Foundations for a Christian Worldview: Unseen Things (5)
And he blessed him and said:
“Blessed be Abram of God Most High,
Possessor of heaven and earth;
And blessed be God Most High,
Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.” Genesis 14.19, 20
The materialist agenda
The dominant worldview of our day – secular materialism – advertises its convictions in the widely-repeated words of the late Carl Sagan: “The cosmos is all there is, or was, or ever will be.” All we need to know, whatever we may take as a point of reference for values or direction, and all we may aspire to is only and purely materialistic in nature. The good and true life is that which conforms to the demands, and knows how to exploit the opportunities, of a universe that is only matter, in one form or another, and that only matters to us because we prefer to live well rather than to suffer and die.
The materialist worldview is embraced as an act of faith. No one can know by the tenets of the modern scientific enterprise – the high priesthood of secular materialism – whether what Dr. Sagan asserted is true. The materialistic nature of the universe is simply assumed as an act of faith; and, as with every unprovable assumption and faith assertion, it may be incorrect.
However, this materialistic worldview is taught, promoted, and pursued as if it were correct, as if were true and the only viable way of understanding our lives and the world. Secular materialism has established a hegemonic perspective on the world and everything in it, and it uses all its accumulated muscle to propagate that view as if it were indisputably true.
But the worldview that begins to emerge in the Law of God – the Christian worldview – denies the claims of Carl Sagan and the materialist worldview, and in particular, the secularist slogan, on three counts. First, the material cosmos is not all there is. God exists, as do other spiritual beings, and other unseen things, such as the soul and sin.
Second, the material cosmos is not all there ever was, since it and everything in it came into being out of nothing at some point, and since God has existed from all eternity.
And third, the cosmos is not all that ever will be, for God will always be, the souls of people will continue forever, and this universe will one day be dramatically transformed into a new heavens and new earth where righteousness dwells.
There’s more to this vast cosmos than meets the eye, and failing to understand and value the unseen things of our worldview will deprive us of its power and promise. The created universe is more than merely matter, and among the unseen things of which the cosmos is comprised is heaven.
The fact of heaven
The Scriptures do not provide a definition of heaven. Instead, we must deduce the fact and nature of heaven from isolated references, which, in the Law of God, are sufficient to establish the reality of this mysterious realm.
Heaven is a spiritual domain rather than a physical space. We cannot go there in our bodies, and heaven is not contained within the material cosmos, but is often referred to as above or beyond it – the “heaven of heavens.” God “owns” heaven; He is Lord and Master there, the only God among a great many other spiritual beings (Gen 14.22; Deut. 4.39; Gen. 28.12). Heaven is the “holy habitation” of God, yet because it is a creation of God (Gen. 1.1), it cannot contain Him. It appears to be more like an office than a domicile – the place from which God orchestrates His plans and conducts His work.
God is not alone in heaven. The Angel of the Lord is there, as well as other angels (Gen. 28.12) who interface with people according to God’s Word.
The suggestion is made that heaven and earth have some kind of interface, as Jacob saw in his dream (Gen. 28). From His dwelling place in heaven, God “remembers” His covenant with His people; that is, He attends to it continuously, carrying out His promises and dealing with nations and the world to advance His purposes on earth (Ex. 2-15).
Though heaven is a spiritual domain, it is intimately engaged with earth, and with the people of the earth. God possesses both heaven and earth, and He does in and on them whatsoever accords with His purpose. God in heaven can hear when people cry to Him (Gen. 21.17). He communicates with people from heaven, either by speaking Himself or by sending His Angel. And He sends His angels to earth to accomplish His purposes.
For earth’s sake!
It has sometimes been observed of certain Christians that they can be “so heavenly-minded that they are no earthly good.” The comment is aimed at those whose view of salvation is defined by the promise of going to heaven when they die. In the meantime, they do their best not to become involved in matters of the world, not even to pursue the good works for which they have been redeemed and for which they should be equipped, zealous, and ready at all times (Eph. 2.10; 2 Tim. 3.15-17; Tit. 2.14; 3.8, 14).
An equal danger lies in being so unmindful concerning heaven that we allow the secular and materialist worldview to define the parameters of our faith. We believe in heaven and all that goes on there, but the fact of heaven does not much affect the way we live in the here and now. Heaven is a there-and-then concept for too many Christians, who have not learned how to tap the power of heaven – of God and His Word and angels – to bring the rule of heaven’s God to earth in ways that reflect the rule of God in heaven (cf. Matt. 6.10, 33).
For earth’s sake, and everyone and everything in it, we must not allow the dead-end worldview of secular materialism to define the values, structures, priorities, policies, and hopes of life on earth. God in heaven intends His creation to realize its full and flourishing goodness, but it will not do so as long as the bonds and blinders of an unbelieving worldview keep it from our view and grasp. Believers must pray and work – as God expected of Abraham and Moses – for the will of God in heaven to be realized among the peoples and creatures of earth. We must devote ourselves to understanding and engaging this aspect of our Christian worldview as did our forebears of old.
Questions for reflection
1. How would you explain heaven to an unbelieving friend? How would you expect your friend to reply? Why?
2. What role does the fact of heaven play in your own life?
3. What are we asking for when we pray that God’s will might be done on earth as in heaven? What does praying this way require of how we live?
Next steps – Preparation: Talk with a Christian friend about the role of heaven in Christian life. How can you encourage one another to be more truly and consistently heaven-minded? Why should you?
T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission.
- T.M. Moore
- May 22, 2019
Not a place, but a domain - spiritual and real.
Foundations for a Christian Worldview: Unseen Things (5)
T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.