I am writing to you, little children, because you know the Father.
I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning.
I am writing to you, young people, because you are strong and the word of God abides in you,
and you have overcome the evil one. Do not love the world or the things of the world.
–1 John 2:14-15
To understand the New Testament, we must enter the world view of the first Christians as much as possible. We must enter their apocalyptic mindset. They believed the world would soon be ending. The passage above was written by one who believed the end was near. 1 John 2:17 typifies the nascent Christian view: the world and the desire for it are passing away….
We are not obligated to adopt the first Christians’ timetable of Earth’s duration. From our vantage point, we may believe otherwise—that the world will be around for a long, long time. No one, of course, can ever be sure. Our generation is armed to the teeth with enough nuclear weaponry to destroy the planet. Astronomers scour the universe for space debris; asteroids of the size that killed the dinosaurs. We never can know fully what tomorrow will bring; what the next year will bring. How many, at this time last year, imagined face masks would be the fashion statement of 2020?
My undergraduate majors were economics and history. Now, nearly forty years beyond graduation, I think history has served me the better of the two. I remember my history professors at the University of Pittsburgh, including one who left for a new position in the history department of the University of Virginia. He didn’t live very long after making that move. He didn’t know what was coming; neither did the dinosaurs.
Lately, before bedtime, I’ve been reading history in the area of science and religion. Those of the past who were seeking answers to big questions fascinate me. One man, a Scotsman named James Iverach (1839-1922), is heralded by Prof. James R. Moore as one of a few in his era who made room for Darwin’s science in the articulation of his Christian faith. Iverach was a pastor in mining communities in Scotland and didn’t gain a college faculty position until age 48. He taught into his 80s, always integrating the unfolding of science into his faith in Christ. Some of his books are still in print.
The verses at the top of this page are a rhythmic recitation of the age levels that received the letter of First John long ago. There were little children, young adults, fathers and mothers. The exhortation to them was to be steadfast in faith by not falling in love with the things of the world. If the world ends tomorrow, I hope I’m doing what James Iverach did during his time: integrating the discoveries, events, and concerns of life into a vibrant faith in Christ. At the end, I want it to be said that I kept God first and loved God more than the things of the world. Sinners though we are, we’re at our best when keeping God first—in our work, searching, and in our engagements with the questions and needs of our time. The questions never stop and the needs around us are always waiting for our loving attention and care…
I am writing to you…keeping faith with you in Christ,
Pastor Doug Heagy