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On external and moral progression


One of Batushka’s spiritual daughters relayed the following questions from her son. 1. "According to the Scriptures, before the end of the world, human society is presented in the most horrible way. This denies the possibility of continuous improvement of mankind. Is it possible to labour for the good of mankind, knowing beforehand that there are no means that will be capable of achieving a concluding result of moral perfection for the human race, before the world’s demise. 2. The responsibility of a Christian is to create good and endeavour that this good will triumph over evil. In which way can we attempt to conquer evil with goodness, knowing that these efforts will not be crowned with success and that in the end, evil will triumph?"

Answer from Starets Ambrose: "Tell your son: evil has already been vanquished, vanquished not by the efforts and strength of human beings but by the Lord and Saviour Himself, Son of God Jesus Christ. Who for that reason came down to Earth from Heaven, incarnated, suffered humanly and through His suffering on the Cross and Resurrection - smashed the power of evil and its source the devil who had reigned over the human race – liberated us from the devil’s and sinful slavery as He himself said: "Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you" (Luke 10:19) Now, through the Mystery of Baptism and by obeying the laws of the Scripture, every practising Christian is given the strength to trample evil and create good, and except those that are negligent in keeping God’s laws or mainly the ones that voluntarily submit themselves to sin, nobody can be forcibly possessed by evil. Wanting to conquer evil with your own strength, evil that has already been conquered through Christ’s coming, shows a lack of understanding of the Christian Mysteries of the Orthodox Church. It exposes signs of human pride in self-reliance which wants to do everything with its own strength, not turning to God for His assistance when Christ Himself says: "for without Me you can do nothing" (John 15:5).

You write: the Bible states that before the end of the world, evil will triumph over good. The Bible does not state this anywhere, but it only speaks that faith will diminish during the last days: "when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on Earth?" (Luke 18:8) and "And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold" (Mat 24:12). While Apostle Paul says that before the Second Coming of Christ: "and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, and who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshipped" (2 Thes 2:3-4), that is, antichrist. However, it too states here that Christ will destroy him "with the breath of His mouth " and through His coming, exterminate him…Where is there evil triumphing over good here? And generally all triumphs of evil over good are imaginary and temporary.

On the other hand, it is also unfair to state as though humanity on Earth is continually improving. Progress or improvement is only in the outward human works, in life’s comforts. For example, we utilise railways and telegraph, which did not exist before; coal is being dug up which used to conceal itself in Earth’s bosom etc. In Christian-moral respects, there had been no progress. Throughout all times, there had always been people – guided by the true faith of Christ and following the true Christian teachings in accordance with Divine Revelations which God revealed to His Church through the God-inspirited, Prophets and Apostles– that achieved high Christian-moral eminence. These people will also exist during the times of antichrist, and as written, for whose sake time will be shortened: "And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened" (Mat 24:22).

Spiritual perfection on Earth is attained partly, not by mankind collectively, but by every faithful individually, according to the measure of fulfilling God’s commandments and to the measure of humility. Final and complete perfection is reached in Heaven, in the next never-ending life, toward which yet our short life on Earth serves as a preparation and is similar to that of the years spent by a youth in a learning institution, which serve him as a preparation for future practical activity. If the destiny of mankind was limited to its earthly existence, if for a human being everything concluded on Earth, then why: "both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up" (2 Peter 3:10) Without the future blessed, everlasting life, our earthly sojourn would be harmful and incomprehensible.

The desire to toil for the good of mankind appears very admirable, but is misplaced. In words, everybody wants to labour for the good of close ones, ignoring or paying very little attention to the necessity of first shunning sin themselves and then worrying about others.

The broad schemes of the modern generation about grand activities for the good of all mankind has the appearance that of someone, not having finished an educational course, wishing that he could be a professor and instructor in a university. However on the other hand, to think that if we cannot move humanity forward then we shouldn’t labour at all, is the other extreme. Every Christian is obliged to toil according to his capacity and position for the good of others, so that everything timely and orderly, and that the fruit of our labours are presented to God and His holy will.

In conclusion, I would say this: advise your son not to confuse outer human endeavours with the spiritual- moral. In outer devices and partly in the sciences, let him find progress. But in a Christian-moral respect, I repeat, universal progress in mankind is non-existent and cannot be. Everybody will be judged according to their deeds.

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