changing the world

Paul Kingsnorth, Prophets and Doomers everywhere and for all time:

It’s a phrase I used to use all the time, but now I’m almost embarrassed even to look at it. Changing the world. Changing the world. Changing the world. It’s such an astonishing concept: that we have, or could ever have, the agency, ability or knowledge to change the nature of a vast, complex planet we barely understand, when most of us can’t even change ourselves. And that we imagine the results would be good if we did. What could be more superstitious?

And yet, changing the world is exactly destiny of both the world and man; inaugurated by Christ, ratified by His Church. It’s Ellul (of all people) who makes this point somewhere: the Progress now in our hearts is historically contingent, and historically contingent on the Incarnation and it’s cosmic repercussions. If the New Testament makes anything plain it is that we indeed have “the agency, ability and knowledge” to change the nature of “a vast, complex planet we barely understand etc.” and much else besides.

‘Changing the world’ is of course a modern notion.

Is it? (see above).

For another, more everyday reason: the world is getting worse.

Is it? And I’m serious. Kingsnorth is convinced, every good prophet is, and convinced for good reasons. But such a stark claim, without any qualifiers, how can it do justice to the “nature of a vast, complex” world (a bigger thing than a plant, a *much* bigger thing in fact)? But surely it has to be admitted that if that claim, “the world is getting worse”, is true (in the very sense Kingsnorth means it) it is in an importantly narrow sense. And deference to the things Kingsnorth himself most values and loves and reveres and stands-in-awe of—in a word: worships—is what makes must make it so.

I fear—more, I feel convicted—in light perhaps of the surety and (helpful) curtness with which Kingsnorth here makes these claims, that they themselves partake in the totalising surety of the systems they purport to have seen through and resist.

Which of us can lay limits on His ways being far above ours?

And should not those tremble who dare?




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