Brave new world!

Perhaps you’ve read Aldous Huxley’s terrifying dystopian novel by that name. He borrowed the title from Act V of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and it comes from the mouth of Prospero’s shipwrecked daughter as she contemplates her new life on a remote island:

MIRANDA: Oh, wonder! How many goodly creatures are there here! How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world, That has such people in’t!

PROSPERO: ’Tis new to thee.

The pace of social change in our times might make you feel as though you are living in a different world too, although you might not be as optimistic as Miranda. Social historians call the era after World War I the Age of Modernity. The old empires and aristocracies of Europe crumbled away, and their former colonies declared independence one by one. The decades at the end of the 20th century are called the Postmodern Age, in which it was fashionable to be skeptical of everything. The Polish social observer Zygmunt Bauman thought that Postmodernism had morphed again, and he called the present era the Age of Liquid Modernity. Bauman saw our world as bereft of any moorings whatsoever. People are rootless, insecure, afraid, and have no frame of reference for anything.

Yesterday                     Today
Staying                        Shifting
Permanent                  Provisional
Certain                        Uncertain
Bauman observed that people today flow through life like tourists—changing places to live, changing jobs, changing spouses, changing values, changing politics, changing personal philosophy, and even changing gender (example: California IDs and birth certificates will now offer boxes to check as “male,” “female,” and “nonbinary.” That last category is for people who aren’t sure which gender they are or for those who would like to go back and forth). People want freedom from all the old restrictions or societal morality, but that freedom comes at the cost of the traditional networks of support.

Writer Ferdinand Mount agrees and observes tartly that every one of the traditional seven deadly sins has been eviscerated:
Pride is merely participating in our culture of celebrity;
Covetousness has been redefined as retail therapy;
Sloth is just well-deserved “me time”;
Lust is merely exploring your own sexuality;
Anger is casting off repression and expressing your true feelings;
Vanity is just looking good because you deserve it;
Gluttony just means that you are a foodie.

Perhaps all this rejection of God’s will and ways looks terribly new, but to that God would probably echo Prospero: “’Tis new to thee, but not to me.” Satan’s very first challenge to Eve was to lead her to question God’s clear words. The human race has been doing so ever since, trying in every which way to kick down his fences to be truly free. To me the greatest legacy of the Protestant Reformation, whose 500th anniversary much of the Christian world has been celebrating, is the rededication to the Bible as our source of information, authority, and certainty.

Jesus said that the Word of the Lord will never pass away (Matthew 24:35). When you seek something—anything—certain in your life, you can find comfort there in the Bible’s calm assertions of God’s continuing ownership of the world he created; his unconditional love for you; the forgiving grace coming from the cross of Christ that washes away all your sins; the daily favor of his smile that is yours by faith; and the open gates of heaven, where everlasting life awaits all believers.

Pastor Mark Jeske has been bringing the Word of God to viewers of Time of Grace since the program began airing in late 2001. A Milwaukee native, Pastor Jeske has served as the senior pastor at St. Marcus, a multicultural congregation on Milwaukee’s near north side since 1980. In addition, he is the author of several books and dozens of devotional booklets on various topics.

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