Out of Control

from Jan 13, 2010 Category: Tabletalk Magazine

In his book, The Way of the (Modern) World: or, Why It’s Tempting to Live as If God Doesn’t Exist, Craig Gay observes that one of the major preoccupations that defines modern culture is the quest for control. “The desire to maintain autonomous control over reality by rational-technical means is particularly central to the modern world.…[A] modern society is one in which the prevailing conception of the human task in the world is that of mastery by way of systematic manipulation.”

Francis Bacon’s assertion that knowledge is power may well serve as a slogan for modern culture. To be modern is to believe that we can bring nature and history under our dominion. Systems of all kinds — political, economic, technical, educational, even spiritual — have been designed by modern men and women to extend and ensure that control. Of course, the desire to run the cosmos is nothing new. One of the irrational symptoms of human sinfulness from the very beginning is the belief that we mortals are more reliable in running the cosmos than God is. This attitude is not distinctively modern, but only the modern West has so thoroughly institutionalized this wicked presumption.

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