I do not really listen to “Christian music,” but my wife does. The other day, she was driving when I heard the following lyrics:
All I know is I’m not home yet.
This is not where I belong.
Take this world and give me Jesus.
This is not where I belong.
As far as music goes, I guess this is a pretty good “hook.” But the lyrics are pure heresy.
I know nothing about this song or the group that sang it. So I am not trying to pick on them. For the record, I do not think they or their fans are going to hell. I just think they are giving voice to a popular misconception that has somehow worked its way into the Christian faith.
The heresy at work here is called gnosticism. Gnostics were a pretty diverse group, but they had a couple of characteristics in common. They thought the soul was more important than the body, that the material world “blocked” the spirit, and that death offered an escape from matter to a new, higher plane of being.
That’s pretty much what I hear in the lyrics by Building 429: When life gets you down, just remember that this world is not your home.
But according to the Bible, this world is exactly where you belong.
The Bible places humanity in an intimate relationship with this world. Adam and Eve were not created out of puffy white clouds. We are walking clay, quickened dust. God has breathed life into dirt, and so dirt is good. Fallen? Yes. But still good.
The Fall of the world does not mean the world is lost. That is why Paul wrote that even “the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Rom. 8:28). Building 429 suggests that we are liberated from the world when, in fact, we are liberated with it!
That is why God renews the earth. In the last part of the Bible, the book called Revelation, John hears the voice of the triumphant Christ declare, after the final victory of good over evil, “Behold, I make all things new” (Rev. 21:5). As I’ve heard the Lutheran theologian Jürgen Moltmann say more than once, Christ does not declare, “I make all new things.” The lyrics of Building 429 suggest this world is not worth saving. God seems to think otherwise.
John “the Revelator” continues, “And he [the angel] carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God…” (Rev. 21:10). The Bible does not depict our final salvation as a flight from earth to a spiritual realm called “heaven.” Rather, “heaven” comes to earth.
If this world is not where you think you belong, then eternity is really going to suck!
Maybe I am overreacting. Maybe Building 429 means that this fallen world is not where we belong, but I doubt it. One reason the Left Behind series was so popular earlier this century is that many evangelicals are functionally gnostic. They hope for Rapture because, for them, salvation is getting the hell out of here.
I hope I am wrong about Building 429, because there is a lot at stake in how we think about this world and our place in it. If we do not think this world is where we belong, then this world is not worth saving. Relatedly, if we think salvation is basically escape, then we end up with an anorexic view of the Christian life, one that reduces sacraments to mere “symbols,” prayer to pop psychology, and worship to emotional exuberance.
God could have chosen to make Adam and Eve disembodied souls floating somewhere among the stars. If the stars are where we think we belong, if we think our souls are the only thing worth saving, then at best we can only be concerned with getting half-saved.
This world is not your home? I don’t think so! It is exactly where you belong. It is where God has chosen to place you. It is where you will spend eternity. So get used to it!