The Lawless State, the Impotent Church
Contrary to George Bush whose recent presidental campaign was characterized by a most inhabitual strongly conservative Christian stance, Mrs. Thatcher's Declaration of Faith before the divines of the Church of Scotland cannot be considered as catering to a potential electoral Constituency. In fact, from what I have read as to Christian responses to her speech, her unambiguous position would no doubt be electorally counter-productive. And even if 82% of British Evangelicals did vote for her, as was recently the case with President-Elect Bush, in the present dechristianised state of Great Britain this would not amount to much electorally. The strength of Mrs. Thatcher's Christian convictions was recently echoed in the passing through Parliament of an amendment to the Education Act, re-affirming the specifically Christian character of British state education as against those who favored a more syncretistic approach to the teaching of religion in schools. It is very significant that in this case she received more support from the Jewish and Moslem communities, who saw in the maintenance of a strong Christian position in state schools a guarantee that their own children Would also be encouraged to take their own faith more seriously, than from representatives of the established churches.
The various responses to Mrs Thatcher's speech bear ample witness to the deplorable moral state of the United Kingdom. None seem to see any kind of responsibility in the unfaithfulness of the churches. The argument seems to go as follows: the social environment is bad and produces worse results. It is time the government took the steps necessary to change the environment. If this were done things would undoubtedly take a turn for the better. I would humbly suggest that here Mrs. Thatcher holds a far more Biblical theology than those who contradict her.
From what I could understand of her speech, it would seem that Mrs Thatcher is quite aware of the impotence, in the lost resort, of The state and manifests, in this respect, a spiritual and theological maturity far above that of her contradicters It would appear that this awareness of the impotence of the state as a creative, a life-giving force. is clearly implicit in everything she said, and that it was this sense of her incapacity as a politician confronted by social problems for which the state has no answer which led the Prime Minister to address a special appeal to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and, through this august body, to the Christian church as a whole in Great Britain. For Mrs. Thatcher seems keenly aware that t is only through the faithfulness of the church to her unique task that. through Christ, life and health can be brought to a dead and rotting society. For the Prime Minister the renewal of Christian values, of Christian character, of love for one's neighbor and of a sense of service to the community must be restored. But the state is totally incompetent in a these tasks, tasks which only the church can achieve if it is faithful to the written and living Word of God. It is indeed very striking that, without exception, all those who responded to Mrs. Thatcher's speech look exclusively to the action of the State for renewal, as if the church itself, to all intents and purposes, was in fact dead.
We may well now ask: What, then, is the proper business of the State? What is one to think of a nation (I have in mind my own country, Switzerland) where every article of God's Law is broken with the implicit. and often explicit, approval of The State holding in its hands, instead of the ministry of the sword, wreaking God's vengeance upon evil-doers, a trembling antinomian justice at the beck and call of the mob mentality of our media. Murder is rife and unpunished, For two births in Calvin's Geneva we have one abortion.
In Lausanne the figures stand at three to one. False witness, unpunished calumny, destruction of personalities and reputations and careers is the daily fare of our media. Every kind of occultism is rampant and unpunished. The State itself has adopted the welfare principle of loving one's neighbor with other people's money. Adultery and theft of all kinds are common practice. Advertisements everywhere incite our citizens to break God's holy Law. God's name is everywhere blasphemed and, worst of all, God's church, both State and Evangelical, remains silent. According to Scripture and to the overwhelming unanimous witness of the church throughout the ages (our present opinions of this question bear little weight when compared to the past teaching of all the churches) the chief duty at the state, of God's servant, the magistracy, is to suppress such abominations which pollute our land. But our judges will not even apply the existing statues, replacing them by an arbitrary jurisprudence meekly following public opinion as defined by that most corrupt element of our society now transformed into the censor of the good, our journalists. Is it then surprising that God's judgment is on our nation?
Let us consider some facts relating to Switzerland; the highest AIDS rate in Europe; the highest suicide rate; extremely high abortion and divorce rates; a frightening and constant growth in the number of deaths from drug abuse; a birth-rate far below what is required for the reproduction of the present generation; etc. It is only too clear that before very long the Swiss nation will have disappeared from the face of the earth. For the wages of Sin is death, both physically and spiritually, both collectively and culturally. And who could say that our present situation in Switzerland has no relation to what is happening today in the rest of Europe?
But there is more. The responses (to Mrs. Thatcher's speech) witness to a unanimous defense of the Welfare State, more appropriately called in French, I' État Providence, the Providential State, Of course such a vision of the overweening function of the state hearkens strangely back to the theories of Thomas Hobbes which have become part and parcel of our modern democratic absolutism, Even Mrs, Thatcher is, in This respect, far more socialist even than her predecessors, The modern Hegelian Providential State reproduces many of the characteristics of the divine monarchies of antiquity. Such Empires, where force was right (i e. total unlimited parliamentary sovereignty without the restraining hand of a higher Law or of a justice ontologically rooted in reality), is described in Scripture by the word BEAST. The Roman empire was of this character and biblical prophecy tells us of the latter day revival of such bestial power. It has been revived in modern times by The development of a so-called scientific" political theory radically separated from the absolute more values of God's commandments, and the gradual domination of a positivistic conception of legislated law ontologically independent of any kind of justice, any kind of sense of the importance of a fundamentally unchangeable created order. This amoral and idealistic political and legal tradition, which today has in fact been incorporated into the constitutional and juridical structures of virtually all the nations, makes t at present in fact impossible adequately to relate in an organic fashion a persona. Christian faith in the over-arching sovereignty of God's law over all creation to our political and legal institutions. Such a situation can only, in the long run, lead to the institutionalization of the worst injustices and the constitutional justification of the most appalling abuses. We already see frightening examples of this, to take but two obvious examples, with regard to abortion and the manipulation of nascent human life.
The wishes of [Mrs. Thatcher's) contradicters to see the solutions to the nation's problems come from Westminster show that they are themselves even more deeply embedded than the Prime Minister in the tradition of worshiping the Leviathan, in looking to the initiatives of the centralized state for solutions to society's problems.
"And they worshiped the dragon which gave power unto the Beast: and they worshiped the Beast, saying, "Who is like unto the Beast? Who is able to make war with him?" Revelation 13:3
It is clear that there can today be no satisfactory answer to the overweening powers of the state apart from the proper restoration to the nation of the Christian character of its people. Only such a spiritual transformation will restore to the country the true form of self-government: the self-government of men and women in the first place responsible for their actions before God and, as a result, capable of resisting the monolithic power of the modern state because they know their just actions to be backed by the authority of God Almighty Himself, Furthermore, there can be no reduction to its proper size of the abusive Welfare Paternal State without the re-establishment of that other aspect of Christian self-government, a full-fledged Christian charity of which men like Thomas Chalmers or William Booth showed so clearly the feasibility. Of course such action must go hand in hone with the restoration of Christian dedication and giving. But such manly resistance to the modern Leviathan, such charitable action in favor of the sick, the poor, those in need of a true education, can only come from the restoration to the church of the pure and full-fIedged preaching of the Word of God.
May the church thus return once again to its true vocation, that of sanctifying before the nation the name of the most Holy God, of preaching the Word of Gad in its integrity cleansing itself from all doctrinal and moral impurity, and of manifesting, in the most concrete fashion, God's love to desperately needy modern men and women.
Editor's Note: Jean-Marc Berthoud is the editor of Resister et Construire, a Bulletin of information, combat and Christian reconstruction. This fine quarterly journal is published in French in Lausanne, Switzerrand. For further information, write to Jean-Marc Berthoud, Resister et Construire, Case postale 468 CH 1001 Lausanne, Switzerland.