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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Christianity in a Technology Affluent World

Once again I have been reading through my back issues of the Banner of Truth Journal. I thought readers might be interested in an essay submitted by Maurice Roberts, former Editor of the Journal. Roberts' essay was published in Issue 337 of October 1991 under the heading "Man's Modern Techtopia" It follows herewith:

"Man's technical brilliance is fast producing a society which promises to give birth to a secular paradise. The genius of modern civilisation, if it is allowed to run its present course to perfection, will bring mankind to the point at which there is everything to live with and nothing to live for. Every form of material comfort will be on hand to gratify man's physical needs. But society will have lost its soul, its sense of purpose and the very meaning of existence.

The Western world and its secular way of life is an increasingly lonely place for a Christian to live in precisely because it threatens to kill him with material kindness. There probably never was an age which intruded so benignly on the privacy of the mind and of the soul as our modern world does. The secular view of everything under the sun, thanks to the media, presses in on us, not only in the work-place and in the school, but even in the home and at the sick bed. From early childhood until we reach our dying hour the worldly-wise mentality is fed to us in generous spoonfuls. It is taken in with our mother's milk, copied off the blackboard into our earliest school jotters, learned out of countless newspapers and magazines and, in the twilight of life, fed to us in our eventide homes before we close our eyes in the sleep of death.

The supreme achievement of our age is to have banished God from the universe. No age, not even the age of Paine, Voltaire and Rousseau, did it so successfully. God, to all intents and purposes, is an irrelevance to our modern world. He is not, so we now hear, the Author of our existence, the Creator of our universe, our Father in heaven or our Last Judge. If occasional lip-service is paid in our society to such out-worn remnants of our grandparents' creed it is merely a token gesture with no more conviction behind it than if a lapsed Catholic were to cross himself unthinkingly in a moment of sudden fear.

Our modern civilisation is cruel to the Christian by its very kindness. There are no fires or faggots any more with which to burn the devout believer. A lavish toleration is allowed him. But the secular hand strokes the believer's cheek with every breath he breathes. Sensuality and scepticism caress the Christian's mind wherever he turns. Mammon frowns upon him in the streets of the town where he lives and godlessness licks his hand like a lap-dog whenever he sits down to take a moment's relaxation. The secular spirit blows upon us at all seasons like a prevailing wind and its dust settles on our minds like the fall-out from a factory chimney. The siren-voices of our age are singing in unison and their song beats relentlessly on our weary spirits with the message that we ought to forget God and live only for today

As surely as our civilised world has opted not to retain God in its knowledge, so certainly has God righteously given men over to believe the secular lie. God is not in all men's thoughts. Society is hungry and thirsty for things which belong only to this present life. The consequence is that we are now cursed with a fascination and a fixation for the things which all belong to this passing world. The words of the psalmist receive their tragic fulfilment today once again: 'He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul' [Psa. 106:15]. The general wish is that there should be no God; and so God has hidden himself from men as a just judgment on them. The penalty fits the crime. God has paid us back in our own coin. The living God is outlawed and banished from our man-made society. To refer to him in public is an unpardonable breach of etiquette. And God, for his part, is silent. His arm is not shortened nor his ear heavy but our sins have made it necessary that he should hide himself behind the thick cloud till society comes to its senses.

One cannot help being impressed with the exchange we have made as a world since the days of our Christian forefathers. They had humble houses, hard chairs, long working hours, small wages, frequent illnesses and often short lives. But their recompence was to have also well-worn Bibles, well-attended churches, believing hearts, grateful voices, loving families, hospitable homes.

Today's society has (or, at least, aims to get) television and refrigeration, fast cars and warm homes, well-stored larders and plentiful wardrobes, a confident manner and an affluent air. But at what price? It is not, of course, that these things are wrong of themselves. But they are no better than a bubble if they are sought in exchange for the higher treasures which our fathers had. The Christian sighs, not because he resents society's desire for plenty, but because our civilisation is profane like Esau and has sold its heritage for a mess of pottage. What sort of society have we become if in reality our god is our belly and if we spend all our strength for the bread which perishes?

The time was when it was a man's ambition to be mighty in prayer and in the Scriptures, when it was a shame to have uncatechised children and an irreligious Sabbath, and when a man's name was honoured because he was the conscience of his community The day has been known in our nation when education's first goal was to know the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, when to prepare for eternity was widely held to be man's first and greatest need, and when men's acknowledged ambition was to die well after an honourable lifetime toiling to glorify and enjoy God.

In our present-day Utopian society we have made provision for everything but the soul and have made preparation for everything but the hour of death. Our high-streets are a witness to our secular spirit in that they have become a market-place where everything is sold except the truth of Christ, and where men want to buy everything under the sun, but not the salvation purchased by Christ. Hence life has lost its meaning for the multitude who live in this twentieth-century Vanity Fair and woe betide the pilgrim who passes through and shows that his eyes are on a Celestial City not made by man's hand! They will laugh him to scorn and separate from his company as if he were a leper.

All through history men have dreamed of some Utopia, or ideal society on earth. Several famous and important writers have put their ideas for a perfect human world-order into book form. Plato, the Greek thinker, was perhaps the first we know of to write about an ideal state. He was followed by his pupil and rival Aristotle. Much later the idea was taken up by Sir Thomas More and then by Francis Bacon. Karl Marx and his associates did much the same in the last century in their endeavour to achieve a 'classless society'. In recent times George Orwell in his popular novel 1984 rewrites the theme with the well known character of 'Big Brother' ominously present as the observer of all men and with the sinister threat of the 'thought police' ever in the background.

All visions of an ideal world for man and his world suffer from the same sins of omission. They all leave a sovereign God of justice and mercy out of their reckoning. They have no hope of a glorious life in heaven after this one. And they have no place for a Messiah or Redeemer for mankind who dies for them and brings them salvation. We are grateful beyond all words that men's Utopias have never been permitted by God to succeed. All human kingdoms and civilisations have been transient and our own will be no exception.

Only one kingdom is eternal and its 'blessed and only Potentate' is the Lord our God. To every true Christian it is bliss to recall this fact frequently in our modern world. We are grateful to God for the comforts and conveniences of modern life. But they are no substitute to the Christian for God himself. In this the children of the world are opposite to the children of God, in that the former would do anything to make a happy world without God, whereas the latter would cheerfully do without everything this world offers if they could only have God himself The language of the believer is that God is his heaven and to be without the enjoyment of God's favour and fellowship is a veritable 'hell on earth', whatever the material comforts he enjoys.

It is for this very reason that the Christian sighs and groans so often in this modern world. The godless men of our age are straining every nerve today to turn society into a market of pleasures. The Lord's people, on the other hand, long to see it become a garden where men will once again walk with God and a sanctuary where worship and spiritual teaching are given first place in men's lives.

The believer cannot but mourn and weep today because society has made a conspiracy of silence against God. His house is largely shunned. His Word is ignored. His day is profaned. His gospel is scorned. His grace is rebuffed and his mighty deeds are culpably forgotten. In a word, all that the Christian loves is today trampled in the mire of the streets, and men love to have it so.

All over the world, however, there are men and women of God who are weary of the secular spirit of our age. Their tears are in God's bottle. Their sighs are in his book of remembrance. They are the Simeons and Annas of our time, who look for the consolation of Israel [Luke 2:25] and dream of the day when God will rise up from his long sleep like a giant refreshed by wine [Psa. 78:65]. Today they go in the bitterness of their soul because they see Zion languish and her walls turned to ruins. They have seen visions of a God who hears prayer and they pour out their complaint into his bosom.

The day will certainly dawn when the Lord our God will say to his church, 'Awake, awake, 0 Zion' [Isa. 52:1]. It is our absolute confidence that he will not retain his anger forever. Man's modern 'Techtopia' is but another edition of the tower of Babel. It will crumble and fall and be superseded—Oh! may God hasten the day!—by a better and a more spiritual age. Judgment will then return to righteousness [Psa. 94:15]. The promises of God are not yet exhausted. On the ashes of man's corrupt civilisations will be reared up the ancient kingdom of Christ in its glory once again. The 'wilderness will be a fruitful field and the fruitful field be counted for a forest' [Isa. 32:15;.

Let the darkness that surrounds us cause us to cry out to God all the more: 'God of our fathers, rise up again 'in majesty!'

Nearly twenty years later, with more advanced technology, with greater hedonistic pursuits and Maurice Roberts' essay resonates all the more strongly.

Sam Drucker

1 comment:

neil moore said...

I heard, just today, of a revised top 10 list of consumer items for Australia. In a prior decade the list was dominated by food items. Today it is dominated by items of technology with food eliminated altogether from the top 10.