"Whatever is has already been,
and what will be has been before;
and God will call the past to account."
Ecclesiastes 3: 15
"What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun."
Ecclesiastes 1: 9
Solomon, the Teacher King, most likely is the author of Ecclesiastes. While Solomon seems to have a world-weary attitude in this Bible book, we know that God allowed Solomon to become "wiser than any other man." (I Kings 4:31). These verses seem to suggest that the experience of men continually repeats itself. Men of all ages experience the same problems, human situations, and temptations...and the same emotional and spiritual joys. God Himself will call back the past, probably as part of man's learning process.
While we do see inventive progress in the material world, the implication is that man repeats his moral and spiritual learning in every age. As Christians, though, who live long after wise Solomon, we can be free of this cyclical repetition through faith in Jesus Christ, who makes all things new. (Revelations 21:5) Thirsty Christians who drink living water, the spiritual renewal made possible by Jesus, will be part of this new heaven and earth. They will be new creatures through faith.
Modern philosophers have pondered the progress of man. Some see it as being dialectical, wavering back and forth between one option and another, with occasional reconciliation of the two. Others promote cyclical theories--that we learn through the repetition of the same old experiences and challenges.
I think Christianity frees those who believe from the same old humdrum reoccurrence. We may experience and learn from the same or similar experiences, but our faith allows us a spiral of growth, a transcendence beyond the material world. With each possible repetition of learning, we gain new wisdom and insight, grasp new realities intuitively. We truly grow in the Lord, gaining moral and spiritual progress and a distinctive hope in everlasting life.
This growth engenders within us another of those "Praise the Lord" attitudes that makes Christian living possible and victorious.
Mary-Ellen Grisham is a Christian writer living in Godfrey, Illinois, with her family. She is the Editor of Eternal Ink, a Christian ezine newsletter, and the author of a new book Grace Notes.