The concept of progress is in itself a relatively new thing, an idea that became popular during the Industrial Revolution when science and technology were changing everyday life — and theoretically improving it — at an almost unbelievable pace.
Up until then, history passed pretty much without the thought of the human race going anywhere… we simply were. The idea that humanity and society are improving over the centuries, and will continue to get better and better, is a teaching of the philosophers of the Industrial Age.
The institutional church’s reactions to this teaching are interesting to note. According to the Gonzalez history, the Catholic hierarchy (Popes etc) tended to react to change with “futile attempts to return to the past” (vol 2, p. 281). Protestant churches, on the other hand, tried to interpret the faith in new ways, with a new frame of mind, in essence adapting the faith to the surrounding culture and looking to the future — looking for progress within the church and within religion.
Tell me what you all think of this: is it possible both churches got it wrong? What if neither approach is true to God?
As a lifelong Protestant it seems to me the reactionary approach the Catholic Church took isn’t appropriate or effective, and results in the church becoming irrelevant to everyday life (perhaps someone raised in the faith could shed some light on this?) But what if the Protestants got it wrong too?
What if the concept of social progress is an illusion? What if change is merely change? How can we know if any particular change is for the better? How can we know if any particular change will be permanent (as it must be if it’s going to be a stepping-stone for progress)?
What if change is merely one more expression of the Creator’s infinite variety? In a world where no two flowers are exactly the same, and no two snowflakes are exactly the same, and no two people are exactly the same, why should we expect all change to be aimed in one direction? What if change is just another color in the palette of life?
Perhaps we’re just supposed to ride the waves of change like a surfer rides the waves of the ocean. What if that’s what faith is really all about — being able to ride the waves without fear, with a joyful “cowabunga!” knowing we’re safe in the hands of a loving Eternal One? Maybe that’s what the church is supposed to be teaching us…?
– written 8/14/07 at Changes in Attitudes, Avon, Hatteras, NC