(Reprinted from Bread Upon the Waters: Columns From The California Farmer [Fairfax, VA: Thoburn Press, 1974], 17–18.)
Law and order are two realities which must go together. If we separate order from law, the result is tyranny. There is a great deal of order in the Soviet Union; in fact, no one dares even disorder the streets with a scrap of paper. But this order is not based on true law but on tyranny, on dictatorship. There is a great deal of order in a graveyard, but there is no law at work in that order. It is the orderliness of death, of a total cessation of all movement and growth. It is possible to have order without law, and it is possible to have lawless order.
Gangsters have lawless order. No principle of justice governs their order: it is a case of either obey or get shot. It is an order which despises justice and law, and it works to subvert them.
Nowadays, our courts are often working against godly law and creating an ungodly and totalitarian order. In New York City, the police are increasingly being limited and hampered in their work by the politicians and the courts. The police have been seriously handicapped in their efforts to control racial violence. But on August 17, 1966, news dispatches reported that “A city agency that used two notorious gangsters in an attempt to stem New York’s recent racial violence even gave them letters of introduction so police would not interfere.” Gangsters can bring order to a community, but they cannot bring law. Communists have brought order to many countries, but it is the lawless order of dictatorship, tyranny, and the graveyard. And federal officials can bring order to farmers and to farm labor, but it is not the order of law, morally based and religiously grounded.
What the United States needs badly is law and order, godly law and order. Instead, we are increasingly getting order (and orders) without law. Our greatest danger, as we face civil violence, planned rioting, and revolutionary agitation, is that order will be restored without law. Revolutionists have always staged public disorders to break down law and to lead people to demand order, any kind of order.
The revolutionists then help provide a new lawless order, sacrificing law in the name of order.
We must not, therefore, separate law and order one from another, nor can we tolerate it from churchmen or politicians. Too many people are working for laws which only create disorders, and for an order which can only destroy law. Moses said, “Ye shall not respect persons in judgment; but ye shall hear the small as well as the great; ye shall not be afraid of the face of man; for the judgment is God’s” (Dt. 1:17). There is thus no law where there is any class legislation, nor is there any order except the order of tyranny. Is this what we want?
- 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.