All complex civilisations in human history have eventually collapsed. As the complexity of the Babylonian, Roman and Maya empires increased, their administration eventually became to costly and inflexible, leaving the whole system vulnerable to any famine, war or social uprising that would tear it totally apart. The inevitable collapse were seldom instantaneous, it could take decades or even centuries. What it always produced however was decreased complexity with more decentralised governance, more poverty, rural living and a smaller population.
I am fully convinced that if Jesus doesn’t return to end history soon, we will see modern civilisation collapsing. With modern civilisation I refer to the political and economic structure that is based in the “Western”, white part of the world but that influences all nations of the earth and use their resources. It is totally impossible for its complexity to remain on this level or even higher; sooner or later most of our societies will be thrown back to pre-industrial times, and millions will die.
This gloomy prediction of course contradict the myth of eternal Progress that has been a dominant paradigm in the West. Just like in the early days of the Roman empire, increased wealth, health, education and technology made people believe that the future will be eternally bright, everything will get better and more efficient.
This is very different from a Biblical worldview which predicts that the sinfulness of man will constantly follow and eventually consume us. The book of Revelation talks about how the pseudo-glorious city of Babylon, representing power, wealth and civilisation, will collapse:
Then the kings of the earth who committed sexual immorality and lived in luxury with her will weep and wail at the sight of the smoke rising from the fire that consumes her. In fear of her torment, they will stand at a distance and cry out: “Woe, woe to the great city, the mighty city of Babylon! For in a single hour your judgment has come.” (Rev 18:9-10)
Since the “enlightenment” such apocalyptic descriptions of the future have been mocked by non-Christians. But in recent times there has been much empirical support for the theory that we’re approaching an enormous collapse. Banks make money out of thin air when they give loans, and the only way they can back up the financial numbers they type into their computers is to hope that future growth will create that capital.
This is why economic growth is at the core of the modern economic system – if we don’t have growth, billions of people will lose money. This will throw the system into a vicious circle of unemployment, poverty and destabilisation that will make it vulnurable for the shocks that climate change, food insecurity and potential nuclear wars will bring.
What should we then do? Build bunkers and store tin cans? That would be a very egoistic approach. As Christians, we should always do good in the midst of wars and rumors of wars, not causing chaos but not ignoring it either. Rather than trying to save our own skin we should increase our efforts in helping the poor, saving the lost and building an alternative way of living with the apostolic church in Jerusalem as our role model (Acts 2). We should start more sustainable communities that can help and welcome the refugees of ex-civilisation.