RICHARD LOVELACERichard Lovelace is professor of church history at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, South Hamilton, Massachusetts, and the author of Dynamics of Spiritual Life (IVP, 1979). This article was adapted, with permission, from Lovelace’s Renewal newsletter.

A respected church historian looks at the unsettling ferment of the near future and, rather than doomsday, sees exciting possibilities for religious renewal.

What lies ahead for human-kind? Every three years I teach, at my seminary, a course on “Christianity and the Future.” A decade of reading in futurology had taught me that futurologists hardly agree on what will happen to our planet and people. But there are several recurring themes, and those themes have important implications for the prospect of religious renewal.

The Future Seen Darkly

It is no accident that the scenarios of futurologists moved from humanistic optimism to soul-searching pessimism around the time of the Arab oil embargo in 1973. It was one year before the embargo that the Club of Rome (an elite international organization of economists and scientists) published its sobering The Limits of Growth.

The thrust of the report is that we are running out of everything, except perhaps people. Food prices are already rising because of the decreasing amount of arable land. Nonrenewable resources will be exhausted within 100 years. We could ration these and still continue to industrialize, but the energy use necessary for this would cause heat pollution, which might trigger climatic disasters Continued population growth points toward the scenario British economist Thomas Malthus predicted in the nineteenth century, with famines, plagues, or wars reducing the surplus of people.

At best—with perfect birth ...

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