Jewish Futurism is used in three different contexts: religious, artistic and futures studies (foresight, futurology etc.)
Jewish Futurism is encapsulated in the expectation of the messiah in the future rather than "recognizing him in the presence of Christ". This expectation ingratiated itself into certain aspects of Christian theology over the years – the concept of the Second Coming of Christ is a reflection of this.
Jewish Futurism is inherent in the prophetic tradition. For the prophets the future is an "open field of human hope and responsibility.... the future [is] not predetermined ... human beings shape it". According to the Protestant theologian Harvey Cox "Prophecy insists that the future will be shaped not by ... irresistible inherent tendencies but by what men decide to do...." Under the influence of American optimism and the American Dream (that every human being has within him the power to imagine and realize their dreams) American Calvinism evolved from predestination to Finney's volitional salvation (the ability to choose to be saved). American Reform Judaism in the 19th century advocation for a better future as a consequence of human effort is a reflection of this Jewish prophetic tradition. The heredity of the various social reform Christian movements of the late 19th and early 20th centuries in America and Europe is also found within the Jewish prophetic tradition.
Traditional Jewish belief sees the human being as being a partner with God in the ongoing act of creation (i.e. of constantly creating the future). The Messiah will not come because God sends him unconditionally but will be sent when every Jew in the world behaves properly (of his or her own volition). Individual and societal predestination is anathema to Judaism, as is vicarious salvation.
This view was secularized in the Enlightenment's Idea of Progress – that human beings by their own reason and effort can create a better future for themselves. It is the foundational philosophy of Zionism (a development of the late Enlightenment), which called on the Jews to arise and create their own alternative future by their own effort. It also is the foundation of modern future studies. (see Modern Jewish Futurism below)
The term Futurism was originally associated with the Italian art movement of the same name. Many adherents of this movement had underlying fascist tendencies while others were more left wing. Jewish futurism in this context simply refers to Jewish artists who were part of this art movement or contributed to it.
Modern Jewish Futurism
The Idea of Progress as something dependent on human activity is the reason most futurists have over time rejected the term futurology (literally knowledge of the future), which implies a predetermined future that we can come to know and predict, and have increasingly used the term futurism (an ism or ideology) that advocates for volitional human activity to create alternative possible futures. One of the reasons futurists had in the past avoided the term futurism was its association with the Italian art movement of the same name had been its underlying fascist tendencies. As this association has faded futurists have become less loath to use it. Alternative Futures is the coinage of futurists Alvin Toffler and Clement Bezold. Volitional Futurism is the coinage of Tsvi Bisk, contributing editor to The Futurist magazine.
There are two types of modern Jewish futurists:
- Jews who are futurists
- Futurists who deal with the future of the Jewish people
Jews who are futurists
- Alvin Toffler
- Fred Polak
- Herman Kahn
- Ray Kurzweil
- Dennis Gabor
- Faith Popcorn
- Robert Jungk
- Jeremy Rifkin
- Arthur Shostak
Futurists who deal with the future of the Jewish people
The Founders of Zionism
- Moshe Dror, president of the World Network of Religious Futurists
- Tsvi Bisk, director of the Center for Strategic Futurist Thinking
- Yehezkel Dror, founder of the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute
- David Passig, head of the Virtual Reality Lab at Bar-Ilan University
A particular place on this list should be reserved for the practitioners of Foresight. Foresight is a tool for developing visions, understood as possible future states of affairs that actions today can help bring about (or avoid). The practice of Foresight is widespread in European strategic thinking, and to a much lesser level in Canada or United States. In Israel, Foresight projects are developed at the Interdisciplinary Center for Technology Assessment and Forecasting from Tel Aviv University.
- Körtner U. H. J. The End of the World: a Theological Interpretation, 1995, John Knox Press, Louisville Kentucky, p. 41
- Cornish E., The Study of the Future, 1977, World Future Society, Washington, D.C., pp. 53–54