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Family and Government

Over the years, I have again and again stressed, in writings and lectures, the centrality of the family in God's plan. I have been bitterly criticized for this from more than one source. The fact remains that all the basic governmental powers in society, save one, the death penalty, have been given to the family, not to the state nor to the church.

R. J. Rushdoony
  • R. J. Rushdoony,
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Over the years, I have again and again stressed, in writings and lectures, the centrality of the family in God's plan. I have been bitterly criticized for this from more than one source. The fact remains that all the basic governmental powers in society, save one, the death penalty, have been given to the family, not to the state nor to the church. First, and foremost, is the control of children, and to teach, govern, and guide children means the control of the future. For this reason, the state seeks increasingly to usurp this power. The state's entrance into education has had as its goal the de-Christianization of society and decrease of the family's power. Second, in Biblical law, property is family-owned, a trust passed on to one's godly children and never seen as private property but as family property. This was Naboth's position in 1 Kings 21:1-2. The Biblical perspective provides the family with a solid and endearing basis in society and makes it a stable and enduring power. Third, inheritance is a family power. The godly seed must receive the inheritance, and the main heir has the care of the poorest. Such a view meant that the godly generation to come was always capitalized and enabled to command the future. Today, while we still have community property, alienation is permitted, and the godly seed are not necessarily favored. The state taxes both property and inheritance, contrary to God's law, and it thereby decapitalizes the family. Fourth, education, a family power, has become a state power. Here Christian and home schools are regaining lost ground, but much still remains to be done. Fifth, charity, the care of the needy, is in God's law a family duty. Modern welfarism has replaced this, with devastating results.

It is well now to review the basic areas of government. Our use of the word government is a deadly one: we tend to mean by it the state, what colonial Americans and early members of the republic always called civil government. Unless we are totalitarians, the word government has a broader meaning. Its main references are as follows. First, the self-government of the Christian man is the primary sphere of government. The alternative to this is dictatorship, and, without Christian self-government, dictatorship is our logical goal. Second, the family is man's basic governmental unit. It is men's first church, school, economic sphere, and much, much more. It is central in God's law, and four of the Ten Commandments are family oriented. Third, the church is an area of government although now much weakened by hostile forces. Fourth, education or the school is a governing sphere. Fifth, our vocation or job governs us. Sixth, various voluntary agencies, the community, friends, and more, all govern us. Seventh, the state is a government, one among many. At present, the state seeks to govern and control all other spheres, and this is a revival of the ancient pagan powers of the state.

A mark of anti-Christianity is the move to strip the family of these powers. In Red China, it means a denial of the freedom to have more than one child. In almost every country today, the freedom of the family is under attack. In this century, attacks on Christianity have meant attacks on the family as much as the church.

David Ekrenfield, in The Arrogance of Humanism (1978), wrote of humanism as "the dominant religion of our time" (p. 3), and said that its:

Core[is]a supreme faith in human reason its ability to confront and solve the many problems that humans face, its ability to rearrange both the world of Nature and the affairs of men and women so that human life will prosper. Accordingly, as humanism is committed to an unquestioning faith in the power of reason, so it rejects other assertions of power, including the power of God, the power of supernatural forces, and even the undirected power of Nature in league with blind chance. The first two don't exist, according to humanism; the last can, with effort, be mastered. (p. 5)

Humanism thus begins by severely limiting the nature of reality to this world and especially to reason. Because of this, there is a marked hostility to Christianity and the family. Both are seen as basically irrational and therefore as roadblocks to progress. Man, instead of being viewed as a creature made in the image of God, is seen as an animal whose sole redeeming quality is his reason. The goal of society and of education becomes then the exercise and application of rationality, not the service and enjoyment of God forever. Man's goal becomes man himself as the high point of human evolution.

The Humanist's Answer to Man's Problems
As we look at the problems we face in our world today, we face a contradiction, in fact, a major division, in attempts to answer them. One began with President John F. Kennedy, who in a major speech defined mankind's problems as essentially no longer moral but essentially technological. He aptly described the cultural shift that has taken place. Education, humanistic education, and technology are the answers. Problem solving is now entirely shifted from morality and character to education and/or technology. Consider, for example, the so-called war on drugs. Information is provided, and scientific data is presented. Youth are then told, "Just say no." But to say no is a moral response. We know that the use of drugs is rare in Christian youth circles where a strong religious and moral teaching prevails, and yet our society refuses the Christian moral approach. The humanistic culture around us rejects the Biblical premise that the solution to social problems is a religious and moral one. Man is best governed when he governs himself in terms of God's grace, Word, and power. Scientific data on drugs converts no man, and the fear of consequences soon wanes. For example, Herpes II, and then AIDS, briefly frightened many into some restraint in their sexual misconduct, but not for long. There is no substitute for a religious moral self-government, and all efforts which by-pass the Christian solution are doomed to fail.

In the economic sphere, advancement is again a matter of character. Thrift plus work are necessary to capitalize a society. This the family does best. A sensate culture faces decapitalization. It is not an accident that five of the six major food-producing countries all reflect the character of Puritanism. Not natural resources, but faith and character determine most the ability of a people to develop economically.

The family is the key. Civilization requires faith and character, and the family is the God-ordained training ground for men and nations. Our problem today is the corruption of the family. A major concern of children in state schools is that, in terms of the standards of statist education, their parents are ignorant and retrogressive. These children should be ashamed of their schools; instead, they are ashamed of their parents, a clear signal of cultural decay. But, despite great hostilities, Christian families, home schoolers, and Christian schoolers are taking the initiative in the restoration of Christian civilization. Instead of being schools for barbarians, they are schools for the children of the Great King.

R. J. Rushdoony
  • 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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