The first part of this introduction puts forward some examples of conflicting historical and contemporary views on Christian belief in heaven. The second part goes on to discuss the two basically different images of heaven that have recurred down the ages: the theocentric view, which in its extreme version casts heaven as a timeless experience of contemplating God, and requires no human dimension; and the anthropocentric view, where the emphasis is on being reunited with family and friends, and heaven being essentially like this life, but without the evil and suffering. The third part discusses the question of why, though many still profess belief in heaven, this belief is now more vague and ambivalent than it has ever been, and has been entirely rejected by some on philosophical, cultural, intellectual, or moral grounds. The author believes that the transmutation of belief in heaven from a vitally positive, spiritual, and moral source into a decidedly negative one represents a religious and cultural shift of cosmic proportions, and that from this viewpoint alone, the doctrine is ripe for serious consideration.
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