Friday, July 31, 2009

The Depravity of Man

Two centuries ago, Christians in general and Americans in particular accpeted the Calvinist doctrine of "the Depravity of Man." This premise led to the conclusion that the powers of the State must be limited: that a separation of powers must be woven into constitutions, and the path to power riddled with the landmines of checks and balances.

After the Civil War, following the great American theologian Abraham Lincoln, "the Depravity of Man" became the Benedict Arnold of dogma. The doctrine became a turncoat premise in syllogisms buttressing an increase in the paternalistic powers of the State. Whereas Man's "depravity" earlier meant that man could not be trusted with power (whose corrupting influences Lord Acton saw residing in man himself), the modern doctrine indicts the fallen and untrustworthy masses ("the People") and supplicates the sinless and infallible State for social salvation. Because the masses are depraved, you see, the centralized state needs more power to control them.

• Because criminals are depraved, we need a Police State.
• Because Arabs are depraved, we need a Garrison State at home and hundreds of U.S. bases abroad.

I have elaborated on this shift in the meaning of "The Depravity of Man." Please use this blog to comment on that article.

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