A Perspective on Christians, Computers, and the Year 2000 (Y2K)
August 7, 1998
(Forward added 07/29/99)
Table of Contents
- Where Major Processes and Systems Fail, Society Collapses
- A Small Percentage of Work Completed in a Large Amount of Times Means that a Large Amount of Work Cannot Be Completed in a Small Remaining Amount of Time
- Any System That Has Not Been Built or Modified Specifically for the Millenium Will Fail
- A System That is Not 100% Clean Will Not Work
- All Systems With Y2K Problems Will Simultaneously Malfunction on January 1st, 2000
- The Authorities Do Not Know About the Problem
- The Authorities for the Most Part Are not Panicking Because They Know the Problem is Too Big and They Don't Want to Frighten the Populace
So . . . What SHOULD We Do?
Just a comment is warrented. Much has happened since first publishing this paper. Some have urged me to update it - indeed, I have invested many hours toward that end. I have decided to not exert the effort to complete for these reasons:
Again, may the Lord bless and guide each one. We are all weak failures - "Man in his best state is altogether vanity". May we lift one another up and encourage one another, so much the more as we see the Day approaching.
Almost everyone has by now heard of the "Millenium Bug", computer related problems surfacing because of the change to the year 2000 (Y2K). It is a major topic in newspapers and magazines, and boasts an exploding number of books, papers, and Internet web sites. The president recently established a council to report directly to him to address the "millenium bug" at the highest levels of government while the Congress has several of its own committees doing research. In a nutshell: A common computer programming practice when dealing with dates is to consider only the last two digits of the year, i.e. "07/14/98" instead of "07/14/1998". Many programs have been written which take no notice of the century, and are in use without a problem. When the century changes, these programs may not work properly. A computer that thinks that it is the year 1900 may go its way without consequence or, particularly if date comparisons are being made, may stop processing data correctly or may fail altogether.
Y2K problems are already being experienced by programs that deal with future dates. A classic scenario is a major gas company that recently found that new credit cards issued with an expiration date of "01/01/00" were being rejected by their computer system as expired. More serious problems are the deletion of good records as aged, corruption of time span calculations (how old is this loan), or deeper processing faults that halt the entire system. The potential problems in older systems are great if the "bug" is not addressed. Many companies and agencies around the globe are actively in the process of examining their systems and seeking to correct the problem.
Business and society depend heavily on computer power in this modern age. Any widespread malfunction of computer resources would cause great difficulties, particularly with the linking of system to system. The problem is compounded by many systems that rely on "imbedded chips", pieces of hardware from the lowly VCR to expensive medical or robotic equipment that have permanent programs to govern some activity. Those that do date comparisons are vulnerable to the Y2K bug and must be replaced if the deficiency adversely affects operation.
My point here is not to rehash the problem - I trust the reader has basic familiarity with the issues, or will gain this with further research. My concern involves the "doom" hysteria that is sweeping through the church. There are a number of respected Christian leaders who are on a major campaign to alert believers that the millenium change, and the Y2K computer problems, is likely to bring with it a total collapse of society. As a result, Christians are being compelled to liquidate their assets (sell property), convert all assets into disaster "safe" media (precious metals, etc), abandon the cities due to likely riots and famine, and move to rural areas where they can raise their own food. Christians are being urged to buy guns and to stockpile food and other necessities to last at least a year. Papers and tapes are making their rounds through the network of Christians, and seminars that are being held are drawing large numbers of believers. I am astounded at the number of families that are, in fact, planning to follow through on this advice.
The facts of potential problems are real. However, while I am convinced of the basic sincerity of the leaders I have read and listened to, the fear and survivalist mentality being passed on is not of God - it is an attack of the devil. He means to weaken the church, drive us out of our calling to preach the Gospel and love the masses of lost people in the cities, and put the name of the Lord to shame as the world sees us flee in terror as those who have no hope. The Church, instead of "prov[ing] all things, hold[ing] fast that which is good" (I Thessalonians 5:21), is all too ready to buy into most any prophet that comes along. Like Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, we migrate toward any source of heat and light, rarely questioning whether it has been ignited by God's Spirit or is, in fact, "strange fire".
Satan knows His day is short - and that our time to work is even shorter. Anything he can do to keep us from Gods purpose in these critical last days is to his advantage. What a brilliant tactical move to extract us from society at the very time when the world most needs the Gospel and the Saviour that we preach.
I am a computer programmer (PCs/Macs) at TRW in Redondo Beach (Los Angeles), California, working in the industry for 17 years with a BS in Math and BA in German. I provide programming support for the very date intensive proposal pricing function with proposals spanning well into the next century, so have first hand experience with several aspects of the problem. More importantly to me than any of that, I am a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, trusting in His shed blood for a future and home that are not to be compared with anything in this life.
This paper is written for the Christian community to alert my fellow believers to dangers that I believe are even greater than the worst predicted Y2K collapse. My intent is to put another perspective on these matters, one that, I trust, will bring glory to the Lord and give us a clear head, quiet confidence for making wise decisions in the light of the fear all around us. Please accept the fact that the document has rough edges - to do this absolutely right would require far more time than I have. There may be better ways to present my thoughts. Take what I have presented and let the Lord direct you as He will. I welcome all comments to help me be accurate and sharpen the message of the burden that the Lord has given me.
This document may be duplicated and passed on if desired.
The concerns I have are presented in the sections below, from most to least important. What, then, is wrong with the "God, Guns, Gold, and Groceries" survivalist message being presented to the church?
The Saviour Forbids Us To Trouble Ourselves Over Basic Necessities
The very basis of the advice I am seeing violates both the spirit and the letter of the Saviours commands to us in Matthew 6:19-34:
"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."
Our treasure is not in this life, and we are not to "lay it up", since it ties our hearts to this world. The very fact that our comfortable life style could be in danger is not a bad thing - it is a good thing. The fear of losing all of our assets in the bank should not motivate us to move it to safer areas - it should motivate us to wonder why it is there in the first place. If our assets are there to protect us from the future, then we are violating this principle. God gives us money to be used . . . yes we save some for purposes God calls us to, but we hold it in a loose hand. The strong motivation to protect our assets from the moth and rust of a potential Y2K problem is an indictment that our heart is in the bank, not in heaven.
Vs. 24 "No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon (money)."
The ones providing the "pull out and flee" advice know that they must deal with the Scripture that would oppose them on this and I see much discussion on why this isnt what it appears to be. But there are clearly two masters involved here: The Lord and His eternal realm, and my money. Basically I will either overtly love one and hate (reject) the other, or I will hold more to one (first priority) and despise (other priority after the first is done) the other. Either I hold on to the Lord and His calling for me as a believer (at the risk of losing everything in this life), or I hold on to my riches (at the risk of abandoning my calling). One or the other gets the emphasis. Notwithstanding the lip service paid to the principles of Scripture, the overwhelming motivation of these presentations is in the second category. Job one is to protect my "stuff" from the bad policies of corrupt government or the thieving hands of godless, hungry pagans.
vs 25 "Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof."
Take no thought for the morrow . . . how convicting! God knows our needs . . . and just as He feeds and clothes the birds and flowers, He will surely see to us. Take no thought for the morrow . . . storing up a years worth of food for fear of calamities is in complete opposition to this command - I dont care how it is sliced or defended.
"But", some say, "Is not the ant commended for storing up for the winter? Is not preparation a prudent thing?" The ravens, contrariwise, are commended in that they "neither sow nor reap, which neither have storehouse nor barn" (Luke 13:24), and we are instructed to "take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat" (Luke 12:22) Preparation for known needs in the natural course of life is generally commended, although there are those who refuse to do even this for the fear of the Lord. But scripture makes it crystal clear: Storing up for the unknown, storing for fear of calamity is not prudent - as will be pointed out later, it is very dangerous. God is the God of calamities - He demands that we trust Him to show Himself strong on our behalf when we face the unknown, that the world may believe that He is, and is the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.
"But did not Joseph prepare for a great calamity? Didn't Joseph in the NT flee with his family into Egypt? What about Elisha at the brook in the time of famine? Were not the Israelites in the siege of Jerusalem to flee the city (in the days of Jeremiah) and are to flee in a coming day?" In each of these cases God himself gave the individuals clear direction on what was to take place and what to do about it. "Whatsoever is not of faith is sin". (Romans 14:23) Faith is the certain assurance of Gods purposes and will in a given situation, based on His word and the leading of His Spirit. If God tells you to pack up and move, brother, you must do it. But this is not the type of call that I am seeing in the believers I am dealing with. Anything that is fundamentally motivated by fear or earthly loss is of Satan, not of God. The very fact that my stuff is in danger has absolutely no bearing on whether I stand or I flee.
"How about David . . . He fled from Saul. Moses - He fled from Pharaohs face, and Paul fled Damascus when the governor was attempting to capture him." These instances involve clear, tangible danger, not the type of hypothetical mayhem that the Y2K is presenting. I know of very few authorities that believe that the millenium will bring with it anything of the nature that is being presented - I will provide some reasons below as to why I strongly doubt it. But even here . . . sometimes we stand (as Elisha did at the top of the hill with the troops poised below to assault him), and sometimes we flee. We must have Gods mind, and not do anything out of fear of man (which brings a snare - Proverbs 29:25).
"But do we not read: A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished.?" (Proverbs 22:3, 27:12) Yes we do. And I am appalled at the lack of prudence shown all around me to not recognize the evil there is in carrying out the advice being given. An entire section is devoted to this thought below . . . but suffice it to say that the dangers in fleeing in fear often far exceed the dangers of staying. A truly prudent man will recognize spiritual dangers as well as physical dangers and weigh them correctly. "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment." (John 7:24)
Let us be careful that we do not profess one thing and live another. This section, along with many others (like Luke 12:13-31) would condemn us for hoarding our resources to protect us from an uncertain future. Let us live what we preach, especially now when the world, which does not believe in a living God, is desperate for answers. If they see us live as though there were no God, or He isnt very strong, or doesnt know, or doesnt care, will they not justly "trample us under their feet" (Matthew 5:13)? If, however, they see the quiet confidence of those who know their heavenly Father, who is supplying their daily needs, will continue to do it under any possible circumstance without our troubling ourselves over it, will they not give glory to God and be motivated to come to trust in Him and His Son, the Lord Jesus?
This Spirit is Based in a Disrespect for and Distrust of God-Ordained Authority
While there are many aspects of this problem that are the responsibility of individuals and companies, the concern over the breakdown of society, our safety, and the systemic availability of food and other necessities has been laid by God squarely on the shoulders of civil government. "He is the minister of God to thee for good." (Romans 13:4) One of the primary responsibilities of civil government is to protect and prepare us for disasters. These authorities instruct us on what to do in an earthquake, flood, or fire. The government at all levels is focused on the problems surrounding the change of the century, starting with the President and his "Year 2000 Conversion Council". Each major branch of government, authorities at the state level, are actively attacking this issue, for the very reasons pointed out in the literature being passed around.
Those that advocate abandoning their cities and protecting their resources are in essence instructing us to abandon the authorities God has placed over us. Indeed, one prominent Christian leader speaks with approval of a plan to move into an RV, abandoning a permanent address and any authority - allegedly - for the government to control or tax. They claim a higher wisdom that that given to the government, and despise these authorities. This is in clear opposition to Scripture, which commands us to "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers . . . for conscience sake", to "render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour." "Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well." (I Peter 2:13-14) Disrespect for the ministers of God for our good in the civil government will never reap Gods blessing, but rather a curse.
Throughout Scripture and history, God has clearly validated His order in authority by giving rulers insights and resources withheld from all others. Examples include Pharaoh (preparation for the famine), David (revealing the cause of at least two national disasters and working out a solution), Nebuchadnezzer (explaining the course/decline of the empire), and Joseph (fleeing to protect the Saviour). In other cases God revealed something to one under authority with the intent that it be provided to and executed by the authority (Manoahs wife, with respect to the life calling of Samson), the 4 lepers outside Samaria ("tell the Kings household" of the deliverance the Lord had prepared), and Nehemiah (worked through the king to deliver Jerusalem).
God, who works through His authorities, knows our needs. He is even now working to help these authorities control this problem. If He cares so much about citizens of a city that "cannot discern between their right hand and their left" (children, mentally handicapped) as well as cattle that He would avert the destruction of Nineveh, if He would spare a city over just 10 righteous, if He counts the hairs on our head, will He not surely prepare for our needs? What about the weak, the infirm, the elderly . . . will He abandon them? It appears that we are ready to . . . no, He will not.
The admonitions to give honor to those to whom honor is due includes the business authorities and experts in the industries that we are most concerned about. It is a matter of pride when we obtain new, "secret" information unknown to others, by which we despise them. I am astounded at the attitude of some in this. Few are first level experts, some barely knowledgeable of the computer field and programming, yet are sure that they posses the authority to call the Church to flee over this. Somehow non-authorities are always best able to draw correct conclusions about a matter. This pride precedes a fall. Rarely is such a person able to make a true judgement in these things - what appears to be certain, may not be so for reasons only those God has directly tasked to solve the problem understand. The proof is in the failure of the disaster to materialize in the face of the most astounding and carefully documented statistics, as happens over and over again.
Why is it that these teachers are not urging us to work to help the authorities God has placed over us? Help with information, assistance - when we help the "kings household", we help the entire city. Most importantly, how much time are we spending in praying for these authorities - business leaders as well as civil authorities? THIS is what God charges us with doing "that we may lead a peaceable life in all godliness and honesty" (I Timothy 2:2) "And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the Lord for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace." (Jeremiah 29:7) A peaceable life, freedom from fear, physical needs, has then more to do with how diligently, earnestly, we pray for authorities than for our storing up extra resources. If the authorities conquer this problem, many are saved - here we care only for ourselves. This is unbridled self-centeredness.
Very few authorities are sounding the panic alarm over this - their prudence and experience causes them to reserve judgement until the facts become clearer. My strong council is:
Then you can be sure you are working in harmony with God.
For the text of the President's recent order setting up mechanisms at the highest level of our government to address this issue, seePresident Clinton's Executive Order to U.S. Government Agencies on the Y2K Problem
http://www.y2k.gov/java/index.htm is the president's official Y2K site. Let us support him - and all other authorities God has placed over us to "do good" - as they proceed to address this important issue.
Stored Resources Provide Absolutely No Protection in a Calamity
"Riches profit not in the day of wrath: but righteousness delivereth from death." (Proverbs 11:4) "He that trusteth in his riches shall fall; but the righteous shall flourish as a branch." (Proverbs 11:28) Scripture makes it crystal clear that all of our hoarding in an attempt to protect us in a day of calamity will always be futile. Flourishing as a branch . . . a branch is dependent, not on stored resources, but on the moment by moment supply of the tree. This is how God wants us to live . . . and He will invariably frustrate our attempts to not need Him.
How does this practically work itself out? First of all, if we are righteous, Scripture makes it clear that we will freely share our resources with those in need around us. "He that withholdeth corn, the people shall curse him: but blessing shall be upon the head of him that selleth it." (Proverbs 11:26) What else would we as Christians do in a major crisis? Literature I have seen speaks of the fear of hungry neighbors stealing my food . . . brethren - how self-centered! So, if we store up a one-year supply of food for our family, it will surely never last even close to a year if a genuine need exists as I generously share with others in need. Then the Scripture warns us that riches that we store are subject to "moth and rust and thieves". The Saviour never portrayed this as necessarily bad, just inevitable. Stored food will rot. Thieves WILL steal my Christian food if they are hungry.
And what about those "disaster proof" methods of hoarding my wealth? Gold comes to mind. Amazing it is that in the last great disaster this nation faced of this type (the great depression), those that may have had the foresight to store their money in gold were forced - by government decree - to sell it to the government at an artificially low price, after which gold ownership was outlawed (until recently, under President Ford). The government felt that these hoards of gold were harming the recovery of the economy. Would something like this happen again? Of course! And gold is SO thievable in a crisis - think of the sleepless nights worrying over the safety of the hoard. "The sleep of a labouring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much: but the abundance of the rich will not suffer him to sleep." (Ecclesiastes 5:12) Just think of the ulcers! The illnesses derived from all this worry will quickly consume all the carefully stored treasure.
Land ownership in a crisis is also meaningless. In large crises marshal law and dictatorships take over. I am told that the president has the authority to temporarily suspend even the Constitution in such an event. Thus all of my carefully purchased property may well be quickly taken away for the "common good".
And think of all the spiritual treasures I would miss by not having to trust in the Lord for my day to day needs and see Him miraculously provide. No - hoarded wealth is largely a liability, not an asset in a genuine crisis.
The Dangers of Fleeing are Often Greater Than Staying
Dr. Roger Magnuson is a man that the Lord has blessed in many ways. Besides being senior partner of the firm Dorsey & Whitney in Minneapolis, Dean of the Oakbrook College of Law, and being given many honors, he is also founder and senior elder of an inner city church. I heard an excellent message he recently gave at the Knoxville Training Conference for the Advanced Training Institute entitled, "Lessons From Four Lepers". The theme of the message was Gods calling on our lives in times of crises, using the story of the 4 lepers in II Kings 7. These were the ones that discovered that the King of Syria had abandoned the siege of Samaria, leaving plenty of food and wealth that would meet the need of its desperate, starving inhabitants. These lepers first consumed and hoarded the riches they discovered . . . then, they realized the awful danger they were in: "We do not well: this day is a day of good tidings, and we hold our peace: if we tarry till the morning light, some mischief will come upon us: now therefore come, that we may go and tell the king's household." (vs 9) They realized that they had been called to serve the people - and if they decided to think only of themselves and not fulfill the calling God had placed on them, God Himself would judge them. This was linked with the solemn admonition that Mordecai gave to Queen Esther, who was thinking of saving her own life while all the people stood in mortal danger: "For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father's house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" (Esther 4:14) Dr. Magnuson called this the "danger of survivalism" - the motivation to save me and mine when God has a higher calling. It is essential that we find - and keep - our place, the post that God has called us to in difficult times such as we live in. The dangers of abandoning that calling are far more severe than anything that would drive us out of it. Although not the focus of the message, he addressed the millenium bug and expressed his concern that fear may be driving believers into this very danger. Much of my burden regarding this issue was crystallized by those comments.
In expanding on this thought, there are several other scriptural testimonies that would drive this point home. The first is that of the terrified Jews who remained in the land of Israel after Nebuchadnezzar had brutally subdued it (Jeremiah 43-44). Here it was Gods clear will that they remain there, even with little protection, talk of conspiracies, and danger all around. "Wise" men spoke of another, more prudent plan, fleeing to Egypt for protection, which was not under Babylonian rule. Here is what God said to them:
"If ye will still abide in this land, then will I build you, and not pull you down, and I will plant you, and not pluck you up: for I repent me of the evil I have done unto you. Be not afraid of the king of Babylon, of whom ye are afraid; be not afraid of him, saith the Lord: for I am with you to save you, and to deliver you from his hand. And I will shew mercies unto you, that he may have mercy upon you, and cause you to return to your own land. But if ye say, We will not dwell in this land, neither obey the voice of the Lord your God, Saying, No; but we will go into the land of Egypt, where we shall see no war, nor hear the sound of the trumpet, nor have hunger of bread; and will we dwell: And now therefore hear the word of the Lord, ye remnant of Judah; Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; If ye wholly set your to enter into Egypt, and go to sojourn there; Then it shall come to pass, that the sword, which ye feared, shall overtake you there in the land of Egypt, and the famine, whereof ye were afraid, shall follow close after you there in Egypt; and there ye shall die. So shall it be with all the men that set their faces to go into Egypt to sojourn there; they shall die by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence: and none of them shall remain or escape from the evil that I will bring upon them. For thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; As mine anger and my fury hath been poured forth upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem; so shall my fury be poured forth upon you, when ye shall enter into Egypt: and ye shall be an execration, and an astonishment, and a curse, and a reproach; and ye shall see this place no more." (Jeremiah 43: 10-18)
As it turned out, the people gave into their fears, and fled to Egypt, where God destroyed them when Nebuchadnezzar overcame Egypt, just as He said.
Jonah proved this too. The dangers and inconveniences of proceeding to Nineveh as directed were in fact far, far less than those suffered in trying to avoid them.
Other examples come to mind. Nehemiah had real enemies in the land as he worked to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. At one point a respected leader warned him of a conspiracy to take his life, urging him to flee into the temple to protect himself. Nehemiah wisely responded: " Should such a man as I flee? and who is there, that, being as I am, would go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in." (Nehemiah 6:11) As is turns out, it was a bluff from the enemy in an attempt to discredit him through this cowardly act. I cannot help but wonder how many of the conspiracies that the church gets so excited about are cooked up by the Enemy for the exact same reason.
In I Samuel 13 Saul was in great straits, preparing for a great battle with the Philistines. His army, being afraid, was deserting, and yet Samuel told him to wait until he arrived to offer the sacrifice. When Samuel failed to show up when Saul was expecting him, he gave into fear and, as he later confessed:
"Therefore said I, The Philistines will come down now upon me to Gilgal, and I have not made supplication unto the Lord: I forced myself therefore, and offered a burnt offering." (1 Samuel 13:12)
The seemingly prudent act of taking matters into his own hands to avert a great disaster resulted in the stripping of the kingdom from his family - it was a test from God all along.
Consider Meroz, a city in Israel that, weighing the dangers of coming out with Barak to fight against the nine hundred iron chariots of Sisera's army, stayed home to protect their wives and little ones:
"Curse ye Meroz, said the angel of the Lord, curse ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof; because they came not to the help of the Lord, to the help of the Lord against the mighty." (Judges 5:23)
We too are involved in a great battle, to which the Lord Himself has called us. To be cursed by the angel of the Lord is a serious business, since angels are given the job of protecting Christians from harm: "ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation" (Hebrews 1:14) Is not this the thought of Luke 12:8-9?
"Also I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God: But he that denieth me before men shall be denied before the angels of God."
To flee in terror is to deny the power and love of the Lord we profess. If we do, He will not direct His angels to protect us, so the very thing we fear comes upon us.
One tragic real life example comes to mind. Otto Koening, for many years a missionary to the head hunters and cannibals in New Guinea, relates the story of a fellow missionary to the same region who was very concerned for the safety of his small children. In an area that not only contains the most evil witchcraft anywhere and where the natives are cannibals (Michael Rockefeller was eaten while exploring in the area), there are a myriad of poisonous snakes and insects. In the end, in view of all prudence, they returned from the mission field to protect their family until they were older. As it turned out they were allowed to stay on some property in the U.S. with a mobile home. One day, not long after moving in, two of the three boys uncovered a nest of rattlesnakes while playing under the home and were severely bitten. In shock and terror, the father threw them into his truck and drove wildly off to town - without realizing it running over and killing the third son in the driveway as he was backing up. His wife came out, saw what had happened, had a heart attack, and died. The snakebitten boys died . . . and the man lost his entire family, the very thing he had stepped out of Gods calling on his life to preserve.
Now such a story humbles me, breaks me, for I have many instances in my life that the Lord could have judged just as severely. But God gives us the testimonies of Scripture - and sometimes real life examples - to warn us, the danger of preserving ones own life and leaving Gods call are greater than those we perceive lie in holding steady to the post He has given.
The Saviour said, "Whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it." (Matthew 16:25) If our goal in life is to preserve our life, the very thing we seek to save will be lost. Contrariwise, if we care not for our life for love of the Saviour and His work, God will preserve it for us.
Satan, we read, "as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour." (I Peter 5:8) We understand that the only lions that roar during the hunt are old, toothless lions. They are the ones whose job it is to scare the prey out of hiding, so the younger lions, lying silently in the brush, can spring out and kill it. The safest thing for an animal to do, in this case, is to stay put - or even to run right toward the roar to meet an adversary they can easily overcome or avoid. So it is with the devil and his roars. He means to frighten us into fleeing, denying and dishonoring the Lord, and opening ourselves up to all types of new problems. The Lord, on the other hand, commands us to "resist [him] steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world." (vs. 9) The knowledge that the Lord has kept His people through much worse afflictions than those even presented by this scenario makes us confident, able to resist the roars of our adversary.
The calls God gives to His people vary. There IS a time to flee, just as there is a time to stand. If God has clearly shown you, brother, that you must flee, then you must do it. But be ever so careful - if we flee for fear and abandon the calling and commandment of God on our lives, we will reap a curse, not a blessing, and God will see to it that whatever it was we feared will come upon us.
Has God called us to avoid suffering at all cost? Many of us believe that it is, to seek to live as long and as comfortably as we can. Yet Scripture says the exact opposite: "For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake." (Philippians 1:29) "Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." (2 Timothy 3:12)
When Bill Gothard and his ministry was invited by the Yeltsin government to bring the Gospel and training to the school children and orphans of that Russia, he met with the leaders of the long persecuted evangelical church there. They asked him pointedly, "Are you here to stay?" They related the story of other American Christian leaders who had come over in the days of glastnost under Gorbachev. They were eager to be about the Lord's work there until the sudden attempt by the hard-line Communists to seize power. The Russians watched them in panic scrambling to get out as fast as they could to save their own skins. The Russian believers were left alone in those tense days. I wonder what this says about us and our commitment to the work of the Lord? If this is so offensive to fellow believers, I wonder what the world around us thinks when they see us preach one thing and practically live something else?
If there ever were a time where Gods people are needed in the cities, it is now - and how much more in a terrible crisis. In this day, the world is coming to the realization that the gods they have trusted have failed them - even as the world grows dark, there is a new level of desperation and a cry for light, an openness to the power of the Saviour. If I were the devil, and I knew my time were short, and that this were the critical time for millions to be saved or lost, what better stroke of genius than to find a great fear that would extract a significant percentage of Gods people from the cities where their light and salt is so desperately needed. Brethren, I can only shake my head - are we so tied to this life that we so quickly abandon our mission that God has called us to? The dangers to us - let alone to the people we abandon - are astoundingly great.
On a more practical note, I am astounded at the folly of the notion that "safe places" are in fact better for my family. A primary notion is that I must purchase or lease farmland and raise the food my family is to eat, to thus not be dependent on food supply channels in the cities. I wonder: how many of those giving this advice have any real knowledge of farming? If they did they would not be encouraging city savvy people to pack up and give farming a try. Those of us who garden know the myriad of things that can go wrong in the best-planned situations. To be successful you must know what to plant, when to plant, where to plant, how much to plant, understand diseases, pests, and signs of crop damage, know your fertilizers and pesticides, and have an adequate, sustained water supply. One misstep and you lose it all. Romantic notions of animal husbandry fade into oblivion in the face of reality: The experience and upkeep required to keep farm animals alive and healthy is far beyond most of us. There is a reason why few farmers are wealthy: Even with lots of experience, modern equipment, drugs, and supply channels it is plain hard work with lots of problems, disappointments, and failures.
For another aspect: When a living plant is uprooted and replanted in another location, there is a significant shock given which takes time to recover from. Such plants require extra care or else they may well not survive. Moving, uprooting from familiar surroundings and people is a significantly stressful event under the best of circumstances. The longer you live in an area, the more significant the network of family and friends there is to help sustain you. When you move to a new area it takes time to "learn the ropes", adapt to a new fellowship, establish deep friendships on which you can rely. Often problems in a new environment are not understood until after the move - if there WERE a calamity, the ability to adjust to and modify these deficiencies is significantly reduced. Even more astounding is the recommendation in literature I read that Christians look into moving to another country, specifically a "less industrialized" country. Can you imagine being an outsider to a more backward culture (who typically do not exactly love "Yankees"), a non-citizen, dealing with language issues, and trying to live through a worldwide crisis?! This is irresponsible advice - whatever dangers we face here cannot POSSIBLY be less than one would face in a situation such as that. What a foolish thing to totally disregard the significant value of familiar surroundings when encouraging God's people to pack up and get out.
"The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe." (Proverbs 29:25) The safest place for us is trusting in the Lord. Let us avoid this snare and resist this spirit of fear.
Though not the focus of this paper, I will turn my attention to a few practical reasons why I doubt the doomsayers.
Examples From the Past
Those that are the forefront of the effort to convince Christians to pack up and get out warn us that this danger is unlike any ever faced before. This is the reason we cannot trust the authorities to be in control and why the lack of excitement among the majority of experts has no bearing. Satan's greatest tool as he seeks to frighten us into abandoning our faith and the Lord is this thought: "You are unique - No-one has ever gone through this before, thus the promises of Scripture do not apply." This is why the Lord would have us to consider the "same afflictions" of our brethren in the world (I Peter 5:9) as a major basis for resisting these Satanic advances.
Are there any examples that we can recall that are similar? Things that were astoundingly big, that got major press and caused great excitement in anticipation - and failed to materialize? A few come to mind.
The "Population Explosion" Myth
In 1968 Paul Ehrlich wrote "The Population Bomb". This author - and many more like him - predicted a global tragedy just around the corner because the world had reached - or would quickly reach - its "carrying capacity". Grim statistics calculated the world's future population based on current rates, compared with the amount of known natural resources, and demonstrated conclusively that a disaster was just around the corner. I quote fromThe Overpopulation FAQ maintained by Brian Carnell, an excellent discussion of this widely held myth:
"Paul Ehrlich is the modern version of Thomas Malthus -- the most visible and persistent predictor of mass famine and economic catastrophe. Unlike Malthus, though, Ehrlich doesnt seem to learn from his mistakes . . . [He] predicted famine and disaster on a scale unprecedented in world history. In the prologue he writes, "The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate..." (Ehrlich 1971, p.xi)."
"Not only was the world headed for catastrophe, there was little that could be done to avoid it. Some parts of the world might see some minor and temporary recovery, but "a minimum of ten million people, most of them children, will starve to death during each year of the 1970s. But this is a mere handful compared to the numbers that will be starving before the end of the century" (Ehrlich 1971, p.3). "
The following three quotes were gleaned from"Population Growth as Blessing or Blight?" by E. Calvin Beisner. Kingsley Davis ("The Climax of Population Growth: Past and Future Perspective") predicted,
"In subsequent history the Twentieth Century may be called either the century of world wars or the century of the population plague."
Newsweek, in a 1962 article called, "How Many Babies is Too Many?" stated:
"The current rate of growth, continued in 600 years, would leave every inhabitant of the world with only 1 square yard to live on. By the year 3500, the weight of human bodies on the earth's surface would equal the weight of the world itself. By the year 6000, the solid mass of humanity would be expanding outward into space at the speed of light."
The following is from Life magazine (1965):
"A British scientist recently calculated that with the population of the world now about 3 billion and doubling every 37 years, we will reach the ultimate terrestrial limit of 60 million billion humans in somewhat less than 1,000 years. At that state, people will be jammed together so tightly that the earth itself will glow orange-red from the heat."
[The last two quotes demonstrate the absurdity that raw, mindless mathematics can lead a wise person into if he chooses to ignore simple realities. Run the mathematical progression backwards using the same reproduction rates and Adam and Eve had to have been created in 818AD. Even at a quarter of the reproduction rate used, the first couple became a family less than 10,000 years ago - how the millions of years these folks believe in come into play here, I have no idea. What about organisms that reproduce much faster, and don't believe in birth control? At the known reproductive rate of yeast (doubling every 2-3 hours), a single yeast cell will have reproduced a volume equal to the entire earth within TWO WEEKS, and fill the known universe not long thereafter. Close down the bakeries and breweries! Isn't math fun?]
More from Carnell:
"In 1972 the Club of Rome published its landmark report, Limits to Growth, which dramatically predicted the inevitable collapse of civilization unless economic growth was halted immediately. Relying on a computer model developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Limits to Growth predicted that world population would hit 7 billion by 2000 and set into effect a deadly chain reaction. The world would begin to run out of farmland in a mad scramble to feed everyone. The price of natural resources such as copper, tin, silver and oil would climb through the roof as the world began using them up."
"Inevitably, no matter what sort of technological innovations or changes in the rate of population growth were made to the MIT model the result was always the same -- the collapse of industrial civilization sometime in the 21st century."
The fact is many believed Ehrlich, and the other doomsayers - overpopulation is the rationale given for a great many evils today, from a diminished to absent desire to have children, to forced sterilization, to abortion, infanticide and other forms of murder. After all, the world is at risk - the end justifies the means.
It is obvious from the statements quoted at the beginning that he was not only wrong, he was dead wrong. Carnell continues:
"In fact the last quarter of the 20th century has been amazing for the reduction in famine. If current trends persist, by 2001 only about 2 million people will have died from famine-related causes. Many of those died in Africas various famines where governments such as Ethiopia used food as a weapon against people -- the food was there, but the political will to feed the starving was missing"
"Compare the end of the 20th century with the end of the 19th century. Twenty to twenty-five million people died of famine related causes from 1875 to 1901, in a world whose population was only one-half to one-third as large. If the world had remained at 19th century levels in comparable food production, Ehrlichs prediction would have come true. Unfortunately for Ehrlich, but not for the world, humanity learned a little about agriculture and other resources in the intervening 100 years. "
With respect to the impressive computer model, one fact that Mr. Carnell did not mention was that the same model was also run with parameters set for society as it was 100 years ago. The result? The world ends right about now (100 years later). Why? The primary reason was pollution from . . . horse manure! This bit of irony actually points to practical reasons why the folks with the statistics fail: Mankind, with the creativity God has given, is always adapting, adjusting, substituting. Who could have imagined anything replacing the horse as the primary mode of transportation. We laugh - yet the car is today one of the primary reasons for the predicted end of the world: pollution, the exhaustion of oil reserves. I wonder what society in 100 years (should the Saviour tarry that long) will think of our terror today in light of new inventions and substitutes? As a matter of fact, I wonder how many of the aborted babies and children "prudent and wise" parents did not have in fact held the keys to solution of some of the world's - let alone the Church's - greatest problems. We will never know, this side of eternity, although I am convinced this will be the basis of a great many tears when God tells us of the blessings we turned away.
Again from Carnell:
"Why did Ehrlichs predictions fail to come true? Because the model he used, like almost all those who predict dire problems from population, was basically flawed. In a nutshell what Ehrlich did was take population growth for the 1960s and extrapolate it out through the 1970s, but he insisted production of resources such as food and water were at their limits -- both would likely decline, and certainly not increase."
"Food production not only increased, but increased faster than population growth, so 27 years after the publication of The Population Bomb, not only are there many more people alive in the world, but they eat more than they did in the past. Water quality, which Ehrlich believed beyond repair, has also steadily improved."
Population catastrophe experts all have one thing in common: They live in a random world where chaos and disorder rule and there is no God. But God said, "Be fruitful, and fill the earth", and presents many children and a rapidly increasing population as a great blessing. Thus they will be wrong over and over again.
I understand that EVERY prediction - trend, catastrophe - made by Ehrlich in the book has failed to materialize. I clipped an article out of the Orange County Register last year where the UN finally admitted that world population trend was - in fact - on the decline. Mr. Carnell writes:
"Nicholas Eberstadt's October 16 column in the Wall Street Journal, "The Population Implosion" (which is in turn an abbreviated version of an essay Eberstadt wrote for the Autumn issue of The Public Interest.) Using recently revised population projections from the United Nations, Eberstadt notes that the United Nations estimates the total fertility rate for the developed world is a mere 1.5 and may fall to as low as 1.4 while in "less developed countries" the United Nations projects the total fertility rate will fall to as low as 1.6 in 2050."
"The upshot of this is world population in the next century is likely to be a roller coaster ride. Population will continue to grow upward until the middle of the century when it will start shrinking, losing up to 25% of the world's population every generation through the last half of the century."
"Nothing in this is new; despite the doomsayers' fears the United Nations projection has included this depopulation scenario for quite some time."
Keep in mind: Demographic replacement level is 2.1 children per woman. Ask any demographer - 1.5 is absolute suicide for a nation (Read, "The Birth Dearth", by Ben Wattenberg)
Julian Simon, Professor of Business Administration at the University of Maryland and a distinguished economist, prolific writer and speaker, made a career of challenging the overpopulationists on their statistics and predictions. He openly challenged Ehrlich to a bet:
"Simon offered Ehrlich a bet centered on the price of metals. Ehrlich would pick a quantity of any five metals he chose worth $1,000 in 1980. If in 1990 the total value of the metals after inflation was more than $1,000 (i.e. the metals became more scarce), Ehrlich would win. If, however, the value of the metals after inflation was less than $1,000, Simon would win. The loser would mail the winner a check in the amount of the difference over or under. Ehrlich agreed and chose copper, chrome, nickel, tin and tungsten."
"By 1990, all five were below their real price level in 1980. Ehrlich lost the bet and sent Simon a check for $576.07. Prices of the metals chosen fell so much that Simon would have won even if the prices hadn't been adjusted for inflation"
Has Mr. Simon (who passed away in 1998) become respected for his correct predictions and optimistic message? Not at all. He has been vilified and mostly just ignored. Events such as Earth Day continue to command the press and pump out the same mythology. No-one WANTS the good news that rapidly increasing population is good for us, or even that population is not increasing significantly if even adequately. This runs counter to human wisdom, and catastrophes make for more excitement! " . . . the poor man's wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard." (Ecclesiastes 9:16)
Even with the space taken I can't properly address this issue here - many good books have been written on the subject. My point? There was no way for Ehrlich and company to be wrong - they had too much proof. They too were convinced that radical measures must be taken, that the government was ignorant of the facts, that it was - in fact - too late. Many, including many in the Church, got the "gospel" - and still believe it - even after persistent and varied reality checks have proven these experts wrong - dead wrong.
The "Jupiter Effect"
Does anyone remember the book, "The Jupiter Effect", written in 1976 to predict global calamities to occur because of the alignment of all of the planets on one side of the sun in 1982 (March 10th, to be exact)? This was a best seller, as I recall, and was prominently featured in the media. As the story went, this was to trigger massive earthquakes, especially in California, and other major events, not the least of which was the possible "ignition" of hydrogen in Jupiter to cause it to become a minor star. There was great excitement, as fellow Christians knowledgeably shared their understanding of the effect. It was linked to the coming of Christ - many took this seriously. What happened? Nothing . . . nothing at all. They were wrong - and anyone who made decisions based on these predictions was out of the mind and will of the Lord (who knew this all along).
[In searching the web I was astounded to discover that the year 2000 (May 5th) is the next occurrence of the alignment - and - YES - if the computer problem weren't enough, folks are talking about massive earthquakes from tidal forces. A "New Age" book has been written called " 5/5/2000: Ice, the Ultimate Disaster"; Richard W. Noone predicts that the alignment will cause the ice that has been building up at the South Pole to upset the Earth's axis, resulting in massive floods and earthquakes (no kidding!). Fortunately the several references I saw were balanced by clear scientific evidence to the contrary - including the obvious, "It didn't happen in 1962 (prior alignment) nor in 1982!" http://www.griffithobs.org/SkyAlignments.html is a special page on the topic by the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles. On the other hand, maybe I should write a paper on the coming calamity for the church and get famous!]
The 1984 Los Angeles Olympics
Los Angeles hosted the 1984 Olympics. As the time drew near, predictions of a major disaster began to surface. The experts had the numbers and statistics: With the traffic in Los Angeles teetering as is does on the brink of total gridlock from the massive amount of cars, the influx of even a conservative estimate of additional vehicles associated with the games - and during prime times of the day - would bring LA to it's knees. I remember this distinctly - there were not a few that fled the city over this, taking vacations to avoid the mayhem. What happened? Nothing - as a matter of fact, the traffic during those days was the absolute best I could recall seeing. Why? Certainly the departure of Angelinos on vacation helped - but the major reasons were the common sense steps the government took to deal with the problem, such as banning trucks from the roads during certain hours, and encouraging employers to offer "flex time" to their employees, so folks came and went at different times.
Co-chairman of Reagans Grace Commission, Harry Figgie, Jr, created mild panic when he published his apocalyptic treatise, "Bankruptcy 1995", a few years ago. I have not read that specific book, but understand that, based on actuarial data from the national debt and GNP, he - and others - concluded that the nation's economy was certain to collapse around 1995. This is no simpleton or economics-ignorant slouch - he is a leading industrialist here in the US. This sentiment was echoed by Larry Burkett in his book, "The Coming Economic Earthquake", which I have read and take very seriously. I DO believe this nation is in deep trouble because of the debt, this being a judgement of God and a violation of Scripture. I believe fundamentally, based on many other examples from history, in the premise that we WILL experience an economic disaster in the perhaps not too distant future, one that may make the Great Depression look like child's play. It is wise to plan as though there is no economic certainty tomorrow, which would, for example, cause us to pay off our debts and refuse to get into further debt. But - again - my point is that anyone who based any action on this specific prediction (1995) was not in the mind of the Lord . . . it was flat out wrong.
The Michelangelo Virus
For another computer related problem, there was much excitement in the early part of this decade over the "Michelangelo virus", a computer virus with the potential of bringing our entire country to its knees on March 6th, 1992 (sound familiar?). Viruses are malicious chunks of computer code that are designed to secretly transfer themselves from program to program, computer to computer. Some, like Michelangelo, are completely silent until a "trigger date", at which they "awake" and attempt to permanently destroy all data on the host computer. These are real threats - but listen to this industry "after" account by Rob Rosenberger of what went on and compare it with the current hype over Y2K:
"The Worldwide Michelangelo Virus Scare of 1992"
"RESEARCHERS DISCOVERED A new computer virus in 1991. An examination showed it would erase IBM PC hard disks each year on March 6 -- the birthday of renaissance painter Michelangelo. The name stuck."
"Michelangelo remained an obscure threat until January of 1992, when a major U.S. computer manufacturer announced it accidentally shipped 500 PCs carrying the virus. Another computer manufacturer issued a press release the same day announcing their decision to include antivirus software with every computer."
"This coincidence probably intrigued the major newswires; reporters sniffed for a story. United Press International found one when it talked to a group calling itself the "International Partnership Against Computer Terrorism." They also interviewed antivirus mogul John McAfee (himself no stranger to the media). UPI filed a newswire saying "hundreds of thousands of computers around the world" might fall victim to Michelangelo on March 6."
"A few days later, another major company admitted it accidentally distributed 900 floppy disks infected with Michelangelo. Then a Reuters reporter filed a newswire claiming the virus resided on "millions of personal computers around the world," with an estimate of five million attributed to John McAfee. A "data recovery consultant" named Martin Tibor started getting media attention around this time, offering quotes like "I'm finding virus catastrophes everywhere" and "I see the victims of viruses all the time.""
"Antivirus firms snapped to attention as the media grew fascinated with Michelangelo. Symantec scored a publicity coup when it ran a full-page ad announcing a free detection utility. Representatives from antivirus firms -- some of them employed in marketing departments -- called Michelangelo a "very serious threat.""
"Newspapers and TV stations ran "local impact" stories with quotes largely supplied by local computer salesmen. These "experts" simply parroted what they'd read in newspapers the previous day. Hysteria swept across the planet as frightened users drained store shelves of antivirus software. When the software dried up, customers purchased books about viruses."
"Many virus researchers dismissed the hysteria as unwarranted, but reporters wouldn't listen to them. Stories about Michelangelo rarely questioned the astronomical estimates. And estimates about the impending disaster continued to rise -- a Reuters newswire at the height of the scare claimed one out of four PCs in the U.S. would fall prey to Michelangelo!"
"The tide of reporting changed on March 4 -- just two days before "M-Day" -- when an Associated Press editor finally listened to furious experts. Newswire stories started to focus on the fear sweeping the world rather than the virus itself. But this didn't stop the incredible hysteria."
"March 6 came in like a lion... and went out like a lamb. Worldwide reports ranged from 10,000 to 20,000 computers, not five million. Perplexed reporters phoned experts who accurately predicted Michelangelo's impact. "Why did everybody else claim five million?" a reporter would ask. "Because you talked to all the wrong people, that's why," the expert would respond."
"The Michelangelo virus had turned into a worldwide media fiasco. Red-faced newswire agencies stopped reporting about it the very next day. Indeed, all major newswires stopped reporting it by 6am Eastern time the next day! They didn't run a single story about computer viruses for the next 13 days."
"OPINIONS ABOUT THIS fiasco fall into two groups. Those who gave estimates in the millions say publicity itself made all the difference. They believe computer users learned about Michelangelo before it wreaked havoc. These people do have a point: the virus attacked 10,000 or more PCs despite worldwide hysteria."
"Experts who predicted in the thousands point to data showing Michelangelo never had a big foothold -- it just had big publicity. They believe fear about the virus created numerous "false reports" when users panicked at the first sign of an odd computer behavior. The experts do have a point: panicky users often inflict damage on their computers and then blame it on a virus."
As they say, hindsight is 20-20. We all look back and laugh, shaking our heads. It was NOT funny then. There are amazing similarities. Y2K is a real problem, just like Michelangelo and other malicious viruses are real problems. Note that computers DID get hit - but the predictions of widespread mayhem were astonishingly out of touch with reality. Interesting how a group of knowledgeable "experts" and consultants are leading the charge now, as then, those that stand to gain from this excitement, either directly financially, or through name recognition, which is worth more than money. When I see quotes coming from experts calling themselves things like "Millenium Consulting", I wonder how objective their advice is going to be.
The Sideways Satellite
Earlier this year a PanAmSat satellite unexpectedly spun out of position. It was, unfortunately, the sole source for 95% of the nation's pagers, along with providing a number of other important, real time services. My pager, and those of all of my acquaintances, were non-functional. As we know, many doctors and others in professions where they need to be "in touch" 24 hours a day depend on their pagers - indeed, many hospitals use pagers exclusively to communicate with their physicians. I remember running across several messages on Y2K related Internet forums where the message was: "Look folks: This is what we have to look forward to!" Well . . . . what DO we have to look forward to? Nothing . . . life went on. People adjusted. Doctors that were used to being out and about curbed their activities for the better part of a week until service was restored or used cell phones instead. Hospitals activated their intercom systems. People were aware, they adjusted, they adapted. Big problems bring this out in people - why are we so cynical to ignore this obvious fact?
Christ's Return On or Before
The promised return of the Lord Jesus has produced a great many "crises" among Christians. Predictions of His imminent return on or by a certain date have swept through the church over and over again. Horatio G. Spafford wrote the hymn, "It is Well With My Soul" in 1873 after losing first his business to the great Chicago fire if 1871, then his four girls to a shipwreck (his son later died as well). He is a man I deeply respect . . . but in the next few years he began dressing all in white and moved to the Holy Land with his wife because he had become convinced that Christ was to return at that point. A pamphlet was published a few years ago called "72 Reasons why Christ Must Return in 1972". I remember reading "88 Reasons Why Christ Must Return in 1988". There was another major date prediction in the early 1990's . . . I remember hearing of a woman, pregnant with her first child, who aborted the baby at 8 months due to the Saviour's words spelling "woe" to those that were with child or gave suck during the Great Tribulation.
I also saw the book "Are You Ready", or "1994", written by a prominent Christian leader that had a great many folks that I was associated with convinced that Christ must return at or before September 1994. This was featured on Larry King, as I recall. Genuine believers sold their properties and took out large, expensive signs warning the community of the pending tribulation. The excitement and anticipation were unimaginable.[Those promoting this date indicated that there was no violation of the Saviour's clear admonition against date setting because "we know the day He must come BY, not the actual day He will come!" Someone pointed out that this is still one and the same, using a bit of logic: If we know He must come by September 15th, 1998, then He cannot come ON September 15th. This is true since by sundown on the 14th, we would then know the day He would come, knowledge the Saviour said we would never possess. Since He must then come on or before the 14th, we can immediately also say that He cannot come ON the 14th, because we already know we will never make it to the 15th, and by sundown of the 13th, we would know the day. The logic works its way backward to any date desired. The reality is that a prediction of an outer bound of His coming violates the same rule as setting an actual date.]
Those with Internet access will enjoy "Knowing the Day and the Hour", a compendium of a myriad of dates which have been set for Christ's return since the first century. He has not returned yet - He surely will. Yet even with the Saviour's clear words in Matthew 24:26 and elsewhere - "But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only" - Christians continue to set dates and get excited. Each time I have been assured that "THIS time is different" for the following reasons . . . "THESE are the reasons" why the Saviour's clear admonitions do not apply here. Did these men present themselves with the same forwardness to acknowledge their error and ask forgiveness of the Church for shaming us before the world and giving the enemies of the Lord great cause to blaspheme? If they did, I have never heard it.
This would be my challenge to those speaking with such authority and - in my view - lack of restraint to the church regarding the Y2K matter: Are you willing to stand up clearly and boldly if these things fail to materialize and apologize to God's people for misleading them? By "these things" I mean mayhem causing major disruption of our society as opposed to isolated and workable problems. A true prophet is known by the results of his prophecy - and anyone who would move God's people in a particular direction based on coming events is a prophet. Either God would have us prepare, or He would not - since He knows the things to come, failure of the disaster to materialize is proof that God has not spoken to and through these men. I stand by my words here - will you too stand to the test?
The Myths that Feed the Fear
As pointed out, we can look back to many predicted crises that never materialized. If so, why? Because of fallacious assumptions. Here are a number of fallacies that I believe undergird the Y2K disaster message being preached today. As mentioned, these points, listed last, are the most open to criticism - although I am fairly sure I'm right. If you disagree, don't get too excited - the main gist of my concerns are given in the preceding sections.
Where Major Processes and Systems Fail, Society Collapses
I have already spoken to this, but it is worth restating. Crises can bring the worst out in people - and they can bring out the best. God has made us with the ability to come together, to be creative, when major problems arise. Even if the worst occurs, we need only to look to instances of other disasters - such as earthquakes - to see that this is true.
There is so much in life that we feel we cannot live without - until forced to do so. The example of the pager satellite has already been given. Many have lived the reality of being car-less for a significant period of time - while definitely inconvenient, one adapts and life goes on. The amount of food we really need to survive is a tiny fraction of what we consume - if forced, an entire family could survive a week on 2-3 $1.00 10 lb. sacks of potatoes. The fact that the pilgrims survived their first winter consuming only 5 kernels of corn a day per person is an extreme verification of this.
One of the greatest fears is that of riots from disgruntled welfare recipients. Riots occur when a government is caught by surprise, is forced to limit their response for political reasons (as here in Los Angeles), or when government collapses. None of these factors are likely to hold true here. And it is interesting that - of all the agencies - the Social Security Administration is perhaps the furthest ahead in terms of completing Y2K upgrades successfully and early. Government knows what to focus on and is doing so.
A Small Percentage of Work Completed in a Large Amount of Times Means that a Large Amount of Work Cannot Be Completed in a Small Remaining Amount of Time
The problems facing companies/agencies and their programmers related to Y2K are large and daunting. Statistics are brought to bear: One publication looks to the Social Security Administration and notes that they completed conversion of 6 million lines of code out of an estimated 30 million lines in the 5 years ending in mid-1996 and says, "Do the math". Based on that statistic they are in big trouble. It is interesting then that Rep. Steve Horn, the Congressional bulldog on Y2K preparedness gives the SSA an "A" for preparedness in the most recent grade sheet he handed out to government agencies (mid-1998). An "A" signifies that they are in excellent shape to complete on time - the aforementioned statistic from 1996 obviously missed something.
There is the saying: "Necessity is the Mother of Invention". Major problems humble us, and in this humility God gives extra grace, creativity, and stamina to meet the challenge. All of us have done seemingly (to us) impossible things when our backs were up against the walls and options were removed. This is the process seen in the proverbial "cramming for a test" - the first 4 weeks of a 5 week project account for a typical 20% completion factor, where the other 80% of the task gets done in the last 20% of the time. We work best under pressure.
Greater pressure fosters clearer thinking and greater creativity. There are creative ways to work around difficulties that cannot be overcome in the ideal sense - as the deadline approaches, pressure and creativity go up on a logarithmic curve. As an example, companies initially spent much time and effort trying to increase the size of their databases to allow for the extra 2 digits. This is a major problem, since adjustments in the size of structures invalidate older data and archives and all intermediate processing must take into account the size change. Many conversion efforts are abandoning this "purist" approach for a much simpler, faster, and proven procedure called "bracketing". Here the composition of the database remains the same, but the program is given extra logic that says, "If the year is less than <pick a two digit number>, assume it is in the year 2000". This is exactly what the pricing system I work on has done - any year less than 59 is in the year 2000. If our system survives to the year 2059, we will have our own "Year 2059" crisis. What do you think is the likelihood? I read of even more elegant methods that are being employed, including one trick that simply sets the computer date back a few years and calculates an offset at print time. Such methods have their deficiencies as they merely delay the problem, but for a company with its back against the wall, it saves the day.
Every government agency and major company is pouring major resources into fixing the problem. One group of TRW alone is spending $14 million, and I understand that the federal government has committed $6 Billion to its efforts. Companies have survived in the rough and tumble of the business world because of the ability to bend their will and resources to overcome threats to their existence. With seemingly everything on the line, do you really think that these business savvy entities are going to allow a series of computer bugs to take them out of business or at least subject them to debilitating lawsuits? If so, American business is in far worse shape than anything connected to the economy, and it would only be a matter of time before a total collapse occurs regardless of the year.
Any System That Has Not Been Built or Modified Specifically for the Millenium Will Fail
One of the themes of the fear messages is, "We don't know". The logic goes like this: Any system with a program, from government data processing to automated medical equipment to VCRs is vulnerable to the "millenium bug", and since we don't know which have problems, they are all likely to go down. The Y2K problem is viewed as a "virus" - if any part has it, the whole and all connected to it catches it and dies. This is simply not true.
As widespread as the problem is, it is not NEARLY as pervasive as some of the literature would have us to believe. Of all systems in operations, ONLY those that handle dates are candidates - many systems, especially smaller ones, simply have no need to handle dates. Of this number, ONLY those that do date comparisons across the millenium are fundamentally at risk. As an example, many systems rely on sub process "journaling" of transactions as a means of backing out completed operations - each step of a transaction is stored so the path may be traced back if necessary. A journal relying on two digit dates might have significant problems when a trace back leads to a "larger" older date . . . however, once all transactions are logged in the new "00" year, all relative transactions again work correctly. As far as the computer knows, it is 1900 - and since it does not interface with any system that does care, the problem, although real, has no consequence. There are other, more complex issues where dates in other formats are converted to the two-digit pattern . . . but, again, these issues do not represent a fraction of installed computer systems. And - again - I am speaking here of system that have not had any attention - and most companies are giving very focused attention to their systems.
A System That is Not 100% Clean Will Not Work
When you are cramming for a project in an astoundingly insufficient (usually self-inflicted) amount of time, what do you do? You narrow your list down to the "must completes" and prepare to let go of the less important items. My work revolves around proposal bids which are submitted to the government to build systems they request. These bids have specific deadlines and specific requirements - when crunch time comes, we focus on the clear requirements placed in the "Request For Proposal" from the government, things that would eliminate our bid from consideration, and pass over other items that we would love to include but have no time for.
When a company or industry prepares for the year 2000, many realize that they will never reach the optimum level of 100% prepared and tested. Instead they identify those things that are critical, that could bring the company to a halt or interrupt service to others. A bank concerns itself with the ability to maintain customer records and send out checks and worries less about sub-systems such as that do analytical research. A shipping company makes sure it can keep goods moving, even if some systems type the date on the packages as "January, 1900". If a system cannot be completely repaired, contingency plans are put into place to isolate the problem and get around it.
As pointed out in "Another Myth - We Must Fix all the Bugs To Have Power" by Dick Mills, critical functions such as power production may well involve date sensitive programs, but are built with the ability of operators to override in the event of malfunctions. Thus even where the bug "bites", i.e. all of the Y2K planning fails, prudent contingency processes are there to allow an intelligent human to ably work around the problem. The reality is that computer "bugs" are a fact of life. Any system that has no ability to override or work around an errant computer operation cannot avoid major trouble, Y2K or not.
All Systems With Y2K Problems Will Simultaneously Malfunction on January 1st, 2000
The reality is that there are actually a number of "Y2K" problems, and that many companies will experience them in the months preceding - and following - "M" day. For an obvious example, large portions of the government work on the fiscal year, the beginning of which is October 1st. Thus, FY00 will begin on October 1, 1999. While this translates into less time for some issues, it also makes the point that whatever troubles are imminent will be somewhat spread out.
As mentioned, processes which deal with future dates have already run over the date line - the Year 2000 arrived 13 years ago for the system I help maintain. Then there are other trigger dates, one being 9/9/99, a date used by some COBOL programs to indicate the largest possible date.
My point, again, is that a significant number of Y2K issues will have had to have been dealt with operationally long before the actually millenium change. Thus the focus on that one day is over emphasized. The fact that actual failures will be spread out over time lessens significantly the possibility of a major crisis.
The Authorities Do Not Know About the Problem
While this may have been true a few years ago, it is NOT true today. It is being addressed at the highest levels of government. Industries are forming alliances, trade magazines of every imaginable type are providing information and analysis. There is enough in the news on the Internet and in the book stores to make anyone a relative "expert" even without the special seminars I am hearing about. Things of this nature always make it to the forefront, far more typically than is even healthy. No: EVERYONE knows who needs to know - if you know of exceptions, I would love to hear. There is no other scenario quite like potential disaster to galvanize every facet of a company and country into action.
The Authorities for the Most Part Are not Panicking Because They Know the Problem is Too Big and They Don't Want to Frighten the Populace
This is an astounding bit of logic. Problems that are big are brought out and dealt with - unless the danger of fear exceeds the danger in the matter itself. Nobody wants to be accused of being responsible for a catastrophe - certainly not in an election year!
A Sobering Sidelight
I wanted to add one other note. There IS a real danger that the fear of the unknown during the millenium change may cause some real problems all its own. As the conclusion of the second riot-related trial in Los Angeles approached, there was a definite shortage of food - because nervous citizens were stocking up in anticipation of societal meltdown (which never happened). With all of the talk of computer network collapse, I suspect a significant number of individuals will seek to extract their money out of their bank . . . this can be a major inconvenience, if not a danger to weaker institutions. Franklin Roosevelt said, "We have nothing to fear, but fear itself", referring to the fact that there are real dangers in panic. This being so, God help us to keep a calm perspective and strongly impress upon the leaders in the Christian community their solemn responsibility to "comfort the feebleminded, support them that are weak" (Thessalonians 5:14), to say, "Fear not" to God's people. If we fail to do this, and damage is done to the kingdom of God let alone to the nation we live in because of fear, God will lay this responsibility squarely at our feet. These are not matters to be trifled with.
So . . . What SHOULD We Do?
In closing, let me provide a synopsis of the direction that I believe God would have us take:
Fix Your Problems - Help Others Identify and Fix Theirs
If you are responsible for a company or maintain a computer system, make sure you are doing your job. Test your system as early as possible. This is often not too hard, although it may be inconvenient: Just switch the date to December 31, 1999 and watch what happens when the date changes. If there are problems, fix them - or at least identify the ones you can live with, and fix the rest.
If you have the expertise in the industry, see how the Lord might use that to do "good works" to others in helping them identify and rectify their own problems.Wait and Pray
Do not do anything out of the ordinary until counseled to do so by those in authority. Support those in authority earnestly in prayer:
"And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the Lord for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace." (Jeremiah 29:7)
Encourage the Lord's People
Counter the mindless fear that is all around us. God has called us to "Rejoice evermore", to "be anxious for nothing", to let our "moderation be known unto all men" because "the Lord is at hand" (Philippians 4:4-6). We need to project the calmness of believers who know that the Lord has all of this in His hands, loves us, and will not abandon us regardless of circumstances. "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." (2 Timothy 1:7)
As a means of encouragement, cut out positive stories about the Y2K and use these to balance the hysteria. There are MANY stories of this nature, industries completing ahead of time, running successful tests - get some balancing facts in hand.
Prepare to Bring the Gospel to Your Neighborhood and City
Whenever Satan roars, it is up to us to do exactly the opposite of his motivation. What is that? Prepare to save others rather than us. Use the fear being propagated all around to spur us to surrender all to the Saviour and His kingdom, die to ourselves, take up the cross, and go forward to win as many as we can to Him in the time He gives us. Whenever we set our sails to counter a contrary wind and sail in the opposite direction, if the Enemy is in fact behind the blast, he will quickly reconsider and direct his energies elsewhere.
And follow the calming counsel of Psalms 43:5:
"Y art thou cast down, O my soul? and Y art thou disquieted within me? Hope in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God."
Look forward to praising Him on January 1, 2000 and for all the days that the Lord gives you.
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