I'm finally starting to read N.T. Wright's Surprised By Hope and it's a pretty good read so far. It addresses the disconnect I have often and more increasingly felt with "typical" Christian belief in life after death and the present time and reality of the world we live in. We seem to throw away the created world in preference for a future ether-like existence.
Mr. Wright sums up this fracturing of "this world" and "the world to come" in his first chapter after describing 5 distinct pictures of death (emphasis mine):
This book addresses two questions that have often been dealt with entirely separately but that, I passionately believe, belong tightly together. First, what is the ultimate Christian hope? Second, what hope is there for change, rescue, transformation, new possibilities within the world in the present? And the main answer can be put like this. As long as we see Christian hope in terms of "going to heaven," of a salvation that is essentially away from this world, the two questions are bound to appear unrelated. Indeed, some insist angrily that to ask the second at all is to ignore the first one, which is really the important one. This in turn make some others angry when people talk of resurrection, as if this might draw attention away from the really important and pressing matters of contemporary social concern. But if the Christian Hope is for God's new creation, for "new heavens and new earth," and if that hope has already come to life in Jesus of Nazareth, then there is every reason to join the two questions together. And if that is so, we find that answering one is also answering the other. I find that to many-not least, many Christians-all this comes as a surprise: both that the Christian Hope is surprisingly different from what they had assumed and that this same hope offers a coherent and energizing basis for work in today's world.
Yes, it seems as though us Christians, as well as our non-Christian brothers and sisters around us seem to be fairly confused over what it is that we believe about heaven and what it means to the here and now. Is this current life just a stepping ground to next? Is this present life all there is? Or is the answer something that puts "here and now" and the future on the same level of importance and marries them together in a way that should have never been separated?