July 14, 2023

Eternal Security and State-sponsored Counterfeits

Leaning heavily on the thought of ancient Greek philosophers, H.G. Wells in his 1905 novel, A Modern Utopia, sets out his eschatological views as a rational plan for the future. Though couched in a story, the book is really a philosophical discourse extolling the virtue of a world ruled by a small elite class. For Wells, history will culminate in the realization of a world-state as one vast economic zone in whose hands all force and natural resources would be vested. The ‘undying organism’ of the world-state would be the sole landowner of the earth and the only producer of energy, yet the vast majority of people would still be happy! The miserable resistors would be exiled to isolated islands. In this ideal world, manual work would gradually disappear with the help of machine technology in every aspect of life; women would be sexually liberated; eating meat would be abolished; and cradle-to-grave welfare would be provided for all. The goal is leisure and pleasure in a labour-free world:

The World State in this ideal presents itself as the sole landowner of the earth, with the great local governments I have adumbrated…The State or these subordinates holds all the sources of energy, and either directly or through its tenants, farmers and agents, develops these sources, and renders the energy available for the work of life. It or its tenants will produce food, and so human energy, and the exploitation of coal and electric power, and the powers of wind and wave and water will be within its right. It will pour out this energy by assignment and lease… it will maintain order, maintain roads, maintain a cheap and efficient administration of justice, maintain cheap and rapid locomotion and be the common carrier of the planet, convey and distribute labour, control, let, or administer all natural productions, pay for and ensure all healthy births and a healthy and vigorous new generation, maintain the public health, coin money and sustain standards of measurement, subsidize research, and reward such commercially unprofitable undertakings as benefit the community as a whole; subsidize when needful chairs of criticism and authors and publications, and collect and distribute information. The energy developed and employment afforded by the State will descend like water…[1]

In some respects, these are laughable imaginations in the wake of two World Wars and the National Socialist and Communist terror that followed its original publication, yet Wells’ novel has nonetheless been hailed for decades by progressive intellectuals as the most plausible utopia ever written and a blueprint for the modern welfare state.  In the post-Covid lockdown era and age of climate hysteria, it is even easier than before to recognize how contemporary these goals sound in the social democracies of the West and amongst the globalist planners. Indeed, much of what Wells imagined has been attempted over the past hundred years of our history. The massive growth of the welfare state; explosion of a regulatory bureaucracy; public ownership or state intervention in banks and industry; the growing control and manipulation of energy production; socialized medicine; state counterfeiting of fiat currency (quantitative easing); ensuring ‘public health;’ control and censorship in the distribution of information; the control of media; state education; the subsidizing of research desired by the state; the so-called liberation of women, and so forth.  All this is being attempted and needs to be paid for.  Remarkably, Wells anticipates the need for people to be permitted some property to use and trade but emphasizes there will be a ‘universal maximum’ of individual freedom – it all sounds remarkably current and familiar.

Ancient or modern, the eschatology of pagan thought involves history culminating with a counterfeit ‘eternal security’ provided by a god-like State which will deliver humanity from the twin burdens of work and freedom. The meaning of history is then the realization of an essentially static order of sustainability in a cosmic-sized welfare program.  But as Hendrik van Riessen grasped during the emergence and growth of the modern welfare states of the West:

Now that the ideal is being put into practice, it is evident that nothing is behind it; the “happy society” – the welfare state – is in itself meaningless. Its meaninglessness is revealed by its very stability. For the fundamental meaning of all that exists is its dependence and dynamic concentration on the origin of all meaning, and this radical unrest disturbs any stability. No enduring situation exists on the way to death, or for that matter on the way to life. To the degree that the ideal of science is more fully actualized, the feeling grows that all is vanity, meaningless. If a person rejects God’s law, eventually he will no longer see any guiding principles or perspectives. He will become a nihilist. [2]

The insight here is profound.  If your worldview is faulty, if meaning is sought in the hope of imposing stability on an impersonal reality rather than in the dynamic dependence of all things upon Christ as the centre and concentration point of all meaning (John 1:1-5; Col. 1:15-20), then the failure of human technique to halt history or provide an artificial stability foreign to the nature of creation will produce only despair and feelings of hopelessness.  Few things could be clearer than the fact that dread and hopelessness clings to this generation like mist in the morning hours.

Because the triune God is totally personal, not only are His image-bearers fully personal, but history itself, along with all else in creation, is part of a dynamic environment having personal significance. Just as everything in our homes is personal to us (each picture, piece of furniture, or child’s toy), because it represents an event, decision, or moment in our lives as persons, so all things are personal relative to God as their creator, governor and sustainer (Col. 1:17).  There is no aspect of creation or history that is hidden or alien, standing in impersonal relation to God.  In this changing world that moves in terms of the eternal purposes of God, Jesus Christ clearly assures us, “Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will.  But the very hairs of your head are all numbered” (Matt. 10:29-30).  This universe of total meaning under the all-wise providence of a personal and relational God is the antithesis of the nihilistic world of the scientific social planners for whom the arbitrary Word of man in the state must become a word of totalizing power and authority.

[1] H. G. Wells, A Modern Utopia (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1967), 89-90.

[2] Hendrik van Riessen, The Society of the Future (Holland: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 1957), 63.

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