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The Focus of Christian Futures

by Dr. Todd M. Johnson, Aug 25, 1998

bulleye-lThe purpose of the Christian Futures Network (CFN) is to promote dialogue, strategy, collaboration, scholarship, and clear thinking among Christians on the subject of the future. This collaboration has the following characteristics:

Participants are Christians, defined as “one who believes in, or professes or confesses Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, or is assumed to believe in Jesus Christ; an adherent of Christianity.” (World Christian Encyclopedia). This presumes that participants will be drawn from the seven major ecclesiastical blocs (Roman Catholic, Protestant, Anglican, non-Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Marginal, and Independent), from more than 160 ecclesiastical traditions (AOG, Baptist, Congregational, Greek Orthodox, Lutheran, Methodist, Seventh-day Adventist, nondenominational, etc.), and from 24,000 different denominations.

We speak of “futures,” plural rather than singular, because we are looking at various possible futures, of which an End-Times view is but one scenario of many. Futurists are “people who have a special interest in what may happen in the years ahead and think seriously about what lies beyond the short-term perspective…[they] are especially concerned about the impact on the future of what is done in the present.” (Ed Cornish, Encyclopedia of the Future). Christian futurists feel a responsibility to follow Christ in the present to positively impact the future.

The nature of the collaboration is a network — “a group of interconnected or cooperating individuals.” Participation is international in nature. Men and women from all over the world can join in our dialogue.

Categories of Christian Futurism

The focus of Christian futures can be surveyed from the following eleven categories.

1. Theology

Not all theology is future-oriented but works that are deliberately so include Theology for the third millennium by H. Kung (1988), Revisioning Evangelical theology by S. Grenz (1993), and The temples of tomorrow by R. Kirby and E. Brewer (1993). This would also include areas such as dialogue with other religions and interfaith activities.

2. Ecclesiology

This is the study of the church of the future. K. Rahner’s The shape of the church to come and W. Buhlmann’s The church of the future examine issues directly related to the structure and life of the church in the future.

3. Eschatology

Perhaps the most prolific category ranging from popular works such as H. Lindsey’s Late great planet earth (1970) to scholarly treatments like A. Hoekema’s The Bible and the future (1979), or Hans Schwarz’s Eschatology, (2000).

4. Missiology

A long history of forward-looking strategic planning includes The future of the Christian world mission by W. Danker and W. J. Kang (1971) and the more recent Redemptoris Missio by John Paul II (1991), or Choosing a Future for U.S. Mission by P. McKaughan, D. O’Brien and W. O’Brien (1998).

5. Prophecy

This might be considered a part of eschatology but much prophecy has little to do with the “end times” per se. Beginning with God’s revelation of the future in the Garden of Eden and continuing with recent prophetic announcements from Christian prophets such as R. Joyner and P. Cain, this category of prophetic ministry should probably be examined apart from eschatology. A good book in this vein is Prophecy Past and Present by Clifford Hill (1989).

6. Inspiration

Many Christians approach the future from the standpoint of worship and devotion. The content of J. Gary’s The star of 2000 overlaps with some of the other categories but it’s basic orientation is inspirational.

These first six categories are specifically “Christian,” but there are many other areas of human life and society that Christians directly address in relation to the future. These include:

7. Science and technology

Christians are making contributions in a wide array of disciplines including cosmology (R. Peacock’s A brief history of eternity, 1991), biology (J. Rifkin’s Entropy, 1986), computing (P. Rossman and R. Kirby’s Christians and the world of computers, 1990), etc.

8. Issues

This would include general books such as T. Sine’s Wild hope or Mustard Seed versus McWorld (1999) and articles focused on the environment, population, gender, sexuality, etc.

9. Society and culture

This includes E. Bellamy’s Looking backwards 2000-1887 (1887). The focus in recent times has been on the death of modernity and what is emerging in its place, usually called “postmodernity” for lack of a better term. Most of the literature, such as S. Grenz’s A primer on postmodernism (1995), is descriptive rather than prescriptive, but has clear future-orientation. Sociologist R. Wuthnow’s Christianity in the 21st century (1993) is also in this category.

10. Philosophy 

Much of what is written on postmodernity is approached from the discipline of philosophy. D. Allen’s Christian belief in a postmodern world (1989) is one example.

11. Science fiction

Christians have been writing science fiction since its inception. Orson Scott Card’s Future Scenarios and Andrew M. Greeley’s Sacred visions compilation of Catholic science fiction are two examples.

These eleven categories give a broad-based context for dialogue and collaboration in the Christian Futures Network. Any of these areas can be discussed on our electronic forum or upcoming consultations. Please send me additional ideas if you have any.


For a bibliography of Christian future articles and books written since 1893, see “Evolution of the Futurology of Christianity and Religion” in World Christian Encyclopedia, pages 854-856, David B. Barrett, editor, Oxford University Press, 1982.

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