“O God, I am thinking thy thoughts after thee.”

– Johannes Kepler (1571-1630)[1]

Two views of life dominate worldview thinking. The first view maintains that all that really matters is the world in which we live and the physical universe that surrounds us. Only those things that can be evaluated by the senses are real and ultimately important. Any other proposal for meaning beyond the material is myth, legend, or superstition–the misfiring of the brain. This view goes by various names: secularism, materialism, and naturalism. Friedrich Nietzsche, a very depressing philosopher, was a representative spokesman: “I beseech you, my brothers, remain faithful to the earth and do not believe those who speak to you of other-worldly hopes."[2]

The other view, which is often advanced as the “Christian view,” says all that matters are affairs relative to the world to come. The world in which we live, because it is seen as our temporary home and will one day be judged, should hold little concern for the Christian. There is no hope for the redemption of any part of it. All earthly pursuits are “secular,” and thus, outside the scope of Christian living. Therefore, while Christians may involve themselves in “earthly things” out of necessity (e.g., food, clothing, and shelter), they cannot bring with them a distinctly biblical position on any secular subject since God’s Word is directed to spiritual things only.

Of course, the biblical position finds error in both extremist opinions. The Bible is concerned with both worlds–this world and the world to come–with the world to come having priority over this present world. Heaven is the pattern for our thinking about things heavenly and earthly. We are to pray that God’s kingdom comes and that His “will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” and this includes things of this world such as praying for “our daily bread” (Matt. 6:10-11). We are not told to deny the earth because of the existence of heaven, or to repudiate this age because of the age to come.

The latest tragedy in Asia is a case in point. If this world means nothing, then why mourn for the dead? If the materialists are right, then “stuff just happens.” The dead are merely the passing of evolutionary cast offs who could not compete against the unpredictable forces of nature. If this world is insignificant, then why talk about setting up an early warning system to detect a future sea-bed earthquake to save future generations of the evolved? Why bother with rebuilding after the massive destruction we’ve just witnessed if earthly life is meaningless? At the same time, the literal shaking of the earth is a reminder that we live in a fallen world that is in need of repair and redemption (Rom. 8:28), both morally and materially.

[1] Cited by Charles Hummel, The Galileo Connection: Resolving Conflicts Between Science and the Bible (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1986), p. 57.[2] Quoted in Donald G. Bloesch, Crumbling Foundations: Death & Rebirth In An Age of Upheaval (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), 37.