IBL02: Second Commandment (Craig Press)
Law: Partial and Impartial
*This is an unedited and unoffical print version of R.J. Rushdoony’s lecture.
R.J. Rushdoony: 00:02 Our scripture this morning is several verses all on a common theme with respect to the law. First of all, from the 12th chapter of Exodus, the 49th verse, Exodus 12:49. Exodus 12:49. One law shall be to him that his home born and under the stranger that sojourneth among you. Then from the 28th chapter of Exodus, two verses. The 12th verse, and though shalt put the two upon the shoulders of the ephod for stones of memorial onto the children of Israel: and Aaron shall bear their names before the Lord upon his two shoulders for a memorial. The 29th verse, And Aaron shall bear the names of the children of Israel in the breastplate of judgment upon his heart, when he goeth in under the holy place, for a memorial before the Lord continually.
R.J. Rushdoony: 01:41 Then back to the 23rd chapter of Exodus, the 24 the verse. Thou shalt not bow down to their gods, nor serve them, nor do after their work. But thou shalt utterly overthrow them and quite break down their images. Finally, two verses from Deuteronomy 23, the fifth book of Moses. Deuteronomy 23 verses 17 and 18. Deuteronomy 23:17 and 18. There shall be no whore of the daughters of Israel, nor a sodomite of the sons of Israel. Thou shalt not bring the hire of a whore or the price of a dog into the house of the Lord thy God for any vow. For even both these are abominations unto the Lord Thy God.
R.J. Rushdoony: 02:53 This morning, our scripture has been a series of verses from the law, all of which deal with a common theme. It would take a great deal of time to go into these passages in detail and perhaps might be confusing if we were to give them in too great a detail, so that we shall consider a certain point that the law makes, which these verses have in common.
R.J. Rushdoony: 03:29 First of all, let us consider the verses in Exodus 28 that dealt with the stone of memorial on the ephod and breastplate. Now the ephod and breastplate were items of the high priest’s barb, which he wore as he went into the most holy place, that is to the throne room of God. The priest represented the covenant people before God, and it’s a constant reminder when he went there, both in his function religiously and in his function politically because the holy place, the most holy place, was the throne of God, the King of Israel. The ephod had on its shoulders two stones upon which were engraved the names of the 12 tribes of Israel. The breastplate had 12 gems upon it and on each of the gems was engraved the name of a tribe. Thus the priest, as he functions in his office, could not pray promiscuously. His primary concern was the people of God both politically and religiously. This therefore brings out an important aspect of the law. There is both a partiality and an impartiality to God’s law. And there must be the same our law in both religiously and spiritually.
R.J. Rushdoony: 05:22 The impartiality, first of all. In Matthew 5:45, our Lord said that God causes the sun to shine upon the just and the unjust and the rain also to fall upon both alike. Moreover, in the scripture which we read, Exodus 12:49, the equal protection of the law as far as justice is concerned extends to both the home born and the stranger and the word stranger here means alien. This, of course, is emphasized in a number of other passages in the law. In Leviticus 24:23 and Numbers 9:14 and in Numbers 9:15, 16, and 29, there is to be one law for all.
R.J. Rushdoony: 06:24 On the other hand, there is the law specifies definite partiality. God intervenes again and again in history to overthrow the enemies of his people. The law is given to protect Israel from subversion and total toleration is never legally possible, nor is it permitted by the law of Moses. The idea of total toleration of course, is a fiction. It is an impossibility. No law can ever extend total toleration religiously. For example, there is not a single practice anywhere that has not had religious sanction. For example, human sacrifice has often been and still is in many parts of the world, a religious requirement. Similarly, prostitution and homosexuality have been often aspects of religious worship and were very central aspects of the religious worship of the Canaanites facility cult.
R.J. Rushdoony: 07:46 Similarly, there is not a single human practice, whether it be adultery or whether it be murder, which has not been required by some religious practice somewhere. But there cannot be total toleration. There can only be toleration of any other faith in so far as it does not offend the people of the ruling faith. This matter, for example, came to the United States Supreme Court about 125 years ago with respect to polygamy and Mormonism. And the Supreme Court had to come to the conclusion that it was impossible to extend toleration to this Mormon practice. Because they said if we do, there is nothing that cannot be permitted to them under the name of religious toleration. All one has to do is just set up a religion which requires almost anything and then anything goes, and there is no law. And so they said this country being Christian and the common law of the land, therefore being Christian, no other faith can be tolerated except in so far as it conforms to our moral standards and is not an offense to us. This law stood until it was breached under Roosevelt in the 30s, on the use of narcotics by the Peyote cult among the Indians was legalized.
R.J. Rushdoony: 09:53 Now, increasingly we are moving towards intolerance with respect to Christianity and total toleration towards various other cults. The law must be partial, because the law represents a principle of order. And it must therefore be intolerant towards anything that violates that principle of order. And since the law represents that enacted morality and behind that enacted morality stands a religious faith, the law is of necessity intolerant.
R.J. Rushdoony: 10:41 Moreover, the biblical moral requirements are for partiality. We are afraid for the good of others. it. But, we are first of all responsible for our own household and he who does not care for his own, provide for his own, says St Paul, is worse than an infidel. Our first responsibility is towards our own household. For those of our own faith, we are to be merciful unto others. But there is a partiality requirements, both religiously and politically, to tolerate subversion, for example, is itself a subversive activity. The law, therefore, has an impartiality, one standard of justice for all. But it has a partiality in that defends a particular law order, and it cannot tolerate a destruction of that over. Thus, first of all, the law has-
R.J. Rushdoony: 12:00 Thus, first of all the law has an impartiality, but it has also a partiality. Second, the text we read, Deuteronomy 23, verses 17 and 18, “There should be no whore of the daughters of Israel nor a sodomite of the sons of Israel. Thou shalt not bring the hire of a whore, or the price of a dog, into the house of the Lord thy God for any vow, for even both these are abomination unto the Lord thy God.” Now, the law establishes a principle here. The vow of such person, homosexual and prostitutes, could not be brought to the altar. Such persons could not make a gift to God. They could not make a vow to God. They could not be taxed for the support of the State. Now, here again is a very interesting legal principle. There is no place before the law for outlaws. They are not citizens and, therefore, the State, the social order, does not need their support.
R.J. Rushdoony: 13:40 Now, the biblical law says there is a marked difference between sinners before the law, in a sense a sinner before the law is still within the law. There’s a marked difference between a sinner before the law and an enemy of the law. Now, the sinner before the law is someone who has broken the law but is still within the framework of the society. The outlaw is not interested in breaking the law but in overthrowing the law. There is a place, therefore, for the sinner before the law but not for the outlaw. No tax or offering from the enemy could be received. They were forbidden to offer it, and it was forbidden to receive it. The outlaw received justice. He could not receive citizenship. This is an important principle.
R.J. Rushdoony: 14:51 To tax criminal activity, and this is a principle that has been obscured in our day, to tax criminals, the tax prostitutes, is to give them a legal standing as financial supporters of the law and they are, therefore, entitled to the equal protection of the law. This should enable you, then, to understand something of the legal revolution we are undergoing. The law can take three attitudes towards outlaws. There can be the Medieval attitude. Now the Medieval attitude was that a heretic had no rights before the law. No promise to him had any legal standing. For example Jan Hus was given a safe conduct to the Council of Constance. The minute he got there the safe conduct was withdrawn because it had no standing he was under suspicion of heresy, and he was seized and burned at the stake. In other words, he had no rights before the law. This was the Medieval attitude. This was a violation of a biblical law. The modern liberal State, on the other hand, says we will tax everyone equally, but it does not tell you we will give equal protection, therefore, under the law to everyone whom we tax. As a result what is happening? Today libel and slander have ceased to be crimes. Murder and rape are becoming increasing immune, especially rape. Self-confessed criminals are released. Recently the Supreme Court released a twice-convicted rapist. With respect to capital punishment, the Supreme Court not too long ago ruled that no one who is excluded from a jury for refusing to believe in capital punishment could be … Well, there could be no conviction if from the jury someone had been denied membership on the jury for refusing to believe capital punishment. In other words, those who deny the law must be required to enforce the law, which means they will not enforce. What is happening? Capital punishment is negated. Under the same principle, if anyone believes that murder is not a crime and is excluded from the jury is being denied his rights, and the criminal who has committed murder will have been denied his rights. Why are we getting into this legal impasse? Why is the Supreme Court moving in this direction? Why, of course, under equal protection. If you admit to the rights of citizenship, any and all, you give equal protection to any and all. There has been a move for some years in a number of states, including California a few years ago, to remove the old law which comes from the Bible that anyone convicted of a crime is denied his citizenship. Fortunately, the voters of California turned it down. But, the Supreme Court has nullified all this and to all practical intents they have citizenship. If they have citizenship they are entitled to equal protection whatever they’re doing, and we are moving in that direction.
R.J. Rushdoony: 19:23 Now, the biblical law differs both from the Medieval attitude and the modern liberal attitude. One, the law shall be to him that is home born and unto the stranger that sojourneth among you. A person was innocent until proven guilty by two witnesses. But, not all could be citizens, only the law abiding, nor could taxes be collected from people who had no legal standing before the law. To cite an example of equal protection of the law, the word for prostitute in the Bible is a strange woman, or a foreign woman. Whether she was Hebrew blood or not made no difference, she was a foreigner the minute she became a prostitute. The same was true of a homosexual. Even more so because there the word, and as the scripture gave it the price of a dog. He was not only a foreigner, he was more than that, he was subhuman. No such person once they became that had any citizenship.
R.J. Rushdoony: 20:56 But, remember the case of the two prostitutes before Solomon, a very significant fact. They had the right of appeal through the courts in their case, all the way to the Supreme Judge of the land, Solomon. One law but not equal citizenship and equal rights of citizenship. This, then, is a second aspect that appears in the law with respect to the partiality and the impartiality of the law.
R.J. Rushdoony: 21:42 A third aspect of the law as it appears here is that law is a form of warfare. Indeed, law is the major and continuing form of warfare. We have forgotten this fact. In fact, it has been studiously obscured for some generations so that I’m sure that in almost any law school if you were to mention this fact they would look at you in shock. But, law is warfare. What does the law say? Thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal. Therefore, the law says we are at warfare against any who kill and steal. So, the law organizes society to conduct warfare against those who deny the social order or who seek to destroy it. In fact, law is the finest and the best means of warfare. It’s the normal form of warfare. Through law society arms itself, the policemen are armed, to protect itself and to put down the enemies of society.
R.J. Rushdoony: 23:22 Now, what you do in military action is simply to arm more people, because you have an enemy alien of great size. But, law is the major, the continuing, form of warfare. Every law, therefore, is a declaration of war against something and someone. Now, one of the major weaknesses of the so-called free world, or what is left of the free world today, is it doesn’t recognize-
R.J. Rushdoony: 24:00 … free world, or what is left of the free world today, is that it doesn’t recognize this fact, and the Marxists do. The Marxists are very open about it. Marxist law is warfare against non-Marxism. Therefore, in spite of all their weaknesses and evils, they have an efficiency. They face the fact that law must be warfare. Now, their warfare is vicious and brutal and anti-God to the core. But we have to face the fact that Biblical law sets down the requirements of godly warfare in a society.
R.J. Rushdoony: 24:50 Now, of course, when you bring up this matter of laws, warfare, some always bring up … And this is the standard objection, in fact the central objection that is always thrown at the person who deals with Biblical law. “Well, the God of the law is such an ugly, brutal God. After all, He condemned the Canaanites to death. He required the Israelites to kill them all. And this is horrible.”
R.J. Rushdoony: 25:21 Well, first of all, it is true. God did require the judicial execution of Canaan. All of Canaan. And promised the people they would be corrupt, and it was eventually destroy them if they did not obey Him. And His Word was true. God gave the Canaanites 400 years to mend their ways. That’s more patience than we could exercise, is it not? The Canaanites were addicted to every kind of perversion. Every kind of evil imaginable. I refer to the fact that homosexuality and prostitution were religious practices. Required of everyone, and the kinds of things that were commonplace among the Canaanites, of little children to adults. [inaudible 00:26:27] to this day, even in our modern day of pornography there’s very little that’s honestly said about Canaanite culture.
R.J. Rushdoony: 26:40 They were, thus, sentenced to death. And here is an interesting fact. God told the Israelites that they were to give, at all times, the full justice of the law, one law for the home-born and one law for the stranger, to Egyptians. They were specifically warned that this law applies to Egyptians as well. Why? They had just left Egypt, and what had happened there? Egypt had tried to wipe them out. You recall the law that all Egyptian babies were to be killed? Egypt had tried to wipe out Israel. God had brought judgment upon Egypt, but God was saying, “You cannot judge in this situation in terms of your personal feeling. Your natural inclination would be to say to yourself, ‘Well, the Egyptians tried to wipe us out and they were vicious. They were brutal. They killed our little children. We’re going to wipe them out.’ No.” However evil they were, and God brought judgment upon them, there was not the total depravity there that there was among the Canaanites.
R.J. Rushdoony: 28:12 So, the Canaanites, who’ve done nothing against you, are to be sentenced to death, because the standard is not what they did to you but what they are. And so, the Egyptians were to receive equal protection of the law at all times. They could not act with vengeance towards an Egyptian. But, the Canaanites were sentenced to death. All law, therefore, is a form of warfare. Law is a state of war. A state of war which inflicts limited penalties all the way on up to the death penalty. Every law order, therefore, will be attacked. The question is, will it resist attack? And so, the question we face today is this. Our law order has been under attack. It is rapidly being destroyed. Has it lost the capacity to resist attack?
R.J. Rushdoony: 29:37 There is never peace with evil. The idea of peace is an illusion. There can never, in all creation, be total peace. There can be peace for us in Heaven, but there can never be peace between Heaven and Hell. There can be peace for us in the United States, but there can never be peace between the United States and crime. Peace is only possible because of warfare against evil. Peace at any price leads to slavery, and to death. John Philpot Curran, over 100 years ago, declared, “It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance, which condition, if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime, and the punishment of his evil.” Curran’s statement has been shortened into the saying, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” Those who seek peace with evil, therefore, are seeking slavery, and the surest peace is death and the tomb.
R.J. Rushdoony: 31:36 Thus, the law has much to teach us. It teaches us first. The law is partial, as well as impartial. It is partial to the godly, the moral, the law-abiding citizen. The law is warfare against criminals and against enemies of the social order. Let us pray. We thank thee, our God, for the great and godly heritage that is ours. For a law order established on Biblical foundations. We pray, our Father, that in these days thy law order all over the world is under attack, and its very existence in Heaven is denied. Thou wilt make us valiant in its defense, make us ever mindful that now is the time to rebuild the foundations, for the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our lord and of his Christ. We thank thee, our Father, that we have been called to victory, and ours is a sure and certain cause. Make us bold, therefore, and ever mindful that if God be for us, who can be against us? Our God, we pray, in Jesus’ name, amen.
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.
Learn more about R.J. Rushdoony by visiting: https://chalcedon.edu/founder