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The Rule of Men

By Mark R. Rushdoony
February 01, 2001

The 2000 U. S. Presidential election will be long remembered. The scenes of lawyers, politicians, judges, and election officials debating how to interpret "the will of the people" by examining oddly marked ballots were ominous signs that reveal something disturbing about our legal system.

Chalcedon's message is not one about state or church. Both are legitimate spheres. But to focus on the state or the church as the mechanism of change is humanistic because it centers on man and a top-down view of social order. Chalcedon has thus avoided both politics and issues of denominational church battles, through this is not to say these are not legitimate areas of concern. Rather, we have avoided a top-down perspective in favor of emphasizing the duty of Christians to first serve as faithful citizens in the kingdom of God. Christianity is about regenerated men who are led to greater faithfulness to God in their own lives and progressively into its larger application around them. The state and institutional church are, at best, about organization; at worst, they are about raw power. The gospel of salvation is about new men who have the Holy Spirit indwelling them. Chalcedon's role is to build up such men in their role as citizens of the kingdom of God who are thereby equipped to serve in all areas of life, including church and state.

Western civilization is a product of the spread of Christianity. It is not and never was a perfect reflection of that faith. It was, however, guided and regularly reformed by a Christian ethic. From wilderness and barbarism grew civilization. The Christian belief in the rule of divine, Biblical law led to limitations on the increasing power of the state (power which had earlier tipped too far towards the church). For the first time in the history of mankind, the premise that laws were to reflect divine justice and that they held sway even over kings came to the fore. The Magna Carta was a great milestone for this reason. The English Revolution, in deposing a lawless king, furthered this premise in that country, and the American counterparts of those Puritans carried this idea even further. The American Revolution against a lawless Parliament, the Declaration of Independence, which enumerated the king's lawlessness, and the Constitution cemented in the United States the principle of the rule of law over the arbitrary will of men.

The Christian belief in the sovereignty of God and His divine law logically led to the corresponding principle of the freedom of the individual from men who claimed such sovereignty for themselves. But this development, which caused economic prosperity, the admiration of the world, and hope for generations of immigrants coming to America depended on the faith and character of the people. The blessings of representative government depend on the character of the people such a government represents. To the individual, the quality of life in a free society depends upon the manner in which others use their freedom. Increasingly, freedom means we must hide our children and be berated for our ethic. What has happened? We have as a people and a culture lost the faith which produced the moral, self-governing man. There is no basis for morality without faith, and great danger in freedom without morality.

The loss of the faith and character of the citizenry has been necessarily accompanied by the loss of beliefs in the higher moral law of God, which put limitations on individuals, institutions, and society. People who drift away from the Christian Faith lose the basis of their morals. They discover, as did the hippies of the 1960's, that they do not believe in their morals anymore. In a representative government, this loss of faith and moral standards will be reflected in the people and their institutions. People may see individuals, laws, or political or judicial decisions as watersheds, but they only reveal the vulnerability that existed since the loss of Christian faith.

Faith, however, is never actually lost; it is only transferred to another loyalty. When men reject God, they desire Satan's promise to Eve of being "as gods." Men play god in various ways. Some revel in autonomous license; some look to the power of the state as the highest collective voice of autonomous men in statism. In either case, or in any other manifestation of rebellion against divine law, man is supreme. All such forms of man's supremacy are examples of humanism. Humanism is man playing god. Even the concept of the rule of law loses validity when the law is itself corrupted by morally lawless citizens and their morally lawless representatives and justices. In democratic humanism, it is not God's law that is supreme. Neither is it the written legal code, for this is the will of past human gods. To the democratic humanist, "the will of the people" must reign supreme over the rule of the law. This view of the eighteenth-century thinker Jean-Jacques Rousseau led to the democratic slaughters of the French Revolution and other revolutions since that time. Recent generations have witnessed the greatest mass murders in human history. These have been politically orchestrated state campaigns, and always the slaughter is claimed to be in the best interests of "the people."

Freedom and representative government are beneficial only to the extent that men are good. Representative government is a very fragile thing and, as its name implies, represents what the people are, whether good or evil. The U.S. tends to push freedom on other countries, who often point out the pornography, violence, family disintegration of the U.S. and say, "No thank you!" No form of government works well without good men. This is why Chalcedon's ministry is about building up citizens of the Kingdom of God. Once we understand our role therein, we shall be fully equipped to understand our role as citizens of our state and as members of our church. It begins with faith and matures with faithfulness to the Word of God. The Constitution does not make for good government. It is an invaluable safeguard, which is worth defending and preserving, but it can only restrain evil men who resort to the "will of the people" for a time. Such men demand radical change and show disregard for laws that constrain them by appeal to the vague and indefinable "will of the people."

The election battle over the close vote count in Florida brought to our attention the fact that we are increasingly a government of people, not laws. The appeal of Al Gore was to "the will of the people." But his position was that this be decided not by the objective count of ballots but by the
subjective interpretation of the "intent" of the voter by courts, lawyers, campaign workers, and volunteers. Were you happy to see the courts involved because you knew the rule of law and justice would triumph? Or did you not apprehensively fear that one judge or one court would dictate the "will of the people" based upon their political leanings? Our concern about the party affiliation and political loyalties of the justices involved tells us we knew that any outcome was possible. With loose construction, appeals to the "intent" of the voters and subjectively determined votes we knew we were a government, or at least a judiciary, of men and no longer of laws. Which was it? The question was open for over a month.

What we saw in Florida revealed the susceptibility of the integrity of even the counting of votes. We saw that a few men would determine the winner of the presidency, not the voters.

At the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention, a woman asked Benjamin Franklin what sort of government the delegates had given the nation. "A republic, if you can keep it," was his reply. He was not referring to the structure of government but to its essence free men who are so secure in their exercise of personal responsibility that they defend their freedom. The structure of our government remains very similar to what those delegates gave us, but now we are a nation of regulated, heavily-taxed citizens of the state who watch helplessly as judges, lawyers, and politicians decide the immediate course of American history. The boot is stomping on our face in the name of "the will of the people."

It will not be Al Gore, George W. Bush, Congress, or courts that determine our future, however, but God. It is right and appropriate to fight for rights in court (as Paul used his right of citizenship). But any change that lasts will come from changed men, changed character, and the slow, steady effects of such change in society. We can't go back to the freedom of early America without going back to its Christian Faith and character, and its courage to fight, not only for the privileges of freedom, but its responsibilities. Without such a revival of Christian character, the Florida court scene is the future of the American republic. We must see the future of our social order in terms of the character of its people. Only God is in the business of changing men in this way. This is Chalcedon's ministry to believers. We build citizens of the kingdom of God. Whoever is in the White House, we must remember Who is on the throne, and Whose will is paramount.


Topics: American History, Christian Reconstruction, Government

Mark R. Rushdoony

Mark R. Rushdoony graduated from Los Angeles Baptist College (now The Master’s College) with a B.A. in history in 1975 and was ordained to the ministry in 1995.

He taught junior and senior high classes in history, Bible, civics and economics at a Christian school in Virginia for three years before joining the staff of Chalcedon in 1978. He was the Director of Chalcedon Christian School for 14 years while teaching full time. He also helped tutor all of his children through high school.

In 1998 he became the President of Chalcedon and Ross House Books, and, more recently another publishing arm, Storehouse Press. Chalcedon and its subsidiaries publish many titles plus CDs, mp3s, and an extensive online archive at www.chalcedon.edu

He has written scores of articles for Chalcedon’s publications, both the Chalcedon Report and Faith for all of Life. He was a contributing author to The Great Christian Revolution (1991). He has spoken at numerous conferences and churches in the U.S. and abroad.

Mark Rushdoony lives in Vallecito, California, his home of 40 years with his wife of 42 years and his youngest son. He has three married children and nine grandchildren.

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