Written by Vladimir Moss



     Easily the most prominent aspect of Western material and cultural civilization today is the very rapid development of technology. Of course, all civilizations have had technologies; and the daily life of all in all ages has been influenced by them. What distinguishes our civilization from previous ones has been the extremely rapid – and ever-accelerating – change in technologies during the lifetime of a single person. Whereas before the industrial revolution a man could expect to pass through the whole of his life using the same instruments as an old man that he used as a young man, with only minor changes, in our time we have to adapt to several radical changes in that same time-frame. The most obvious changes today have been wrought by the computer and communications revolutions, whose possibilities – and dangers – appear unlimited. 

     However, it is not the material, or the political and economic, but the psychological, the social and above all the spiritual consequences of the technological revolution that are the most alarming… We are familiar, already since the 1950s, with the concept of built-in obsolescence of cars and other objects, which are built, not with a view to maximum longevity and reliability, as in past ages, but to precisely the opposite – to their breaking down and becoming old and rusty, so that the consumer will be forced to buy a new model within a few years. Today obsolescence no longer needs to be built in: the rapid development of technology means that, however carefully a car, say, is built, with good, long-lasting materials, reliable electrics and up-to-date computerized devices, within a short time it will be obsolescent. Even if it continues to work well, it will be, as it were, overtaken by events and fashions and technologies, that will force the affluent customer to buy a new car with still better, more up-to-date technologies. The same applies, to an even greater degree, to computers and smart phones. This phenomenon is most striking, perhaps in the military sphere: a plane or an aircraft carrier or an anti-missile defence system may become almost immediately obsolescent and a sitting target for the enemy because of the development of some new kind of stealth technology or anti-submarine tracking device. 

     This causes headaches for all kinds of planners and forecasters. But less obvious and more insidious is the idea that this subconsciously plants in the masses: that everything changes, nothing is eternal, time is the king of all. And the first casualties of this mind-set will, of course, be the traditional religion: ideas of an eternal God, unchanging truths and dogmas, and unbending morality. Modern man is so overwhelmed by the changes all around him, and so anxious to keep up with those changes if he is not to lose his job or his place in society and the respect of others, that he forgets to STOP, take stock, and perhaps say NO to some proposed change. Dostoyevsky wrote that if God is does not exist, then everything is permitted; but modern man thinks the opposite: everything appears to be permitted in time, so God and a system of faith and morals that does not change in time simply cannot exist… 

     And yet there is a profound irony here. For as the rate of change accelerates, so the nostalgia for the unchanging increases in intensity. Scientists and biotech companies are intensifying their search for the elixir of immortal life, the cure for ageing – the obsolescence that God, not man, has built into the system in order to remind us that time and change come to an end, so that we must place our thoughts and our hopes on eternity. Why anyone should want to continue living in a constant whirlwind of change in which nothing that we value of the past continues into the present and the future is mystifying. Perhaps this is a symptom of the same extreme restlessness that characterizes our civilization: the only way to keep up with change, we think, is for our souls and bodies to change with it, at an equal rate that enables us to dictate the change rather than be dictated by it. So if robots are soon going to be more intelligent and powerful than us, there is nothing for it: we have to become as robotic and computerized and stuffed with silicon as possible – a change seriously contemplated and welcomed by Yuval Noah Harari in his recent book, Homo Deus.  

     Another profound irony lies in the fact that, while our civilization becomes more and more wrapped up in and engulfed by time and change, modern physics since the Special Theory of Relativity (1905) appears to be dispensing with the concept of time altogether. Indeed, time appears to be a less fundamental concept in modern physics than matter and energy. Some physicists even believe that it does not exist…

      At the same time, physics does have one absolute: light. Thus for Polchinski the constant speed of light “provides a reference of both space and time. A light ray always moves at one unit of space per unit of time – a constant diagonal on any graph of space against time. ‘The direction that light rays travel is in neither space nor time; we call it “null”. ‘It’s on the edge between space and time,’ says Polchinski. ‘A lot of people have this intuition that in some sense the existence of these null directions might be more fundamental than space or time.’”[1]

      Now light is a very important reality and symbol in Orthodox theology. It is the very first creation of God (Genesis 1.3), which by its unchanging value mirrors or symbolizes the unchanging Creator Himself, Who is above space and time because He created them. But we can say more than that: the Creator Himself “dwells in unapproachable Light” (I Timothy 6.16), and at His Transfiguration revealed Himself to be Light in His Divine, Uncreated Energies. Christ said: “I am the Light of the world”; He is “Light of Light, true God of true God”. For that reason “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13.8). He is the unchanging criterion of all things created; it is against His uncreated Light that all faiths and moralities are measured. And he has created light with its unchanging properties in relation to everything that passes to teach us that some things never change…

     Western philosophy began with the writings of two philosophers who said absolutely contradictory things. On the one hand was Parmenides, who said that “being is uncreated and imperishable, whole, unique, unwavering, and complete”. And on the other hand was Heraclitus, who said that “All is flux, nothing stands still, nothing endures but change”. From the light-filled vantage point of Christianity, we can say that both were right, but that Parmenides was more fundamentally right than Heraclitus. Hence the Platonic tradition in Western philosophy, which sees eternity and the eternal ideas as being logical prior and morally superior to the ever-changing world of material things. For everything does indeed change in this material, temporal world. But just as created light does not change even while time itself charges, so there will come a time “when time shall be no more” (Revelation 10.6), when there will be no rush to keep up with the latest fashions and technologies and doctrinal innovations of men but all will be caught up to be judged forever and without appeal in the unchanging Light of eternity.

     In a sense we are in a race against time between God and technology. God has laid down the eternal, principles of existence, and certain moral laws that can be defied by men, but only at the cost of great suffering in this life (not to speak of the next). Take, for example, the eternal principles laid down by God concerning his highest creation, man, and in particular the laws relating to the two modes of human existence, male and female (Genesis 1.27). Man has always been free to defy these laws – but always also at a clear cost to himself. Most societies, recognizing this, laid down their own human laws to mirror God’s laws to a greater or lesser degree. However, our technological civilization, intoxicated by its own seemingly boundless abilities, has taken upon itself, not only to defy the moral laws to a hitherto unprecedented degree, but also to try and change the very principles on which human nature is based, and in particular the difference between male and female; that is, it seeks to change ontology as well as morality.

     So modern man now claims that he can change male into female and vice-versa, and even create trans-gender and mixed gender and no-gender human beings. In this way he appears to himself to be justifying his desire to defy God’s laws on the basis of man’s supposed mastery of scientific laws and nature itself. It is as if he says: “I can do it (through science and technology), so I am allowed to do it.” Thus wherever God erects barriers to defend men against the consequences of violating nature, science delights in trying to cast them down. For example, immorality always cost a great deal, even in purely temporal terms: broken marriages, suffering children, social shame, social dislocation, sexually transmitted diseases, abortion, etc. But modern, technological man first destroys the institution of marriage, then the shame of fornication and abortion, then the diseases. Finally, as the only truly radical solution to the continuing problem of sex – the fact that boys will be boys, and girls – girls - sex itself must be destroyed (but not, of course, the pleasure of it, which will be supplied by electrode implants in the brain)…

     An enormous problem remains, however: the mental suffering of children, many of whom now have no idea of who they really are - boys? girls? robots? animals? aliens? who knows? Whole generations appear to be on the verge of growing up as schizophrenics or in other ways mentally ill. Let us remember that gender fluidity was defined only recently as a mental illness… But then modern society, despite its protestations, is not made for children (still less unborn babies)… That is why it has no future – unless God wins the race against technology…

     But we can be assured of this: God will win the race, nature and the Creator of nature will always win out in the end. God allowed the Tower of Babel to be built, and for the sons of God to mix with the daughters of men – but in the end He destroyed both the one and the other. As W.B. Yeats put it in his “The Four Ages of Man”:

He with body waged a fight:

But body won; it walks upright.


Then he struggled with his heart:

Innocence and peace depart.


Then he struggled with the mind:

His proud heart he left behind.


Now his wars on God begin:

At stroke of midnight God will win.

     And so, as St. Athanasius the Great says, “we must keep up, not with the times, but with God”.


December 9/22, 2017.




[1] Polchinski, in Anil Ananthaswamy, “Space against Time”, New Scientist, 15 June, 2013, p. 37.

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