Why is it that institutions and organizations of all kinds regularly drift from the right to the left, from orthodoxy to heterodoxy, from faithfulness to unfaithfulness, from discipline to permissiveness?
The pattern is unmistakable. You see it in schools, in churches, in the media, in families, in politics, and therefore quite naturally in societies at large.
To say it is a pattern is not to deny that it ever happens the other way around. In my own lifetime, I’ve watched colleges and even whole denominations take stock of their liberal drift and then head back to their roots. But that happens so rarely that when it occurs it’s what a journalist calls a “man-bites-dog” story.
So for the last few weeks I’ve been asking folks around me: Why do they think the flow is so typically in just one direction?
Some point to the Second Law of Thermodynamics—the idea that everything in the created order tends to dissipate rather than to coalesce. One pop scientist illustrates the Second Law by pointing to a hot frying pan that cools down when it is taken off the kitchen stove. Its thermal energy flows out to the cooler room air. But the opposite never, ever happens; apart from a focused, conscious effort, the pan will never get hot. Energy simply doesn’t gather on its own.
And just as that’s true in the world of physics and chemistry, some thoughtful folks told me, it’s also true in the moral world. The fall of humankind, through the rebellion and disobedience first of Adam and Eve, and then of all their descendants, sets us on a trajectory that makes it predictable where our intellectual, psychological, and spiritual inclinations will take us. Disobedience and unfaithfulness have become the natural direction.