Under the Sun: The Myth of Progress


One mark of our day is the belief in progress. This myth is so strong it often blinds us from the lessons of history and the eternal truths of God’s Word. It is so prevalent many identify themselves as progressives. This is a loaded term. It casts one side as being on the right side of history while their opponents are backward and stuck in the past. Such thinking is popular because we are enamored with the latest and greatest in music, entertainment, technology, and even morality. We are always seeking something new. 

It is safe to say many of us really do believe we have accomplished something great, but we remain unsure exactly what that may be. Perhaps it’s the internet, the smartphone, or our medical treatments? Yet into all this, any objective look at our day concludes the main issues mankind faces are the same they have faced throughout history. Nonetheless, in our snobbery we look down on those who have come before us. 

If 2017 taught us anything, it is we are not as advanced and progressive as we have been led to believe. Those who march on the frontlines of progressive ideology have been found to be morally bankrupt hypocrites. Sex scandal after sex scandal has rock the progressive strongholds on both the east and west coasts. As it turns out, the progressive sexual ethic actually leads to the abuse of women. As I said in an earlier message, when progressives decry sexual immorality, it is nothing short of the blind leading the blind. This is the opposite of progress, but the blind are easily deceived by those who claim sight. 

Yet the myth of progress remains. The elite have doubled-down, “We just need to work harder in 2018 to cast off our shackles and strive after a better, more progressive world!" What exactly are we to leave behind? The shackles progressives rage against is the embedded Christian morality found in the history of the West. We have been told time and again, such a morality is oppressive to women. Why? Because Christians dare treat women with chivalry, respect, and honor through our sexual ethic—sex only in marriage. How backward can we be? Treating women with honor, respect, and as more than a sexual object? Clearly this is regressive behavior. .

Who cares about morals from a bygone era anyways? Many dismiss Christianity because it is seen as irrelevant to our modern day.  What could the life of a first century Jew have to say to us today? Even some Christians fall into this trap; they believe our age is so utterly different than biblical times that Scripture couldn’t possibly impact their daily life. The biblical times were superstitious, backward, and so decidedly unprogressive there is not much our modern minds can glean from the Bible.  

This is where the myth of progress is dangerous, it dismisses those who have come before us. It furthers our blindness. It is here Ecclesiastes reminds us of a crucial truth, “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done,  and there is nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing of which it is said, ‘See, this is new’? It has been already in the ages before us.”

This verse assaults our snobbery head-on. In a society which prides itself on being new, progressive, and unique Solomon says, “Stop kidding yourself! None of this is new!” He wants us to know we possess nothing in all our progress that is truly new. None of it changes our fundamental state and our fundamental needs. Even our technology is not new, it’s just an adaptation of something which already existed. 

The internet? Just another form of communication like newspapers, the printing press, and language in general. Nothing is really new. The human condition remains unchanged. We are still sinful. We still struggle with anger, lust, slander, power struggles, etc.  We still need salvation. Here is the truth we desperately need to deep in our minds—Scripture is relevant precisely because mankind is not progressing. We remain unchanged with the same problems we have always had—our sinful hearts. 

The good news is change entered the world through the work of Christ. Change, progress, growth are only available through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. All of history hinges upon his work. History is his, he is the ruler, and his kingdom ushers in the utopia which has escaped mankind throughout history. The only truly progressive people are those who are seeking Christ’s kingdom through repentance and faith. Everyone else is stuck in the same backward cycle of sin, vanity, and death. If we wish to seek progress, we must turn and look in faith upon the God-man who entered this world generations ago.