Very few people take the time to notice that the way one lives life reveals a way of viewing the world. I was in my fifties before I became aware of the vision impairment of humans. I was raised to believe that the world was worthless and condemned, worthy of only destruction. I did not know that I had been taught a way to view the world. In my late twenties I began to see the world as whole, restored in Jesus and slowly working out that restoration in every area of life. That point of view was certainly more hopeful, however, in time I began to see that economic progress is not a signifier of how the world is progressing. There have been many empires which have gathered much wealth, but they have fallen, both before and after Christ. The kingdom is not slowly growing out of the curse and reversing it. The world is not getting better with each passing day.
There is a reason for the discontent and even the hopelessness of people that are not able to lift themselves up by their bootstraps into a better position in life. The least of these will be with us until the end of the age—and as long as humans are able to die, the earthly creation is still under the curse.
Certainly, Jesus Christ inaugurated a new age. He sits at the right hand of the Father ruling and reigning in heaven. Yet, Satan still roams about like a roaring lion seeking those he may devour. That crafty lion has been putting on a lot of weight over the two plus millennia since Jesus took the throne. There seems to be no stopping his feeding spree anytime soon. And yet, Jesus does reign in created heaven. The promise of a new age on Earth is unfulfilled yet still true.
These days, I am not foolish enough to think that I can put together the pieces in the correct order so that the finished picture can be seen. Yet I wonder if the two main ways of seeing the Scriptures are not more influenced by economic theory than Scripture.
In the nineteenth century those that knew they would never be economically prosperous or be able to pick themselves up by their own bootstraps found hope in the pre-millennial return of Jesus. They needed to escape the world as it was. At the same time, those that were doing well in the new economy began to read Scripture through the lens of a long, slow yet steady, increase in the kingdom of God on Earth topped off by Jesus coming back and saying: “Well, done you good and faithful servants.”
I am starting to understand that both views (and I have embraced them both in my lifetime) are too simplistic for the real world, the cursed world. The curse is too entwined in humanity to be eliminated from people who have not died to themselves and dying to oneself takes a lifetime. Thus, the reason for this section of the book.
My understanding is that we are at a crossroad where humanity is seeing modernity getting closer to the end of the road and post-modernity beginning to blossom. As the stabilizing fiction of modernity comes to an end, the devastation and reality of fragmentation will come into clearer focus. And we will find ourselves in a place that is best described by this well-known poem:
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.
Postmodernism will then have its reign of terror. But that is not the end of the story because the author of the human race has written a different story and that story is a mystery.
Praise for Louder Than Words
“Louder than Words is a true cri de coeur. … The reader cannot come away unscathed. … All those whose hearts cry out for a more coherent lifestyle in God’s good creation ought to read this work.”
—Kerry John Hollingsworth, editor of Walking in the Way of the Word: The Collected Writings of H. Evan Runner
“Louder than Words is a refreshingly transparent book, drenched with the reflection and depth of a theologian, the humility of a servant, and the caring of a shepherd. … This is an important book for our times.”
—Juan Guajardo, high school teacher
“Stephens helpfully traces the fragmentation of Western culture and shows how individual human experience follows suit. He demonstrates that this fragmentation exists because of the curse on man for his rebellion against God. Stephens offers the only solution to societal and personal fragmentation. This renewal of wholeness … can be found only in the resurrected Christ. I heartily recommend this work.”
—Jeffry S. Harlow, Teaching Elder, Trinity Reformed Church, Moscow, Idaho
“In the midst of a world that is reeling in a sea of brokenness and strife, Stephens offers a profound view of cause and effect by taking the reader on a journey back to the beginning of creation and moving through the time continuum to our present-day chaos. Stephens’ faith witness gives the beacon of hope that the world needs to hear at this time.”
—Diana DeWitt, Founder and Executive Director, Aspen Tree Ministries
About the Author
Brad Stephens is a bi-vocational pastor near Nashville, Tennessee. He is an Assistant Professor of Biblical Worldview at Edinburgh Theological Seminary (ETS), Edinburg, Texas, with a master’s in Clinical Psychology from Middle Tennessee State University, a master’s in Theology from ETS and a doctorate in Biblical Worldview from ETS.