The world is in need of light. In different ways, the world is becoming a more threatening place to live.
Climate change, portable terrorism, super viruses, population growth, economic confusion, all force adaptations on humankind. Governments world-wide repeatedly fail to address these issues in more than symbolic fashion. One begins to fear the democrization of travel and communication will make any government above the local level ineffective. More social fracture may be the result.
The twentieth century witness is instructive and simply read from this vantage point. Technology, we thought, would make human life safe and comfortable. Humanity would exist to reach its highest possible level. Work would be for the soul, not for subsistence.
Theology made a huge, hopeful step in the first thirty years of the twentieth century. One could find post-millenials on every street corner; theologians who believed society would so progress the Messiah’s Kingdom would be realized in human history without a "Left Behind’ kind of catastrophe.
Then came the dictators. Mankind had no real idea how to co-exist with fanatical despots who considered themselves (and their races or parties) superior to all. Mixed with callous disregard for human life in general, the purely secular autocracies plunged the world into war, killing millions and sending aftershocks through the world from 1914 well into the 1990’s. Hitler, the Japanese military elite, Mussolini, Stalin, Mao Zedong, the Kmer Rouge, all were strictly secular forces, denying the very existence of God other than themselves. The current atheist rage against religion in general and Christianity in particular would do well to notice it was the Christian nations that saved the world from totalitarian rule. Increasingly reluctant for war, the Christian nations alone among the world’s people, defended the world’s people and then begged the world to unite around a United Nations, for the purpose of perpetuating peace.
After the second phase of the World War, the genocidal policies of the Fascist leaders became well known. The fact Stalin murdered literally millions of his own people also began to come to light. Man began to fear man again rather than show faith in human progress.
Theology, ever the follower, transformed with the times. Christian millenial thought morphed into premillenial dispensationalism, feeding on the fear of the masses. Religion, far from serving as an opiate, stimulated world economic, environmental and social policies. If Christ intended to return soon, why bother to protect the planet or its people?
Humankind melted under the heat of the century’s hate and reconstituted along isolationist/protectionist lines. Christians world-wide accepted a kind of end-times determinism, which, coupled with Islamic fatalism, set the world in motion toward renewed conflict, made more powerful by new technologies.
One cannot presume to write the history of the 21st century ahead of time but you can hazard a guess or two. Governments, being good bureaucracies, seek to perpetuate themselves. One tactic for self empowerment is to posit an enemy for our people; hate mongering and fear mongering are now more the order of the day than the exception of the rule. Meanwhile, geographical borders are virtually meaningless, the races mix pretty well when left alone and a global economy is taking shape. The rise of a middle class in Chindia (China/India) further taxes global resources and damages the environment, with the attendant pain of dislocation as various people groups experience rising expectations of life quality.
Here are the factors, then, about to come together sometime in the 21st century. Christianity recedes as a life force in many of the previously Christian dominated nations, national governments (check Venezuela), unable to adminstrate wealth equivalently, pursue increasingly combatitive economic and military policies, global economic stess widens as rising middle class populations compete for jobs and the planet groans under the burden. There might be a quick catastrophe. What is most likely, I think, is the slow, continuous degradation of the planet and its population, made worse by an educational system globally set on training persons for one technoligical function or another.
For those still reading, who wonder what we might "do," I’ll tell you later. It involves establishing a base line of morality.