The Political Theory of Christ
And Its Creation of Our World
By Jefferson White
382 pages, 2015
Does Christ teach a theory of politics?
Everyone agrees that Christ teaches about the relationship of the believer to politics, but almost no one believes that He teaches a particular theory of politics.
However, it is the argument of this book that Christ’s political teaching entails a complete theory of politics. That theory can be found both within the teaching itself and in the radical impact of that teaching on the political history of the West.
The radical distinction that Christ established between the authority of God and the authority of Caesar reveals that God’s authority is completely independent of the authority of the state. Through His resurrection, Christ introduced that radical “separation of powers” into the Western world. Every believer in Christ would now live a spiritual life that was independent of the power of the state. This was why pagan Rome could not tolerate the Church, since Rome claimed a spiritual authority that subordinated every “private religion” to the state religion of Romanitas. It was the Christian refusal of this spiritual subordination that which made a spiritual, and political, war between Rome and the church inevitable. That spiritual war ended with the political triumph of the Christian faith.
For a thousand years after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the primary political conflict in the West would be between the church and the state. Throughout this long era, the radical separation of powers created through Christ’s teaching was the primary political reality of the West. Multiple, de-centralized institutions of authority emerged, both between the church and the state, but also within both church and state. The Reformation only energized this deepening separation of political and spiritual powers, which was the primary political reality of the West.
The rise of modern constitutionalism marked the attempted secularization of this process. This secular revolution reached its pinnacle in the creation of the American Constitution. For that Constitution established, not just a separation of powers among the three branches of government, but also a separation of powers between the national and state governments. Even more radically, the American conception of religious freedom created a separation of powers among persons, because the individual as such now became the only religious authority in society.
Here was the most radical separation of powers of them all, because it meant that society would now be organized from the religious beliefs of the individual outward. In the nineteenth century, a uniquely American social order was created that was by private associations of Americans based upon their individual beliefs. Because religious belief was now personal, American social organization became both voluntary and consensual.
But in the twentieth century, this American political experiment in constitutionalism went into radical decline. After 1932, the separation of powers between the national and state governments was essentially abolished. By the fifties and sixties, the separation of powers among the three branches of the national government was also essentially abolished. An administrative state now arose that united all three separated powers. The national bureaucracies now enacted their own laws, enforced their own laws, and adjudicated their own laws as a unitary form of government.
The American understanding of religious freedom was abolished. The national courts now declared that America was a “non-religious” society and that this constituted the real meaning of individual religious freedom. However, since there are no societies that are “non-religious,” what this meant was that there was now to be a new established religion - progressivism - enforced through the power of the state.
The Political Theory of Christ is the first book-length attempt to understand Christ’s political teaching as a complete theory of politics. It reveals the nature of that theory through an historical recounting of the radical effects of that teaching on the political history of the West and upon American political history.
The book ends on an optimistic note by predicting the coming overthrow of the crypto-theocracy called progressivism through the coming creation of an even deeper separation of powers.