Christian Anarchy 9
Corresponding to our basic concepts of "arky faith" and "Christian Anarchy" are two completely different understandings of how human history is directed and the economy by which it transpires. In particular, we will now address the matter of society's moral progress and ethical achievement: How do we expect that "the good" shall become the character of social reality?--this whether, at the moment, we are thinking of that "good" in terms of world peace, justice, social equity, the elimination of poverty, racial harmony, family life, or whatever.
In this regard, the goal of the chapter is to show how completely Scripture is committed to an anarchical rather than an arky view.
First, the very concept "arky faith" as much as dictates what its theory of history will have to be. It is the faith that social good becomes actual as those arkys we perceive to be good either displace the established arkys of evil or convert them to good. The political, human contest of good arkys against evil ones is precisely history's modus operandi for things being made right. Or; in Christian terminology, it is by this means that God's will shall come to be done on earth as it is in heaven.
The vehicle of "the good" certainly is understood as being these God-serving arkys, but let me try some other terms to describe the economy of that good's victory. We could call it gradualism. That is the Christian version, now), God, through his word, tells us what goal he has in mind for us and sets us to the organizational, arky task of gradually learning, practicing, promoting, and enforcing the ways of (for example) "peace" until, in time, peacefulness becomes the order of the day. The gradualism, of course, is that of moral nurture and growth, our becoming more and more adept until we finally achieve what God has in mind for us. If we were to express the idea with a chart, it would be a line starting at a low point of morality and then--likely with some ups and downs, losses as well as gains--gradually rising toward the goal of high-level morality.
The process could as well be termed "progress" as "gradualism." (I do not necessarily have in mind doctrines of automatic or inevitable progress.) The idea is still that of making incremental gains until the goal is attained. The principle, again, might be identified as "continuance"--since, rather than that of any sort of radical disjuncture ("social revolution" not even being radical enough for what we have in mind), the concept is one of unbroken passage from starting point to end goal. Finally, the term "triumphalism" would be appropriate--indicating the upward movement of good arkys winning out over the bad ones (the powers of peace over the powers of war, for example).
Now, because, in the world (i.e., in secular society), it is hard to conceive what means of moral accomplishment there could be other than this gradualistic triumph of good over evil, I think most Christians have simply taken for granted that this must be the understanding of Scripture as well.
Our natural tendency is to start from the assumption that "God has no hands but our hands to do his work today." Accordingly, we believe that, if God's will is to be done on earth, it will have to be done in the way we go about seeing that our own wills get done there. So we proceed to read and use our Bibles as manuals of arky triumph through moral progress--never once noticing that Scripture isn't with us in any of these assumptions. It understands the modus operandi of history in completely different terms. I hope the following study comes as something of a shock to you--as it did to me.
The very term "arky faith"--we have seen--as much as says that progressive triumph in the arky struggle is its means of moral accomplishment. The term "Christian Anarchy" is different in that the term itself gives no hint as to what its positive way and method will be. The term is accurate negatively, however, in telling us that Christian anarchy will make no use of the arkys, will not so much as recognize their presence, will accordingly be "unarkycal."
Also, here as previously, Christian Anarchy is going to go entirely with the Arky of God and with the Jesus Christ who--Colossians 1:18 tells us--is THE ARKY. And of course, it is precisely because Jesus is The Arky that Christians must be anarchistic toward whatever other powers claim arky status.
The anarchical principle now to be expounded as the theme of Scripture we will identify as death and resurrection. Our term could as well be grace, in that resurrection, being nothing that humans can either work or merit for themselves, can come only from God and that never as anything other than a gift of his grace. In this regard, arky faith clearly is a doctrine of human works. It can, I suppose, evade the accusation of works-righteousness by claiming the grace of God to be that which elects and hallows our arkys and gives them the victory. But arky faith certainly never can rate as a "doctrine of grace" in the way Christian Anarchy does.
As the theme statement for our study of death and resurrection, we turn (again) to 1 Corinthians 15:22: "As in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive."
When Paul speaks of our being "in Adam," he rather clearly intends "Adam" to be symbolic of the universal human tendency to want to dispense with God and his authority and determine the course of life and history for ourselves. We do this by depending solely upon our own apple-wisdom from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, convinced that that makes us morally competent (no question but that we know what is good and what is evil) and qualifies us to engineer the triumph of the good.
Yet the apostle states flatly that the Adamic principle never can be expected to produce growth, maturity, and moral development but only deterioration and death. Our "being made alive," then (or what we have been calling humanity's achievement of moral probity), Paul tells us can come about only through that gracious intervention of God which, because of our being "in Christ," resurrects us into "newness of life" right along with Christ himself.
Thus, the graph of "death and resurrection" will be one entirely different from the continuous and gradual ascent of arky triumph. Now the line on the chart will mark a deterioration and fall to the low point of Good Friday. It was there humanity died morally when our vaunted apple-knowledge had us so confused as to wind up murdering the very Arky (the beginning, the primal source) of All Good, the Incarnation of God's Grace, the One who was to have been our "Peace." It was in that death, Paul tells us, that we ourselves died, were co-crucified with Christ. Clearly, his thought is that the cross marks the spot where, in Adam, all died. From that point, it is not through any sort of continuity or gradualism but as the completely radical disjuncture of an Easter reversal that God intervenes to suddenly jump the line up to the ultimate level of all being made alive.
Keep this graph before your eyes, for it is now our purpose to show that this death-and-resurrection pattern does by no means either begin or end simply with Jesus' Good-Friday-to-Easter experience. That, of course, is the high point of the development. But the pattern itself dominates the Bible from beginning to end. In a quick run-through, we will now spot seventeen different variations on the theme--with the hope that the whole message of Scripture will consequently take on this anarchic coloring.
No sooner are we off the blocks than we encounter our first instance--in the third chapter of Genesis. Adam decides he can handle life on his own and wants the fruit of the tree he thinks will enable him to do it. God tells him that if he eats the fruit he will die. Adam eats it and promptly dies (it didn't take long for that line to hit bottom). His death in relation to God is signified by his effort to hide from God. His death in relation to himself is signified by the burning shame over his own nakedness. His death in relation to others is signified by the fact that the beloved wife, whom (just verses earlier) he had addressed as "bone of my bones," is now referred to as "that blankety-blank you stuck me with, she did it." His death in relation to his world is signified by his being kicked out of Eden. End of story. Well, yes, it would be--except for the fact that there is a little resurrection text tucked in there, verse 21: "And the Lord God made for Adam and his wife garments of skins and clothed them." He picked up the dead and provided them what they needed in order to be made alive again. The story can and does go on, but the graph is plainly that of God's gracious resurrecting of the dead.
In Genesis 7, there is a flood that drowns the human race in its own sinfulness. As verse 23 has it, "Only Noah was left, and those that were with him in the ark." End of story. But no, the first verse of the next chapter reads, "But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the cattle that were with him in the ark." I once heard a sermon in which the preacher argued that the point of the Noah story is that the human race always comes through. Baloney! The point of the Noah story is that God always remembers. The only hope for any of us who are either drowned by or cast away upon the flood of our sins is that God might remember us as he did Noah. The pattern is death and resurrection.
In Genesis 22, the command that Abraham should sacrifice his son Isaac spells the end not only of that one individual but of the entire promise regarding Abraham's descendants. End of story. But suddenly God intervenes to save the situation. And "Abraham called the name of the place, The Lord Will Provide." He distinctly did not call it, We Can Make It. The pattern is that of death and resurrection.
The name "Jacob" means "the Supplanter." As long as Jacob insisted upon living up to his name, his graph was a downward skid that came to its low point when he was forced to agonize over what would happen when he faced the brother he had so badly cheated. It is at that Gethsemane, then, in wrestling with God, that, in effect, "Jacob the Supplanter" had to die in order that the new man "Israel" (the one who strives with God until God's will is done) might be made alive. This is a very powerful picture of death and resurrection.
The story of Joseph graphs as a downward track from being rejected brother to being sold into slavery to being carried away into Egypt to being jailed as a slave in far-off Egypt. It is only at this low point that God intervenes to give Joseph the dream interpretation that will suddenly spring him into being made alive as a ruler in Egypt and savior of his own people. The pattern is not that of gradual human betterment but of death and resurrection.
In 2 Samuel 12, King David sins with Bathsheba. In response to Nathan's hooded parable, David's own judgment is "As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die." To which Nathan comes back, "You are the man." And this would be the end of the story--except for the fact that verse 13 reads, "The Lord has put away your sin; you shall not die." David's is the way to death--until God reverses it with his gracious resurrection.
The Assyrian invaders are ready to destroy Jerusalem, and in Isaiah 10:33-11:1 the prophet describes how the Lord will come in judgment to level that whole forest (Assyrian and Israelite trees alike). End of story ... until, in 11:1, "there shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse"--of course, the tree of the Messiah in whom eventually (as Paul has it) all will be made alive. Here, perhaps for the first time, we have death and resurrection as the social pattern of world history rather than just isolated instances concerning individuals.
Deutero-Isaiah, then, in the great fifty-third chapter of the book, portrays the Suffering Servant of Yahweh who gives his life for the many, then to find himself restored and vindicated, even out of death itself. Here--perhaps for the first time--we encounter death as the voluntary giving of oneself, rather than committing suicide through one's own sin. Yet the pattern is still very much that of death and resurrection. The servant does not save himself even by his perfect love and obedience; he is resurrected by God.
In his thirty-seventh chapter, Ezekiel has a spectacular picture of broad-scale death and resurrection (that of an entire nation) in his vision of the valley filled with dry bones. What is so very apparent is that dry bones have absolutely no potential for making themselves alive again. Only a God of wonderful power and grace has any chance of bringing off this one.
Jesus' "whoever would save his life" probably has reference to human moral triumphalism--and he says that the method won't work. On the other hand, the voluntary losing of one's life only to find it saved just has to imply the involvement of something on the order of a resurrection. How, apart from a resurrection, can losing one's life be made to produce a saving of it? Here--perhaps for the first time--death and resurrection is presented as the deliberate principle and model for Christian ethics, for the whole of Christian behavior and action.
This brings us to the Gospel accounts of Jesus' own Good Friday crucifixion and Easter Sunday resurrection. It is significant that Mark devotes nearly half his Gospel just to this event and the Passion Week that forms its context. This death and resurrection is, of course, the paradigm to which all earlier variations point and from which all the following variations proceed. Here lies the pivot of our whole thesis and study.
Paul uses baptism as the connector for making Jesus' own death and resurrection the model and motive of our own. In Romans 6, he says:
Have you forgotten that when we were baptized into union with Christ Jesus we were baptized into his death? By baptism we were buried with him, and lay dead, in order that, as Christ was raised from the dead in the splendor of the Father, so also we might set our feet upon the new path of life. For if we have become incorporate with him in a death like his, we shall also be one with him in a resurrection like his.... For in dying as he died, he died to sin, once for all, and in living as he lives, he lives to God. In the same way you must regard yourselves as dead to sin and alive to God, in union with Christ Jesus. (vv. 3-5, 10-11)
Think about it. In choosing to be baptizcd into union with Christ Jesus, you renounced any and all faith in gradualistic triumphalism, and signed into the pattern of death and resurrection.
In Ephesians 2, Paul brings the pattern over from our personal (baptismal) experience and into the experience of society at large. He relates death and resurrection to the broad-scale social accomplishment of the reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles into the one body of Christ. Given the depth of that animosity, the reconciliation marks a feat of "revolutionary social change" such as arky methods simply cannot touch.
Paul makes it dear that this was not a case of some dedicated Christians taking courses in conflict resolution and then putting their skills to work in negotiating a settlement. Essentially it was the gracious work of the God who "loved us with so much love that he was generous with his mercy ... bringing us to life with Christ ... raising us up with him" (vv. 4-6). God did it, but he did it through the Christ who himself is our peace (v.14). For in his own person he killed the hostility (v.16) by restoring peace through the cross (vv. 15-16). Thus, you who were once far off have been brought near through the shedding of Christ's blood (v.13) so as to create out of the two a single new humanity in himself, thereby making peace (v.15).
Here is death and resurrection as God's way even to social reconciliation, equity, justice, and peace.
A great advantage of the book of Revelation (and what makes it most appropriate as the concluding book of the Bible) is that it portrays the death-and-resurrection pattern in a larger frame of reference than we have seen anywhere else. It is presented now as the pattern of universal history, the procedure through which the kingdom of the world is to become the kingdom of our Lord and his Christ, the means by which the whole of creation is to find destiny in the kingdom of God.
In Revelation 12:10-11, John describes this victory and tells how it is won: "This [the time of Jesus' resurrection] is the hour of victory for our God, the hour of his sovereignty and power, when his Christ comes into his rightful rule! For the accuser of our brothers is overthrown, who day and night accused them before our God. By the sacrifice of the Lamb they have conquered him, and by the testimony which they uttered; for they did not hold their lives too dear to lay them down.
We are talking now, of course, of God's final victory in which Satan himself is conquered and all evil--individual, social, natural, supernatural, and cosmic--is forever done away. Here is achieved humanity's ultimate state of justice, peace, and righteousness. How is it accomplished? Not by our gradual growth in morality, obviously. It is accomplished by "the sacrifice of the Lamb," his death and resurrection. Nevertheless, John is clear that we humans have our own part to play in this triumph. And what is that? We are to testify and bear witness to what the Lamb has done. And, the text specifies, that can truly happen only when it is with us as it was with Jesus, that we do not hold our lives too dear to lay them down. The pattern of our witnessing is to be that of death and resurrection, just as it was for the One to whom we witness.
In his eleventh chapter, the Revelator gives the pattern an application to which we should pay most careful attention. As we saw earlier in this book, it has been, perhaps, in the life of the institutional church that there has been the strongest tendency to go the way of arky power and prestige. The customary understanding of the call of the church has been that it should grow in size and influence--gradually winning the status and following through which it can "Christianize" society and lead the world in moral development.
However, Revelation 11 gives an entirely different picture. In this vision, the faithful church is portrayed in the form of two witnesses who, dressed in sackcloth (not velvet), make their humble testimony in the face of a profoundly hostile world. They are olive trees (fruit bearers) and lamps (light bringers) in the service of their Lord. Their way--far from leading to glory and acceptance--leads directly to a self-giving martyrdom, from which they are raised up to victory through an explicit resurrection by God. The way of the church through the world, John tells us, definitely is meant to be that of death and resurrection.
The Revelator then specifies (20:6) that a Christian's personal salvation, his hope of eternal life, lies not in any built-in immortality but in a resurrection as real and as bodily as that of Jesus himself: "This is the first resurrection. Happy, indeed, and one of God's own people is the man who shares in this first resurrection! Upon such the second death has no claim; but they shall be priests of God and of Christ."
Finally, in the Opening of his twenty-first chapter, John makes death and resurrection the very modus operandi of God's New Creation: "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth." (He could as well have called it a resurrected heaven and earth, because he obviously is thinking of renewal rather than a complete junking of the old order to start all over from scratch.) Again, "Now at last God has his dwelling among men!" A little later "He will wipe every tear from their eyes; there shall be an end to death [and how could that happen except through resurrection?] and to mourning and crying and pain; for the old order has passed away!" Once more, "Behold! I am making all things new! [resurrection again]." And finally, "A draught from the water-springs of life [resurrection life, no less] will be my free gift [of grace] to the thirsty."
Can there be any doubt that Scripture sees the completely anarchical (arky-ignorant) grace of resurrection from the dead as being THE modus operandi of universal history? Is it not obvious that it puts no faith at all in the possibility that humanity's sincere arky efforts might win the day for God and for the good?
Allow me now to get my conclusion in here--before you jump to a wrong one. No more than, in a previous chapter, the emphasis upon the Christian theology of peace was meant to prohibit any secular politics of peacemaking--no more, here, is God's way of history meant to prohibit the human arky way of moral development.
After all, for a world that has chosen not to know God--and thus cannot know, either, his gracious willingness or his total capability to resurrect whatever wants resurrecting--for this world there is no moral option at all except the one of using our poor apple-wisdom as best we can manage, sorting out what we decide is "good" and "evil," encouraging the one and discouraging the other. And, of course, it is this lost and needy (though scheduled to be resurrected) world the Master has sent us to be in, even while warning us not to be of.
No, the issue is not that of accepting the one mode of history and rejecting the other. The issue is--as Barth had Paul putting it regarding tax payment--that Christians need to know what they are doing when they do it. You are involved in the arky contest for the moral betterment of the race. But do you know how you got there, why you're there, and what you're supposed to be doing while you are there?
The paramount caution, surely, is that Christians remember they are Christians and not worldlings. Worldlings, obviously, have to put their faith--their mouths, their moneys, their energies, their enthusiasms, their hopes, their dreams, their confidence, their expectations--either in the human potential for moral progress or nowhere at all; they are left with no other option.
Christians, in their turn, must have sympathy for the world caught in this plight and also an understanding of why it always must be making such big claims for its preferred arkys. These are as much in the way of gods, a hope of salvation, as the world can muster. Yet, let Christians once begin falling for this bill of goods and downplaying their Christianity (their faith in the lordship of a gracious, resurrection-capable God)--this in the hope of better identifying with and being of help to the world God so loves--once start this, and they actually are betraying their assigned role, are as doctors rushing off to comfort and cheer the patients while leaving their vital medicines behind. Christians must love the world and be of active service in it--yet without ever once buying the world's understanding of itself or affirming the faith it proclaims.
So, not, of course, the totality of Christian concern and effort, but surely the totality of faith and confidence must center, not where worldlings center theirs, but where we have found Scripture centering, in the grace of a God of resurrection capability. If the world is ever to be saved, it will have to be God who does it. If God's will is ever to be done on earth as it is in heaven, it will have to be God who sees to its being done. As Ellul put it, "Man can't do God's will without God." If the kingdom of God is ever to be our human reality, it will be only because it is the Father's good pleasure to give us the kingdom.
The idea, of course, is common Christian doctrine. My concern is that--as modern Christians speak and write about loving the world through political involvement, social action, moral development, et al.--very little of the biblical faith and a great deal of the world's arky faith are heard. Is there not good reason to suspect that the Christian priority about what God must do and what man can do is being reversed?
Our study has shown Scripture fully committed to the idea that God's gracious resurrection constitutes the one way of salvation (for individuals, for church, for society, for the cosmos). Consequently, the arky struggle for morality must be relegated to some lesser function. The world, of course, has things just the other way around: the Christian faith is now the optional factor which may (for those who fee1 they need such support) even steel and motivate them for the social struggle in which the salvation of the world actually lies. I am not bothered that this contradiction in faith priority exists. I am profoundly bothered to find people thinking they are being Christian simply in joining the world. We need, most of all, to know what under the sun we're doing.
If, however, according to the Christian understanding, the world's arky struggle toward moral betterment is not the way of salvation, then what (if any) positive significance and function does it have?
Regarding this question, the great need of Christians is to become what Ellul calls "realistic," seeing things as they actually are rather than as we wish they might be or as per the propaganda claims made for them. Thus, it is not simply biblical theology that refutes arky faith; an objective, unbiased view of social history refutes it as well. At this, of course, Ellul is the expert; I'm not. As we saw earlier, he is explicit that, from his expert observation and experience of a lifetime, in spite of all the highly touted messianic movements that have been on the scene, he cannot discern that society is making any significant moral progress and, least of all, that it is well on the way toward getting itself saved and set right.
Further, I understand that Ellul and other realistic historians like him consider that the entire history of the race fails to show anything like large-scale, long-term moral progress. (Technological, cultural, intellectual progress, yes; but nothing that truly could be called "moral.") The moral state of humanity seems to be pretty much of a low-level constant all the way through. Certainly, there is movement within the constant parameters. We may seem to be making progress on one front--although, at the same time, retrogressing on another. Moral gains made at one time don't last; things slide back into their former state. In short, our graph of gradual moral triumph is a dream; the historical social data don't support it.
From the viewpoint of Christian realism, then, we need to be skeptical of the continually repeated yet always excited predictions humanity is moving into a new age, that we are on the verge of a renaissance of justice and righteousness. Such predicters have the very same track record as those predicting the second of coming of Jesus--nobody's ever been right yet.
Especially, Christian realists should be leery of the messianic claims made by every newest and brightest arky to come along: "Yes, we thought the Maccabean Revolt was it--but it wasn't. We thought the Zealot Revolt was it--but it wasn't. The Christianizing of the Roman Empire--but it wasn't. The Enlightenment--but it wasn't. The Bolshevik Revolution--but it wasn't. The Student Free Speech Movement--but it wasn't. The Sexual Revolution--but it wasn't. The Viet-Cong Revolution--but it definitely wasn't. The Here's Life America campaign--but it wasn't. President Kennedy's Great Society--but it wasn't. Admittedly, we have been wrong in the past. But not this time. This is the one that will turn things around. You can take it from us that this one is the real thing. The Feminist Movement is the one that will make it. Or Liberation Theology is the one that will make it. Or whatever Harvey Cox next tabs is the one that will make it."
Christian realists need to know what is going on here. These are the confessions of faith, the glorifying of god--on the part of those who, not believing in the true God, face total despair for the world's future unless they can find something in which to hope. The common name for the action is "whistling in the dark," or what Isaiah calls "praying to a god that cannot save." Christians, of course, should feel great sympathy for people caught in such a bind--even while steering completely clear of their enthusiasm for the arkys they take to be inspired by the god they look to for salvation.
But if the arkys cannot save, does that mean the whole human arky struggle for moral betterment has no significance, no value at all?
By no means! Actually, it turns out that Lewis Carroll's looking-glass chessboard is an entirely accurate picture of humanity's moral universe. As the Red Queen explained to Alice, "Here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place."
The human race is just that--a "race." Humanity is not racing toward the kingdom, certainly. It is racing to hold its place, to keep itself held together where the Father can find it when comes the time for him to give it the kingdom. And this, we should know, is a desparate race. I don't think most people appreciate how precarious is the status of humane existence and human morality. And I do not have in mind particularly the nuclear threat. My opinion is that there are moral threats that could be just as devastating and are moral threats even more imminent than that physical one. For what shall it profit us if we gain the whole world (by preserving its physical existence) and forfeit its moral life?
So, Christian realists don't have to accept the arky rhetoric about this or that messianic cause turning the world around and leading it into a new age--in fact, they had better not. They do, however, have a Christian calling ("As thou didst send me into the world, so I have sent them into the world"--John 17:18) to be in there among the arkys, doing whatever can be done (like holding fingers in dikes) to prevent the whole schmeer from flooding out and turning to mud. Christians need to be there. But, just as important, they need to know what they are doing while there. They are not there to join the worldlings in their arky faith but to ignore the arkys in the service of God and neighbor.
Take me, for example. I am what is known in the trade as "an educator." I have put in my time and am currently a minion in good standing of that Grand Old Arky EDUCATION--of which they don't come any more arkyish in claiming primacy for the salvation of society. In education, I am a professor, a doctor of theology, author of the world's only book on Christian Anarchy, which you likely have seen (here being the only place I can safely make that statement), and no end of other such dignities--with all the rights and privileges thereunto pertaining throughout the civilized world, as the president put it so neatly upon granting me my B.A. When it comes to EDUCATION, I am--as it might but probably ought not be put--one of the boys.
However, given to that arky though I be, I consider that I am still quite anarchical in my attitude thereunto pertaining. I am in the arky but in no way of it. To my mind, I have not let the world of education push me into its arky mold but have been transformed by a renewal of my mind to prove what an unacceptable worship EDUCATION is. Rather than its molding me, I have been out to make a few gaps and fissures (or to expose the gaps and fissures) in its structure. Above all, I try to view the educational endeavor realistically.
For instance, although both an alumnus and a longtime professor, I have never for a moment bought the propaganda line (public relations department) that La Verne is the greatest little college in the world. It is not. It is no better, and, I hope, not a whole lot worse than any number of other colleges of its sort--and neither love nor money will get me to say anything different.
I do not share Walter Rauschenbusch's turn-of-the-century social-gospel faith that education inevitably spells growth in moral understanding and that, therefore, the establishment of the American system of universal public education would be the making of a godly nation. I don't buy the commencement-address idea that what this old professor has been doing all these years is influencing young lives toward the purity and goodness he himself represents. The greater likelihood is that the kids have corrupted me. I don't accept the college's mission statement as earnest money. I laugh at the thought that, out of these portals, we are sending a new generation destined to claim the world for truth and right. If that is what education is supposed to do, why didn't it work any better for the generation of student volunteers that went out singing I Would Be True; Follow the Gleam; True-Hearted, Whole-Hearted, Faithful, and Loyal; and Lord, We Are Able. If moral idealism is what makes it, that would have been the generation. This one isn't even interested in such sentiments.
I hold no illusions. I could point out any number of students for whom an education has done nothing--except enable them to make more money. I could point out students who would have better been left uneducated; their added "smarts" only make them more dangerous. I don't claim to have turned any lives around, made any students "better persons" than they already were on the way to becoming on their own. Our educated world of today is in no way morally superior to uneducated worlds of the past. It may even be that education has created new moral problems of its own.
Yet in no way do I regret having given my life and energies to education. My hope is that things may not be quite as bad as they would be if I had not been there with my finger in the dike (even if, like as not, it turns out to have been the wrong dike, the dry dike, anyhow). But that's all right. I'm convinced I've been where God wanted me. I have no problem in confessing myself the unworthiest of servants, because neither my self-worth, my salvation, nor my hope of the world's salvation have ever been attached to arky performance. I have run the good race--not the race to get anywhere but only to keep things in place and not lose any more ground than we have to, which is as much as can ever be expected from the arkys. And if this assessment is realistic, I am much happier with it than with what is bound to be the extravagant unreality of my retirement dinner.
Something of this sort, I contend, describes the Christian's role among the arkys--an important role, yet one completely anarchical and not at all according to the arky's own terms. So I have been in education; but my faith has never been in EDUCATION. It doesn't have to be, because I've already got a better God than that. I have one who can save. So, regardless of what my arky service comes to, I am with my anarchist brother, Ellul: "I may have had opportunity at times to bear witness to Jesus Christ. Perhaps through my words or my writing, someone met this savior, the only one, the unique one, beside whom all human projects are childishness; then, if this has happened, I will be fulfilled, and for that, glory to God alone."