The Future of Hope: Christian Tradition amid Modernity and Postmodernity

The Future of Hope: Christian Tradition amid Modernity and Postmodernity

The Future of Hope: Christian Tradition amid Modernity and Postmodernity

The Future of Hope: Christian Tradition amid Modernity and Postmodernity

Excerpt

Over the last three decades a major cultural shift has taken place in the attitudes of Western societies toward the future. Optimism has given way to a sense of ambiguity, messianic and utopian modes of thought have capitulated before the drawing of apocalyptic scenarios. This shift is not just a fleeting mood. Instead, it rides on two major cultural developments. One is the wider cultural shift from modernity, with its orientation toward the bright future, to what has been rather vaguely called postmodernity, with its stress on the extension of an ambiguous present. The other and related development is an increasing awareness of the fragility of our natural and social environments, a sense of living in a “risk society” marked by “manufactured certainty,” in a world where nobody knows what the risks facing humanity are. Both of these developments, and their interaction, have contributed to the disappearance of the resolute optimism that characterized modernity. if

1. See John Leslie, The End of the World: The Science and Ethics of Human Extinction
(New York: Routledge, 1996). Indicative of the predominance of apocalyptic modes of
thought in religious circles is the immense popularity of the Left Behind series. For exam
ple, see Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, Left Behind: A Novel of the Earth's Last Days
(Wheaton: Tyndale House, 1995).

2. Zygmunt Bauman, Life in Fragments: Essays in Postmodern Morality (Oxford:
Blackwell, 1995).

3. Ulrich Beck, Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity, trans. Mark Ritter (London:
Sage, 1992).

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