The Enlightenment project is very comprehensible in terms of the “Wars of Religion” that followed the Reformation. It’s questionable whether all that is said about the Wars of Religion is entirely fair (R. J. Rushdoony’s Christian Survey of World History has some very helpful things to say about this). Still, it is not entirely untrue. Princes and kings expected their church to rule in their realm, and Protestants and Catholics of varying stripes were at one another’s throats for decade after decade.
Against this background, the Enlightenment Project of placing religion and teleology in the realm of opinion, and science and methodology in the realm of fact and knowledge, is comprehensible. Proximate methods are testable and can be agreed upon, and apparently religion cannot be either tested nor agreed upon. Hence, to pursue efficient causalities is the pathway of peace. This not only affected religion, but suppressed the “thymotic” glory-seeking of man, as it cut the ground from under rotten monarchies that continually sought glory through war and conquest. The Straussian belief and hope is that democratic capitalist regimes are peaceable in nature. Turning man into a consumer rather than a glory-seeking creature will cause nations not to go to war with other nations that are potential markets. However, violence is a “cunning and baffling enemy” and violence and war all too easily mutate only slightly to perpetuate themselves. Democratic capitalist nations have also gone to war to force open markets that might otherwise remain closed. It turns out that “saving ourselves” is a bit harder than we had imagined. Worse, the long-term destruction in the West of such religion-free, glory-free regimes is that they have no purpose other than greater production and consumption.
This gives ancient tribal, monarchial and religious peoples in the modern world (especially in the Islamic world) great advantages in pursuing warfare with the West. In spite of technical incompetence, they believe in something, however negative and awful. The West does not: Who is willing to die for his or her iPod and Social Security Check?
We need an Emperor who is also a Prince of Peace, a contradiction in the ancient world, but disclosed first through Solomon. The gain of the libertarian capitalist state is very real, but its impersonalism and purposelessness is unbearable over the long run. This is why neither Ron nor Rand Paul is viable. One cannot bet one’s political stakes on negating everything and hoping for cohesion. One is left with the complete nominalism of libertarianism, and the complete impersonalism of a leaderless world. We need an Emperor. The Puritan dictum that one cannot have democracy without a King is a true paradox.
When I meet with the government officials in Boulder, Colorado, the great question in the back of my mind is, “Just what is the point of Boulder–or of Colorado, or of America, or Western Civilization?” Apart from a personal Emperor (King of kings), who is behind everything and rules all for His own glory and is entirely personal in his rule of all things, there is not one. Democratic capitalism is only a way-station along the way of the destruction of the ancient world. To be more than a stopping place is impossible–human nature cannot bear this.
Efforts to work out a biblical politics can be neutralized by the bias of democratic capitalism. Old Testament Law may give us many processes that would be much more efficient and just if established, but they do not make sense without a Solomon of some sort to refer them to. And that is who is already here in Jesus. He has vacated the world of the old god-rulers, but ultimately to replace them not with nothing, but with Himself. Somehow, the church is where and how this otherwise invisible reality is disclosed to the otherwise blind world.
So, we have only been halfway Christian in regard to statecraft, as well as everything else. The reign of Christ has so far vacated all possibility of the Emperor-god, such as Pharaoh, or Caesar, or the King of Babylon as the Son of Marduk. Ancient pantheism and monism and all of its political expressions are made impossible. We are now political nominalists. Part of the advance is the preliminary destruction of all ancient connectedness, and all sense of meaning being derived from imitating the gods and what is done in the heavens. One result is the growth of “scientific method” that abandons teleology in favor of studying efficient causality. We are now civilizations of “processes.” So, we understand all kinds of processes in physics, chemistry, and the most advanced discipline of the social sciences, economics, but we have almost no feel for what was the ancient world’s feel for final causality, because we no longer live in congruence with the heavens, the stars, the gods.
Even as people trying to come to grips with a Biblical form of government, we still habitually live in terms of “processes” and aim at something more like efficient causality. We try to apply this or that element of Old Testament Law to our own situation, but it has an odd look and feel. It drives us to some kind of libertarianism, a very minimal state, and yet the laws we want to apply really only make sense in terms of some kind of ancient emperor who had a radically different view of the state, more in tune with ancient sensibilities.
The great weakness of our civilization is that it is pointless. It has no end. We were shorn of final causality and teleology several centuries ago. Scientifically and technically, this has borne great fruit. But now we have a technologically advanced world that is absolutely pointless. Think of an iPod, which is the fruit of a thousand years of technological achievement being used by a modern barbarian listening to “music” that has less civilization attached to it than any ancient tribe still existing in some faraway jungle.
Our whole civilization now makes a completely empty idol of the modern state (socialism). It is perfectly satirized by Kafka’s The Trial, in which an entirely pointless bureaucracy that never even makes a defined criminal charge, dominates a man’s entire life as he defends himself against it. Or it is defined by an absolutized market, in which the only meaning is larger and larger numbers that mean nothing in relation to anything else. We create more and more wealth for the purpose of creating more and more wealth. In the midst of all of this is the already existing reality that Jesus is at the Right Hand of the Father. This is true whether the world recognizes it or not. A completely personal Ruler has already been established. This final point is the point, and this is the message that the late modern world needs to hear.