A German, Jewish scientist who escaped to England during the war was amazed that Nazism could possibly have taken hold of his country. The pre-war years being a great era of advancement, education and learning. The university engineering graduates, were brilliant in innovation and understanding but whilst they could design and build death camps, and calculate the logistics of the final solution, they all lacked the character to know that it was wrong or to do anything about it.
There are of course many more modern examples of the worsening blindness of man as he becomes cleverer; abortion, cloning, weapons that can obliterate the earth.
The potential for good that learning and advancement bring is never fully realised; always offset by the opposite loss of integrity and greed that seems to accompany it. I think the key to much of this is the shift that occurred in our point of reference when it comes to our ‘way’ of life.
The beginning of civilisation in Western Europe is usually credited to the efforts of Charlemagne, a visionary Emperor, who started to import learned men, usually monks, to spread knowledge in his empire, and through his Knights code brought order and a more benevolent society, a sharp contrast with the barbarism that had dominated for centuries.
At the heart of this was Christianity, the faith, a new way of life and it was the focal point of all learning and conduct. It was within that framework that learning and discovery moved forward, guided by its teaching and values; held by grace.
Nowadays in the West, those values are disregarded as is the faith that brought them, the focal point now is man, no longer guided by an informed conscience but by his own fallen nature only, with only the shifting sands of opinion to guide decisions. So with every step of progress, things get worse. There is no real character in man without the presence of God’s grace operating in the soul.
This loss of faith, values and character may not be recoverable any more, perhaps western society will simply disintegrate now as did all the old empires , Egyptians, Greeks, Romans once they made an enemy of God. There is a time for everything, and an end to everything the old order giving way to the new. The Europeans, once great evangelists to the world may have no further role to play and be merely a historical footnote in the future.