My neighbor and I were talking about Putin and Ukraine and he said something that shocked me. He said he couldn’t believe Putin in this “day and age” would invade another country. He said that he was shocked because he believed we’d evolved past all that.

This drives me bananas. The world is essentially a hells cape. China imprisons and enslaves its own people. North Korea starves its own people to death. In Africa, a number of countries in territorial disputes are fighting and children are being taken and forced to be soldiers. In the Middle East, women are stoned and people are thrown off rooftops for engaging in homosexual activities. Mexico is run by drug lords who behead people as a warning to others. Millions flee from South America looking for a new life.

The modern world is the greatest evidence for the Creation story in the Old Testament. We are fallen.

Some in the western world live in a bubble of safety. It is an illusion. Cities around the US have soaring murder rates.

But there’s this pervasive idea that we’re evolving and getting better. Where does it come from? The Jesuit priest Tielhard de Chardin talked about things like this. Have those ideas permeated the mainstream? Or is it a misunderstanding of Darwinism? Martin Luther King, Jr., said that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” I haven’t noticed that to be true, at least not in this world.

In fact, it may be the advancement of civil rights for all in the West that promotes this idea. Oddly, at one and the same time we’re told that no advancements have been made. The LGBT agenda has advanced so rapidly and achieved so many easy victories in the past decade and a half that it gives an illusion of progress.

It’s not. We are not a more advanced culture with more intelligent beings who can look back upon the barbarity of the past with a tsk-tsk. Not with our murder rates. Not with our killing of the unborn by the million. Not with our confused gender roles. Not with our suicide rates.

Our country itself seems on the verge of civil war.

But the technological progress of the internet and promises of future technological advances gives rise to the belief that we’re advancing. We’re not.

Read the story of Adam and Eve and how they’re full of blame for others for their own actions. Eve blames the serpent and Adam blames Eve. Read the parable of the prodigal son. Is there a greater story that shows the weakness and strength of humanity in just a few paragraphs? Those stories show the truth of humanity.

That should tell us that we are not progressing.Those truths in the Bible are timeless.

There’s no expiration date on scripture. We will never outgrow the gospels.

Amy Welborn recently wrote at Charlotte Was Both on this topic. I’m going to excerpt it but read the whole thing. It’s very good.:

So, I gave a talk on Catholic Church history – an overview, a quick hits kind of tour. Instead of trying to actually go through a lot of dates and events, what I focused on the Catholic understanding of history, contrasting it with the secular view – which is the view most of us, Catholic or not, assume is the normative paradigm.

What is that secular view? That the human journey on earth is one of progress and advancement.

It makes sense, in a way, for one of the major features of human life, especially since the Enlightenment is obvious technological and material progress and betterment. And expansion of our sense and experience of human rights and civil liberties. It is not surprising, then this has become our dominant paradigm for comparing past and present.

Given spice, of course, since Marx and through to the present, with the paradigm of class and now identity struggle and conflict.

But that’s not the Catholic paradigm. I really can’t do better than to quote this:

It is important to note that the Christo-centric view of history is fundamentally different from the ideology of the progress of man. Those who exclude the Incarnation from the story of man preach a different gospel: that man, through his continued “enlightenment,” will eventually make sense of suffering—or even eliminate it. On the contrary, in this fallen world there will always be sin, sorrow and suffering, and only through Christ do these mysteries find meaning. Christ, the Prince of Peace, turns the human story upside down by defeating sin and death on the Cross, and by sanctifying suffering.

And then B16, from Spe Salvi:

That is, Church Fathers such as Eusebius and Augustine understood God as speaking to his people through history, and not simply Church history proper. The rise and fall of nations were to be understood in terms of God calling his people to himself.

At the same time, two categories become increasingly central to the idea of progress: reason and freedom. Progress is primarily associated with the growing dominion of reason, and this reason is obviously considered to be a force of good and a force for good. Progress is the overcoming of all forms of dependency—it is progress towards perfect freedom. Likewise freedom is seen purely as a promise, in which man becomes more and more fully himself. In both concepts—freedom and reason—there is a political aspect. The kingdom of reason, in fact, is expected as the new condition of the human race once it has attained total freedom. The political conditions of such a kingdom of reason and freedom, however, appear at first sight somewhat ill defined. Reason and freedom seem to guarantee by themselves, by virtue of their intrinsic goodness, a new and perfect human community. The two key concepts of “reason” and “freedom”, however, were tacitly interpreted as being in conflict with the shackles of faith and of the Church as well as those of the political structures of the period. Both concepts therefore contain a revolutionary potential of enormous explosive force.

On this subject, all we can attempt here are a few brief observations. First we must ask ourselves: what does “progress” really mean; what does it promise and what does it not promise? In the nineteenth century, faith in progress was already subject to critique. In the twentieth century, Theodor W. Adorno formulated the problem of faith in progress quite drastically: he said that progress, seen accurately, is progress from the sling to the atom bomb. Now this is certainly an aspect of progress that must not be concealed. To put it another way: the ambiguity of progress becomes evident. Without doubt, it offers new possibilities for good, but it also opens up appalling possibilities for evil—possibilities that formerly did not exist. We have all witnessed the way in which progress, in the wrong hands, can become and has indeed become a terrifying progress in evil. If technical progress is not matched by corresponding progress in man’s ethical formation, in man’s inner growth (cf. Eph 3:16; 2 Cor 4:16), then it is not progress at all, but a threat for man and for the world.

And now to apply this to Church history specifically:

Our stance towards the Catholic past just cannot be to point and laugh at how ignorant they were and how enlightened we are today.

No, our paradigm is to recognize that we all – past, present and future – share a common stance: on our knees before the Cross.

The 20th Century was the bloodiest century of all so I have no idea how you get “progress” out of that? There is faithfulness and unfaithfulness. There is acting in love and acting from hate.

The world strays from organized Christianity, perhaps in the false belief that we are becoming like gods ourselves. That could account for the rise in pagan and occult activities.

The more we “progress’ down this path, the more we court destruction. Jesus is the way. When we choose our own way, we can call ourselves trailblazers but we must ask ourselves where we’re heading.