Wednesday, September 12, 2012


(What follows is a more full text of a recent bulletin article. I did not have enough space in the bulletin to say more fully what I wanted to say. I needed to get this out of my system)

Recently I have been reading, The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History by Samuel Moyn. The quote I like to share is a bit heady, but stay with me and I will explain why you should find it relevant. Here is the quote: “In the realm of thinking, as in that of social action, human rights are best understood as survivors: the god that did not fail (italics mine) while other political ideologies did. If they avoided failure, it was because they were widely understood as a moral alternative to bankrupt political utopias.”

All right, some explanation is in order. “Utopia” is a word popularized in 1516 by Thomas More’s book Utopia, a book about a fictional island where people enjoy the perfection of politics, law, economy, and culture. So the word utopia is often generalized to mean “any visionary system of political or social perfection” (

The human rights that Moyn is primarily considering are the rights delineated in the Declaration of Human Rights (see the following link: In the declaration’s preamble it states, “Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.” Following this preamble there are thirty articles of human rights declared of which the Church (with Scriptural qualification) could applaud and support.  

In a world literally hell bent on killing, humiliation, and destruction of the human race, The Declaration of Human Rights is a focus in the right direction. Human dignity in Scripture is grounded in all human beings created in the image of God and therefore all human beings deserving of the sanctity of life. Human rights promote the sanctity of life. Yet as Christians we know from God’s revelation that the world is fallen into sin and death, so any vision of life not rooted in the sovereignty of God lacks “perfection” and will fail. 

We live in a world as the Apostle Paul says, For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Rom 1:21). When humanity as a whole abandons the truth of God and gives over to “futile thinking,” such thinking will show up in human society as a philosophy or doctrine of life. What personally concerns me as that Paul gives further insight into this “futile thinking” by noting, “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons” (1 Tim 4:1).

In spite of the world forsaking God, the world still needs a vision of hope to make life worth the living. Satan’s grand deception is to provide the world with false visions of utopia that promise salvation and redemption (“teachings of demons”). These false visions, philosophies, ideologies, or doctrines come in all shapes and sizes. What makes these “teachings of demons” difficult to discern rests in the fact that “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Cor 11:14). Satan wraps his deceit up in presentations of politics (all versions and persuasions), freedom, nationalism, revolution, and religion (to name but a few).

What caught my attention in the quote from Moyn above is the part I italicized concerning human rights as, “the god that did not fail.” While I believe the author is speaking metaphorically about human rights being a “god,” nevertheless, from the vantage point of Scripture, he spoke more truly then he perhaps realizes. In other words, when society puts its hope in a declaration of human rights (as much good as they may contain), they put their hope in a false god that will not save or deliver.

Paul also reveals that “the god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor 4:4). If human rights are rooted in being created in the image of God (Gen 1:26), then what of the claim to human rights that do not acknowledge God in Jesus Christ? Is Satan possibly blinding the world with a false god and hope of human rights?

We would do well to heed the Apostle Paul’s warning to the Galatian churches, “You were in bondage to beings that by nature are no gods; but now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and beggarly elemental spirits, whose slaves you want to be once more?” (Gal 4:8-9). The Church of Jesus Christ needs to remember that some fallen angels are rebellious “gods” of nations:

When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of men, he fixed the bounds of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God” [LXX, “angels of God”!] (Deut 32:8).

 “God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment: "How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? . . . . Nevertheless, you shall die like men, and fall like any prince" (Pss 82:1-2, 7).

There is much to the above passages that will remain a mystery, but we can certainly be confident that these angels of nations (ie., elemental spirits) seek to enslave humanity with utopian visions. Samuel Moyn further states in his book, “Human rights were born as the last utopia—but one day another may appear.”  If human rights is indeed a “god that did not fail,” then it is only a matter of time before this “god” does fail or is judged by the living God (Pss 82). As a read this book, I wondered to myself if the demons are running out of utopian visions to keep the world deceived. We truly are living in the “last days” when perhaps even demons are running out of teachings to deceive. But rather than despair, now is the time when the Church can especially make “known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” the power and truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ (Eph 3:8-11).  

The Church of Jesus Christ is city on a hill and a light in the darkness of lost utopias, darkened understandings, and futile thinking. What the world needs is Jesus. In our saturated political climate we would do well to remember what is utopian and what is real.


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