Paradise on Earth, by Lloyd Geering (St.Andrew's Trust)

This booklet, a series of lectures given by the author at St. Andrew's, Wellington, in September 2000, explores a grand -- and some will say impossible -- ideal: the uniting of the whole human race. It is therefore in the tradition of some of the Old Testament prophets and of Jesus who looked forward to a new and better age.

Our inner urge to hope for a better world is in large part due to the Bible which has shaped our western way of life.

Yet paradise is very elusive and, if it does come, will be by the collective efforts of the whole human race. Attempts to look into the future (Futurology) are fairly recent development and we are reminded of the contribution of the great pioneering visionary Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) who envisaged the evolution of a supersociety, a kind of corporate or, in our terms, global consciousness. Professor Geering then looks at the sort of world we want in the future, "it would be a global society where the necessities of life can be shared by all, where justice reigns, and where personal violence and war have been banished forever." He then sets out how we might reach this goal including the probability that the road to a global paradise is going to be very rough

Many of our present freedoms will have to be restricted and accepted -- otherwise we shall have to face some major global catastrophes.

Nevertheless, in evolutionary terms the kairos, the decisive moment of change, has come. The birth of a new planetary civilization is emerging which will involve the uniting of the whole human race. Professor Geering spells out four basic structures (which will be strongly resisted) which will enable this to happen: the formation of a global economy, the establishment of a global democracy, the evolution of a global culture, and the spread of a global faith. The latter will not come from some supernatural force, it will be naturalistic and humanistic and will draw on past cultures, particularly from the Judeo-Christian tradition.

Professor Geering, as previously indicated, is not starry-eyed about our chances of building a better and fairer society.

The last chapter deals with some of the obstacles that stand in our way, including fundamentalism. On this he writes: "While the mainline churches usually hold themselves aloof from fundamentalism, they are now in the process of being drawn into the fundamentalist mindset." Vision is lacking and secular thinkers are leading the way.

This is a bold, prophetic booklet whose importance far out-weighs its size. In spite of the great struggle ahead and the odds against us there is still hope that the new future will be realized. If the churches, and our political parties, are looking for a mission and a manifesto, here is one place for them to go.

Alan Goss, Napier