Peace On Earth?
All men are born and remain free and equal in rights.
—Declaration of the Rights of Man (1789)
Never did He make two things the same; never did He utter one word twice. . . All is righteousness and there is no equality.
—C. S. Lewis, Perelandra (1944)
The Foundations of Peace
Every age has its “self-evident truths,” assumptions so deeply rooted in the popular mind that the average man never questions them or imagines that they could be questioned by anyone short of a religious fanatic or a madman. Politicians who make plans for peace on Earth … however informal, intense and deliberate … will always use their basic worldview assumptions both as a starting point and as a sort of practical compass for their plan. We become what we think about most of the time and tend to naturally follow our vision. This simple means we all walk in the way of our most infallible principle or “our gods” as Micah says in chapter 4, verse 5. That said, it’s important that we recognize that the gods of our culture are equality, acceptance, and personal autonomy.
Rise of the Culture Gods
First, equality. Our culture is convinced that all men and women are equal in an almost mathematical sense … or at least that they ought to be. Our culture’s basic operating assumption is that where equality is lacking, outward circumstances are to blame. And, of course, these circumstances are created by an unjust socio-economic structure. Either our social structures have taught us to make much over nothing … skin color, gender, ethnicity … or those structures such as free enterprise or our educational system, etc., have actually deprived men and women of their ability to succeed.
This deprivation can be of two sorts. First, social and economic structures are eliminating the possibility of success of some members of society. Second, those same structures are failing to actively enable those who need society’s help most. And no matter what else is true… it’s always the social structure’s fault.
New Commandments From The New Gods
The first commandment of the “new gods” is universal acceptance. We all need to accept everyone exactly as they are … or as they self-identify. According to the gods of our age, this is love. This is justice. We must believe that anyone can succeed at any task, overcome any obstacle, or rise to any challenge. All anyone needs to succeed is a level playing field and the love and acceptance of others.
This brings us to the second commandment of the “new gods,” which is to remedy equality of condition. Society can only maintain a relative equality among its members by providing everyone with the same common starting point. So, society must guarantee everyone perfect equality of education, perfect living conditions, income, and success criteria.
In order to accomplish this, the new gods demand that society must dismantle and replace all the traditional structures that contribute to inequality of condition: marriage and family, nation-states and citizenship, traditional ways of organizing production and economic exchange, and traditional modes of education. Nothing must remain that fosters inequality of condition or of success. This also includes negative perceptions, opinions, and conjectures. The new gods demand that even thinking about traditional structures is a crime that must be prosecuted and punished.
The gospel of “new gods” even promises that once the new commandments are in place, we will all finally be free to pursue happiness and success in our own special way. We will all have the freedom to really be ourselves, making the choices that will be best for us. Personal autonomy will finally be in reach.
The God Behind the Gods
Perfect equality, unconditional acceptance and total personal autonomy … these are the gods. When political planners discuss “society,” they always speak of the “we” as the ones who will manifest these new deities and laws. But it’s not that simple. “Society” is an abstraction … and the “we” doesn’t exist in any useful, manageable sense. So the “new gods” demand institutional power to accomplish the necessary changes. They demand new priests and new wizards to harness and channel power toward its proper end. In short, the “new gods” say we need saviors.
The new saviors in our age are the politicians, bureaucrats and technocrats who are committed to using the power of the “we” in the form of the pagan state to finally bring peace to earth.
The logic is simple. God must be omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. Only the technocratic state has the sheer power, ability to gather any and all information on us, and the presence necessary to restructure society so that we can incarnate the “new gods” and their commandments here on Earth.
And in every election, there are hundreds of candidates, often on both sides of the political divide, who promise in so many words to give functional existence to our new gods. These professional politicians campaign in the name of love, social justice, and compassion for the poor. They promise to save us. They promise peace on earth.
Some are just naïve or ignorant. Some simply want power and prestige. But some are actually self-conscious “vice-regents” of the “new gods” and the new agenda. They leave their true banners rolled up in secret closets to be pulled out when the time is right. In some cases, they are hiding their true ideals and labels … sticking their fingers into the air to see if labels like Marxist or Communist might again have some traction.
The Real Gospel
The Bible tells of a different vision and a very different gospel. Two thousand years ago the true God, the Creator, came to Earth as a real human baby. His angel heralded Him Lord, Messiah and Savior. But His heaven-born mission had nothing to do with enforcing equality, let alone promoting human autonomy. This Messiah, this Jesus, came to save us from our sins and deliver us from our rebellion against God. He came to save us from the divine wrath that our rebellion warrants and is our due. Jesus came as atonement for sin, as a sacrificial Lamb, a penal substitute, for those who would receive His kingdom and reign. He came to set the world right at the price of His own life and His own blood. And as the angel announced His birth, the armies of heaven shouted “Gloria” to the God who had thus manifest His good will to men, a good will that would truly establish peace on Earth (Luke 2:8-14).
Here’s the problem: There is no room in this gospel for total and complete equality or for universal acceptance. Men are either God’s friends or His enemies, covenant keepers or covenant breakers. Here’s where it gets interesting. All of us are God’s creatures. No one gets to define him or herself. God defines reality. God reflects His image in every man, woman, and child, and yet never repeats Himself. He accomplishes infinite diversity in beautiful unity. Each man or woman becomes truly free and finds perfect peace only as he or she submits to God’s reality through the sacrifice of His Son. The kingdom of Messiah is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14:17). This is the only place that justice and love can be found.
Conclusion: A New Creation
Unlike the modern gospel that the “new gods” demand … the Christian gospel affords no divinity to government and grants no divine prerogatives to it. The gospel of Jesus Christ does not ask government to change men or recreate society. Rather, the Christian gospel commands men to “leaven” all spheres of government as a by-product of our faith, to bring it and all of life and culture captive to Jesus Christ (Matt. 28:18-20; 2 Cor. 10:3-5). This means the Christian gospel demands limited government and political freedom as the logical outworking of freedom from sin.
And so the Christian gospel does promise a new creation … a new heaven and earth. But the Christian God begins His work in the hearts of men. He saves His people from their sins (Matt. 1:21). He changes men and women, and so changes the world through his people. It’s true, before kingdoms change … men must change.
And for this, a very weary world should rejoice.