I am currently rereading Friedrich Hayek’s classic, The Road to Serfdom, which opens with these words:
Contemporary events differ from history in that we do not know the results they will produce. Looking back, we can assess the significance of past occurrences and trace the consequences they have brought in their train. But while history runs its course, it is not history to us. It leads us into an unknown land, and but rarely can we get a glimpse of what lies ahead. It would be different if it were given to us to live a second time through the same events with all the knowledge of what we have seen before. How different would things appear to us; how important and often alarming would changes seem that we now scarcely notice! It is probably fortunate that man can never have this experience and knows of no laws which history must obey.1
In our current swirl of events the fog of war blurs our vision, and in a health crisis our personal safety, or the safety of loved ones and friends, has most of our attention. While we can’t know with certainty the particular outcomes of these contemporary events, there are some things we can know and must not forget. Political forces never sit idly by; they’re always scheming; looking for any and every opportunity to exploit the situation. Every crisis can be parlayed into a grab for power and offers an opportunity to bludgeon an opponent and to advance a cause. It would be hard to think of an issue that could not, in some way—directly or indirectly—be connected to the COVID-19 pandemic. Foreign policy, domestic policy, welfare, taxation, race, gender, economics, education, business, etc., will all be affected but nothing is more threatened than liberty. As David Hume stated, “It is seldom that liberty of any kind is lost all at once.”2
So then, be on the lookout at every turn. The finger-pointing has started in earnest and will only intensify. The back-room deals of politicians of every stripe have already begun to milk this crisis and the treasury for all she’s worth. Fear always opens the gate for those promising relief. They only want to help you, but beware, Trojan horses are not limited to ancient history. This virus may turn out to be a larger Trojan horse than the original. The church should be especially watchful as the forces who seek to diminish religious liberty have been at work long before this current crisis, and you can be assured that this opportunity to advance their cause will not be overlooked.
With that said, I find my comfort, not in the promises or power-grabs of politicians, but in knowing that “He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall hold them in derision” (Psalm 2:4). This was said in reference to the kings and rulers of the earth (i.e., the politicians). Hayek said, man “knows of no laws which history must obey.” I must disagree at this one point. There is a law that history must obey. History’s dust bin is full for a reason.
God the Refuge of His People and Conqueror of the Nations
1 God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear,
Even though the earth be removed,
And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
3 Though its waters roar and be troubled,
Though the mountains shake with its swelling.
4 There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God,
The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved;
God shall help her, just at the break of dawn.
6 The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved;
He uttered His voice, the earth melted.
7 The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge.
8 Come, behold the works of the Lord,
Who has made desolations in the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
He burns the chariot in the fire.
10 Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge.
- Friedrich A. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom, (The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1944), p. 1
- Ibid., p. ii