In “Futureville,” the author, Skye Jethani, contends that the way individuals envision the future shapes the way they live their lives in the present. He further contends that the way the church sees the future has a profound effect on how it goes about establishing a sense of purpose and dignity in individual Christians.
Jethani sets forth three pathways to the future and shows how each of these affects the value the church places on works of individual members. He states that there was a time in church history (which he labels as “evolution”) during which Christians believed that it was the duty of the church to bring about “Futureville.” This involved the duty to bring about ongoing progress toward social order, improvement, and transformation. This was an optimistic era with an expectation of continual progression toward perfection. It emphasized cultural causes, with less emphasis on individual salvation.
However, Jethani contends that in the early 20th Century, with the onset of world wars, Western civilization abandoned the vision of perpetual social progress. This was replaced by a belief that “the world was deteriorating into moral and spiritual chaos.” Christians began believing that God’s judgment was imminent. At this point, rather than social activism, the church saw the primary goal as repentance and salvation. Jethani labeled this pathway to the future as “evacuation.” Evacuation mode was predicated on a view that nothing of this world is of any importance (other than saved souls) because it would be destroyed.
Jethani argues that both the evolution and evacuation pathways result in a hierarchy within the church that devalues the works of many Christians who are not in certain positions in the church. He contends that the church unwittingly communicates that the works performed by those in an institutional church setting are superior to those of a Christian in a secular profession. Instead, Jethani argues for a “resurrection” pathway to the future in which value is given based on a cultivation of order, beauty, and abundance in whatever a person’s present job or situation entails.
I found the first two portions of the book, those describing evolution and evacuation, interesting and engaging. The different views of the future and how they affect individual’s actions in the present was thought provoking. I also found the idea that Western civilization has changed in the view over time to be intriguing. However, I was not fully persuaded by the distinction between evolution and evaluation as an historical change. It seem that it is more an ideological difference. More liberal or progressive churches, even today, have followed an evolution model by promoting social issues and placing individual salvation in a less prominent place. On the other hand, conservative churches have emphasized the evacuation pathway with the greatest emphasis on individual salvation, and less on social improvement.
However, in truth, I believe many modern churches actually have a blend of both the evolution and evacuation pathways, with emphasis on both social improvement and individual salvation. In other words, to clarify his points, Jethani somewhat over-generalizes the different pathways and how they occur within the church. I was also somewhat less persuaded by his resurrection pathway, but only because I do not see great conflict between secular Christian’s roles within the church and those with institutional roles. Surely the distinction exists to some degree, but I do not see it as a problem within the body of Christ. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the points brought up by the author and the thought-provoking ideas addressed in the book.
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