Beware of Utopia!

Because human beings are created as the image of God, we are hard-wired for extension, development, economic growth, even globalization. But, because we are fallen, the usual result are misguided visions of utopia on earth. From these we produce conquest, empire, subjugation, exploitation, plunder, and extinction. We often create cultures that are nothing short of abusive, inhumane, and unjust.

Clearly, “east of Eden” (Gen 3:24) and “under the sun” (Eccl 1:9) the human project is flawed. This is the “present evil age” (Gal 1:4), as Paul wrote. As a result, there will never occur in this eschatological epoch a utopia through communism or socialism, capitalism or consumerism, Islam or any of the many alternative spiritualities.

The reality is that history is full of failed and tragic experiments in culture building and identity formation. Consider the many corrupt leaders and violent empires of destruction, beginning with Babel: ancient empires such as Pharaoh’s kingdom of the sun-god or Caesar’s Pax Romana, the medieval Holy Roman Empire, modernity’s myth of progress, and ideologies like Nazism, communism, and totalitarianism.

Sadly, history is a litany of tragic quests for paradise lost or for utopia on earth. All of them testify that human beings are created in the image of God but instead worship and serve idols (Rom 1:18-23). As John Calvin wrote, “Our hearts are factories of idols.” As a result, we create endless substitute religiosities and “alterative gospels,” as well as group identities, economic policies, and worldviews which sometimes can only be defined as a kind of “hell on earth,” a foretaste of dreadful things to come.

We should honestly ask ourselves: How many millions have perished because of the lust for empire and its cousin, colonialism, throughout human history? God alone knows the suffering and injustice inflicted due to the divine right of kings, manifest destinies, and myths of progress. How often have lands been acquired, peoples dispersed, raw materials confiscated, or access to the sea or trade routes seized for purposes of security, gain or glory? How often has mankind raped the earth of its natural resources, failing to steward God’s goodness? How many people have been enslaved or exploited for want of manpower or greed?

And most importantly, how often has Christianity affiliated with the powerful and prosperous, but overlooked the victims of empire: the poor, exploited, enslaved, abused, and condemned? Surely, for all of this creation “mourns” (Jer 4:28).

Christians should, therefore, be continuously wary. Whenever an ideology proposes to “put an end to war and set all things in order” (spoken about Caesar and Pax Romana), the church should take heed.

2 thoughts on “Beware of Utopia!”

  1. Lamentablemente es una constante esto que decis Richard. La lucha por el poder es el motor de la Historia (parafraseando, y no tanto, a Marx) y esa promesa de poder, autosuficiencia, en fin, “ser como Dios”, provoca que por mas buenas ideas, intenciones y luchas que surjan, la propia naturaleza caida del ser humano las transforma en algo que se corrompe siempre. Un ex presidente alguna vez dijo que si en campaña hubiera dicho lo que en verdad iba a hacer, nadie lo hubiese votado.
    Ha sido muy dificil para el cristianismo históricamente, y mas aún en el presente, ser como las 5 vírgenes que mantuvieron la antorcha encendida.


    1. [English Translation] ‘Unfortunately, what you say, Richard, is a constant. The struggle for power is the engine of History (paraphrasing, and not so much, Marx) and that promise of power, self-sufficiency, in short, “to be like God”, causes more good ideas, intentions and struggles to arise. he fallen nature of the human being transforms them into something that is always corrupted. A former president once said that, if he had said what he was really going to do during the campaign, no one would have voted for him. It has been very difficult for Christianity historically, and even more so today, to be like the five virgins who kept the torch burning.”


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