Sermon quotes on Progress

Jane Addams

Perhaps nothing is so fraught with significance as the human hand, this oldest tool with which man has dug his way from savagery, and with which he is constantly groping forward.”

Twenty Years at Hull House

Diogenes Allen

With vainglory, we crave notice of our achievements with pride, we take full credit for the progress we have made and do not think that God has been involved at all, let alone been our indispensable helper.

Spiritual Theology (Lanham, MD: Cowley, 1997), p.76.

Augustine of Hippo

If you would attain to what you are not yet, you must always be displeased by what you are. For where you are pleased with yourself there you have remained. Keep adding, keep walking, keep advancing.

G.K. Chesterton

The modern world has had far too little understanding of the art of keeping young. Its notion of progress has been to pile one thing on top of another, without caring if each thing was crushed in turn. People forgot that the human soul can enjoy a thing most when there is time to think about it and be thankful for it.

G.K. Chesterton

Real development is not leaving things behind, as on a road, but drawing life from them as from a root.

G.K. Chesterton

Don’t take the fence down until you know the reason it was put up.

The Thing

G.K. Chesterton

Progress is Providence without God. That is, it is a theory that everything has always perpetually gone right by accident. It is a sort of atheistic optimism, based on an everlasting coincidence far more miraculous than a miracle.

What I Saw in America

G.K. Chesterton

Democracy is reproached with saying that the majority is always right. But progress says that the minority is always right.

What I Saw in America

Frederick Douglass 

If there is no struggle, there is no progress. 

Hal Donaldson

The true enemies of progress are doubt, apathy, and blame. They must be conquered in your mind (that is the first battleground) before you can become the revolutionary you were born to be.

Disruptive Compassion: Becoming the Revolutionary You Were Born to Be, Zondervan, 2019.

Thomas A. Edison

Restlessness is discontent — and discontent is the first necessity of progress. Show me a thoroughly satisfied man — and I will show you a failure.”

Diary and Sundry Observations of Thomas Alva Edison

George Eliot

Iteration, like friction, is likely to generate heat instead of progress.

The Mill On The Floss, 2016,  p.186.

Millard Fillmore

It is not strange… to mistake change for progress.

Kathleen R. Fischer

At every point in the human journey we find that we have to let go in order to move forward; and letting go means dying a little. In the process we are being created anew, awakened afresh to the source of our being.

Robert Heinlein

Progress isn’t made by early risers. It’s made by lazy men trying to find easier ways to do something.

Ernest Hemingway

Never confuse movement with action.

Michael Hollings

There is no way out, only a way forward.

Victor Hugo

“Progress is not accomplished in one stage.”

Les Misérables

Johannes Kepler

Temporis filia veritas; cui me obstetricari non pudet.

Translation: Truth is the daughter of time, and I feel no shame in being her midwife.

Martin Luther King Jr.

Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.

R.D. Laing 

We live in a moment of history where change is so speeded up that we begin to see the present only when it is already disappearing. 

C.S. Lewis

Progress means getting nearer to the place you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man.

Mere Christianity

Abraham Lincoln

I am a slow walker, but I never walk back.

Martin Luther

To progress is always to begin always to begin again.

Commentary on Romans

Alan Moore

“We have laboured long to build a heaven, only to find it populated with horrors.”


Peggy Noonan

The life of people on earth is obviously better now than it has ever been—certainly much better than it was 500 years ago when people beat each other with cats. This may sound silly but now and then when I read old fairy tales and see an illustration of a hunchbacked hag with no teeth and bumps on her nose who lives by herself in the forest, I think: People looked like that once. They lived like that. There were no doctors, no phones, and people lived in the dark in a hole in a tree. It was terrible. It’s much better now. But we are not happier. I believe we are just cleaner, more attractive sad people than we used to be.

George Orwell

Progress is not an illusion; it happens, but it is slow and invariably disappointing.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

To reach a port we must set sail –

Sail, not tie at anchor

Sail, not drift.

George Bernard Shaw

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

Man and Superman

Leo Tolstoy

Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.

Jean Twenge

Obviously there’s a lot of good things about societal and technological progress, and in a lot of ways our lives are much easier than, say, our grandparents’ or great-grandparents’ lives. But there’s a paradox here that we seem to have so much ease and relative economic prosperity compared to previous centuries, yet there’s this dissatisfaction, there’s this unhappiness, there are these mental health issues in terms of depression and anxiety.

Quoted in Jesse Singal, “For 80 Years, Young Americans Have Been Getting More Anxious and Depressed, and No One Is Quite Sure Why,” The Cut, March 13, 2016.

Miguel de Unamuno

“Yes, yes, I see it all! — an enormous social activity, a mighty civilization, a profuseness of science, of art, of industry, of morality, and afterwords, when we have filled the world with industrial marvels, with great factories, with roads, museums and libraries, we shall fall exhausted at the foot of it all, and it will subsist — for whom? Was man made for science or was science made for man?”

Tragic Sense of Life

Kurt Vonnegut

“And a step backward, after making a wrong turn, is a step in the right direction.”

Player Piano

Laura Ingalls Wilder

“If only I had some grease I could fix some kind of a light,” Ma considered. “We didn’t lack for light when I was a girl before this newfangled kerosene was ever heard of.”

“That’s so,” said Pa. “These times are too progressive. Everything has changed too fast. Railroads and telegraph and kerosene and coal stoves–they’re good things to have, but the trouble is, folks get to depend on ’em.”

The Long Winter

Addison D. Bevere

We were created for goodness and perfection. That’s why we innovate, progress, and change. But if our progress loses its purpose, it cannibalizes our humanity, leaving us distracted and disoriented.

Saints: Becoming More Than “Christians,” Revell, 2020.

Oliver Cromwell 

Qui cessat esse melior cessat esse bonus (He who ceases to be better ceases to be good)

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