Monday, October 21, 2013

Humanity and its Rut

Humanity has always suffered from a broad array of problems – hatred, envy, bitterness, violence, unforgiveness, and denial – and has never been without various “solutions” and their diagnoses of the problems from which to choose. Inevitably, the solutions take either of two forms – changing either the outer environment or the inner one.

Outer change is often associated with revolution. Something has to be radically changed. Communism/atheism had been convinced that changing the means of production would also change everything else, creating a workmen’s paradise. The infamous Joseph Stalin wrote:

  • “Whatever is the mode of production of a society, such in the main is the society itself, its ideas, and theories, its political views and institutions. Or, to put it more crudely, whatever is man’s manner of life, such is his manner of thought.”
Indeed, “man’s manner of life [affects] his manner of thought.” However, there also seem to be deeper determinants of thought – a breeding ground that a change in mere economic superficialities cannot touch.

I had lived on several Israeli Kibbutzim – perhaps the most radical communist experiments. Owning everything in common clearly had failed to touch our most basic problems. Meanwhile, other communist experiments have uniformly proved to be one enormous, unmitigated blight upon humanity.

The Humanist Manifesto II  identifies a quasi-external problem – ignorance – and therefore promotes its opposite, science and technology, as the solutions:

  • “Using technology wisely, we can control our environment, conquer poverty, markedly reduce disease, extend our life-span, significantly modify our behavior, alter the course of human evolution and cultural development, unlock vast new powers, and provide humankind with unparalleled opportunity for achieving an abundant and meaningful life.”
While science and technology have enabled us to live more affluent and comfortable lives, they too seem to have stopped short of touching the source of our problems. Consequently, depression and suicide rates have been accelerating.

Some solutions, although blaming society, have taken a more internal focus. David Noebel writes about the confidence that humanist psychology has placed in the self:

  • “Every humanist psychologist believes the secret to better mental health lies in getting in touch with the unspoiled, inner self.  When man strips himself of all the evil forced on him by society, he will become a positive agent with virtually unlimited potential…The three major assumptions of Humanist psychology are: man is good by nature and therefore perfectible; society and its social institutions are responsible for man’s evil acts; and mental health can be restored to everyone who gets in touch with his inner ‘good’ self.”
If we all possess a “good self,” how is it that all societies – and they are made up of many “good selves” – have become so evil? And if they have all become evil, what hope can we have? Perhaps then if we change society into a utopia, the same internal forces that had corrupted society initially will once again corrupt it.

Perhaps, instead, our very evident human problems are more resistant to change than the progressives have banked upon. Perhaps each one of us is the problem. This is precisely the substance of the Judeo-Christian revelation. Isaiah indicts the entire human race in this manner:

  • Their feet rush into sin; they are swift to shed innocent blood. Their thoughts are evil thoughts; ruin and destruction mark their ways. The way of peace they do not know; there is no justice in their paths. They have turned them into crooked roads; no one who walks in them will know peace. (Isaiah 59:7-8)
Nor can we even correct ourselves. Our problems are intractable:

  • The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9-10)
Our problems are deeper than we want to acknowledge. As strong as we might be, we cannot lift ourselves out of our rut. Only Another can do that for us.

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