in Christian Perspective
William J. Tinkle
From: JASA 3
September 1951): 39-41.
Seeking after progress has become one of the outstanding ideals of modern
man. This was not true, however, in ancient or mediaeval times and there was
general progress in very few of the centuries before the Industrial Revolution,
beginning about the seventeenth century A. D. Thus among the fifty centuries of
recorded history, we find steady progress In man's mastery over matter in only
the last four centuries. Among peoples not of European descent we find but little progress even today, and many of then do not even consider it
preferring to maintain the custom of their fathers.
Material progress in Western Europe during the early modern period was
marked by competition among manufacturers and merchants and poverty of the
laborers. But scholars pointed out that this struggle is to be expected, that the
beat will survive
I and after a long period of time, progress will be apparent.
This is a scientific law, they said, even among plants and animals, and in this
way our improved species have arisen.
Now lot us take a look at the Ideal that preceded the ideal of progress
based upon struggle. In mediaeval times, when all the Christians lived in
Europe and all Europeans were supposed to be Christians, the emperor and pope
were supposed to rule with a paternal attitude, applying the will of God to the
people. Thus, order was to be maintained and strife eliminated, and the people
should be content with the will of God for their lives. This was not always
carried out but we have to admit that in a republic people do not always vote
for the best man. There was need for improvement. however, for learning was
very meager and the standard of living was low. And with all the discussion of
theology, morals were no better than in modern times, according to Schaff's
This static mediaeval system was broken by two events coming close together;
(1) the rediscovery of ancient Greek culture, and (2) the discovery of the New
World by Columbus. With the huge new store of ideas, of raw materials, and potential
markets, Christendom could not be the same again. The Industrial Revolution especially has given us our Idea of
progress, and it could not have
reached great proportions without the natural resources from the New World.
Consequently, the result was a period of struggle: scholars relying upon
investigation and reason and rejecting the dogmas of the church; people related
by language and descent struggling to form a nation of their own; captains of
industry harnessing the forces of nature and competing for distant markets.
They were following the modern ideal of enlightened self interest; in other words,
"Every man for himself and the Devil take the hindmost." The result in greater
speed, which is considered a synonym for progress. But only a few men could own
factories, while those who worked in them, largely women and children in those
days, worked long hours in unhygienic conditions and for small pay. Thoughtful
people hesitated to accept the new system.
Then came Thomas Malthus, who in 1798 wrote an "Essay on Population" in which he stated that poverty of the masses is to be expected. it is a law of
nature that population increases faster than food. Even plants and animals Produce awe offspring than can become
established, with the result that they struggle among themselves for the
available food. He failed to see, however, that no
distinction can be made between living things and food, since the food of an animal is either another
animal, a plant, or a plant product.
Rather than the activities of plants and animals, Malthus described the unregulated and unrestrained competition
anon the people of Western Europe at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.
What be wrote about biological law was an after thought to justify his conclusions about human political economy. It
is true that more young animals are produced than can reach maturity but this is
insurance against the extinction of species and a means of providing food for
other species. It also is true that there is occasional struggle among
animals but it is not incessant. Effort is primary, not struggle.
Charles Darwin in 1859 reiterated the statements of Malthus that there is
prodigality of reproduction in nature, resulting in a struggle for existence,
and added the doctrine that the plants and animals that survive are superior to
the ones that succumb. According to Darwin, this superiority, while it may be
is germinal, and therefore is passed on to the next generation. After
many generations of this natural selective process the Improved characters are
accumulated) so that a plant or animal is achieved that deserves to be called a
now species. He even claimed that all existing species, including man, were
formed thus from the primordial mass of protoplasm.
This is the Natural Selection theory of evolution, which is by far the most
popular one. The others, such as Inheritance of Acquired Characters,
Orthogenesis, and Creative Evolution, have not attracted so many followers.
Apart from the lack of sufficient demonstration in nature, Darwin's chief mistake
was his claim that the individuals which survive are germinally superior to
the ones which perish.
most cases their hereditary factors are not different
at all; with the result that it does
matter which individual plant or animal
survives, the next generation will be the same. If the individual that survives
is a mutant, it is germinally different from the others but it is not an improvement over the parental type.
According to Malthus and Darwin, struggle is a blessing, To be sure it I
very costly and we must have endless patience to appreciate the result but
the end it gives us improved types. Then if
we only had sufficient courage to
increase the vicissitudes of life we should increase the speed of man's evolution. Malthus advocated
that there should be no laws to regulate factory work
but modern nations long since have disagreed with him on that point, seeing that
natural laws do not regulate sufficiently. In addition, we are coming to appreciate the fact that cooperation in business can do
what competition can not do.
The Industrial Revolution has led to material progress, but this Is due to the
exploitation of natural resources, which in time must fall because of the limited
supply. If improvement through struggle were a basic law Its functioning would
be eternal; rather, it has given material progress because of the combination of
circumstances mentioned above. Struggle does not necessarily lead to progress.
In biology we have learned that natural selection does not initiate new
and improved species but eliminates the individuals which are infirm, sick, aged,
or crippled, along with the ones that merely happen to be crowded out, so that a
lower limit is maintained.
If these defective organisms reproduced and the
offspring were like them, the average of the species would retrograde; but
actually takes place is that natural selection keeps the average of the generations
uniform. The improved breeds and varieties of modern times have been developed by man of special ability and experience.
There was struggle at times,
as for instance against Insect enemies, but intelligent care was needed incessantly. This care is somewhat of the nature of that mentioned In Genesis 1:2;
"The Spirit of God moved (brooded) upon, the face of the waters."
In the Bible we are commanded to struggle against Satan
and his hosts.
'"Resist the devil and he will flee from you." James 4:7. The result of this
struggle is not to be an improved race of people but the approval of God.
We are commanded not to fight against men, not even evil ores. "For we
wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities,
against the rulers of the darkness of this vorld, against spiritual wickedness
high places." Ephesions 6:12. "But I say unto you, that ye resist not evil;
shall smite thee an thy right cheek. turn to him the other also."
5:39. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place
unto wrath: for it is written, vengeance is mine; I will repay saith the Lord."
Romans 12:19. Our dealings with other men should be guided by love, realizing
that since men are made in the image of God they are capable of repenting of
evil that may be in their hearts. If our good treatment does not bring them to
repentance, then God will mete out the punishment.
The idea that struggle Leads naturally to progress arose In modern time in
Europe and has endured but a short time as compared with the history of the human race. It bas given man a remarkable mastery of energy and
material goods abundant for some people but not for all. The theory
by Natural Selection started as a scientific justification of struggle. Since
it is not in accord with the Bible or other older literature but is an outgrowth
of the Bra of Political and Industrial Revolution, the theory of Evolution by
Natural Selection will pass away with that era.