Forecasting the Future
Gordon MacDonald searches for the meaning of the 21st Century.

I have just finished reading James Martin's The Meaning of the 21st Century. And - in my opinion anyway - every person who seeks to influence others to the Christian way ought to be conversant with this book. Don't expect to find a Christian point of view about the future - just the opposite, in fact. But you will get a catalog of the issues that humanity faces in the next few decades. The issues are political, economic, technological, scientific, and, I believe, moral.

Martin, who comes out of the world of Oxford, spends most of his time ruminating on the social and economic impacts of computers and technology. So says the book jacket. His mind is deep and broad which is to say that he knows lots of things. And this book demonstrates it.

I found myself fascinated, not threatened, by James Martin for several reasons. First, because he is an intellectual who represents the totally secularized mind. It doesn't hurt to acquaint ourselves with what people like him really sound like.

Second, because Martin has done his homework within the world he's defined for himself. In other words, he's thought through this stuff and isn't going to be easily dismissed. Push back at him if you want, but you better have done your homework.

Thirdly, because he's identified the issues of real consequence that every one of us will soon be living with, like it or not. Live twenty more years, and every one of Martin's concerns will be on your mind?daily.

Finally, I appreciated Martin's call to civilization to make some tough conversion-like decisions (some of which I think are plainly spiritual) if it cares to see the planet survive the 21st century. I wish I heard more voices in my faith tradition speaking as clearly as Martin does.

At this point in my life, I have felt a freshened call to do whatever I can each day to encourage and cheerlead a younger generation of Christian leaders. To challenge them to deepen their communion with God, to rediscover the Biblical building blocks that lead to a durable and resilient faith, to call people to a vibrant witness to Jesus which is less about words and more about meaningful initiatives that align with God's purposes. And James Martin helps me identify another aspect of this call. To persuade younger men and women to become more involved and influential in the emerging planet-wide dialogues (everything from Starbucks to Davos) about the imperiled future of the human race. I think Jesus would like us to do this.

Read more of Gordon MacDonald's forcast of the future at Leadership's homepage.

February 02, 2007

Displaying 1–10 of 10 comments


February 06, 2007  10:44am

Mike We both can take the name grumpy. It is awesome what you are doing to make a difference in peoples lives. Too many times we carry the stigma of shooting our wounded. Good to see some love in action for that girl. It does seem too casual how we look at hell and go on to the next subject like we are switching channels on t.v. In my opinion everything comes back to we as Christians sharing the sinless life, atoning death, and resurection of God in the flesh Jesus Christ. We do this in different ways and by different means. Even if we do not agree on hell I hope we do agree that Jesus has to be the center of our actions, words, and lives because He is the only one who gives life, both in this life and the next. Also being in the Army National Guard, thanks.

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mike rucker

February 06, 2007  7:46am

gw, melody your points are well taken. i sound like a grumpy old man in most of my postings, don't i? but melody, the line is gordon's, not mine. i'll post something over on my blog this evening and not take us too far off topic here. suffice it to say that, at present, i'm raising funds for a girl at my daughter's christian school who has found herself pregnant (wonder how that happened...) and wants to carry the baby full term. and i'm getting more involved in operation homefront, a group that supports military families here that have husbands/wives between iraq and a hard place. i guess my main concern with gordon's post and the subsequent comments was how quickly we could move from talking about hell, defending it as a place of eternal torment, and not realize that, if it's really true, it demands ALL of our focus since this life here is but a blip on the eternal timescale. i constantly scratch my head about how no one seems to understand that the "traditional" view of hell makes all these other topics absolutely irrelevant. THAT'S why i had to come to the conclusion that it was wrong. mike the grumpy old man

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February 05, 2007  5:35pm

Not everywere has a Starbucks or a Davos. I am in a rural poor community were the future is now. My neighbors dont want dialouge they want help today. They dont know the difference between emergent conversations or how to be more influential in global warming and dont care. Their future is now and I would guess that the majority in our nation feel the same way. I just need to quit looking at the world's future and pay attention to my neighbors present. Jesus is the only One who can help both. BTW Mike what are you doing to help people? This is not a jab at you ( I promise!)I just want to know how are you making a difference.

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Mike Morrell

February 05, 2007  2:36pm

I will get this book; it sounds engaging and perceptive. I think that more Christians (a few of us, anyway) should be engaged in futures studies.

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February 05, 2007  9:26am

Mike, you advocate, "a vibrant witness to Jesus which is less about words and more about meaningful initiatives that align with God's purposes." Is it supposed to be less about the 'words' of other people and more about the many 'words' you have used here? Does this admonition apply to others and not to you? How much time are you investing in actually doing what you talk so much about? Maybe you could share (without angst) about the 'meaningful initiatives' you are involved in.

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mike rucker

February 03, 2007  11:41am

yeah, yeah, yeah. whatever. seems everyone has forgotten the two posts from a few days ago where we talked about everyone going to hell. we're back to the selfish gospel of "hey - what's in it for me? how can i 'deepen' *my* walk? what's the best way for *me* to improve *my* relationship with Jesus?" sometimes, you guys and gals make me laugh. other times you just kill me. like now. what you're all saying is exactly what *i* said the other day - that none of you really believe in the hell you want to thump your chest defending. "God's JUSTICE!!!" "How DARE you think you can UNDERSTAND what God will DO!!!" "Everyone who hasn't heard the message is already in hell ANYWAY - heaven will be better off without them!!!" hide behind "exegesis." say the world needs "expository preaching." hide in your corner with "inerrancy." or join the folks who are tired of that and ready to help the people. or, as macdonald writes, become "a vibrant witness to Jesus which is less about words and more about meaningful initiatives that align with God's purposes." rant over. as you were. c'mon, geoff, put me in my place... -mr

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Kevin Saff

February 02, 2007  7:18pm

Trevor, it could be my background. These phrases really stood out to me: "Don't expect to find a Christian point of view about the future—just the opposite, in fact." "...out of the world of Oxford..." "...the totally secularized mind." "...people like him..." "...within the world he's defined for himself." I am quite sensitive to this kind of language which I believe portrays academics as amoral, out of touch, and in a world of their own. Perhaps this is not what Gordon intended, but when I was growing up, this kind of language was used very harshly in the Church to criticize "the intelligentsia", portraying them as a very different kind of people than us good, plain folks. However, I am glad if I am alone in this reading.

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Trevor Lee

February 02, 2007  3:32pm

It's interesting that someone reads this assessment as an apology for reading the book. To me it was an encouragement to read it and become conversant with the thinking it contains.

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Kevin Saff

February 02, 2007  1:08pm

I didn't find this review helpful - what exactly was one of the worrying trends of the 21st century? Most of the review was actually an apology for reading the book - is this really necessary? The fact that such a detailed apology is being offered would seem to reinforce the idea that Christians are usually not supposed to read this kind of thing, an attitude I find disturbing. What exactly is the "opposite" of a Christian point of view, anyway? Is academia diametrically opposed to Christianity somehow? What am I, as someone who moves in both Christian and academic circles, supposed to make of this? This article leaves me wondering what, exactly, was trying to be communicated.

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February 02, 2007  1:04pm

Sounds interesting. I sometimes wonder if predicting catastrophe is the best way to promote global activism. I'd prefer it if we could motivate people to do it for positive reasons rather than just doing it to prevent impending doom. Operating out of fear is not the solution. I don't know if that applies to Martin's book at all, I just wanted to put in my two cents.

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