Rumours of Another World by Philip Yancey is a fantastic book, a must-read for those who care not only about the life after this life, but also the kingdom of heaven here on earth. This book received a five-star rating from myself. Chapter one begins with a wonderful quote from Albert Einstein: “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.”
Like other Yancey books, one must be in the right mood to read this book. I picked up this book a couple of years ago, got a few pages in, and put it back on the shelf; it was a little overwhelming. This time was different however – I could hardly set it down. Yancey writes as one who is processing thoughts himself, and instead of spoon-feeding you what you ought to believe, he invites the reader to engage in contemplation over his ideas alongside him. The book begins with a look at our current Western society has no concept of the “sacred” whatever that may be. And in this absence, it is one of the first cultures that has no reverence for something bigger and beyond what we experience here on earth. He goes on to look at the glimpses of heaven that we find here on earth. And yet, with so many distractions, we are oblivious much of the time to these signs. Thus, humans look in all sorts of places to find a connection to the ethereal, and what we in the Judeo-Christian faith would say is God. Yancy quotes G.K. Chesterton in this section of the book and it proves true even today: “Every man who knocks on the door of a brothel is looking for God.”
We end up at a crossroads as he gets at in the book. We are called to live by the rules of heaven (love, mercy, grace, etc.) in a world that acts in stark contrast to these values. How do we live as heavenly creatures when we are stuck in the confines of earth and what does that look like? I think this is why the New Testament writers talked so much about the future. Contrary to popular belief, it wasn’t to give us the schedule of events for the rapture. It was teaching us about the mindset we should take upon ourselves. That no matter what may happen to us here on earth (persecution, hatred, hardship, death) pales in comparison to what is to come. If we dwell on earthly matters, there is no doubt that depression is around the corner. However, by looking towards things that are above, as Paul encourages us to do, our lives find new meaning. They are refreshed by the hope we profess to. Yancey discusses this in the latter part of the book: “The world we live in is not an either/or world. What I do as a Christian – praying, worshipping, demonstrating God’s love to the sick, needy, and imprisoned – is not exclusively supernatural or natural, but both working at the same time.” We are beings where heaven and earth meet. Thus, the decisions we make, no matter how menial or mundane, bring ripples of heaven or ripples of hell that, in turn, progress through those people all around us.