Thursday, April 16, 2009

Moltmann on creating the future

"We tend to think that the future comes with time. That is how it used to be. But if humanity's threat to itself by atomic, chemical and biological means of mass destruction and by the rapidly developing destruction of nature becomes a total threat, then the future is no longer a matter of course, but must be deliberately 'created'. Its own life-span is within human power, and we must keep creating new respites for life if we want the life of coming generations and the life of the beings which live with us on this earth. The human race has become mortal. Our time has had a limit put on it. That is a new situation in human history, in which Christian faith and Christian theology must also find a place. As a result of this possibility of annihilation, the time in which the end of humankind and all higher living beings on this earth has become possible has taken on the character of an end-time in a banal sense which is not at all apocalyptic. In this situation it is more important to learn the new questions of life and death to which we still have no saving answers than to repeat the old answers to the questions of former generations."

- Jürgen Moltmann, Creating a Just Future
(trans. John Bowden; London: SCM, 1989), vii.

How new are the threats that face humanity? Does the rise of nuclear weapons or the scale of ecological destruction raise a novel situation for us? In the past, this or that society could face catastrophe or decline due to their own actions, hostile forces or natural disasters, but some of the threats of today are potentially global in scope in a way not previously imaginable. Is there are qualitative, not simply quantitive difference here? Has humanity itself become mortal?

Personally, I think that while we would have to try very hard to erase ourselves entirely from existence, I don't believe it is beyond our power to cause ourselves massive damage. Indeed, this is patently the case with total nuclear war, which, despite the end of the cold war, still remains only minutes away should certain key individuals so decide. However, the threat from ecological and resource degradation is of a differ order. It is to this difference that I will turn in my next post.


Benjamin Ady said...
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