Preventing the End of the World

The world is shrinking. One can hardly go a day without hearing about events in Iraq, Afghanistan, South Korea, or Israel. Recently leaders from around the world gathered in New York for President Clinton's Global Initiative Conference to discuss the challenges we face. Pastor and Leadership's editor-at-large Gordon MacDonald was there.

I was recently invited to the Clinton Global Initiative Conference in New York City by the former president. As far as I know only a handful of evangelicals were present among approximately 1,000 political, business, and cultural leaders.

The CGI Conference is a crossroads of ideas and networking to reduce cultural and political barriers that separate human beings and create the grounds for conflict and disaster. Panel topics included (1) Energy and Climate Challenge; (2) Global Health Issues; (3) Poverty Alleviation; and (4) Mitigating Religious and Ethnic Conflict. They were populated by people like Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Al Gore, Jimmy Carter, Colin Powell, Rupert Murdoch, Paul Farmer, Kofi Annan, Hamid Karzai, Pervez Musharraf, Bill Gates, and Paul Kagame (president of Rwanda). And I have named only a few.

Amazingly, there was little energy spent on politics. Rather there was an incredibly serious tone, a clear awareness that the world is in greater trouble today than it has ever been.

Some (like the King of Jordan) spoke of the widening rift between the Muslim world and the West in almost prophetic tones. The two cultures are misunderstanding each others' hurts and aspirations.

Climate change, fresh outbreaks of disease, the lack of basic community health (clean water, vaccines, etc.) are all contributing to a growing frustration that threatens the stability of the entire world. Despite the drastic situation there was a streak of optimism. Perhaps that was because the people at the conference are all entrepreneurs, can-do people who choose to see the opportunities that crisis creates. There was little hand-wringing and a lot of innovative thinking.

I know, all too well, that Bill Clinton is a polarizing name among many Christians. My association with him over these years has lost me any number of friends. Personally, I grew to love him and greatly care for him in the years that I served as a personal adviser. I recall many conversations we had about his post-presidency and the priorities for this period of his life. Since leaving office he has used his amazing ability to convince people of wealth to see their social responsibilities.

October 10, 2006

Displaying 1–10 of 32 comments


November 06, 2006  2:16am

Dear Gordon MacDonald, I read your article with much interest. It seems you are touching on an issue that many Christian leaders are being confronted with in recent years. Is Jesus Christ, indeed, the only way of salvation–our only hope for eternal life? Your article left me wondering where you stand on this issue at this point in your life? Is it possible for you to write a follow-up article? Thank you for your time and consideration.

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Gary Sweeten

October 26, 2006  5:31am

Hyperbole does seem to sell but to say that we are in greater danger today than ever is a bit far fetched. Does anyone remember WWII? The Cold War with a thousand atomic warheads aimed at us and a thousand aimed at Russia? This article reads like Miss America contestants who suddenly discover world poverty, war and religious strife and wants to do something NOW. The writing is junior high level rhetoric with plenty of earth day earnestness thrown in. If this is the deep thinking that will "save the earth" no wonder Evangelicals are not invited to such conferences. Mr. MacDonald was impressed with their "seriousness" but that is a problem of their narcissm. They and he really believe they can "save the earth" with 7.2 billion dollars and that is a serious misunderstanding of reality. Mr. Clinton had many opportunities to do more good to change the world scene while President for eight years but squandered it with poor decisions and misunderstandings about how to deal with terror. He cannot make up with a few billion in donations what he missed when he controlled trillions of dollars in the US treasury.

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October 21, 2006  11:25am

I am concerned that there is some fear at work here of "one world government," based on a prophecy whose filfillment will undoubtedly baffle us anyway, that is preventing the practical recognition that the way to become better citizens of the world right now is to become interconnected and to realize that the hunger and suffering of people around the world is deeply related to ours, materially and spiritually. That phrase has become a tricky piece of jargon used to dismiss really powerful and important initiatives like the one described here. It is wonderful to read the concern for the people of the world in these comments. Maybe we should remember the Jesus's common-sense stand against suffering in the face of religious rules when he healed on the Sabbath. I wonder if that can be a useful image for us to take forward.

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Oliver McKeithan

October 21, 2006  6:47am

Gordon, I agree that as Christians we have to make every effort to help our fellow humans and attempt to alleviate suffering. However, there is still only one way to heaven. Jesus said "I am the way the truth and the life no man comes to the Father but by me..." That excludes Hindus, Moslems, atheists, and other belief system. We can love and minister to them and not verbally or physically attack them but it does not change the fundamental truth of Christ's message.

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October 18, 2006  11:31am

Amen Gordon. Thanks for your willingness to engage with people of influence who in many cases the evangelical church has cut off or stopped listening to. I was reminded as I read your article, "all truth is God's truth." As well I was reminded that heaven is going to be a great place, but on this side of heaven we need to be the hands and feet of Jesus today in our world. For me that means touching the lepers of our day and talking with people who are different than us and with whom I won't always agree. Thanks.

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October 17, 2006  6:30am

I am all for trying to save the earth. My husband and I recycle along with the best of 'em. However, I won't stop driving our car or flying in an airplane because I know it doesn't matter. The world will end when Jesus returns, which means it won't end due to our own efforts. I agree with the above poster that we should be more concerned with people's eternal destiny rather than merely trying to improve their temporal situation.

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October 15, 2006  10:43am

Subversion: With all due respect, you are not listening to what dennis is saying. He's not saying it's either/or, that's your straw man. No one says Christians should not be doing good works, but that good works in a vacuum are worthless unless also accompanied at some point with the Good News. This post and some of the comments stand in juxtaposition to the story of Haugen and the young girl forced into prostitution in one of the Catalyst Conference posts below. If the good work of rescuing that girl had not been coupled with the gospel, it would have been a good story. However, the forgiveness and redemption and reconciliation that occurred only came about because of the full orbed message of the gospel and the kingdom. The point of the Isaiah 61 passage is not physical oppression, it's good news to the spiritually oppressed. I share the concerns of others that in joining with people like Clinton, Gates, Carter, et al., ultimately that message will be lost. So subversion, it's both, not either/or. And that both part is being practiced in evangelical churches all over the world. Their politics may not be to your liking, but they're doing it. They believe in the End of the World and while some sit on their hands, most know that they have no power to bring it about or to prevent it. It will happen in God's time, but it will be what most people neglect to look at in the Isaiah passage that follows where Jesus stopped: the day of vengeance of our God. That's for the second advent of Christ and it's coming. In the meantime, there's much work to be done. Good works and sharing the Gospel, the whole message, not the slice that makes me feel better. "Preventing the End of the World?" Not a chance. You won't. To think that you might is anti-God, and it's anti-Christ. Truly.

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October 14, 2006  9:16pm

People, the early church grew because the apostles devoted themselves to proclaiming the gospel. Read Acts.

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subversion inc

October 13, 2006  10:32am

so, would be better for us to just sit back and do nothing, proselytizing the minds and allegiances of people in our own culture to join our churches while the bodies of those in other cultures just die away? Is it possible that there are people who don't claim to follow Jesus who are actually doing it better than those who do? Is it possible that upon Jesus' return He may want to know why we just gave up on the other members of His father's creation? Maybe I'm just too liberal... perhaps the poor, marginalized, and oppressed of society need the attention of those who would follow Jesus or even those who don't know they're acting like Jesus? maybe this is true despite what we may believe about the eschatological destiny of Creation?

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October 12, 2006  4:42pm

None of this is surprising–the self-centered, sin-driven movement toward war with all its accompanying maladies of disease, famine and economic deprivation, the panic search for a human solution leading to one world tyranny, the increasing hate for Christ's disciples, and the ultimate deliverance in the return of the Savior–all taught by Jesus. We can no more "save" the world than the crew of Titanic could prevent the ship from sinking–but, we can man the lifeboats! To me, that would be a more profitable use of our time than singing "Kum Ba Yah" with Bills Clinton and Gates, Carter, Colin and Kofi, et al. Bizzare ideas, I know–but I got them from the New Testament.

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