Faith Versus Optimism? All The Difference In The World

Barb Wire

All The Difference In The World

Faith versus Optimism

In this short essay we will distinguish between faith and optimism.

Plato made a distinction between artisans and philosophers. The first worked with physical things, the latter with ideas. He then prioritized the ideas as being the more important of the two because they were eternal while anything made by artisans would eventually be discarded. This priority of stable ideals over unstable tangible things is a cornerstone of classical Western civilization.

This priority of ideals over things shapes our daily life with: faith, gratitude and work. Faith trusts in the ideal behind everything physical. Gratitude is the joy experienced when a difficulty has been overcome or a blessing received. Gratitude is motivational because people seek more joy. Work is the effort to produce something that approaches the ideal perfection which inspires everything that is made.

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Two thousand years after Plato, Rene Descartes turned Plato on his head initiating the materialistic society. Materialism gives more importance to temporary, tangible things than to eternal ideals. Materialism dismisses ideals and shapes our lives with three prevalent attitudes: optimism, pessimism and skepticism.

Let us imagine we put an object in a materialist’s hand; Can a materialist look at the object and say, “it could be better”? On what basis would such a claim be made? Materialists have dismissed ideals hence to think of improvements is illogical. Optimism is illogical for a materialist.

Now let us imagine the same object is passed from the first set of hands to a second. What can the second materialist say? They can logically say, “I don’t think it can be improved upon.” This is perfectly logical because the second person has no ideal in their head with which to compare the object in hand. Thus the pessimism of a materialist, the object cannot be improved, is a quite reasonable attitude.

Finally the object is passed to a third person. This person might choose to say something different from the first two. Looking at the object they might say, “Maybe it could be improved, maybe not.” This third person is the skeptic who sits on a fence and makes no commitment. Unable to make a decision skeptics are unproductive.

We can now put the classical and materialist worlds side by side.

The distinction between faith and optimism is that faith has an ideal towards which to reach. Optimism has no such ideal, it is illogical or dishonest.

The distinction between gratitude and pessimism is that gratitude is motivational but what encouragement does pessimism offer?

The distinction between work and skepticism is that the worker whistles while they try to produce something ideal. The skeptic, agonizing in their indecision, forever frets, doing nothing.

 Classical Culture                                              Materialism

Faith   –        logical                                    Optimism – Illogical

Gratitude – motivational                          Pessimism – logical

Work   –       productive                             Skepticism – unproductive

What this simple exercise demonstrates is that classical Western culture (Greek, Judeo/Christian) is built on a solid foundation of eternal ideas that are true forever. For the culture built upon Cartesian materialism there is no reason for optimism because ideals have been excluded.

We can now understand why the left is so disparaging of patriotic symbols, treating them like empty opinions, caprice or fantasy. The ideals in the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights are rejected by Materialism, while at the same time the states and cities the left controls are ruined with moral and fiscal bankruptcy.


With faith in universal ideas the future of Western civilization is a shining light.

With optimism and no faith in universal ideas Western civilization is a snuffed out candle.

Whichever people choose, it makes all the difference in the world.

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.

The Rev. Dr. Donald Wehmeyer was born in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. He is a graduate of Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary (Master of Divinity, 1981), and received a Doctor of Ministry degree from Columbia Presbyterian Seminary (1998). He was a Millard Scholar at Union Presbyterian Seminary in 1999. Rev. Wehmeyer has served in the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico since 1981.

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