Stephen Hawking was quoted recently as saying that our world is at risk from a series of dangers of our own making – nuclear weapons, global warming and genetically engineered viruses. He was also quoted as saying that he is optimistic and believes we can re-settle somewhere else in the Universe.
My question is why anyone thinks we’d do any better there.
The Bible says that humans are made in God’s image. One sign of that is that like God we can create. Unique to all other known species we have consciousness that takes us beyond mere survival tasks. So our world is dominated by man-made cities and the conquest of concrete, cars and computers.
The key thing is what we do with this ability. Are we creating a better world day by day in our choices, our work, our relationships? God offers to shape us so we create good.
But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard — things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. (Galatians 5:22/23 – The Message)
More often it seems the world is being made in our image as one of the competitive pursuit of our own interests, an ugly survival of the fittest. But we’re progressing aren’t we? There’s ever better technology and medicine. Well we’re living longer but what about the quality of our lives? I’ve recently started working in mental health and one thing no-one is disputing is that incidences of mental health are increasing. What good is all this tech doing for us?
In his book God’s That Fail, Vinoth Ramachadra gave the following description of the Western world, one that is more true now than in the late twentieth century when written:
‘The people of the modern West are better fed, better housed, better equipped with health care than those in any previous age in human history. But, paradoxically, they also seem to be the most fearful, the most lonely, the most superstitious, and the most bored generation in human history. All the labour saving devices of modern technology have only enhanced human stress, and modern life is characterised by a restless movement from place to place, from one ‘experience’ to another, in a frenetic whirl of purposeless activity.’
The unfashionable Biblical word for our self-defeating nature is sin. Francis Spufford in his excellent book ‘Unapologetic’ calls it HPTFTU – the human propensity to f*** things up [threads have the HPTFTU as an extract, read it here]. Surely we can all relate to that, my last example is only a couple of days back.
Worldwide we don’t to look far for examples of the destructive self bursting out. In January we were told that the 62 richest people in the world own the same as the poorest 3 billion. Most days bring a fresh story of people murderously trying to impose their chosen way of life on others.
Getting to Mars won’t change the problem of the human heart. By contrast in my experience God can perform spiritual heart surgery – I’ve had plenty to make me more like the person I think I was intended to be, more able to see beyond myself and be a good husband, father, colleague etc. I’m sure there’s more to come.
So I can’t put my hope in the human capacity to progress itself out of the mess we’ve made. My hope is in God’s ability to change the world, one heart at a time, starting with mine.