Living in the Presence of the Future
Anyone who has heard Roy McCloughry speak will know his impressive ability to read and understand a wide variety of material, and then to bring it together, connect it and make it accessible to the ordinary person. This book demonstrates that facility exceptionally well, and its broad sweep of the contemporary world is easy to read and both comforting and challenging. Roy's background in economics and sociology comes across strongly, but also his deep commitment to the gospel and its eternal hope and relevance in our rapidly changing world.
Those who are already well read in this area may learn little new - I found the strength of the book is in its bringing together explanations and ideas which shed light on all aspects of our modern culture, from globalisation and the impact of technology to relationships and the loss of community. There are many exceedingly concise quotes to ponder and for preachers to use. As an example, I liked his 'fourfold calling of the church : to be responsible for the world, to celebrate the world, to prophesy to the world and to suffer with the world'. Also, how we have 'moved away from wisdom, first to knowledge, then to information and now to data', so that our society, rather than growing wise, merely stores up data about people and things, thinking that this is increasing knowledge. His likening of the Medieval world to a game of chess, the industrialising world to Monopoly and our post-modern culture to the Lottery is both succinct and worth pondering.
The last sentence of the book gives a flavour of the hope he engenders: 'Despite the challenges it brings and the unfamiliar landscape it creates, post-modernity may turn out to be the greatest opportunity the church has had in a long time to live out the gospel before the eyes of a watching world'. His last chapter moves away from analysis to application in our Christian lives, and I found some of his insights pertinent and illuminating, showing how we view even the Christian life differently from our forefathers as we look through the lens of our modern culture. I liked his observation that our worship of the gods of efficiency and progress can lead to our seeing prayer as yet another method of problem solving which can produce demonstrable effects.
There is so much that is stimulating I could fill this review with quotations. Suffice it to say that I cannot speak too highly of this book and would urge all who feel threatened and perplexed by the way things are to read it. As those around us demonstrate our corporate amnesia about what society is for ('there is more to human life than comfort, entertainment and the avoidance of suffering'), Roy helps us to understand our restlessness with our own lives and the state of the world, evidence, as he points out, of the Spirit working in us and our movement towards the future hope we have because of the resurrection of Jesus.