I’ve been studying church history a lot for the last two years especially. One major aspect of the story is how bad sponsorship by the state inevitably is for the church. This Sunday we were talking about the English Reformation, and one man said something to that effect, “Seems to me that one lesson to draw here is how bad it is when the church and state get intertwined with each other.” Very true.
Here’s a great quote from Madison on the subject:
“During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity, in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution. Enquire of the Teachers of Christianity for the ages in which it appeared in its greatest luster; those of every sect, point to the ages prior to its incorporation with Civil policy.”
(Ironically, I first heard this quote from an Atheist who deleted the phrase “the legal establishment of Christianity” and bracketed [Christianity] in its place, and didn’t include the last sentence, deceptively making it look like it was Christianity itself which had produced these results rather than its legal establishment.)
This is absolutely true. The more political power and connectedness the church gains in a particular society, the more anemic and spiritually powerless the faith becomes in that land over time. The start of a great train of ills in Roman Christianity began with Constantine, who made Christian clergy wealthy and influential overnight. When that happened, almost immediately the greatest power and vitality of Christianity shifted away from Rome, to Northern Europe, the British Isles, to North Africa. Western Christianity broke free of Imperial entanglements sooner than the East, not on purpose but because Rome in the west fell while it continued in the east for another thousand years. It was in the west where the church thrived and grew. Looking at Germany, the Netherlands, England- in each place the real vitality of Christianity in those lands mostly happened when it was fighting for acceptance, unsupported by the state. When a particular version of the church gets enshrined in a position of privilege by state power, it almost immediately begins to stagnate.
America is sill one of the most religious countries on earth, and Christianity has thrived here like nowhere else. Is it any accident that this has been accomplished in an environment of separation of church and state?
But note something- this never meant separation of religion and state. Until about the sixties, public officials were constantly citing their religious faith in support of different policies. It was accepted that they do so. Congress still opens with prayer. Our national monuments are full of quotes from the Bible. There was never any doubt about the fact that a society is going to rest on a religious worldview, that religious perspectives will drive a person’s beliefs about politics.
Since the sixties or so, under the influence of Marxists, the separation of church and state to many elites in this country has meant more the separation of Christianity from matters of public concern entirely. It has become standard for Presidential or Congressional candidates to insist that their religious views will not affect their policy decisions, which to me means that your so-called religious views are worthless. This has been done in the name of secularism, the idea that no religious worldview will prevail. This is of course nonsense; it is impossible not to have a worldview, and for that worldview to drive the way you think that people should be organized into societies.
The actual religious worldview is materialism, the belief that matter is all there is. This is the philosophical presupposition which lies behind the three great philosophical traditions of the modern West, Freudianism, Marxism, and Darwinism. Each one of these philosophies is based on a materialist foundation, and materialism is a religious worldview. It is insusceptible to proof, but is instead a presupposition about the way the world works. Freudianism is the outworking of materialism for human behavior; Marxism is the outworking of materialism for politics and economics; Darwinism is the outworking of materialism for human nature and origins.
Now, the interesting thing is, as the materialist worldview succeeds in getting itself established as the official state religion of modern western states, it suffers from the same dynamic that afflicted the church when it was established. Science, which used to be so dynamic and effective, becomes corrupt and impotent. Most scientific research is now funded by the government, and must toe the line. The peer review process is just the mechanism that is used to ensure that only party-line opinions are expressed, much like the medieval doctrine of tradition that ensures only opinions with which it already agrees can be taught.
The Guardian reports on a survey of social scientific studies done in 2008 and published in major journals, and reports that 60% of them cannot be replicated. This is a huge piece of news, that received very little attention.
The study, which saw 270 scientists repeat experiments on five continents, was launched by psychologists in the US in response to rising concerns over the reliability of psychology research.
Social science is of course one of the very least “sciency” kinds of science. But it is also among the most important. How people are organized, how they behave, what is right and wrong, why people do what they do- these are vitally important questions- really far more important than the molecular composition of Pluto (as interesting as that is). The understanding we have of human behavior and relationships is one of the most fundamental questions of any society, and we base our understanding on extremely shaky grounds. “Science” tells us things about homosexuality, about the effect of children growing up in single parent households, about the effect of divorce on people, about the effect of poverty or of being dependent on financial support from the government, and these claims lie at the root of public policy. The more important the question is with regard to human culture and society, the more, in our modern world, it is based on extremely sketchy scientific grounds.
But given that Stephen Hawking is saying that black holes lead to other universes, or even that scientists are claiming the existence of other universes, something that absolutely cannot be observed by scientific observation by the very nature of the proposition, shows how much of hard science is influenced by supposition and philosophy. The proposition of a multitude of universes is made for no other reason than to support the philosophy, to get around the problem of how perfectly fine-tuned our universe is for human life. If there are an infinite number of universes, then there would have to be one like this one, with all the universal constants just perfect for human life, and thus there is no need for a pesky Creator who made things like this on purpose.
The global warming hoax is just one of the most obvious examples of science being drafted to serve the cause of the state, just like medieval theology was so often twisted to support the power of the establishment. The giveaway is that the proposed solutions to anthropogenic global warming always involve increasing the power of the state, just like their solution to every other problem. And who is funding all these studies? The state.
But this is good, from a Christian’s perspective. It means that the materialist enemies of Christianity are shooting themselves in the foot, undermining the credibility of one of their most effective tools against Christ, the claims of science, at the same time as they are putting the church on the ground where the church fights most effectively, from a position of a lack of societal and political influence, where the church is forced to rigorously defend the claims of Christ and to truly live out His teachings, where hypocrites and false believers who join the church merely for the societal benefits abandon it, leaving the church purer and stronger as a result.