Let’s consider two ways of looking at the meaning of time and events: naturalism and messianism. There are certainly other ideas about history, the present, and the future, but for simplicity’s sake, I’m only interested in these two. By naturalism I mean that the natural which we observe is all there is, so that we must accept the meaninglessness and entropy of all that is. By messianism I mean the Jewish and Christian hope of a hidden tendency of time to run from death to life, from decay to renewal, from divine silence to divine Presence.
What will happen to us? What will come of this decaying world? How do we explain the current meaninglessness of our existence? What could a messiah or a messianic age or some arc toward a messianic age have to do with anything?
This is all very much on my mind as I am engaged in a year-long close reading of Isaiah and also teaching a series on Future Hope at our congregation. It’s tempting to pull a Pacal’s wager here:
- Either naturalism is true or messianism (though admittedly there are more options that two).
- If naturalism, then there is no inherent meaning or hope for ultimate goodness and beauty but only the dread reality of increasing decay.
- If messianism, then present meaninglessness and decay will be reversed.
- People with hope live better than people without and messianism should cause us to work in the present for the values of the messianic future.
- We may as well believe in messianism since there is no cost to being wrong but there is present value if we are right.
What more can we say about naturalism vs. messianism? Continue reading