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Understanding the Times

(This is first version, written with not much time to spare; treat it as a draft.)

(See also 'New Situation', which is a shorter version which contains different insights.)

This 'new view' is needed because of the new times we live in. But in what way are the times today different? I don't want to point to the more obvious differences from the past such as space travel or mobile phones as such, which might be superficial, but rather to those of spiritual importance. Quite a number have come together in the last few decades, and to some extent they support each other. Here are some of them, and for each I try to discern what God's people should do in response.

New Planetary Situation

Never before has humanity had such an impact on the planet as such, on the environment, on the very basis for biological life. Two reasons: more of us around, and technology and economy and media magnify this so that each one of us has 50 times the impact that someone 200 years ago did. Especially climate change. But also the pollution of the seas, the increasing scarcity of fresh water, the increased extinction of many species, and so on. And yet even governments that seem to voice commitment do not do enough to combat climate change. Each protects their own interests.

God's people need to understand why this is important in God's eyes. We need the 'mind of Christ' on this, not the assumptions handed down from an earlier period. A period in which the planet was assumed to absorb all we did, a period in which sacred was divorced from secular. This is what New View tries to do.

New Religious Situation

Islam has suddenly burst upon the world scene, after centuries of being of interest mainly to the Middle East and some South-East Asian countries. Hinduism, normally accepting of other views, has started to become militantly against other religions. Christianity has more adherents in the two-thirds world than the developed world. If its rate of growth continues in China, Christianity might become the official religion of China in 20 years.

This means we must rethink (a) our attitude to other religions (b) our view of mission, (c) our notion of what is essential in Christianity and what is peripheral, (d) the long European (esp. Greek, Roman) roots in Christian theology, (e) how we interpret the Scriptures for all cultures. We need a fresh view of what salvation means, and the importance of the creation, which all cultures share.

New Economic Situation

Money is much more readily available today than ever before, especially discretionary money. Money has become the measure of all things. We erroneously assume we cannot obtain anything worthwhile unless we spend money. The amount of it has been expanded by the 'casino' economy of derivatives etc. But money is no longer seen only as a symbol of value that the partners in an exchange agree on, but is seen as a commodity in itself. Money is treated as an end in itself. Economic growth as measured by GDP is treated as supreme, the idol that must be protected at all costs, and which justifies all kinds of shady practices. Money moves around much faster than before. Trust, on which the money markets depend, begins to fail. As 2008 has shown, our national economies are over-inflated.

God's people must no longer unquestioningly accept money as treated thus. Treating money in any of the ways above is to "serve Mammon" - which, Jesus Christ said, is incompatible with serving God. God's people must work out, independently of the above, and also independently of historical ideas, the proper role of money.

New Communicational Situation

Never before has the world been so 'small'. We now expect to be able to travel across the world for our business or for our pleasure, and at our leisure, and cheaply. The Internet means that we communicate with people anywhere in the world, with people of different cultures. Not only information, but ideas, not only ideas but worldviews, permeate those who run society throughout the whole world. And it is the Western worldview (ass aspirations below) which is spreading. God's people need to know understand what is going on. Yet we do not know with whom we communicate, and the intersubjective background knowledge that helps us communicate (and lets us understand idioms, humour, connotations) can no longer be relied on.

New Philosophical Situation

The discipline of philosophy has changed in major ways over the past 100 years. Postmodernism, in its acceptance of all stories, opens the way for God's message to enter the public square of philosophical discourse on an equal basis so as to be compared alongside others, rather than either debarred (as for the past 300 years) or to dominate (as in scholastic period). The move to give dignity to everyday experience can legitimate the Scriptures as a source of truth in philosophical eyes. That reason is no longer seen as neutral opens the way to recognition and open discussion of the faith commitments that lie at the root of all philosophical thought.

What this all means is that God's people can hold their heads up in philosophical circles - and have a responsibility to do so. As long as they do it with respect, humility and a deep understanding and acceptance of what philosophy is. Philosophy must not be seen as merely the handmaid of theology or gospel, but must be seen as important in its own right under God. The Christian philosopher, Herman Dooyeweerd has provided a number of excellent draft arguments that Christians can employ with care, but we must work them out carefully and not (as an earlier generation did) think we can 'conquer' the world with them. Humility must reign, as befits those who represent the humble God.

New Aspirational and Expectational Situation

Over the last 100 years we in the West have come to aspire to, and expect from life: large discretionary income, freedom from inconvenience, unlimited energy resources always available, cheap energy, roads and cars, instance communication, wide choice of entertainment, wide choice of clothes and accessories, plenty food available on supermarket shelves, the right to fly off to foreign holidays several times a year, individual freedom, sex and other pleasure whenever we want it, technological solutions, new technology every year and the money to obtain it, and much more that our peers slightly above us seem to have.

And the rest of the world aspires to most of this.

But these expectations and aspirations are destructive. God's people should be understanding what is going on - not just either accepting it nor reacting against it.

New Situation of Hopelessness

People have no vision and the people perish in their souls. There is a hopelessness pervading all who embrace the modern, Western world view. It is felt rather than seen. It can be recognised when it is named sensitively. The Lord Jesus Christ is the sufficient answer. God's people need to be putting all their effort into understanding what is going on and carefully working out how Christ answers it. This is what New View tries to do.

New Challenges for Christians

Sadly, it seems that Christians are fighting battles of up to 100 years ago, rather than addressing the issues of today. Such battles include: fighting against atheism (and as a result stimulating a militant atheistic backlash), fighting against evolutionism.

God's people should be engaging with the world's thinking in a different way: to critique and enrich it, not to fight it.

We need theology which can address all these both individually and all together in a coherent way. It must have a place for all these and provide a basis on which we can decide how to address them. New View tries to meet this need.

These pages present 'New View' theology. Comments, queries welcome.

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Copyright (c) Andrew Basden 2008-4, but you may copy this page as long as every copy includes this full copyright notice, and the copying is not for financial gain.

Created: 16 November 2008. Last updated: