This subject was forced upon us by the many letters and phone calls we received from frightened people. Some were on the verge of panic because of the disastrous consequences of the alleged worldwide computer crash predicted in some circles to occur January 1, 2000. So we addressed Y2K in a feature article and two subsequent Q&As.
We presented facts showing that the Y2K problem was largely overstated and would for all practical purposes be solved in time. Readers warned that I was ignorant of the subject, and that my "skepticism...may cost lives and countless opportunities for the body of Christ to minister to...unsaved." It was obvious that more had to be done to calm the rising panic in the church. To that end, I wrote Y2K: A Reasoned Response to Mass Hysteria, released in February. It documents fully what we can only summarize here.
My point of view on Y2K is no more welcome in many circles than my critique of psychology or of positive confession or of Catholicism. How appropriate for today were Christ's words to the Jews, "And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not" (Jn:8:45). One of my interviews was for a Y2K national TV special. The film crew was enthusiastic, but Steve Hewitt of Christian Computing Magazine and I were cut out because our research undermined what the other "experts" said as well as the planned advertisements for Y2K survival supplies.
A lot of money is being made. Sadly, some of the Christian leaders sounding the alarm the loudest are profiting from their connection to, and even ownership of, firms selling freeze-dried food, generators, gold coins and other survival supplies. Already resentment and disillusionment are surfacing among those who have cashed in life's savings to buy what they will soon discover wasn't needed. Worst of all will be the backlash against Christianity and the gospel when January 1, 2000 reveals that Y2K is nothing like Christian alarmists have warned it would be.
Out of great concern for the damage which misinformation and alarmism are creating within the church, we reluctantly address this issue once again. Mounting evidence makes it clearer each day that the predicted worldwide computer crash is not going to occur. Major manufacturers have notified their suppliers that if their products are not Y2K compliant their contracts will be canceled. No one will buy noncompliant product; and those who sell it are being sued.
In addition to nearly 200 out-of-court settlements, more than 50 Y2K-related lawsuits are working their way through the courts, with significant damages being awarded against manufacturers of equipment that won't work beyond 1999. No electric utility, bank, phone company or 911 service will be able to plead on January 1, 2000 that they just didn't get around to fixing their computers! They've had 25 years to take care of that problem and not to do so would be criminal negligence, against which there's no insurance coverage.
Reflecting irrational fears in the church, InterVarsity canceled its Urbana Conference for the end of December 1999, concerned that flying won't be safe. Yet Jerry Greenwald, CEO of United Airlines, has promised, "We will make sure that you experience the start of the new millennium feeling as safe boarding our aircraft as you do every other day of every year." Greenwald must be absolutely certain to make such a statement. The FAA has announced that all critical components of U.S. air traffic control will be ready for Y2K by June 30, 1999; and the FAA is working with other nations to bring them into compliance. Canadian airports just passed a critical Y2K test: "It was really boring," said a spokesman. "All the systems worked well."
The American Bankers Association announced in early April that 97 percent of the nation's banks are ready for Y2K and that the 3 percent which are not will soon be forced by regulators to merge with those which are. The New York stock exchange and major brokerage firms have passed several Y2K tests. Senator Robert Bennett, whose pessimistic statements once supported alarmists, now admits that Y2K at worst will be a mere "bump in the road." Likewise, Peter de Jager, among the first to sound the alarm and once very gloomy, now says, "...the year 2000 problem no longer exists." As of March 31, 1999, the deadline set by Clinton, only about 500 of the estimated 6,123 critical systems in all 24 U.S. government agencies were not yet Y2K compliant, but soon would be.
Media reports are often sensationalized to excite the public. An article in papers across the country in mid-March, 1999, was headlined, "Glitch at nuke plant shows perils of Y2K tests." It reported that testing for Y2K shut a nuclear plant down for seven hours. In fact, the shut-down had nothing to do with Y2K; an engineer had improperly set a test clock. There was no peril, the problem was discovered and fixed, and power continued to flow. Most local power companies are electromechanical, not computerized, and the large hydroelectric projects depend upon gravity flow of water and could be operated manually.
The truth about the unlikelihood of significant Y2K problems and the thoroughness with which the experts are nevertheless providing for every contingency is found in the technical journals. Therein we discover how the real experts view Y2K, and it doesn't resemble at all what some Christian leaders are saying.
The information provided by these journals rarely finds its way into the popular media. The following is from recent editions of just a few of these publications:
Pshaw. This stuff is beginning to look like a blatant attempt to deceive the public into fixing something that probably isn't broken. If I see many more releases blowing the whole Y2K thing out of proportion, I won't be responsible for my actions...! ("Y2K: MUCH ADO ABOUT NOT A LOT," Computer Technology Review, January 1999 editorial)
Major manufacturers are well underway with year 2000 software bug fixes. (Control Engineering: Covering control, instrumentation, and automation systems worldwide, January 1999, in two articles listing numerous Y2K solutions and dealing with the high-tech developments expected to launch the next millennium)
Year 2000 battlefield simulation [tests] ...at White Sands Missile Range...the Apache Longbow, Apache and Kiowa Warrior helicopters each fired laser-guided Hellfire missiles to successfully verify rollover of five critical Y2K dates. (Boeing News, Feb. 19, 1999)
Department of Defense is in "hyperdrive" to solve Y2K problem....1,673 of 2,300 critical systems were Y2K compliant last December...[NORAD ran in December a] successful three-day exercise involving...five "midnight crossings [12/31/99]" which simulated 30 "missile events" ranging from mass attacks to single missiles. NORAD was able to respond....A similar exercise was successful for the Trident submarine-launched strategic missile system...94 percent [of DOD's mission-critical systems] will be ready by the end of [February 1999]. (Military & Aerospace Electronics, February 1999)
The high-tech journals seem almost contemptuous of Y2K. The media are catching on and further playing down the issue. In April, CNN's Headline News repeatedly ran the same clip about computer chips in autos (Christian "experts" have warned that trucks supplying grocery stores won't run). Mechanics and automakers explained that chips running cars [and trucks] don't care what year it is. It was suggested that owners of cars that won't start on January 1, 2000, might check the gas gauge!
In the face of all the evidence to the contrary, Christian leaders keep sounding the alarm. As a result the church is being led into the real disaster of Y2K: the ruined lives and testimonies, the disillusionment and shattered faith. Consider the backlash discrediting the church, our Lord, the gospel and Bible prophecy when Y2K turns out to be so much less than many have warned it could be. The cost will be incalculable in discredited testimonies and disrupted lives. "If it doesn't happen, you can eat or give away your freeze-dried food," is the standard disclaimer. That doesn't help those who were driven by fear to cash in retirement plans to buy a whole range of survival equipment and supplies.
Who will any longer believe those who were so certain of disaster that they organized neighborhoods, persuaded family and friends to buy generators, huge stores of food and supplies—and tied it all in with Bible prophecy and evangelism? Who will restore the shattered faith of disillusioned Christians who sold their homes to move into a country hideaway or into some "safe, self-contained Y2K Christian community" they saw advertised in a Christian publication such as Falwell's National Liberty Journal? We know of churches already dividing and families breaking up over Y2K, and worse could follow.
There has been a serious abuse of Scripture. A major mantra for Christians sounding the alarm is "A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished" (Prov:22:3, 27:12). That scripture has no bearing upon Y2K. Solomon's prudent man knows the evil that's coming and thus what to hide from. But the alarmists, after telling us how disastrous it might be, themselves hide behind this specious phrase: "No one really knows what will happen." Yet they want everyone to prepare—for what? This uncertainty breeds "a spirit of fear" (2 Tim:1:7).
Another verse is used to make us feel guilty for not storing up vast amounts of food and supplies: "But if any provide not for ...those of his own house, he hath denied the faith and is worse than an infidel" (1 Tim:5:8). Yet how is one to provide for one's house without knowing the extent of the problem? If we were to prepare for six months and it were to last a year, what then?
Possible scenarios are presented, from a mild bump to total disaster—lasting anywhere from a few days to years. Gary North predicts that 1.5 billion people could die from cold, starvation, riots, etc. In What Will Become of Us? (The International Crisis Management Center, 1998, pp. 111-16), Julian Gregori declares,
I predict...every developed nation will fall into a seven-to-eight-year economic collapse....serious Y2K computer ambushes will begin surprising Americans in mid-1999...a drastic correction in the stock market (by the end of September, 1999), and the closing of some banks. The closing of some nuclear power plants in October...the end of American lifestyles as we know them....
I predict...failures of electrical power. ...Most Y2K victims will be refugees who are attempting to flee anarchical conditions in the cities...by April 2000, at least seven out of every ten Americans will lose their jobs or their present level of income. ...martial law may be imposed in late 1999....
Senator Bennett has publicly compared [Y2K] to Tower of Babel catastrophism.
Such outdated quotes continue to be offered. To cover all bases, they hold open the possibility of anything from mild to meltdown. "Don't panic," they tell us, even while they lay out as at least possible scenarios that offer more than enough cause for panic. "Hope for the best, and prepare for the worst," we're told. But who could possibly prepare for the worst? Not the elderly in retirement homes or convalescent hospitals nor even the average Christian!
What are we to do? "Pray about it," they say. Thus prayer is turned into divination: seeking a message from God about what to do, when action should be dictated by facts. It is like praying for what stock to invest in on Wall Street or asking God to reveal whether one should get out of bed in the morning. Christian alarmists can't tell us which of their scenarios will actually happen, but God is supposed to tell us.
Spurred on by such advice, many Christians testify that God has told them to sell their homes and move out into an isolated place far from any city because Y2K is going to break down social and civil order. Abandoning friends and neighbors, they have opted for the ultimate in self-interest; some even unashamedly buying guns and fortifying their hideaways and communicating only by email. They argue that they don't have the means to feed all the hungry around them when Y2K comes and must provide for their families. Some Christians, unable to change their residences, have plywood ready to nail over windows and an old car they will park in their driveway and burn January 1, 2000, so that the rampaging mobs will think the house has already been looted and will pass it by.
Yet such Christians claim to have prayed and been led of God to adopt these measures. What will happen to their faith, the faith of their families and friends, and what message will it send to the unsaved when this "guidance from God" turns out not only to be a falsehood but folly?
Other Christians are convinced this will be the church's finest hour, that Y2K will provide the greatest opportunity in history to win the lost to Christ. It is supposedly up to Christians to feed their unsaved friends and neighbors—and when they come for food and warmth they'll be open to the gospel and will be won to Christ. However, starving people are interested in food, not religion; and when desperate enough they'll do anything to get it.
The early church was specifically told by a true prophet of a coming "great dearth throughout all the world" (Acts:11:27-30). Yet under the Apostles' leadership they did not store up food to feed unsaved neighbors or seek to use this disaster for evangelism. Nor is it biblical (or logical) to attempt to do so today.
The truth is that the world right now contains millions of starving and dying people who need help and the gospel. What a delusion to wait for Y2K to provide the greatest opportunity while neglecting the challenges we already face!
So what should we do as Christians? Prudence requires a reasonable stock of supplies on hand for any emergency (earthquake, hurricane, flood). At all times we should diligently be witnessing to family, neighbors, and the wider circle of unsaved with whom we come in contact. We can trust the One who wrought our eternal salvation to bring us through this earthly scene and to our heavenly home in triumph. TBC