Monday, October 06, 2008

Getting Better All The Time

I guess I'm on a TED kick again. And maybe Steven Pinker in particular. Here's an interesting talk on the decline of violence over time

There are a couple of things that I think about after seeing this video. First, it puts data to my instinct that life is getting better. Watching movies like Gladiator, 300, or Braveheart really bring home the idea that life in times prior was outrageously more violent than life today. And then programs like Frontier House or 1900 House that show us how all those time saving devices that we thought did nothing, actually do save a *ton* of time. And then there's the good economic news about how we're doing and it appears that life in general is getting better. Yes, there are negative blips, but the trend is up. Hooray!

But as a Christian, this creates a problem. Because we would expect that worldliness would cause things to get worse. As we push the need for God further and further from our lives, this should cause our lives to be less and less settled. My pastor has even stated as such. Prior to releasing his book Serious Times, he delivered a message to us as a sort of preview. And I distinctly remember him saying that things are getting worse and we should expect this trend to continue. I remember that there were supporting quotes from the Bible, but I don't remember what they are. (Maybe I should read his book?)

Anyway, what I wonder is whether or not we are misinterpreting what it means to be close to God. I've mentioned before that I think God works through emergent phenomena. Markets are one example of human driven emergence - the order that results is a product of human action, but not of human design. But at the heart of markets are some very important concepts that very much are Biblical. For example:
  • consider others
  • play fair
  • don't ignore yourself
  • protect and defend freedom
I wonder if it is our increasing desire to see those Biblical concepts elevated that contributes to further expansion of free markets. And further expansion of free markets is easily the most effective tool we've ever seen at fighting poverty - something that God explicitly cares about very deeply. I wonder if this means that we are actually getting closer to God in our behavior, even as we seem to get further from him in our explicit expressions of our beliefs. It seems like more people claim to be atheists. But despite this fact, are we all (including the atheists) actually behaving to further God's causes by doing the things above that God thinks are important?

Can behavior be an indicator of what you truly believe? Even more so than what you express? Even if your behavior contradicts your expression? The Bible seems to support this concept when it talks about professed believers who don't act like they are believers. It calls them hypocrites. But what about the other way? What if you act like a believer but express non-belief? In that case, do actions also trump words? I don't know, but if so then this means an awful lot in terms of evangelism.

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