[forthright] The Price of Progress

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From: Forthright Magazine <forthrightmag@...>
Date: Sat, 30 Oct 2010 04:44:19 -0700 (PDT)
Forthright Magazine 
http://www.forthright.net 
Straight to the Cross

When troubles come, no one knows better than Job. 'In
Search of Perfection: Studies from Job,' by Michael E.
Brooks. Click here:
http://forthrightpress.com/#InSearchOfPerfection


COLUMN: FIELD NOTES

The Price of Progress
 by Michael E. Brooks

"Nor do they put new wine into old wineskins, or else
the wineskins break, the wine is spilled, and the
wineskins are ruined. But they put new wine into new
wineskins, and both are preserved" (Matthew 9:17).

I am in Sybru Besi, at the edge of Langtang National
Park in the Himalayas of Nepal. This is my seventh trip
to or through Sybru, the first being sixteen years ago.
I have a great fondness for this simple, remote, and
extremely scenic little town.

This morning as we walked to the house where thirty
five Tamang people waited for Bible Study, we passed a
road that I did not remember from previous visits. My
Nepali companion explained that it is a new road that
leads to the border of China, about two hours drive
away. I remember walking for six hours or more and
still being another two hours from the border.

As I digested the fact of the new easier route, I
realized that I was not completely happy about it. I
hold fondly to my memories of the moderately difficult
trek I enjoyed, of the remoteness of the area, and of
the almost completely natural and unspoiled scenery
everywhere, except for stone houses that fit right into
the landscape.

Now there is a road. There is intrusion upon the view,
invitation to many more people to come into the area,
and the loss of some of the pristine atmosphere I
treasured.

Yet who can deny that this type of progress is good for
many people, especially those who live here and have
the most at stake? Their transportation is greatly
eased, economic opportunity is provided, and much good
will no doubt come to them.

This is not the format to debate the value of
environmental preservation versus the needs of the
human population. That is a valid debate and one which
needs much exploration. But this article is simply to
observe that any change, even beneficial progress,
comes at a price.

Man's infrastructure, wherever it is placed, causes
detriment to natural environments. Sometimes the
infrastructure is essential regardless of the loss;
sometimes it is worth the damage caused. At other times
neither may be true.

Jesus acknowledged the same when the Pharisees asked
why his disciples did not fast. Fasting was not wrong.
It may even have some benefits to the sincere believer.
But the Jewish practice of fasting apparently was not
considered by Jesus as a good fit for Christianity. It
was an old wineskin, which new wine would burst and
ruin.

There has been much controversy in recent decades
between so called "progressives" and "traditionalists"
(I do not appreciate or enjoy using labels) in the
Lord's Church.

One side wants change. The other wants to keep things
the same. This applies to evangelistic methods, worship
styles, the role of women, the organization of the
Church, and much more.

To both sides of this dispute I offer the following two
observations. One is that change will happen. Nothing
remains the same. Those who oppose change may slow it
down, but will not stop it forever.

Rather than stubbornly resisting all change, perhaps
their efforts would be better spent in attempts to
control change and direct it properly, rather than
simply resisting everything that is "new" (Solomon has
something to say about whether anything really is --
Ecclesiastes 1:9).

The second observation is that all change, even true
progress, comes at a price. Advocates of change would
do well to remember that, and to ensure that the
benefits of the progress are greater than the loss
incurred in order to provide it.

Christianity dispensed with an honored and valued
Jewish tradition of fasting. Jesus assures us that the
loss is more than made up by the gain.

But can modern change advocates give the same
assurance? When a decades or centuries old practice is
abandoned because it is old fashioned and does not fit
modern culture (in the opinion of some), does the
replacement meet the same needs and provide the same or
comparable benefits?

Or are the needs of others simply ignored for the
gratification of the ones desiring something new? And
of course there is the far more important question, "Is
it true progress, or is it digression?" Some change
takes us away from God and His will. That is never
worth the price which must be paid.

Not all change is bad. Not all good change is worth it.
This is true whether we are talking of building a road
in the mountains or seeking to practice Christianity in
modern culture.

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