This is a core biblical topic, since the first verse of Genesis states: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Thus, the Harris heaven soundbite led Pageau to tweet: “Woah, this is one of the most embarrassing things that I have heard in awhile.”
After all, even the most fervent materialist can learn to “step back into an ancient cosmology” and grasp that “these categories — heaven and earth — are universal, they are in every culture,” said Pageau, who is best known for his online dialogues with author Jordan Peterson, professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Toronto.
Concepts of the “visible” and “invisible” are central to religious discussions of “light,” “wind,” “breath,” “spirit,” “purpose,” “beauty,” “art” and “speech,” as well as images of believers making spiritual quests via ladders, trees or mountains. Humans experience the world with their senses and these perceptions lead to spiritual questions, insights and truths, said Pageau.
Consider, for example, Dante’s use of planets, in “The Divine Comedy,” as a symbolic pathway to encountering God. “You can think: ‘Oh, my goodness. What a silly way of thinking.’ Right? To take Sam’s position, did the satellites up there — did they get in the way of Dante? Did he knock himself on the satellites while he was going up the spheres?”
The Bible describes angels with wings and God is often depicted in physical terms — having feet, arms and hands, as well as a heart and mind. But no one is claiming that “God is a big physical being in the sky that has these attributes,” said Pageau.
“I will admit that in a world of satellites and a world of spaceships, quasars and whatever, this can be difficult. … Jesus is not hanging up there in the atmosphere. He’s not having to watch out for the satellites that are coming by — you know — maybe chatting with people at the space station,” the iconographer explained.
“God is, obviously, not a king sitting on a throne in the atmosphere throwing lightning bolts. But understanding what a king is might be one of the best ways … to understand how the authority of God works. … Understanding what heaven is is the best way to understand the manner in which the invisible moves the visible.”