How well I remember where I was when Apollo 11 landed on the moon.
I was 25, and that event eclipsed anything I had experienced as an American citizen. Webster would be at a loss for the right word to describe this event. So I salute those who made this possible. However, there is a fly in the ointment, a disillusionment if you will. You see, this event birthed the possibility of a future utopia. So the following is a brief review of where man’s supreme intellect has taken us.
Imagine this: You are 25 years old and the year is 1969. Apollo 11 has just landed on the moon and these famous words spoken by Neil Armstrong from outer space will echo down through the ages: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
The lunar landing was a technological achievement of epic proportions. This historic chapter in American history engendered much speculation about future hopes and dreams. If mankind’s collective knowledge could achieve such a feat, what else might the future have hidden away in its secret chambers? We’ve conquered Earth and now the moon—is there any frontier that our inexhaustible knowledge can’t conquer?
So again, let’s imagine. Following such a marvelous breakthrough, you are invited to hear a futurist—we’ll call him “Professor Jones”—predict what lies ahead. The world is poised for another big leap and Professor Jones is ready to take you on a journey you will find hard to believe, much less envision. A thousand young people flood the auditorium to hear about the limitless possibilities of the future.
After an introduction of Jones’ qualifications, which include numerous books, accolades and articles published in scholarly journals, the distinguished professor mounts the podium to enthusiastic applause, which he humbly acknowledges. Based on the amazing technological accomplishment of the recent lunar landing, he begins to give a compelling and positive outlook for what lies ahead.
With his expertise, foresight, and calculations, Professor Jones predicts a very bright future thanks to man’s continued technological advances. The audience is understandably pleased with such an assessment. After all, it is 1969 and we have just witnessed a man walking on the moon—the possibilities are limitless! The professor’s basic premise is that large mainframe computers will dramatically shrink in size and dramatically increase in ability. Computer memory and processing capabilities will grow at an exponential rate. Problem-solving will take seconds instead of months or years. Complex calculations once hand-written across dozens of chalkboards will be done in a fraction of the time.
The audience is spellbound, but our gifted futurist is just warming up. He senses the anticipation of his listeners, and he greatly enjoys feeding them morsels of future hope one bite at a time.
Then comes the grand finale of his prophetic vision for our coming technological utopia. He predicts that by the year 2019, just fifty years after the historic moon landing, computers will be held in our hands with a million times more data and processing power than the present behemoths that occupy large rooms and require extensive cooling systems. In fact, this massive technology will become so small, it could fit on your desk, be carried in your briefcase, or even rest in the palm of your hand. This innovative miniature handheld device will take your breath away.
He ventures out on a very long limb and draws the crowd into the most fantastic story they have ever heard. The eyes and ears of his audience are captured, and there is no escape.
With animated hand gestures choreographed to his every word, Jones weaves a future tale that is more than compelling. Even through their stunned disbelief, the audience can taste what lies ahead. He says:
These miniature computers will become your life. They will serve as telephones with no limits as to who you can call. You will be connected to everyone and everything at all times! Entire libraries of information will be accessible there in the palm of your hand! You will have access to medical help in seconds. These devices will count your calorie intake and remind you what to eat at your next meal.
Forget the postal service taking weeks to deliver correspondence to long-distance destinations. Your letters can be sent digitally across the globe in a literal instant!
Trouble in your marriage? No problem. Your personal miniature computer comes equipped with a viewing screen of exceptional clarity and dazzling color. You and your spouse can watch a marriage seminar anytime for help.
Struggling emotionally? There will be instant counsel and encouragement always at your fingertips.
Rebellious children? You will know where they are at all times with a tracking device on your little handheld friend.
Schools will no longer have to worry about the major public school issues of our day: boys pulling girls’ hair, running in the hallways, smoking out back or bullying each other by name calling. With the extensive knowledge available to our youth, those days of such base and barbaric behavior will fade away as our technological future grows brighter and brighter.
Bored while you wait in the doctor’s office? An endless choice of TV and movies will be at your disposal in vivid color. Want to read a novel? Just touch the screen and the pages of a million books will light up in front of you.
Get a new car, go on a fun vacation, or find a new diner? A new dress for little Sally? New puppy for young Jimmy? Share the joy of every moment with family, friends, and neighbors in an ever-connected web of social bliss.
No need to waste gas driving to department, hardware and grocery stores! Your device will be a hub of commerce. Anything you could ever want and more can be purchased and delivered directly to you at your command. Think of the time and money you’ll save!
You can get exact updates on your finances, medical history, workout routine, and you can read recent articles on your favorite subjects any time, any where. Any information you want, from sports to history, science to art, philosophy to mathematics—it will all be available at your slightest whim. No more card catalogues at the library to sift through. Immeasurable knowledge will be available in an instant, in dramatic color, easily accessible whenever and wherever you desire.
All of the leisure and pleasure and education and personal connection you can imagine will be within easy reach. And it will be affordable enough that any of you can partake.
Then he puts the icing on the cake.
With all of this technological power literally at your fingertips, work days and work weeks will be cut in half. Stress will be a thing of the past. Knowledge will increase at a profound rate, and with that will come the end of health issues, financial worries, social problems. Life will be easy. What more could one ask of the future?
The crowd finds all this hard to believe (even though we’ve just landed on the moon), but the good professor speaks with great authority, and he is most convincing. Everyone leaves the seminar feeling very confident about their future and the future of the world thanks to the genius of our ever-advancing technology.
Now, as far as I know, no “Professor Jones” went around making all of these grand claims about the future in 1969. But what if there were? Can you imagine hearing those words, envisioning those promises of a problem-free utopia just around the corner?
We are now fifty years removed from that famous landing on the moon. How did our fictitious futurist do? In terms of technological advancement, he nailed it. The computing power that sent astronauts into space fifty years ago has nothing on the device you are reading right now. We have incalculable knowledge, entertainment, and utility available at our fingertips.
But what about Professor Jones’ prediction that all of this grand technology would make our lives easy and take away all of our problems?
Are marriages today better or worse? Is mental illness greater or less? Has suicide increased or decreased? What about bankruptcy? Obesity? Anger? Hate? Sickness? Depression? Anxiety? Loneliness? National debt? Did that anticipated shorter work week come to pass? Is life less stressful or more so? We all know the answer to these questions. The vision of technology that had enraptured our hypothetical 1969 audience failed to deliver. “That’s one giant leap for technology, one gigantic letdown for mankind.”
It seems logical that an exponential rise in knowledge should result in an exponential decrease in problems. But sadly, such is not the case. You name it and it has gotten worse. From a natural perspective, it makes no sense at all—but like it or not, even with our increased knowledge and technology, increased problems are observable, reproducible, and measurable on a daily basis. How can this be? Simply put, man is addicted to knowledge but allergic to wisdom. There’s no question that our increase in knowledge has lead to incredible discoveries and technological advancements. But knowledge is only part of the equation. We’ve forgotten the key component—wisdom.
Wisdom is the proper application of knowledge. Gaining knowledge is one thing; what to do with that knowledge is another thing entirely. Therein lies the problem. Knowledge is a good thing, but only when it is applied how God meant for it to be applied. Otherwise, knowledge divorced from wisdom is a train wreck.
You have a great advantage if you hold Scripture as the ultimate authority on man and our future. Thanks to the wisdom of the Word, we ought not fall for the illusion that life gets better by virtue of mere knowledge and technology. Scripture reveals to us that knowledge inflates not only our brains, but our pride (1 Corinthians 8:1), and pride leads ultimately not to societal utopia, but to destruction (Proverbs 16:18).
So how do we avoid this trap? Again, Scripture shows us the way. Along with knowledge and understanding, we are to pursue wisdom as the “principal thing” because it is wisdom—the proper application of knowledge—that guards and preserves us by allowing knowledge to become an “ornament of grace” instead of an all-you-can-eat buffet for our pride (Proverbs 4:5-9, KJV). Wisdom dictates that we should be wary of becoming people who are “always learning, but never able to come to knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7) because knowledge has never been an end unto itself. Rather, knowledge when properly (wisely!) applied will lead not to pride, but to truth, and it is truth—not technology—that will set us free. Where then might we find such truth? Jesus Himself tells us plainly: “If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32).
Abiding in the Word of God is key. More compelling than any futurists’ predictions, the Bible points us to the person of Jesus Christ as the ultimate source of truth, knowledge and wisdom; He is the true Savior who alone stands as “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature” (Hebrews 1:3). What greater truth could ever be revealed to us than to know the Lord Jesus Christ, who holds both wisdom and knowledge in perfect balance (Colossians 2:2-3)? Because “all things were created through Him and for Him” (Colossians 1:16), the promises of Jesus are far greater than anything the world offers. While we may be tempted to find hope in Professor Jones’ vision of technological advancement, only God’s Word contains the truly good news that people are so frantically seeking.
Jesus alone is a Savior in ways that no achievement or technology could ever come close to. While I’m grateful for the wisdom and knowledge God makes available to us, it is by faith that we come to Jesus (Hebrews 11:6, Ephesians 2:8-9). The steps that lead us to Him are the greatest we will ever take because while landing on the moon was truly an awesome human accomplishment, it doesn’t compare at all to knowing the One who placed it there.
“My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:2-3, NIV).