In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis offers this summary of history.
That is the key to history. Terrific energy is expended – civilisations are built up – excellent institutions devised; but each time something goes wrong. Some fatal flaw always brings the selfish and cruel people to the top and it all slides back into misery and ruin. In fact, the machine conks. It seems to start up all right and runs a few yards, and then it breaks down. They are trying to run it on the wrong juice. That is what Satan has done to us humans.1
In five brief and simple sentences, Lewis describes what has always happened in history. As far back as we have records we see that great civilizations have always risen up and come to prominence often controlling much of the known world only to fall while another civilization rises to prominence to take its place. From the perspective of our relatively short lives we look at the present situation of prominent cultures and imagine it will always be so. But history suggests something different. Greece rose to great influence before being assimilated by Rome. Spain, once a great empire which explored and conquered much of the new world is once again a small country of historical importance but little cultural clout. Great Britain was once the most dominant power on the planet. Today, she takes her place at the table with other countries of the world. The United States of America has, for some time, been the most powerful nation in the world; yet even as these words are written there are signs that this might not always be the case. What world power will next rise to be the dominant civilization of the future?
Lewis has certainly aptly described history. What of his explanation of why this is the case? Might his explanation also be right? Are we trying to run the world on the “wrong juice?” Has Satan done this to humans? What would it look like to run the world on the right juice? Certainly many have tried with the results looking very much the same as the attempts to run things on the wrong juice.
Our trust cannot be on any human forms of government. If history tells us anything it tells us that all civilizations will one day fall. Our trust cannot be in the banking systems, political systems, or in any country of the world. Civilizations, powers, and empires will come and go. The best we can do is ride the waves as they rise and fall. We must put our trust in something more than human institutions.
1 (Lewis 1978, 50)
Lewis, C.S. Mere Christianity. Glasgow: William Collins Sons and Co. Ltd., 1978.