From Can Synthesized Music Touch Eternity?
Heaven and Earth
The scholastics, typically dated from St. Thomas Aquinas in the late Middle Ages, believed in the unity of all truth. Not that all truth was knowable, but it is potentially integratable. Whatever was true in one discipline had also to be true in every other discipline; one truth, stretching infinitely vertical but also horizontally to infinite applications. Similarly, whatever was true in the course of time in this world is a reflection of a truth that God ordained to be so outside of time.
The model went as follows. There is the forward march of time, which is the world you and I know, experience, report on, and it is defined by struggle, triumph over nature, and a sad ending that comes with mortality, dust to dust. On the other side of life, there is new life in a complete world that lives outside of time, birth, and death. It is the transcendent realm, a kind of place where we can live at one with God and in full knowledge of all that is true. This was Heaven.
The highest goal of life on earth – and this goes for art, liturgy, learning, technology, science, commerce – was to reach outside of time and touch (or see or feel) that heavenly realm. Doing so, it was believed, would inspire us toward better lives because it would fire the imagination toward the goal of all our mental and spiritual actions, to love God and others ever more perfectly. Also, it’s psychologically and spiritually awesome to gain a glimpse of God or even to touch the Presence.
Eternity to Taste and Hear
This sensibility is embodied in Eucharistic theology, in which the faithful are granted the privilege of literally consuming the body of Christ. It is a way for time to touch eternity in the most tangible possible way, literally draw on the transcendent as a source of life and salvation. The art created in light of this sensibility was structured to achieve this very Eucharistic effect, to create visuals and sound that permit us some slight hint of access to the eternal.
What does eternity sound like? This was the task of the 16th-century masters to discover. And this task – which is not so much didactic as experiential – inspired vast creativity all over England and the Continent. There was Victoria in Spain, Tallis in England, Josquin in France, Palestrina in Italy, Di Lasso in the Netherlands, Isaac in Germany, and literally thousands of other musicians who contributed to the task. And their legacies are remarkable. Their music can still today transport your mind to another realm, exactly as the Scholastic model suggests.
Now, I fundamentally disagree with the Scholastics on a number of issues: it’s the Bible that must be our master and decider, not Aristotle and his idealism. Moreover, while heaven is indeed a good place to be, there is still sorrow and anger there:
And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held:
And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? – Revelation 6:9-10
(Without a doubt, both the laughing Muslims and the mocking Secularists believe that God is both deaf and powerless, when His people cry out to Him.
I’d rather not be in their shoes.
And – as the wickedness in my own heart never rests – I pray that God will keep me far from their hellish path, in Jesus Holy Name.
For God hears.
And God ACTS.)
In the New Heavens and the New Earth, there is no sorrow or tears or pain or complaints, not even the spiritual pain some of the saved experience in today’s Heaven.
But, contra Aristotle’s Timeless prison, history – in a purified and exalted form – will continue in the New Creation, just as we will have perfect bodies there, with pure and holy souls.
(An important qualifier, as the damned will have perfect bodies when they are cast into the Lake of Fire. Bodies that will transmit every jolt of pain, and never degrade or grow dull, forever. We need Christ’s salvation!)
From Gary North’s Christian Economics: Teacher’s Edition Chapter 54: Eternity vs. Entropy
Most Christians think of heaven as static: no work, no progress, and no dominion. There will be a total discontinuity between history and eternity. Basically, they see heaven, which they equate with eternity, in much the same way that neo-classical economists see the world of equilibrium. The difference is this: they see this realm as real. Neo-classical economists see equilibrium as hypothetical. But this is not the way that John describes eternity in the final section of the New Testament. He describes a transition from heaven to the post-resurrection world.
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. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:1–4).
This is why the parable of the minas in Luke 19 is crucial to a correct understanding of the post-resurrection world. It describes the beginning of the final inheritance. The resurrection will launch eternity, which will be an extension of history for covenant keepers. In contrast, entropy will swallow up covenant breakers. As I wrote in Chapter 52, there will be no progress in the lake of fire. There will be no unforeseen changes. There will be no prices. There will be no profit opportunities. There will be no human action. The lake of fire is the world of equilibrium—literally. This is the biblical view of eternity for covenant breakers.
Don’t be a covenant breaker.
Be a covenant keeper!
With all that being said, I do believe that we should communicate our love of God and His vision of eternity in our music.
The Christian Scholastics have serious flaws, but in several important ways they took God more seriously than we do today. This is obvious in their laws and their society, as well as their music.
We know more than they did, and we should be more than they were.
Our music should also be far better than their music was.
Certainly, we are more wealthy and technologically advanced and free and comfortable than they ever were: these are blessings from on high, and we should be thankful for it!
But this is insufficient: we should also have better music and better laws, but in many ways we don’t. Despite our wealth and ease, we also don’t have the strong hope they did: this is proven by our low birth rates.
We must find how we are disobedient (as well as how we are obedient) to God. We must repent, and rip out the disobedience, and strengthen the ways we do obey God.
Then our joy can be complete, and be better than the past in all ways, not just some!