My children started watching it first. I happened to see it on television occasionally. Then I found myself drawn into this social drama by the endless manifestations of ever-evolving technology. Star Trek, created by Gene Roddenberry, is the popular space-odyssey television adventure in which man in the 25th century is expanding his philosophy and near-utopian coexistence among other, less-sophisticated, inhabitants of the galaxies.
It’s an idea older than Plato that man can somehow engineer a civilization that brings peace, happiness and prosperity to all who can be persuaded to embrace its philosophy.
In Star Trek peace has been achieved on earth, and the goal is to expand the peace of “the Federation” to societies elsewhere in the universe. In the more recent versions of this television series, the officers and crews of various spacecraft contact numerous civilizations, usually those in lower stages of development, and succeed to one degree or another in spreading their gospel of peace.
The advanced moral arguments and self-control of trained Star-Fleet Academy officers almost always prevail, conveying enlightened solutions to cultures in crisis.
The idea of a society in which evil no longer prevails and good reigns supreme has always been a part of human dreams. Star Trek, one of the later and more popular manifestations, has its appeal in its ability to take seemingly insoluble earthly problems, throw them into space, stir in a bit of technology and somehow find solutions.
We want solutions. In fact, most would choose to live in the perfect society if they could. The legacy of man’s inhumanity to man has driven the philosophers among us to visualize a time and situation in which all the undesired elements of our society are removed.
But why hasn’t the creation of any system or rule of any elite succeeded in producing a utopian society?
There is a fundamental reason for our inability to implement a system in which we can live in peace and happiness with ourselves, and few understand what the problem is.
The Bible reveals that humanity started out in an untainted society in the Garden of Eden. Our first parents made the decision to experience life without their Creator, who could have led them to their true human potential, which was to assume the righteous character of God. This godly character would have produced a harmonious and happy human state. The choice to seek happiness without reliance on God is characterized by Adam’s and Eve’s choice to partake of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
Our nature today reflects that ancient wrong choice. We want to be good and do good, but we can’t find a way to change the basic nature within us that holds us in its grip. Paul confesses: “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice” (Romans 7:18-19 Romans 7:18-19 18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwells no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.
19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
American King James Version×).
The shortcoming in utopian notions
This tendency to do wrong, of which Paul so eloquently writes, does not bode well for mankind’s attempts to achieve the perfect society. History shows that we have not been able to achieve a society or implement a philosophy that has brought peace and happiness to the world.
Will these inherent desires of every man and woman ever become reality? Our future is indeed bright, but it can never be achieved by man alone because he is unable to implement the behavior necessary to create a utopian society. For a community to be an ideal place, the individual must be able to control the evil characteristics of his nature and always practice the good. This is fundamental to all utopian thought, but it has never happened.
Is it in us to direct our own nature? If so, then we should have done so long ago. Utopian ideas have always included restructuring our environment to effect a change in our nature. One of the underlying ideas in utopian thought is that the more man controls his environment—that is, creates for himself a better world by making a just system of government, engineering a fair social system, supplying all physical needs through an equitable economic system and even equitably redistributing land—the better chance he has of somehow changing human nature for the better.
As Lewis Mumford rightly says in The Story of Utopias : “The more completely man is in control of physical nature, the more urgently we must ask ourselves what under the heavens is to move and guide and keep in hand the controller.” The nature of the human mind must be controlled, and it must be controlled according to an agreed-upon standard. By whom, and by what standard?
If man chooses to live without the benefit of God’s revealed knowledge, man is left to devise his own societies, civilizations and philosophies-with the ever-present fear that visionaries will adopt the idea that the end justifies the means and resort to war and conquest to impose their visions upon less-enlightened people. Much tribulation has come on the world because true believers wanted to experiment with their view of the way the world should be.
Consider this: Only the Creator God is qualified to establish a standard and expect man to live by it. Since He made man, He knows how man ought to live to produce the right results.
Man was removed from the Garden of Eden and left on his own to forge a society because he made a fateful conscious decision that he wanted to be the master of his own destiny by deciding for himself what is right or wrong. However, he failed to realize he could never reach his destiny apart from his Creator; instead he has reaped the fruits of his own frustrated inability to perfect idealistic systems. In spite of his lack of success, man, instead of turning to his Creator, has persisted in the idea that his cumulative experience would let him evolve into a deepened being who would produce the society that would satisfy his longings.
The good news is that man will realize his dream. But God has His own ideas how this will happen.
The heart of the matter
Plato, in his Republic, wasn’t the first to write of ideal worlds in which no one suffered, in which only peace and prosperity were to be found. The prophets of the Bible envisioned a time during which a system would be universally instituted that would eradicate disease, hunger, war and injustice and replace them with health, plenty, beauty, security and righteousness.
Micah 4:1-4 Micah 4:1-4 1 But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow to it.
2 And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
3 And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
4 But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken it.
American King James Version×paints an extraordinary picture of humanity’s future: “Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and peoples shall flow to it. Many nations shall come and say, ‘Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.’ For out of Zion the law shall go forth, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between many peoples, and rebuke strong nations afar off; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. But everyone shall sit under his vine and under his fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid; for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken.”
This isn’t just poetry from an ancient dreamer. This is only one of many depictions in the Bible of the literal new world made possible by God’s plan for all men and women. Notice that it has many of the elements of utopian thought: no war, a perfect government, security, fair ownership of land, standardized ethics. What’s amazing is everyone is pictured as agreeing to the ethics and wanting to learn of them and abide by them. This will be an achievement that would seem unrealizable to the philosophers.
This, of course, is the crux of the matter. The mission of utopianism is to encourage the hope that human nature is regenerative beyond the limits historically assigned to it. The core belief is that human nature still has not exhausted the possibilities for change and can change for the better, given enough time and the right conditions.
The Bible assures us that the opposite is true “because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be” (Romans 8:7 Romans 8:7Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
American King James Version×). This is the tragic fruit of rejecting God. Man cannot change his own tendencies to sin unless his nature is changed by a higher source. God’s process of regeneration of man includes the Creator setting man free from the hold of sin and empowering him to live according to a higher standard of righteousness (Romans 6:18 Romans 6:18Being then made free from sin, you became the servants of righteousness.
American King James Version×).
Human nature changed
Micah’s prophetic picture shows man finally coming to grips with his own flawed nature so his actions and attitudes become beneficial to his neighbor. No need will exist for social or genetic engineering to create an environment conducive to produce this change in behavior.
God will change man’s behavior from within through His Spirit. “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them” (Ezekiel 36:26-27 Ezekiel 36:26-27 26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.
27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and you shall keep my judgments, and do them.
American King James Version×).
He promises, “I will put My laws in their mind and write them in their heart” (Jeremiah 31:33 Jeremiah 31:33But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, said the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.
American King James Version×). “They shall be my people, and I will be their God; then I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me forever, for the good of them and their children after them” (Jeremiah 32:38-39 Jeremiah 32:38-39 38 And they shall be my people, and I will be their God: 39 And I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever, for the good of them, and of their children after them:
American King James Version×).
When man’s nature is changed from within, man’s environment will also change. When man’s nature is changed from enmity toward God to one that seeks God, only then will the ever-worsening problems of society change for the better.
This biblical portrayal was given to humans by God Himself and is not the hopeful imaginings of the powerless men we find in utopian literature. This will be lasting. Mankind will face no more disappointments. This will not be an experiment. That’s the difference in God inspired visions and mankind’s hopeful notions.
This isn’t a dream. This is going to happen. GN