Without Human Hand
Without Human Hand
Most critics of R. J. Rushdoony assume that adopting his uncompromising application of the Scripture to modern culture would mean imposing tyrannically oppressive rule through a church-dominated power-state. This assumption is not only baseless, it contradicts what both Rushdoony and the Bible teaches. Consistent Biblical totalism respects the jurisdictions that God reserves to Himself, and rejects attempts to usurp His throne. As Rushdoony put it:
When a man’s authorities are of this world, then man is in danger. These authorities are then not only ultimate, they are also proximate or present. They stand right over him with all their imposing claims, and, because they occupy the same ground man does, they limit and destroy the liberty of man.
Two things of the same world cannot occupy the same point in time and space. If a man’s gods or authorities are of this world, they will insist on occupying his place in time and space, and the result is the enslavement and eviction of man from his due liberties and station in life. A man cannot compete with his authorities, with his gods; they are by his own recognition above and over him. If a man’s gods are of this world, and if they are man-made and humanistic, they know only one realm to occupy, man’s realm. This is why anarchism and democracy, while professing to exalt man, end by oppressing him. This, too, is why humanistic science, while claiming to serve man, ends by using man as its experimental test animal, its guinea pig.1
In this regard, God’s law contains many statutes that He alone enforces (tithing laws, land Sabbaths, etc.)—in such cases, no temporal penalty executed by the civil magistrate is asserted. The commandment prohibiting coveting a neighbor’s property or wife witnesses to this same fact.
There is an entire category of actions that God reserves to Himself, where God is the mover and not man. The significance of these teachings can only be scratched here, but they bear close scrutiny and prayerful study. Consider each of the following representative examples.
Is it fit to say to a king, Thou art wicked? and to princes, Ye are ungodly? How much less to him that accepteth not the persons of princes, nor regardeth the rich more than the poor? for they all are the work of his hands. In a moment shall they die, and the people shall be troubled at midnight, and pass away: and the mighty shall be taken away without hand … He shall break in pieces mighty men without number, and set others in their stead. Therefore he knoweth their works, and he overturneth them in the night, so that they are destroyed. (Job 34:18-20 & 24-25)
Note the peculiar phrase at the end of verse 20: “the mighty shall be taken away without hand.” We should render this “without human hand,” for this is what the term refers to: no human agency is involved in God’s sovereign acts.
The Kingdom of God in Daniel 2:34 and 2:45 is depicted as a stone cut out of a mountain “without hands”—without human hands. The ruler depicted in Daniel 8:25 is said to “be broken without hand”—again, without human hand. The peculiar wording of the charges against Christ in Mark 14:58 may have a bearing on the matter: “We heard him say, I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another made without hands.” A temple made “without hands” can only be one built by God Himself. The accusation against Christ may well be focusing on an actual claim to divinity, for only God can build things without human hand. “For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands …” (Heb. 9:24).
No surprise, then, that altars to God could not be made of stones that were worked by human hand (implying that man has something to offer to the worship of God): “And if thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it” (Ex. 20:25). Only stones that God made are fit for altars for God. Such stones don’t need man’s workmanship to “improve” them. Man can only pollute such elements of worship. Baptism, therefore, constitutes a circumcision “made without hands” (Col. 2:11), and there can be no doubt that “circumcision of the heart” and “circumcised lips” are likewise the work of God alone.
God’s jurisdiction is a total one, and He asserts that “none can deliver out of my hand” (Deut. 32:39, also 2 Chron. 20:6). Hebrews 10:31 confirms that “it is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Therefore, “giving place unto wrath” (Rom. 12:19) does not mean letting transgressors get off easy, but the opposite, for “the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all unrighteousness” (Rom. 1:18). Trusting in the arm of flesh instead of the One Who acts without human hand brings a curse (Jer. 17:5).
Yet, God has appointed that some things be done by human hand—by human agency. Preaching the gospel is one of the things committed to fallible men, and preaching is just one item in a long list of duties and responsibilities God expects man to fulfill. We at Chalcedon have found that sowing the seed of consistent Biblical totalism, of pressing the crown rights of King Jesus, of exposing families to the culture-transforming work of R. J. Rushdoony, falls very much within the duties that do indeed fall under man’s hand.
To that end, we are continuing to sow seed with your support. Paul paints a vivid image in 1 Cor. 3:6, for one could theoretically have taken photos of Paul planting and Apollos watering (preaching and teaching), but no one could shoot a photo of God giving the increase (performing supernatural heart surgery). So too in this Report: we can share photos of our labors on behalf of the harvest, but the Lord of the harvest alone gives the increase. Our calling is to be faithful.
On April 24, 2010 I was invited back to speak to the John Birch Society in Houston, Texas about social financing and the poor tithe (my first lecture to the JBS last year focused on economic crises and Scripture). Chalcedon ETR (Extending The Reach) member Emily Johnson and I flew to Atlanta April 29-May 1 for the GHEA homeschooling conference. I flew to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on May 6 for the CHAP homeschooling conference and co-labored with three ETR members, one on each consecutive day: Toby Grater, Barbara Schlesinger, and Jim Panyard. These were Chalcedon’s second appearances at GHEA and CHAP.
Recent and pUpcoming ETR events: Orlando, Florida May 28-29 (the FPEA conference where Chalcedon author Bruce Shortt will be lecturing)—ETR members Carolyn Carver and Tom Ertl are confirmed for manning the Chalcedon booth along with David and Melissa Moody, and Samuel, Rosemary, and Patricia Harrison. Houston, Texas June 4-5 (the SETHSA conference)—Rev. Peter Allison’s family will again be engaged in ETR work (something they did before ETR was ever even invented). ETR hopes to be at the Texas Republican State Convention June 11-12, and will definitely be at the CHEC event in Colorado June 18-19. Mark Rushdoony will be participating at the 2010 West-Coast Christian Worldview Conference (June 21-25) and more events are being planned (homeschool conventions, worldview conferences, and political events). Heartfelt thanks to Rev. Ellsworth McIntyre and the saints at Nicene Covenant Church who continue to underwrite these important Rushdoony outreach opportunities so sacrificially, including the just-launched overhaul of Chalcedon’s website.
When God acts without human hand, the results are invariably holy, just, and perfect. We are therefore humbled that He condescends to work through Chalcedon’s ETR volunteers as they take the powerful Scripture-honoring approach of R. J. Rushdoony out to God’s people, building a Second Reformation upon the shoulders of faithful men and women who believe that nothing less than full Biblical totalism will heal the pathologies engulfing both church and state in our time.
1. R. J. Rushdoony, Law and Liberty (Ross House Books: Vallecito, CA, 1984 repr. 2009), 41.
Martin G. Selbrede is Chalcedon’s resident scholar and Editor of Faith for All of Life and the Chalcedon Report.