Is Progress Always a Good Thing?
“I don’t know where I’m going, but I’m on my way.” Carl Sandburg
“Watch the path of your feet and all your ways will be established.” Solomon
We hear much talk in society about the importance of “progress.” Politicians and leaders talk about the progress that we make under their enlightened leadership. Social leaders often refer to the progress that their group is making in a particular area. It often sounds like the progress itself is the end result.
I wonder, though, if it is possible to make progress while going in the wrong direction? I can drive fast going the opposite direction of where I live. I am making progress but I am not going to get to the place I need to get to.
This is a trap that individuals, groups, even nations can fall prey to. Is what we are calling “progress” really progress or are we just going fast in the wrong direction? Chesterton speaks of progress as moving towards moral ideals. If that is an accurate or even partially accurate understanding of what true progress is, how do we measure up?
We don’t often hear discussion of moral standards or ideals very much today. If anyone should dare bring up such a subject, they are very quickly shut down as being out of touch with progressive thinking. N. T. Wright said, “Our problem is not that we have forgotten what the moral standards are. We have forgotten what a moral standard is.”
Christians and ultimately the Church should be the ones who uphold and point to Biblical moral standards. Unfortunately, the Church has often approached this in a hateful and a judgmental way. Today, it seems that the Church has swung far to the other extreme of not wanting to make waves or create controversy by acknowledging that we still believe and hold to absolute moral standards.
Is there a true north? Are there absolute standards that God has established? Is it possible for the Church to point out the True Path, the only way to make genuine progress in a way that is loving, respectful, and sincere?
As he so often did, C. S. Lewis cut through the clutter of false ideas and ideologies: “Progress means getting nearer to the place you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turn, 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.”
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