Great books tell stories. Here’s our pick of vivid and insightful new releases for better understanding America, world events, history, science, and theology
In college we read a hot new book called Future Shock (1970) telling what to expect ahead and how to deal with it. Predictions included paper wedding gowns, rent-a-persons, and “a system that would store a consumer’s profile-data about his occupation and interests in a central computer … and instantaneously notify him when something appears that concerns him.”
Here are some things Alvin Toffler missed in his crystal ball:
• Cake bakers in Oregon not allowed not to bake a homosexual-themed cake.
• Kindergartens indoctrinating 5-year-olds to transsexualism with Red: A Crayon’s Story, about a red crayon identifying as blue.
• The European Court of Human Rights sounding the death knell to free speech in Europe by upholding an Austrian court’s conviction of a history teacher who questioned the ethics of the marriage of Islam’s founder, Muhammad, to a child.
• CNN’s Don Lemon declaring white males to be the greatest terroristic threat in America.
Consider this thought experiment over your New Year’s wassail: If the present lay of the land was unthinkable 10 years ago, what currently unthinkable things are this very moment being knit together at breakneck speed in the cultural serpent’s egg, to spring to life in 2019 and beyond?
The future always surprises in the specifics but should not in the main outlines. “For the Lord God does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7). We don’t have to guess that people will be “brutal” (2 Timothy 3:3) and that “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (v. 12). Since this is inescapable, “how should we then live?”
The future always surprises in the specifics but should not in the main outlines.
There have always been in history men who knew the times: “Of Issachar, men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do” (1 Chronicles 12:32). And there have always been those men who thought all times alike: “Ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation” (2 Peter 3:4). Jesus thought the second kind a foolish lot (Luke 12:54-56).
You and I were placed, by God’s foreknowledge and salvation plan, inside the 21st century. We could have been born in the fifth century and gone on raiding parties with the Visigoths and the Huns. We could have been born in the 12th century in the Khmer Empire of Cambodia. We could have been sailors on a 15th-century Portuguese galleon plying the Indian Ocean for the spice trade. But God picked you and me, with all we are, for such a time as this. Nothing has been left to chance in our precise appearance on the scene (Acts 17:26-27).
This is quite an honor and responsibility. Be worthy of your beard.
I have two suggestions for the coming year. One occurred to me just after the attack upon a Pittsburgh synagogue in late October. Our local newspaper ran photos of young girls from a yeshiva huddled in a mien of mutual protection. It prompted me to look into yeshivas, and I came away impressed by what I learned—how Jews instruct their young folks in the learning and the law of Judaism before launching them into the world.
What if we conceived our churches’ youth groups to be not just clean alternatives to worldly entertainment but no-nonsense training grounds preparing them “to make a defense for the hope that is in” them? Might we not avoid the sight of 70 percent of Christian progeny walking away from the faith during college years?
Suggestion two concerns personal piety. Even a Christian yeshiva will be no use if we do not have this. Radical obedience must be the watchword of the hour. No more sloppy Christianity. No more cheap-grace notion of salvation. Choosing rather every moment to pick up the cross and put to death the petty sins that long have kept us in a rut. Choosing to avail ourselves of what Christ wrought not only for forgiveness but for reigning in this life.
“Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm” (Ephesians 6:13).
What “evil day”? The one that Alvin Toffler only dimly saw.