The Statist Face of Humanism

Robert L. Waggoner[1]

Statism is the belief that the state (i.e. civil government in whatever form) is the highest and final standard of authority for all human conduct, whether individual or collective. Like materialism, statism is an extension of naturalism. Two basic concepts within naturalism determine the nature of the humanistic state. One relates to law, the other relates to the nature of man. Regarding law, naturalism contends that all things happen or evolve by chance or accident. This means that there is no absolute law, nor is there a divine Lawgiver. All laws are relative, their merits being determined by contemporary rulers. Regarding the nature of man, naturalism contends that man is basically good, and that by knowledge man can direct himself and his society toward self-sufficiency.

The assumption (first set forth by Aristotle) is that “the state is a creation of nature, and that man is by nature a political animal.”[2] This implies that man is a creation of the state, and therefore accountable to the state. The Christian perspective, on the other hand, sees man as made by God in the image of God, and therefore accountable to God. If nature is all there is, if the state is a creation of nature, and if man is a political animal, then the state, not God, is sovereign, and man has no appeal beyond the law of the state, and no source of ethics apart from the state. Moreover, the state, regardless of its governmental form – whether monarchy, democracy, or oligarchy – becomes socialistic and totalitarian. In essence, the state becomes the god of the people.

The rapid growth of the federal government seems to imply that Americans, for the most part – presuming that the growth of civil government in recent years is by consent of the people – believe that the federal government has legitimate authority to do whatever it chooses, whenever, and however it chooses. By acquiescence of its citizens, the United States government has become, in fact, the god of the people. As long as civil government in America operated primarily by Christian principles, state regulatory agencies were very limited. However, the assumption that the state has unlimited authority has now risen sharply, (even among most theists) because humanism has rapidly replaced Christianity as the philosophical foundation upon which our civil governments operate.

Is The State All Powerful?

Humanism assumes that the state is all-powerful and that civil governments must resolve society’s problems. Therefore humanism assumes that there is no area of human concern and activity which should not be regulated by civil government. This includes all religions, ethics, morality, education, technology, economics, medicine, culture, and individual lifestyles and choices concerning family, marriage, divorce, sex birth, death, etc. The purpose and program of humanism is to evaluate, transform, control, and direct all associations and institutions.[3] The state is the means by which such is accomplished – however, whenever, wherever, and in whatever areas the state may choose. On the other hand, biblical Christianity declares that civil governments have only limited authority. Jesus implied that some things do not belong to the state when he said, “render . . . to God the things that are God’s” (Luke 20:25). Since Jesus also said, “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” (Matthew 22:21), the question arises, What are the things which belong to Caesar?

How can we know what authority God has delegated to Caesar? The same way we commonly understand all other authorizations. If a mother sends her son to the grocery store with instructions to buy a loaf of bread and a quart of milk, then that is what he is authorized to buy. If he returns with a bag of donuts and a carton of Cokes, then he has purchased items that she had not authorized. Likewise, whenever the Bible declares specific responsibilities for the state, then that is what God has authorized. Whenever the state functions in areas and ways God has not specified, then the state has no God-given authorization for such. For Christians, the authority of the state is derived from God, from which comes all authority (Romans 13:1). Now the question is “What responsibilities has God assigned to the state?”

According to the Bible, the state is God’s servant, “an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrong doer” (Romans 13:4). Civil authorities act as ministers of God “to punish those who do wrong, and to commend those who do right” (1 Peter 2:14). The primary responsibility that God has delegated to the state can be summarized in on word – JUSTICE. The administration of justice, (or righteousness, another word that means essentially the same thing), requires that civil authorities keep the peace and maintain orderliness in society. That is why Christians are to pray for their rulers, - “that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Timothy 2:1-2).

The administration of justice (i.e. righteousness) “is also why you pay taxes” (Romans 13:7). Jesus indicated the right of the state to tax its citizens when he said, “render to Caesar the things that are Caesars.” However, inasmuch as the administration of justice is the only biblically authorized function of civil governments, it then follows that justice is also the only biblically authorized purpose of taxes. All taxes imposed upon citizens that are not to be used for the purposes of administering God’s righteousness are unjust taxes.

Christians and humanists will disagree on the definition and nature of justice because of their differing worldviews. However, for Christians, justice must be based upon the nature and character of God, as revealed by Scripture, rather than upon the presuppositions of humanism. Justice includes many things. The legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government are all needed in the administration of justice. All existing government structures, activities, or taxes that may be inferred as essential for justice must be considered as authorized by God. In whatever God has authorized, Christians must submit to civil authorities. Conversely, all existing government structures activities, or taxes that are not essential for justice must be considered as not authorized by God.

According to scripture, God has assigned some responsibilities to individuals, some to the family, some to the church, and some to the state. All government, whether self-government, family government, church government, or civil government, derives its authority from God through Jesus Christ (Isaiah 9:6-7; Hebrews 1:3; Colossians 1:16-17; Matthew 28:18). God has not delegated to civil governments, as humanists would impose, unlimited regulatory authority over individuals, families, and churches. God grants to the state regulatory control over individuals, families, and churches only those matters related to the administration of justice or righteousness.

Some may object that limiting civil government to the administration of justice is too confining. They may argue that since Romans 13:4 declares that the ruler is God’s servant “for good”, then whatever government actions as may be characterized “for good” are authorized by God. However, that argument fails to consider the context and reads into the text something it does not say. The context is about how Christians are to treat those who have wronged them. They are not to render evil for evil (Romans 12:17). They should leave vengeance to the Lord (12:19), and they should themselves return good for evil (12:20-21). God has given authority to the rulers to punish those who do wrong (13:1-4). The implication is that if you return evil for evil, then you are also subject to the wrath of ruling authorities for the evil you do (13:4).

The apostle Paul then instructs Christians regarding their attitudes toward civil authorities. In much the same way, parents today often admonish their small children. A parent might say, “You should fear the power of the police. If you do wrong, the police will come get you and put you in jail. However, if you do right, then the police will not bother you. Instead, they will praise you for the good you do. The police are really here to help you, not to harm you. Police help people by protecting them, by keeping peace and order, and by keeping bad people away from us.” When a parent says that the police are here “to help,” he does not mean that the role of police may be anything that is characterized as helpful. Rather, the way the police are helpful relates specifically to their role as policemen. In like manner, the phrase “for good” in Romans 13:4 relates specifically to the responsibility of rulers to administer justice.

Is The State Your Savior?

In addition to presuming that the state is all-powerful, many act as though they think the state is their savior. We may be hard pressed to find citizens openly declaring that the state is God, but it is not difficult to find people advocating state action and authority that can be inferred only from such assumption, however unconscious it may be. For many, the state is the only savior of mankind. “The state, for these devotees, is messianic in all its essentials, and their politics are directed toward religious ends. The state will provide for us whatever prosperity could not, because it has replaced God. In the hands of the theologians of political redemption, therefore, the state is an idol.”[4]

If the state is to obtain and maintain extensive powers over its freedom loving citizens, then it must use the language of survival. The problems of society must be portrayed as those of crises from which only the state can deliver. The documents of humanism employ many statements of crises and survival.[5] The purpose of survival language is to seduce humanity into trusting the humanistic state for solutions to all human problems. When people turn to the state rather than to God for solutions to cultural problems, they then forfeit their freedoms. Freedom comes only by fulfilling God-given responsibilities. However, God did not intend for the state to be the savior of man. God is our savior (1 Timothy 4:10; Titus 3:4- 6). Whenever Christians trust the state for solutions, then Christians reject the word of God. Christians must trust in God (Proverbs 3:5-6; Hebrews 11:6), not in civil governments.

Since humanism seeks to save mankind, it promotes laws that are not designed for justice or righteousness, but for salvation. In humanism, salvation does not mean deliverance from guilt and the eternal consequences of sin, as it does in Christianity. Rather, in humanism, salvation means the removal of existing inequalities. In humanism, discrimination, not sin, is the great evil that must be overcome. The second Humanist Manifesto declares that “[t]he principle of moral equality must be furthered through elimination of all discrimination based upon race, religion, sex, age, or national origin. This means equality of opportunity. . . . Individuals should be encourages to contribute to their own betterment. If unable, then society should provide means to satisfy their basic economic, health, and cultural needs, including, wherever resources make possible, a minimum guaranteed annual income. . . . We believe in equal rights for both men and women to fulfill their unique careers and potentialities as they see fit, free of invidious discrimination”[6] This has anti-Christian implications for morality, economics, social welfare, education, and the home. By the humanistic “principle of moral equality,” humanism, through the authority of the state, takes from individuals, families, and churches, many of their God-given responsibilities and resources and gives those functions and assets largely to the state.

In order for the state to achieve the egalitarian objectives of humanism, it must take resources from those individuals who have in order to give to those who have not. This is done by taxation. From a Christian moral perspective, however, the humanistic “principle of moral equality” is itself immoral! It is not the same thing as biblical justice or righteousness. Therefore, taxation for “the principle of moral equality” is stealing! It is immoral and unjust! The humanistic “principle of moral equality” causes the state to act unrighteously.

The idea that the state has the authority to tax its citizens as it will is based on the false premise that all economic resources of its citizens belong essentially to the state. Whatever is not taken from individuals through taxes, the state graciously allows its citizens to keep for themselves. However, the earth’s resources do not belong to the state. “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof” (Psalms 24:1). Human ownership of property is really stewardship to God, not to the state. The state has no biblical right to tax its citizens for anything but the administration of righteousness. Families are often unable to control their own properties, however, because the state usurps to itself the power to tax for whatever reasons it chooses, and for however much it chooses. In so doing, the state usurps to itself the power to confiscate, control, and in other ways to play god over property it does not rightfully own.

Is The State Your Father?

With confiscated economic resources at its disposal, the omnipotent state sets about, as savior to meet the needs of its citizens. It dispenses with wealth wherever it wills, like a benevolent father to his children. The state presumes, with its welfare checks, to care for the poor, whether unwed mothers, children, or the elderly. It also furnishes medical services and social security benefits to the elderly. When the omnipotent welfare state provides for its citizens like a loving father, and saves them from their economic plight, it is then only natural for its recipients to look to the state as its father and constant benefactor. However, Jesus said, “Call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven” (Matthew 23:9). God intends that man should look to him for provisions, not to the state.

A father is not only one who provides for his children, but also one who instructs, guides and counsels them. The role of education has been delegated y God to the family, the father being primarily responsible (Ephesians 6:4). However, the state has now claimed, by compulsory public education laws, primary responsibility for the education of children. It is not an uncommon experience for Christian parents to find themselves opposed by the state whenever they wish to teach their own children at home rather than through public schools. The public education system now promoted by the state is controlled by the values of humanism. Humanism rejects Christian morality. Through government schools, humanism tries to by-pass Christian parental values. State schools, at all levels, constitute the primary vehicle used by which humanists indoctrinate America’s youth with humanism.

All this naturally brings much hardship and heartache to the Christian family. Because our civil governments are no longer operating on Christian principles, families are robbed through excessive taxation. Children are robbed of their mothers who have entered the work force to help pay family expenses. Since the state provides social security benefits to the elderly, adult children generally relinquish financial and other support of their aging parents. No fault divorce laws permit massive marriage failures – leaving young mothers with children in poverty conditions. Abortions terminate a third of all pregnancies in America. Children of Christian parents often depart form Christian values, breaking their parents’ hearts. Many Christian home are deteriorating. “With the rise of modern statism, the family has ceased to be a safety zone of freedom because many of the basic functions of the family have been subsumed by the modern state. The state has claimed vast areas which properly belong to the family.”[7]

Humanism, with its statist face, is now in control of civil governments in the United States. This has occurred because there has been a growing attitude for nearly two centuries that Christians should not participate in the functions of civil governments. Other than obedience to the laws of the land and perhaps voting for their favorite candidates, Christians now manifest very little responsibility for governing society. Non-Christians (or, at least Christians so secularized that their religion has no bearing on their politics) being in positions of power and operating by values contrary to the Bible, are effectively curtailing the social and moral strength of Christianity, in keeping with humanistic ideals.

What Should Christians Do?

Because American civil governments are “of the people” and “by the people”, Christians have opportunities to participate in the governing processes. However, participation in civil government by Christians is really no better than participation in civil government by humanists unless Christians insist upon biblical law as the foundation for all civil governance. Since all societies operate by moral codes that are based upon given systems of law, and since all laws are themselves based upon religious presuppositions, then it is needful that Christians work to establish all our laws and moral codes firmly upon the word of God.

The implementation of this objective will require that Christians not only participate in the political, judicial, legislative, and executive processes of civil governments, but also in the teaching of society to live by the word of God. The Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibiting the manufacture, sale and transportation of alcoholic beverages was consistent with the word of God. However people rejected it because they were not willing to live by the word of God in this matter. They repealed the Eighteenth Amendment thirteen years later.

If Christians will not act to implement the word of God as the foundation for civil government, and to curtail unauthorized roles our civil governments have usurped to themselves, then Christians will find themselves living in an increasingly rotting society as it decays and dies. Christians may also expect to see, within a very short time, a growing hatred of Christianity, until it erupts eventually into physical violent Christian persecution. If Christians desire to regain and then to retain their Christian freedoms, then Christians must first insist that the authority and role of civil governments are limited, in fact, to what is authorized by God in scripture. Moreover, Christians must then demand that all laws and policies of civil governments be executed by the precepts of God as contained in scripture.

[1]© Copyright by Robert L. Waggoner, 1988, Revised 2000. Permission is granted to reproduce and distribute this material without alteration for non-commercial educational purposes whenever copyright and authorship is indicated. All other rights reserved.

[2]Max Lerner, editor: Aristotle’s Politic Book 1, Chapter 2, p. 54. New York: Modern Library, 1943, as quoted from Rousas John Rushdoony, Christianity and The State. (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1986), 15.

[3]Humanist Manifesto I, Thirteenth.

[4]Herbert Schlossberg, Idols For Destruction: Christian Faith And Its Confrontation With American Society. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983), 179.

[5]A few examples are: “Humanity, to survive, requires bold and daring measures” (Humanist Manifesto II, Preface). “We need ... radically new human purposes and goals” (Humanist Manifesto II, First). “No deity will save us we must save ourselves” (Humanist Manifesto II, First). “The controlled use of scientific methods ... must be extended further in the solution of human problems” (Humanist Manifesto II, Fourth). “We are responsible for what we are or will be” (Humanist Manifesto II, Fourth). “We are responsible for what we are or will be” (Humanist Manifesto II, In Closing).  “It is the moral obligation of the developed nations to provide ...  massive , technical agricultural, medical, and economic assistance, including birth control techniques, to the developing portions of the globe” (Humanist Manifesto II, Fifteenth). “The problems that humankind will face in the future, as in the past, will no doubt be complex and difficult. However, if it is to prevail, it can only do so by enlisting resourcefulness and courage” (A Secular Humanist Declaration, Conclusion).

[6]Humanist Manifesto II, Eleventh.

[7]John W. Whitehead. The Stealing of America. (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1983), 88.