“What will a writer of 2014 have to report when he looks back 50 years?”
This was the question posed by the Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt Rev John Tiarks, as reported in the Braintree and Witham Times in 1964.
The diocese, which covers Essex and East London, was created 100 years ago this year.
Mr Tiarks was writing his predictions for the future as part of a booklet marking the diocese’s 50th anniversary.
And his vision of booming population numbers, space travel and scientific revolution have certainly shaped the world we live in today.
The bishop warned man was “in danger of being destroyed by his own inventions” - an eerily accurate view of the technological age of 2014?
To mark the 100th anniversary, the Times asked the current Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt Rev Stephen Cottrell, to make his own predictions for the next 50 years:
‘A new world in the making’, was I’m sure an apt description in 1964.
The 1960s was a decade of optimism as well as change. There were huge scientific and technological breakthroughs.
The shadow of the Second World War was lifted.
The austerity that followed was being left behind. England was swinging. Space travel was a reality. But there was also the fear of nuclear holocaust. The menace of war and poverty was ever present.
But this description – a new world in the making - it is just as apt today.
50 years on we are still experiencing rapid and unsettling change. Advances have been made that my esteemed predecessor could not have imagined.
And what of the next 50 years? More breath-taking scientific breakthroughs? Bioengineered blood vessels, alternative fuel microbes, bionic eye prototypes with a chip implanted into a person’s skull?
They all sound good, but if you add in the threat of climate change, a new austerity, a growing gap between rich and poor, and a vastly increased global population, it is easy to feel fearful for the future.
It is also easy to see that Bishop Tiarks was right when he said that the key to the future lies in keeping faith with what is essential about the human personality.
We are indeed in danger of destroying ourselves. We are in danger of destroying the world. We are in danger of being mastered by our own inventions.
Like my predecessor 50 years ago, I believe that ‘our greatest safeguard’ against all this ‘is the protection of the Christian faith’.
This faith teaches us that we belong to each other, that we are stewards of God’s good creation, and that true happiness, lasting joy and a durable peace are found by seeking justice, serving the common good, and learning again to live simply and joyfully with what we have, and sharing what we have with others.
These age old Christian values have shaped the public life and government of our nation for hundreds of years.
But we are in danger of losing them, not because we don’t believe in them anymore, but because we don’t believe in God.
As Bishop Tiarks said: belief in God is the best safeguard of human rights and status.
We are one humanity inhabiting one world. The Christian story shows us what this true humanity looks like in the person of Jesus Christ. It can therefore show us how to live well through the changes that are to come and whatever they bring..