Of Economics And Eschatologies

In the 1990s it seemed everybody was getting rich. The money flowed easily and the stock market was up and to the right.  Americans spent themselves into debt believing they would alway have a job and their wages would continue to increase.

Peoples’ attitudes are quite different today. People are saving money again at the highest rates we’ve seen in years. They are also getting out of debt. They expect money to be tight, jobs uncertain and the stock market unfriendly well into the future.

The difference between the attitude of people in the 1990s and in 2010 is not driven by their understanding of economic theory or history.

It’s something more embarrassingly simple: people assume the way things are are they way they will continue to be.

In the 1990s when things were good, people believed they would continue to be that way. In 2010, things are bad economically, so people assume they will continue that way.

What’s true in economics is true in eschatology. People tend to believe that the way things are is the way they will always be.

I recently read, George Marsden’s book on Jonathan Edwards. Jonathan Edwards, perhaps the greatest American theologian, lived and preached during The Great Awakening, the greatest revival in American history. Edwards’s experience in seeing so many people come to the Lord led him to believe he was at the beginning of an era that would culminate in the millennial peace. Instead, twenty-five years later, America was embroiled in a war for her independence.

Today, with moral standards on the decline and Christianity’s influence seemingly waning, people have increasingly adopted a pessimistic eschatology.  This is why Tim LaHaye’s and Hal Lindsey’s books have been so popular. They ring true to people who attempt to predict the future by merely projecting the present.

Now, think back to the 1990s with me. What if you had saved money throughout the 1990’s, not because of any particular view of the future but because thrift is a Biblical command? Where might you be financially today?

And what if Christians, rather than withdrawing from the world because they perceived the culture as being on an irreversible decline, had continued to lead the culture as the salt and light King Jesus commanded? Where might our culture be today? GS