Statism is the philosophy or view that results when the state or government, in either self deception or vain conceit, claims to be the ultimate reality. Rather than mankind existing wholly dependent on God, the state becomes the ultimate reality by which everything, including our very existence, is defined. Thus, state becomes divine; government replaces God.
Of course statism is not a new philosophy, the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt and many in the Roman Empire claimed divine supremacy. According to Sproul, statism was manifested in the last century through Hitler’s Third Reich, Stalin’s Russia, and Chairman Mao’s communist China.
Surely the United States of America, a country founded on Judaeo-Christian principles and distinctions, would never succumb to or embrace the philosophy of statism, or would she? The founding fathers were careful to craft the distinctions between church and state, but their intent has been abused and abandoned. Their intent was to maintain governmental and ecclesiastical distinctions so that the church’s hierarchical structure did not govern the state nor would the state infringe upon the church. However, what has happened in the past few decades, again quoting Sproul “is the obfuscation of this original distinction between church and state, so that today the language we hear of separation of church and state, when carefully exegeted, communicates the idea of the separation of the state from God. In this sense, it’s not merely that the state declares independence from the church, it also declares independence from God and presumes itself to rule with autonomy.”
What does statism produce? The exponential growth of government, particularly the federal government, so that the government now virtually engulfs all of life. Where education was once under the direction of local authorities, it now is controlled and directed by federal legislation. The economy that once was driven by the natural forces of the market has now come under the strict control of the federal government, which not only regulates the economy, but considers itself responsible for controlling it. These examples may appear to be social and economic rather than religious, but at the very core it is religion, the religion of state that predicates these shifts in direction.
In his conclusion Sproul wrote “statism is the natural and ultimate enemy to Christianity because it involves a usurpation of the reign of God. In the final analysis, if statism prevails in America, it will mean not only the death of our religious freedom, but also the death of the state itself.”
So what is the answer? The answer is not found in barriers between church and state, either to maintain the purity of the church or the religious neutrality of the state. In fact, solutions directed to maintain the separation of church and state are on the entirely wrong field of play. The church and state for all practical purposes have been separated…but neither have been separated from the supreme rule of God. The answer, I believe, lies in the hands of the church to proclaim with authority the absolute supremacy of God over all of life; that nothing exists on its own, not even the state.