So heavenly-minded that you are no earthly use?

Here is C. S. Lewis, that wise old bird of Christian Platonism:
If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth “thrown in”: aim at earth and you will get neither
Mere Christianity, 116–17.
Quite so!


Anonymous said…
I'll agree with his last statement but dissent from that before it. I agree to an extant that focusing just on this world as it is now you loss both, but not on 'going to Heaven'. That has created a disconnect as I have come to see it within many Churches that the end game is to saves souls and just get through and out this world, with social justice something you do if you can but isn't that important in the grand scheme of things (since in that view which that phrase summons in everyone who now lives in the Western world mind, we either just this world, or the space, time and matter universe end or both, so it's world itself becomes seen as something incidental by default).]

Resurrection and new creation renewal of this world as the hope held out in the NT emphasises that God has and is going to rescue this world through Christ, that it has already began with His resurrection, and will be completed at the end of this age when we are raised with Him and the whole creation is set free from it's futility that it's presently subjected to.

And 'resurrection (bodily) of the dead' and 'new creation' creates a very different agenda to the phrase 'going to heaven', one where this world is our home, and it's going to rescued. And it makes us remember that all things done and through the body are going to be taken up by God through Christ and made part of the renewed world when the new age comes in it's fullness. Every act of kindness, love, of justice that can be brought forward in the present time. Social justice, environmental concerns, ending debt etc, are just incident side things we do until we go to our real home, but are suddenly central to the very ultimate hope that Christians are called to. To realise that it's this world, this earth that's our home and will be our home, this is where heaven and earth will unite as one, suddenly gives full meaning to works of justice in the community and the world, but become part of the very everlasting future that resurrection hope is all about.

I know that is what all we Christians do believe, but I feel the term 'going to heaven' is such a loaded one that immediately imports all kinds of false ideas, images and concepts and I'm not sure that phrase can be heard in the West at lest anyone without images of going to faraway heaven and leaving the sadly doomed earth behind, and becomes a conceptual system many Christians operate in even while affirming the resurrection of the dead.

I just don't think personally (and I know many will disagree, and that's fine, maybe I am just over thinking it) think the phrase is helpful at all, and think the Church should try to get back to talking about resurrection to immortal bodily life on this earth, and the new creation and rescue of the world, and the defeat of death. Anyway, those are two pennies for what their are worth (which might not be that much :) ).

- Grant
Anonymous said…
*face-palm* I just re-read through my post and noticed all the grammatical mistakes. I'm sorry for that, I am dyslexic, but I usually remember to check what I write through first before I post/send it etc, but I forgot (doh!) so I hope anyone who reads it can read past the mistakes.

- Grant (again lol)
Robin Parry said…
Thanks Grant

I actually agree with almost everything you say. I have been arguing for almost thirty years against the idea that the Christian hope is that your soul goes to heaven when you die.

However, that is not what I take Lewis to be talking about. Very clearly Lewis has not fallen into the trap that you are worried about (i.e., being so heavenly minded you are no earthly use) as he is specifically talking about social justice, etc.

What I took from Lewis is that it is only when you grasp the dependence of the visible realms on the invisible that you can appreciate the importance of the visible realms.

It may interest you to know that I took the quote from a book I am editing on Christian Platonism. The book makes a very strong case that solid Christian social justice work and ecological action needs a strong Christian Platonist vision of the dependence of the earthly on the heavenly. Christian Platonism is often accused of being anti-body and anti-creation but this is not the case. Quite the contrary.
Anonymous said…
Ah I see, well then I agree ;) lol. It would be interesting to read the book, I'm not certain what I think of Christian Platonism, but I haven't come across it to much. So as this conversation shows, I don't want to be to quick to judge again :).

Maybe it works with ideas that God has our future stored for us in Heaven, such as our bodies being clothed with immortality (or 'storing our riches' in heaven from which they manifest at fullness of the new age?).

So that we see the future is stored or there kept by God in the sphere of Heaven and that it becomes manifest through us now and what we do (such as social justice and ecology) we can use this to help us 'see' how that is playing into the future age? Is it something like that? Big questions I guess, perhaps I should wait the read the book :)?

- Grant
Micah said…
Wow -- looking forward to the Christian Platonism book, as well as 'Deep Church'. Any updates on when these will be available?
Robin Parry said…
Deep Church Rising will be July (Cascade in America and the world exclusing Europe; and SPCK in Europe)

The Platonist book will probably be a little sooner
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