By Jefferson White
Does Christ teach a political theory?
Almost everyone agrees that Christ teaches about the relationship of the believer to politics. But almost no one believes that this teaching represents a theory of politics.
But it is the argument of this book that Christ’s political teaching entails a complete political theory. The theory is found both within the teaching itself and in the radical impact of that teaching upon the political history of the West.
The radical distinction that Christ establishes between the authority of God and the authority of Caesar is the key to that theory. This is because Christ teaches that God’s authority is independent of the state’s authority. And by His resurrection, Christ introduced this radical “separation of powers” into the politics of the Western world.
All believers in Christ would now live a spiritual life that was completely independent of the power of the state. Pagan Rome could never tolerate this belief, because Rome itself was a spiritual authority that subordinated every “private religion” to the state religion that was Romanitas. The Christian refusal of this spiritual subordination made a spiritual - and political - war to the death with the Roman state inevitable.
And this is why, for a thousand years after the fall of the western empire, the primary political conflict in the West would be between church and state. Throughout this long era, the radical “separation of powers” that was created by Christ’s teaching became the West’s primary political reality. De-centralized institutions of competing authorities emerged, not just between church and state, but within both the church and the state. The Protestant Reformation only energized this deepening separation of powers.
The rise of modern constitutional government marked an attempted secularization of this process. That secular revolution reached its pinnacle with the creation of the American Constitution. For core organization of American government was not only a separation of powers among three branches of government, but also on a separation of powers between the national and state governments. Even more radically, the American conception of religious freedom created a separation of powers in which the individual as such now became the only legitimate religious authority in society.
This was the most radical separation of powers of them all, since it meant that American society was to be organized according to the individual beliefs of those who made up that society. During the nineteenth century, a new kind of society was created in which private associations of individuals would organize society according to their personal religious beliefs.
During the twentieth century, however, the American political experiment went into radical decline. After 1932, the separation of powers between the national and state governments was, in essence, abolished. But the separation of powers among the three branches of the national government was also, in essence, now abolished. An American national state arose that would effectively unite all of the constitutionally separated powers of government. The great bureaucracies now created their own laws, enforced their own laws, and adjudicated their own laws as if the Constitution had established a unitary form of government.
The American conception of religious freedom was also abolished. In the middle of the twentieth century, the national courts declared that America was a “non-religious” society and that this was the true meaning of American religious freedom. However, since there can be no society that is “non-religious,” what this actually meant was the establishment of a crypto-theocracy – progressivism – as the new established religion of America.
The Political Theory of Christ is unique in that it is the first real attempt to treat Christ’s political teaching as a complete theory of politics. And it does this by providing an historical overview of how Christ’s teaching radically shaped the political history of the West, including American political history. It also analyses the collapse of the American political experiment and the return of a unitary, or pagan, conception of government in our time.
The book concludes by predicting the coming collapse of that unitary state through the coming creation of an even deeper separation of powers.