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There are three questions that bother me in regards to where our society is headed. We discussed the first two last week (How do we define truth? What do we consider beautiful).
The third question that concerns me is:
What’s going to happen to western civilization?
Now, I try not to be a “Christian Alarmist” and go around telling people that the world is about to end and there is nothing you can do about it except wait for the rapture and buy my book (though I would appreciate you buying my book… but that’s another point).
But, I do want to be a “Christian Realist”.
What I mean by “Christian Realist” is that I do acknowledge the reality that, by all indications, sometime within the next two generations, the end of Western Civilization as we know it will end.
The world is changing and the dominant cultural civilization for the past 500 years or so is reaching its end.
But, let’s contextualize this a bit: all civilizations come and go; and ours has been around for a long time. It’s also historically proven that there are rules to the longevity of a civilization – if you do certain things, the civilization grows, and if you fail to do those things or do other things, it dies.
In light of all this, there are several theories as to what might end Western Civilization before the end of the 21st century:
Islam – however, 1) the Islamic growth rate has actually curbed downward in recent years. And more importantly, 2) As British historian Arnold Toynbee once said:
“Great civilizations are not murdered. They commit suicide.”
In other words, we can say that the problem with western civilization is that Islamic culture is going to take over the world. But, historically, civilizations don’t take over other civilizations, but rather they weaken themselves to the point of oblivion.
Other possible ideas as to why western civilization is nearing its end are: The current and future generations aren’t being equipped to mature properly and “grow up” and face truth; Traditional family values aren’t held closely and protected as they have been for the past several centuries; Our lack of a solid work ethic has made western countries dependent on other societies; We are becoming more technologically advanced without the parameters of right or wrong to work within… in other words, maybe we shouldn’t do everything that we think of.
Yet, when I look at the world, I see two indicators that are empirical and inarguable, no matter what worldview you happen to hold. I call them the “Two D’s”: Debt and Demographics.
A society cannot survive if it is constantly rolling over more and more debt, which our entire civilization is doing. Then, in the European Union, for example, you have countries that actually need to be propped up that are actually propping up other countries, even though they shouldn’t have any participation in that side of indebtedness.
Personally, if you are a person who is in a lot of debt… I mean in WAY over your head, as we are as a nation and civilization… what does that say about you? It says you are not responsible, make bad decisions, and most of all you don’t know how to delay gratification. You don’t live for the future, you live for the current moment. And, if you do everything you want at the moment that you want it, then you never think about long-term consequences.
This is what debt reveals.
And, civilizations cannot survive if all the individuals, all their leaders, and their governing bodies cater to the people’s immediate desires.
We will discuss the second “D”, demographics, next week in addition to more ways of making sense of your world!