Has society really progressed? Or, as our collective moral compass goes haywire, is tolerance for sin the only thing that has grown?
Every generation, it seems, thinks it is smarter than the one before. How could they have been so foolish as to…? You fill in the blank.
The passenger pigeon was once the most prolific bird found on the North American continent. Their massive flocks are legend. The sound of an approaching flock was like thunder, and they could darken the sky for hours as they passed overhead. Yet the last known bird died in the Cincinnati Zoo in 1914 (“Why the Passenger Pigeon Went Extinct,” Audubon, May 2014). Surely, we would never hunt or fish a species to extinction!
World War I was deemed the “war to end all wars,” yet barely two decades passed before the world was plunged into a far more devastating one. How barbaric they were back then—totally unlike us today!
The Great Depression in America was felt the world over and contributed to the instability that brought Adolf Hitler to power in Germany. Surely, this could never happen to us today!
Examples abound of the disastrous effects of hyperinflation, a phenomenon not limited to war-devastated Germany after World War I or France during their Revolution. Zimbabwe and Venezuela are two more recent casualties of fiat money—paper currency without commodity backing. Surely, that could never happen to us now!
Or could it?
The hyperinflation of 1790s France illustrates one way in which inflationary monetary policy becomes unmanageable in an environment of economic stagnation and debt, and in the face of special interests who benefit from, and demand, easy money. In 1789, France found itself in a situation of heavy debt and serious deficits. At the time, France had the strongest and shrewdest financial minds of the time. They were keenly aware of the risks of printing fiat currency since they had experienced just decades earlier the disastrous Mississippi Bubble under the guidance of John Law…. Of course, blame for the ensuing inflation was assigned to everything but the real cause. Shopkeepers and merchants were blamed for higher prices. In 1793, 200 stores in Paris were looted and one French politician proclaimed “shopkeepers were only giving back to the people what they had hitherto robbed them of” (“Revolutionary France’s Road to Hyperinflation,” Mises.org, December 2, 2013).
But of all the mistakes a generation can make, one of the most shortsighted is to arrogantly throw off the moral foundation of those who have gone before. Those familiar with biblical morality understand that all generations have fallen far short of living up to God’s standards, but today’s gross immorality brings tragic and destructive penalties. It is all too easy to think that we are smarter and have learned from those ignorant folks who traveled the road of life previously, and that we will never repeat the mistakes of the past leading to wildlife extinctions, senseless wars, economic catastrophes, or the disastrous results of gross immorality.
It is true that individuals learn from their own past experiences—but the lesson of history is that, by and large, their children and grandchildren do not carry the same lessons. Times are different. We are smarter today. People back then were ignorant and foolish, unlike us. True, they dressed differently, their hairstyles appear strange to our modern tastes, and they lacked the many gadgets we possess. However, they were far from lacking in intelligence. In fact, previous generations invented the foundations of today’s technologies, and any student of history could make the argument that many were better educated a century ago than the average high school or university graduate today!
The events of the last two-and-a-half years should be sobering. We have been experiencing a global pandemic, as well as a serious war transforming Europe in ways yet to be realized. Our grocery shelves sometimes lack basic items, and a shortage in baby formula has disrupted a prosperous America, even while inflation strikes us at the gas (petrol) pumps and in virtually every product we can purchase.
But surely, we are too advanced to let things like this continue. Surely, we may think, all this is merely temporary and will pass shortly. But not everyone is so sure. Many are uneasy about what they see. They sense that the ills that afflicted previous generations are descending upon us today. The seductive thinking that we are more sophisticated than previous generations is about to crumble. Not only have we not learned from the past; in too many cases, we never learned about the past. No matter where you look, you see trouble.
One recent Monday morning, our office staff went to the Post Office to pick up the mail, expecting trays of requests for our free DVD The Truth About the Transgender Movement, which was offered in a recent letter. Instead, there was a worker mopping the floor who explained, “No one shows up for work these days. And when they do, they don’t want to work.” In the back of the Post Office, a lone worker explained that we had mail, but there was no one to sort it. “Come back tomorrow.” How our postal system has fallen! But it is not the Post Office only, and it is not the United States only.
Vaccine mandates have left health care, fire departments, and other infrastructure jobs shorthanded, as well as many businesses. Airlines are short of workers, leaving travelers disappointed, stranded, and angry. Police departments also have their hands tied by “progressive” prosecutors and judges as crime spirals out of control. Some police and sheriff departments have run out of money to fuel their cars. The result is one violent crime after another. “Make a chain, for the land is filled with crimes of blood, and the city is full of violence” (Ezekiel 7:23).
Few realize the real cause of our problems. One can point, with some justification, to political leaders, but there is a more fundamental cause that will never be solved by elections or coups. As God’s word explains in the biblical book of Proverbs, “Like a flitting sparrow, like a flying swallow, so a curse without cause shall not alight” (Proverbs 26:2). Yes, there is a cause for every effect, and that cause is found in our current rejection of God’s rule in our lives.
You will find human greed behind almost every economic problem. Crime is the result of not loving our neighbor as ourselves. And our problems are often the result of failing to teach children from an early age that there are penalties for misbehavior. “Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil” (Ecclesiastes 8:11). Lust and selfishness result in broken marriages, but it is in functional families that right behavior is most effectively taught.
The biblical book of Judges is also instructive. After Joshua’s righteous rule, Israel forgot its Creator, slipped into moral decay, and suffered oppression from the surrounding nations. Yet the Israelites finally cried out to God, and He sent them a leader to save them. The whole book is filled with this repeated pattern. One generation after another arrogantly thought it knew better than those who had gone before.
Our world today is self-confidently going down an old path while calling it “progressive.” Some may think a newly elected “savior” will solve our problems, but until we turn and listen to our Creator, those problems will continue. Sadly, we see no indication of that happening now, but that day of salvation for mankind will come as Jesus Christ promised—not by our efforts, but by that strong hand from above (Matthew 24:21–22). That is what we look forward to—tomorrow’s world.