Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The End of the World?

There is something about reaching my age that has resulted in all of the clerks at my local pharmacy recognizing me by sight if not by name. I now seem to make a daily trip to Walgreen’s, if not to have a prescription filled then to make some other sort of purchase. I don’t suppose that is really unusual, since the pharmacy is a minor part of the store. I now find myself purchasing groceries, cat food, even light bulbs there.

As I reflect on this, I realize that the ability to park my car right outside the store’s front door has a lot to do with my new shopping habit; walking a few yards is much simpler for me than walking a couple of hundred yards through a humongous parking lot to a Wal-Mart or even a supermarket.

At the drug store, the clerks now greet me when I enter and, if there is no line of customers behind me when I checkout, we may spend a few minutes chatting. That’s what happened yesterday, as the news media was reporting the tragedy of the 7.6-magnitude earthquake in the Himalayan regions of India and Pakistan.

As I reached the checkout counter, the clerk said that the most recent earthquake was an awful disaster. I replied, “Yes, we seem to have had an abnormal number of catastrophes in the last year.”

The clerk hesitated a moment and said, “I wonder if these are signs that the world is coming to an end.”

We are approaching the end of the world? I really can’t fathom that; however, I would bet my next mortgage payment that there are many people currently studying eschatological literature to find the answer to that question. For example, in 1 John 2:18 we find: “Children, it is the last hour! As you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. From this we know that it is the last hour.”

As I am sure you are aware, eschatology is “the study (or doctrine) of last things.” The majority of Mainline Christians do not spend a lot of time dealing with eschatology; we would rather leave the last things up to God, remembering that Matthew’s Gospel has Jesus say, “But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." (Matthew 24:36). Of course, the horrendous catastrophes of this year—the Indian Ocean tsunami of last December, the Iranian earthquake of last February, the Sumatra earthquake of last March, the Chilean earthquake of last June, Hurricanes Dennis, Emily, Katrina, plus floods in Afghanistan, Bulgaria, the Central African Republic, Canada, Georgia, China, Costa Rica, Kyrgyzstan, Macedonia, Pakistan, Serbia, Montenegro, Sierra Leone, and Venezuela plus droughts and volcanic eruptions—may make even those who are not interested in eschatology to begin to wonder.

I really don’t think that these are signs of the end times. The Religious Tolerance website has a list of some seven dozen “end of the world” predictions that have never come to be. Another website that will provide hope that the “signs” and natural disasters since last December do not indicate the world is about to end is It’s the End of the World as We Know It…Again.

I’m ready to end this post. My answer to the pharmacy clerk is, “No, I don’t believe that these are signs that the world is coming to an end.” Why? Let’s just say that part of the answer is that my theology includes a God whose other name is Love.


  1. Good post.. and yes - I have to agree with you Nick. The world can't be coming to an end - I'm still young, and there is way too many things I still need to do in this life! :-)

  2. That's funny, my sister and I were talking about this the other day. A lot of people must be worrying about the "signs". However, we got there from discussing the change in youth and people in general being more and more about self gratification. Kids becoming more and more active sexually - not so alarming as the abundance of nonchalance about it. Oral sex on school buses while your peers watch - and consider it no big deal. It is frightening.

  3. I think the earth will be unsuitable for human life in another century or so. But I don't think God will do it; we will.

  4. I wrote this post because I couldn’t think of anything else to write. Personally, I have no concern about the world ending in my life time or that the catastrophes of this year are God’s way of showing us “signs” of the end.

    Audrey: You have a lot if living to do, so I wouldn’t worry about God cutting your life short. Enjoy each day!

    SonSon: I agree that a lot of people are wondering what’s going on. I’m not sure if people are more into self gratification today than in the past. I rather think that each generation has engaged in about the same behaviors; oral sex on the school bus was, not to many years ago, oral sex in the hay loft. Perhaps the real difference today is there is more awareness of what is happening and a willingness not to turn one head and pretend it doesn’t exist.

    Thomas: You’ve gone to where I was heading had I decided to write more. We humans are destroying the earth. Personally, I believe there is a link between global warming and the increased number of catastrophes, although the meteorologists that I have read indicate that what is happening is just part of a normal cycle. I really don’t know, but I agree that our planet is in imminent danger from the excesses of humankind.

  5. There is no way the world is going to end before I finish making my car payments. The bank wouldn't let it.

  6. Abbey: In our society the bank may have that power!