Does the Bible make a case against Pursuit of Civilization?
Some persons assume man (generic ‘man’, that is, ‘mankind’) lives in consonance with true essence of life only if man lives in direct contact with nature. Within context of this view of life, civilization itself — roads, bridges, concrete, food that is refrigerated and transported thousands of miles etc. — is enemy of true essence of life on earth. True essence of life consists then in engagement with nature by every man (male or female), with outcome there is not any demand for professions.
While there exist many varied rationales that are espoused for the belief that man ought to live in direct contact with nature, perhaps the most popular, but yet, when you think about it, the most internally self contradictory rationale is derived from the Bible’s account of creation and fall of man.
In the Bible — the Book of Genesis, chs. 1 through 3 — God places man in a garden, and it is not until man sins that man’s progenitors, Adam and Eve become aware of nakedness of their physical bodies, bodies, which hitherto had been shrouded in some spiritual covering provided by God.
Some argue that if, prior to sin, man lived in a garden, as such, in direct contact with nature, that attempts at regaining of true essence of life require a return to the original intent, namely, living in direct contact with nature. All of civilization then — roads, cars, concrete, refrigerators, freezers etc. — become inimical to regaining of true essence of life on earth. We arrive then at resistance to every notion of civilization.
Essence of the internal contradiction that is implicit in interpretation of the Biblical story as validation for resistance to civilization?
First, the account declares man transitioned from a more spiritual existence, to a more physical existence. The Evidence (words in brackets mine in spirit of an amplified reading of Christian Scriptures)?
However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. The first man (chose to be of the earth, as such) was of the earth, (with outcome his essence became), ‘made of dust’; the second man is the Lord from heaven (Jesus Christ) — 1 Corinthians 15:46–47.
For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption (much as Adam and Eve), but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life — Galatians 6:8.
Adam became more flesh than spirit because he chose to sow to a physical, as opposed to a spiritual life.
In this respect, note that man was not, prior to his or her fall, engaged in agriculture. The Bible makes clear agriculture became part of man’s existence only after the fall (Genesis 3:17–20). Rather counterfactually then, agriculture is not part of God’s original intent, rather is necessitated by fall of man. What then did it mean that man ‘tended to the garden’?
Man’s tending to the garden means it was man’s responsibility to figure out creatively how to make the most of the garden that was his home. This is no different from a man who has bought a home, or who has inherited a home thinking creatively about how best to enhance the home. The evidence that the work of tending of the garden inherently was spiritual, not physical, was intended to make the most of the trees, vegetation, and animals entrusted into man’s care?
For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are His pleasant plant. He looked for justice (the goal of His tending of the vineyard), but behold oppression; for righteousness (yet another goal of His tending of the vineyard), but behold a cry for help (from those who are oppressed) — Isaiah 5:7.
The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought, and strengthen your bones; you shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail — Isaiah 58:11.
Adam and Eve failed at exactly what was their most important responsibility, namely, protection of nature from corruption of evil, and enhancement of the good that already was inherent in nature.
Second, the same Bible declares that, consequent on man’s sin, all of nature became perverted (Genesis 3:17–19; Romans 8:20,22), with outcome lions previously content with eating of vegetables transformed into lions who only desired to eat meat (Isaiah 11:7). We have then that all of nature became more physical than spiritual, and that what nature is today does not coincide with the nature in context of which Adam and Eve lived in a garden (Romans 8:21).
Third, prior to man’s sin, and prior to the first flood, there was not any rain in design of life on earth. The Bible declares that a mist arose out of the ground to water the earth, with outcome there was not any demand for rain (Genesis 2:5–6).
If we believe the Biblical account, turns out God was first to invent a capillary system.
In absence of rain, absence of any scorching from heat of the sun, and absence of any animals that could hurt man on an earth that, prior to fall of man was perfect, nature was man’s friend.
God, however, having cursed nature on account of man’s sin turned nature into an enemy of man, such that nature could become a source of discipline for man, and evidence for puniness of man in context of grand scheme of life on earth.
Not that nature enjoys this role, but rather, with nature conscious of implications for itself of a world filled with evil, nature roars against man, exactly because such occasional roaring helps keep man in check. It would seem then that nature would not need to roar quite as much if man simply would manage affairs on earth — both of mankind and of nature — with care and love.
When a tidal wave smashes onto land, man is reminded of his or her puniness, of his or her powerlessness in context of face to face encounters with violent perturbations to nature.
The foregoing establishes that, consequent on spiritual fall of man, life on earth became more physical than spiritual. Simultaneously, nature became capable of acting as an enemy of man’s existence on earth.
Nature then cannot be treated as an entity that, in entirety, has characterization as friend to man. The realization that nature cannot be assumed to be man’s friend was essence of worship of the sun, moon, stars, and mountains by the ancients.
If nature cannot be assumed to be friend to man, it cannot be that true essence of life resides in context of living in direct contact with nature.
Using the same Biblical account that is source of resistance to civilization, God declares that He made man in His own image, after His own likeness (Genesis 1:26–27). Given God has creative energy, if man is made like Him, man also must be characterized by creative energy. In a mostly spiritual world that was not tainted by sin, it is the case, perhaps, that man mostly creates spiritual things, such as ‘wormholes’ for navigation of the universe.
In a now mostly physical world, man’s creative energies are released in context of creation of things that are physical, things, such as roads, concrete, houses, cars, ships, planes etc. Absent demonstration of such creative energy, man spends his or her time sleeping, eating, and having sex, with outcome there is not much to life.
We have then that it is man’s capacity for creativity in context of creation of new physical things that endows life with purpose, aspiration, and meaningfulness. We arrive then at the realization that pursuit of civilization that coexists with and enhances welfare of man and nature is essence of life on earth.
Civilization, that is, a world filled with man’s physical creation, but yet creation that enhances, rather than degrades each of man and nature, is essence of a world that now is more physical than spiritual.
Every adoption of new technology, which does not provide man that is displaced from employment with access to all of the basic needs of life — food, shelter, clothing, transportation, internet access, and some capacity for saving, such that man is able to enjoy some leisure — is civilization that degrades man’s dignity, is civilization that ought not be adopted.
Within context of necessity of pursuit of civilization, exchange of ‘ability, skills, knowledge, and expertise’ for building and enhancement of civilization becomes important essence of life on earth.
Whenever a person offers services of an architect or engineer to a company, such a person receives income in exchange for efforts that build on man’s pursuit of creation of new physical things.
Whenever a person offers services of a medical doctor to society, he or she receives income in exchange for efforts at keeping of other agents of society healthy for pursuit of civilization.
Whenever a secretary communicates messages from her boss to the rest of a company, he or she receives income in exchange for efforts that ensure workers within a company work in concert in context of efforts that produce new physical things.
Whenever a person offers services of a professor to society, he or she receives income in exchange for efforts at preparation of a new generation with capacity for advancement of civilization. We arrive then at the following important inference.
Life has meaning, and consists in exchanges of efforts for income, only because all actively engage with ethical and moral pursuit of more of civilization.
Do we then have a place for spirituality in this world that consists in pursuit of more of civilization, that is, more of physical things?
The advice from the self same Bible? If you do not pursue more of civilization out of love for yourself and for your fellow man, every achievement will seem hollow, and there will be arrival at loss of enjoyment of life. Spirituality serves then for facilitation of enjoyment of activities that produce new physical things, for enjoyment of activities that enhance quality of civilization. In this respect, the Bible admonishes as follows (words in brackets mine in spirit of an amplified reading of Christian Scriptures).
He who would love life (he who would enjoy his part in pursuit of civilization) and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit (let him not delight in deceit of a neighbor). Let him turn away from evil and do good (let him not delight in hurting of a neighbor, rather let him delight in spending of time thinking how exactly to go about doing good to a neighbor); let him seek (to live at) peace (with strangers, with those different from him, and with those like him, and let him) pursue it (peace) — 1 Peter 3:10–11.
In a world that now is more physical than spiritual, spirituality is not an end in of itself. Rather, spirituality that is pragmatic and meaningful renders possible, enjoyment of the physical activities of life.
A world in which some are left behind economically merely because man pursues civilization is a world that, ideally, ought not to exist.