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Does Religion and the Future Mix?

by Jay Gary, PhD, Apr 3, 2005

ship_night_mHave you ever felt that you were apart of two worlds, neither which talk to each other? That world might be two sets of inlaws or two sets of friends. The world of religion and the future are like that. Like two-ships that pass one another in the night, they sail in opposite directions. At best they signal one another, but don’t exchange more than pleasantries.

For example, a couple of years ago I heard one of our nations leading forecasters tick off “Ten Dark Clouds on the Horizon.” Down about point seven, he began talking about an institution that was “negative, vastly oppressive of women, retrogressive in all what it wants to do. It holds back progress at every turn. And it sinks its head into the ground when it turns to future opportunities. And what is that? Organized religion.”

I could have taken offense, but there was a grain of truth to what he said. It got me thinking. I began to ask myself, Ok, I know faith has a lot of dysfunctional ways it relates to forward time, whether through End-Times anxieties, one-sided afterlife beliefs or hard-shell determinism, but where does faith and theology relate to the future in a health way?

1. FUTURES: Debate the extent to which the field of secular futurology contradicts or compliments Christian eschatology.

2. RHETORIC: Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of millennial, utopian or progressive rhetoric to humanity’s future.

3. RESEARCH: Evaluate the futurist writings of a religious leader and weigh their contribution to their audience and the field of social foresight.

4. INTEGRAL: Explain how the modern age differentiated science from religion and how an integral approach seeks to integrate them.

This might sound academic, but it really isn’t. I suggest we both need to ask, How can the power of God revealed in Jesus Christ make all things new, including the act of faith itself?

Yes, of course, I want a bigger church, especially in the Southern hemisphere. But more than that, I want a better church, a more whole church and more empowered church. That is the kind of redesign work you and I are called to. It is the kind of “double-loop” learning and action that the Apostle Paul practiced, to lead the early Jesus followers out of the shadow of the Old Covenant, which was growing old and soon would pass away.

I encourage you to consider studying with me informally or formally, using strategic foresight as both a theory and method. We need to intentionally explore the wisdom of God for the generations to come. Take one of these steps:

1. Attend a “Future Proof Your Ministry” workshop online. I offer them three or four times a year.

2. Attend a “Foresight” conference at Regent University.

3. Enroll in an online course”Survey of Futures Studies,” an elective course I teach each semester at Regent University.

Together we can turn around the ocean liner of organized religion and insure that it is sailing into the rising, not setting sun.

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