The Evil Nature of the State

This entry is part 5 of 42 in the series Christian Theology of Public Policy Course

This essay continues the Christian Theology and Public Policy Course essays by John Cobin, author of the great books Bible and Government and Christian Theology of Public Policy.

The evil nature of the state is clearly manifested by the carnage of totalitarian and communist regimes during the twentieth century. Professor Rudolph Rummel has demonstrated in his book Death By Government that, in the twentieth century alone, states around the world were responsible for the killings of an estimated 350 million of their own civilian, non-combatant populations. This figure does not count the more than one billion slain by state-sanctioned abortion worldwide, or the 40 million military personnel slain through state-sponsored aggression, during the same period. The state has been the most lethal institution in human history. And history illustrates the fact that twentieth century states have been the most evil of all time in terms of (1) loss of life and property and (2) the persecution of the church.

Clearly, the state has been more lethal than any infectious disease, plague, or religious inquisition in the history of mankind. In a July 1997 interview with Ideas on Liberty, Rummel stated: “Concentrated political power is the most dangerous thing on earth. During the twentieth century, 14 regimes murdered over a million people” each. “So much for the notion of state benevolence. Powerful states can be like gangs, stealing, raping, torturing, and killing on a whim.”

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The State is Not Benevolent

This entry is part 3 of 42 in the series Christian Theology of Public Policy Course

This essay continues the Christian Theology and Public Policy Course essays by John Cobin, author of the books Bible and Government and Christian Theology of Public Policy.

The state has been a vile nuisance for civilized men, and the Bible gives us no reason to believe its evil nature can be changed. The psalmist recognized that states legislate evil policies when he wrote: “Shall the throne of iniquity, which devises evil by law, have fellowship with You?” (Psalm 94:20). Historically, the state usually reigns by iniquity, stimulating and fomenting evil schemes. And, in the end, God will destroy the evil and “twisted” state, the beast from the sea (akin to the one mentioned in Revelation 13:1). As He says in Isaiah 27:1: “In that day the Lord with His severe sword, great and strong, will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan that twisted serpent; and He will slay the reptile that is in the sea.” Indeed, the Bible teaches that hell (Tophet) was “prepared” for the king (Isaiah 30:33), and designates the lake of fire as the ultimate end of earthly kings who defy God (Revelation 19:20).

With conviction, the Bible indicates that the state is always created according to God’s permissive will: “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes” (Proverbs 21:1). By God’s wisdom, “kings reign, and rulers decree justice” (Proverbs 8:15). Indeed, “All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth” (Daniel 4:34-37). Thus, even the most vicious and evil rulers are subject to God’s decree, even though their lust for greed and power fosters conscription, taxation, power brokering, and oppression—just as Samuel prophesied (1 Samuel 8:11-18).1

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