“And the world is passing away, and the lust of it . . .” (1 John 2:17).

IS THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST OPTIMISTIC OR PESSIMISTIC? We normally think of it as optimistic (and in the long run it certainly is), but John’s statement would not strike many modern people as being very upbeat: “the world is passing away, and the lust of it.” A. W. Tozer wrote, “Strange as it may be, the holiest souls who have ever lived have earned the reputation for being pessimistic.” Have you ever considered that spiritual growth might require you to start being more pessimistic about some things than you have been?

The mature Christian is pessimistic about the powers of the human mind. While the world grows more confident that, given enough time, the human mind can find a solution to every problem, the Christian understands the built-in limitations of human thought.

The mature Christian is pessimistic about the perfectibility of human character. The problems that beset individual human beings have roots that go far deeper than psychology or sociology can ever reach. Apart from God, the human psyche is incurably sick. 

The mature Christian is pessimistic about the progress of human society. If Christianity is true, this world is not going to get significantly better. There may be occasional respites from the general degradation, but the long-term spiral is going down, down, down. 

So there are some things the mature, healthy Christian is pessimistic about, and unfortunately, the things the Christian is most doubtful of are those the world has its highest hopes set on. When the Christian doubts the powers of the human mind, the perfectibility of human character, and the progress of human society, he calls into question the very foundation of modern activity: that “every day in every way, we are getting better and better” (and if we’re not, it’s only a matter of time until we do). But the bad news has to be accepted before the good news will sound good. If we’re not stripped of our delusions about human power and progress, we’ll never be humble enough to hear what God has in mind. So let’s just go ahead and give up on the present world. As Christians, we should be too optimistic about the new heavens and earth to be anything other than pessimistic about the present ones.

“The cross-carrying Christian . . . is both a confirmed pessimist and an optimist the like of which is to be found nowhere else on earth” (A. W. Tozer).

Gary Henry — WordPoints.com + AreYouaChristian.com

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