The following comment in the article caught my eye. “Danny Hillis’s idea was that by slowing down the usual speedy movements of a clock, he hoped to slow us down and have us think about the long term. The purpose of a clock that runs for 10,000 years is to encourage us to create things that require 10,000 years to measure. A great civilization for instance.”
This intrigued me because it stands in stark contrast to the pessimism for the future of civilization found in the pop-culture church today. Apocalypticism has been a popular theme throughout history, as showcased through Christian History Magazine’s excellent issue on the topic. Thus the appeal of such books as “Left Behind” should be no surprise.
But it is my contention that such hopelessness about the future is not only unbiblical, but does great harm to the ministry of the church. Yes, Jesus will return, as is told in the scripture. And yes, he judges and will judge individuals and governments for their complicity in sin. But you cannot find one text in the Bible that will say He is coming today, or tomorrow, or in a decade, or a century or a millenia. Only that He will return soon, for which we have no calendar to measure. So, our calling is readiness, rather then speculation.
The unfortunate by-product of apocalyptic thinking is a lack of hope for what the Holy Spirit will do through the Church today. In his book “Learned Optimism,” Martin Seligman documented his research that both animals and humans responded in the same manner to helpless situations. They gave up trying to change their environment. I believe that the same happens to congregations when they believe that they are helpless to change the world around them.
By contrast, I believe that we are called to live hopeful of the work that the Holy Spirit wants to do through us as believers and through our congregations.
Also, the following two short and excellent articles, Cultural Pessimism and Cultural Optimism are excellent reading to further grasp both what destruction is done through this hopeless thinking, and a further understanding of what the Holy Spirit can do through the Church.
And so, rather then limiting ourselves to the end-times apocalypticism prevelent today, I call upon the Church to wonder at what a culture could come if we were to live expecting His soon return, while simultaneously wondering at what the Holy Spirit could do through us through 10,000 years.
Originally published in 2009