A teenage boy loses his hat on a rollercoaster ride. After exiting the ride, he spots his hat behind the guard fence that surrounds the rollercoaster. A large sign reads “Danger! Do not enter!” Ignoring the sign, the boy climbs the fence. He is immediately confronted by a secondary fence with the same sign. “Danger! Do not enter!” His hat is just beyond this fence. He climbs it. Mere feet from recovering his hat, the rollercoaster rushes down on him and he is decapitated.
In the book “The Progress Paradox,” by Gregg Easterbrook, the author makes the argument that even though it doesn’t feel like it, the world is improving; not declining. How is it improving? Through better economy, education, politics, science, and technology.
Of course, improvement is impossible to measure unless there is a goal toward which you are improving or a standard by which you measure the improvement. Based on the authors premise, it seems reasonable to assume that the goal is to make people richer and more educated, to have their views and values better represented by their government, to live longer and to be more comfortable.
However, if all of these things are getting better, why do people still feel as if the world is getting worse? If a rich, well educated, well represented, healthy and comfortable person is still miserable, then what still needs to change?
In the medical profession, if a person has a fever, a headache, and congestion, you can lower their body temperature and place them on pain reducers and decongestants. When this is done, they will no longer have a fever or a headache or congestion, but they will still be sick. Why? Because you have treated the symptoms and not the cause.
The teenage boy at the rollercoaster was educated enough to read the signs. He was wealthy enough to purchase a new hat. The government safety regulations had required two restraining fences for his protection, and science and technology had given him a safe and enjoyable rollercoaster to ride. Why did he still lose his head? Very simply because he was unwilling to obey.
There is a skeptical argument against Christianity that goes like this: “Why should I get involved with or take my children to church? I know right from wrong and I am capable of teaching my children morals without the church or religion.”
This argument makes good sense if the purpose of church is to teach morality. However if mere laws were sufficient to improve a person, the boy at the rollercoaster would still be alive, and the Bible would have ended with the Ten Commandments.
The fact of the matter is that, until you change a person’s heart, all the money, education, law, science, and technology in the world will neither improve that person nor will it bring any lasting satisfaction into the person’s life.