Isaac Asimov Believed the World Could Go on for Thousands More Years. Why Can’t Christians?

Why the church so often (erroneously) predicts our own demise.

The signs are escalating every day. The world is in turmoil. We are on the cusp—right now—of the end of the age.” So reads the disclaimer for an upcoming eschatological conference featuring some prominent American evangelical leaders.

Across the Atlantic, as a pastor in Belgium, I’ve also regularly heard from people in evangelical circles convinced or worried about current events revealing the fact that Christ is coming not just soon, as he put it, but very soon. I sympathize with them: Apart from global concerns, our continent faces many challenges that make me yearn for God’s kingdom.

Still, I’m often surprised: Why does this high level of immediate eschatological expectation continue when Jesus told us explicitly that we can’t know when the end will come (Matt. 24:36; Acts 1:7)? Have we Christians baptized pessimism? Perhaps we might consider the works of a 20th-century world-renowned science fiction writer and skeptic who envisioned the continuation of human life for tens of thousands of years—and then read our Bibles again. When it comes to where we’re headed, Scripture calls us to realism.

Around the time many young evangelicals found themselves reading premillennialist literature like Left Behind, I was absorbed in another series: Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy.

Asimov, a Russian native who emigrated to the United States as a toddler, wrote or edited more than 500 books. From 1942 to 1950, he published a collection of short stories and novels dedicated to the fall and rebuilding of a galactic empire in the distant future—approximately A.D. 24000. The Foundation trilogy became so influential that it is often considered to have inspired elements of other …

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