Heaven, by Peter Kreeft seeks to recapture the longing of every human heart. “Heaven is not in your heart but a picture of heaven, a silhouette of heaven, a heaven shaped shadow, a longing unsatisfied by anything on earth.” The purpose of the book is to raise that picture to consciousness. The author contends that one must first diagnose the cause of human hopelessness before a prescription can be offered.
Kreeft attempts to make an accurate diagnosis by pointing to broad historical movements that have engaged in a quest for heaven. First, Kreeft points to the Renaissance which longed to return to Greco-Roman humanism and rationalism. In contrast, the Reformation longed to return to simple biblical faith. The two movements in history disintegrated into the medieval synthesis which produced modernity. The author notes that “once modernity denies or ignores God, there are only two realities left: humanity and nature. If God is not our end and hope, we must find that hope in ourselves or in nature. Thus, emerge the two new kingdoms of modernity – the kingdom of self and the kingdom of this world.” Both are clearly alternatives to the kingdom of God and result in idolatry.
The author goes on to show that every idol has “cracks.” Hence, every idol, whether ancient or modern does not work. Every idol fails to produce lasting happiness. They make promises they can never deliver. So every potential worshipper is faced with three choices: A turning to the true kingdom of God, a turning to another idol, or a turning to nothing which leads to despair.
Kreeft proceeds to explore the heart’s longing for heaven. “We find the presence of God by first finding the presence of the absence of God, the God-shaped hole that nothing else can fill.” Therein lies humanities deepest failure – to satisfy our deepest desire, a relationship with God.
The author concludes that we are already in heaven in part. The eschatological hope is not mere speculation or a flirting with eternal things. It is now. It is not only the future hope of heaven; it is the present reality of eternal life, living Coram Deo – before the face of God.
Heaven is filled with strong points. First, the historical movements give the reader a context to understand modern day attitudes. Second, the philosophical approach is commendable. Rather than offer “pie in the sky” answers, the author deals with tough questions in a biblical fashion. The author embraces the philosophy of C.S. Lewis which only enhances the book’s credibility. Third, the author writes with precision and causes the reader to think deeply about the important questions in life. Fourth, the book offers hope. It is entirely positive and gives the reader hope for the future and a better understanding of the eschatological hope. Further, it stresses the reality of eternal life in the here and now, not merely in the future.