I cannot help but bemoan the humanistic hubris of our legislators as they gather in Harrisburg, snap pictures, and tweet about how they are ready “to get to work” and solve problems during the new legislative session.
For instance, on Jan. 18, Sen. Ryan Aument (R-Lancaster County) shared a photo of the Pa. Senate GOP Leadership Team, and tweeted, “Official 2023-2024 @PASenateGOP Leadership Team photo. I look forward to working with this outstanding team to advance the legislative priorities of our caucus.” And earlier this month he wrote that “focusing on policies where we agree, working across the aisle, and seeking consensus where we can will be necessary if we want to produce real results for the people of Pennsylvania.”
In all due respect, I ask in the words of the Epicureans, “What does this babbler wish to say?” What is he talking about when he says he and his legislator pals will “produce real results”?
It appears he is talking about what the Enlightenment thinker John Locke called the “supreme power” of making law. We vote them in and now they are free to make whatsoever laws they fancy. But there are a couple problems here: there is no end to their laws and, interestingly, they produce nary a result.
In fact, the approach to law that Aument and his cronies take is straight out of the humanistic playbook.
R.J. Rushdoony pointed out that “humanistic law aims at saving man and remaking society.” The humanistic approach to law posits that “salvation is an act of the state” and “it is civil government which regenerates man and society and brings man into a paradise on earth.” Rushdoony adds: “As a result, for the humanist social action is everything. Man must work to pass the right set of laws, because his salvation depends on it.”
The never-ending stream of new laws flowing from the humanistic temple in Harrisburg is a nightmarish alternative to Ezekiel’s glorious vision of the life-giving water flowing from the Temple, wherein the banks of the river “grow all kinds of trees for food” (Ezekiel 47:12). In contrast, the statist sludge pouring forth from Harrisburg causes all the leaves of righteousness to wither and the fruit of freedom to fail.
Our legislators have enthusiastically embraced the error that slipped past our Founding Fathers’ blind spot of infatuation with Enlightenment thinking. And we are not far behind our ignoble representatives when we think the solution is making more laws. “More laws will solve the problem,” we say, as we disregard the Law-Word of God.
But the government does not produce results, Aument’s tweets notwithstanding. It exists to be a force against certain evils, and the only thing it can produce is praise for the godly, law-abiding man (cf. 1 Peter 2:14). “Laws grounded in the Bible do not attempt to save man or to usher in a brave new world, a great society, world peace, a poverty-free world, and any other such ideal. The purpose of Biblical law, and all laws grounded on a Biblical faith, is to punish and restrain evil, and to protect life and property, to provide justice for all people” (Rushdoony). Salvation – both personal and societal – comes from Christ alone and is mediated via the agency of the gospel-proclaiming church, not the state.
Any true production that a godly civil magistrate might be involved in will be due to his cooperation with, and leadership of, the people. It will not come by writing laws which rob Peter to pay Paul to build something for Peter which Peter never asked Paul to build for Peter. Confused? Good. Now you understand humanistic, Harrisburg politics.
To be fair, Aument and the rest of his legislative kinsfolk know nothing else. Indeed, they live and move and have their being in a hall of bureaucrats who cannot sleep unless they have proposed some bill to add to their legislative constituent e-mail.
I was speaking with a publicly elected official not long ago and he told me of a problem and his proposed solution – and then he said if the people involved in the problem do not accept his solution, he will just make a law to see to it that they do.
That is not a proper use of the law, being more akin to the work of “writers who keep writing oppression” (Isaiah 10:1).
Legislator La-La Land
Aument listed seven things as examples of the “meaningful reforms” he hopes to pass “that will positively impact the quality of life for all Pennsylvanians.”
- Reducing the tax burden,
- Limiting sexual content in schools,
- Pursuing energy independence and increasing electric grid reliability and resiliency,
- Addressing student loan debt,
- Ensuring all students have access to a quality education through lifeline scholarships,
- Boosting economic competitiveness and advocating for the acceleration of the Corporate Net Income Tax reduction passed last year, and
- Permitting reform.
Three of the seven (sexual content in schools, student loan debt, and lifeline scholarships) relate in some way to government subsidized (i.e., socialistic) education, an institution that will never be reformed unless it dies and thus becomes free from its unholy matrimony with the state.
Concerning Aument’s desire to “limit sexual content in schools,” his proposed legislation will accomplish naught. He writes: “Parents must be confident that their children are receiving a quality education in our schools without being exposed to inappropriate, sexually explicit content.”
Let’s be honest, neither of those things are going to happen. So long as the government is running the schools there will be no such thing as a “quality” education and there will be no end to the constant flood of “inappropriate, sexually explicit content.” Aument almost recognizes this. So he adds: “In this day and age, when it seems increasingly unlikely that a community will reach consensus about what is appropriate educational content for children, we must empower parents to individually make that decision for their own children.”
His bill would “require schools to identify sexually explicit content in school curriculum, materials, and books and notify parents that their child’s coursework includes such content or that a book their child wishes to view in the school library contains explicit content.”
Right. As if that will prevent the student from looking at his classmate’s book at the desk in front of him.
Senator Aument is currently residing in legislator cloud cuckoo land.
But he cannot escape. He cannot escape because he cannot bring himself to admit that his position is useless, and he cannot stomach the thought that he cannot produce any real results, let alone limit sexual content in government schools.
And as far as his “tax burden” rhetoric, I’ll believe it when I hear Aument denounce forced taxation and relinquish his taxpayer-funded salary and benefits.
A Return to the King and His Law
The Swiss theologian Jean-Marc Berthoud provides the correct diagnosis of our legislators’ malady: “this compulsion our legislative bodies have with constantly altering laws essentially comes from their usurpation of divine sovereignty; for at the end of the day, only God holds legislative power.”
Berthoud is also correct when he notes the consequence of such an arbitrary use of the law: the law “will become in effect the arbitrary plaything of the fantasies of the judges, of social goings-on, of activist groups, of opinion-based political movements.” Is this not the case? The law is no longer even remotely about justice and righteousness. It is only about loopholes, lawyers, and litigation. “Justice” changes from legislative session to legislative session as men like Aument write and rewrite our laws in a futile effort to produce anything worthwhile. It is a complete and utter mess. And our legislators love to have it so.
Yes, there is a place for law. But it must be limited to what King Jesus, in the Bible, commands of the state. The Supreme Authority, the Law of the Land, does not emanate from the Republican caucus, it resides in the risen and ascended Lord of Glory, Jesus Christ. Until our civil magistrates learn their place at his feet, they will keep playing the tyrant and writing more and more and more and more laws. And – in case I didn’t mention it – more laws.
But without a robust Christian worldview, that’s all they know. Truly, we need a reformation.
And speaking of reform, it appears Aument is not interested in permitting a reformation of his own thoughts and sparing us from his hopeless bills and grating tweets. His lack of understanding concerning the nature of education, for example, is revealed when his website states, “Just as a public-school teacher rightfully wouldn’t be allowed to teach their students Christian religious ideology in a non-neutral way, they should also be prohibited from pushing sexual orientation and gender identity ideology.” He thinks it is unacceptable for a government schoolteacher to proclaim the lordship of Christ in a “non-neutral way.” But nothing about Christ is neutral, and legislative lackeys who think our culture can survive by playing footsie with neutrality are alienating our society from the life of God because of their ignorance.
Aument has fallen for the myth of neutrality. He has fallen and he cannot get up.
But that’s fine, because the legislator’s pen will not bring us relief, and we await not the rising to power of Aument’s Republicans but the rising of the morning star in the hearts of men. Then men like Aument will be more concerned about honoring Christ’s Law-Word in the civil realm than they will be about keeping their cushy jobs in Harrisburg. Then men like Aument will no longer see themselves as the saviors of our society able to solve our problems with another 150+ shiny new laws this legislative session but will instead see themselves as servants of the true Savior and beholden to His perfect Word.