Recent events show that many contemporary politicians and their minions want the City of God without God, the fruit of Jesus' Kingdom without Jesus, the transforming work of the Holy Spirit without the Holy Spirit, and absolute truth without absolutes.
The dreamers believe devoutly that love, jobs, and climate control will pacify ISIS, and gun laws will stop bloody domestic mayhem. The fantasy-purveyors urge that the rest of us accept their pronouncements as absolutes while telling us that all is relative.
One thinks of the old story about the king convinced he was marching before his subjects richly garbed when the truth was he was naked. A number of today's "kings" are not only bare as the day they were born, but they parade on grand avenues of air.
We begin with Barack Obama and the almost 200 world leaders who joined with him December 12 in Paris in inking a climate agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions globally.
The problem is that human nature will not change apart from transcendent intervention. The resentment of poor nations will only deepen, and major environmental abusers will search for loopholes and rip through the treaty when none are found.
Survival or stewardship are the two motives that compel people to want to care for the planet. Survival is inadequate as a reason because some will always survive at the expense of others. This will become evident as nations producing fifty-five percent of global emissions have to take the accord to their legislative bodies for approval.
The highest motive for responsible environmental care is stewardship. The belief that a loving God has entrusted the well-being of His creation to His image-bearers brings awareness that we are accountable to the transcendent Creator. This truth reminds us that the planet is not ours, but the property of its Maker. Like any steward who manages and cares for the master's possession, we cannot abuse it.
It is hard to have enough faith to believe that nations will upset their economies or slow their development merely because of the future survival of people not even born yet. That is an altruistic fantasy right up there with Marx and Lenin's conviction that human beings would happily accept economic "leveling" so everyone (except the rulers) would be on the same material plane. The Paris climate-change accord will fail for the same reason communism collapsed.
The answer lies not in the transformation of policy but in the transformation of human beings. Ecology and economics are spiritual issues.
As is love, ultimately.
That brings us to Hillary Clinton's admirable but idealistic statement on December 11 in Iowa that the contemporary violence in America means people must "do everything we can to weed out hate and plant love and kindness."
But what kind of love?
Eros? We have that in abundance, and the more there is the more exploitive and abusive humans become of one another. The way things are going, society may soon be reduced to eros only.
Phileo (another Greek term) is friendship-love. Storge is a New Testament term for family-love. The flaw is that, as in eros, phileo and storge carry the idea of mutual benefit, elements of selfishness.
There is only one kind of love that would produce the fruit for which Hillary Clinton rightly calls, and that is agape-love, seen in its clearest form in Jesus of Nazareth, revealed in the Bible. Agape is unconditional love that expects no payback.
Again, the elimination of hate and the spread of love that is not self-based requires the transformation of individuals. If man is his own savior, as proclaimed officially in Humanist Manifesto II, there's not much hope for the love Hillary believes would change society.
A world that rejects God will always be a dangerous place, where the evil will seek guns to kill their fellow human beings, and many of the decent will seek guns for their protection.
The fantasy of gun control without transformed human nature becomes clear in light of dramatic comparisons. Alcohol, for example, has long been the leading source of fatalities on the highways, but no one is calling for alcohol-control.
Prohibition proved that without a fundamental change in human nature, people will find ways to get alcohol, even if they have to violate the law. Likewise, those who want to kill will find ways to get guns. Those who will pollute to build economies and enhance material gain will find a way to get around the Paris greenhouse gas agreement, or simply ignore it.
Secularists want the blessed world and societies promised in the Bible without the God of the Bible. They want the dream without the substance and foundations. All they create is more nightmares of oppression.
However, the church should not blame secular leaders and their institutions for seeking solutions if the church does not assume its role. If the environment, violence, and human relations are all spiritual issues, churches must be in the forefront of providing guidance.
That means the church must make, not just converts, but disciples of Jesus, the biblical worldview, and its application to every sphere of human life.
Such disciples will discover that faith is indeed the very substance on which civilization at its best has been built historically — and will be until the Kingdom comes in its fullness, when villages are at last unwalled, swords beaten into plowshares, and nightmares of oppression vanish in the light of the King's glory.