Tuesday, November 14, 2006

our longing for jesus - out longing for heaven

A friend has asked me to mentor him in his theological education and spiritual formation. This morning we met and discussed two of Wayne Grudem's chapters on eschatology in his fine Systematic Theology.

Grudem writes about the Christian longing for Jesus' return:

"John's response at the end of Revelation should characterize Christian's hearts in all ages: 'Amen. Come Lord Jesus!' (Rev 22:20). True Christianity trains us 'to live sober, upright, and godly lives in the world, awaiting our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ' (Titus 2:12-13)" (emphasis his, p. 1092).

Grudem comments, "To some extent, then, the degree to which we actually long for Christ's return is a measure of the spiritual condition of our own lives at the moment" (p. 1093).

I think that CS Lewis somewhere wrote that when we experience deep longing for something, we are really longing for heaven. I believe that in the Christian heart, the longing for Jesus and the longing for heaven is co-mingled.

These comments and thoughts led me to think of one of my favorite passages from Malcolm Muggeridge's biography Chronicles of Wasted Time.

Malcolm Muggeridge led an interesting life. He was the British journalist who popularized Mother Teresa in his Something Beautiful for God. He was a journalist in England for the Manchester Guardian. He was with the British intelligence unit serving as an operative during WWII with MI5. He went on to become an editor of the famous British satirical journal Punch. I believe he became a Catholic while in his 70’s.

In this passage, Muggeridge notes how, counterintuitively, an appreciation and perspective on our eternal destiny increases the value we place on our temporal surroundings.

How can I ever explain to those who insist that we must believe in the world to love it that it is because I disbelieve in the world that I love every breath I take, look forward with ever-greater delight to the coming of each spring, rejoice ever more in the companionship of my fellow-humans, to no single one of whom – searching my heart – do I wish ill, and from no single one of whom do I wish to separate myself, in word or thought or deed, or in the prospect of some other existence beyond the ticking of the clocks, the vista of the hills, the bounds and dimensions of our earthly hopes and desires? To accept this world as a destination rather than a staging-post, and the experience of living in it as expressing life’s full significance, would seem to me to reduce life to something too banal and trivial to be taken seriously or held in esteem.

In other words, the Christian proposition that he that loves his life in this world shall lose it, and he that hates his life in this world shall see it projected and glorified into eternity, is for living, not for dying. After all, it was a St Francis who truly loved the world he so gaily abjured, as his enchanting prayers and canticles convey; not a Pere Goriot who so cherished its commodities. It is misers and Don Juans who moan; spendthrifts and saints are always laughing.


All I can claim to have learnt from the years I have spent in this world is that the only happiness is love, which is attained by giving, not receiving; and that the world itself only becomes the dear and habitable dwelling place it is when we who inhabit it know we are migrants, due when the time comes to fly away to other more commodious skies. "


knsheppard said...

Stephen, I was looking at the other books written by this author, and noticed his books against evangelical feminism. Isn't he a complimentarian along the lines of a Driscoll? I find myself asking why one would want to be against evangelical feminism at all? Makes me nervous about his systematic theology...

Stephen said...

well, i would consider the complementarian - egalitarian controversy, while vitally imp, not as central theologically as the trinity, the atonement, etc. both the emerging church and, especially, the evangelical church are divided on this issue. i have found grudem to be a wonderfully balanced and irenic theologian and have been reading him for years.

knsheppard said...

Fair enough, and I'll admit I'm generally ignorant. But, I must say, it seems to me that the feminist critique in theology does engage in discussions of trinity, atonetment, etc. And, I doubt saying this other stuff is more important, I wonder how satisfactory women would find that? Or, say, minorities in our society? I'm all for balance and peaceful dialogue, but what about when the issue affects over half those on the planet!

Stephen said...

well...yeah, there is that.