Solomon wrote “there is nothing new under the sun.” So I’m not surprised by the latest thing: doomism. Scientists are concerned that the drumbeat of climate change and humanity’s failure to cure it has produced a generation so scared of the future that they’ve given up.
Now those scientists are saying not to write the earth’s obituary so quickly.
I refuse to write off or write an obituary for something that’s still alive,” Gill told The Associated Press, referring to the Earth. “We are not through a threshold or past the threshold. There’s no such thing as pass-fail when it comes to the climate crisis.”
“It’s really, really, really hard to walk people back from that ledge,” Gill said.
All over the world, birth rates are falling, which is ironic since the last century was consumed with the opposite doom scenario, the one propped by Malthusian predictions of food shortages. They’re still at it, by the way. The earth will either become a hellhole of Mad Max-like competition for disappearing resources, where the strong survive in a zero-sum crushing of the weak. Or it will destroy itself—at least in terms of being habitable by billions of humans—in an ever-tightening spiral of disasters, extreme weather, and shrinking “habitable zones.”
Doomism is really nothing new.
Here’s another view: Heaven is a place. Either you believe it or you don’t. The “either or” of life is either when our body dies, there is no spirit and all that makes us “us” is obliterated, forever. Or, our spirit continues, somewhere.
If someone were to come back from death, intact, and tell us the answer, we would not believe them. It takes a supernatural transaction to penetrate our own ingrained trust systems. Many who grow up “churched” end up agnostics, never really convinced of the things they’ve been told since they were in diapers. They never had a single shred of personal evidence that any of it is real. This side of heaven there’s only doom.
But regardless of what we believe, Christianity makes factual claims to a better future—one without end.
It is easy to conflate every myth and story about the afterlife, gods on Olympus, Nirvana, reincarnation, all the religions of the world. Christianity makes the singular claim that God sent His only Son to live as a human, tempted at all points but without error, modeling for us the way to serve and love, and that He willingly gave his life in payment for our sin.
Two thousand years of Jewish law and prophecy validated the tiniest details of Jesus’ birth, childhood, ministry and death. Every one of them was fulfilled in Christ and documented within a decade of his death and resurrection. Either all of it is true, or we are back to option one of the “either or.”
If there is no spirit or afterlife, man has no duty to others except to prefer his own DNA and family line over all others on earth. Take what you can, spread seed, and die with more than you started with.
“Doomers” have been led to believe that their duty is first to the entire planet, an impossible burden, and concluded that having children is immoral. Why bring more people to the planet to pollute it, use its resources, and then leave future generations to fight over the scraps as civilization circles the drain? Even some Christians have embraced “apocalypticism.” Some fringe sects have resorted to predictions of the earth’s spectacular end, conjuring up a planet called Nibiru to collide with ours.
Instead of doing what the Bible says, some have resorted to abandoning the world to its sin, while isolating themselves. Mark 13:33-34 says “Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.” It does not say to leave your neighbor.
In Matthew 9, Jesus told His disciples “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Christians are here to spread the Good News of the Gospel. We are here for a brief time, on this side of Heaven, to give people hope, to encourage them to open their minds and seek the truth in a relationship with Christ. No other hope in this world will conquer sin.
None of us is perfect. Christians sin. Many sin grievously. The human mind has an almost unlimited potential to hold two conflicting thoughts as simultaneously true. Examples are too numerous to count, but among well-known Christians, we can find a few worth looking at. Ravi Zacharias was a powerful intellect and committed believer in Christ. His ministry and personal talks brought millions to faith. But he also believed that he could maintain a network of personal sex slaves around the world, and even tell them it was his “reward” for all the sacrifice in his life to serve Christ.
There are many abusers who like to pretend to be Christian, because it gives them access to vulnerable people. There are actual “groomers” in the church, as history shows. But the presence of sin and sinful people does not refute the facts of the Gospel. Even in Sodom, God would have relented in his act of destruction but for only ten people whose hearts turned to Him.
The prophet Jonah fled God’s assignment to Nineveh, a city of over a hundred thousand, because he would rather see the city destroyed than repent. Nineveh repented of decades of terrible sin, and God spared it. God’s mercy spares sinners, even those who reject all claims of Christianity. One day, that mercy will stop, and justice will be done. One day, all will believe and repent, or will perish. But not this side of Heaven.
Without a belief in an enduring spirit, no savior to greet them in Heaven, only the drab knowledge of a moribund world destined for disaster and unavoidable catastrophe, people have lost all hope. This is not a new development. Ecclesiastes 1:8-10:
All things are wearisome,
more than one can say.
The eye never has enough of seeing,
nor the ear its fill of hearing.
9 What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.
10 Is there anything of which one can say,
“Look! This is something new”?
It was here already, long ago;
it was here before our time.
Only two relationships this side of Heaven matter: that between you and the God who created the Universe (His Son), and that between you and every other set of eyes you look into. We have all been created by the same God, and we are all unworthy to enter Heaven. If we were the only person who ever believed in the hope of the resurrection, the King riding into Jerusalem—if we were the only person in the world to shout “Hosanna!” on Palm Sunday and mean it, Jesus would have still gone to the cross for us. For just one.
This side of Heaven, there is no hope. There is only hope in our King, who is not of this world.
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I believe the life force we call our spirit is returned like droplets out into the universe. If there is a God, he is in the life force recycling business. (Energy can neither be created nor destroyed.) Professor Albert A Bartlett observed that "the greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function." I've not lost hope, but I do believe we are to be good stewards of the planet and being good stewards requires us to be as cognizant of population amongst our species as we are amongst others. It took over 2,000,000 years for the population of the planet to reach 1,000,000,000, but only 200 years to reach over 7,000,000,000. It is foolish to think we can have infinite exponential growth on this little blue dot, that the resources of this planet are infinite, and that technology and human innovation will provide, in a timely manner, all solutions to future challenges facing humankind.
Professor Bartlett concluded one of his lectures with this question, "Can you think of any problem on any scale, from microscopic to global, whose long-term solution is in any demonstrable way aided, assisted, or advanced by having larger populations at the local level, the state level, the national level, or globally?"
That said, I disagree that an apocalyptic fear is the driver for decreased reproductive rates. Perhaps it is the fact that wages have been stagnant for at least 4 decades ($30k in 1983 is equivalent to $87k, today. Average household income in 1980 was ~$21k =$61k, today Try living on $30k, today) Perhaps it is the fact that housing prices, including rentals, have skyrocketed and 27% of housing is being purchased by investors, to include whole neighborhoods of new housing construction, relegating a substantial portion of the working class to rental status, maybe permanently. Perhaps the capitalism that has been unleashed over the last 4 decades needs some bridling.
Excellent article Steve!