Hope for the Future

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Nuclear weapons, ominously, have found their way into both entertainment and the evening news in recent months.

Oppenheimer, the story of America’s development of nuclear technology in World War II, recently took home seven Oscars, including Best Picture. Fallout, a post-apocalyptic TV series set in bombed-out Los Angeles, is a hit on Amazon Prime. And Russian president Vladimir Putin continues to threaten the use of real nukes on any nation that resists his expansionist ambitions.

Interestingly, the term “atom bomb” was coined by a novelist even before the start of World War I – almost 30 years prior to the Manhattan Project. 

British author H.G. Wells foresaw the global devastation that would be caused by a nuclear conflict, and didn’t hesitate to announce what he thought was the only way for humanity to survive.

In his 1914 book The World Set Free, Wells predicted that by the year 1933 nuclear technology would release “worlds of limitless power.” He also predicted – accurately, as it turned out – that it would quickly be weaponized.

Wells imagined a global conflict in 1956. He guessed – wrongly, in this case – that once an atomic bomb had been dropped, it would continue to explode for years on end, gradually burrowing deeper and deeper into the Earth. There would be no way to control the devastation. 

According to his futuristic novel, more than 200 major cities would be annihilated. For a world that had grown “old, ill, and confused,” it would be the ultimate wake-up call. In a sense, human progress would be accomplished by means of an apocalypse. 

The survivors would recognize that humanity needed a major change of heart. The only hope for a bright future would be the establishment of an ideal society – certainly not through the ballot box, and not through any kind of legislation. 

Salvation would come through a panel of experts and scientific elites. 

The world would be set free from its foolish, self-destructive behavior (hence the book’s title) only if civilization were entrusted to Very Smart People. 

In the book’s last chapter, Marcus Karenin, one of those elites, looks ahead to better days. He argues that knowledge and power, not love, are what it really means to be human. “There is no absolute limit to either knowledge or power,” he assures the reader.

The notion of placing our lives into the hands of a panel of experts is a very old story. It goes all the way back to Plato’s Republic in the fourth century B.C. 

The esteemed Greek philosopher proposed that society should be divided into three classes.

At the top there should be a ruling class. Plato suggested they be called the Golden Ones, or Guardians. The Golden Ones could be both men and women – individuals who innately know what is good and right, and who would therefore always make wise decisions.

They should have absolute power over life and death in the wider community. The Golden Ones would control who breeds with whom, and what children would be worthy of growing up to adulthood. Plato further proposed that the Golden Ones should pick their own successors. They would be a self-replicating, self-sustaining clique – essentially the crowd that no one wanted to sit with back in high school.

And what would everybody else in the community be called to do? They would faithfully meet the needs of the Golden Ones.

The second class, the Silver Ones, would be a kind of standing army to defend the Golden Ones and the community at large. The lowest class, the Bronze Ones, would be the worker bees. As those charged with doing the grunt work, they would constitute the great majority of society. The Bronze Ones would be the farmers, artisans, laborers, and servers. They would receive no privileges. Their lives would be expendable. They would exist basically to make sure the Golden Ones’ coffee was always hot.

As you might guess, several figures in history have thought that Plato’s ideas ought to be implemented. They include Adolph Hitler and Josef Stalin. 

To their everlasting credit, the citizens of Athens turned Plato down flat – especially when it became clear that Plato fancied himself as the obvious leader of the Golden Ones.

Talented, insightful people can certainly be a gift to the wider community.

But God loved so loved the world that he did not send a panel of experts.

Humanity does indeed need a change of heart to ensure a bright future. But it will come not through the exercise of knowledge and power – not through the directives of Very Smart People – but through the renewal of human hearts by the love of Jesus. 

Plato insisted that apart from a government of the elites, there can be no order. H.G. Wells declared that apart from scientific experts, there can be no hope.

Jesus begs to differ.

He has entrusted his global mission of love and redemption to every member of his Body.  In his view, everybody matters.

“God’s various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various ministries are carried out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various expressions of power are in action everywhere; but God himself is behind it all. Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits” (I Corinthians 12:4-7, The Message)

The wonderful news is that you don’t have to be an expert to be on the front lines of what God is doing to bring hope to the world.

Since every member of Christ’s Body bears the image of God and is indwelt by the Spirit, each of us brings something irreplaceable to the table.

And not just the skill of refilling the boss’s cup of coffee.