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24.05.2018

Tipping Point? | Connecting with Culture

Have you been wondering recently whether western civilisation is on the brink of collapse? If so, you’re in good company.

According to a recent article in New Scientist magazine, ‘scientists, historians and politicians alike are warning that … [current] cycles of inequality and resource use are heading for a tipping point that in many past civilisations precipitated political unrest, war and collapse’.

The article describes the role that extreme inequality played in the decline of previous civilisations, before quoting a recent report (from Credit Suisse, no less) that the world’s richest 1% now owns more than 50% of the world’s wealth. It also describes how a mathematician, Safa Motesharrei, has modelled the ruinous impact on a civilisation when extreme inequality coincides with the rapid depletion of natural resources. If his model proves accurate, it could be time for us all to head for the hills.

Others argue that the death knell has been sounded for western civilisation many times before. Maybe, just maybe, the startling pace of technological innovation will bail us out of our present predicaments, and normal progress can be resumed.

And yet, even if our civilisation manages to muddle through somehow, western Christians must surely ask themselves searching questions in light of the challenges our society faces: Have we become seduced by an over-confidence in the onward march of progress? How would our faith cope with an abrupt shift into reverse gear? How robust is our belief that God, not progress, is the ultimate source of hope (Romans 15:13), and that Christ, not the complex configuration of an advanced society, holds all things together (Colossians 1:17)?

Whether for individuals or an entire civilisation, the threat of losing what is familiar, secure, and seemingly indestructible can unmask Christian faith to be little more than naïve optimism. It also opens up wonderful opportunities for faith to become rooted in something, or someone, far more robust and real.

And even if our civilisation really is under unbearable strain, we take comfort from the fact that Jesus didn’t shy away from tough talk to his disciples about tough times ahead (Matthew 24). He instilled in them, through his life, death, and resurrection, a love and a hope that changed the world even as their own world crumbled around them. Following their example, and trusting the same Lord, we too can stand in the face of an uncertain future… and not flinch.

Nick Tatchell
Nick is an HR consultant

Comments

  1. Thank you for this. I often think about how I haven’t ever faced proper hardship because of the ‘protection’ that our comfortable existence continues to afford us here. It is an uncomfortable truth that not only is this protection built on sand but also that it is at the expense of so many in desperate need. I pray that once real hardship arrives at my door that I will have my feet on the Rock not on sand.

    By Jon - 25th May 2018
  2. Your writing brought to mind this old hymn

    ‘My faith is built on nothing less
    Than Jesus’ love and faithfulness

    On Christ the solid Rock I stand
    All other ground is sinking sand
    All other ground is sinking sand’

    By Sue Bethel - 25th May 2018
  3. Thanks Nick, you have given us a good reality check! I work in a hospital environment and at a local level many of our patients experience a tipping point when unexpected news is passed on and has to be assimilated. For them it’s not the big questions that matter but in the here and now my faith is being tested.
    Jim

    By Rev Jim Simpson - 25th May 2018
  4. Very encouraging Nick. Thank you.

    By Christine Winnett - 25th May 2018
  5. Nicely put. A timely reminder of the reality that we worship and follow a God who is greater than the world order we inhabit.

    By Simon Shutt - 25th May 2018
  6. Excellent and thought provoking eschatological analysis of today’s culture.

    By David Austin - 25th May 2018
  7. Thanks, Nick, for a very clear , punchy article that helps to clarify my muddle thoughts on ” What’s going on…?”. I compare my own faith with that of my brothers’ and sisters’ faith in politically oppressed societies and wonder if I would/ could hold on should things get tougher socially and materially Who do we hold onto really, our faith habits or our Saviour King?

    By Hellen Watson - 25th May 2018
  8. Cf. St Augustine’s “City of God” when Rome fell.

    By David Austin - 25th May 2018
  9. Thanks for this post – I have been thinking about the story of Pandora’s Box and how it has such relevance as a ‘cautionary tale’ for this or any age. And although the last thing to emerge from the box is ambiguous in the story, most interpret it as hope! I also find great comfort in the thought that, in Christ, God has promised companionship “until the end of the age” or, into the life of the age to come.

    By Revd Joe Daley - 25th May 2018
  10. Thank you Nick, this really is a wake up call for us Christians to be involved in wider concerns outside the church doors otherwise we could be ‘worshipping’ while ‘Rome’ burns.

    By David Thumwood - 25th May 2018
  11. Thanks Nick, I agree with what you have said.

    Something that has exercised my mind is the unequal way people are treated in matters such as sexual abuse.

    It has become well recognised that women and girls can be abused. But how much attention is given to the sexual abuse suffered by males?

    How often is it acknowledged that both men and women can be the perpetrators of sexual abuse?

    How do we react when a man or boy says that he was sexually abused? How do we respond if he says that the abuser was a woman?

    What are the long-term effects for a society that recognises one group of victims but not another?

    A few months ago I addressed some of these issues in an article for the Church of England Newspaper.

    http://www.churchnewspaper.com/49796/archives

    I am interested to know what others think.

    By John Steley - 25th May 2018
  12. I hear echoes of Kipling’s “Recessional”. The issues and choices of today are different from 1897 but the question remains: where/in whom do we place our ultimate trust?
    GOD of our fathers, known of old—
    Lord of our far-flung battle-line—
    Beneath whose awful Hand we hold
    Dominion over palm and pine—
    Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
    Lest we forget, lest we forget!

    The tumult and the shouting dies—
    The captains and the kings depart—
    Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,
    An humble and a contrite heart.
    Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
    Lest we forget, lest we forget!

    Far-call’d our navies melt away—
    On dune and headland sinks the fire—
    Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
    Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
    Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,
    Lest we forget, lest we forget!

    If, drunk with sight of power, we loose
    Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe—
    Such boasting as the Gentiles use
    Or lesser breeds without the Law—
    Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
    Lest we forget, lest we forget!

    For heathen heart that puts her trust
    In reeking tube and iron shard—
    All valiant dust that builds on dust,
    And guarding calls not Thee to guard—
    For frantic boast and foolish word,
    Thy Mercy on Thy People, Lord!

    By Peter Mitchell - 25th May 2018
  13. Fear not! Remember what Jesus said in John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart I have overcome the world.” The Kingdom is advancing faster than at any time in history (and yes the tares are growing alongside the wheat) but as Bishop Michael Curry reminded us recently: the love of God has the power to transform the world. You might like to ponder Kris Vallotton’s analysis of the times we live in: https://krisvallotton.com/my-8-eschatological-core-values/

    By Peter Riley - 25th May 2018
  14. What a timely and thoughtful article. Thank you, Nick. It makes me think of Lesslie Newbigin’s statement, ‘I am neither an optimist nor a pessimist. Jesus Christ is risen from the dead.’

    By Joseph May - 26th May 2018

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