Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Is this vile world a friend to grace?

Alexander Fraser Tytler, (1747 – 1813) was a Scottish lawyer, judge, writer and historian.  In writing about democracy in Athens, he first noted that a large number of the people were slaves, not citizens, then went on to say, “Nor were the superior classes in the actual enjoyment of a rational liberty and independence. They were perpetually divided into factions, which servilely ranked themselves under the banners of the contending demagogues; and these maintained their influence over their partisans by the most shameful corruption and bribery, of which the means were supplied alone by the plunder of the public money.”  In another place he wrote: “a pure democracy is a chimera.”

The following quotes are attributed to Alexander Tytler, although they cannot be found in any of his writings still in existence.  Nevertheless, they are in accordance with the views expressed in his writings on the nature of democracies through the ages:

“A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government.  It can only exist until the voters discover they can vote themselves largess from the public treasury.  From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising them the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship.”

“The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations has been 200 years.  These nations have progressed through this sequence:
From bondage to spiritual faith;
from spiritual faith to great courage;
from courage to liberty;
from liberty to abundance;
from abundance to selfishness;
from selfishness to apathy;
from apathy to dependence;
from dependency back again into bondage.”

This is called the Tytler Cycle and many people today see in it the writing on the wall for our Western democracies.

Whether we agree with this assessment or not, surely it is time to admit that we have been led astray in putting confidence in a “Christian nation.”  Surely that term itself is an abomination to God.  Isaac Watts, another Scot, got it right when he wrote “Is this vile world a friend to grace, to lead us on to God?”  (From the hymn Am I a Soldier of the Cross?)

“This vile world” has worn the camouflage of Christianity for generations, leading many people to trust governments to give direction on morality and education.  When the world began to throw off this camouflage, many Christians threw themselves into political activism in a futile attempt to try and turn back the tide.

The Tytler Cycle, if it turns out to be true, offers hope for coming generations, for bondage, it says, leads to a revival of spiritual faith.  Isn’t it time to begin preparing for that revival?

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