The State God
Five years ago, a brother hinted that if I wanted to know what was going on in the ‘real world’, I should read the business pages less, and follow politics more.1 My lifelong interest has always been theology; I am interested in connecting general and specific revelation, and how the end is declared from the beginning. And so, despite some concerns about the lingo and vocabulary of the laws of the various lands, I took my brother’s advice. I was immediately intrigued by this new-found interest, and to my surprise, I soon found out that the concepts I ran across were quite familiar.2
Expecting an unmapped territory, I instead found myself in the land of déjà vu, for the lexicon of policies, laws and enforcement, of constitutions, bills of rights, and due process, turned out to have a striking resemblance to Genesis, the Gospel of Matthew, and Revelation. Behind descriptions of jurisprudence, national sovereignty and crisis management, one can discover the pieces of a grand narrative about human history, why things are going wrong, and how, in the end, it will be put right. Theologians refer to these fields of study as the doctrine of the kingdom, the Fall, the doctrines of sin and redemption (soteriology), and of the end of the world (eschatology). But here they were again, only in thin disguise, for the mystery is already at work: chronicles about the artificial boundaries of nations, the seductive temptations of populism, deliverance through more regionalism and how, in the end, salvation will be achieved through the advent of the global State God. Western democracies, especially, can expect to have their territories mapped anew, for any heretical deviation from the new orthodoxy, thee not of the one true faith, will not be tolerated.
Initially I barely noticed the underlying doctrines, and could only dimly see the overarching structure, but the doctrinal building bricks were present already, even if not yet soaring ahead into a great system. But lately I have become amazed with great amazement at just how pervasive the theology of the State as God already is. Even though the concept of authority is sometimes hard to pin down, according to the new deity, it is by faith we understand the evidence of things increasingly seen. And what can be seen is how this faith is strengthened even by adversity, for the State as God is emerging renewed from its trials by Brexit, Populism and other temporary setbacks. I now see embedded in the laws and politics of our day an entire legal philosophy, even systematic theology, comparable in scope if not in profundity to the philosophy of Dooyeweerd and Van Til, or to the theology of Kuyper and Chafer – it needs merely to be systematized for a whole new Summa to take shape.
Doctrine of God
At the apex of any theological system, of course, is its doctrine of God — and in the new theology, this celestial pinnacle is occupied by the State God. Not only does the State God want to rule the universe, but it also wants to directly express its will on earth, tolerating no intermediate or delegated authorities. Different faiths have different views of the divine attributes; in Christianity, God alone has the omni-attributes: omnipotence (all powerful), omniscience (all knowing), and omnipresence (everywhere at the same time). Even though it may currently be hidden from our eyes, we are told that the State as God possesses these attributes, that the kingdom will come in power, and all will be revealed at the appointed time. As I listened to the politicians who explained the kingdom of the State as God, I heard the same dialectics used by Realised Eschatologists, Dominionists, Reconstructionists, as well as the ‘Already-but-not-Yet’ and ‘Kingdom Now’ proponents. Apparently, the State as God already possesses these omni-attributes, but it has not yet revealed all for the world to see; as for the kingdom, it too is already present (hence, ‘the State as God’) but not yet with irresistible power (referred to as ‘the State God’).3 In the old creation, individuals, the family unit, local congregations and civil authorities were all endowed with authority in its proper sphere, but in the brave new world, few of the lesser magistrates dare to interpose. As the new way is empowering itself across the globe, not only is the State as God building its capital city, it is also ushering in its kingdom, confounding the nations as the world is regathered anew to the commanding heights.
In the already-but-not-yet kingdom, the State as God apportions for itself the power and authority to re-arrange something into something else. As it exercises its claim to omnipotence, the State as God not only decides which subjects or entities should be set apart to have rights and duties, and which do not, it also defines reality in accordance with its truth-claims. There is, if not already de jure then soon de facto, no law which the State as God is not willing to bludgeon into its own image, and no rights or duties which it cannot grant, amend or deny.
In the old dispensation, individuals were endowed with inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But in the new dispensation, because the State as God giveth, the State as God can also taketh away. It is readily acknowledged, most fundamentally, and quite appropriately, that the life of the flesh is in the blood, and that without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin. But the new faith says that sins are always and everywhere social sins, the sins of the collective, never those of an individual. This is because the State as God has redefined the consequences of the Fall, declaring all human beings to be basically good, unfallen beings. As a result, every individual now qualifies to be a little saviour, losing its right to life through its sinless blood, paying for the social sins of the world, the sins of some collective. While it may have tarried, ever so briefly, nevertheless the promulgation swiftly followed: in a shocking show of ‘reverse transubstantiation’, the State as God taketh organs from some and giveth it to others. The State as God has no qualms to allow the harvest of human organs or to auction off baby parts to the highest bidder, not to mention the souls of men and women. If individual bodies, even body parts, can legally be harvested, what other lesser, but still reasonable and acceptable service, may be offered to the State as God?
In his Second Treatise on Government, John Locke contended that the right to life necessarily includes the right to personal property. Not so anymore, for everyone (except the elect elite) is legally required to forsake their individual rights to houses and brothers and sisters and father and mother and children and lands, all for the sake of the kingdom of the State as God. As the song goes, imagine there is no heaven, no hell below us, and no countries too, then a man can gain the whole world by forfeiting his liberty and happiness, even his soul. How to respond when the State as God levies heavy taxes? Well, the taxes could have been more. What if it raises taxes to 100%, how to respond to expropriation without compensation? Preach it brother, preach it. Are minority pilgrims progressing in the kingdom? Xenophobia is of course outlawed, so all may reap the corners of the fields and all may glean any harvest. Control of businesses? The arm of the State as God is never too short to dig up mining charters from the earth or to pluck health initiatives from the sky. As for your rights of inheritance, it has been rescinded; only committed cadres of the State as God share in the spoils.
Of course, the new orthodoxy of the State as God is not welcomed without some opposition from the pews. Some non-believers do not yet show the required decorum and tolerance for the emerging brotherhood of man. As easy as it is to do, they still cannot imagine all the people living in peace, the world living as one. But the State as God will not let serious crises go to waste. Hell yes, it will take your AR-15s, and your AK47s, too. If you do not have any rights to your own body, or your own intellectual property, what about your wife and children? Again, the issue is not the issue, it is always about the revolution, so no serious crises will go to waste. If you can now imagine no possessions — you may say that I’m a dreamer — then the notion of children belonging to their parents and families can also be ‘reinterpreted’, to be enforced by appropriate laws. In this social utopia, children belong to whole communities, and above all to the State as God. Sure, the new orthodoxy contains some things that are hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, but the kingdom of the State as God is present already, though not yet with irresistible power, and we must enter it via trials and tribulations.
The Master Central Planner already knows the most, even if it does not yet know it all. But keep watch and be ready, for the State God will soar from the abyss and into the clouds, even with great data. Throughout the realm, cameras track your every move, computers trace your every step — even as you type your tweets, flick your photos, and send your mails. In the past, prophets spoke as they were moved; today, Google and Facebook speak as the algorithm is tweaked. Ready or not, you and your dearest are being watched, and all your private data is uploaded to the clouds of data. The State as God already knows most about you, but humans know only in part; when the State God comes, mark it down, then the earth dwellers shall know as they are known.
If all this feels a bit intrusive, not quite producing the right kind of devotional fear, then fear not, for re-education camps is a most powerful ally. Subjects can be transformed through the renewing of their minds as every public school and every public university provide re-education opportunities — freely you have been given, freely you must give, so fees must fall. Surely, the old dogma cannot possibly stem the tide of a five-day program of State as God teaching. From their minds even five-year old children are expelling individualism, loyalty to the family, patriotism and such old wineskins. The fear of the State as God, someone once said, is the beginning of knowledge, and of wisdom.
But such wisdom, it must be said all over and again, is increasingly global. The international child of the future pledges allegiance not to a specific country, but to the planet; it learns not its own culture, but the multi-culture of the State as God; it swims not in the local river, but baths in the vicissitudes of Mother Earth. In the kingdom of the State as God, American exceptionalism is just as relative as British, South African or Greek exceptionalism; never say that one culture is better than another, the myth of religious neutrality notwithstanding. Anathematize allegiances to the founding fathers, ban expressions of national culture, sign off on the Gaia hypothesis and sign on to the Paris Accord. The mystery is already at work, and who will restrain its global reach?
Will the State as God be restrained by a local constitution here or a national bill of rights there? Not if Nimrod is your type, for the first king of Babylon gathered his children like a hen gathers her chicks, instead of filling the earth as the Noahic covenant said. In days of old, the Suzerain and the vassal cut a covenant, uttered an oath, and meant every word they said. But today, the meaning of any constitution or bill of rights can hardly be said to be in the text, for the State as God finds that a tad too restrictive. Meaning may now be above the text, behind it, above it or, better yet, meaning may be in front of the text, as more and more judges suddenly surmise. Recently the Last Emperor of the Free State declared, ex cathedra no less, that the ‘constitution can never be cast in stone, it must be a flexible instrument to serve the needs and advancement of the people.’ But if he is your type, Pharaoh will neither let the people advance nor serve their needs. Hermeneutical subtleties will not restrain the State as God, for even the most authoritative legal texts can be reinterpreted, spiritualised, or transformed into the mysterious ways of the new order.
Constitutionalists used to think that the structure of power must be dispersed, with checks and balances upon those in legislative, judicial and executive branches of government — and on government itself. Having ignored the consequences of the Fall as deeming humans to be unfallen goodness itself, the State as God tarries, but only briefly, as it nears the river. Julius Caesar’s crossing the Rubicon river precipitated the Roman civil war, ultimately led to Caesar becoming dictator for life, and giving rise to imperial Rome. Absent any restraints, as the State God advances the ‘I will’ agenda, one government will cease to exist, and another will begin. ‘Once power is centralized in one person, or one part [of government]’, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said, ‘a Bill of Rights is just words on paper.’
The State as God wants to be recognised as omnipresent. Its laws and edicts are to be administered in your house, to your children, in your marriage, in your local congregation, yes, obeyed in every nook of every civil cranny. Parents are not authorised to spank their children, old proverbs to the contrary. Proofs of design notwithstanding, marriages are authorised along each letter of the alphabet. National borders must go, and so too national languages, cultures, governments, national currencies too. Arising from the earth, and performing great signs, the apostle to the world wants everyone to say that in the State God we live and move and have our being. You can hardly run away from these laws, and you cannot hide. When the Matthean parable is reinterpreted, surely the State as God will gather the ninety-nine to hound the one lost sheep, from the congregation to the bedroom to the nursery, yes, in every nook of every civil cranny. In the kingdom of the State as God, the local and national are already morphing into the regional, and even though it has not yet transformed the regional into the global, soon and very soon, the State God will paper that over, too.
A few eschatological details, however, are still outstanding, two mysteries must yet be fulfilled. In the ‘already’-phase of the kingdom, once all class distinctions have been erased, then the State as God will see a sacrifice. Everyone is still waiting, and waiting, for Marx’s Lenin, Stalin or any tin-pot despot to voluntarily remove himself from the scene, a martyr for the cause. But in the eschaton, the last king of Babylon will be mortally wounded, yet his deadly wound will be healed; he is of the seven, but also an eighth; he is number eleven, but also the eighth. May you not be among those who will wonder, ‘Who is like the State God?’, or say, ‘Who can fight the authority of this rebel and his cause?’ When the ‘but-not-yet’-phase of this kingdom has finally arrived, the State as God will be manifested in the flesh: The State God. The mystery of lawlessness is already at work, but even if someone were to come up out of the abyss, half-man-half-Satan, its authority will be crushed. For there is only one true Sovereign, and it is impossible to pin his Authority down.
The author of this article, Jacob J. Scholtz, is an investment professional (CA[SA]; CFA Charter) and a Research Fellow at the Stellenbosch University, Faculty of Theology (Discipline Group: Old and New Testament). Jaco is the author of God se Raadsplan in Christus.
Thanks to photographer Rafael Nir for sharing his work on Unsplash.
- Andrew M. Woods, 2014, ‘World Government on the Horizon’. I made frequent use of Woods’ presentation.
- See also Cox, H., 1999, ‘The Market as God’, The Atlantic. I am indebted to the structure of Cox’s argument.
- In the ‘already’-phase of the kingdom, the reference will be ‘the State as God’, and in its fully consummated phase the reference will be ‘the State God’.