The Prophets and Israel's Culture

By William Creighton Graham | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VII
THE PROPHETS AND PROGRESS

It has been remarked by a modern prophet that "progress" is a term which designates a myth that took its rise from the sentimentality of the Victorian era. There is, perhaps, a sense in which this is true. Those who lived in that age saw much of the quick and easy return of profit which accompanies a period of great technological advance. At the time, too, the new science was in the first flush of an almost limitless self-confidence. In that world it took the place that cult magic had held in the world of the ancients. It was the technique of human control over superhuman forces, the new method of coercing or subjugating nature. Before its assault the old world-views crumbled because the religious systems which held them were inadequate for the needs of a swiftly changing order.

That inadequacy was due in part to the fact that few of those systems had conserved the pure prophetic philosophy of life. In fact they had received it, in the first place, only in a much diluted form, through a culture pattern which had drawn much more heavily upon the philosophy the prophets had opposed than upon the prophetic philosophy itself. The Victorian age, therefore, in spite of its Ruskins and Carlyles, found it easy to develop a myth of progress, a sentimental hope that the new magic would save the world, that the startling advance on the technological side of life would itself solve the moral and spiritual problems which the human race might confront.

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