My blog posts revolve around my interests and vocation as a historian: the intersection of history and contemporary church life, the intersection of history and contemporary politics, serendipitous discoveries in archives or on research trips, publications and research projects, upcoming conferences, and speaking engagements.
I also blog for two other organizations, the Canadian Baptist Historical Society and the Centre for Post-Christendom Studies.
The views expressed in these blogs represent the views of the authors, and not necessarily those of any organizations with which they are associated.
Is it the end of the world? Certainly times are tough, for alongside threats of climate change, economic downturn, and war in various hotspots around the planet, there is a global pandemic killing way too many people, causing widespread grief, and striking fear into the hearts of billions.
For some, the world has never faced such a cascade of woes, and they are convinced such terrors are a sure sign of the end of times. But are they?
They could be. But not necessarily.
If hard times are the sign of the end times, then perhaps we are not yet there, for the world has seen much worse.
Consider a recent book that I have read by Geoffrey Parker entitled Global Crisis: War, Climate Change & Catastrophe in the Seventeenth Century (YUP, 2013). The seventeenth century was a terrible century in human history. Yes, there were advances in science, philosophy, religion, etc., but in terms of human suffering it was an annus horribilis on a grand scale over generations. It was a perfect storm of global cooling, revolution, famine, war, and the breakdown of government. One seventeenth-century commentator in Spain expressed what many were thinking: “Sometimes providence condemns the world with universal and evident calamities, whose causes we cannot know. This seems to be one of the epochs in which every nation is turned upside down, leading some great minds to suspect that we are approaching the end of the world.” (xxiv) The disasters were truly global, with tens of millions suffering and dying across the nations of Europe, India, China, Japan, Africa and the Americas. It was what led Thomas Hobbes to write his famous words “the life of man [was] solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”
My point is not to downplay the seriousness of the pandemic. It is serious and tragic.
My point is also not to deny the hope offered by the promised second coming of Jesus, a central confession of all Christian traditions that provides comfort in a world that may seem to be spinning out of control.
My aim is merely to provide some perspective in the midst of gloom and doom reports, and especially in light of what some fear-mongers are saying about how the horrible times “proves” the end of the world is nigh. Such fear is debilitating, anxiety producing, and contagious. But there is a way to immunize oneself against such fear: read some history. Not all history is enjoyable – and the Global Crisis: War, Climate Change & Catastrophe in the Seventeenth Century is certainly not pleasurable bedtime reading – but the more you read, the more you become immunized against the words of fear-mongers and false prophets. Consider reading such works to be “getting your shots” – a bit of pain now to save yourself from more pain in the future.
 See the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed.