THERE IS NO UTOPIA!
THERE IS NO UTOPIA!
By Randy Nabors
So, where are we going? To what culmination does our ideology imagine the human race will arrive at? Will the “invisible hand” of capitalism protect the masses, so that efficiency, supply and demand, help us work everything out? Or will only the fittest survive? Will materialistic determinism get us through the revolution to a worker’s paradise? Does Critical Theory and Critical Race Theory even have an ending point, in which power competitions through history’s dialectic finally arrive at a just synthesis? Does optimistic liberalism believe the long arc of freedom bends toward justice in this world, and how does that happen?
Is there epistemological justification for any of this eschatology? Ideas come from people who view different aspects of history and the world of human beings, societies and cultures. They are like a group of blind people describing an elephant. Many of their observations are dead on, even delightful and forceful summations of things all of us may have noticed but failed to capsulize in succinct and brilliant analysis. Nonetheless, they all fail. They fail to comprehend the whole, or have a basis for complete analysis. They not only lack all the data, they deny some of the data they dislike.
Most ideologies capture some aspect of realism, they are not altogether fanciful. Most ideologies combine the reality of evil and good in some combination that makes sense to them, and which gives them some hope. Christian theology claims that the ability for fallen human beings to have that kind of insight comes from something called, “common grace.” God has graciously allowed human beings to see goodness in the world and in people, and God has graciously allowed people to realize that there are such things as injustice, and suffering. Most of us divide these two things into the two categories of good and evil. Whether this is a grace that God has given us, or a knowledge we have stolen from the Tree, we have it.
I have reasons to see such knowledge as both a grace and a curse. It is a good thing to see evil clearly. As when a medical doctor unveils to us that our body’s presenting symptoms are signs of a terrible disease, but he finds it in ti
me to prescribe therapy to heal it. Can you see the evil, do you know where it comes from? Can you see how it spreads and infects? Sometimes people get used to their maladies, and adjust to some loss of function, when they could have resisted the progress of the disease and had a better quality of life. It gives us a kind of hope to call evil for what it is, an end to the denial is fairly liberating. But knowing we have cancer, or even taking medications for cancer, have not rid the planet of such a thing as cancer.
There are many gifted human beings who have been able to recognize evil, capture it in words, art, or media, so that we can empathize with the victims, or share the anger at the injustice. None of this gives any of us comprehensive analysis or understanding of the depth, complexity, and ubiquitous nature of evil, just some appreciation. The more well stated the description the more on the way to deliverance we are deluded into thinking that we are. To sum up, there is evil in the world, and it is worse that anyone of us, or any ideology, fully knows.
There is good in the world. More of it than the human eye, ear, or heart can digest. Have you heard Louis Armstrong sing, “Its A Wonderful World?” Beauty, loveliness, color, symmetry, gentleness, kindness, sound and harmony, rhythm and beat, movement and speed, taste, and pleasure, and rest- so many things to reinforce the reality that we can see it, we can hear it, and we can recognize it even in people; there is good in the world. It is upon the earth in abundance, and in surprising place and times. It deceives us into thinking we can solve the problem of evil, or even that there really isn’t evil, in either nature or people. Most human ideologies have this interesting mix of incisive analysis of human evil and anticipation that the goodness they think inherent in human beings will give them a way out of it, sometimes in all contradiction to everything they have seen in history and said about it.
REVELATION HELPS US MAKE SENSE OF WHAT WE SEE
Christians claim to have a revelation, a book from heaven that explains everything. It tells us that there is an insidious infection of evil in the world, in all human beings. It teaches us that evil isn’t simplistic so that it can only be described as greedily capturing the means of production, oppressing the workers, creating and exercising racial categories and supremacy, or systemic injustice. It also teaches us that evil is not as simple as individual sinfulness, personal immorality, or personal acts of injustice. It is all of them and more; personal, corporate, systemic, institutional, cultural, societal, national, and universal. It also teaches us that education, governments, systems, resolution, and revolutions cannot rid us of it, though any and all of these can be mitigating for a time. It is the why of death, the sting of it.
The Bible helps us to understand that human beings, though fallen and full of both evil and its growing possibilities, have a hint of a greater reality. This comes from having been created in the image of God, given dignity, given spirituality, given enormous measures of goodness, even in frustrated restriction, and the ultimate amputation of life we call death. It also delivers us from any false optimism that we in ourselves or systems can fix what is catastrophically broken. We have the appetite for both ourselves and the world to be fixed, and it is what the advertisement of goodness keeps giving us.
Jesus comes and announces the coming of the Kingdom, and we realize there is no achievable human utopia but one that must come down from heaven. Jesus comes and calls us to repentance, and we realize that that what is fallen, broken, and evil can be turned away from only through an outside power given to us by God himself; to finally see and hate our own sin in the light of his absolute and total goodness. Jesus proclaims the Gospel of the Kingdom and in so doing reveals that his death was his becoming our sin so that it could be killed, and his resurrection becomes our new life, so that all the goodness we have only been catching the scent of, and the yearning for something more right, more just, more sensical, can be accomplished through God’s grace, and his rightful rule over a world we have corrupted. This is a kingdom that has come, and is coming. Morality, justice, mercy, and goodness can be made real in a certain measure, until all the enemies of Jesus are placed beneath his feet, and then the celebration of complete justice and goodness can begin.