Duped by Dualism
I’m usually of the opinion that beliefs regarding eschatology are of a personal nature and are relatively unimportant to a person’s spiritual walk as they do not necessarily affect our deeds while we still occupy this life.
It occurs to me, however, that an eschatology which is divorced from the physical realm can be quite harmful in its own way. The immediate danger which comes to mind is that Christians can become complacent toward the planet in such a way that their scope of compassion becomes limited only to their own immediate sphere of perception. To break that sphere is, of course, something with which we all struggle, and it is often a daily battle. My worry is that if one perceives their afterlife is separate from the physical world, their amount of care toward the physical world becomes less holistic than it perhaps ought to be.
Scripture to me indicates that the Kingdom of Heaven is not something entirely separated from this earth, to which we believe we might ascend at the moment of death if we have a relationship with God. Rather, the Kingdom of God is in the here and now, continually breaking through into this reality. We do not pray “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done,” for absolutely no reason. Whether we appreciate it or not, every Christian prays for the transformation of this existence into the one God wishes it to be.
Physicality is not something to be deemed as evil and a quality from which we ought to escape. Every human being is made in the image of God, and Her purpose for us is to love one another and to care for our realm just as He does. If
“The LORD is good to all;
and has compassion on all he has made” (Psalm 145:9),
then I can’t see why it should be any different for the one endeavouring to follow Him. As I understand it, the doctrine of Gnosticism was one which was approached with severe disdain in the early Church, as adherents to this doctrine saw the physical world as purely evil, and that our true home was to be found in the spiritual realm by means of “Gnosis,” or hidden knowledge.
The resurrection is not something which is to take place after this realm has been destroyed. The resurrection involves the transformation of this reality, that it might one day be set free from its continual decay. As Paul says:
For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it,
in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.
Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
The creation is decaying, but set at odds to this decay is the Kingdom of God which seeks to heal where Darkness only destroys. I have no doubt that some Christians seem to view this decay as a good thing, since it hastens the coming of the Kingdom in fullness, when really we ought to be looking at things the other way round. If we hope for the creation to be set free, then we must be seeking the power and strength to act as vessels for God in fighting the decay that occurs around us.
When I say we are “duped by dualism,” I am not necessarily trying to deny the spiritual reality of our existence, but rather asserting that we must appreciate the physical as well as the spiritual if we are to acknowledge creation as a system we are to help and care for. If we are to follow the same compassion God possesses, it might help matters for there to be a marriage of the physical and spiritual in our overall worldview.
Let’s look at it this way… if the Kingdom of God begins in the heart of the one who follows Christ, then how are we aiding its continual arrival by acting in ways that directly oppose it?