Monday, November 08, 2004

The Future of the Future

A bunch of years ago, Francis Fukuyama wrote an article titled The End of History? which had some interesting things about how with the 'victory' of capitalism over Marxism/communism meant the goal of Western history had been reached. Now, like any good eschatology, we live trying to figure out what to do.

One of the more neglected worldview questions (on par with "where are we?", etc.) is "what time is it?" Every worldview has an eschatology, a time when the "what's wrong?" problem will fully meet the "what's the remedy?" solution. Some are more realized than others. What is the eschatology that we live in?

Many would say that Christian eschatology has nothing to do with history, except that it happens at the end of such and translates us to a new, ahistorical existence. However, this has been shown by many (Borg and Wright as examples) to be a complete sham and misreading of every single eschatological/apocalyptic text of the Bible. But I digress for the moment...

Wendell Berry, in a recent article has this to say:

INDUSTRIALISM BEGINS WITH technological invention. But agrarianism begins with givens: land, plants, animals, weather, hunger, and the birthright knowledge of agriculture. Industrialists are always ready to ignore, sell, or destroy the past in order to gain the entirely unprecedented wealth, comfort, and happiness supposedly to be found in the future. Agrarian farmers know that their very identity depends on their willingness to receive gratefully, use responsibly, and hand down intact an inheritance, both natural and cultural, from the past.

I have to say, I have lived under that industrial dream most my life: the world is getting 'better' through plastics, or medicine, or even the latest corn hybrid (I lived in Nebraska most my life too). Invention is highly prized, even if it is unnecessary. The old dictum "Necessity is the mother of invention" could rightly be switched to "Invention is the mother of necessity". The question is: what is the future to be like?

The answer is to return to the discussion of Christian eschatology. I said earlier (taking also Derek's criticisms into account--see the comments section under my "Localism, Elections, and the New Jerusalem") that the Biblical pattern is "start in a garden, end up in a garden-city". Or, if you will, start in Madison Square Gardens and end up in the Garden State. Wait...nevermind. The Biblical picture of shalom is one of agricultural and communal abundance. Our relationship to our neighbor and to our place is signficantly restored by our reconciliation to our God. So much so that even the city (the logical outgrowth of the need to market the God-blessed abundance) is described in agricultural terms--a harmony between the direct creation and indirect creation of God (i.e. nature and culture). This view is extremely close to that of Berry's agraianism.

How can we view this in light of a semi-realized Christian eschatology? What I mean is that God has accomplished all the awaited-for events of eschatology in Jesus (resurrection, ascension, rulership, etc.). What does that mean for the way we live today? The oft used way of putting it is that we should live like we are in the completed kingdom. Indeed. What would happen if we lived in a way that proclaimed the church as living in the New Jerusalem? Possibly the blessing of the whole world, agriculturally, communally, culturally? I think I heard someone make a promise to an Aramean about that and then say, "All the blessings are 'yes' and 'amen' in the Messiah"...hmmm.

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