I wrote on Monday how I consider myself to be a Christian idealist, so you are probably wondering exactly what a Christian idealist is.
I don’t know if I can give you a proper definition that does it justice, but I would define Christian idealism as a combination of optimism and realism. I think that without the qualification of Christians, idealism simply would be reduced to unfounded optimism. An idealist is one who is naïve and thinks every story will have a happy ending.
Christianity adds a dose of realism to this optimism. This is not to say that Christians are by nature pessimistic, but Christianity clearly teaches that the world is in a fallen place due to human sinfulness. Therefore, it is inevitable that imperfection is going to plague humanity. Until there is a new heaven and new earth, the one that we have is not always going to yield perfect results.
Therefore Christian idealism puts us in kind of a strange tension between an optimistic hope for the future and a hope in improvement with the reality that the world is not a perfect place and in fact perhaps not even a great place.
This brings to mind a quote from CS Lewis:
It sums up this ideology quite well. The Christian idealist is going to aim for heaven. As a Christian idealist, I am going to vote for a candidate who is most consistent with Christian values even if he has no chance of winning for example.
This is an important point though. The Christian idealist, like CS Lewis, recognizes that even if you aim for heaven, it is not going to be perfect on earth. A plain idealist would be chasing human perfection in the world that is imperfect. That would lead to nothing but frustration.
The Christian idealist actually has a more realistic picture of the world around us. It is not some kind of blind hope in the ability of humanity to reach perfection. Rather, it is a commitment to aiming for the things of God and holding to those principles that God has laid out for us.
Therein lies the important qualification for a Christian idealist.
The Christian idealist has an Ideal who is worth pursuing. The Christian idealist understands that there is more to reality than the here and now. The Christian idealist understands that the things of God are worth pursuing even if no one else does.
Therefore, I am glad to claim the banner of Christian idealism. As followers of Jesus Christ, we are not called to be pessimists. We are called to hold to our convictions and do our best to live out our calling to follow Jesus Christ during our time on the earth. Everything might not work out exactly the way we intended it; we are in an imperfect world after all. However, that doesn’t mean that we don’t embrace our ideals and try to make the world a better place than we found it.