Socialism, Part 2: Why Big Government is Idolatry
This is the second installment of a three-part series on Socialism, Big Government and Unbelief. See Part 1 here.
God’s Intended Condition for Man
The great political debate between the proponents of more vs. less government usually overlooks the Bible’s clear teaching that liberty is not only inherently desirable, it is God’s intended condition for the government of His creation. Man was not created to be governed, but to exercise dominion and responsibility, to be fruitful and multiply, to build, create wealth, and practice stewardship, to minister to the poor and needy, and to raise up new generations in the fear and admonition of the Lord. Liberty is the intrinsic acknowledgment of these purposes and of the existence and operation of God’s providential government. Liberty acknowledges the sovereignty of God by acknowledging the dignity of man as created in His image.
Big government has simply never been part of God’s plan for His creation (except perhaps as an instrument of judgment). Man was intended to live in the fear of the Lord, not in the fear of the state. He was not created in God’s sovereign image to be regulated, taxed and indebted by the state. Neither was he created to be educated, fed, subsidized or corrupted by it.
Big government and liberty are antithetical. They cannot coexist. One can flourish only at the expense of the other. This must always be the case as the evolutionary, humanistic worldview that drives the growth of big government is inherently hostile, not only to liberty, but also to the God who gave us liberty.
The Deliberate Dethroning of God
The roots of socialist philosophy go much deeper than a misguided philanthropy wielded by controlling politicians who cannot seem to distinguish between society and the state. Socialism represents the deliberate, systematic, and progressive dethroning of God and Christ from our political, social and legal institutions. It is autonomous, unbelieving man’s rejection of God’s providential rule.
Socialism assaults human dignity by reducing man to the by-product of his physical and economic environment and declaring him (God’s image bearer!) incapable of governing his own affairs, of bettering his condition, and of helping his neighbor without the intervention of the paternalistic state. It usurps or displaces the moral, educational, charitable, and governmental functions of God-ordained social institutions such as the family and the church. By assaulting the dignity of God’s image bearer as well as His social order, socialism represents an assault on God Himself.
Who or what is more worthy of our allegiance?
Socialism declares the state (collective man) to be more worthy of human allegiance than God. Whether through burdensome taxation and income redistribution, through secular public education and values redefinition, through no-fault divorce and redefinition of the marriage covenant, or through licensing and regulation of business, wages and labor relations, in most everything it does the socialist state arrogantly and presumptuously declares itself more worthy, more competent, and more authoritative than God Himself.
Socialism, big government and other forms of collectivism are idolatry because they ascribe to the state God’s mantle of Judge, Lawgiver and King. They deify the state, elevating it to the central figure of human existence. Like the forbidden fruit and the Tower of Babel, big government is symbolic of unregenerate man’s inherent, ongoing rebellion against God’s providential rule.
Israel’s Vote for Big Government
The Israelites began their experiment with big government when they asked Samuel for a king (I Sam. 8). As had been their pattern, they were fearful of their enemies and envious of other nations. And they had grown weary of the personal responsibilities associated with liberty under God. They had determined that a human governor would be a better choice for them—better than liberty under God.
By demanding a king, the Israelites chose security (or their perception of it) over liberty. They endorsed centralization over God’s decentralized design. Having a king would mean increased bureaucracy, taxation, and regulation. It would mean increased vulnerability to the influence of fallible human rulers whose foolish and idolatrous choices would more often than not bring God’s judgment on the whole nation. Installing a human king also meant sacrificing their unique purpose and opportunity to model the blessings of liberty and nationhood under God for the benefit of all the peoples of the earth. A human king was not part of God’s design.
Israel Chose Statism over Freedom
“But the thing displeased Samuel….and Samuel prayed to the Lord. And the Lord said unto Samuel…they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them” (I Sam. 8:6,7).
The Israelites were explicitly warned that seeking security in a human king meant rejecting God as their King. They were warned that their demands were wicked and idolatrous and amounted to going after other gods. They were warned that their human king would be oppressive, that he would tax them heavily and take their best lands to support his bureaucracy and military establishment. They were told, “ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the lord will not hear you in that day” (I Sam. 8:18).
Incredibly, they only reaffirmed their demand for a king: “That we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles” (I Sam. 8:20). Rejecting God’s counsel, they exchanged their unique opportunity for self-government under God for the imagined security of human overseers. They had become enamored with big government and were willing to throw away their liberty to get it.
America Has Set up Her Own King: The State
In the same self-destructive pattern, America has rejected liberty under God and desired a king. We have spent decades progressively setting up our own king, our great socialistic king. We have asked him to judge us—by substituting man’s values for God’s; we have asked him to provide for us and educate us through cradle-to-grave welfare, healthcare, and government schools; we have asked him to fight our battles: by relieving us of our personal responsibilities, our moral obligations to neighbors and families, our bankruptcies, and our unwanted spouses and children.
America has envied the secular humanistic nations, desiring their centralized government programs, their humanistic values systems, and their Enlightenment philosophies. Many even envy their high levels of taxation as if those represented some positive measure of societal progress and not a judgment of God. Our desire for liberty has waned as our desire for security has waxed. We demand social security, employment security, financial security, retirement security, health security, and educational security. We desire security from disaster, terrorism, recession, overproduction, overspending, accidental injury and every conceivable form of risk. We expect government compensation for all the costs of living in a fallen and imperfect world.
Like Israel, only much more so, we have lusted after the idol of big government.
The Cost of Embracing the State as King
Our idolatry has come with a cost. Removing God’s counsel from politics leaves a big hole. The resulting political and moral vacuum is boundless. Government is asked to do much more that it was intended or designed to do. Man tries to fill the gap with myriad laws and regulations, millions of incomprehensible pages.
In freeing himself from God’s rule, man enslaves himself to bureaucracies, taxation and waste, lawyers and litigation, politicians, gridlock and endless political campaigning, and of course to debt—debt of unimaginable proportions. Someone has to pay for it all. But since socialism entails the rejection of personal responsibility, that problem is deferred to future generations in a grand immoral Ponzi scheme where “taxation without representation” is still alive and well.
Man’s idolatrous affinity for big government is an incremental disease. A little leads to more. Subsidies, regulation and intervention breed dependence and generate demand for more subsidies, regulation and intervention. Like an addictive drug, the more one uses, the more one needs. Thousands of special interests spring up to consume the available resources and to procure special government favor, giving rise to a user culture and converting the state into an instrument of legal plunder. Unfortunately the side effects are often delayed to the point that it is too late to turn back. Big government results in a weaker, more dependent society, ever more willing to trade its dwindling liberty for the perceived security of its primary benefactor, the state.
Just as reliance on inorganic fertilizers destroys the natural web of organic life which sustains the soil’s health and productivity, so socialism strips society of its natural structure, function and productivity. Big government creates dysfunction by undermining the health and natural function of the family, the church, the community, private charitable institutions, businesses, health care ministries, and so on. As its social institutions atrophy, society loses its natural ability to function and sustain itself.
As the Israelites learned, rejecting liberty under God comes with a heavy cost.
Our idolatrous love affair with big government has enslaved us to debt and earned us the title of world’s greatest debtor nation. The people no longer comprehend a life of liberty without government programs. Our national security is now threatened, as we have been rendered incapable of sustaining the cost of fighting even another regional military conflict. The social costs of our culture of dependence, addiction and fornication are immeasurable. Jefferson’s admonition that “those who would trade liberty for security deserve neither and will lose both” is realized. At this point, with no end to the growth of debt and government in sight, it must be asked whether Americans can still be considered a self-governing people.
The judgments for idolatry are real and unavoidable, and are written indelibly into the laws of nature. It’s not as though Americans haven’t been warned.
“And now that the legislators and do-gooders have so futilely inflicted so many systems upon society, may they finally end where they should have begun: May they reject all systems and try liberty; for liberty is an acknowledgement of faith in God and His works.” Frederick Bastiat –The Law, 1850
“But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. 26 But it shall not be so among you“ (Matthew 20:25-28, KJV).
“…..where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Corinthians 3:17).
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