Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Running Out of Time

Utopian schemes are everywhere these days, and we would be remiss if we failed to acknowledge that they have a certain appeal to Christians as well as secularists.

Who could argue with solving the food crisis, ending unjust incarceration, abling the disabled, elevating the downtrodden, promoting the good, caring for refugees, or providing protection for the most helpless members of society?

Apart from using their plight to his advantage, the current ruler of this world does not concern himself one iota with the men and women at the margins of society. And yet they are of great interest to God. Social justice matters when it is social justice of the biblical sort.

Real Social Justice Matters

Psalm 146 tells us about God’s relationship to real social justice:
“[He] executes justice for the oppressed, [he] gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless ...”
Genuine social justice matters to God. The law, the prophets, the psalms and the gospels are full of this theme. And yet this same psalm which expresses God’s concern that righteousness be realized through the transformation of human society also identifies a fatal flaw in every human-based utopian scheme:
Put not your trust ... in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish.”
The psalmist states here quite unequivocally that there are no long-term answers to the big social justice questions to be had from human beings. That’s a pretty strong statement, but several thousand years of history back it up.

Problem #1: Corruption

As we see each prospective New World Order tried and failed, one possible reason there is no salvation in man becomes apparent: it turns out the authors and would-be-architects of utopia are themselves corrupt, conjuring visions of heaven-on-earth for the masses while harboring hidden agendas whose primary purpose is to give themselves even more power than they already possess. They aspire to great and desirable things for all the wrong reasons.

Almost nobody hatches a grand vision for social transformation while at the same time imagining anyone other than themselves holding the new levers of power. In the rare case that they do, it is only a matter of a generation or two before some power-crazed demagogue comes along to hijack their idea and exploit it for his or her own benefit.

Consider the many miles of moral distance between Martin Luther King’s stated aspirations and those of #BlackLivesMatter if you have any doubt about that.

Problem #2: Bad Ideas

Another possible reason there is no salvation in man is that the values promoted by idealists get morally inverted. Today’s social engineers are seeking a more welcoming environment for the wrong people; those who live and promote self-destructive and socially-destructive lifestyles. These schemers repurpose familiar words and concepts dishonestly, making “victims” out of garden variety sinners.

In the last year it has been amply demonstrated that certain elements within American society have far more tolerance and care for their sexual deviants, criminals and revolutionaries than for their ordinary poor and needy. The practitioners of various forms of evil have become the “oppressed” and “marginalized” groups that they are at greatest pains to protect. The writer of this psalm would not recognize the claims of violent and perverse men to social justice, nor would he recognize a culture that caters to its rabid or deviant minorities as either godly or desirable.

Big ideas that redefine evil as good and good as evil will always fail because they carry within them the seeds of their own destruction.

Problem #3: Good Ideas Go Wrong Too

But it’s not just the Color Revolutionaries, the Karl Marxes, the George Soroses, the Green New Dealers, the “Great Resetters” and their ilk whose big plans are doomed to failure. Another reason man-based solutions to society’s problems reliably fail is that even the very best of men cannot anticipate every eventuality.

Good ideas conceived and put in place by good people fail too, because even the most cleverly engineered schemes of men require ongoing cooperation from both citizenry and bureaucracy, which makes them astoundingly fragile. Israel in all its glory under David and Solomon was only a little longer-lived than the communist USSR because one stupid mistake turned ten tribes against their new king. As to a more modern example, it is hard to overlook the fact that the glorious Republic conceived by the well-intentioned authors of the U.S. Constitution is currently staggering around like a Goliath with a terminal head wound. The founders were intelligent men, but they couldn’t possibly anticipate their carefully drafted document sprouting more legal penumbras than a leaky sieve.

In fact, history shows us that all man-based social transformation plans reliably fail over time. This is true whether their authors are godly men, naïve-but-well-intentioned secularists or evil, power-crazed tyrants.

Problem #4: Time

No, even supposing all such man-based social engineering projects were conceived in good faith and goodwill, there remains a major problem with man-made plans for salvation, and that is time.

Real, lasting social change always takes longer than its authors have available to implement it. The spirit of reformation must be carried forward with new energy and freshness across generations to truly effect its work in society. This is impossible for even the most enthusiastic and persuasive advocate of utopian change: he hasn’t got time to do all the things that need doing to make his grand social changes permanent. The psalmist says of man, “his breath departs, he returns to the earth.” And what happens to his big ideas? “On that very day his plans perish.”

The struggle for ideological dominance never ends, and sometimes that struggle gets physical. Donald Trump has one vision for America, George Soros and his allies in the two major U.S. political parties have a different vision, and many Christians are confused about who we ought to be cheering for. But both #AmericaFirst and #OpenBorders will pass. Whoever takes the movements over from Trump and Soros will invariably veer off on some other ideological tangent. The schemes, both good and bad, will fizzle out, lose their momentum, or be co-opted into some other grand idea of the day. Time will get them all, every one of them.

Blessed is He Whose Help is the God of Jacob

It is only the Lord who can give prisoners irrevocable liberty, who can open the eyes of the blind so that they are never again beclouded, or who can lift up the downtrodden of society so high that their would-be-oppressors can never again touch them. “Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob.”

In fact, we will never see true social justice implemented and consistently maintained across time until Christ reigns not just in the hearts of men and women, but from David’s throne in Jerusalem with dominion over the entire globe. This is the fatal flaw in Postmillennial and Amillennial eschatology: they project sweeping social transformation in the absence of the personal presence of Christ on earth.

Only the Lord himself is motivated by undying and incorruptible love that expresses itself in social change that actually works. Only he has sufficient understanding to see the end from the beginning and anticipate all possible consequences of any policy. Only he has the enormous power and authority to carry out his vision for social transformation. And only he possesses adequate time to implement his plan for human society across multiple generations with never-diminishing effect. We will certainly play our part in executing the great coming social changes, but we will never be their author.

As the psalmist puts it in his closing:
“The Lord will reign forever, your God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the Lord!”

1 comment :

  1. Yes and No, because I think you are omitting something or are not bringing it sufficiently to the fore. God of course indeed is able to achieve these things (exclusively) as you are saying but, let's not forget, he has chosen to do so through the agency of man. If that were not the case we would have no problems finding and discerning miracles all around us. From my own background in the fields of Reliability and process optimization I have for quite some time concluded that God utilizes control circuit theorem and technology as one primary means to achieve his end in this world. A simple example is provided by a thermostat in that, if it gets too hot, the heat gets turned off, if too cold, the furnace will kick in. Looking at the world along those lines trying to discover feedback loops suggests that even war between groups and nations is an example of an operating circuit. Hot and cold can be replaced by beneficial - detrimental, fast - slow, expensive - affordable, honest - dishonest, rich - poor, healthy - unhealthy, and so on. Thus even World War 2 can be considered to have been a result of the circuit kicking in. The aim of such a system would be to achieve the aims and results envisioned by its creator. It is therefore perfectly obvious that, since good is destined to prevail, we must keep hope alive in the short and long run as we are moving towards the intended outcome.