Once again, I must make a confession. I watch(ed) The Good Place.
Yes, the theology is terrible (more on that below). Yes, it projects worldly values, morality and even views on organization onto the afterlife. Yes, it is explicitly “not like Christianity”.
But it is honest in dealing with the anxiety and fears most people have about a subject that everyone will face. What happens when we die?
Throughout the series, the major characters of The Good Place show us an unbreakable confidence in the human soul—it can improve, it can change, it can be good! This optimism is even extended to a demon who is “converted” (my word) by his continued exposure to the growing goodness of the four souls whom he is working hard to torment creatively.
Last night I watched the finale of The Good Place (Spoiler Alert!). In the end, “Good” is defined as non-existent. Eternity is boring and monotonous. No matter what you want to accomplish in the after life, after a few million years of it, things just go stale. Even relationships (which are exactly like relationships on earth in every way, except you can find your one soul mate in the universe) are not enough to counteract the deep conviction that comes when you know it is time to simply stop existing.
And so they do. And it’s beautiful. It even feeds positivity into the demon-become-human who is working to earn his place (yes, always “earn”) in The Good Place.
The show is funny, a bit convicting, even heart warming at times.
It is also very, very dangerous. It would be harmless if the American viewing public—even the world—had not already shown that they actually believe and are shaped by what they see in fictional characterizations that arise from the minds of show creators, writers and actors. But it is dangerous because people actually do believe things they see on TV, and in this case, are already leaning toward two core “truths” of The Good Place that are, at best, wrong, and at worst, intentional and insidious lies of the Evil One.
The first lie is that we “earn” our way into The Good Place (or failing that, The Bad Place). If you are good enough (in the opinion of the authors) you go to The Good Place. Otherwise, well, sorry… But both scripture and our own experience teach a simple fact: No One Is Good Enough. Paul said in Romans 3:23 that no one is righteous, not even one person. Jesus himself said “No one is good except God only.” (Mark 10:18–forcing the Pharisees to confront the reality that Jesus and the Father are one).
Christians in America have to believe this first. Then we have to have the courage to stand for this truth and make sure all our neighbors understand—you cannot earn forgiveness, salvation, or “the Good Place”.
The second lie is even worse. It is, in fact, the worst lie anyone can promulgate, because if someone is caught up in this lie—if anyone believes it—they are doomed, having already become “not good enough”.
The lie? There is no God. The Good Place is run by judges and other eternal creatures who just happen to exist. But God is nowhere to be found. It is this lie that makes life—even eternal life—eventually meaningless and good only to lead us to nonexistence. Eternity—or the next five minutes—without God is simply not worth living.
But eternity WITH God is everything. The creators of this show, without a relationship to this all consuming God, cannot conceive of an eternity spent living out our reason for existence in relationship to Him.
But that doesn’t mean it isn’t real.
The Gospel is in direct opposition to the story line in The Good Place.
We can’t be good enough—we never will be.
But God is real, and
He created a way for us to be forgiven, wiped clean, and able to enter into His presence. He is relational, and faith and knowledge of Him is an intimate, experiential faith that never grows stale. It never ceases to grow. It never leaves us without purpose or meaning.
Whatever life after we die is like, it will be so perfect for us that we will want to have it forever.
And God’s gift to us through Jesus Christ is, we will.
May we all submit to the Gospel so that we will find the real “Good Place”.
Know Jesus and Be Faithful!