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The Paradise Motive

By R. J. Rushdoony
November 01, 2006

(Reprinted from Revolt Against Maturity [Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1987], 52-59).

According to Robert Ardrey, “Man is a bad-weather animal, designed for storm and change.”1 This opinion rests on Ardrey’s belief that “man is a predator whose natural instinct is to kill with a weapon.”2 The premise being false, the conclusion is in error also. Man is not a predatory animal. If he sometimes thrives in bad weather, it is because he is jarred out of his complacency in sin. The root of progress is not trouble but grace. If “bad weather” or trouble made for progress, China, India, and Africa should have assumed world leadership centuries ago.

Man, having been created by God, was created for the Kingdom of God, for a perfect society under God. His first home was the Garden of Eden, and what can be called an urge to paradise remains in his nature. The myths of most peoples recall a “golden age” or an original paradise, and the politics of most peoples have as their motive force a drive to create a new paradise on earth.

The urge to establish a paradise on earth is governed, however, by the reality of the Fall and the fact of sin. As a result, the political version of the dream, the Kingdom or City of Man, has as its motive the desire to be as god, knowing good and evil (Gen. 3:5). St. Augustine, in The City of God, traces the history of that perverted motive and its disastrous consequences for man. Sovereignty, the attribute of God, has become a goal of men and nations. As a result, “This lust of sovereignty disturbs and consumes the human race with frightful ills.”3 The pagan thinkers themselves assert that man’s life must be social, and Augustine agrees, “For how could the city of God ... either take a beginning or be developed, or attain its proper destiny, if the life of the saints were not a social life?” But man, because of his sin, cannot live in peace with his fellow man. Even in the close and loving ties of marriage, community turns to warfare, and the pagan “comic writers” make their characters express unhappy sentiments about marriage as being misery. The home too often becomes a scene of warfare and grief.

If, then, home, the natural refuge from all the ills of life, is itself not safe, what shall we say of the city, which, as it is larger, is so much the more filled with lawsuits civil and criminal, and is never free from the fear, if sometimes from the actual outbreak, of disturbing and bloody insurrections and civil wars?4

Centuries of marital failures have not discouraged men from marrying in the hopes of finding happiness and true community in a family. The urge is not simply sexual: it is an urge to establish an order and a community, not merely to find sexual relief.

Similarly, the political failures have not ended political hopes. Men continue to seek a paradise on earth by a variety of means, of which politics is a central one.

The fallacy in these attempts is their evasion of the primacy and sovereignty of God. Politics is an area of order, not the means to order and peace. A man and woman who are at peace with God and with one another can establish godly order in marriage because they bring order and peace to the marriage. Marriage simply gives greater scope for the already existing condition and allows its extension, and conversely, if there is neither peace nor order in the life of the man, marriage will increase the scope of his disorder. Similarly, men carry their sins and disorders into the political state, and the state cannot give them and their social life a character they themselves lack.

The dream of man, however, is to make his disorder the grounds of a new order, to make his sin the new virtue, and to indulge himself in perfect peace. The Kalevala gives us a pagan expression of this supposedly idyllic dream:

The virgins of the island speak, the maidens of the headlands ponder
“We have house to come to, spacious farmsteads to live in, to take your songs to from out of the cold, to bring your words in from outdoors.”
Then as soon as reckless Lemminkainen came into the house he sang the stoups from farther off toward his end of the long deal table, stoups full of beer, beautiful pots of mead, dishes spilling over, bowls brimful.
Stoups of beer, pots of mead were indeed brought, butter was put in the readiness and pork put there for reckless Lemminkainen to eat, for the man with a far-roving mind to enjoy.
The man with a far-roving mind is very grand, nor does he start to eat without a silver-hilted knife, a gold sheath knife.
He got a silver knife, sang up a gold sheath knife; then he eats his fill, drank beer to his contentment.
Then reckless Lemminkainen strolled about the communities enjoying the virgins of the island in the lovely bevy of those with luxuriant hair.
Wherever he turned his head then his mouth was quickly kissed, wherever he reached out his hand then his hand was gently pressed.
Evenings he went out for some fun in the pitch dark.
There was not a community in which there were not ten farms nor was there a farm in which there were not ten daughters, not that daughter, not that mother’s child by whose side he did not stretch out, press down the arm.
He knew a thousand brides, lay with a hundred widows.
There were not two in ten, three in a whole hundred maids who were not had, widows not lain with.
Thus indeed reckless Lemminkainen lives in an easygoing way all of some three summers in the big communities of the island.
He delighted the virgins of the island, satisfied all the widows, too.5

When men dream of being god, their only attitude towards all other people and things is to use them to their advantage and profit. The result is not paradise but hell, not peace on earth but conflict and warfare. This, however, only intensifies their hunger for paradise, but since their only means of achieving it is by means of their lust for sovereignty, their very hunger for paradise pushes them deeper into hell on earth.

Nowhere is the lust for sovereignty more marked than in men who profess peace, humility, and a democratic methodology. Their concept of peace and democracy means their ascendancy. “Power to the people” means power to them as the incarnation of the people. Thus, Professor Tadeusz Kotarbinski, a Marxist scholar, has defined the humanist (who is therefore a socialist and the true man) in these terms: “The attitude of humanism is assumed by one who strives toward a given objective because he believes that it is for the good of the people.” He then defines this good to make it identical with Marxist socialism.6  In the name of championing man, such people become the enemies of all men who dare to dissent from their position. Kotarbinski can baldly say, “The term ‘for the people,’ ‘for the individual’ must be used in the universal sense if they are to characterize the attitude of humanism. But what do we mean by the words ‘universal sense’? We mean that we are not referring to separate and distinct individuals or to certain specific groups of people but to people in general and to Man in general.”7 This is the same as saying that I love my idea of man, but I hate my neighbor and must kill him since he violates my concept of what a man should be. The principle of definition is located in man rather than in God; reality is then what the man-god defines it to be. The gospel then is not God’s redemption of man but man’s redemption of himself by severing every tie that would bind him to God. “Authentic humanity” becomes defined as a God-free humanity. Thus, Dr. Lewis B. Smedes of Fuller Theological Seminary summons men to “preach Christ as the reclaimer of man’s lost humanity.” But man cannot be said to have lost his humanity in the Fall without violence to Scripture. Man was man both before and after the Fall; the difference was that he became a sinful man. Smedes writes, “The world does not need a message about a Savior who will do no more than turn us all into uptight, all-white, middle-class, comfortable champions of the law, order, and proper religion. What the world needs is the gospel of One who can restore men to total and authentic humanity—no more, no less, no other.”8 A mythical Christ is thus made the Adam who successfully frees man from God into an “authentic humanity” which is antinomian and autonomous.

The urge to paradise in fallen man is therefore an antinomian urge. Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden decided that their homeland was not paradise but a prison because they were restricted from transgressing God’s law. The law was practically manifested in a bar with respect to one tree; in principle, that restriction meant that man had to chose God’s law-word as against man’s law-word. The whole point of the temptation was that paradise would begin with man’s assertion of his autonomy and his “authentic humanity” in defiance of law (Gen. 3:1–6). The urge to paradise was now anti-God and antinomian, and hell is simply the consummation of man’s autonomous urge to paradise. In hell, man in total isolation from God and other men lives entirely to himself, without community, communication, or meaning, as his own world and god. Autonomous man’s urge to paradise thus has its conclusion finally in hell.

In godly men, the urge to paradise expresses itself in faith and obedience: “Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God” (Heb. 10:7). In these words, the Messiah-King, as the new Adam, expresses the principle whereby He leads men into their Sabbath rest, the true paradise or promised land (Heb. 4). “The King acknowledges a definite standard of the will of God, before He undertakes to aim at fulfilling it ... The Law which foreshadowed the duties of a King of Israel was the rule of the King’s life.”9

The work of restoration begins with Christ’s atonement, salvation by sovereign grace. Reconstruction proceeds with man’s obedience to God’s law. The paradise of Revelation is both garden and city (Rev. 21:1–22:5). It is the restoration and fulfillment of both man and his world.

Because the urge to paradise today is divorced from God and His law-word, its application and development in one continent after another only intensifies the problems and miseries of men. Both the Fall of man and the redemption of man are progressive actions. Christ by His death and resurrection destroyed the power of sin and death and reestablished man’s dominion in and under God, “But now we see not yet all things put under him” (Heb. 2:8). The victory was won in principle on the cross; it will be completed when “the last enemy,” death, is itself destroyed (1 Cor. 15:20–28).

The Fall too is progressive. Between Adam and Noah, the decline and destruction was great, and from Abraham’s day to Ezra’s, the world saw the intensification of man’s Fall. The twentieth century has seen vaster destruction and far more extensive degeneracy than other centuries, because evil has been more mature, and also because human progress itself gives fallen man greater scope and power in the manifestation of his depravity.

On the one hand thus, godly man’s urge to paradise leads to the new creation; on the other, man’s sinful urge to a paradise without God leads to the totality of hell.

As we have noted, the fallen man’s urge to paradise is antinomian, whereas the covenant man’s urge to paradise is by means of God’s law. A further contrast can be noted. As fallen men seek to establish their concept of paradise, their means of establishing paradise is violence and coercion, revolution and totalitarian controls. In the name of man’s salvation, humanistic man crucifies mankind on the cross of his controlled order. Because even totalitarian controls are failing to create the new model man of humanism, the dream increasingly is of dispensing with the old mankind that God created. A new race is to be created by biological sciences, by tampering with the genetic code and by means of like hopes.

The humanistic dream of paradise is inescapably coercive, because it requires a humanity to exist in that dreamed-of order which has little relationship to existing man. Since man is God’s creature, not man’s, man is simply incapable of becoming the new model man of humanistic dreams. However much he is educated, brainwashed, coerced, and threatened, he remains, in spite of all his fears and all his efforts to please his tormentors, God’s creature still. Man is created in the image of God, not in the image of the state or of the covenant-breaker’s dreams. Coercion and violence can harm man, but they cannot remake him. Because the humanist cannot remake man, in spite of all his coercive efforts, his every effort to create a humanistic paradise becomes an ugly nightmare and a failure.

Whereas the means to paradise regained for fallen man is outer coercion and persistent violence, the means God uses to restore man and the earth to their original destiny is an inward or inner coercion, regeneration. By God’s grace man is recreated in Jesus Christ and made a new creature. Because salvation is entirely by God’s sovereign grace, it is coercive, but it is a coercion comparable to the process of birth, a deliverance into life, or, better, it is comparable to resurrection. Man is released from bondage, that he might serve and enjoy God forever. He can then say with David in Psalm 56:13 (in Moffatt’s version), “[F]or thou hast saved my life from death, my feet from stumbling, that I might live, ever mindful of God in the sunshine of life.”


1. Robert Ardrey, African Genesis (New York: Atheneum, 1961), 327, cf. 270, 330.

2. Ibid., 316.

3. Augustine, The City of God, bk. 3, chap. 14, trans. Marcus Dods (New York: Modern Library, n.d.), 86.

4. Ibid., bk. XIX, chap. 5, 681.

5. The Kalevala, or Poems of the Kaleva District, comp. Elias Lonnrot, prose translation, foreword, appendices by Francis Peabody Magoun, Jr. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1963), 210.

6. Tadeusz Kotarbinski, “Socialist Humanism,” in Poland no. 4 (200), April 1971, 31.

7. Idem.

8. Lewis B. Smedes, “A Modest Proposal to Reform the World,” in The Reformed Journal, February 1971; cited in “Credibility Gap,” The Standard Bearer, vol. XLVII, no. 13, April 1, 1971, 294–295.

9. Brooke Foss Westcott, The Epistle to the Hebrews (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, [1892], 1952), 311.



Topics: Apologetics, Biblical Law, Culture , Dominion

R. J. Rushdoony

Rev. R.J. Rushdoony (1916–2001), was a leading theologian, church/state expert, and author of numerous works on the application of Biblical law to society. He started the Chalcedon Foundation in 1965.  His Institutes of Biblical Law (1973) began the contemporary theonomy movement which posits the validity of Biblical law as God’s standard of obedience for all. He therefore saw God’s law as the basis of the modern Christian response to the cultural decline, one he attributed to the church’s false view of God’s law being opposed to His grace. This broad Christian response he described as “Christian Reconstruction.”  He is credited with igniting the modern Christian school and homeschooling movements in the mid to late 20th century. He also traveled extensively lecturing and serving as an expert witness in numerous court cases regarding religious liberty. Many ministry and educational efforts that continue today, took their philosophical and Biblical roots from his lectures and books.

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