This past Monday marked the 39th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe Vs. Wade decision, a decision heralded by many as a codification of our society’s social progress and a landmark stepping stone for more progress. Our culture’s movement in moral / ethical issues is a kind of progress. It’s the kind of progress one makes on a treadmill. There is the feeling but not the reality of forward movement.
Because our society in many ways is sprinting from the law of the Lord, the treadmill’s pace will eventually exhaust and overtake us. We fancy ourselves fit for having run so much, but no matter how much effort we put into this race, we will lose.
In the previous post I alluded to Romans 1. Reread that chapter and compare it to the major news items of our day, the events and circumstances claimed by our culture as evidence of increased enlightenment, of progress. As the author of Ecclesiastes tells us, there is nothing new under the sun. The issues are the same – the desires of fallen people are the same – there is the same celebration of sinfulness as freedom and the same sins are being celebrated. And lest we think that God can be mocked, the results of our alleged societal progress will be the same.
The regressive morality in Paul’s day was similar to the regressive morality in the even more distant past. See Genesis 19 for example. And here we are again, moving ahead in history while sliding backward in morality. From our sexual ethics to our neo-pagan worship of the environment and even to child sacrifice via abortion – humanity has been there before and is no better for it. The irony is obvious and haunting – the more progress we make according to our culture’s definition of enlightenment, the more we are actually turning back the historical dial and reliving the dark days which heralded the permanent night of many societies.
It’s not so much that history is repeating itself as the fact that the human heart has not changed. We cannot expect new, good ideas from humanity’s old, fallen heart.
Please, if you are running away from Jesus as He’s revealed in His Word – if you are running a race other than the one he commands and commends – if you’ve been led by the Lord in the paths of righteousness but are tempted by seemingly brighter paths elsewhere: Consider the hard reality of those other paths. They are not new – they are not full of light as they seem – they are not the way of wisdom and compassion and honesty. These are found only in and flowing from Jesus Christ (Psalm 36:9).
When a throng of disillusioned disciples left Jesus following one of His teaching times, He turned to the twelve and asked if they wanted to leave, too. In response, Peter uttered the essence of Christian faith: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. And we have believed, and come to know that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68-69, ESV). John describes the departing disciples as having turned back, or more woodenly translated: “gone away backward.”
If we are not moving ahead as individuals or on a societal level with hearts and eyes set on Christ (Hebrews 12:1-2), we are moving backward. A hedonistic culture may feel itself getting stronger, but it is wasting away spiritually as it retreads paths already traveled, paths that proved to be the undoing of those who pined for them. But for sinners who together look to Jesus Christ for wisdom, truth, beauty and righteousness – the progress is real. The church’s forward movement is the mirror opposite of the world’s. Paul writes “…we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.” (2 Corinthians 4:16, ESV). Such is the race of real progress.