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#562 Where are God and the Departed?

January 21, 2018

Question #1:

Dear Dr Craig,

Let me echo millions of your fans by saying, thank you for all you do for Christ. I’ve bought, devoured, savoured and passed several of your books on to others, including local libraries. They helped me greatly as I continue my own relatively amateurish apologetics. Anyway, my question deals with an issue I’m not sure you’ve addressed much, and that is this: Why is it so hard to cross the space/time divide? You speak of the kingdom of God “breaking into” the world. What does that mean? Now, I understand that as the universe expands it is creating time and space. Can we say that the “place” outside space/time is where Heaven is located? To give an awkward example, my very devout young wife passed away four years ago. Why can’t she give me/us a sign that she is in Heaven? Is Heaven so wonderful that she can’t be bothered to tell us? So, I simply don’t understand what space/time is not.




Question #2:

Dr Craig,

In what mode or dimension does God exist if He is non-corporeal, invisible, infinite but still doesn't cover any space because space was created at the beginning itself?


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Dr. craig’s response


At first I didn’t understand your question, Byron, because I wasn’t sure what you meant by “cross[ing] the space/time divide.” But then reading Surya’s question made the light come on for me.

Like many who have lost loved ones, you miss your dear wife and wish that somehow she could contact you to let you know she’s all right. Like God, she does not exist in our spacetime continuum and so is inaccessible to you. (I’m glad you haven’t turned to psychics and séances to try to cross the divide.)

We should not think of the departed as being in any place in a spatial sense, including heaven. On the Christian view when we die, we do not go immediately to heaven. Rather we exist as disembodied souls in an intermediate state while we await the resurrection of our bodies and our final entrance into the new heavens and the new earth (II Corinthians 5.1-8; I Thessalonians 4.13-18). In this intermediate state we are with the Lord and so happier than in the world of sin and woe but still not as blessed as we shall be when we receive our glorious resurrection bodies and so become fully redeemed human beings.

Your question “Can we say that the ‘place’ outside space/time is where Heaven is located?” is misconceived in two ways. First, we should not think of our universe as expanding into empty space. There is nothing outside the universe in a spatial sense. There is, so far as we know, no higher dimension in which our universe is embedded. Space itself is expanding, but it is not expanding into any place. Admittedly, this is impossible for us to visualize, but expanding space can be mathematically described internally in terms of steadily increasing distances between the galactic masses.

Second, the departed, having no bodies, are not spatial beings and so are not in any place, much less a place increasingly encroached upon by the expanding universe! Nor should we think of God as existing in a spatial place beyond the universe called heaven. As the Creator of space and time, God transcends space and so is not in another place or dimension. If we ask about the “mode” of His existence, probably all we can say is that it is a non-spatial mode of existence. Analogously, philosophers who believe in the reality of abstract objects like numbers, propositions, and properties don’t think of them as existing is some spatial dimension unconnected with our own: if such things exist, they just have a non-spatial mode of being. (Whether God, having created space, now fills space is another question.) When I spoke of “the kingdom of God ‘breaking into’ the world,” I meant merely that God has causally intervened in the course of the events of history to establish Christ’s Messianic reign.

You ask of your wife, “Why can’t she give me/us a sign that she is in Heaven?” Read Jesus’ parable of Lazarus and the rich man (which uses spatial imagery to convey the reality of the intermediate state) in Luke 16.19-31. I think that Abraham would say to you something similar to what he says to the rich man in the parable: there is a great gulf fixed between the departed dead and you. But you need have no contact with them in order to know their state, for you have the assurance of God’s word (now ratified by the resurrection of Jesus) that your wife is alive and well in paradise. 

Is Heaven so wonderful that she can’t be bothered to tell us?” Paul tells us that while he would rather not be stripped of his body and so exist “naked” as a soul without a body, nevertheless it is “far better” to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord (II Corinthians 5.6-8; Philippians 1.23). Who knows whether or not your wife is now so deliriously happy with her Lord that she isn’t thinking about you? Maybe; but maybe not. Maybe she still longs for the resurrection in which she will be reunited with you. These are questions we’re not in a position to answer, however much our emotions may incline in one direction or another.

The bottom line is that the departed are spatially disconnected from us for a time, and God in His wisdom has, for whatever reason, so arranged things that contact between us and them is not available to us.

- William Lane Craig