Is the NSW Government becoming a Hobbesian ‘Leviathan’?

30 August 2021

4.6 MINS

Gladys Berejiklian, the Premier of New South Wales, announced at her most recent press conference that the government is working on a “proof of vaccination app”. This will in effect take the place of the current QR Code by supplementing it with an affirmation that the individual has also been vaccinated. Significantly, Ms. Berejiklian said:

We are asking industry to dust off their COVID safety plans, get the QR Codes in check, and we’re also working on an App in NSW that will allow you to sign into a venue but also have proof of your vax all in one to make it as simple as possible, and we’ll have more to say on that in the coming weeks.


This is a massive development in the ever-enlarging powers of the NSW State government. Something which over the past eighteen months has growing into something resembling a Hobbesian ‘Leviathan’.

Glenn S. Sunshine explains the symbolism of the political imagery well in his book Slaying Leviathan: Limited Government and Resistance in the Christian Tradition Canon Press, 2020):

The title of Leviathan seems to have been chosen from what was believed to be its etymology: it was thought to come from the Hebrew lavah, meaning “to couple, connect, or join” and thannin, meaning “serpent or dragon”. The creature was called leviathan either because its size made it hard to believe it was a single creature, or because its scales were tightly pressed together.

The image of the state on Hobbe’s frontispiece was of a giant man holding a crozier (for ecclesiastical power) and a sword (for civil power), with a body made up of three hundred smaller men, all facing inward except one face looking outward. The state is thus depicted as a single entity made up of individuals bound together in an omnipotent, immortal, and indivisible whole under its head, the king.

Strangely, Hobbes didn’t seem to envision that the Leviathan might also have the head of a woman or, ‘Queen’. But this is precisely the type of situation which has arisen in NSW. Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, the state has assumed more and more control.

Shutting churches, made the celebration of a weddings illegal, closing down construction sites and small businesses, introduced a nightly curfew in affected local government areas, with police using rubber bullets to control civilian protestors, and now the announcement of mandatory vaccinations for those in teaching, all in the name of public health and safety.

Online Church Services Monitored

In a significant display of political overreach, a church in western Sydney was not only fined approximately $50,000 for physically meeting, but was also banned from operating for seven days. This has the effect of preventing the church from meeting in any form, either physically or online.

What’s more, the NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Gary Worboys was reported as saying in the Sydney Morning Herald that online church services are also being actively monitored: As Worboy stated:

I can reassure the community that there is every effort going into those particular church services that are coming up on streaming, and pieces of information that are saying other church services are going to occur.

Clearly, the Berejiklian government has surreptitiously assumed sovereign control of both the ecclesiastical and civil spheres. But how did this dystopian scenario arise?

James P. Pinkerton persuasively argues in The American Conservative that “it’s the fear of chaos — including, but certainly not limited to, public health — that grew the state in the first place, and its continuing fear that keeps the state big… [and that] as long as there’s fear, there will be… Leviathan”.

John Horvat goes even further explaining how we have arrived at a Hobbesian vision of COVID-19. As Horvat writes:

The policies that deal with the coronavirus crisis are oriented to this toxic philosophy. Present measures are based on Hobbes’ irrational fear of death taken to an extreme. Today’s Hobbesians hold that the greatest good is life itself, and everything must be done to avoid dying.

Thus, when the coronavirus crisis struck, everything went into lockdown. The idea was to avoid all risks, no matter how remote or small. The minute a possible COVID case appears, for example, the whole area must be sanitized.

Everyone contacted by the COVID patient must self-quarantine. A sense of panic prevails. No risk must be left unaddressed. The most absurd measures are taken to prevent the slightest possibility of a single death.

Thus, there were hundreds of counties across America in which no one died of COVID. However, they were locked down, and their commercial, social, and religious lives completely disrupted. Walmart stayed open, but churches were shut down despite the lack of evidence that religious service spreads the virus any more than consumer shopping does.

The irrational fear of death created an atmosphere of paranoia. The enforcement of health regulations became rigid and uncompromising. The draconian rules excluded common sense and allowed for no exceptions.

This irrational fear of death is unnatural and the cause of high stress. It eventually leads to conflict with those who question the wisdom of suppressing most activities. That is why this Hobbesian COVID-19 view requires Leviathan, the dictatorial state, coercing enforcement of capricious rules. Leviathan is needed to keep people compliant through fear of death.

The COVID crisis gave rise to socialistic government policies that seek to control lives in the name of saving lives. It threatens society with a cure that is far worse than the disease.

Sadly, churches have largely acquiesced to nearly everything that has been imposed by the NSW government. They have done this not only out of love for neighbour, but to rightly honour the governing authorities whom we believe God has placed over us for our good (i.e. Rom. 13:1-7).

Vaccine Passports Unacceptable

But for many, the implementation of a vaccine app (i.e. passport) is a bridge too far. Just note the following open letter from a range of senior Christian leaders in the UK arguing against the imposition of vaccine passports:

We draw your attention to the recent Judicial Review overturning the Scottish Government’s ban on public worship, which demonstrates that such disproportionate prevention of the right to worship is a clear infringement under Article 9 of the European Convention of Human Rights.

We cannot see how any attempt to prevent people gathering for worship on the basis of either testing or non-vaccination would not similarly be ruled to be a breach. We agree with those members of Parliament who have already voiced opposition to this proposal: that it would be divisive, discriminatory and destructive to introduce any such mandatory health certification into British society. We call on the government to assert strongly and clearly that it will not contemplate this illiberal and dangerous plan, not now and not ever.

It’s time that Christian leaders in Australia also called on the government to avoid making the same illiberal mistake. Not only must the issue of freedom of conscience be respected, but the state must not take on more power than it should.

And as such, it is completely inappropriate for the state to create a two-tiered society of medical apartheid. The growing power of ‘Leviathan’ must be countered, lest a monstrous tyranny ensue.

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  1. Greg Sheppard 30 August 2021 at 1:57 pm - Reply

    Hi, I am a Born Again Christian and I personally believe that living in accordance with The Word of God is the only way to Honour our Heavenly Father . As you have stated above that in Romans 13:1-7 it states that we who are True Believers in Jesus Christ are to Obey our Government, because God has placed them in that position of Authority for our good. We don’t always agree with the Government’s decisions, but if God commands us to do so then that’s what we have to do. Sure if that Government suddenly changes its ideology and turns our Country from a Democratic society into a Totalitarian Ruling Government, then we have every reason to be extremely concerned. In a Democratic Ruling Government that Australia is, we are afforded the right to Freedom of Speech and to be able to Vote for the Opposition to Govern us if we believe they have the peoples best interest at heart over the present Government. Having said all that, my freedom of speech that I am so Blessed to have by our Awesome God and Saviour Jesus Christ, to have here in this beautiful country Australia, declares that I personally see vaccinations and passports are honestly the best way forward through this world wide pandemic. If we want to travel overseas we have to have passports and in some countries we even have to have certain vaccinations before we can enter that place. We have rules and laws here in Australia prohibiting the entry of certain foods and exotic fruits, etc. All these things are in place for good reason as we know and understand. We vaccinate our children for the necessary protection so they won’t become sick with the diseases that they protect them from. I am 67 and I suffered a severe bout of influenza when I was 41 which had me laid up in bed and off work for weeks and as a result I caught glandular fever then and about 6 years down the track after regaining my health (which took a good couple of years) I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome which is believed to be brought on years later by the glandular fever I suffered from. I started getting the flu vaccination from age of 42 and will never stop getting it while I am alive. I now get the pneumonia vaccination as well at the required time intervals. Needless to say I have never suffered a severe dose of the flu again. My Digital Medicare info has all of my Vaccinations listed and the dates they are required. So my point is, if vaccinations help many many people from never contracting or at least never suffering severe affects of the coronavirus, then isn’t it better to have the vaccinations and if we have to show a passport proving that we have had the vaccinations wherever we go, including church and other venues so people can move forward in life and pursue their dreams and have family’s and do all that God created for. Even if you don’t care about your self getting sick, suffering and dying (which is not the right way of thinking) What about family, friends, church goers, people at work and in the community that you could be putting at risk of getting the coronavirus. I believe we especially as Born Again Christians should be revealing Gods Light and Salt in this world and what better way to do that then to look out for our brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus and to look out for our neighbours and community then by doing ALL that our Government is asking us to do. Surely that’s not to big an ask. Remember, God has put our Government in to Govern us for our good and not to harm us. And let’s not forget that our own Australian Prime Minister is a Born Again Christian. Don’t you think that God has him in that position for such a time as this. I for one am so thankful that we live in this Blessed Country. Give thanks to our Awesome God and Heavenly Father through our precious Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen

  2. Terrance Drury 30 August 2021 at 5:15 pm - Reply

    Greg Sheppard I to am a christian who strongly believes in Gods word and what you quote of Gods word is correct BUT you obviously are not keeping up with the info on the “SHOT” you get that says vaccine. It is not a vaccine and even though allowed the “SHOTS” are still classified as experimental with us the guinea pigs. These shots are genetically modified to produce a spike protein in your body to kick start your immune system which can cause your system to go into overdrive and cause serious side effects, not the SAFE SHOT Mr Morrison is saying we should have. I would also question why there is a bill before parliament that will EXEMPT parliamentarians from these shots if we have to have them for health why NOT our pollies if it is so safe. There is ample evidence now that like the Flu you will need follow up shots as with each new strain it gets sneaky and changes. If you are blessed to not get cold or flu because you had a vaccine great, but I’m 68 years old and not suffered flu for past 10 years without the vaccine and I’m not anti-vax just anti this “SHOT”. If it was so good,there would be no need to coerce or bully people to take it but FEAR is the key driver of this pandemic and not the true science. We are being fed a lot of BS and with that why is there so much censorship on matter, you can’t have an open discussion about issue, that alone should WARN you something is bogus, follow the money bro and you will see who is really pushing this agenda world wide.

  3. Kym in Adelaide 30 August 2021 at 8:41 pm - Reply

    Dear Greg Sheppard. This is different !
    We live in a representative democracy (Westminster system) are are fully entitled to call Government to account.
    The government is supposed to serve the people.
    They are NOT a dictatorship, empire, or anything like that.
    Protest against injustice is a right within our system of government.
    There is huge and largely unjustified government overreach.
    My Dad lived in Germany (he was Austrian) through 1930’s and 40’s.
    We spoke a fair bit about that, and we are actually heading in the direction of totalitarian socialist control.
    If we don’t speak now we will never be free again. Ref: Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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