Thursday, September 27, 2012

statism


R. C. Sproul writes, 

About thirty years ago, I shared a taxi cab in St. Louis with Francis Schaeffer. I had known Dr. Schaeffer for many years, and he had been instrumental in helping us begin our ministry in Ligonier, Pennsylvania, in 1971. Since our time together in St. Louis was during the twilight of Schaeffer’s career, I posed this question to him: “Dr. Schaeffer, what is your biggest concern for the future of the church in America?” Without hesitation, Dr. Schaeffer turned to me and spoke one word: “Statism.” Schaeffer’s biggest concern at that point in his life was that the citizens of the United States were beginning to invest their country with supreme authority, such that the free nation of America would become one that would be dominated by a philosophy of the supremacy of the state.

(From "Statism" by R. C. Sproul, 2008)

I think Dr. Schaeffer was prescient to see our path to statism.  When truth, and the quest for truth, is abandoned, all that remains is power.  And the state -- like Pilate knowing power but not truth -- will fill the void left by banished truth.

In academia today it is popular to say that all truth claims are power plays.  To exalt any one truth over others is a way to oppress people and subject them to our power.  So there is empirical truth -- truth that can be measured or seen -- and moral, transcendental truth which is solely subjective.  There is an irreconcilable separation between what is called science and what is deemed religion. 

We live in a culture where truth, in any objective sense, refers only to that which is observable and measurable.  All other truth claims, whether moral or spiritual, are seen as merely subjective.  They are beliefs, or personal values.  My truth is my truth, and your truth is your truth, and what right do you have to enforce your truth and judge mine? So truth becomes personal preference.  Interestingly, a person takes that position by faith, because it is assumed, not proven, that there is no higher moral truth out there.

You can't justify such a separation empirically.  It's taken by faith -- faith that science alone has all the important answers.  For example, moral integrity (truthfulness) is expected in scientific research, but why?  There are no moral grounds for that expectation within a naturalistic worldview. We get that value (a moral truth) from outside of us, or above us.  Such a strict separation of empirical truth and moral truth becomes in essence a banishment of any transcendental truth from the public good.  

Students should seriously question what is taught in many liberal arts classes.  When a history or religion professor presents his or her re-interpretation of a past event, we really do have the right to say, "Why do you say that?  Do you know that as fact?  Aren't you just rewriting history just like you said others did, because it reinforces your position and keeps you in power? How can you say that all other viewpoints are subjective, and biased, and oppressive, and that yours isn't?  Aren't you just doing the same with your version of the truth?"  Of course few students will actually say something like this because the professor has the power to give them a failing grade, which I think just proves the point.

If there is no moral accountability higher than ourselves, then all we have left is what the majority or the most powerful in our society want.  There will be an interest only in numbers, in polls, in popular influence, and in displays of power.  The power may be in the majority, or it may be in violence, but power will determine what's accepted and what's not. If there is no truth for us to discuss, then all we are left with is power.   

And that's where the State steps in. 

Ultimately the state -- as final arbiter -- will decide what's right and wrong and enforce it, since there is nothing above the state.  There are many who desire the government to be the supreme authority, for it is the collective will and power of the people... or at least, of the most powerful segment of the people.  

And it will use its power, while respecting only power.  So if the polls say a majority of voters want a redefinition of marriage, then that is the direction legislators will go to, to appease power and to keep power.  Truth will not enter in to the discussion. If a religious group is offended and starts burning things down and killing people, then our leaders will seek to appease those forces, rather than deal with truth. 

“Statism.”  That's what Schaeffer said was his biggest concern for the citizens of America.  And if this is where we are headed, then it is because we have not only rejected the truth, but have rejected even the possibility of knowing any moral or metaphysical truth outside (or above) ourselves.  

Abandon truth -- and the quest for truth -- and all you're left with is power.  

"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth."  (Romans 1:18 ESV)

1 comment:

Pilgrim said...

Well said, Sandy, and I am afraid that we are well on that road. How long will God put up with us?