Dawkins et al say that life is progress. They're still loving the modernist dream of a scientific utopia. They remind us that we've advanced beyond previous generations in our genertics, innovation and ethics.... This point of view is clearly appealing to the human ego, we're the best yet, it's never been better and will keep on getting better... we are simply the best. And proud of it.
Now, it's true that in our 'life under the sun' we do make progress. But we also lose ground. We have new technology that has created the global villiage and helped us to keep in touch with people more easily. And, I now have 307 friends ('it must be true, it's on facebook'), and yet so much of that is utterly superficial. We great new ways of treating illness, and yet we're now more efficient than ever at killing one another.
It's all been done before, for all our progress we're just running on a treadmill. Hamsters on a wheel, stuffing our faces and getting nowhere. Perhaps we're running faster than at other times in history, but we're still going nowhere. And into this, some 3000 years ago, wrote Qoheleth, the teacher of the book of Ecclesiastes. His verdict on the human condition is simply: meaningless. Futility. Vanity. Vapour. Emptiness. We're going nowhere and nothing is new.
It strikes me that this should lead to a profound sense of humility. We're not the climax of history, we're just the latest people to live on planet earth. At the same time, life under the sun isn't quite all there is. There is life above it, and there is one, Jesus who comes in from the outside. He comes in and lives in the emptiness with us, and ultimately promises an escape from the futility, showing us a bigger story where we're not the heroes we thought we were. That escape is not yet. But it will come. In the meantime we groan, and we live in the midst of the emptiness of life. Put in our place, not in an empty void, but as bitpart players in the biggest story ever told. The story written from above and beyond the sun, the story of God.
Photo: The education of Bildad the Shuhite, by Becci Brown.