“We feel and know that we are eternal” (Spinoza).
IN DECIDING ON OUR WORLDVIEW, THE QUESTION OF “ETERNITY” MUST BE DEALT WITH. Is reality limited to space-time continuums like the one we now live in, with its beginning and end, or is there some reality that overarches all of this and extends infinitely backward and infinitely forward? In other words, is there any reality to which the word “forever” can be rightly applied? This is no trivial question. It is one of the most basic questions that we must ask because it has to do with whether there is a God who has always existed, and whether we will continue to exist after our earthly lives are over.
Contrary to popular opinion, science has not disproven eternity. Wernher von Braun, a scientist of no slight stature, spoke for many when he said, “Everything science has taught me — and continues to teach me — strengthens my belief in the continuity of our spiritual existence after death.” And the German poet Goethe, who was no country bumpkin, said, “Life is the childhood of our immortality.” So affirming eternity doesn’t mean that one is intellectually naive.
At the practical level, eternity is a vital question because it bears on our values and principles. As with other elements of our worldview, our belief about eternity helps determine how long-term our perspective is. Very different decisions about our conduct will result if we see those decisions as having eternal consequences, and if our values are shaped by eternal truths, they will have a stability about them that would be hard to maintain if we disbelieved in eternity.
Obviously, many people who say they believe in eternity don’t really do so, or they wouldn’t conduct their lives so irresponsibly. But if we are truly convinced that an eternal God is our Creator, and that having been created by Him we will spend eternity either with Him or away from Him, the impact of that conviction on our character will make us the kind of people that others are pleased to deal with.
One thing is clear: if eternity waits for us beyond death’s door, then we need to factor that into our thinking right now. Whatever advantages we may gain for ourselves in time, if we’ve neglected to invest in eternity, we will have missed all that really mattered.
“No man is rich to whom the grave brings eternal bankruptcy” (Henry Ward Beecher).