The ancient world saw history as a never ending cycle, without any true rhyme or reason. There are major philosophies today that continue this way of thinking with the idea of endless reincarnation. Christianity broke away from the main stream of thinking to claim that history is under God’s control and that it is purposefully heading in a specific direction toward a specific end. Western society grabbed a hold of this idea of progress, but left God out of the picture. The overwhelming view for many people today is that progress is our ultimate goal. The questions remains, progress toward what?
C.S. Lewis summarized the current approach to progress as “chronological snobbery.” It is the idea that anything in the past is irrelevant and that only what is new and modern is of value. We live in a technological world that is driven by progress, without any understanding of where that progress will lead us. Progress, for the most part, is amoral, but it opens the possibility for both great good and great evil. For example, genetic testing has been developed to the point that we can now tell much about a baby before the child is born. Yet this information places before us a moral dilemma. What do we do with this technology and this information?
One of the outcomes of a utopian view of progress is the promise that science and technology will solve all of humanity’s problems. But reality tells us a different story. Every advance in science and technology brings with it both a positive result and a negative result. For as many people as see only the positive side of the equation, an equal number see only the negative side. We see this clearly in the number of recent movies that project, not a perfect world in the future, but a brutal, decaying world.
Christianity addresses both sides of this pitfall of progress. First, Christianity is honest about the fallen nature of our world. Because of the introduction of sin into God’s perfect world, both humanity and nature itself have been twisted. We must constantly fight against the forces of death and decay. We cannot escape this battle or assume that we have won it. Paul tells us that the death and decay that we see all around us is a byproduct of sin. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. (Romans 8:20-21)
As long as we leave God out of the picture, the trajectory of human history will be toward evil. For all of the rhetoric about human progress and the basic goodness of humanity, the evidence points in the opposite direction. The Bible summarizes the bent of humanity in Genesis 6:5. The Lord saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.
But Christianity does not leave us to wallow in a pessimistic view of our world. Instead, it holds out real hope that can be found in Christ. Jesus came into a fallen, corrupt world to redeem it and restore it. He came to rescue us from our bondage to sin and death. Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, (Galatians 1:3-4) He came to restore us to God’s original design. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17)
All of history is moving toward the eventual restoration of all of God’s creation. This world, which is captive to death and decay, will be set free and renewed by God. All the old remnants of sin will be swept away and be replaced by God’s perfect world.
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.
Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. (2 Peter 3:10-13)
Our world is not a never ending cycle of meaningless activities. Our world is also not on a linear path toward some man-made utopia or dystopia. Our world is on a well designed course to an ultimate end that is safely and securely in the hands of God. For those of us who have put our faith in Christ Jesus, we can look forward with great anticipation and hope. No matter what happens in our world, God is in control and the ultimate victory is in His hands.
1 Peter 1:3-9
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade--kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.