STATISM AND FUTURE HOPE
by David Gelber
January 21, 2009
Statism is traditionally defined as the concentration of economic controls and planning within a highly centralized government often extending to government ownership of industry. However, the concept of statism can be extended to any aspect of existence that can be concentrated within and controlled by a central governing body.
R. C. Sproul, theologian and founder of Ligonier Ministries, recounts how years ago, while sharing a taxi with Francis Schaeffer, the renowned theologian of the last century, he asked Dr. Schaeffer what he considered the greatest threat to future of the Church in America. Without hesitation Dr. Schaeffer answered “statism” (Statism, Tabletalk, September 2008).
How is it that this idea of centralized government becomes a threat to religion and specifically the Christian church? The obvious answer is that anything which claims central authority over a population usurps the supremacy of God, the true ultimate authority. History clearly demonstrates that governments and God have had a rocky coexistence. Jesus, when questioned by the Pharisees regarding taxes said “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s (Matthew 22:21). These words established a precedent for God and government to stand side by side, particularly in those societies where Christianity was the dominant religion. Throughout history there has been considerable overlap between the two institutions and numerous instances where one has thrust itself into the business of the other; however, close examination of history reveals that it is only within the last one hundred years that there has been a full scale assault on religion, particularly Christianity.
It seems that this assault parallels advances made by science and technology; advances that appear determined to make religion and God irrelevant. Government becomes the arbiter of this assault through its role as provider of education, maintaining final authority over school curriculum. The Big Bang viewed as a Cosmic accident, Darwinism, CT Scanners, PET Scanners, the genetic code and stem cells are presented as de facto evidence that prove there is no need for God or religion; even if God exists his importance comes into question. Of course, when examined closely each of these could just as easily be used to argue the reality of God’s existence, but that is a topic for another article.
This brings us to the novel Future Hope which is set in the future. The Earth of 2156 has made incredible scientific and technologic advances which allow the greatly expanded population to flourish. The benevolent government provides all the basic needs and many luxuries to the mass of people. The energy crisis, food shortages, disease and extreme poverty have all been eliminated. Consequently, religion is presented as irrelevant and belief in God, although not outlawed, is subject to ridicule and derision. The novel demonstrates that this futuristic society evolves not as the result of revolution as occurred with the rise of communism in Russia or China, but rather by a relentless creeping progression towards statism, the very thing most feared by Dr. Schaeffer.
Even in today’s society it is easy to see this in action. The current financial crisis has caused our largest financial institutions and industries to approach the government seeking hundreds of billions of dollars to prevent financial collapse and to bail them out of their self created quagmire of risky investments and poor business planning. The free market fails and government takes some measure of control, chipping away at our free society. On another front the government authorizes eavesdropping on its citizens to prevent terrorist attack, a seemingly noble and necessary step to keep the population safe. It is only a small step to expand this program to domestic “terrorists”, criminals and eventually anyone perceived as a threat to the social order. What initially may produce outrage and objection, next becomes distasteful but necessary, finally becoming acceptable, then commonplace and statism creeps in. In a similar vein, government entitlements are instituted leading us to increasing dependence on a government fashioned safety net and less responsibility by the individual.
But, how does this threaten religion? I see it in several ways. First, in our society extreme religious fanaticism is cast as a vehicle for terrorism and violence. The current Islamic jihadists are the most obvious example, but historically there are numerous examples of violence carried out in the name of Christianity. The fact that war and killing in the name of Christianity has never been consistent with true Christian teachings and beliefs as presented in the Bible has been ignored.
Second, our society depends on a set of moral laws; laws that originate from the ten commandments presented by God to Moses. The statist society, particularly as presented within Future Hopechips away at the Biblical concept of morality, replacing traditional morals with tolerance and relativism that justify and legalize what was often considered offensive and unlawful less than fifty years ago.
Finally, as science and technology replace God, the promise of Satan to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden seemingly becomes fulfilled. Man believes that he has becomes like God, knowing what God knows and leaving belief in God and religion extraneous and foolhardy. Here is the big lie perpetrated on man by Satan. No matter how our science and technology advance we can never come close to matching the perfection of an omniscient, omnipotent, holy God. A society dominated by a “benevolent” government, administered by imperfect man, will always reflect this imperfection and will ultimately leave its people empty and hopeless. Consider whether it is better to be dependent upon God or politicians.
In the end, no matter what is done to hide God or minimize His importance, the reality of His existence cannot be dimmed. This is the central message of Future Hope. The truth of the incarnation, the life, death and resurrection of Jesus gives hope and assurance that death has been defeated. This is the Gospel and no amount of government regulation or intervention can take it from those that share this simple truth.