Eternal Now and Social Concern

Light beams stream through the trees in an Oregon Coast forest. Photo by Thomas Robinson

The Eternal Now and Social Concern is the title of Thomas Kelly’s fourth chapter in his classic book Testament of Devotion, a book I reviewed and highlighted in this blog site on November 22, 2021.

Kelly is masterful in revealing the way Eternal Now of God’s Presence breaks into time, into our “time-nows” filling each of the moments of our lives with new found reality and meaning and love.

Kelly believes that “We live our lives at two levels simultaneously, the level of time and the level of the timeless.” Most of us live an alternating way of spiritual life rather than this simultaneous way of spiritual life. Most of us spend most of our time bound by time, unaware of the Eternal Now breaking through into our many “time-now” moments of the day or night.

Kelly also believes that Infinite Love breaks through into all creatures on earth, no matter if they are aware of this or not, and that all our social concern, all our movements of compassion for others, all our acts of kindness and goodwill were first motivated or initiated by God’s Infinite Love that was already at work in that moment, in that person.

A Testament of Devotion, by Thomas Kelly (HarperOne, 1992)

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from chapter four, titled The Eternal lNow and Social Concern:

There is an experience of the Eternal breaking into time, which transforms all life into a miracle of faith and action. Unspeakable, profound, and full of glory as an inward experience. (65)

The inward Life and the outward Concern are truly one whole, and were it possible, ought to be described simultaneously. (65)

Time is no judge of Eternity. It is the Eternal who is the judge and tester of time. (67)

A second Reality hovers, quickens, quivers, stirs, energizes us, breaks in upon us and love embraces us, together with all things, within Himself. We live our lives at two levels simultaneously, the level of time and the level of the timeless. (67)

The experience of Paul is very true: “The former things are passed away; behold, they are become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17; page 70)

Why want, and yearn, and struggle, when the Now contains all one could ever wish for, and more? In the Now we are home at last. (71)

God “swells out our time-nows into an External Now by filling them with a sense of Presence.” (72)

An invariable element in the experience of Now is that of unspeakable and exquisite joy, peace, serene release. A new song is put into our mouths . . . for the Singer of all songs is singing within us. (73)

The time-nows are rooted in the Eternal Now, which is a steadfast Presence, an infinite ocean of light and love which is flowing over the ocean of darkness and death. (80)

As the Eternal is the root and ground of all times, yet breaks into particular moments, so the Infinite Love is the ground of all creatures, the source of their existence, and also knows a tender concern for each. (83)

Social concern is the dynamic Life of God at work in the world . . . . God initiated, often surprising, always holy, for the Life of God is breaking through into the world . . . in unhurried serenity . . . at work in the midst of time, triumphantly bringing all things up unto Himself. (85)