- Not Every Story is Based in Reality
- How Homosexuality Became Normal in the West
- How Evolutionists Explain Poverty
- Lies Enslave, Truth Transforms
- Human Evil, Cosmic Consequences
- NURTURING: The Wonder of Being There
- Personal God, Personal Creation
- The Implications of Moral Freedom
- Work, Save, Give: The Protestant Ethic
- Three Ways God’s Universe Makes Sense
- HOME SCHOOLING: Why It Makes Sense Today
- Christianity is True Even If You Don’t Believe It!
- Moral God, Moral Universe
- What Do Singapore and Apple Have in Common?
- God’s Laws, the “Secret” to Life
- Time Matters: Present, Past, Future
- The Doctrine of the Trinity Matters in Real Life?
- Two Fronts in the War of the Century
What is the biblical view of time?
To be human is to ask, “Where have we come from?” “Where are we going?” “What is the meaning of history?” The answers are shaped by one’s worldview.
Animism answers both questions with a resounding “Nowhere!” To the animist, life is an endless wheel. There is no messianic hope, no concept of progress, no place for flourishing.
Secularism says we are going to the grave! Today’s secular society has embraced nihilism. We have exchanged a culture of life for a culture of death: infanticide, euthanasia, genocide, gendercide, hedonism, unrestrained abortion, and fascination with suicide.
Only biblical theism reveals that time is linear and history is going somewhere. God is reconciling the world to himself through Christ (Col. 1:20). Life is to be lived. Time is God’s gift to man. Man is thus a creator of history, not its slave.
Concepts of Time
Time is so much a part of our lives that we seldom think about it. We assume that everyone sees time the same way. Not so. Each of the three basic worldviews defines it differently.
Animist societies focus on “event time,” defined by natural phenomena, the cycles and rhythms of the seasons. Western reporters were sometimes surprised when elderly Rwandan refugees in Zaire could not tell them their ages. Such people rarely count days. Instead, they count catastrophes such as earthquakes, floods, and illnesses.
For animists, the years are changeless cycles punctuated by major events. People savor the moment. They see time as abundant because the cycles never end. Relationships, not tasks, dominate life. Time is without limit, and therefore has no value. This failure to grasp the value of time has profoundly negative consequences on the economic aspects of life. A Western agriculturist asked a farmer in Colombia why he had not planted his crops during that year’s planting season. “Don’t worry,” the farmer responded. “It will come around again!”
In modern secular society the clock rules. Time has economic value, but no transcendent or moral significance. Time is running out. The secular goal is not quality relationships but material affluence as quickly as possible. The secularist is enslaved to the clock, fearing personal extinction with every tick of the second hand. He has little concern for the past, to his own harm. His concern is for the “eternal present.” Live life for the moment, for there is no tomorrow.
Theism has a balanced view of time
The animist mindset is enslaved to the past, unable to see his present opportunities or plan for the future. We see fatalism in sayings such as “Que sera, sera,” “It is written,” or “Allah wills.” Progress is unknown, change is sacrilegious.
The secular approach, by contrast, focuses on the present. It is radically liberal: secularists are constantly seeking change for change’s sake. Change becomes a hollow substitute for progress.
Only theism has a solid grasp of time—past, present, and future. The theist’s broad time focus encompasses past, present, and future. The theist can celebrate all of life. Each time period is unique and valuable in God’s story. History is going somewhere. The theist, unlike the secularist, has cause for hope.
We appreciate the past and learn from it. We relish our traditions, culture, and sense of rootedness. We enjoy the present, the time in which we live and act, experiencing all life has to offer. We anticipate the future: building for it, fulfilling God’s good purposes along the way, manifesting the kingdom, and hastening Christ’s return. Balancing all three time frames creates freedom. Focusing on just one enslaves us.
Living in the Arena
Each of us has been granted a limited amount of time to invest in God’s story. Therefore, we must choose to redeem it, using the Christian virtues.
People are history makers, our faith teaches. While secularists can only react, and animists are relegated to inactivity, the theist is proactive. Our daily choices fairly burst with significance. Schaeffer said we create ripples that go on forever . . . and we do. We are ripple makers! To follow Christ is to consciously accept this awesome responsibility to stir the waters of time and history.
We know how history will turn out, but we do not know what our own roles in the cosmic drama will be. We are free to act. In fact, we are responsible to do so as God’s vice-regents.
The Goal of Development
Only Judeo-Christian theism can take us off the revolving wheel of animism and the sinking ship of secularism. Only Judeo-Christian theism can set us on the path to the City of God, providing bright hope for the future and a new paradigm. Only Judeo-Christian theism brings good news for today and tomorrow.
The Lord’s Prayer gives us the right perspective. When we pray “Thy kingdom come,” we acknowledge Christ’s coming future kingdom. When we pray “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” we acknowledge our present responsibility to help build his kingdom today. As Jesus said when he inaugurated his earthly ministry, “The time has come. . . . The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15).
The present aspect of the kingdom places life in a broader context. God is building his kingdom today. I am his coworker and must respond to his calling. Progress in the material world is possible. I am to live coram Deo—before the face of God—as I contribute to kingdom building, to God’s unfolding story. This is the good news: God, in Christ, reconciling the world to himself. Anything less is anemic, suppressing the truth, distorting the gospel, stifling the kingdom, disengaging the church, and cheating the world.
The telos of humanity
The goal of human development—our telos—is that we flourish and become fully human. Our telos is to help hasten God’s unfolding consummation of history, in which all the Lord’s purposes are fulfilled, the transformation is completed, and the blessing of the nations is extended fully. The glory of the nations will be revealed, and all human relationships—with God, ourselves, and creation—will be restored.
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Rev. 21:1–5)
On that day, when Christ returns, the discipling of the nations will be completed, and the kings of the earth will bring the glory of the nations to the Lamb—to our King, Jesus Christ (Rev. 21:24–26). Until that ultimate day, we have work to do.
Let’s joyfully do our part to complete the commission, shall we?
- Darrow Miller
This DM&F Classic blog post is excerpted from the book Discipling Nations. For the entire text go here.