Welcome to “Progress with God”.
The following quote, from the American Christian historian, economist and theologian Dr. Gary North (b. 1942), neatly encapsulates what this blog is about:
“The vast majority of Christians have adopted an eschatology—the doctrine of last things—that insists that the world cannot be reformed. Yes, an individual can use the Bible to reform himself with God’s help. Of course, Christian families can be reformed by biblical principles. Even churches can be reformed or else replaced by better ones. But society cannot be successfully reformed. Neither can the state. In contrast, another group of Christians, few in number in the past, insist that Christ’s redemption is comprehensive. Wherever sin reigns, Christ’s kingdom can reform it. Therefore, the Bible offers answers to every question, including this one: “How should this area of life be reformed?” This is the issue of healing. The concept of healing is related to salvation. A salve heals.”
“I am in the second group. I am inviting you to join.”
Like North, I’m an optimist. I’m looking forward — to the next revival and beyond. I don’t know if I’ll live to see it, but I want to, prayerfully, do what I can to help prepare for it, to help make it happen. I also believe that God has a continued purpose for this world. Which means we may expect to see, this side of eternity, Isaiah’s prophesy of general longevity fulfilled (see Isaiah 65:20). I want others to join me in this outlook. That is the purpose of this blog.
The world needs improving. I suppose with that I’m in agreement with about 99 percent of adult, cogitative and sentient humanity, give or take a percent or two.
However: Which way do we go? What do we do? How do we know we are “improving” or rather “diminishing” the world? By what standards do we measure “improvement”? What are we prepared to pay, or “sacrifice”, to achieve improvement? Who is “we”? Who decides? Who should decide?
Many people claim to be “progressive”. I do not know of any of these who are able to say clearly and concisely what their end-goal is. However, whenever I investigate their pronounced claims and short-term aims, their policies, their methods, and then look beyond, all I can conclude is that their end-goal is stagnation and death. Subconsciously or otherwise, that is what they appear to be aiming at. Which, interestingly from a psychological viewpoint, completely contradicts their claim to be “progressive”.
I claim that actual progress – meaning progress towards an abundance of life, joy, and peace – is possible only with God. Meaning progress in line with God’s commandments as laid out in the Bible and renewed by Jesus Christ. Any other “progress” is at best delusional, if not even fraudulent, and in any case built on (quick)sand.
Does “progress” necessarily mean “going forward”? Not according to what C.S. Lewis had to say on this subject in 1942:
“We all want progress. But progress means getting nearer to the place where you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man. There is nothing progressive about being pig-headed and refusing to admit a mistake. And I think if you look at the present state of the world it’s pretty plain that humanity has been making some big mistake. We’re on the wrong road. And if that is so we must go back. Going back is the quickest way on.”
Here’s the crucial phrase from the above quote: “where you want to be”. Where do you want to be? Nearer to life or to death? To joy or to despondency? To peace or to war?
What are the standards by which we judge where we are, and where we are going?
Other questions following from the Lewis-quote are: How far back do we need to go? If indeed we do need to go back. And what exactly does that mean, “walking back”, when time moves relentlessly forward?
A good starting point may be the answer given to the first question in the Westminster Shorter Catechism (written in 1646 and 1647):
Q. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.
Everything else, it can be assumed, follows from that. So, according to this, our chief task is to work out what the chief aim means in detail – and then work towards implementing the details.
According to the Bible, God created humankind for a specific purpose. A statement such as this, in today’s supposedly “enlightened” and “progressive” society, is already an act of impropriety. For: There is no purpose in the universe, say leading scientists. However, they ignore or conceal that that statement is as unproven and unprovable as the statement that God exists. It is a presupposition. It is a statement of faith. A creed. That the universe was created on purpose is also a presupposition, on at least an equal footing as the opposite. The author of this blog admits to the presupposition that the universe was created on purpose.
What then was the specific purpose that God had in mind for humankind? According to the Bible, it was this: “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.” (Genesis 1:28, NLT). It is God’s first commandment directed at humanity. (His very first one in general is: “Let there be light.” [Genesis 1:3, NLT] – a commandment interpreted unforgettably by the composer Joseph Haydn).
In Genesis 2:15, we read: “The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it.” (NLT) The Garden was a testing ground for humanity. We failed the test, in that we did not respect the boundaries allotted by God. We continue to fail that test to this day, but that doesn’t mean that the original tasks were rescinded. They continue to this day in the whole world, albeit under very aggravated conditions: In the knowledge, and certainty, of death.
So, in short, we are to establish a rule over all nature, in order to look after it. These two aspects, ruling over nature and looking after it, are inescapably bound together. However, there is also an inescapable hierarchy. We cannot look after something we have no authority over. So, in order to be able to look after nature, we must first rule over it.
What does all that mean for us today? How should we act in the world in order to progress with God? In fact, why should we “progress” at all? And why “with God”?
The questions on this page and many more related questions are the subject of this blog. I hope that making these entries and communicating them to the outside world will help me systematise my thoughts. My personal aim is to create a body of thought coherent enough to become an inspiration for many others. The greater aim is that this body of thought will be a contribution, even if only a small one, to a lasting revival.
Dear reader, you are cordially invited to join me on this adventure of intellectual and spiritual discovery.
Wherever you are, geographically as well as spiritually, may God bless you.