Either God is God or He is not and there can be other claimants to preeminence. Cornelius Van Til said there were only two alternatives: theonomy or autonomy, the rule of God and His law or the self-rule of man and his law. Man’s first sin was his quest to “be as gods” (Gen. 3:5). In order to establish any legitimacy for his own self-rule, man in rebellion against God must delegitimatize the rule of God and His law.
One way to delegitimatize God and His law is to claim a vast area of life as an area of neutrality. In 1984 my father, Rousas John Rushdoony, wrote an essay called “The Myth of Neutrality.” He called it “one of the most pernicious and evil myths to plague the human race” because “it presupposes a cosmos of uncreated and meaningless factuality, of brute or meaningless facts.” Brute, meaningless facts are not facts devoid of meaning, but rather facts that exist independently, in and of themselves. Brute, meaningless facts are, in reality, facts waiting to be interpreted by man.
The myth of neutrality is invoked whenever a stand contrary to a Christian position is desired. The law is said to be neutral on moral issues. Nothing could be further from the truth. The legal system is never neutral; its function is to take sides. Laws define good and evil, what is allowed and what is forbidden, in society. The courts may suspend judgment until a case is fairly tried, but then the purpose of the court is to decide guilt or innocence. Laws give a society’s moral code; courts render judgments accordingly. Neither is neutral. “The myth of neutrality prevents justice because it ascribes to the law and to the courts a character very much in conflict with their very nature.”
Claiming neutrality is like a child saying, “It’s my ball so we play by my rules.” Man is saying the facts are in his neutral realm, so he sets the rules and calls the plays. The kid who owns the ball is never objective, however, and neither is man. His motive is to create his own rules and make others live by them.
The easiest lies are redefinitions. Man’s moral code is called neutral and non-religious. God’s moral code is called religious and therefore dismissed. The applications of the myth of neutrality are therefore endless. Sex education is called neutral, it just gives facts, but abstinence and other behavioral directions are termed moral and religious. Public education is said to be neutral, but Christian education religious. Rewritten, irreligious history is said to be neutral; long-established religious aspects are eliminated. Secular laws against theft, murder, and perjury are said to be neutral, but the Ten Commandments are declared unwelcome as of religious origin. Neutrality is a means of replacing theonomy, the rule of God and His law, with autonomy, the self-rule of man and his law.
In viewing the religious, humanistic man goes further. He has to contain it, lest its influence escape into man’s dreamworld of autonomy. My father called this “box theology,” putting all things Christian within narrowly defined limits. Secular man declares his realm as neutral, but claims virtually all of life as within that realm of his autonomy, so he must define the realm of religion (and particularly Christianity) in the narrowest possible way.
If man is to be autonomous, he must be sovereign. Placing the realm of religion within the small confines of a “box” allows secular man to be sovereign; it makes man the definer of God and His realm.
Unfortunately, the church has been greatly influenced by both the myth of neutrality and box theology. Rather than see God and His Christ as sovereign, that is, with full power, right, and jurisdiction, it has defined God as concerned only with the spiritual. A god with limited jurisdiction is one with limited power and authority. The God of Christianity becomes merely a god.
One of Christ’s titles is Shiloh, “He whose right it is,” for there is no area of the creation that is neutral, or secular, or in any way outside His right and dominion. To deny all right, power, and authority to God is to deny Him and His Christ.
Box theology is optional theology in a neutral, secular view. A god without sovereign right and authority is an unnecessary god. If the world is largely neutral, it need not consider the claims of a deity it has marginalized. Stay away from the box and you need not concern yourself with its god. Moreover, advocates of religion are then out of line in bringing the god of their box outside its confines. From being unnecessary, such a god becomes illegitimate. “By beginning with the premise that there are neutral spheres outside of God, man ends up by declaring God out of bounds as a concern to men.”
The myth of neutrality and its relegation of Christianity to a box theology is an attempt to confine Christianity, its God, and His Christ. Don’t buy into these ideas, and, most importantly, never put limitations on God or His authority.
- Mark R. Rushdoony
Mark R. Rushdoony graduated from Los Angeles Baptist College (now The Master’s College) with a B.A. in history in 1975 and was ordained to the ministry in 1995.
He taught junior and senior high classes in history, Bible, civics and economics at a Christian school in Virginia for three years before joining the staff of Chalcedon in 1978. He was the Director of Chalcedon Christian School for 14 years while teaching full time. He also helped tutor all of his children through high school.
In 1998, he became the President of Chalcedon and Ross House Books, and, more recently another publishing arm, Storehouse Press. Chalcedon and its subsidiaries publish many titles plus CDs, mp3s, and an extensive online archive at www.chalcedon.edu.
He has written scores of articles for Chalcedon’s publications, both the Chalcedon Report and Faith for all of Life. He was a contributing author to The Great Christian Revolution (1991). He has spoken at numerous conferences and churches in the U.S. and abroad.
Mark Rushdoony lives in Vallecito, California, his home of 43 years with his wife of 45 years and his youngest son. He has three married children and nine grandchildren.