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How can we avert civilizational collapse?

iStock/Dilok Klaisataporn
iStock/Dilok Klaisataporn

Enjoy the New Year because time is speeding us toward civilizational collapse, according to a recent study by experts at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 

Though the MIT report does not include it, there are other threats even greater than the material environment and economic breakdowns: The crash of spiritual and moral climates.
Irish poet W. B. Yeats spoke of the spin to chaos and breakdowns brought on because the strategic center “could not hold.” Yeats did not identify those centers of cohesion, but many who study social stability and strength would include a healthy worldview, and spiritual vision of the transcendent values that stretch us beyond the merely material and the sources from which those factors arise. In Western Civilization that would be the Bible.

When, at the end of the Second World War, General Douglas MacArthur was assigned the task of restoring civilization in the Pacific — entire cultures and their societies — he said, “It must be the spirit if we are to save the flesh.”

Many students of civilization would agree that the Bible is the sturdy source of the worldview and values of Western Civilization. It has been at the center of strength, and if it is lost, the civilization dependent upon it weakens.

Jordan Peterson, a noted expert in the nature of civilization, described the Bible as the “bedrock” of Western Civilization. In fact, quality of life is a major concern of God. He revealed the principles of healthy civilization in the commands He gave Moses
at Sinai. The Lord stated that He was giving those principles so that “it would go well for” Moses and the people he was leading toward the new society birthed at Sinai.

It is forgetting God, and the fact that He made us humans the keepers, and stewards of the Paradise that God Himself pronounced as “very good.” Thus, the environmental movement is right when it calls us to remember our assignment to care for the natural world. The highest quality of care will be given by people who recognize it as the creation and gift of God to humanity.

The core of moral leadership and the sense of Holy Stewardship are essential if peace and order are to establish high-quality civilizations with minimum legal enforcement. 

Thus, we must not only face the hard questions raised in reports like that from MIT, but the spiritual and moral issues as well. By that measure, the future looks dim and doubtful whether Western civilization will still be around. The Bible is also the source of the blessings that abound in cultures that take it seriously, even if not perfectly. Perhaps this is among the reasons Jordan Peterson has termed the Bible the “bedrock” of civilization. 

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The strong center of cohesion of family is symbolized by the “hearth.” Though the literal version is gone from the modern world, the symbolism of this place of family gathering for conversation and learning endures. 

Author Mary Eberstadt said that the family should be “at the point of casting along core values...”

In a nation where many of the churches have lost the sense of priority for Sunday school, homes forgetting and smothering the “hearth,” and schools and other public institutions are without a Bible, who shapes the worldview and moral values of the people who form the society and are blessed with the privilege of “tending their garden” of virtue?

Interestingly, at least one media class understands their role, and even calls themselves the “influencers.” They add their shrill voices to the extremes of the political establishments and the outcome is social and artistic chaos that weakens and finally destroys civilization.

2024 is upon us and unless we return to the strong structures of civilization, the collapse might appear before 2040. 

Who will teach worldview and moral values to new generations of children?

Consider the fact that some internet stars call themselves "influencers.” 

Wallace B. Henley is a former pastor, daily newspaper editor, White House and Congressional aide. He served 18 years as a teaching pastor at Houston's Second Baptist Church. Henley is author or co-author of more than 25 books, including God and Churchill, co-authored with Sir Winston Churchill's great grandson, Jonathan Sandys. Henley's latest  book is Who will rule the coming 'gods'? The looming  spiritual crisis of artificial intelligence.

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