(Reprinted from Roots of Reconstruction [Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1991], 342–344.)
Recently, I was in an eastern state as an expert witness in a freedom of speech and freedom of religion trial. Two street preachers were on trial and had been arrested and imprisoned earlier. The judge in this case, unlike so many, was courteous and conducted the trial with dignity; however, he readily admitted hearsay evidence against the two preachers. The city brought to the trial a zeal which would have been more appropriate for a case involving rape or murder. I left at the end of the first day, having given my testimony, but the memory of the case remains, together with a sharp awareness of this country’s degeneracy. Pastors and Christian School leaders, and children, are regularly on trial. Widows and orphans, whom the Lord regards as the test of a people’s faith, are systematically robbed by inheritance taxes, and most people, in and out of the church, do not care and are indifferent to the evils of our times.
The other morning I was awakened by a very vivid and horrifying dream. In my dream, I was back at the courtroom (where in fact no local pastor came to give open support, being fearful of the hostility or disfavor of the city fathers). In my dream, three mildly friendly men unrelated to the trial offered to drive me to the airport. There was an oppressive darkness in the air and in the minds of men. All had left faith and morality behind, and the world was Christless. We stopped at an intersection; a nearly naked black girl of about 12 years ran crying to the automobile, asking help. I demanded that she be taken in. Just then, a van, going in the opposite direction, pulled alongside of us; the two men in the cab, one black, one white, demanded the girl’s return. They mistook my refusal’s reason, and offered to sell her, adding that they could supply any age or color, any sex, for any purpose. I demanded the driver gun the motor and leave, and we escaped the slave-wagon. I asked the frightened girl her name, and she had none, only “girl.” The three men told me the girl was my “problem”; they wanted no part of “stolen property.” I realized I was in a slave world without Christ and Scripture, the law-word of God. Then I woke up with the recognition that the world I live in and the world of my dream are not very far apart.
The next day, The Wall Street Journal (Thursday, August, 7, 1988, p. 24) gave confirmation to my dream in an article by Bruce S. Ledewitz, “The Questions Rehnquist Hasn’t Had to Answer.” The author called attention to the ironic fact that prominent conservatives and clergymen had strongly supported Justice William Rehnquist for chief justice of the U. S. Supreme Court. Rehnquist follows strictly in the legal footsteps of Holmes. He denies the relevancy to law of personal moral judgments, because they are “subjective” and supposedly cannot be proved.
Legal positivism governs our courts increasingly and is separating religion and morality from law. The same legal cynicism that led to Marxism and to National Socialism is now increasingly commonplace in American law.
My dream was very logical. A world not under God’s law is soon a world in which only tyranny prevails. Moral order is replaced by statist order, and man ceases to be a person before the law. We should remember that John Dewey, the father of modern statist education, was skeptical about personal consciousness and conscience. For him the reality was the statist community.
Bruce S. Ledewitz called attention to the churchmen and conservatives who supported Rehnquist’s nomination as chief justice by President Ronald Reagan. These men won the battle, but they continue to lose the war, because the basic issue is obscured. What we face is more than a political battle, and more than an intellectual struggle. It is a conflict of faiths, and, by supporting men like Rehnquist, we are aiding and abetting our own destruction. The conservatives have won many victories in recent years which have only advanced the cause of their opponents.
A key problem of our time is the failure of men to see what is at stake. A spiritual blindness marks our age. In 1924, Eileen Power wrote an interesting study entitled Medieval People. In 1938, she wrote an essay, later included in the 1963 (tenth edition) printing, entitled, “The Precursors,” which begins with a survey of “Rome in Decline.” Towards the end of her essay, she commented, “The fact is that the Romans were blinded to what was happening to them by the very perfection of the material culture which they had created. All around them was solidity and comfort, a material existence which was the very antithesis of barbarism.” They might have problems, but for the Romans it was unthinkable that barbarism could replace civilization. As Eileen Power grimly noted, “Their roads grew better as their statesmanship grew worse and central heating triumphed as civilization fell.”
Central to Roman irresponsibility and blindness, according to Professor Power, was their educational system. It was relevant to their problems, she noted, “and it would be difficult to imagine an education more entirely out of touch with contemporary life.” The Romans were guilty of “the fatal illusion that tomorrow would be the same as yesterday.”
Rome was full of cultured Rehnquists who were busily making Rome and its ways irrelevant to reality. Its liberals were building up statist power and destroying society. Its conservatives had impotent criticism, of which Petronius Arbiter gives us an example, in the complaint, “And it is my conviction that the schools are responsible for the gross foolishness of our young men, because, in them, they see or hear nothing at all of the affairs of everyday life.” True enough, but neither Petronius Arbiter nor any of his fellow satirists could offer Rome the faith and morality needed to revitalize their world. The Romans were practical men of the variety Disraeli described in the 19th century, when he observed, “Practical men are men who practice the blunders of their predecessors.”
Professor Ledewitz said of Rehnquist, “In a 1976 article, Justice Rehnquist formally set forth the ideas he has implicitly championed throughout his judicial career. In the article, he formally endorsed Justice Holmes’ call for ‘skepticism’ about moral values.” From coast to coast, our press snarls with rage at those who try to apply religious and moral standards to man and society. The “good” is increasingly defined by what the state does because no God and law above the state is recognized, and the state is viewed as a god walking on earth.
Phil Donahue used a Soviet propagandist on his television show, and the man, Vladimir Posner saw the U. S. as “bad” because it has unemployment, poverty, and homeless peoples, whereas the U. S. S. R. he said had none. Bayard Rustin, in criticizing Donahue and Posner, called attention to the fact that his black grandparents were slaves who had full employment, food, and housing, and it was not a good order for them. Remove God and His law from society and you have the moral confusion demonstrated by Posner and his friends.
Roman civilization, said Eileen Power, lost the power to reproduce itself. She gave no clear answer to this problem, but, as Christians, we can supply one. If you believe nothing, what can you transmit to your children? If you have no faith, can you give your heirs anything but cynicism as a way of life? If good and evil are myths, then how can we call life itself good? The increasing incidence of suicide among state school children is the logical conclusion of an educational system stripped of Christianity.
Modern man has no solid grounds for condemning slavery, tyranny, child abuse, sexual abuse, or anything else. Fifteen years ago, some of the avant-garde leaders of the new amorality were insisting that all things between consenting adults should be legal. Now the limitation of consent is disappearing as some groups agitate for the freedom to molest children. As Dostoyevsky observed more than a century ago, if there is no God, then all things are possible.
But there is a God, the Lord God of Scripture, and He lives, and He is a consuming fire to His enemies (Heb. 12:29). All things are not possible because God reigns. There is therefore causality and judgment in history, and God’s law governs all things.
Can men make this the kind of world I dreamed about? Yes, and they are doing so. But as the Sabbath song, Psalm 92, declares in verses 7–8, “When the wicked spring as the grass, and when all workers of iniquity do flourish; it is that they shall be destroyed forever: But thou, Lord, art most high for evermore.” Men’s Towers of Babel are always confounded and destroyed. The judges and rulers of this world will in time take notice, because none can escape the righteous judge of all creation.
- 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.