We began this series looking at what the prophet Isaiah recorded concerning the “new creation” in Isaiah 65:17-25. In this passage we see direct reference to long lives, no infant mortality, and a society full of peace and justice. These circumstances are characteristic of what the Hebrews called shalom. I made the case that as Christians bearing witness to Jesus Christ, our mission is to seek the greatest shalom possible in the world, always cognizant that shalom in its fullness will only be recognized at the consummation of the new creation after Christ’s return. So has the trajectory of the world been toward shalom?
If we look at the world through the lenses of longevity and infant mortality (which surrogate indicators of other societal health variables), as well as economic prosperity, I think the answer must be yes. As we look at technophysio evolution and the Demographic Transition Model, we see unprecedented improvement in the lives of every day people beginning in England and the Anglo colonies. Eventually it became Europe who had advanced and the rest of the world was poor. Now it has become a world where there is a complete continuum of nations from rich to poor with most moving in the direction of greater prosperity but with a significant minority of nations, concentrated in Sub-Saharan Africa, that have stagnated or are even deteriorated. The improving state of more than five billion people on the face of the planet is unprecedented and needs to be celebrated. But we can not close our eyes and ears to the one billion people seemingly trapped in poverty.
When I began this series it was my intent to review world trends, offer some analysis of what had propelled those trends, and then investigate the challenge of the remaining poor by reviewing Paul Collier’s The Bottom Billion. I’ve changed my plans here a little. I’ve given an overview of world trends and briefly mentioned what led to the unprecedented changes of the past couple of centuries or so. I will now end this series and begin a new series on Cycles of Prosperity.
I will say more in the introduction of that series but my basic aim will be twofold. First, based on the unprecedented change we have encountered can we model the essential components to a prosperous economic system? I believe we can come with a basic model. Second, with a model of health, can we then examine the situation for the bottom one billion? I will be reviewing Collier’s book as the primary source for answering that question. I believe we will see that while there is great reason for optimism, there is also no inevitable march of history that is leading us to the final resolution of human suffering and the achievement of eternal shalom.
With that in mind, this post concludes the series on World Social Indicators.