On Going Modern

[Written Especially for Young People]

A WELL-KNOWN lecturer in the social sciences not long ago advised the student readers of one of his textbooks to disregard Moses as an authority on morals because Moses knew nothing of the mechanism of a Ford car. To such a one the Ten Commandments are simply a bit of fossil history and the Sermon on the Mount vaporous, impractical idealism.

Two extremes struggle to impose themselves upon the honest thinking student. One is the complacent belief that because we can travel faster on the ground, dive under the surface of the water, fly through the air, manufacture prodigiously, and flash a message around the globe in one seventh of a second, we are therefore better than our forebears and can learn nothing from them; the other, that anything new—and especially anything proposed by the younger generation—is to be suspected in advance of having within it seeds of evil and destruction.

Neither of these attitudes is scientific or Christian. Both Christian Science and common human experience unmask the fallacies in each of them. In everyday life, we do not ask whether a thing is good merely because it is new or old. We do not refuse to use a wheel because it was discovered by some nameless primitive man over twenty centuries ago. Modern civilization rests upon the discoveries and inventions rolled up in the rich culture history of immemorial ages. The discovery of America did not reverse the axiom that a straight line is the shortest distance between two points. The invention of the automobile or the radio does not invalidate the Ten Commandments, because they do not represent any individual's human opinion as to right conduct; rather they embody the agelong moral experience of the race.

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