Heaven and earth in perspective

“[Modernity and Post-modernity] are predicated on the abandonment of a premodern sacramental mindset in which the realities of this worldly existence pointed to greater, eternal realities in which they sacramentally shared. Once modernity abandoned a participatory or sacramental view of reality, the created order became unmoored from its origin in God, and the material cosmos began its precarious drift on the flux of nihilistic waves.” (Boersma, Heavenly Participation: The Weaving of a Sacramental Tapestry, 2).

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“But what, you ask, of earth? Earth, I think, will not be found by anyone to be in the end a very distinct place. I think earth, if chosen instead of Heaven, will turn out to have been, all along, only a region of Hell: and earth, if put second to Heaven, to have been from the beginning a part of Heaven itself.” C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce, II .

The evangelical faith has been in something of a rush to lose heaven. More accurately, it has been in a hurry to embrace a faith that is earthy and which tries to be a redemptive influence in our world. Younger evangelicals, we are told, want to be involved in deeds of mercy and justice. They want their lives to make a difference. All this is good.

It does, however, prompt the question: what about heaven? Is there room for heaven in our new this-worldly theology of engagement? What is the point of, as N T Wright puts it, “life after life after death”?

I sometimes wonder whether a new evangelical understanding of mission (one which focuses on action, as have all evangelical theologies of just about anything) is really sustainable absent an understanding of the life which is to come. In other words, can we live well here on earth if our understanding of heaven is obscured?

Forgetting, eclipsing, or obscuring heaven will be detrimental to our ministry in the present moment. In the coming weeks we’ll be looking at how this fresh disconnect can hinder our faithfulness to the Kingdom of God, the realm of which we are subjects. Stay tuned.

2 Comments on “Heaven and earth in perspective”

  1. Good thoughts! This reminds me of a presentation given way back in the late 80s to an evangelical university group. The speaker made a good point that we had lost our focus on heaven. At that time “we” tended to emphasize how the Christian faith can lead to better self-image, a better marriage, and greater/sharper focus for life. After all, the target audience was high powered Type A/Achievement oriented/Success Driven students from the last years of the Boom and the top end of Generation X. I listened to the tape again this February. It still rang true.

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    • Jones – thanks for commenting. One of the critical jobs of clergy is, I think, to remain grounded in the length of the church’s reflection on the Christian life and theology without becoming captive to the prevailing spirit of the moment, but without ignoring it either.

      A huge challenge for pastors is creating space to be able to do this work themselves or be in community with others who view this sort of reflection is a more central to their ministry and who can use it to bless the ministry of others.

      Like

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