Facing the next revolution

Credit: NASA and STScI

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On July 12, 2022, at 14:30 GMT I couldn’t contain my emotions while downloading the first image from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope. As I marvelled at the composite photo of the Stellar nursery in the Carina Nebula (my favourite so far), I couldn’t help but recall the words of my late grandfather, a career pastor/missionary and a pillar of spiritual strength for me: “God would surely not permit our fallen world to explore outer space, let alone land on the moon.” 

Yet the landing on the moon did happen, and Voyager 1 (Earth’s furthest-travelling spacecraft) entered interstellar space in August 2012. 

There is an innate danger in using our limited and often dated worldviews or social constructs to interpret biblical eternal truths. 

Our Church might still be wrapping its mind around postmodernism and adapting methodologies of evangelism accordingly, sometimes oblivious to the fact that postmodernism started as far back as the 1940s and declined in the late ’80s, superseded by Metamodernism which started in the mid-’70s. The world has moved on.

We think of ourselves as quite “innovative” when we embrace new media platforms, but often make the mistake of not first understanding the worldview of our actual audience. Are we even speaking their language? Do we really understand where they are coming from?

There’s a way for our Church to be more relevant in this day and age. Relax: it doesn’t involve diluting our theology by talking of God’s love, minus the transformational repentance or embracing the prosperity gospel or last generation theology. Instead, we as a Church need to tackle the upcoming disruptive social revolutions heading our way if we want to see a thriving next generation of Adventism.

Each generation currently alive has had to struggle with social pressures of their times: 

For the silent generation and baby boomers, it was smoking, alcohol, dancing and adornment.

For the Gen Xers, it was substance abuse and the sexual revolution.

For Millennials and Gen Z, it’s gender identity/dysphoria. 

For the upcoming Generation Alpha, brace yourselves for post-humanism (gene editing, multi-planetary migration, the metaverse, cyborgs, synthetic life extension and artificial consciousness or transhumanism). 

I’m a dad with kids who will face this next revolution. I have to ask myself how I am preparing them for what is next. Let us learn from the foresight of the NASA and European Space Agency aerospace engineers: While the James Webb Space Telescope was launched on Dec 25, 2021 and pictures only started to flow in July 2022, its inception dates back to 1996, six years after the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope. The engineers who conceived of the JWS Telescope are now in retirement and some, in the grave. But they built it unselfishly, knowing that the fruit-reaping would be done by the next generation.

Woe to us, for resting on our laurels, or navel-gazing, teaching the Bible as though our audience is stuck in a time-capsule from the 1950s. Let’s do our utmost to understand the tectonic plates of societal change shifting beneath us. Let’s find ways to share truth in the midst of all this change. We have a job to do, a “Great Commission” to answer and a message for the modern world.

Dr Daryl Gungadoo is the director of the Adventist Review Media Lab, General Conference. This article appeared in UK’s Messenger magazine, August 2022.

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