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Scripture translations are from the New International Version-UK, unless stated otherwise.
Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of
what is coming on the world.
Luke 21: 26
FEAR IS FUNDAMENTAL to the human condition. Without this emotion, perhaps little of lasting value could have been accomplished over man’s long history.
At its basic level, fear compelled the human race to repel enemies, protect families, and compete for food and shelter. The impulse is a fear of death. The finite length of life, passing through its predictable stages of vigour and decay, is the ultimate deadline, and impossible to dismiss. The productive stage of the healthy human is relatively brief, the time taken to wind up to peak efficiency and the time to wind down occupying large chunks of one’s existence.
The limit of life’s span translates itself into emergencies and the unremitting pressure of deadlines – the urge to complete a task is a metaphor for our anxiety about mortality. It’s useful to speculate how we might behave were our life two or three times its normal length. Would we be more diligent and efficient, or less? With more time to procrastinate, would we push tomorrow farther into the future and lounge around more?
It does appear, though, that as a species, Man is obliged to work, somewhat like the ant, and that he must be forever busy. From the Evolutionary point of view, the underlying motivation of the human species is to survive; or, putting it the other way round, to avoid death. In this point at least the doctrine of the Evolution of Man agrees with the Biblical doctrine of the Fall of Man.
But for the most part, Urgency is a curse. It was introduced when Adam by his disobedience traded the luxury of eternal life in a perfect environment for the high-stakes pressure of feral existence. ‘You shall surely die’, was the dread judgement God pronounced against him (Genesis 2: 15-17). The dying bit was in its own way worse than the ‘die’ bit. For Adam was from that time forward condemned to struggle for life in a world hostile to his existence, while at the same time he was probably wracked with pains of conscience (Genesis 3: 17). There are few things worse than feeling responsible for the rotten condition one is in. Adam and his offspring – all mankind – have had to struggle to stay alive. After Eden, the natural bias was toward death.
Evicted from the paradise which sheltered him and his wife, Adam’s genetic make-up, damaged by the effects of the Curse, could no longer ward off the wearing effect of toil and trouble. Though his own progress toward the grave was slow (930 years), it was nevertheless certain. Over the centuries the average lifespan plunged to well below 100. In our more cosy world, actuarial and pension statistics predict that most of us will average 20 years beyond retirement. But few will crash through the 100 barrier. There is, apparently, an upper limit dictated by our genes. Optimistic scientists predict some negotiation with this ‘covenant of death’ and maintain that by manipulating human genes one could attain averages of 120. The claim is unprovable (Isaiah 28: 18-19). In any case, such an expectation runs counter to the current global anxieties, which seem to be based on a deep-seated concern about the future of the planet.
In Luke 21: 26, quoted at the head of this article, Jesus speaks of a general population which has lost faith in God. He predicts a unique time of intense upheaval in the world’s social order, troublesome events unlike those of any other period. With no specific predictions as to date, judging from the context of this and other chapters there are sound reasons to believe we are on the fringes of this extremity. Judging from the present convergence of world crises and the generalised alarm at long-term prospects, we may be in the declining phase of world history.
Looming on mankind’s near, medium, and distant horizon is ‘Climate Change’ and its close relative, ‘Over Population’. These twin catastrophes are viewed with alarm by scientists and politicians. These phobias have assumed doctrinaire status, the secular equivalent of the raging fires and planetary explosions of the end times, predicted by overly enthusiastic Christian fundamentalists.
To curtail environmental damage, entire industries are being transformed to meet carbon-emission regulations, and individuals daily exhorted and cajoled to reduce their carbon footprint. The benefits derived from the Industrial Revolution of the nineteenth century are now viewed by many as deleterious to the planet. The mechanical and technological advances once regarded as God’s gifts to mankind, freeing him from drudgery, are now regarded as short-sighted mistakes.
The size of the problem which Science attempts to solve is breathtaking. Never in history has collective Man felt the need to repair the entire planet. However accurate the perception of the danger may or may not be, the enterprise is a tribute to the impressive achievements of the human race. Made in God’s image, Man is a creator and ever busy. On the other hand, the notion reveals the hubris and nature of Man’s collective assessment. By deserting the Creator of the Universe, Man has elevated his opinion of himself to such a commanding height that he feels able to reorder the heavens. If there is anything noble in all this, it is perhaps that though the general trend is to deny the Creator, Man is nonetheless interested in protecting (God’s) creation. Conservation and frugality are good ideas, regardless of motivation.
Not Another One!
The recent announcement by the United Nations that the ‘seventh billion’ child has been born (give or take a few million), added support to the argument in favour of stabilising the world population by birth control and social engineering. Many demographers and social scientists contend that an unchecked growth in world population will breach the capacity of Earth to sustain it – that there are not enough resources to go round.
And lurking in the wings to help in ringing the population alarm bell are those two morbid cousins, ‘Assisted Suicide’ and ‘Euthanasia’. These politely-named ‘end-of-life’ topics have received a wide airing in Britain and other countries, and will increasingly come to the fore, especially as people evaluate the quality of their lives in the absence of God.
Anxiety is a way of life. Fear is at the root of it. Man is disfellowshipped from God and remains fundamentally discontent, whether he recognises the true reason or not. At both the physical and psychological level, the human family lacks real security. Mankind must toil to protect itself from a future which threatens its existence in ways too numerous to count. And they will not ask God His opinion on the vexing questions.
But just as the natural Man is impelled to useful effort by a general sense of foreboding, so worry can usefully drive conscientious women and men to the Saviour. The heart that grieves over sin and craves inner peace and security can find them at the Cross. ‘Perfect love drives out fear’, says the Apostle (1 John 4: 18). Faith and rest in Christ is the perfect balm for the fearful, worrying soul. ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest’ (Matthew 11: 28).
Copyright November 2011 ukbiblestudents.co.uk
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