Heaven: An Acquired Taste

Some time back I decided that my distaste for olives must mean that something was wrong with my palate, not with olives. There are many fine people who seem to know something about how things should taste, I reasoned, who are quite enthusiastic about a well-prepared olive. So, in protest to my uncultured palate, I began to eat olives. Now I’m quite enthusiastic about a well-prepared olive myself.

And the exact same thing happened with classical music, art, philosophy, poetry, high literature, beer, and coffee—black. I guess I just assumed that there really are some things that are objectively better than others and that some “tastes” are, well, uninformed. My suspicion arose out of an observation of American culture at large, namely, that ours is a culture driven more by its appetites than its tastes. The fact that “dollar menu” is synonymous with “value menu” should give us pause, should it not? Call me pretentious, but I really do think $10 spent at the olive bar is more valuable than $10 spent at any value menu. I would go so far to claim that the living God is more pleased with Mozart than he is with Nickelback. If Nickelback makes it to heaven, God forbid, I’ll bet my salvation they will not be invited to join the choir.

I don’t know that I have much of a point here, only to suggest that if you like Nickelback over Bach, Tim LaHaye over T.S. Eliot, Thomas Kinkade over Claude Monet, Bud Light over almost any beer that doesn’t taste like Bud Light, then you may be well on your way to getting “Left Behind.”

I think heaven is a place more driven by tastes than appetites. I think the culture of heaven will be “high culture” in the realest sense, real like a perfect circle, which doesn’t really exist in our universe but certainly does exist in some real sense, and if it did not neither would imperfect circles. I know that down here in low-church Protestantism it is popular to look down on cathedrals, but I bet up there in heaven there is not a single church that isn’t built with spires. I have hunch that in heaven there are all kinds of unnecessary ornamentation, from the streets to the gates to the walls to the Wedding menu. I bet the worship goes on past 12:05. In fact, I bet things there are so inefficient, so un-rushed, so off-demand, that a very many number of us won’t have the taste for such a place.

The psalmist said, “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps. 34:8). I must say, as a Christian formed by a particular brand of American Christian culture, for a number of years “the Lord” put a bad taste in my mouth. I liked salvation, heaven, resurrection, and I really liked grace, and (or because) all these are made widely available, or at least advertised, on the “value menu” found at your average  grab-and-go Sunday morning drive through. Without “the Lord,” I could smear all these items like icing over ongoing habits without having to have a conversion of palate—I could have my grace and eat them too. But “the Lord” is hard to find these days at church. And that’s because, frankly, “the Lord” ain’t really in high demand.

I wonder if we should consider that maybe, just maybe, our distaste for “the Lord” means that something is wrong with our wills and our hearts, not with the Lord. Maybe if we just assumed that there is a better Lord for our lives than we are, we would discover something worth getting enthusiastic about. And maybe if churches would stop serving up the gospel in the most palatable, convenient, economic package they can devise, according to the felt-needs of a culture that feels no need for a Lord, they wouldn’t be preparing so many people to be disappointed by the rapture.

“After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, ‘Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.’ At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald” (Rev. 4:1-3).


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