TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY AMERICANS ARE FAMILIAR WITH THE WORD, UTOPIA. The dictionary defines it as “an imagined place or state of things where everything is perfect.” But neither the word nor the concept existed 500 years ago. Sir Thomas More, Lord Chancellor of England under Henry VIII, (the hero in the movie, A Man For All Seasons), invented the word to describe an ideal world in his book, The Truly Golden Book About the Best Condition of a Commonwealth and About the Island Utopia. Since that time, and increasingly in the last 2 centuries, the pursuit of utopia has done more to amplify human misery than almost any other ideology.
The pursuit of a utopia on planet earth is a non-Christian activity. Why? It assumes the perfectibility of human beings and the societies in which they live. It is an in-your-face rejection of Original Sin. Resting on a massive foundation of hubris, it also throws reality to the curb. Even the most simple-minded unbeliever is aware of the nuts and bolts of human nature. We all believe that others are fundamentally proud, self-centered, greedy, and ungrateful, and the humble even believe that of themselves. Most understand this intuitively. But others are willfully deluded, and their delusion has been astronomically deadly to human flourishing.
The French Revolution in 1789 was the first attempt to create a utopia. Attempting to create a “new world order,” at least 40,000, lost their heads to the guillotine. In the following months social upheaval cost the lives of another million French men and women in the Vendean district. All who resisted this utopian march of “progress” were liquidated. No matter. These 18th century social justice warriors were on a mission to create a new society and a new man—a social utopia on earth. They rejected Christianity, erected statues to the goddess Reason, rejected the Christian calendar, and persecuted all who resisted. Their idealistic slogan was “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.” They embraced atheism with the conviction that it was the foundation for the good life. But that is not what happened. Anarchy prevailed. The result was predictable. Preying on the peoples desire for order, Napolean seized the reigns of power and plunged Europe into a fifteen-year bloodbath.
One hundred years later the Russian Revolution displaced the Czars with a Marxist version of another utopia—the “worker’s paradise.” A bold idealism motivated Lenin and the early “utopian socialists.” What were the fruits? A civil war followed in Russia. Ten million died, and Marxism emerged in control. Pursuing the “workers paradise” Stalin, who succeeded Lenin, forcefully starved millions of Ukrainians. Million more were shot and buried in mass graves. Another twenty million died in WWII. Meanwhile, because they reject all utopian fantasies, the government did its best to persecute Christianity out of existence.
Then in 1948 Mau took over China. In pursuit of another Communist utopia, according to Mao’s biographers, another eighty million died.
In the late seventies, attempting to build another Socialist utopia in Cambodia, the atheist existentialist Pol Pot and comrades killed another 1-3 million.
Whether European socialism or full-blown Communism, every flavor of socialism is a drive for utopianism. But it never works—never. Why? Because all forms of socialism ignore the realities of human nature so clearly articulated in scripture. They set up barriers to individual accountability, apart from which nothing works. They assume that people won’t do what you incentivize them to do, and that people will do what you don’t incentivize them to do. In other words, people will continue to work when you remove the incentives (pay) and give those rewards to those that don’t work. God didn’t create people to work that way.
What does the Bible tell us about human nature? God made man in his image and likeness. Therefore, we are inherently valuable. But sin marred and distorted the image and likeness. Quoting from the Old Testament, Paul describes how God sees the best of us in our fallen state.
As it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”Romans 3:10-18
The Realism of America’s Founders
America’s Founding Fathers were realists. They weren’t all Christians, but they all operated from a Christian worldview. That means they accepted human nature as it really was. Most believed in Original Sin, and those that didn’t were clear on the limitations of human nature. They rejected belief in an earthly utopia this side of Christ’s return. Therefore, they designed a government that would limit opportunities for sin. That is why our constitution has three offsetting and competing branches—to limit the power of any individual or branch of government.
The realities of human nature are also why they encouraged capitalism. Capitalism holds people accountable. it rewards the productive and penalizes the lazy. It doesn’t do this perfectly, but it does it better than any other economic system. As a result, more people flourish under capitalism than in any other economic system. our founders agreed with the Bible. The world is fallen. There is no perfect economic system. The best we can do is to limit the damage. Given the limitations of human nature, a free people living in a Republic motivated by the rewards of capitalism is the best we can do. Jesus said it best,
“The poor you will always have with you.”Matthew 26:11 quoting Deuteronomy 15:11
So, in conclusion, go to the polls and vote from a biblical worldview. Reject all forms of socialism. They are fundamentally utopian. God did not give the government the job of caring for the poor. He gave it to family and church. There will always be vast differences in individual wealth. This is not bad. it is a necessary consequence of the Fall. People have different abilities and opportunities, and this is all part of God’s sovereign design. The politics of envy that seek egalitarian outcomes are inherently sinful and destructive.
Last, there is Good News. For those who believe the gospel and repent of sin a utopia is coming, and I for one can’t wait!
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”Revelation 21:1-4