This is the second anniversary of the death of William F. Buckley. Though he is most widely known as one of the founders of modern Conservatism, and perhaps its most eloquent spokesman, he was many other things as well – an accomplished author and master of the English language in both its written and spoken form, a great debater, an accomplished sailor, a faithful husband and father.
But often overlooked is the fact that he was a devout Christian, and perhaps one of its most accomplished defenders. I know as a young Christian who previously had been Marxist in my politics and a materialist in my metaphysics, Buckley filled my hungry intellect as I sought to understand how my new beliefs as a Christian contrasted with my previous beliefs. I would often sit for hours reading National Review and Buckley’s essays, absorbing the ideas he presented.
A fine example of Buckley’s view of truth and it’s application to our lives was demonstrated in 1962. Buckley was responding to some high school students who had read his book Up from Liberalism and wanted him to elaborate on what he meant by “final truths” – what follows is part of his response, and I think one of the more profound statements about the proper perspective Christians should have regarding the beliefs that inform their earthly activities, and the final truths which must inform their eternal destinies:
All our techniques of social welfare, all our science, all our comfort, all our liberty, all our democracy and foreign aid and grandiloquent orations—all that means nothing to me and nothing to you in the moment when we go. At that moment we must put our souls in order, and the way to do that was lighted for us by Jesus, and since then we have had need of no other light. That is what is finally important; it has not changed; and it will not change. It is truth, which shall ever abide in the future. And if it is “reactionary” to hold a truth that will be valid for all future time, then words have lost their meaning, and men their reason.
There are of course no ‘final truths’ in materialism or atheism – no confidence at the end, no comfort in knowing what is to come. It is good to know that William F. Buckley, and all those who believe, will experience such final truth.