Chapter 13

 

The Alternatives

 
Overwhelming pressures are being brought to bear on people who have no absolutes, but only have the impoverished values of personal peace and prosperity. The pressures are progressively preparing modern people to accept a manipulative, authoritarian government.
  • Overwhelming pressures are being brought to bear on people who have no absolutes, but only have the impoverished values of personal peace and prosperity. The pressures are progressively preparing modern people to accept a manipulative, authoritarian government. Unhappily, many of these pressures are upon us now.
    • Economic Breakdown
      • Modern society’s inability to find a solution to the problem of inflation without causing economic recession opens the door wide for economic breakdown.
      • History indicates that at a certain point of economic breakdown people cease being concerned with individual liberties and are ready to accept regimentation. The danger is obviously even greater when the two main values so many people have are personal peace and affluence.
    • War or the serious threat of warbetween the expansionist, imperialistic, communistic countries and the West
      • Will the West be able to stand against the totalitarian nations now that the Christian base of the Western freedoms is largely gone?
      • Pressure from the communistic countries could come in any of several ways or a combination of them
        • Militarily by a strong East acting against a less militarily strong West over a crisis arising in the world somewhere
        • Economically in the event of a breakdown in the West
        • Politically through the takeover of the southern European countries by the old-line Communist parties in those countries. This could come suddenly with open collusion with Russia and its military power, or it could come subtly and slowly with apparent reasonableness, until a time of crisis and showdown.
      • In this mix the threat of war, especially atomic war, would cause those who have only the values of personal peace and prosperity to be ready for almost any kind of authoritarian government which would be able to remove the thread of war, particularly if (as Augustus did in ancient Rome) it was brought in while seemingly keeping the outward forms of constitutionality.
    • The chaos of violenceespecially random or political violence and indiscriminate terrorism, in an individual nation or in the world.
      • Both in individual nations an in the overall world the widespread use of political terrorism has become one of the phenomena of the age.
      • Random and indiscriminate terrorism is even more frightening. Similarly alarming are the indications that terrorist organizations from all over the world have in some way coordinated their efforts.
      • We have already seen indications of how people give up liberties when they are faced with the threat of terrorism.
    • The radical redistribution of wealth of the world
      • Redistributing the world’s wealth would be accompanied by at least 2 things
        • A lowering of prosperity and affluence among those individuals and countries which have come to take an ever-increasing level of prosperity for granted. Recent history has shown us how quickly nations and individuals change their principles toward other nations and other individuals when this becomes a threat.
        • A redistribution of power in the world. In a descending spiral of prosperity and world power, a manipulating authoritarian government might be easily welcomed, in the hope that such a government would somehow soften the unpleasant results caused by a lessening of prosperity and world power.
    • A growing shortage of food and other natural resources in the world
      • As the Christian consensus dies in countries where it has previously existed, we must expect that it will make a difference not only within the nations themselves but also in their compassion for others. What will be left will not be compassion but only utilitarianism. Not that the record has ever been perfect, but we can expect open pragmatism increasingly to take the place of the partial compassion which has existed. A growing food shortage is apt to constitute an increasing pressure to cause people to drift along with a growing authoritarianism which promises solutions. As insecurity grows, greed–with the goals of personal peace and affluence at any price–grows.
  • If these pressures continue to mount, which seems probable, do you think people young or old, will at great cost to themselves, at the cost of their present personal peace and affluence, stand up for liberty and for the individual? Countries that have never had a Christian Reformation base will be the first to bow to authoritarianism. Already a growing number in Asia and Africa have gone this way. Men in the Western governments, who were themselves often modern men, did not understand that freedom without chaos is not a magic formula which can be implanted anywhere. Rather, being modern men, it was their view that, because the human race had evolved to a certain level by some year such as 1950, democracy could be planted anywhere from outside. They had carefully closed their eyes to the fact that freedom without chaos had come forth from a Christian base.
  • Synthesis has won on both sides of the Iron Curtain: People see no fixed, final right or wrong, but only a mixture in public dealing as well as in private morals, in foreign affairs as well as in internal matters. This is especially so of the intellectuals who have understandingly carried the abandonment of the Christian base toward its logical conclusion. But it is also true of those who have been influenced by this thought without analyzing it. Pragmatism, doing what seems to work without regard for fixed principles of right or wrong, is largely in control. In both international and home affairs, expediency–at any price to maintain personal peace and affluence at the moment–is the accepted procedure. Absolute principles have little to no meaning in the place to which the decline of western thought has come.
  • Without the base for right and wrong, but only a concept of synthesis, pragmatism, and utilitarianism, what will not be given up, both inside of nations or in foreign affairs, for the sake of immediate peace and affluence? The weak humanistic ideals are not and will not be enough in our own generation or for the future. Remember from the beginning the little Roman bridge that would stand when people walked over it, but would break under the weight of a truck. If further economic recessions come, if fear of the loss of personal peace and prosperity increases, if wars and threats of wars intensify, if violence and terrorism spread, if food and other resources in the world become ever scarcer–and all of these things are more than possible–then the trend is speeded up. As these things come upon people who have only the values of personal peace and affluence, they will crush them as a six-wheeled truck will crush the little bridge.
  • In such circumstances, it seems that there are only two alternatives in the natural flow of events
    • Imposed order
    • Our society once again affirming that base which gave freedom without chaos in the first place–God’s revelation in the Bible and his revelation through Christ.
  • Christian values, however, cannot be accepted as a superior utilitarianism, just as a means to an end. The biblical message is truth and it demands a commitment to the truth. It means that everything is not the result of the impersonal plus time plus chance, but that there is an infinite-personal God who is the Creator of the universe, the space-time continuum. We should not forget that this was what the founders of modern science built upon. It means the acceptance of Christ as Savior and Lord, and it means living under God’s revelation. Here there are morals, values, and meaning, including meaning for people, which are not just a result of statistical averages. This is neither a utilitarianism, nor a leap away from reason; it is the truth that gives unity to all of knowledge and all of life. This second alternative means that individuals come to the place where they have this base, and they influence the consensus. Such Christians do not need to be a majority in order for this influence on society to occur.
  • People function on the basis of their world view more consistently than even they themselves may realize. The problem is not outward things. The problem is having, and then acting upon, the right world view–the world view which gives men and women the truth of what is.
Cover Photo: Ground Zero – World Trade Center, New York, New York
 
This post contains quoted and paraphrased passages of How Should We Then Live? by Francis A. Schaeffer. 50th L’Abri Anniversary Edition, © 2005 by Crossway Books.
 

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