Earlier this week I stumbled upon a quotation from a book I read a few years ago, about why culture is intrigued by the bad guys. Think Darth Vader. The book, I Wear the Black Hat, by Chuck Klosterman, could be described as “pop-psychology.” I found it intriguing and entertaining. While Klosterman is not a believer, he makes many accurate observations about human interactions and human nature. One passing comment, for example, on progressivism and history absolutely nails it. He writes,
Everyone knows history is written by the winners, but that cliché misses a crucial detail: Over time, the winners are always the progressives. Conservatism can only win in the short term, because society cannot stop evolving (and social evolution inevitably dovetails with the agenda of those who see change as an abstract positive). It might take seventy years, but it always happens eventually. Serious historians are, almost without exception, self-styled progressives. Radical views—even the awful ones—improve with age.
Anyone who honestly looks at the last hundred years of American history knows that social progressivism has, well, progressed. But there is certainly more to add.
This quote very aptly demonstrates the importance of a biblical outlook on history. As Dr. Rushdoony put it,
The purpose of Biblical history is to trace the victory of Jesus Christ. That victory is not merely spiritual; it is also historical. Creation, man, and man’s body all move in terms of a glorious destiny for which the whole creation groans and travails as it awaits the fulness of that glorious liberty of the sons of God (Rom. 8:18-23). The victory is historical and eschatological, and it is not the rejection of creation but its fulfillment.
American political Conservatism and evangelicalism have what amounts to a pagan view of history. The goal is always to “get back.” The goal is always to preserve the society of their forefathers. It is a culture dead set on trying to get back to the “good ol’ days.” It is an idolization of a mythical “Golden Age.” Depending on which conservative you ask, their golden age may be the first fifty years of our “glorious” nation state, the antebellum South, or 1646 Scotland. Or, as is often the case, it could be an imaginary version of America as he remembers from his childhood. This is the foundational view of nearly all pagan religions on history. This pagan view of history is focused on either going back or preserving the status quo. It is about recreating a “Leave it to Beaver” society, going back to “simpler times,” or reforming back to the exciting times of the giants of our faith. “Oh golly gee, wouldn’t it be great to live in 1547 Geneva!”
It should be no great surprise to us that modern evangelicalism is doing little to nothing to hold back progressive ideologies and cultural shifts. If we look at the last 100 years of American history, we can see brief glimpses of reforming our nation according to God’s standards. However, too much of what we have seen is merely a slight deceleration of the humanism, not a reversal of the wickedness.
One reason for this failure is because the great majority of Christianity in America has a pessimistic view of history and a pietistic vision of their mission on earth. There is no looking forward, let alone with any hope. There is no expectation of victory. Because there is no expectation, there is no preparation for the victory. Popular “Big Evangelicalism” pastors, bloggers, and podcasters continually remind their millions of dedicated listeners that trying to reform culture is like “polishing brass on the Titanic” or that they’re “only passing through.” Then we have the audacity to sit and wonder why culture doesn’t go our way.
Both popular Christianity and political Conservatism were built on the sinking foundation of pessimism. Big Evangelicalism does not build. It attempts to preserve or go backwards. The pessimistic church attempts to preserve pure doctrine as if the doctrines weren’t meant to do something more than be pondered on under steeples and over coffee (nothing against coffee). The mission of the American Church is functionally only the preservation of the Church. To be clear, we must preserve truth. We must be salt, but we can’t be salt while hiding our light under a bushel. We get both or we get neither.
Conservatism neuters itself by always looking backward. It is by nature reactionary and defensive. Conservatives (even some so-called Reconstructionists) are even allowing pagans to own concepts and words. “Liberty” is co-opted and falsely “owned” by secular libertine libertarians through this surrendered permission. “Justice” is now a tenet of the left by the same means. Speaking out against ethnic-based hatred and prejudice is seen as “Marxism,” even by educated people who should know better. This limp-wristed stance puts Christianity on the defensive and gives up real and true Biblical terminology (which includes liberty, justice, etc). It is nothing but a retreat and a ceding of the terminological high ground. It is defeatist and driven by backward-looking and reactionary mindsets.
The trouble with this is that words matter. When liberty is given over to others, it affects how we act. When justice is now a term of only the left, it changes the Church’s actions. This is not just semantics, but it feeds into practical living and how we engage the culture. While progressives fight for and build false and twisted forms of justice and mercy, too many Christians are content with merely believing the right things instead of believing in and fighting for the right things.
That is why the radicals and the progressives win. Progressivism trumps pessimistic pietism like something trumps nothing. Progressives win because they are building. We, as human beings, are meant to progress. We are meant to build, reform, and transform. That is because we are created in the Image of God. God, our maker, is the maker of all things. He is the epitome of creative. He is the Lord of transformation, knowing what He did in my own heart. Modern progressives win not because their ideals are superior or because the victory of their ideals is a foregone conclusion, but rather because they are relentlessly building their kingdom. Human beings are kingdom builders. That is a good thing. Image bearers of God are workers. Adam was given work before the fall, and that one fact is essential in understanding our purpose on God’s Earth.
We as Christians go against the grain of our very nature when we do not build, do not reform, and do not transform. The humanists, sad to say, understand at least some elements of our nature better than most Christians, and that is why they win. For now.
The Christian view of history certainly should be one that looks back in order to see perspective and correction, but our hope isn’t in any “golden age” of the past. I do not want the failed societies of the past, I want the Kingdom of God. I do not want 1554 Geneva, I want the Kingdom of God. I do not want 1646 Scotland, I want the Kingdom of God. I do not want 1784 Massachusetts, I want the Kingdom of God.
Like our Father in Heaven, we are meant to build, we are meant to transform as our hearts have been transformed. Like Adam, we are meant to work. All of this world is under the Kingship of Christ, and we are His Royal heirs. Our commission is indeed great, and it is no less than all of nations of the world coming under the dominion of Christ by the power of the Gospel. Our task is great, but we know that the power that draws us to the Cross is the same that is with us as we go about the work of the Kingdom. We are meant to be kingdom builders. However, when the king of that kingdom is not Christ the King, then it is already doomed to crumble. No matter how strong the kingdoms of humanistic progressivism and the faux-Christian kingdoms of the traditions of man may seem, they are built of sinking sand.
When Klosterman explains why Godless progressives always wins, he is contrasting leftist social movements with a Church that rejects its future and rejects its mission. He is contrasting humanism building something over against an impotent Church building nothing. With that understanding of what he is talking about, I cannot agree more. What he does not know, however, is the Church of the Living God has already won. It may take many generations to manifest, but the hope we have is secure. Because we currently reject our calling, the progressives (acting according to their God given nature) will win. That, however, is temporary. The progressives have not combated the Church yet. The Progressive Militant have thus far primarily fought against a sort of introspective neo-monasticism masquerading as The Reformed Faith, but not against the actual Church Militant.
The victories of all the hip Bernie acolytes will be placed upon the ash heap of history in due time. Christians haven’t even really stepped into the modern arena. But when we do, by the Grace of God, game over.
I will proclaim the Lord’s decree:
He said to me, “You are my son;
today I have become your father.
Ask me, and I will make the nations your inheritance,
the ends of the earth your possession.
You will break them with a rod of iron;
you will dash them to pieces like pottery.”
Therefore, you kings, be wise;
be warned, you rulers of the earth.
Serve the Lord with fear
and celebrate his rule with trembling.
Kiss his son, or he will be angry
and your way will lead to your destruction,
for his wrath can flare up in a moment.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.