Let Your Light Shine


I’m listening to a course on the history of Christian theology, and the last lecture I listened to was on how Christians came to the idea of the soul separating from the body and going to Heaven or Hell when they die. Believe it or not, the idea of the soul going to heaven when one dies is not in the least bit Christian in origin, or even Jewish for that matter, but purely from Plato. If you stick by the Christian tradition, Christ returns to establish God’s Kingdom on earth and resurrects those Christians who are saved to be part of the Kingdom of God on earth. So why is the idea that our souls go to Heaven or Hell when we die so prevalent in the Western Christian tradition? Mostly because Augustine was well versed in Plato and liked the idea of a separate body and soul, but he still believed there had to be the resurrection of the body before the soul could achieve complete happiness. One problem is that Paul and the other New Testament writers believed Jesus would return in their life-time, so there was no problem about what happened when a Christian died, but as time wore on, later Christians became anxious about what happens when they die. In a simplistic way of looking at a very complex and drawn out issue, Plato had the easy answer — good souls go to Heaven and bad souls go to Hell — but then there are the questionable souls, that, again because of Augustine, are believed to end up in purgatory, at least in the Catholic tradition!