Additional Essay -- Chalcedon Position Paper No. 19, January 1981
In the modern world, sovereignty or lordship has ceased to be the attribute of God and has become the attribute of either man or the state, or shared by both. Even those theologians who talk much about God’s sovereignty tend to limit it to salvation, the church, and theology, which means in effect to deny God’s sovereignty.
In our world today, the state has delusions of deity, and it sees itself as god walking on earth. As the concomitant of this fact, the state implicitly claims infallibility. (With the Marxists, the dictatorship of the proletariat is the incarnation of the general will and is infallible.) As a result, nothing is more difficult, in dealings with agencies of state, than to get an admission of error. Have human lives been endangered, or lost, or have “private” parties been seriously maligned or damaged by an agency of the state? The state will go to any and all lengths to evade any admission of guilt or error. Is a statist regulation absurd, inappropriate, or irrelevant? No true bureaucrat will admit such a possibility. Near Echo Summit, on U.S. Highway 50, in California, the Vern Sprock family, entirely on their own, developed the Sierra Ski Ranch. In 1978, a day lodge was built on the top of the mountain; it is a model of “advanced” construction ideas, with solar heating panels, and a windmill-powered generator as an alternate energy source. The Sprocks ran afoul of the state law requiring wheelchair adapted toilets for the handicapped in all public places. The bureaucrats refused to consider the fact that the lodge can only be reached by skiing, not an activity for those confined to wheelchairs! Vern Sprock was compelled to add two wheelchair toilets at a cost of $400 each (Inquiry, December 8, 1980, p. 2)! The sad part of the story is that it is not unusual; such nonsense is commonplace. In another instance, a small guest ranch hired as employees a couple, the wife as cook, the husband to handle the horses; they shared a small apartment. The “law” required the owners to provide separate bathroom facilities for each of them under the requirement that male and female restroom facilities be separate! The sovereign state refuses to recognize the claims of common sense: all wisdom is incarnate in the state as the new god.
Individuals are no less exempt from this madness. If one is sovereign, then all things are possible. According to Theodore Roszak, “A prominent psychotherapist remarks to me over lunch that people sleep and die only because they have been mistakenly ‘programmed’ to believe they have to . . . and goes on to suggest how this erroneous programming might be therapeutically undone” (Harper’s, January 1981, p. 56). Anyone who is a good listener will hear like madness roll out of the mouths of today’s products of humanistic education.
All these people, however, have a reason for such beliefs. They are humanists. For them, sovereignty is an attribute of man or the state. The logic of their position leads them to such conclusions, unless they are under the influence of a Christian hangover. What can we say about the folly of those who are churchmen, ministers, and theologians, but who insist on the sovereignty of the state? They not only do so, but they insist on claiming Biblical warrant for their sin. They bleat piously about rendering unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, but they will not render unto God the absolute lordship or sovereignty which is His (Matt. 22:21; Mark 12:17; Luke 20:25). If we render to God the things which are His, then Caesar’s only place is in submission to the Lord: Caesar will not be in submission to the Lord if we are not.
Even Bertrand Russell, a militant humanist, understood what Jesus said: “The advice of Jesus to give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s, is a typical example of this Jewish recalcitrance. Though on the face of it a compromise, it is nevertheless a refusal to recognize the identity of God and Emperor” (Wisdom of the West, p. 129). Precisely. I render unto Caesar, unto my neighbor, unto my wife and children, as to all men, whatever is their due under God, but never that which must be rendered unto God.
Very simply defined, sovereignty means a monopoly of power and law. The two are inseparable: power and law are attributes of sovereignty. Hence, Christ as Lord and King of Creation, declares, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” In terms of this sovereignty, the Lord orders the discipling of “all nations,” “teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:18–20). The word used for “commanded” in the Greek is entello (noun, entole), meaning to order, to command. Entole was once in a while used as equivalent to torah, as in the Septuagint of Deuteronomy 17:19, “all the words of the law.” Thus, Christ sets forth, as basic to His royal requirement, that the disciples recognize that all power is His, and it is His law which must be taught to all, and obeyed by all who are redeemed and baptized “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” This is a very plain declaration of sovereignty; it made inescapable the conflict between the church and Rome, between Christ and Caesar. There cannot be two Lords.
Every social order is a system of power in application and in interrelationships; a social order is a power structure and faith in operation. The lord of the social order is the source of power in the system. The ability and authority to dominate men and institutions depends on the faith in a sovereign power. When faith in that lord or sovereign declines, the social order begins to decay and collapse. (Egon Friedell, in his Cultural History of the Modern Age, saw the Black Death as the beginning of the collapse of faith in the “medieval” order, and World War I as the terminal point of confidence in the modern culture.) Today, humanism’s concepts of sovereignty are decaying; it is mandatory for Christians to set forth Christ’s sovereignty and His crown rights.
One of these is His law, Biblical law. Law is a statement of causation and of necessity; it describes the order of being. In natural laws, scientists seek to determine that which uniformly and of necessity occurs. God’s law gives God’s order of causality and necessity, as witness Deuteronomy 28. Humanism has eroded the doctrines of causality and necessity, and therefore of law; it is thus in disintegration. In the process, God’s law, power, and sovereignty are being openly vindicated.
- 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.