By Armen Oganessian, University of Aberdeen
In The Open Society and Its Enemies, Karl Popper suggests there are two kinds of societies, the open and the closed. The open society is a liberal democracy. All other societies are “closed” societies. They are totalitarianisms. The closed and open society are distinguished from one another by teleological historicism. The closed society subscribes to a teleological history, and the open does not. All closed societies understand history progressing through a regulatory attribute towards a fixed aim.
Through the examples of Socialism and interventionism, we will discuss Popper’s concepts of teleological historicism, the closed society and the open society. We will exhibit how teleological historicisms error in their use of induction and how they lead to “the closed society.” We will then contrast the closed to the open society, discussing the two’s ethical systems.
After the exhibition of the three concepts, we will apply the reformed doctrine of the Two Kingdoms to Popper’s dichotomy, demonstrating the open society as the ideal of the City of God (the secular), repudiating the state’s teaching or practice of any teleological historicism. We will demonstrate that the ethics of the open society and Biblical ethics coincide in the ordering of a society.
Then we will demonstrate that the teaching of “a teleological historicism” falls under the jurisdiction of the City of God. With a discussion of Herman Bavinck and Albrecht Ritschl, we will demonstrate that the Bible teaches an objective spiritual teleological historicism, having a supersensory and supernatural aspect to its conception of history. The Bible teaches this objective spiritual teleological historicism and it is part of one’s faith, thus it falls under the jurisdiction of the City of God.
All to demonstrate that in following the two Kingdoms, the Christian cannot promote a closed society by associating with social and economic movements that subscribe to a teleological historicism and the installation of a Utopia. Any social, political and economic advocacy by a Christian must have in view the open society, leaving the teaching of a teleological historicism to the church. This practice of the two kingdoms promotes the flourishing of individuals and by their flourishing that of societies.
This paper was a finalist in the Intersect Project Ph.D. Student Challenge Symposium. The symposium facilitated broader discussion in the church and academy about the intersection of faith, work and economics.