The End of the World?

  In the new hit movie Deep Impact, a comet threatens to wipe out all life on earth. A few weeks ago, a real-life astronomer predicted that a huge asteroid might one day strike the Earth. He later proved to be wrong, but not before he had terrified millions. Then we learned that India had secretly exploded several nuclear bombs, setting off new fears of a nuclear holocaust. It seems that Westerners are obsessed with the idea that human civilization may soon be wiped out. How should Christians respond to these fears? In a 1948 essay called "Living in the Atomic Age," C. S. Lewis asks how Christians ought to live in an age when atomic weapons—just invented at that time—might destroy the earth. His answer is that we ought to live just as we would have "in the sixteenth century, when the plague visited London almost every year." We ought to live as we would have a thousand years before that, when Viking raiders might have landed any night and cut our throats. In other words, the threat of disaster has always hung over humanity, and Christians in every age must be ready to face death. Of course, what was new about atomic weapons was their ability to wipe out all of humanity in one fell swoop. But even that leaves Lewis unruffled. What did you think was going to happen to the human race, he asks, had we not invented atomic weapons? According to the second law of thermodynamics—the law that describes how the universe is winding down—the story of humanity will come to an end some day, with or without atomic bombs. This simple fact is a matter of real concern only if material existence is all there is. "We see at once… that the important question is not whether an atomic bomb is going to obliterate 'civilization,' " Lewis writes. "The important question is whether 'nature'… is the only thing in existence." If nature is all there is—if there is no God—then nuclear war will simply speed up the inevitable. It makes little difference whether we are exterminated or not because, as Lewis put it, life is nothing more than a "meaningless play of atoms in space and time." But if there is a God Who made us for a purpose and stands outside of His creation—why then, Lewis says, we need not worry about world destruction, because our true home is elsewhere. Global catastrophe will simply serve to send us to that home more quickly. If the world is destroyed by atomic weapons, Lewis writes, let the bombs "find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs." Or thinking about comets or cancer or car accidents, for that matter. Good advice. Read Lewis's wonderful essay for a greater understanding of this profound truth. It's also a great witnessing tool. Why not hand it out to any friends who are obsessed with disasters—on film or in real life. And then you can use films like Deep Impact to start a conversation with your unsaved friends that is "earth-shattering" in the best sense of the word.  


Chuck Colson


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