St. Sepulchre-without-Newgate is being taken over in what can only be described as an act of spoliation, which the dictionary defines as

‘the action of taking goods or property from somewhere by violent means’.

The eviction of its classical musicians, for whom it has become church in the fullest sense, reflects the kind of iconoclastic violence witnessed at the time of the English Reformation when monasteries were sacked, statues decapitated, frescoes and wall paintings obliterated.

This is the third in the series of four reflections on progress. The first was about the ancient idea that a supreme god maintains the universe with a long-term design. Progress is then about achieving the purposes for which we have been designed to live at our best. It is a positive claim.

The second was about the ideas of progress most common today, new technologies and economic growth. We ended up with some rather negative observations. New technologies and wealth can help in some ways, but when we treat them as what progress is all about, we make things worse for ourselves. 

This post pushes it a bit further.

This is the second of my series of four talks on progress.

The first describes its origins. Human life is unsatisfactory but our lives have been designed, by some kind of god, with potential for improvement. Sometimes we go forward, sometimes we go back, but the world has been designed for the possibility of a better life for everyone.

The improvement is characteristically moral, political and spiritual. It’s about accepting our environment but changing human behaviour. It’s in many faith traditions including the Bible and the teaching of Jesus.

I’m doing a series of four talks on progress at St Bride's Liverpool. The first was last Sunday. This is an edited version of the text. At the end there are questions for discussion, because this is what we do at St Bride's.

The other three talks will be about the main ideas of progress today (mainly new technologies and economic growth); alternative theories of progress and the growth of scepticism; and finally how the Christian tradition can offer a positive account of it. Further details are in my new book Why Progressives Need God.

There is a good article in the Guardian by Selina Todd on the tension between social mobility and equality. Written in the context of a disagreement between Conservative and Labour Party policies on education, it argues against social mobility and in favour of equality.

This post asks about the underlying values which might make us approve of one or the other, and argues that there is an essential difference between secular and religious perspectives.