We live in what the late Joseph R. Sizoo called “one of the ‘in-between periods’ of history.” One world is dying while another is struggling to be born.

It is also an age of sagging and sinking hopes. In the lives of many people, hope never seems to take firm root.

Once when the writer was traveling near the East German border the train suddenly lurched, jolting passengers against one another. That touched off an unexpected conversation with two refugees from the horrors of World War II in the Sudetenland under Russian occupancy. “We had only one hope that held life together,” said the elderly man, as his wife nodded. “That was to make it somehow to the Bavarian frontier where—according to the underground rumors—American soldiers would help us and we would be free.” The story of their escape and near-detection as they maneuvered to the American forward lines and finally made it to a life of new possibilities was full of drama. But many people today never make it to a hope that holds their broken world together. They are forever “waiting for Godot”—but Godot never shows. One world is dying; the other is stillborn.

Our age is one of haunting doubt, not only about the past but also about the eternal. Someone has said that modern Americans live little in the past, seldom in the future, and mostly in the present. Whatever barren hope remains seems tainted with atheism and secular materialism. Skepticism about enduring verities seems everywhere in vogue. Theologians no less than philosophers are stamped with question marks. As Roy Pearson says, “The pertinent question today does not appear to be ‘What is worth dying for?’ but ‘What is worth living for?’ Or, to be more exact, ‘Is anything worth living for?’ ”

Life in the twentieth ...

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