Retrospect & Prospect – What does that mean? If you search for this phrase at Amazon.com you will find several books with this as a subtitle or as a portion of the title, the unimportant portion. It is the title of a couple of books, one of which doesn’t seem to really exist, and the other uses it in a way that says, “this title isn’t as important as the subtitle, so keep reading.” All of this makes perfect sense as Retrospect and Prospect are words that exist to point to other words (in titles) and other realities (in life).
Put simply, Retrospect refers to things that have gone before (ie. the Past), and Prospect refers to things that are yet to come (ie. the Future). More specifically, they refer to the VIEW from the present of what has transpired in the past (retrospect) and the possibilities that await in the future (prospect). A layman’s term for retrospect might be “hind-sight.” And prospect might be called “an anticipation” or “an expected outcome.” For those still confused, I’ll use each one in a sentence.
-“In retrospect, perhaps it was a bad idea to each that piece of fruit.” -Eve or the evil queen Jadis from The Magician’s Nephew.
-“We are in the middle of the desert with no way to communicate with the outside world, and we have run out of water…I do not think that our prospects are good.” -Anonymous (they didn’t make it)
You may still wonder why one would title their blog “Retrospect and Prospect.” A professor of mine once said that if you want to know what God will do at the end of the world, you need to study what He did at the beginning (my paraphrase Ciampa, 2008). Creation will tell us something about the New Creation. Pre-Fall man can tell us something about Renewed man. Looking back, in this sense, will help us to look forward. Similarly, the Eucharist (the Lord’s Supper) is a Retrospective & Prospective event. It is a remembering of Jesus’ body broken and blood shed. It is also a looking forward. Even in the midst of giving out the elements, Jesus says, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 22.15). The Church calendar functions the same way. Advent is a season of remembering the expectation of the first coming of Christ as a baby to Bethlehem. It is also an anticipation of His second coming, in power and in glory!
The point of Retrospect & Prospect is that the past and future drives the present! We must look back and look forward in order to live TODAY. If we do not look back, then our looking forward will be uninformed and cloudy. If we do not look forward we will lose sight of the goal, our priorities will be compromised, and our hope forgotten. Paul often motivated his readers for living today through encouraging Retrospect & Prospect. His exhortations were rooted in what God had already done for the readers or what God will one day do for them.
Practically speaking, this means that we do not outright reject previous generations, tradition, nor history. What a great source of inspiration, instruction, and life these are for the Retrospective Christian. As for the future, we keep our eyes firmly fixed on the prize of Christ and a share in His glory. That is our hope, and as John Owen has encouraged us, we must contemplate those things that are our hope, and allow hope to well up within us. Another practical outcome is that we are always attempting to discern the signs of the times like the men of Issachar (1 Chronicles 12.32). Whether we are watching the news or discerning the state of our hearts, we realize that we live in the last days – in between the first coming of Christ and His coming again. Therefore we seek to discover the present importance and application of any of life’s circumstances or issues in light of Christ’s first and future coming – or in short, in light of the Gospel.