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Miniblog #153: Both Conservatives & Liberals Tend to Misunderstand Human Nature

by Carson T. Clark on November 26, 2012

In one of my favorite books, Reaching for the Invisible God, Philip Yancey recognizes, “A church uncomfortable with paradox tends to tilt in one direction or the other, usually to disastrous consequences.” I heartily agree. That’s why I find it so troubling that, in my estimation, both conservatives and liberals suffer from a poor grasp of human nature.11.Which suggests a deficient biblical anthropology skewed by ideological preferences. In my experience, traditionalists tend to look to the past as this sort of idealistic dream. They see particular bygone eras as a virtual Utopia to which we ought return.22.Minor problem: Such a vision never comported with the historic reality on the ground. Meanwhile, progressives tend to look to the future with this same sort of idealistic dream. They envision a world in which all the moral and social ills will be remedied in a virtual Utopia era.33.Likewise, this will never be the reality on the ground. In my estimation, the former perspective is intellectually dishonest while the latter is hopelessly naive. We need to face the true reality that humans are a complicated bunch for whom we should all be both pessimistic and optimistic. Made in God’s image yet marred by the fall, we’re simultaneously capable of great good and great evil. Lessen that tension in either direction and you get one of the aforementioned blunders. I often hear conservatives and liberals accuse one another of looking to the past and future, respectively, through rose-colored glasses. As a hardlining moderate, both befuddle me. The thing that concerns me most isn’t the deficient views themselves, though. Rather, it’s people’s inability to remedy them because of an underlying impulse to alleviate rather than uphold paradox and tension.44.That is, it’s not so much an issue how what people think and believe as how they think and believe.

  • Leo Staley

    Then Postmodernism comes along and says, “hey, I’ve got the solution to that: There IS NO HUMAN NATURE there at all to grasp!”

    • Carson T. Clark

      I’ve a love-hate relationship with postmodernism. This is an occasion for the hate side.

  • Carl Axel Franzon

    In the same way, one party believes that we can’t trust business but we can trust government to do what is right, and the other believes that we can’t trust government but we can trust business to do what is right. Both fail to grasp human nature, as you say; i.e. both involve people and so we ought to expect in both cases there will be sinful motivations as a driving force (as well as good).

    • Carson T. Clark

      Precisely. That’s why my political beliefs on fb read, “Moderate: Every organization reflects the paradoxical human condition of the Imagio Dei and the fall”

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