Timeframes

From Gary North, How Much Time?

[My comments in brackets]

The Hebrews were promised a kingdom land in Canaan. Yet the promise took several centuries to come true, from Abraham’s day to Joshua’s, and the period of training involved years of captivity and four decades in the wilderness. So while their advent into the promised land was a sharp discontinuity from the point of view of the Canaanites of Moses’ day, from the point of view of the Hebrews, it was a long-term process. The foundations had been laid between Abraham’s era and Joshua’s; the seemingly rapid completion of the structure was possible only because of the centuries of theological, ecclesiastical, and institutional investment that had preceded it.

[A broadly-unexpected disaster from the eyes of the Canaanites: but a long, hard slog from the point of view of God’s people.

Hmmm. I wonder who the Canaanites of today are, and who is walking in the way of God’s people…?

History never repeats exactly: I would have never expected the Canaanites to slaughter their own children, and so leave God’s people with wells they have not dug, and vineyards they did not plant.

The future will be very glorious for God’s people… but it will be a very strange, odd, and unexpected future.]

Does it make sense to criticize the short-run builder? It depends. The British in the early nineteenth century built their rails with the best, most expensive steel available. It consumed huge quantities of financial capital. Americans built their railroads using cheaper materials that were only expected to last a couple of decades. Meanwhile, tremendous gains were made in metallurgy, and by the time the American rails were worn out, they could be replaced with far better rails-than the British possessed, and at a far lower expenditure of capital. Throughout the intervening years, the builders had the extra capital to use for other purposes. They “built cheap,” and let technology come up with the better product later on. The same thing has happened in our era with computer technology. It is not sensible to “buy ahead” when you buy a computer; increased needs in the future should be purchased in the future, when prices will be far lower and capacity will be higher.

[Not everything is long term, especially in a time of great technological advancement. Some things are meant to last, though…]

But what about the long-run builder? Is he foolish? It depends on whether or not we really have a lot of time remaining to us — collectively, as a race; nationally; or geographically, where we are building our structures. Maybe there were Canaanites who went to considerable expense just prior to the exodus to build family estates that would last 500 years. Not too smart, in retrospect; they were just increasing the capital value of the Hebrews’ property. If we expend huge quantities of long-term capital, and discover that it is blown away by short-term forces of history, then we have wasted our capital. However, if we blow away our capital on short-run projects, only to discover that we have run out of money a long time before the end appears, then we have also wasted our resources. It is imperative, then, that we make accurate assessments concerning the time remaining to us.

[The quick’n’dirty version: “Don’t be a Canaanite.”]

In medieval times, communities built cathedrals that were expected to last for a thousand years, and some of them have. Generations of local contributors and craftsmen would add their money, goods, or services to the long-run construction project. These majestic buildings are no doubt being used by people who do not hold dear the religious beliefs held by the builders, which is the best argument against what they did, but at the same time, these structures attest to the long-run vision they shared, their hope for the future, and their willingness to sacrifice present income for the sake of the beauty which many generations after them would enjoy. If they built their cathedrals for narrowly ecclesiastical reasons — a vision of the church and church worship — then they may have erred, for the church in our day has abandoned the kind of supernaturalism that the builders revered. However, if they built in terms of a broader-based kingdom ideal — an ideal encompassing beauty, majesty, craftsmanship, and architectural skill — then their efforts were not wasted. Of course, it seems likely that they built for both reasons, for the kingdom clearly encompasses the church as an institution, so part of their desires have been frustrated. But time frustrates almost every human vision to some extent, and theirs at least has persevered in the realm of aesthetics. Like the builders of the tabernacle, or Solomon’s temple, their efforts were later misused by evil men, but they left a heritage nonetheless.

[The wise Christian needs to build on a sturdier foundation than stone and beautiful art. Too bad most believers don’t even reach as high in their vision as the medieval believers did, never mind try to surpass them!]

The book producer knows that his book may stand the test of time. It may survive and become the foundation of a new movement, a new school of interpretation, the basis of a new civilization. Certainly, Augustine’s writings became just that (William Carroll Bark, Origins of the Medieval World). So did Aquinas’ books, and Calvin’s. Would they have better spent their time writing tracts alone? Would our heritage have been greater? Few people would say so today, I suspect. One thinks of Gregor Mendel, the obscure monastic, working with his peas. No one read his report on genetic variation when it was first published a century ago in an obscure scientific journal, but his research became the basis of modern genetics a generation later. Was he wasting his time? From what he could see when he died a century ago, he had. He was wrong.

[God moves in the ways He pleases. So in your work, leave the gates open for the Holy Spirit to move as He wills.]

The sprinters of the theological world have left very little as an inheritance. Those who have planned to “evangelize Africa in a generation,” or “win the youth of the nation by 1976,” or whatever, have pursued a demonic goal — demonic because it sidetracks the construction of long-term Christian projects in favor of short-term, unrealizable, and very expensive campaigns that are, of necessity, concerned only with the surface of Christian faith and Christian culture. Better to plan for a long-term program to subdue the whole earth, generation by generation, than to squander our capital in a short-term sprint to save a remnant and then leave the world to the devil. Aim high, aim carefully, and shoot long. Time is on our side because God controls time and has given to His people all the time they need to carry out the terms of the dominion covenant. It will take time for our capital to become totally productive, like the orchard. Maybe that is one reason why God forbids us to eat the produce of the orchard until its fifth year (Lev. 19:23-25): a reminder that we have plenty of time left to enjoy the fruit of our labor. Therefore, get to work planting, today.

[Don’t let Satan cause you to waste your gifts on only short-term projects. God means to conquer and expand His dominion in this world, year by year. Christ is King today, and not just in some distant future.

The short-term does have an honourable place, but the long-term must also be respected and funded. Despising the long term hands the work of civilization to Satan… as if he was the victor, and not Christ.

Such an act is indeed demonic. This is God’s world, and God’s men shall inherit it, and be used as God’s tools and God’s servants to build God’s Kingdom – and force Satan (that broken, loathsome loser!) back off God’s land, down from the high places, and flung from the centres of power.

It is Christ’s glory to triumph – as He has already done definitely, and will do before our very eyes – and Satan’s curse to fail and fall.

Cultures, nations, and men who follow Christ win – in this world, as well as the next.
Cultures, nations, and men who follow Satan lose – in this world, as well as the next.]

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