Saturday, April 5, 2008

The Folly of Hope

Among the many great reads in the Bible are the accounts of Paul and his struggles to gain the understanding of the Gnostics in Corinth. Their failure to fully understand the facts of the resurrection and its deeply personal message for them was, I am sure, painful to him. He did pursue the matter earnestly and argue the reality with great skill. There were many who were convinced but there were also those who chose to ignore his vital words.

To properly shine the light on Christ, his presentations were appropriately laced with humility born of respect for the Savior. He acknowledged his own failings and humanity. He encouraged others to seek the perfection which only Christ can bring to ones life. While he was a powerful force in advocacy, I am certain that there were those who saw in his admitted failures, a weakness in the overall message. They did not see the strength in his humility.

These Gnostics are still with us. They are impatient for God to come in person and pave the pathway for personal ease in this present life. Their narcissism prevents looking ahead to plan for their own eternity. This condition was summed up by the late William F. Buckley by the use of an unwieldy phrase: “immanentizing the eschaton.” Like much of what Mr. Buckley had to offer, it captured precisely what he meant to say. Rather than send you off to Webster, let me offer a definition. “Immanentizing” roughly means to “bring into a current state.” “Eschaton” at its simplest refers to the afterlife. The phrase therefore calls for advancing the due process of reaching heaven to today. To experience the future in the here and now then becomes the goal.

For those who seek this solution the most important aspect of their lives is today. They fail to understand that God works on His own timetable and their protestations notwithstanding are meaningless. Much as Paul was surrounded by the Gnostics in Corinth, we are assaulted with the same in our very real time world. If you question this assertion I would suggest you turn on the TV, open a periodical, or pay attention to the purveyors of hope.

Progressives, fascists, and Marxists through the ages have attempted to gain the support of the people through offerings of ease and comfort in terms of their present life through their own vile programs. They promise the joys of the afterlife in untenable doctrines which invariably work to diminish the individual in the favor of the state. They indulge in endless promise of perfection here on earth which they promote at the expense of those who actually contribute to the enhancement of life. These people, while offering untenable proposals, are not nearly as insidious as two other categories of endless “promisers.”

Politicians have a special corner in the universe of those who imagine the prospect of heaven on earth. We are asked to accept that men in high office have the capacity to effect change which will bring us to an unearthly joy and peace through their efforts. They invariably project a messianic image to garner our support. They urge us to see the man and his trained and well coached abilities of communication as the avenue to earthly salvation. Better this than a hard look at such mundane things as associations, voting records, and stated policy opinions. Their rallies and caucuses take on the aura of an old time gospel camp meeting with the fervor, swooning and altar calls one might expect. Those in attendance would not be too surprised to witness “speaking in tongues.” Come to think of it, some of their preposterous offerings come very close to just that.

Perhaps the most offensive of those who offer heaven on earth are the religionists. If any should know better, those who occupy pulpits should. Our scripture is rife with the examples of men of God who have suffered, been killed violently, hungered and endured all manner of affliction to promote the concepts of Christianity. Are they merely an historical anomaly? No, they followed the path which they knew and were willing to forego earthly comfort for the eventualities of the afterlife. They did not preach a “prosperity gospel.” They understood the promises which God has made and continues to make for the richness of the Spirit today and tomorrow.

It strikes me that pursuit of heaven here on earth by those who should rightfully be promoting the realities of the message are the greatest of offenders. They are in essence failing to understand the entire concept of their faith. They simply demonstrate their actual misunderstanding of the gospel. They claim to seek a zionic condition with “no poor among us.” Poor can also be interpreted as poverty of the spirit and understanding. It would be wise to be wary of those who would promise hope without substance.

For those who seek the ideal life, cling to the "rod of iron" as you have been clearly instructed. It, the ideal life, exists, but not in this world. This in no way means that we should not seek to perfect our lives and circumstance. In summary, let me quote one of my favorite writers, Jonah Goldberg: “But even though Utopian dreams are forever out of reach, there’s no reason for us to assume that people won’t always strive for them. Such is both the audacity, and the folly of hope.”

In His abiding love,

Cecil Moon

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