One of my favorite shows of the past few years was The Good Place. It ended recently, and I must admit mixed feelings. I’ll miss the characters and enjoyed them each getting a rather satisfying send off. But the philosopher in me was troubled by the ending, as was my inner theologian.
Here is another pastor/theologian/philosopher’s take. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
And, oh yeah, spoilers below.
Joel Mayward, February 3, 2020
Everything good must come to an end in order to be meaningful. That’s the message at the center of The Good Place, the afterlife comedy that ended last week after four seasons and 52 hilarious, philosophically enriching episodes.
Whereas Jean-Paul Sartre declared in his play No Exit that “hell is other people,” The Good Place proposed that heaven is other people; the loving friendships of the “Soul Squad” were genuinely salvific for the entirety of humanity. What began as an experiment in hell by the demonic architect Michael (Ted Danson) on four unsuspecting humans—the sinfully spunky Eleanor (Kristen Bell), moral philosophy professor Chidi (William Jackson Harper), aristocratic philanthropist Tahani (Jameela Jamil), and Floridian doofus Jason (Manny Jacinto)—concludes with a poignant and provocative solution to the problem of an eternal afterlife: death itself.
This is an eternal afterlife wholly absent of God, where humans endure character-forming tests by a group of trained demons until everyone eventually earns their way into a paradise of hedonism for eternity, until they feel complete (at best) or bored (at worst), in which case they voluntarily end their own existence. It’s a hybrid of universalism, syncretism, and—to put it bluntly—a type of hereafter suicide.
I confess, I initially found myself truly troubled by The Good Place’s apparent atheistic cosmic euthanasia, which seemed like an overly romanticized view of death. Yet, upon reflection, I think there’s some truth to discern here, particularly for Christians. If God has conquered death through Christ, then we need not glorify or fear death, even as we grieve its reality and mourn with those who mourn. Death is not our ultimate source of meaning for existence—God is. As there’s a time to be born and a time to die, a time to weep and a time to laugh, we can face all of it with a sober recognition of the real sadness of death and a courageous hope anchored in God’s unending love for us.
You can read the rest of the article here. (It’s a brief, easy read.)