Monday, July 5, 2010

Christianity and The Power of Now 3

Our guest blogger, Brad Harris, continues with his series, A New Way of Seeing God.
This time we take a look at the two verses in the Bible from which Eckhart Tolle takes the title of his book ‘A New Earth’. They are both prophecies relating to a transformation of the earth. One is from the Old Testament prophet Isaiah and one is from the New Testament book of Revelation.
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.” Revelation 21:1
“For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind.” Isaiah 65:17

I used to understand these verses as a vision of the future ‘Kingdom of God’ which God promised to establish on the earth at the second coming of His Son. They spoke to me of God’s intention to totally overturn the world’s present systems of government and to create a ‘new world order’ under the kingship of Jesus. I believed that those people found to be faithful to God in this life would be granted eternal life in a perfected world when Jesus returns.
This belief made more sense to me than an afterlife in heaven, as it gave me hope that all my personal problems and all the problems facing the world (eg. poverty, starvation, global warming, global financial crisis) would ‘one day’ end. My thoughts and hopes were tied up in a future event. In a sense, my life was always ‘on hold’ as I waited for my life to be fulfilled by God’s promises. Although I was confident that these things would come to pass, my faith in future outcomes often paled into insignificance when things in the ‘here and now’ weren’t working out as I believed they should for a good Christian. There were so many questions I couldn’t truthfully answer. Why is there so much evil in the world? Why do ‘bad things happen to good people’? Why doesn’t God answer all my prayers?
Complicating these questions was the fact that many Christians didn’t agree with my particular interpretation of the Bible. Many, in fact most, Christians believe in heaven as the place where the afterlife takes place. How could so many people of the same religious tradition see things so differently? Wasn’t a correct belief necessary to obtain the promise of eternal life? What would happen to those who had wrong beliefs?
In ‘A New Earth’ Tolle says that the New Heaven is the emergence of a transformed state of human consciousness, presence, and awareness, and life in a New Earth would be the physical reflection of that awakened consciousness. He states that looking to the future for salvation is one of the oldest dysfunctions of the mind – that is, looking toward a future time for happiness, rather than seeing it in the moments in which we live – in the present moment.
Tolle points to salvation in the inner realm of consciousness, and that nothing we can imagine in the future can free us. No future event is going to make us free. As Tolle puts it: “Nothing is going to make us free because only the present moment can make us free. The realization is the awakening.”
‘What did Jesus tell his disciples? “Heaven is right here in the midst of you”.’ (p. 308)
Having got the sense of what Tolle says I have come to realize that salvation is no longer a future event (either on earth or in heaven). It is here and now. It is freedom from ego, freedom from being dominated by my own thoughts.
This life, every day, every moment is “heaven on earth”. How could it get any better than this? My relationship with God is stronger and more real now and I have ceased to be anxious about the future because “future” no longer exists to me in the way it did before. The details of what will happen in the future (either on earth or in heaven) are of little interest to me now – and the best thing of all is that I no longer worry about being ‘good enough’ to be rewarded by God in a future kingdom for, as Jesus said “The Kingdom of God is within (me)” (Luke 17:21)

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