Eternal Life and Human Happiness in Heaven
Philosophical Problems, Thomistic Solutions
Imprint: Catholic University of America Press
Eternal Life and Human Happiness in Heaven treats four apparent problems concerning eternal life in order to clarify our thinking about perfect human happiness in heaven. The teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas provide the basis for solutions to these four problems about eternal life insofar as his teachings call into question common contemporary theological or philosophical presuppositions about God, human persons, and the nature of heaven itself. Indeed, these Thomistic solutions often require us to think very differently from our contemporaries. But thinking differently with St. Thomas is worth it: for the Thomistic solutions to these apparent problems are more satisfying, on both theological and philosophical grounds, than a number of contemporary theological and philosophical approaches.
Christopher Brown deploys his argument in four sections. The first section lays out, in three chapters, four apparent problems concerning eternal life—Is heaven a mystical or social reality? Is heaven other-worldly or this-worldly? Is heaven static or dynamic? Won’t human persons eventually get bored in heaven? Brown then explains how and why some important contemporary Christian theologians and philosophers resolve these problems, and notes serious problems with each of these contemporary solutions. The second section explains, in five chapters, St. Thomas’ significant distinction between the essential reward of the saints in heaven and the accidental reward, and treats in detail his account of that in which the essential reward consists, namely, the beatific vision and the proper accidents of the vision (delight, joy, and charity). The third section treats, in five chapters, St. Thomas’ views on the multifaceted accidental reward in heaven, where the accidental reward includes, among other things, glorified human embodiment, participation in the communion of the saints, and the joy experienced by the saints in sensing God’s "new heavens and new earth." Finally, section four argues, in four chapters, that St. Thomas’ views allow for powerful solutions to the four apparent problems about eternal life examined in the first section. These solutions are powerful because, not only are they consistent with authoritative, Catholic Christian Tradition, but they do not raise any of the significant theological or philosophical problems that attend the contemporary theological and philosophical solutions examined in the first section.
"A significant contribution to Aquinas' views on the afterlife, since it is the only comprehensive, one-volume inquiry into Aquinas on heaven, in conversation with contemporary analytic philosophy of religion."~Mark K. Spencer, University of St. Thomas, Minnesota
"Brown’s book is equally insightful and well-executed. It contains not only careful, sustained engagement with Aquinas’s corpus, but it is also full of insights for contemporary philosophers of religion and theologians. Aquinas’s teachings on heaven have substantial explanatory power for a wide range of issues. Brown serves as an excellent guide to the riches of Aquinas’s thought."~Kevin Timpe, Calvin College
"Detailed and rigorous philosophical analysis and argumentation concerning the precise nature of the afterlife is a neglected but fascinating part of the Thomistic tradition. A new study that brings this work into discussion with contemporary philosophy and theology is long overdue, and Christopher Brown has given us just that. This is an important, stimulating, and welcome contribution to the literature."~Edward Feser, Pasadena City College
"Brown’s Eternal Life and Human Happiness in Heaven is impressively rigorous and thought-provoking. Even those who ultimately do not agree with all of Brown’s conclusions will learn a great deal from his erudite treatment of the subject, showing that on this topic, as with so many others, the thought of Thomas Aquinas can go a long way in helping us think more clearly and carefully about what we believe, revealing apparent difficulties to be not so intractable after all."~The North American Anglican
"Anyone interested in understanding St. Thomas’s thought about heaven should searchingly study the heart of this book. I’m looking forward to reading it again."~American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly
"One is impressed with what appears to be a near exhaustive search of the relevant texts on the points at issue. His engagement with the contemporary literature on the topics he addresses is likewise impressive. Brown is also a pleasure to read. He reasons carefully, and his prose is clear and engaging. For anyone with a philosophical or theological interest in the question of heaven, Brown’s book is a must."~Review of Metaphysics
"Brown has delivered a philosophical masterpiece which is a must-read for scholars interested in a faithful and accessible reconstruction and explanation of Aquinas’s views on eternal life and human happiness in heaven. Brown convincingly shows that taking Aquinas as a guide in thinking about heaven is rewarding because his view does not raise any of the problems that attend some contemporary accounts."~Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews