Question: "What is utopianism?"
Answer: Utopianism is the belief that a perfect society can be achieved, where there is happiness, equality, and freedom for everyone. Those who seek a utopia desire an ideal place where humanity reaches its full potential, personally, politically, economically, and socially.
The word utopia or utopianism is not found in the Bible, as the term did not come into being until 1516 when Sir Thomas More coined it. Ironically, More created the word to have a double meaning, since utopia is a combination of Greek words that mean “no” and “place,” but looks similar to a word meaning “good place.” More’s “Good Place” is really “No Place.”
A perfect society is impossible to create in a fallen world. All people are sinners, and we cannot create a “perfect” world because we are not perfect (Romans 3:23). Even if a society were constructed solely of Christians, it would be imperfect because the sin nature is still present in Christians (Galatians 5:17). No individual can perfect himself, so no group of people can perfect society. To create a true utopia would require everyone to be sinless.
Various groups have attempted to establish utopian societies and thus realize a man-made paradise on earth: the Shakers, the Transcendentalists, the Perfectionists, and others all tried (and failed) to construct the ideal society. Some were motivated by a belief that Jesus’ return was imminent, others by confidence in mankind’s innate goodness—but all were disappointed.
Scripture informs us that once there was a “utopia” in this world: the Garden of Eden was created for Adam and Eve to tend and enjoy (Genesis 2:15). Everything that God had created was “very good,” and mankind had everything they could possibly need (Genesis 1:31; 2:22). Adam and Eve enjoyed a close and intimate relationship with the Lord, who walked with them in the garden (Genesis 3:8). Sadly, this perfect place that God had created was corrupted when Adam and Eve chose to disobey the Lord. Their sin disrupted their perfect existence and brought death into the world (Genesis 3:11–19; Romans 5:12). No longer would the earth produce abundant crops free of weeds and thorns (Genesis 3:17–18). No longer would the animals live at peace with one another and with mankind (Romans 8:20–22). No longer would Adam and Eve’s relationship with each other be perfect (Genesis 3:16). Most importantly, no longer could Adam and Eve have a close relationship with God (Genesis 3:23–24; Isaiah 59:2). The perfect world had been marred by sin, and the utopia was lost.
Thankfully, the Lord God promised a Savior who would defeat evil and restore all things (Genesis 3:15). This Savior is Jesus Christ, crucified on the cross and resurrected to bring eternal life to all who believe. In Christ, the relationship between mankind and God is repaired, and “the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:21). One day, the Lord will again set up a “utopia,” the new heaven and new earth (Revelation 21:1). Eden will be restored, and “no longer will there be any curse” (Revelation 22:3). Those who have trusted in Christ will live forever with Him, and the “utopia” they enjoy will never end, because they will no longer have a sinful nature. Everyone will live in harmony with each other, and God will live with mankind in the eternal kingdom. This is the Bible’s promise (Revelation 21:3; 22:4–5).
A utopian society is something that mankind naturally longs for. We all sense, on some level, that the world is broken as it is, and we all yearn to fix it. But it takes a perfect Being to create a perfect society, and that is why all man-made utopias are doomed to failure from the start. We need more than careful planning, lofty philosophies, and social reforms; we need our Creator. In humility, acknowledging our own brokenness, we turn to Christ and His perfection. In gratitude, praising the Lord, we trust the One who will someday turn the whole world into a Utopia for His glory.