Utopia will happen, it’s only just a matter of time.
For centuries, the ideal society has been pondered, investigated, sought, and attempted. It’s been near and it’s been far, clear and obscure, hopeful and then sunk in despair. Our history is a wasteland of sparkling and lofty dreams sabotaged by men in the mirror. There’s been great promise and great sorrow, often one right after the other—but look at the trajectory.
What we can do with medicine today is the magic of old. For the majority of our existence, horses were the speed limit; now we literally race sound and win. Human ingenuity has removed the fear of ever having to go without for almost everyone capable of reading these words. Moreover, leisure, thrills, and luxury are closer presently for more people than ever before (and by no small margin). Technology, our servant and friend, is the storehouse of our shared knowledge put into action—and we’ve been sharing for quite some time.
It’s not hard to imagine, given the exponential rate of our achievements, what sharing for a hundred more years might look like (not to mention a thousand). Go ahead, try.
I’ll give you a moment; Selah.
CONUNDRUMS & VAINGLORY
But for all the flowery words and extravagant illustrations we could put forth, the concept is rather simple—collectively, we’re capable of legitimate wonders and we desire to have everything we need and do whatever we want.
Many call this Utopia, and it’s hard to argue against us reaching it someday. But there’s a fly in the ointment. Actually, there are a few.
For starters, we’re not talking about toy soldiers. To have and keep an ideal society, you have to first agree on what that means. Will there be borders? Who will work what jobs, and for what pay? Will there be private property? Will there be sports (or do sports just further an ideology of merit that leads to unwanted stratification in society)? Will we have leaders or not? Will we have drugs or not? Do we permit prenatal homicide or don’t we? Are cheeseburgers allowed?
You catch my drift. We’re capable of so much, but we scarcely agree on anything.
Perhaps someone will say that there’s light a little further down the road. Maybe more knowledge will get us closer to consensus, and thus, Utopia.
Who can blame them? After surveying the sum of our accomplishments, it’s not unreasonable to conclude that we could eventually figure it out.
One might even surmise that we’re only limited by our imagination. And I think that’s a helpful way of putting it. In fact, I think the statement is truer than we know. Our imagination is powerful. But is it good?
Of course, in the obvious sense, we can give a hearty amen—we’re almost to commercialized jet packs—but there’s another sense that’s equally as true and far less flattering. And that is: “Not everything we have imagined has turned out well for us.” Our brilliance too often plays for the wrong team.
I could write you a tome detailing as much, but why say more when you can say less?
Hitler. Marx. Lenin. Stalin. Mao. Sanger. AOC.
Some brilliant and maniacal, others dumb and still maniacal.
The truth is, on this earth you can have consensus or freedom—but you can’t have both. Some people (like the previously mentioned) understand this and choose to limit others’ freedoms so they can enjoy what amounts to a pseudo-Utopia in the present; ensuring their desires are fully realized at the expense of everyone else’s. In seeking it, they lose it. Utopia fast becomes a mirage.
So why then do I say it’s inevitable?
“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness. I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress. No more shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his days, for the young man shall die a hundred years old, and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed.”Isaiah 65:17-20
I say it’s inevitable because it is.
Utopia is not something we bring about on our own steam, it’s the gift God gives to them that He loves, who love Him; the inevitable state of a universe overcome by incessant benediction.
I find it interesting that deep down everyone knows, not just that things could be better, but that they should be better. How did we arrive at such an imperative? Why do we long for unending joy in a world where everything ends? Where our mortality is all too apparent? What drives us to even consider these questions? Eternity is in our hearts and whatever we make with our hands passes through them like sand when we go back to the dust—we know this and we all agree it’s a great tragedy.
Why? Why do we agree?
It’s because we were made to inhabit glory, and we left our habitation. Willingly, we left. Sin lured us away and is the hedge that keeps us out.
Only in the context of a people who fully grasp the depths to which we’ve plunged—who comprehend the grace required to raise us from thick darkness—can we even begin to talk about the possibility of a perfect society. No other scenario creates the consensus and freedom necessary to have it. Utopia demands a unified vision, which free and sinful people can’t give. Therefore, it will either be sought in God (who can vanquish all sin) or by men who care nothing for freedom. It’s that simple.
We can make our own laws, or we can submit to the highest law. We can forcibly redistribute wealth, or we can give with a cheerful heart out of our surplus. We can embrace the exalted purpose for which we were made, or we can renounce it and try to do better than God.
In the end, thankfulness and allegiance to Him will guide our steps and move our hearts to love for one another, or we will choke on bitterness and want for the entirety of our conscious life (which is far longer than many care to admit).
The last word goes to Jack.
“Aim at Heaven and you will get Earth ‘thrown in,’ aim at Earth and you will get neither.”C.S. Lewis
4 thoughts on “Reforming Utopia”
Reminds me of Augustine in Confessions “happiness is something mankind has forgotten so thoroughly they cannot even remember having forgotten it”
I guess this has to do with our eschatology. We tend to either over-realize or under-realize our eschatology.
Simply put we are either expecting Dystopia or Utopia. The dystopian picture is not believable. But I also don’t think we can expect Utopia to arrive before Christ. I think we can expect to at least move toward it… as we have been doing. I think we should expect Mesotopia with a distinct leaning toward Utopia. But Utopia itself will come with Christ.
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Very well put. I love that quote from Augustine!
I find something very interesting, and it’s the only way that I can see something approximating Utopia existing pre-second coming.
At the end of Isaiah 65, the passage quoted in my article, we find God describing an incredibly blessed society, yet there is still mention of death.
People have interpreted the death passages in many ways, but I think it’s at least a possibility that we are supposed to take these verses at face value and surmise that what’s being described are the final chapters before the eternal state (a snapshot of how Christ worked through His church to fulfill the Great Commission, and what that did to a creation that was in shambles). It would go Isaiah 65, then the final apostasy (Revelation 19:7-8), the resurrection, final judgement, then the eternal state.
Of course, Partial Preterism would have to be true (Revelation 21 being then future to Isaiah 65), but it’d resolve the apparent inconsistency between the two pictures we’re given of “ideal societies” in Scripture. One that includes death (Isaiah 65) and one that doesn’t (Revelation 21) where death is abolished.
Either way, nothing close to Utopia is possible unless God does it. Plain and simple.
“nothing close to Utopia is possible unless God does it” – totally, and I’d add – Closer to Utopia is inevitable because “The gates of hell will not stand against her!” Matt 16:18 and “you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” Re 5:10.
But full Utopia, perfection? Only when Christ returns.
I like the comparison of death and post-death… ties in well with scripture and a good marker. Like “there was no more sea.” Rev 21:1 where the sea always symbolized the restless striving of mankind, the coming and going of civilizations.
100AD – Population 250 million – 1million Christians
1500AD- Population 1 billion Ratio at 100 -1
1900AD- Population at 2 billion. Ratio 27-1
1950. Population at 3 bill. Ratio at 20-1
Today. Ratio about 3 -1
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Love your insights brother.