by Bill Nugent
Is it better to be a live dog or a dead lion? The Bible gives the answer to the above question and it will be stated at the end of this article.
First we will discuss the famous play Faust and its allegorical meaning for our time. Faust was written by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) and is about a renaissance scholar named Faust who sells his soul to a demon in exchange for knowledge by which he expects to achieve one moment of contentment.
The play proceeds through several acts in which Faust is led by the demon into seeking pleasure through lustful seduction, political power and the arts. In all of this he finds none of the contentment he sought but only degradation, intrigue and scandal.
At the end of his life Faust clears a piece of desolate land and makes it into the habitation of a happy community of people. In extreme old age Faust comes to the realization that though he did not find contentment in lustful seduction, political power and sophisticated art, he did find contentment in simple humble service to his fellow man. This contentment is something the demon did not give him. In the end Faust finds God’s forgiveness and is released from his bargain with the demon. When he dies the angels carry him to heaven where he enjoys contentment forever.
The play Faust can be seen as a parable for our own times in which the people of several nations have made a faustian bargain called communism. In this bargain the people gave all of their rights and political power to the communist dictator. In exchange the dictator promised utopia which is the perfect society. Communism is based on atheism and also on the unbiblical idea that man is basically good (no original sin, no sin nature). Communism claims that a perfect society in which everyone shares perfectly is possible if all power is given to the government.
The dictator then led the people into political repression, prison camps and mass murder. A book written by two French socialists called The Black Book of Communism estimates that between 85 million and 100 million people were murdered by communist governments in their quest to establish utopia. Communism was the largest social experiment in all of world history. Death was its major product.
Communism fell when people realized that the promises of utopia were empty. People are not basically good but are sinners who need God’s forgiveness. The only successful society on earth is one in which government is limited and the rights of the people are secured.
The faustian bargain called communism has unraveled and people have turned once again to that simple democratic government that puts itself “under God” and makes no promises of utopia on this earth.
Getting back to the question at the start of this article: “would you rather be a live dog or a dead lion?” We can call the faustian promise of utopia the “lion.” The lion is great and powerful in appearance but it’s dead. We can call the democratic government under God which guarantees the people’s rights the “dog.” The dog is simple and humble but at least it’s alive. Now for the Bible’s answer to the question: “a living dog is better than a dead lion”(Eccl. 9:4).