The last few years have been a time when many familiar things, many things we take for granted, have not only been shown to be fragile but have collapsed or disappeared. Great companies now come and go with a disturbing frequency and things seem to change at an ever-increasing rate. Whether this is real or perceived, the shrinking of space and the acceleration of time are issues felt by many, and they are regular social phenomena.
People generally do not like much change too fast. Yet old boundaries disappear; older values are doubted, questioned, or rejected. Familiar ways get moved or change. Our desire for stability, for security, for some degree of permanence is incessantly pressured by a culture addicted to novelty and the new for newness’ sake. We experience what a friend of mine calls “cultural vaporization.” As water evaporates with a pot of boiling water left on sustained heat, so the many cultural dimensions subjected to constant pressure or deconstruction, they too, evaporate.
The world of the present may not always feel like a human-friendly habitat. Often driven by visions of progress, beliefs in the efficacy of education, freedom, and technology as the means of liberation, the 20th and early 21st centuries appear to have reached the limits or limitations of our created systems. They are not all bad, but they are by definition, limited, a fact that many seem unable or unwilling to admit. Present responses are often important and necessary correctives to the grand strategies of the past, the arrogant sense of mastery, and the delusions fostered by unrealistic views of humanity and our potential, but do they possess the substance that makes for a sufficient response to the deepest issues?
Who and what are we? What is reality? What is the really real and who says so? If there is a transcendent God, if there is a Son who draws near, who has a purpose, a will, and a way for life and creation, then God’s will and way are central to how things operate and how they might operate at their best. The management of life and the path of wise living in Christian terms is called stewardship, and it’s based on a view of economics which implies following Christ as the way and truth and life.
The vision that humanity has built, particularly since the late 18th century unto the present, has been filled with great promises but less than thrilling outcomes. No one denies or devalues all the real and meaningful benefits in science, health, education, and technology, but they are insufficient in themselves to qualify as ultimate goods or sufficient explanations of the good. Their failures and limits are all too apparent.
Yet amidst uncertainty, cultural vaporization, and constant change, there is the promise of the one who said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” When it seems like all that is solid is melting into air, Francis Schaeffer would remind us that God is there and God is not silent, for Christ has come. Our hopes can anchor onto this one who never changes and offers eternal rest, whose kingdom is eternal, unshakable, and secure. This is indeed a hope that brings new life.
Stuart McAllister is vice president of training and special projects at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.