The Francis A Schaeffer Foundation
Chalet Les Montaux, Chemin de Jermintin 3
CH 1882 Gryon, Switzerland
Dear present and future friends,
This issue of FOOTNOTES comes to you with warm greetings, and shall end with wishes for a Happy Easter. Let us greet one another with the remembrance and assurance that the Lord is Risen, He is Risen Indeed.
Deborah and I arrived in New York in the second half of January. We will be here for several weeks to give lectures and preach until the middle of April. We will enjoy again the weekly "Bach at One" concerts at St. Paul's and the Sunday evening Vespers with a full Bach Cantata at Trinity Lutheran. At the 92nd Street Y we can hear people like David Brooks, Jonathan Sacks and David Grossman, and at Barnes and Noble authors like André Aciman and Bernard Schlink reading and discussing their recent books. We are enriched and our minds are stimulated by what a city, new books, and articles make you think about.
Here are links to recent articles which you may want to look up, argue with and benefit from:
Before I share recent reflections in connection with the rapid changes in content and tone in our culture on both sides of the Atlantic, you should know that we will once again welcome a number of people to our Summer Study Program in Gryon, beginning on July 10, 2017. We will have hours and days together in serious reflections on ideas relating to the Bible and how Culture affects History, and how Society exhibits belief. With access to a library of lectures, books and articles we will consider why and how our world, in which rules from laws, trade, and diplomacy bound many societies and their people, their trade and other exchanges into mutually beneficial and dependent entities, is now more fragmented. The spread of nationalism creates splits in the fabric of an international order that was formerly sustained by rationality, respect, law, and advocacy of universal human rights. In long discussions over meals, on walks, and while working together we will seek to understand how people think, live and cope.
For the past 75 years, concerted efforts have developed rules for an orderly, respectful way of relating to other countries, people and cultures with open minds. This was an exceptional period which stands out against previous times of disorder and conflict which arose from religious differences, nationalism, and ideologies of a more 'secular' nature like communism, fascism, and capitalism With a new determination after 1945, the victors brought much of the world's population together to work on a communal garden for everyone's eventual benefit. The Stalinist block pursued a collectivist future, the Western Allies one to be shaped by individual responsible efforts. The East imposed obedience to the party, the West depended on respect for people, for life, law, and reason.
That effort to pursue a higher goal transcending particular national wishes was anchored in international treaties, facilitating trade and other exchanges through the lowering of political, financial, and language barriers. They also established rules of behavior with greater accountability. The founding of the European Union came from desire to abolish hostility and embrace peace after generations of wars over religion, territory, economic advantage and cultural domination. Greater facility in trade and travel, and the clarification of common policies, were the visible result and an invisible glue. The rest of the world is better off because Europe is now largely a cultural values, law, and economic union.
In the US the Union among states, which originally distinguished ethnic, national, religious, and economic identities, led to the establishment of a federal government in a separated district, donated by Maryland, apart from any one of the states. Individuals were at home separately, but bound together in a larger purpose. Such a construct of coming together, yet being separate, reflect the original unity and diversity, the foundation present in all of reality.
How the ONE (Unity) relates to the MANY (diversity) is a basic philosophic question not only in people's minds, but in the construction of society as well. The Bible gives us a satisfactory answer in the eternally existing Trinity. Remove reliance on the Trinity as an eternal person, and one always ends up either with a single seat of power that tolerates no diversity (Allah, Stalin), or so much of diversity that all ends in anarchy.
When tectonic plates move apart, knowledge is lost and nature breaks up into continental uniqueness. Formerly connecting bonds are lost. Tulips and tomatoes only found their way to Europe from Asia and America by human intervention. When tectonic plates come together by force, they raise mountains and cause earthquakes and floods. People also either separate into irresponsible individualism or clash into violence from resentment, anger, and rage.
A country's appeal to a territory or its people's blood and ethnicity separates them from others for distinct, often exclusive and opposing purposes. Likewise, a leader who claims to 'speak for the people' or to accuse others of being 'the enemy of the people' claims final authority and exceptional powers, so that all accountability to law and neighbors, much less to the One Human Race or God, is rejected. National pride or patriotism no longer connect the citizen to one's country's history, one among others. 'We first', 'Brexit', the National Front in France, White America, Alt.Right, even 'Christian America' or 'Islamic' Pakistan claim exclusive identity, a singular status, an exceptionalism not of values and history, but of a distinct racial superiority. However, before employing any such secondary labels, all persons are foremost human beings and only then attached to a nation, a language, a history.
Nationalism emphasizes more than distinctions; first it invites comparisons that lead to conflicts; it separates rather than seals our bond to the one human race.
The loss of the uniquely Biblical proposition about One Human Race opens the door to racism and its expression in envy and jealousy. We are familiar with it since Cain. Racism was philosophically justified after the rejection of God by Voltaire. It nurtured the 19th and 20th century European and American Eugenics movements, which defined different races according to appearances after the Bible's definition had been given up. Nothing stood in the way of racial extermination for the purpose of refinement and perfection in Africa and Europe. No longer was One Human Race created by God, but the result of Nature's selection over much time from many evolving deviations.
Such thinking prepared the explosive collisions of World War I and II. A single focus on any Particulars leads to jealousy and attitudes of supremacy, while Universalist or Global outlooks easily neglect individual needs and desires. Only in the Bible does one find the advocacy of the same law to Jew and alien. Leviticus 19:35 commands our taking in refugees from elsewhere, to follow the Good Samaritan example of the New Testament. Memory of Israel's time in Egypt should awaken empathy for aliens. Our Universe knows one reign or body of linked facts, and one truth, one law, One Human Race: all is common in and to the world created by God, who in Himself is unity and diversity, three persons loving one another eternally by nature.
In the political realm, years of grand schemes in the hands of traditional parties and priorities have created a population, whose particular concerns, worries and pains have been neglected. Global trade and company profits were pursued as part of the larger picture, which would provide for the well-being, wages, health concerns, and education of individuals. They did and do not. People, not systems, are required to address individual situations in the One Human Race.
Over the past few years, a diminishing common interest and comprehension of who we are and how we connect to our human purpose have facilitated this way of thinking. We started by fragmenting the one human race into color, gender, ethnic, age, and IQ identities. In a real sense we each occupy a tectonic plate and drift apart. The garden divides into separate plots behind walls for each tribe, culture, or gender. Like the Golden Calf for the Israelites, one's concrete identity seems more immediate and personal. Social media may well connect us, but also relieve us of social responsibility to my neighbor, aliens, and refugees, even to the world of facts. They temporarily replace a fundamental loneliness of people, but cannot provide the confidence of truth and meaning, which only the lifelines of the Law of God, the ground for One Human Race, can secure.
Political and personal localism has immediacy, gets more attention, but also breaks the human family into smaller, competing fragments. It tears apart what past efforts sought to craft: an order of laws to protect everyone's human rights. They come from the Bible's affirmation that only the human being is made a little lower than the angels (Ps 8), and thus needs to be celebrated at all cost in an untidy and much damaged world. Meaning and purpose are not self-evident, they are discovered. Without them, nationalism, gender identity, market-supported greed, impunity to corruption everywhere contribute to a spreading of cynicism about political, economic, and moral/civil participation.
The garden of civilization requires constant tending by all, lest it will languish in periods of drought, and bugs will devour whatever does survive.1
Several comments I received to the discussions in previous issues of FOOTNOTES let me see some things not considered before. Thank you. Several other readers asked to be removed from our contacts, because they disagree with my points of view on the recent political developments. I honor, but regret their request.
I propose that any choice of political options must pass two tests. The first is in relation to the Bible's moral teaching, that we "be holy as God is holy". We all have some individual control over that. We may and must ask for wisdom and be practical, where minds and hands are involved. The Bible commands us to have dominion over creation: first ourselves, then over the facts around us.
We must also keep in mind the impossibility of perfection before the advent of Christ's reign on earth. That means we must weigh what is less evil, while still objecting to it. No perfect choice ever exists before the resurrection. We are left with the task to diminish current and future evil, to work with what is possible rather than wait until we can achieve the impossible. For, waiting does not get that much done.
It is important we keep these restraints in mind in all of life's situations, including the political, professional and spousal choices. Schaeffer's oft-repeated comment was that 'if you want perfection or nothing, you will always have nothing'. Winston Churchill was once asked why the Atlantic Allies cooperated in the 1940s with Stalin in clear knowledge of his labor camps, where millions from among his own countrymen and –women exterminated. In Churchill's response he said that at the time the defeat of fascism in Europe and Asia was more urgent and possible. The Allies needed Russia on the Eastern front, rather than losing them over a moral conflict.
After the end of the war the same Churchill fought against Stalin in his support of victory in the Greek Civil War, and for Tito's non-aligned status in Yugoslavia.
For similar reasons Francis Schaeffer approved of many Christians in France and Switzerland collaborating with the Communist resistance to Nazism. He always made a careful distinction between being co-belligerents and allies. The former join for a while for limited goals, while coming from different or even opposing ideas; the latter work together from wider agreement of common goals.
My views expressed in FOOTNOTES seek to follow such reasoning. A vote for an ideal never presents itself in any election anywhere. There is always collateral baggage. For instance, complete autonomy is impossible for any country or person. Each is bound by links and treaties to others. There is no free trade without some free movement of people, no free speech without disappointing dissent, no ideal candidate for any office. One must choose what seems good enough, often the lesser evil, the better option, or the most hopeful situation and outcome. A choice can only ever anticipate but not know what will be the outcome. There are no perfect jobs, churches, or concerts.
These considerations also played a large role when the voters selected their candidates in the last election. The choice was not limited to exclusions on the Right and inclusions on the Left. Neither gave a satisfactory option, nor set a preference for personal moral qualities. It was more about the expected consequences of their proposed programs: which grants more possibilities to fellow human beings in a fallen and therefore dangerous world, at home and abroad. Which of the two have shown more respect for the unity of the One Human Race and have done more to diminish pain and injustice? Which allow for dissent in search of improvements which Bernard-Henri Levy presented in his book Left in Dark Times? (The title has a double meaning: dark times leave all of us behind; and the Left has historically been more sensitive to the fundamental unfairness and insecurity of life.)
Therefore the choice had to be made after more complex reflections of each person's input to the intellectual and social geography at home and abroad. One side appealed to experienced frustrations, lack of control over life, of resentments, exclusion, and disregard. Treasured promises in the past could no longer be realized in changing economic, cultural and social circumstances. These people wanted hope restored and steady effort rewarded. President Trump appeared as the person whose dealings brought him rewards and whose hope never fails. Even his deception and deceit in his businesses, his ways of cutting corners and corruption appealed to people who hope their turn may now come: Me, whoever that is, person, class or country, first!
It is staggering, and frightening for me, to realize that 81% of voting Evangelicals voted for this path to keep or gain the moral high ground, economic justice, and fulfill their responsibility to adhere to law and love in relation to people and international treaties. This shows up a failure in the teaching mandates of the Church that neglects to present the whole counsel of God. It consists of more than salvation for an afterlife, as Scripture tells us much about what God had in mind for life on earth and in history. Faith in Christ does not replace the command to love our neighbor as ourselves and to seek justice in all things. Without that there is no access to salvation in Christ either.
President Trump neglects both faith and practice, while Secretary Clinton evidences a history of social, legal, and economic assistance in her resume. That may not matter much, when people have reduced their interest to caring for themselves in material realms, e.g. job searches. As Christians we know that this should include open attitudes towards intellectual/moral/cultural changes, a willingness to learn, to move to another town, to go abroad, etc. A good day's work is honorable and deserves to be paid by more than what the market allows. Life for all depends on work done and life lived fully. Of course, such work must also find a buyer. New skills are required in an economy where robots drive machines efficiently. The higher wages our economy needs to pay to keep jobs at home requires more education to compete abroad.
The high approval rate for President Trump among the many Christians is in line also with their opposition to abortion in the stand taken by Secretary Clinton. The legal right for a mother to make a bad, terrible and murderous decision to abort their unborn child was the central reason for rejecting her candidacy. I fully agree with the revulsion against the practice of abortions. A human being starts at conception, since nothing that makes the child a person is added afterwards. A child is in the care of both parents, domiciled in the mother for the first nine months of life to develop the body and the brain. I am not only pro-birth, but pro-all-of-life, which includes support for health and child care, even tax breaks to encourage stable families, and proper education.
I consider that granting a legal right to do wrong is little different from God taking the risk of creating real people with genuine choice, telling them not to do evil. It requires warnings, arguments and support against choosing evil. Against God's warnings and pleadings Adam ate, giving grief to God, and death to each of us in a now fallen world. Even then, God ran after Adam and Eve to tell them what would still be possible with extra efforts.
The effects of a vote for President Trump are consequential around the world and unpredictable. His seemingly ignorant treatment of a wider world while competing powers struggle to dismantle our economic, legal, military, and values alliances; his lack of attention to the suffering and oppression of the human race as inflicted by autocrats around the world whom he appreciates; his belief in fake news and alternative facts; his conspiracy theories from Kenyan Obama to refugee terrorists: all this is dangerous and frightening. I noticed how none of his short comments show any concern for any values other than those relating to business, jobs and boasted supremacy. Are some Christian supporters beginning to see what damage President Trump has done to the perception of the free world as the beacon of hope, the light on the horizon in a dark night elsewhere, showing the benefits of law, the evidence that an alternative to a life of fear and insecurity was possible?
The choices threw everyone into a trick bag, a Southern expression for a situation that will lead to a disastrous outcome. A more experienced, though imperfect candidate would have been better than one with little knowledge of history, who exhibits no responsibility for the human family.
Labels like 'left' and 'right', 'traditional' and 'progressive' by themselves hardly serve us well. As collective terms they are too narrow. They reduce into simple alternatives of 'either – or, for or against', 'black or white', 'tea or coffee', the many aspects of reality which we each encounter in a fallen and imperfect world. (We should never accept when others give us only one alternative.) Instead of using labels (which assume that one has come to a conclusion), we must face the challenge of weighing many, frequently contradictory sides in the life of human beings. The time of perfect clarity was in Eden, from which we were ejected in the past. We cannot return there. Perfection now awaits a prior redemption in the future. Here and now we have no real purity in either perception or practice. That is no denial of absolutes, only the admission that none of them are presently attainable. "Be ye holy, as I am holy, says the Lord" is a command to constantly strive, in the face of an equally constant admission of failure.
We experience that all of life is far too complex and always untidy, from sin and the significant results of earlier and now inherited sin. Death, corruption, imperfection was passed on from Adam (Romans 5), though not his guilt. The man born blind in John 9 is not blind from his or his parents' guilt, but his life is messed up! Then Jesus heals that one particular problem by restoring his sight. Job did not suffer only from personal guilt, but from the effects of sin since Adam's fall and his family's continuation of it. We all live, more or less visibly, in an inherited mess. We eagerly wait for the reign of Christ on earth for it to be cleared up. Until that day, we will always only have partial solutions from human effort and God's. Redemption is incomplete. We will make difficult decisions with unsure and never fully recognized results.
We will always have less than perfection, decide what battles to fight at what cost, which inconclusive options we favor, which lesser evil to vote for in our problematic world of sinners. We can ever only pursue the better choice without guarantee that the other would not have improved things more! Such is the human dilemma in a corrupt, unjust, unfair history of untidy conditions from Cain onwards.
In recent months we had a number of splendid opportunities to bring our perspective to bear on a wider audience.
In late September we had our annual long weekend for the 6th time in Germany with friends and guests of the Schaeffer Foundation. I had prepared five lectures on the content, history and cultural consequences of Islam. They were followed by lively interactions which continued into the meal times. Islam is understandably one of the hot-button topics everywhere today.
Islam is, however, often seen through either the lens of outrageous pronouncements and claims by Islamic fundamentalists, whose recent cruelties and real war are known; or as rejection of much that we find in present Near-Eastern cultures, their social backwardness, tribal customs, and oriental traditions. What was admired in the 19th century by Western travelers and artists as part of an exotic Ottoman life at court – including Turkish baths, smoking rooms, poetry, and the mystique of oriental harems - has no more justification in recent decades and currently needs social and political adaptations.
Some suggest that history will replace those patterns, describing them as being "on the wrong side of history". Freedom, education, equal rights, democracy, and free-market capitalism have shown their advantages and will necessarily win over. Yet, they are not the inevitable, natural "bending of history towards liberty and justice", that Martin L. King promised and modern politicians repeat.
In reality, I believe, these benefits are largely the result of determined human effort, inspired by the Biblical mandates or their poor reflection in European and US patterns, to create history by our choices rather than to wait around until an impersonal history, or some fate and destiny, come along. The Bible gives instructions to seek justice and to set people free. Justice is not the result of passing time, of history advancing. The creation or prevention of these treasures occurs from efforts. At times, their destruction is even promoted for religious, political or nationalistic reasons. History is neither necessary nor inevitable; it merely presents a record of data.2
Islam's history knows such changes as well. It is widely ignored or forgotten that the study of Islam brought about a High Culture from the 8th to the 11th centuries. The great university of Baghdad, the House of Wisdom started by the Abbasid caliph Harun al-Rashid (786 to 809), started an Islamic Golden Age. It came to an end with the sacking of Baghdad in 1258 by the Yellow (Asian) Hordes from Mongolia in the 13th century. Scholars and scientists were dispersed and the city was destroyed.
Baghdad's Islamic schools established the philosophical underpinning for the development of a more human society, which Christian Europe largely lacked at a time of social and political instabilities, and an otherworldly theology in the Church. Baghdad significantly affected the intellectual outlook and reshaped the belief of earlier more pagan cultures. Islam in Arabia presented a sounder outlook than what tribal deities and bloody confrontations and rivalries between pagan Bedouin tribes knew. The belief in one rather than many gods laid the foundation for order, rationality, science, and the rule of law.
Islam's teaching about ONE god in a written text invited the study of the laws of nature for the benefit of everyone and gave rise to an impressive and organized intellectual curiosity. The belief in ONE God rather than many invites critical study of creation as an orderly place, where things can be found out by reason and experimentation. Knowledge can be applied to all areas of human curiosity and need.
With that Islam rose above the separate pagan tribal groups at war in Arabia and united them in a common purpose. Sages, scientists, and philosophers from regions as far away as China and North Africa, from Greece and Persia, Muslims, Hindus, Jews, and Christians came together in Baghdad to learn, to teach and to study the Quran and other texts.
Though the Quran presents a very different understanding of the natures of God and Man from the Bible, the focus on truth, knowledge, and wisdom is similar. ONE god, rather than many, extends an invitation to rational thought; Islamic LAW gave a measure of significance to individuals in an ordered rather than a random setting for life. The focus on the 'here and now' justified and encouraged the mind's occupation with questions using science for the sake of the "Good Life". The Text proposed answers from how creation is structured, defined and how it works. At that time the presence of the sacred texts opened minds to debate and discuss between people who would listen to recitation and argued about it.
We find the same benefits in the much prior Biblical teaching, with very significant additions, variations and beneficial moral/cultural consequences. But we must not diminish what Baghdad's collective sages brought to the Dark Ages of post-Roman and Pre-Christian European paganism. Europe gained access to Aristotle, Greek rational discourse, and through that valued again the created material natural world, which the prior concern with angels in heaven and the afterlife had neglected.
Islam teaches a divine form, an order, and calls for obedience to it. In contrast, paganism deals with Nature's hidden energies and conflicts as sources to justify seemingly random events with either awe or dread. The Bible presents a rational world of form and freedom, of things and real people who should benefit from discovery and knowledge, and gain wisdom for creativity and service. One God powerfully holds united what the persons of the Trinity decided in love about the particulars of people and things. God created a defined world and gave people mandates to also create and alter, name, arrange, and thereby tend to the world and the ONE Human Race. There is only one 'kind' in creation made in the image of God, but we are many, male and female. We are individuals, but not individualistic, or self-made.
Where the Quran teaches that every person is a Muslim by birth and must acknowledge that in a life of obedience, the Bible talks about each person being a human being in the image of God. Obedience here includes mandates to freely create, invent, and love, including arguing with the text and all of life. That is a dramatic difference in perspective. Another one is that the Quran gives heaven as the goal and reward in life, while the Bible sees genuine humanness with love and creative work as the purpose of our life on earth. Our orientation is to create a faithful life in this material world now, to be continued forever without further interruptions when Christ will reign fully after its restoration.
Being "in the image of God" designates us as persons with minds, heart and soul, as creators of relationships, ideas, love, and things. In the account of the fall of Adam and Eve, the Bible speaks of sin leading to many fractures, such as death in relationships and across the whole natural world. Guilt has lasting consequences, observed and experienced in what is now a broken, unfair and deadly abnormal history. Redemption comes at a cost for the repair of what is now damaged.
The Quran teaches that people's disobedience is made up by obedience to the five pillars of the faith. There are only personal consequences, as history always and already exhibits Allah's will and work.
I have come to the end of three lectures in New York at Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church. They will be posted on our web site. I want to remind us to the need for constant review of how we approach our task to be human in a damaged society and nature. "Advocacy of Rationality and Justice" develops these two concepts into habits of thought to define and accomplish realistic goals in our concern for people. Rational is the orderliness of everything, starting with the existence of a mindful, loving, and creative Creator. He is the same WORD (logos) whom John proposes in his Gospel and whose rational nature finds an extension in the distinct defined forms of Nature. They came about by God's spoken word. Everything functions 'according to their kind': Rational language and grammar accurately describe a lawful reality of creation, nature and human beings. Nothing can be comprehended and formulated without rationality, and ideas will have no link to the real world of cause and effect. Rationality is expected from the structure of our mind. We expect that things hang together, that every linear effect has a cause in a world of data or facts. Opposites are not 'alternative facts', established by simple belief.
Reality with its order, language with its grammar and syntax, scientific research and findings, are constructed on the presence of the eternal rationality, the WORD. Unlike Eve, we decide on the basis of fact, not what is pleasing to the eye or mind alone. Belief and practice must line up with good and sufficient reasons. I want to show that policies to address problems must be Rational and serve Justice.
Justice is the effort to adjust everything to what is meant to be. Justice is the description of what is right (Lat: ius) according again to the mind of God, the WORD, who created a defined world. Any deviation from that evokes the obligation to adjust what is irrational, contrary to reality to what it was meant be: man and woman equal in the image of God; death as an enemy of life, not its continuity; life now always untidy and unfair, as sins and blessings of parents are faced also by their descendants; good and bad kings, true and false prophets, faithful and corrupt spouses, lying leaders, bad employers are each exposed for their flaws.
Justice requires rationality applied in our mind to guide and order what we explore, understand, label, and express in language, in words. We expect things to be right and to hang together. Justice makes us unearth 'alternative facts' as false and reject belief as a source of, rather than the response to facts.
The second talk refers to the small town in France which harbored large numbers of Jews from being hunted down by Nazis, who intended to send them off to concentration camps for extermination between 1941 and 1944 during the German occupation of large parts of France. Chambon sur Lignon is a marker on historical maps and time-lines to remember. It recalls us to affirm our being members of the one human race. The town's people call us into a "Conspiracy of Goodness". Many individuals in Chambon and surrounding villages resisted a murderous ideology's hunt for Jews by hiding and supporting Jewish children among their own and refusing, at considerable cost, to admit that anybody was there but human beings.
Jesus lays out in Matthew 5 (The Sermon on the Mount) what the Beatitudes were meant to do in our thoughts that give direction to our lives. We need to practice what we understand to be not only our faith, but the truth of the universe. We should hunger and thirst after rightness. The word 'righteousness' is derived from the idea of true and correct in relation to how things are. A plumb line gives us a right angle to level ground and a straight line to the center of the earth. Righteousness comes from obedience to the law's intention. The word is a Greek translation of the OT, connected to the terms of 'honest, just weights and measures' (Lev 19:36) in a reality true to its kind.
Reality requires actions, wounds need healing, and lost people deserve rescue and orientation, healing attention, protection from harm. We are all part of one human race. Jesus taught and lived what is right in relationship to each person. That is the RIGHT thing to do for people in physical, spiritual and intellectual distress. The pursuit of JUSTICE is to ad-just our actions to the needs of those, whom we know to be people like ourselves.
The third talk, "Past and Future Myths", addressed the necessity of doubt rather than belief in relation to our selective and often very flawed, distorted memory of the past and our idealized dreams about the future. Human beings alone have minds that transcend the present, where instincts would rule. Instead we go backwards to find roots and project forward as if we had wings. People often turn to myths about the past to explain the present, and dream about the future to think and work ahead, setting goals and aiming high.
With these human abilities we risk distorting the past by seeing only the things we like to remember. In reporting an event, our testimony is never conclusive or even accurate. We both see and remember what we wish to, what marked us, sometimes even what we hope for. We look for a golden age in the past and in the future. There has not been one since Adam and Eve were made to go East of Eden. Let's admit that there never was a Christian country, a perfect human being, which carries forward what the OT tells us about life, bad kings, false prophets, and unfaithful spouses.
And there never will be until Christ reigns on earth! There exists no ground for optimism, but a sound base for hope. Perfection, harmony, peace and wellbeing shall not arrive until then, but we have hope to accomplish a bit more of it. It may also fall apart again. That may not satisfy us, but it helps us study to learn from terrible things done in history, and to seek wisdom, skill and courage to proceed, never quite knowing how much can actually be accomplished, one step after another.
With this mindset, given to us in the Bible and confirmed in the real world, it is curious that our present political focus emphasizes the illusion or dream of an imagined past. Such a glorious past never existed. The portrait has no likeness in the real world of events. We must keep this in mind in order not to fall prey to snake oil salesmen, who lie and pretend about the past and future. Again, reason requires adjustments to the reality of an imperfect past. Future possibilities are always limited by the continuing cost from the past. All ideologies follow the pattern from a glorious past, distorted by selective forgetfulness, and a future off the ground. Hitler presented an empire of Germanic heroes, Mussolini appealed to the heirs of the Roman Empire to lift agrarian Italy to colonial mastery by means of heavy industry. Stalin, and now Putin, bank on Russia exceptionalism, past and future. China claims a much older Empire, but neglects the centuries of slavery that supported it.
Our inability to see things objectively, as God would see them, is no fault of ours. Imagination and projection are necessary tools for all of science, art, commerce and social relations. However, we should allow reality to filter out the lies and errors with other people, voices, and broad discussions. For that reason it is scandalous when books are burned, art is destroyed, and reporters and the media are ridiculed and excluded, as we need these outside witnesses to correct our assumptions and to protect us from blind belief in what may turn out to be lies or 'alternative facts'.
The Apostle Luke, a medical doctor by training, consulted many oral and written witnesses before he wrote about the Virgin Birth of Jesus, exposing the Gospel to possible contradiction in order to show its truth to fact.
A Happy Easter to each of you:
Udo and Deborah
The Lord is Risen, He is Risen indeed!
PS: Gifts in support of the work of the Francis A. Schaeffer Foundation are tax-deductible in the USA. They can be mailed to Marla McGill, 4310 Omaha Avenue, Amarillo, TX 79106. The Foundation is a 501 (c) (3) not-for-profit organization. The foundation also has a Bank account in Switzerland at the Banque Cantonale in Villars @ IBAN:CH0500767000Z09239242
1The Gardens of Democracy, Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer gave me the image I use in this context.
2Niether necessary or inevitable , Udo Middelmann, Wipf and Stock