Chalcedon Report No. 13, October 1, 1966
One of the most important things for us to know, in understanding our world, is that it is a world under God’s law. At every point in our lives, we are governed by law. The laws of physiology, the laws of our body, are very real laws, as are laws of digestion, rest, exercise, sleep, and so on: we despise or break them at our peril. The physical world has its laws, and we live in terms of them: we cannot annul gravity because we have decided on an impulse to float upward instead of falling down. We have laws in every realm, biological, sociological, chemical, economic, religious, and so on.
In some areas, the laws are no less certain but not so quick in their consequences. Taking arsenic has a quick effect; taking narcotics is somewhat slower, and being an alcoholic is slower yet, but each course involves a violation of God’s laws for the body, and the pursued course is death.
In the world of human affairs, God’s laws are, as everywhere else, operative, but, by the providence of God, man is given more rope in some areas than in others, and these areas become significant therefore in human history.
Politics is one such area. God’s basic requirement of the political order is the recognition that sovereignty belongs, not to man, nor to the state, but to God alone. The state cannot be neutral towards the triune God. It must recognize that the triune God is the basic and ultimate lawgiver, and it must seek to further godly law and order.
But politics is also a realm where man can assert and has repeatedly asserted his maximum defiance of God. The state has claimed sovereignty and set itself up as God and as man’s savior. The state has made man’s law supreme and has despised God’s law. It has claimed the right to govern other law spheres, such as religion and economics, and the state has acted as though there were no absolute law in the universe, only man-made law.
This attitude is, of course, basic to socialism in its every form, Fabian, Marxist, “Christian,” and so on. And many, many people are socialist without knowing it, because they either put their trust in politics, or ascribe fearfully impossible powers to politics, which are impossible in God’s world.
Economics is a law sphere. The economists have named the laws, but they operated before they were named. Gresham’s law has been true in all history: “bad money drives out good money”; no man will trade real silver and gold for counterfeit if he can avoid it, and, in the long run, the silver and gold are hoarded, and the counterfeit or debased coinage alone circulates until it collapses. Gresham did not invent this law: he simply observed a reality in God’s universe.
The socialist believes that politics can successfully control economics: “Washington won’t let it happen; they can’t afford to politically.” But Washington is not God, and Washington, D.C., having set aside economic law, will suffer the consequences of violating economic law: economic disaster. If man can avert the consequences of God’s law, then man has dethroned God. If Washington, D.C., can make its own economic laws as it goes along, and, by legislation and by administrative action, avert the consequences of its action, then causality has been abolished, law has been abolished, and the political managers are the new gods of the universe.
This, of course, is their very claim: “God is dead; long live the welfare state.” They are very religious about it. One prominent scientist, in his book entitled Man’s Means to His End, concludes with a chapter entitled “Godliness Without a God.” According to Sir Robert Watson-Watt, “Man’s Chief End is to glorify Man and to enjoy him forever.” Man is his own god, and therefore man is his own lawgiver, making his own laws as he goes along.
Now it is unpleasant to think about troubles ahead. We all tend to like our life as it is. We want the world to change without anyone’s hair being mussed. But the fact of economic crisis and collapse is the certainty of God’s government. Man is not permitted to remake the world or himself after his own image. God’s judgment and God’s laws prevail. To believe in a political answer to economic problems is to desert belief in law for a belief in man. To hope that we can solve economic problems by political action is to succumb to the socialist temptation. Politics has a very important part in man’s life as politics. The Founding Fathers and the colonial leaders of America were active in politics to limit politics, to keep its role as limited as possible. They were fearful of any politics which claimed too much ability or power for the political order.
The essential meaning of the political hope is humanism. The humanist worships man. His faith is in man’s capacity to remake the world and man through political action, and this political action is the province of a scientific elite, a managerial and planning elite who feel no need to conform to any law beyond themselves, because they believe that no law exists outside of man.
Humanism has captured the American scene, and the real religion of the United States is no longer Christianity but humanism. The courts have replaced Christianity in education with the new established religion, humanism. Humanism has also captured the churches and is preached from the pulpit by men who are sometimes unaware of their capture. Love, man’s humanistic love, is the new savior, replacing Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity.
The basic temptation of Satan in Eden was, “Ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil,” i.e., every man will be his own god, knowing or determining what is good and evil for himself. This is the essence of humanism in its every form, pragmatism, existentialism, Marxism, Fabianism, etc. But law, God’s law, is the habitat of man. The law sphere of a fish, physiologically, is water; take him out of water and put him on a table, and he dies. Man’s physiological law sphere is air; place him in water, and he dies. The total law sphere of man and the universe is God: “in Him we live and move and have our being.” Take man out of God’s law sphere, and man dies. And this is exactly what humanistic politics has done and continues to do. The result will be death. Humanistic politics can solve no problems and prevent no economic collapse: it is itself responsible for the evils which plague it.
The Dictionary of Philosophy defines “Political Philosophy” as, “That branch of philosophy which deals with political life, especially with the essence, origin and value of the state. In ancient philosophy politics also embraced what we call ethics.” This is an extremely important point. As Christians, we believe that our ethics, our morality, must be derived from the only true source of law, the triune God. Our ethics are theocentric, God-centered, having reference to His Word and to His judgment. But, outside of Biblical morality, all morality has been political, being derived from the political order and having reference to political judgment. We cannot understand what is happening in our courts, schools, and pulpits unless we recognize that American morality has been leaving Christianity for humanism, for a political orientation. We are becoming group-oriented, and the Supreme Court is defining morality for us.
A very interesting work on the new statist morality and congenial to it, is edited by Peter B. Neubauer, M.D., director of the Child Development Center in New York, and entitled Children in Collectives: Child-Rearing Aims and Practices in the Kibbutz (Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas, Publisher, 1965). Children in Israel’s kibbutzim are given a thoroughly socialistic, humanistic training. The kibbutzim is their real parent. Boys and girls sleep together, four to a room, until they are eighteen; family ties are downgraded for the social tie. The children are really experimental animals. According to one of the writers, “The basically different character of the kibbutz offers uniquely rich possibilities for research activities; beyond this, the existence of a real striving for new conditions of life demands from all of us the study of differences, in order that we may broaden our own views” (p. 321).
Unless God is the source of all law, including moral law, man and the state will be the source of law and of morality. And this we are seeing at an accelerated rate. But God remains the only true lawgiver, and Scripture declares that God is a very jealous God, and He does not take lightly man’s usurpation of God’s prerogatives. Men may dream that they control the world, that they have abolished economic law and the possibility of economic disaster, but God laughs, as He laughs at all would-be gods and lawmakers: “the Lord shall have them in derision . . . Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel” (Ps. 2:4, 9).
There’s a war going on, and wars hurt. Either way, either side, there will be some losses and some hurt. Pick your side: God or the state? God cannot lose, and He makes “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). The politicians of the world may say, “We will not let economic disaster happen,” and God laughs. “All the nations are as nothing before Him; they are accounted as less than nothing and worthlessness” (Isa. 40:17, Berkeley Version). This God is our God, and He is our hope.
- 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.