Volume 14, Issue 6: Eschaton
Jack Van Deventer
Back in the old days when movies were fine, the good guys with the white hats would, defying overwhelming odds, prevail over the morally
repugnant evil foisted upon the innocent. Treachery would be overcome by those possessing truth, honor, and courage. One expected that good would
always find a way to triumph over evil. It was an optimistic world.
In the forty or fifty years since that time, pessimism has captured the American psyche, and the malaise seems to deepen with each passing
year. Perhaps for good reason. Each day's news seems to underscore that we are inescapably trapped in a downward vortex. Peggy Noonan,
Ronald Reagan's former speechwriter, recently opined in the
Wall Street Journal: "[T]he institutions that keep us up and humming
continue to wobble
and groan from the weight of their misconduct. The American Catholic Church is a victim of self-inflicted wounds, its corruptions as towering as
its cathedrals. Big businessEnthroned. Wall Streetstock tipped, finagled and fooled by a bubble. Big accounting, by which we judge how
our business investments are doing, is a joke. The FBI and the CIA are more joke fodder." Noonan's article focused on concerns that our obsessions
over last September's terror attack distract us from preventing the inevitable next attack. She observed, "We live in a time in which we constantly have
to try to find the line between paranoia and prudence, between superstition and sensitivity to the weirdness that reigns. One has a sense of a
quickening of history, of a gathering of its forces, of things hurtling toward some unknown
The expectation of impending doom can be traced to a variety of real and perceived social sins, some of which Noonan listed. Others
include ethnic violence, "hate" crimes, family disintegration, environmental sins, economic sins, etc. Previously anticipated "saviors" of mankind, such
as education, science, and technology have proven ineffective. Government education has exacerbated intellectual and moral decay, compounding
the problem it was supposed to solve. Science and technology have disappointed as well. We can't seem to build tools that make up for our
Over the last several months one of the more popular books making the rounds within the Christ Church congregation has been
Death of the West, the New York
Times bestseller by Patrick J.
Buchanan.2 The subtitle of the book is
"How dying populations and immigrant invasions imperil our country
and civilization." It's an ominous and compelling book, documenting among other things the rapid population decline in western countries (Europe
and North America) due to abortions, overpopulation hysteria, feminism, economics, declining morality, etc.
Buchanan describes "cultural pessimism" as "a sense of alienation, of hopelessness, of despair where, even though prosperous and free, a
people comes to see its society and country as oppressive, evil, and unworthy of its loyalty and love." He describes cultural pessimism as if it were a form
of societal cancer, the long-term effects being antithetical to self-preservation. To illustrate, he cites the Pope's Pontifical Council for the Family
that links cultural pessimism to infertility.
Within Christendom the engines of pessimism are premillennialism and amillennialism, doctrines that anticipate an irresistible moral
and societal decline. These doctrines of cultural despair predict increased persecution, apostasy, and an inevitable spiral of evil that will prevail over
the whole earth. Why premillennialists or amillennialists have children at all is a mystery to me. Wouldn't raising children be tantamount to
raising sheep for the slaughter? Perhaps this explains why birthrates have declined even within the Christian community.
I have a friend who, in light of his conviction that severe tribulation lies just around the corner, asserts that God's mission for Christians on
earth is merely to "Occupy 'til I come" (Lk. 19:13). For pessimistic believers, whose solitary hope is to wait for the rapture, this bunker mentality is
the only option. Tribulation looms and things will inevitably get worse and worse. However, their vocal anticipation of the "any moment" rapture
for the last 150 years is starting to get wearisome. At what point do we say alright already, enough is enough? This desperate worldview can hardly
be equated with living a victorious Christian life. There's nothing victorious about it.
The Luke 19 passage above must be seen in context, the parable of the pounds. A master gave one servant ten pounds, another five, and
another one pound. The servants were told "occupy 'til I come," a charge to work hard and be productive. The two faithful servants produced ten more
and five more pounds, so the master put them in charge of ten cities and five cities, respectively. The unproductive servant (that is, the one with the
bunker mentality) failed to produce anything with his one pound and was condemned as a "wicked servant."
Christians must be careful not to underestimate the glory and transforming power of the gospel. The renovation of cultures and countries will
be forthcoming until the Great Commission is fulfilled. By God's decree, good
will triumph over evil. Severe challenges are ahead, but ultimately the
guys with the white hats win the battle.