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Lawless Law

If men are not godly, the best-intentioned laws can serve ungodly and lawless ends.

R. J. Rushdoony
  • R. J. Rushdoony
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California Farmer 236:1 (Jan. 1, 1972), p. 23.

A recent news item stated that a court in Kirby, Great Britain, ruled against Amanda Egan, age ten, who was crossing over a crosswalk on roller skates. A truck struck her, but the court ruled, because Amanda had been on wheels, she lost her rights as a pedestrian and had no right to the pedestrian crossing or to damages.

Of course, had Amanda been skating elsewhere in the street when struck, she would have also lost, because the court would have ruled that she had no right to the street.

The court, in this case, because of a technicality, the wheels, deprived Amanda Egan of justice. The court was lawless in the name of the law. The law was used to pervert the purpose of the law. We should not be surprised at this.

Last month, a state official told me that the law itself means little. “If,” he said, “I owe you a thousand dollars, it makes little difference whether you have my signed note for it, or just my word. The note is worth only as much as my word is. If you go to court against me, it will cost as much or more to win, and winning is no guarantee you can collect. The note and the law are no better than your character and mine.”

This is the heart of the matter. If men are not godly, the best-intentioned laws can serve ungodly and lawless ends. This was true in Amanda Egan’s case, and in many other cases. The law becomes a force for lawlessness when the people and the courts are ungodly.

To trust or hope that a new law is the answer is to be a fool. I know people who have spent years and money agitating for new laws to remedy all manner of problems, and they cannot understand why matters get worse. They insist on believing that another election and another law will somehow solve the problem.

The Psalmist wisely saw the issue: “Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain” (Ps. 127:1). New and good laws without new and godly men are like houses with roofs but neither walls nor foundations: they cannot stand.

We have some bad laws on our books in America, but also thousands of good ones. We were a godly people before we passed many of those laws; we have neither been made better nor preserved from ungodliness by having them.

Laws are good, in their place. But first and last, we need godly men and soon. God, give us men!


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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