28 October 2013

Progress Despite the Permanency of Trouble

The cross opens its arms to the four winds; it is a signpost for free travelers. – GK Chesterton
A recent article claimed that we are in the midst of a “sea change” (hasn’t this been our continual state?). It suggested that that our current woes stem in the West stem from three causes: 1-the dis-establishment of legal authority in the 18th century, 2-the subsequent dis-establishment of civic authority in the 19th century, followed by 3-the dis-establishment of cultural authority in the 20th century. While this presents an interesting socio-political framework for thinking about systems, cultures and mores, it’s a sociological perspective, it’s a filter. 

Perspectives are ways to look at things. The proverb says if the only tool in your toolbox is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail. In this case, the use of perspectives is a tool—a useful one, now and again–but it’s not our sole tool.

Our fundamental cause of our woes is that from our origins: it’s man’s sin problem–and sin originates from within ourselves–and becomes seen in our words and behaviors. However, identifying our sociopolitical (or other) problems is not the same as rectifying them. Recognition and solution are miles apart. 

Yes, I believe we can make progress (or good change). CS Lewis said progress can be accomplished, yet only if we start “at the right end," that any progress required a stable core, and for that we need the Permanent. The Permanent is the root from which change takes place. 

Lewis thought that in the changing demands of culture on morality and ethics, only an unchanging system of thoughts and values can accommodate the continual increase in knowledge:

“A great Christian statesman [politician], considering the morality of a measure which will affect millions of lives, and which involves economic, geographical and political considerations of the utmost complexity, is in a different position from a boy first learning that one must not cheat or tell lies, or hurt innocent people. 

But only in so far as that first knowledge of the great moral platitudes survives unimpaired in the statesman will his deliberation be moral at all. 

[But] if that goes, then there has been no progress, but only mere change. …change is not progress unless the core remains unchanged.  A small oak grows into a big oak: if it becomes a beech [tree] that would not be growth, but mere change.”

It’s not possible to make effective change unless we know what to change—and we cannot know that until we understand what is intrinsically critical, necessary, and permanent to our existence prior enacting a change. 
Simply, without goal you can’t know where you should go; without a budget, you don’t know how much you can spend before going broke. 

Imagine the vagaries of the weather from one week to the next, or one year to the next—the effect on crops, roads, and even your attitude. In contrast to the changeable weather, imagine that you awaken one day and to find that all that is critically necessary to life (the permanent), say, the sun and the moon, are obliterated. 
At this moment the day’s weather would be your least concern—you’d find yourself in a science-fiction horror film!

Lewis said, “…there is a great difference between counting apples and arriving at the mathematical formulae of modern physics. But the multiplication table is used in both and does not grow out of date.”

He goes on:“The possibility of progress demands that there should be an unchanging element. New bottles for new wine, by all means, but not new palates, throats and stomachs, for that would not be for us, "wine” at all. 

…we find this sort of unchanging element in the simple rules of mathematics. I would add to these the primary principles of morality. And I would also add the fundamental doctrines of Christianity. 

To put it in more technical language, the positive historical statements made by Christianity have the power, elsewhere found chiefly in formal principles, of receiving without intrinsic change, the increasing complexity of meaning which increasing knowledge puts into them.”

The truth (and the necessity) of Christ’s coming, of  His sacrifice, our redemption, and His transformative work in his disciples in so many people throughout millennia and cultures supports Lewis’ assertion in practice. 

Anything worthwhile has been done out of hard won laborious love. The world hasn’t progressed by accident, evolution, or mere government. When it has “progressed,” it has been because of the long, mostly laborious efforts of people who’ve grasped the big, permanent truths.

Love chains us and binds us to seek improvement for our families and for others. 
GK Chesterton said: “Love is not blind; that is the last thing that it is. Love is bound; and the more it is bound the less it is blind.”

I know no more sound, biblical, no more permanent Christian “system” than the Creed. The Creed is our comprehensive succinct expression of biblical truth of God, His work past, present and future, both in the world and in me. 

Stamped throughout out the Creed are expressions not simply of historical fact or theological assertions, but of supernatural and sacrificial love. It is out of the “permanent and fundamental principles” of faith that our lives can grow and bend as the seasons, times, cultures and environments. 

I can grow and change without losing my original God-ordained purpose, placement and end.

If you’re not familiar with a Christian creed, such as the Apostles Creed or the Nicene Creed, here it is. 

For readers unfamiliar with the biblical hand-prints all over the Creed, I have placed some recommended scriptures after it. (The Apostles Creed is shorter than the Nicene Creed).
Nicene Creed
“We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation He came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit He became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man.
For our sake He was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
He suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures;
He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and His kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.
Amen.”

Scripture References for the Creed:
Deuteronomy 6:4, II Peter 1:17, Matthew 6:9 Job 4:17, 35:10, Isaiah 17:7, 54:5, Genesis1:1 Psalms 104:5, Jeremiah 51:15, Psalms 89:11-12, Amos 4:13, Revelation 3:5, Colossians 1:16, Ephesians 4:5,Romans 1:7, 5:1, I Corinthians 1:2, 6:11, II Corinthians. 1:2, 8:9, Galatians1:3, 6:14, Ephesians 1:2, 3:11, Philippians 1:2, 3:20, Colossians 1:3, 2:6, I Thessalonians 1:1, 5:9, II Thessalonians 1:1, 2:14, I Timothy 6:3, 14, I Timothy 1:2, Philemon 1:3, 25, Hebrews 13:20, James 1:1, 2:1, I Peter 1:3,3:15, II Peter 1:8, 14, Jude 17, 21, Revelation 22:20-21, John 1:18, Matthew3:17, John 3:16, Hebrews 1:5, John 1:1, Colossians 1:17, 1 John 1:1, Hebrews1:5, Micah 5:2, John 1:18, 17:5, John 10:30, John 14:9, I Corinthians 8:6,Colossians 1:16, Matthew 20:28, John 10:10 b, Matthew 1:21, Luke 19:10, Romans10:6, Ephesians 4:10, Colossians 2:9, Matthew 1:18, Luke 1:34-35, John 1:14,Matthew 20:19, John 19:18, Romans 5:6, 8, II Corinthians 13:4, Romans 5:8, I Corinthians. 5:15, Matthew 27:2, 26, I Timothy 6:13, I Peter 2:21, Hebrews 2:10, Mark 15:46, I Corinthians 15:4, Matthew 27:63, Matthew 28:1, I Corinthians 15:4, Mark 16:6,II Timothy 2:8, Psalms 16:10, Luke 24:25-27, I Corinthians 15:4, Luke 24:51,Acts 1:9, Mark 16:19, Acts 1:11, Psalms110:1, Ephesians 1: 20, Matthew 26:64, Hebrews 1:3, John 14:3, I Thessalonians4:16, Matthew 16:27, 24:30, 25:31, 26:64, Mark 8:38, Colossians 3:4, Matthew25:3146,Acts 10:42, 1 Peter 4:5, John 18:36, II Timothy 4:1, 18, Luke 1:33,Revelation 11:15, Psalms 145:13, Matthew 28:19, Acts 13:2, II Corinthians 3:17,John 6:63, Romans 7:6, 8:2, II Corinthians 3:6, John 14:16-17, John 15:26,Romans 8:9, Galatians 4:6, Luke 4:8, John 4:24, John 4:24, I Timothy 1:17, I Peter 1:10-11, II Peter 1:21, I Corinthians10:16-17, 12:12-13, Ephesians 3:16-17, 5:27, I Peter 2:9, I Corinthians 1:2,Ephesians 2:20, Revelation 21:14, Ephesians 1:22-23, Colossians 1:24, Hebrews12:23, I Peter 2:9, John 3:5, Romans 6:3, Ephesians 4:5, I Peter 3:21, Titus3:5, I Thessalonians 4:16, I Corinthians 15:12-13, 16, 52 and I Corinthians15:54-57, and Revelation 22:5