Thursday, July 1, 2021

State promotion of supernatural goods

Should a state promote supernatural goods like salvation? Here is a plausible argument, assuming the existence of supernatural goods:

  1. Supernatural goods are good.

  2. Any person or organization that can promote a good without detracting from any other good or promoting any bad should promote the good.

  3. The state is an organization.

  4. Thus, other things being equal, the state ought to promote supernatural goods when it can.

Here is a second one:

  1. If a state can contribute to the innocent pleasure of someone (whether inside or outside the state) with no cost to anyone, it should.

  2. Humans receiving supernatural goods gives the angels an innocent pleasure.

  3. So, the state should promote human salvation when it can do so at no cost.

One might think that the above arguments show that we should have a theocracy. But there are two reasons why that does not follow.

First, it might be that the state is not an entity that can promote human salvation, or at least not one that can do so without cost to its primary defining tasks. This could be for reasons such as that any attempt by the state to promote supernatural goods is apt to misfire or that any state promotion of supernatural goods would have to come at the cost of natural goods (such as freedom or justice). I kind of suspect something of this sort is true, and hence that the conclusions of the arguments above are merely trivially true.

Second, and more interestingly to me, a theocratic view would hold that it is a part of the state’s special
duties of care towards its citizens that it promote their salvation. But the above arguments do not show that.

Indeed, the first argument applies to any organization, and I suspect the second one does as well. A chess club needs to promote salvation, other things being equal, perhaps every bit as much as the state. Free goods should always be promoted for all. (Worry: Am I too utilitarian here?)

Moreover, the state’s special defining duties of care are towards the state’s citizens. But it does not follow from the above arguments that the state has any special reason to promote the supernatural goods of its citizens. The arguments only show that the state, like any other organization, has a general duty to promote the supernatural goods of everyone (other things being equal).

1 comment:

Benjamin Stowell said...

If I had all the power in the world AND certainty that Christianity is true, I would feel compelled to create a theocracy if I were to create any government at all.

It's easy to be certain that basic needs are good. It's less easy to be certain that salvation is possible. As it stands non-Christians would say the state is not promoting salvation because it's promoting something false. It's easy to distrust the intentions of states because they are often selfish. So it makes sense for the state, as is, to focus on certain, basic goods.

This is also why chess clubs don't promote salvation: they are more certain in the reality of chess than in the reality of salvation.