back to that coming into existence of the physical Universe, they’d find that that physical existence originated from a previous physical existence. In other words, there was a before the Big Bang and that “before” had physicality.

The one thing theists have NOT given us, NEVER given us, EVER given us, is actual physical evidence to back up their theoretical waffle that a SD created the Universe out of nothing. They don’t know that since there could have been a before-the-Big-Bang and a before that and a before that. To repeat, they weren’t there at that imagined something-from-nothing beginning. Their something-from-nothing beginning is a theoretical philosophical / metaphysical / theological beginning that they have adopted as ‘fact’ because it suits their philosophy / metaphysics / theology. I ask them to prove to us that something non-physical can create something physical via an actual demonstration. Just do it. Make it so. They have always just talked-the-talk. Now I request them to kindly walk-the-walk and produce their physical evidence, not only that a Supreme Deity actually physically exists but that He / She / It can physically create something (i.e. – our Universe) from absolutely nothing. Their credibility is on the line when it comes to convincing their intended audience, including of course me, that their philosophical / metaphysical / theological worldview is correct. Of course they can’t do it since millions before them have tried and failed to be universally convincing. Atheists aren’t dumb. If you produce the physical evidence they will be forced to agree with you. Now I ask theists to produce it.

To conclude this little segment, they have NOT answered the questions. They have stated that a non-physical being, a SD, can create something-from-nothing; many have stated this is so, but they have not explained how it was done or how it could be done. Give us the recipe. Give us the physics of it that one could then place in a new and improved revised standard physics textbook for undergraduates and graduate students. What are the equations? If the proponents of a something-from-nothing philosophy / metaphysics / theology can demonstrate this, they should do so and earn their Nobel Prize and get their picture on the front cover of “Time Magazine”.

PHYSICS AND THE CONCEPT OF NON-SPACE

Some suggest that a Supreme Deity (SD) just ‘exists’ outside of space. Any SD ‘exists’ outside of our Universe or outside of the Cosmos itself, which has just got to be one of the silliest statements I’ve ever read since the Cosmos is all that ever was, is, or will be. As per above, Moses would beg to differ given his close encounter in existing space with his SD.

Even non-physical beings*, the concept of non-physical beings like Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and even a Supreme Deity reside inside the mind; a mental space that resides inside a physical space. Any Supreme Deity of your acquaintance, one more likely as not rammed down your throat like so much propaganda while you were still too young to resist and to question and to know better, just resides inside your mind which resides inside your brain which is inside your skull which is inside… Well you get the point.

Children tend to believe in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny.

Adults tend to believe in a non-physical SD who can create something from nothing.

In weighing up the evidence for both beliefs, the children have a far stronger case. While I’ve never ever seen a Supreme Deity, I have seen at least one Santa Claus (actually hundreds of them over the years at shopping malls, department stores and standing on street corners); one Tooth Fairy (who originated from Hollywood-land) and one Easter Bunny (spotted annually on the White House lawn).

If a mature-aged adult of average intelligence (or greater) still seriously believed in Santa Claus, and/or the Tooth Fairy and/or the Easter Bunny you’d call into question their intellectual faculties. Yet if that exact same person professed belief in a Supreme Deity for which no court-of-law evidence exists and which nobody has seen in living memory, well, that’s rational and obviously the person has a sound intellectual faculty. They might quote religious texts as evidence, but the assertion that a Supreme Deity penned or was somehow totally responsible for their representation in some holy text cuts no reality with respect to the reality of that Supreme Deity. Using that logic, James Bond (Ian Fleming); Harry Potter (J. K. Rowling); Sherlock Holmes (Arthur Conan Doyle) and Charlie Brown (Charles M. Schulz) all really exist since books about them exist and their authors exist!

*An actual being, or an actual person, as opposed to the mental concept of a being or a person, has to be physical. The concept of a POTUS (President of the United States) is mental and that POTUS concept is non-physical but nevertheless POTUS resides inside minds which reside inside physical space. The actual POTUS at any one time of course isn’t non-physical but has structure and substance, is composed of flesh-and-blood and resides inside physical space, usually the White House.

Back to those non-physical beings that are not located in space. So any Supreme Deity (SD) now exists in time (since He / She / It created change through motion requiring actual stuff) but not in space? So can theologians identify exactly ‘where’ we can find some of this non-space? I assume any SD is the sole resident? If so, where do other minor deities like Jesus live? And where do the angels live? And where do all of those SD-worthy humans who have departed this mortal coil live? Isn’t this all really just a pot-full of pseudo-theology?

PHYSICS AND THE CONCEPT OF TIMELESSNESS

Okay, one further comment, regardless of His / Her / Its existence in a timeless state, or His / Her / Its existence in this state of time, what the heck does He / She / It actually do? If He / She / It had no beginning while He / She / It existed in a timeless state, well that’s a heck of a long time to do – well, what? Our hypothetical Supreme Deity either had to have been bored out of His / Her / Its timeless mind and/or been the greatest party-poop of all time. It would seem the sum total of His / Her/ Its CV is creating the Cosmos in just a tiny interval of His / Her / Its existence. I mean if you live for 100 years and the sum total of your accomplishments in that time is making one breakfast, well that doesn’t strike me as being something to brag about!

Often religious theologians undermine their own faith by the use of the word “If”. “If time had a beginning” and if time “was caused to exist” then only a timeless state could have created that beginning and that cause. Well, here’s my “If” rebuttal. If time did NOT have a beginning, and if it was NOT caused to exist, then there does NOT have to be a timeless state or a timeless entity. Theologians are not getting that through their head! Actually since time is change and change is motion and motion requires a state of matter/energy, we’re just back to that golden oldie about creating something-from-nothing versus creating something-from-something. Sigh!

OK, if a Supreme Deity (SD) was changeless, frozen in a state of suspended animation, doing nothing, thinking about nothing while in that timeless state then He / She / It could NOT have come up with an idea to cross the Rubicon and create time and a physical Cosmos, whether it be out of pre-existing stuff or out of nothingness. The very idea to do such a thing had to have existed while in that timeless state and that’s a contradiction. If you have an idea that implies that there was a time before that when you didn’t have that idea, but the transition of “didn’t have” to “have” requires a change and change cannot happen in a timeless state.

OK, never mind about what a SD did do or didn’t do or could do or couldn’t do while in a timeless state, what’s our Supreme Deity done post creation? Now that the SD has created the Cosmos and crossed the Rubicon into time and is now stuck here in time (not all that omnipotent now is He / She / It), what is He / She / It going to do for an encore? Or perhaps He / She / It has just packed it up and gone off to Florida to retire and just do a bit of fishing.

In conclusion to this section, IMHO the concept of timelessness or timeless as religious theologians use it is utter claptrap. There is no truism to be had. Show me a state of timelessness. Yet again I need point out that religious theologians can’t walk-the-walk but they sure can talk-the-talk. It’s all philosophical / metaphysical / theological waffle like arguing angels and pinheads.

THEREFORE AN INFINITE COSMOS

A cause cannot cause itself so there must be an infinite regress of causes and thus no First Cause. Thus the Cosmos is temporally infinite or consists of a causal loop and thus is also temporally infinite.

Since you can’t create something-from-nothing that implies that something has always existed and thus also implies and thus reinforces the concept of an infinite Cosmos.

Religious theologians or theists are unhappy with this state of affairs since it leaves no room for creation by a supernatural mechanism (i.e. – a Supreme Deity (SD) for all practical purposes). On the other hand, their SD has to be eternal if for no other reason than to avoid awkward questions like therefore who (or what) created that SD? But if the temporally infinite SD created our finite in time Universe then it would of had to have been an infinite time ago which of course is not what we observe since only an additional 13.8 billion years have elapsed since the beginning (deliberate creation?) of our Universe. The Cosmos (of which our Universe is but a part) is of course infinitely old, not just 13.8 billion years old.

OVERALL CONCLUSIONS

Before you can go assigning attributes, properties, traits, whatever to your Supreme Deity or Deities, you first have to prove that your Supreme Deity or Deities actually exist and that all other versions of a Supreme Deity or Deities are false. Good luck with that Labour of Hercules! I mean that I can’t talk about the properties of mermaids, unicorns, and leprechauns until I can demonstrate that any one or all of these entities actually exist! It’s body first, then description of the body. It makes relatively little sense to say that a Supreme Deity (SD) is omni this and omni that and omni the next thing only to have Athena come down off of Mount Olympus and punch your lights out for blasphemy by believing in, worshipping, and attributing traits to a false monotheistic god. Never-the-less, that’s what most religious theologians or theists have done by believing in, worshipping, and attributing traits to a body-less SD.

Theists say that the SD is uncaused, beginning-less, or eternal.

I suggest that an infinitely old being who would after an infinite amount of time had elapsed, all of a sudden get this idea of creating life, the Universe and absolutely everything is ridiculous. At least this gets around the concept of who or what created the SD which is in itself an infinite regression as in what created the creator of the SD and so on.

Theists say that the SD is changeless, or timeless.

I suggest that if you are in a timeless state and thus in a changeless state then you can’t initiate any action like an actual creation, since the very process of pre-initiation to initiation to post initiation is change which must by definition take place in time.

Theists say that the SD is space-less.

I suggest that this means that either the SD exists outside of space (and to exist implies existing inside of something – like space) or else the SD isn’t comprised of any space and thus is non-material or non-physical (i.e. – nothing) and thus can’t create anything material or physical (i.e. – something). Either way, the concept of a SD being space-less is nonsense.

Theists say that the SD is an immaterial all-powerful being who is a personal agent, endowed with freedom of the will.

I suggest that the SD isn’t all-powerful (omnipotent). Can a SD throw a ball so fast that not even He / She / It can overtake it? If not, He / She / It is not all powerful; if so He / She / It is not all powerful. It’s a no-win situation. More relevant might be an observation, since our SD must be physical IMHO in order to create physical stuff, then our SD must be presumably subject to the laws of the Universe. So could our SD ever escape from inside a cosmic Black Hole or travel faster than the speed of light or create a square circle or violate the axioms of Euclidean Geometry? Does our SD have freedom of the will? Again, if our SD is in a timeless state then He / She / It has no freedom to act or to change and thus no freedom of any will since will implies the ability to act or to change.

Should any or all of these SD’s attributes be taken without evidence on the say-so of religious theologians? That makes relatively little sense. If I were to claim that I could travel faster than the speed of light and escape from inside of Black Holes; that I could create something from nothing; that I could travel in time (and space like Doctor Who); that I could cure any and all cancers; that I could create life in a test-tube; that I was in communication with E.T.; that I could download biological minds into artificial substrates like computers; that I could compose music faster, cheaper and better than Mozart; that I had a pet unicorn and dinosaur (recall that time travel claim); that I had telekinetic powers; that I knew the Theory of Everything (TOE); that I could create gold from lead using a child’s home chemistry set; or that I was faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive and able to leap tall buildings at a single bound, would you believe me without evidence based on just my say-so? Of course not. So why make an alleged Supreme Deity an exception to your scepticism?

In Search of Heaven

“The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the LORD” (Pr 16:1~NASB)

Suppose you are the average modern day Christian, who has gone to their family doctor after having some tests completed and you now find yourself sitting in the Oncologists office. He/she sits across from you, crosses his leg (I have a male doctor), and begins to make a little light chit-chat as they all seem to do today, before they lay the bomb on you.

“Grayeagle, your biopsy indicates that you have a rapidly growing malignant mass for the second time. This time it is the opposite lung. This is a nasty small cell cancer, and to be honest with you, it doesn’t look good. The ladies out front will set up a few more tests just to clarify everything.” I can tell he truly wants this to conclude. Not being the brightest bulb in the pack I lightly say, “So what does all that mean, Doc?” “To be rather straight-forward, it means that I’m of the opinion that you need to set your house in order.”

“So you’re saying I’m dying?” He sits there and kind of stares at me as if he must be talking to his collie, and I can see him thinking, what’s wrong with this idiot? (I’m playing with his head, and he’s the one who doesn’t get it. What did he expect me to do- weep, wail, and howl? I mean, come on, I finally said, “Yeah, I get it, Doc. Don’t worry,”

I get out of the office and into my car and then it truly hits me – I guess all my years of theology” that I’ve been teaching is now going to be proved or negated – huh?. My first though was that I am going to see Heaven soon. My second thought was what do I know about Heaven? Do you want to know the truth? I know next to nothing about the real heaven. I know many hymns about streets of gold and all that stuff, but theology should never come from hymns, it should come from the Word of God.

The Unknown Paradise

When I die, my absolute plan is to go to Heaven, if for no other reason than it beats the alternative. To the best of my knowledge, all confessing Christians plan on going to heaven. However, if you ask a Christian what heaven is like all you will get is 1) nothing more than a bunch of old Gospel song lyrics, or 2) jokes. I think faced with the immediate adventure, I want something more substantial that a song lyric or joke. Now, you would think a theologian would know all about this subject, but guess what – I don’t. I’m sure I’ve heard a hundred sermons on heaven and read dozens of papers that were nothing more than a bunch of gibberish. Let me ask you – what do you actually know about heaven? And don’t give me some fantasized stuff you created in your own mind. Things like living in a mansion. Now, stop and think about it. If we were in our glorified body, supposedly like the body of Christ, then why in the world would we even need a house, let alone some kind of mansion? Are you expecting snow, or rain? Houses (mansion of not) are for the sake of protection. What need do we have to be protected in Heaven?

Why do we lose all common sense when it comes to things Divine, the Bible, and our religion? What about all those streets of gold? The fact is the book of Revelation does talk about a Capital city that God is going to erect in the second heaven, where the King of Kings is going to set His Throne. Yes, the streets are pure gold, and the items like walls, etcetera are made of precious stones. That is only a city. I’m talking about Heaven in its entirety. What are we actually going to do for all infinity. I think standing in a choir singing will get old after the first couple of years, don’t you? Some think we’ll become angels. Now, that’s because you haven’t read my book yet, because we are human and they are not. Are you beginning to get the picture of – duh, what is Heaven really like?

I want to know – what do we Scripturally know about Heaven? The truth is Scripture says just about nothing concerning the details of Heaven. It’s vague, indistinct, almost a secret. It challenges us to search and to learn what we can relate to that anticipated place of glory. This then is our search for Heaven.

Heaven comes in threes

Let’s get away from hymns and silliness and let’s simply talk about what we honestly know – like there are three heavens mentioned in Scripture.

I’m not kidding about that. Christian Scripture speaks of three heavens, which apparently seems to be sufficient versus some religions who want to believe in seven of them. The first biblical heaven consists of the region above us. It is where the clouds float by, and the birds fly around. The second heaven has to do with infinite space – that beyond that we call the universe where the sun, moon and all the beautiful masses those scientific telescopes show us. The third heaven has to do with that new heaven and earth that God has promised to this world once He has finally had His fill with Satan and his followers.

However, in this article, the heaven that I’m interested in is the third heaven. The one that the Apostle Paul seems to have visited, which is consistently referred to as the abode of God. Paul said, “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago-whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows-such a man was caught up to the third heaven” 2Co 12:3~NASB In the next sentence he calls this “third heaven” Paradise – which is an important designation. At this point in our article, let’s assume that the third heaven indeed is Paradise. Paul does not call it the dwelling place of God, but he does say that this is where he received all his revelations – his schooling that made him the Great Apostle to the Gentiles.

Jesus also mentioned this place as Paradise in His earthly ministry. To the thief on the cross who confessed Him at the last minute, Jesus said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise” (Lk 23:43, 2 Cr 12:4, Rev 2:7~ NASB). From these three references, we must gather that Heaven and Paradise are one in the same. It is the place where God Himself dwells.

Please, I’m all but begging you to mark this next statement: ALL Scripture truth must be set by a minimum of two (preferably three) confirming scriptures. That is to say, we are never permitted (as some do) to set doctrine on one statement that is made by a writers of Scripture. God Himself set this rule, when He said, “A single witness shall not rise up against a man on account of any iniquity or any sin which he has committed; on the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed” (De 19:15, Mt 18:16, 2Cr 13:1 ~NASB).

The Reality of Heaven

By that subtitle, I mean, this is not something some priest or television pastor dreamed up so he/she can ask for more donations. Heaven is a place taught in the Bible, and by Jesus himself. I would hate to have spent my entire life hoping and believing in an eternal home only to find out Scripturally there is no such place even mentioned. Have no fear – it’s there.

Actually, all religions that I know of have some belief in a heaven, in a verity of forms. I must confess that Christianity has some differing views of Paradise. One may wonder why, but it all has to do with things like Protestantism, Catholicism, this ism, and that ism. You understand I’m sure. Christianity is agreeable with the fundamentals of Heaven, it’s the fine points that Scripture doesn’t even talk about that we love to argue and disagree. I have found disagreements (in a godly spirit) to be extremely enlightening.

It Ain’t Easy

Honestly searching Scripture to find out the details – and that’s what we want here – simple details like, will I be greeted by my dad and mom, when I get there? that is not an easy thing to discover. To make matters more difficult, there are two other phrases used throughout the New Testament the Kingdom of God and or Heaven. Jesus taught the crowd one day, saying, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” Mt 5:3~NASB, and in that same discourse He said, ” Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great” Mt 3:12~NASB. As He used that term in that discourse, one would assume He is referring to Paradise, or Heaven. In fact, as I began to search it appeared as thought the statement Kingdom of heaven always referred to Heaven, while the statement Kingdom of God spoke to a relationship. However, that assumption was destroyed as I went deeper into the Epistles. They are, used interchangeably. Sometimes, it is obvious they are referring to heaven, but other times it becomes apparent it is referring to a relational position.

Heaven is Promised

What little we do know about Paradise, or Heaven, is that it is promised to those who have put their faith in the fact that Jesus is the Christ, and that He is their Lord and Savior. It is that concept of bowing one’s proud knee and confessing that He is the Master of our life, and not we. Because we have done this act of faith in Him, Scripture has promised that when that time comes (and it comes to all of us sooner or later), that our eternal abode will be with God in this place. According to the Apostle Paul, we are to consider ourselves as citizens of paradise at this time. He said, “For our citizenship is in heaven,” (Php 3:20~NASB), and it is a place we are to eagerly look forward to. We must also assume that we are ushered into this place immediately upon departing from this earth. Again, Paul stated, “to be absent from the body and to be home with the Lord” (2Co 5:8~NASB).

If we take Scripture as being accurate, then we declare that Heaven is a promise in our future.

The Heavenly Move

For some of us who have not taken a lot of care of this body we’re living in, and others who have carried around a body of pain, I have some good news. By all that we know, the present body that you and I are living in is not going to make it to heaven. Scripture tells us that God “will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory” (Php 3:21~NASB). I honestly don’t think I want to spend all of eternity in this physical suit I’ve messed up anyway – I don’t know about you. Again, it is written, “for we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” 2Co 5:1-2~NASB).

The idea is that we are living in a suit designed to house and protect our spirit and soul on this earth. When we enter that eternal place called heaven, God is going to give us another house for our spirit and soul to live in. The greatest difference is that it will be like His, and it will never wear out. For people like me, that’s good news.

What It’s Like

Before we get into this next piece, I want to preface it with the fact that this illustration is pre-New Testament. By that, I mean Christ has not died on the Cross-for our sins, nor has He riser from the dead having the seal of the Father that His death covers the sins of those who confess Him as Savior. That is a vital piece of information because most theologians believe things in Paradise changed at that point in time.

With that disclaimer, we have this one extremely small piece of information concerning Paradise given to us by Jesus in this parable. Two men had died, and one was a rich, arrogant, nasty kind of person, while the other man was just a poor beggar – a homeless beggar. The beggar went to Paradise and was being comforted by Abraham. The rich man was in torment (a whole other subject) who thought he deserved a favor from Abraham. Notice Abraham did not berate the rich man, but he did use the beggar as an illustration, saying, “Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here” (Lk 16:25~NASB).

About the only thing we can conclude from this is that, there is comfort and equality in Paradise from all the ills that have befallen us while living on this earth. It is part of our reward. We also know that we will not be alone, as this beggar is seen with and being comforted by the famous Abraham of Old Testament fame. We also know that inside of us, while we rightfully fight and cling to life for as long as we can, we long to go to heaven, because our spirit testifies that it is a far greater place than this.

Conclusion

There is no conclusion to this subject, because there is not enough information given to us to make a solid conclusion. I feel terribly about this, as the assumption is that someone in my position should simply know these kinds of things, but I don’t.

I must leave this subject by saying, we will all find the answer to our quest sooner of later. For me, it will be sooner, but that is okay with me. I have to say that while I’m in pain for those I will leave behind; I am looking to mount my spiritual horse, and ride once again, into a completely new adventure. I do hope with all that is within me that I will be able to ride with in a full gallop with the heavenly wind in our faces.