This past week a nation collapsed: Afghanistan.
This past week a political ideology collapsed: Wilsonian global governance. Management of other nations by whatever means does not work. That’s not peace.
Just as about a century ago the political ends of postmillennial theology were dashed in the brutality of World War I, so the secular version of progressive government and the hopes for a better world through power also collapsed with the loss of any sense of hope.
The beginnings of progressive thought were borrowed almost verbatim from postmillennial ideals. “Can we build a better world? Yes, we can!” The liberal brought in the ideal that people are essentially good. That gave the progressive hope. So the early progressives, borrowing also from the optimism of the classic liberal, worked to change the human condition, at least in context. It was thought that, if you provide enough food and housing that, having their needs met, people would automatically aspire to the best. They would become everything they should be. Universal education. Universal health care. Universal housing. Universal job security. Universal food availability. These are the positive liberties promised by the progressive.
Positive liberty has failed. For the past century, various western nations have implemented these features. All of these nations were progressive in one form or another. The USSR, Nazi Germany, and Great Britain all had universal positive liberty solutions. What failed was not the difference in implementation among the three. What failed was the idea itself. So, they tried and tried again in other nations. Greece was left bankrupt. France, not much different in its stagnation. The U.S., simply by virtue of its capacity to seemingly produce its way out of the difference, did no better. More and more college-educated people do not know how to think while more and more people completing their secondary school efforts come out with nothing.
Want to read (or see) the failure of positive liberty and the progressive do-gooder from its early years? Pollyanna. It’s in the movie and the book. Because nobody wants to be forced to take what they don’t want and don’t need. Sure, Pollyanna was overly optimistic. But Aunt Polly was entirely and completely wrong. She was shown wrong many years ago and now the error is evident. Forced or coerced vaccinations is just the latest iteration of what do-gooders do that harms people and destroys freedom.
If you want to understand Wilsonianism, read a very straightforward book called Total Peace by the bridge player Ely Culbertson. It’s all there in plain language and overly-optimistic rhetoric.
Christianity has also failed. We’ve been seduced by professionalism, by facilities, and by the lure of political advantages. Even when we’re not engaging in what is called “Christian nationalism” there is the temptation to try to remake things in the church’s image. We’ve been seduced by money and more than we think. More than we’ll admit.
God hasn’t failed. I have a great confidence in the Lord and the effectiveness of the gospel. But I have lost a lot of faith in churches, and especially para-church groups, where activity is substituted for mission. We work and pour ourselves into a children’s infrastructure that yields little fruit but do only a small amount of interpersonal evangelism. We like service work precisely because it is impersonal. It’s easy to help. It’s hard work to befriend someone and introduce that person to Christ. We, many of us, treat programs as solutions. In that we are as mechanically modernist as are the modernist theologians. We skip their ideas while borrowing their mechanisms.
We’ve reduced the idea of Christianity to something merely personal. As a result one largest college para-church groups, though they see many come to Christ on campus, they lose over 90% of these people after college. They don’t enter church life. They’ve been taught something individualistic. There is no place for the body. The error that “where two or three” defines the church has its ugly fruit.
Fundamental revivalism isn’t much better. While the para-church groups will punch your ticket the revivalist tries to make you cry. You can come to Christ when you’ve been made sorrowful enough. Forget a clear call to repent. They’ll more likely come to Christ when they feel bad enough. Or so the message goes.
The postmoderns have forgotten everything. Their only hope is to abandon their corrupted philosophical theology and return to an exegetical theology.
Other nations where Christianity is stronger are going to have to take up the missions and evangelism call while the church in the U.S. seeks a place of repentance.
Committed religious people who have hope will always win over the hopelessness of the godless infidels. Islam provides no hope, only law against the capricious. Christ provides hope. Never forget and never forget to speak that plainly.