Our view of the future shapes the present

How we view the future can have a profound effect on how we act in the present.

I’ve always been somewhat fascinated with the future. In fact, some of my favourite science fiction—Back to the Future, Star Trek, and the like—deals with the notion of time travel. Even in church, I remember hearing super-detailed sermons based on the book of Revelation about what future events would look like. I obsessed over books and movies depicting the battle of Armageddon or explaining how some country or other allegedly fit into prophecies about the end of history.

Our culture is no less fixated on future events. Environmentalists’ dire warnings about the impending doom of climate change are starting to be taken more seriously. Technology writers tell us that we are in the midst of an innovation explosion that may rival the Industrial Revolution—we have become accustomed to exponential growth in the abilities of our digital devices. Perhaps 3D printers will make Star Trek replicators a reality soon, so that like Captain Jean-Luc Picard we will be able to tell our smart kitchens “tea, earl grey, hot,” and be obeyed. Never has the future seemed simultaneously as bright and as dark.

How we view the future can have a profound effect on how we act in the present. Some future-obsessed Christians have steeled themselves for the Apocalypse to such a degree that mere earthly concerns have been dismissed. Why get involved in politics, save the planet, or undertake any major endeavours that will just be destroyed in the calamities of the End Times?

On the other extreme, when we believe that the march of technological and social progress is leading toward an inevitably bright future, we may be more apt to invest heavily in the present. In this way, we seek to participate in that progress and reap its rewards. An exaggerated belief in such unrelenting progress led investors to bet billions of dollars on the “next big thing” of internet companies at the turn of the century. Many of those investors lost their billions just as quickly when the bubble burst.

As with many areas of life, a healthy attitude toward the future means avoiding either of these extremes. Solomon’s Proverbs encourage us to be prudent in preparing for whatever the future may bring. Jesus warned his disciples against “false prophets” who would claim to know about the End Times and the return of the Messiah. He encouraged them to always be ready for his return by observing his teachings faithfully.

In other words, we must not count on knowing the future. We can know about the past, and we are experiencing the present, but no one really knows about the future. It doesn’t really exist until we get there. While it may be interesting to speculate—and make for some great movies—we can get off track with an unhealthy obsession over it. Therefore, we must strive to live well in the present and not hold too tightly to the things of this world that can pass away.

But if they come out with one of those Star Trek kitchen replicators I’m still getting one.