IBL05: Fifth Commandment (Craig Press)

Authority and the Family


*This is an unedited and unoffical print version of R.J. Rushdoony’s lecture.

R.J. Rushdoony: 00:01 The authority of the family. Genesis 1:27 through 30, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him, male and female created he them. And God blessed and God said unto them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth and subdue it. And have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.’ God said, ‘Behold I have given you every herb bearing seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed, to you it shall be for meat. And every beast and every fowl of the air and everything that creepeth upon the earth wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat.’ And it was so.”

R.J. Rushdoony: 01:15 We begin this morning our series in studies in the fifth commandment, “Honor thy father and thy mother.” This is a commandment to which we will devote a considerable amount of time, because it is so central to an understanding of the problems of our generation as well as the meaning of Scripture. Four of the 10 commandments deal with the family. “Honor thy father and mother.” “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” “Thou shalt not covet they neighbor’s house. Thou shalt not covet they neighbor’s wife, nor anything that is thy neighbor’s.” And, “Thou shalt not steal.” Because, as we shall see when we come to that commandment, property in Scripture is family oriented.

R.J. Rushdoony: 02:25 Now the Biblical perspective is alien to the Darwinian worldview, and today the central thrust, although very few people are aware of it, of evolutionary thought is directed against the family. Now, this seems strange to many people because they can call attention to the fact that there is a great deal of attention paid to the family and importance ascribed to it in our anthropology textbooks. I just reviewed a series of anthropology textbooks recently, and of course this is very true, a great deal of attention is given and importance ascribed to the families by evolutionary anthropology.

R.J. Rushdoony: 03:22 But this is an historical importance, it is seen as a central social institution in man’s history, but the perspective is that this is something that is virtually a part of our caveman past, as it were. And several generations ago, Letourneau, the great French anthropologist laid down the guideline for the Darwinian perspective, the evolutionary perspective on the family. One, he said, “The family is of great importance because it represents the old collectivity in man’s history. But in the future, the new collectivity will be the state.” In other words, in man’s evolution the old collectivity or collectivism has been the family, but now the new collectivism is the state, and so the family is obsolete, it must be abolished, it must give way, Letourneau said, to the state.

R.J. Rushdoony: 04:51 Now, this is the modern scientific, religious and educational view. We cannot understand what is happening in the churches today, or in science, or in the schools until we realize that they have this anti-family perspective. They will pay great lip service to the families as the great institution of the past, the old collectivity. But it must give way to the new collectivism of the state. This was very boldly stated at National Council of Churches general assembly on the study guide for churches written by Colin Williams, said that the family, like the tribe of the Indians and of the primitive people, had to give way to the new, which is the state. As we analyze this evolutionary perspective, we have to understand first of all how important it is in determining the world around us, and second, what it is that it is saying, so that we can determine what it is trying to do. After Darwin, one of the key figures in understanding this perspective is William Robertson Smith, whose central book was Religion of the Semites. Thus he exercised a devil influence in the world of science, on anthropology and on psychiatry and psychoanalysis in particular, and in the world of religion, because he examined the background of the Semitic people, ostensibly the background of the Bible.

R.J. Rushdoony: 07:06 We are best familiar with the thinking of Robertson Smith, which of course now is the decisive influence on the modern seminary and therefore on the pulpit, by going to Freud, because Freud was the great popularizer of William Robertson Smith. Now, according to Smith, mankind originally had the primal cord. But the time came when a problem was created, because the primal cord was dominated by the father. The father claimed all the women and he drove out the sons. The sons then finally banded together to kill the father and to eat him and to possess the mothers and the daughters. Now, according to this perspective, the three basic drives in man, his will to live, are to commit incest, parricide, and cannibalism. The three basic aspects of the will to death in man are, the feelings with respect to these three drives of guilt, of guilt feeling with respect to incest, parricide and cannibalism.

R.J. Rushdoony: 08:41 Now, in terms of this basic aspect of man’s background, this primal cord theory, religions are classified as of two kinds, religions of the father and religions of the mother. And of course, in terms of this, they classify Biblical religion as a religion of the father and the cannibalism appears in the communion service, eating of the son, in this case. How they get around that is a long and involved story that does not concern us.

R.J. Rushdoony: 09:21 But enough of this rather gruesome and totally false as well as evil theory. Suffice it to say that the important aspect of this is that religion is seen as a projection of the family. I’m going to repeat that because you’re not going to understand the modern world until you understand that fact. Religion is seen as a projection of the family. Religion is the mother cult or the father cult. How then are you going to destroy religion if you are a humanist, if you are a socialist or a communist, a revolutionist? You’re going to destroy religion by destroying that which projects it, the family. But this isn’t all, because as religion developed and as the modern Biblically oriented family developed according to these theories, the Biblical concept of the family is the private ownership by the man of the woman and of the children, and a part of this is also the concept of the private ownership of property. Therefore, as these anthropologists said, and Marx and Engels simply picked up this kind of thinking from the prevailing anthropology, they did not invent it. What, for example, Frederich Engels and his origin of the family, private property and the state, wrote, was simply a popularization of what Morgan the American anthropologist had written.

R.J. Rushdoony: 11:38 You see then the psychology of the family. Out of the Biblically oriented family comes religion, the religion of the father, which is the religion they’re especially concerned with destroying, but religion is a projection of the family, and property is a creation of the family in terms of its Biblical character. So destroy the family, you will destroy religion and private property.

R.J. Rushdoony: 12:26 As I said before, you cannot understand the modern world, you cannot understand education today or evolutionary science or revolutionary socialism until you understand this fact. Hence the hostility to the family. This is why in the Soviet Union, immediately after the revolution, the first thing that was abolished was the family, long before they began any real attack on the churches. Because in terms of their theory, this was the key thing, abolish the family, abolish the family and then you make possible the abolition of religion and property.

R.J. Rushdoony: 13:22 So we shall come to this at a later time, there was the immediate communization of all women sexually, something you don’t read in the textbooks, but it was a law that remained in effect for about 15 years. The purpose was to destroy religion and property by destroying the family.

R.J. Rushdoony: 13:50 This is why today when the public schools represent this kind of evolutionary thinking to the core of their being, they are first and last anti-family. They work to destroy the authority of the family, to create rebellion. The best product of the modern school is the hippy, it is the student rebel, he has learned his lesson best of all. You cannot cope with the revolution of our days until you recognize this fact.

R.J. Rushdoony: 14:39 Of course in my two books on education, Intellectual Schizophrenia, and The Messianic Character of American Education, I deal with the philosophies of education and the extent to which they are geared to this perspective, and more definitely in Freud I analyze the background of it.

R.J. Rushdoony: 15:09 Now, as we turn to the Biblical doctrine of the family, there are a few things by way of generalization that we have to say as we begin. First of all, the Biblical doctrine of the family is plainly God-centered. The family is God-centered in function and origin. The family is part of God’s purpose for man. It is that area in which man is to function to the glory of God and to his self-realization. Man is truly man in terms of the family, he finds himself in terms with it. Second, in terms of Genesis 1:27 through 30, God created man to subdue the earth and to exercise dominion over it under God. This is essential to the family, to the function of the family, to the role of man in particular. Man was created to exercise dominion over the earth, to subdue it, to develop it. Woman was created to be his helpmeet in this calling. This calling is not changed because of the fall, it is become more difficult, because sin and death have entered into the world. So there is all the more in the way of development and subjugation. We have now the effects of sin and death all around us in our own bodies, all of which have to be fought and overcome and subdued as a part of our calling to subdue the earth and exercise dominion over it.

R.J. Rushdoony: 17:16 Now, this calling gives to man a possessive function, subdue and to exercise dominion means private property, does it not? You bring the earth under your dominion or you bring an area of life under your dominion, as an engineer, as a scientist, as a doctor, as a farmer. Or you develop something through business. All of this involves private property, a possession of an area. Man is God’s appointed governor, to use the earth to exploit it, to develop it to the glory of God.

R.J. Rushdoony: 18:08 Third, the exercise of dominion and possession clearly involves responsibility and authority. Man is responsible to God for his use of the earth. He must discharge his duty in terms of his sovereign’s royal decree and worth. God’s word is the authority to finding worth, the royal decree, in terms of which he subdues the earth. It is interesting to note that in the early church and in some churches to this day, the reading of the whole of Scripture, any portion of Scripture is treated as the royal decree, and therefore as in ancient times when a king’s proclamation was read, the people stood. So in some churches to this day, there is a standing for the reading of Scripture.

R.J. Rushdoony: 19:19 In the Marxists’ scheme, authority is transferred from the family to the state. The family is in effect abolished. Wherever the state determines education as well as the vocation and the religion and the discipline of the child. If the state has jurisdiction in these realms, if it takes over the education of the child as well as its discipline, and controls the child’s religion through its teaching, then the state has superseded the family. There is only one function then left to the family and that is procreation. Even that is increasingly an area where the state proposes to control.

R.J. Rushdoony: 20:23 In the Soviet Union of course, the family as a procreative instrument was called back into being in the mid-30s by Stalin when he realized how drastically the birth rate was being affected, and for military purposes in the future he felt that the family simply as a breeding factor had to be recreated, but this is its only function, and it is now subject to very strict controls as one set of planners say, “We’ve got to have more breeding,” and the others say, “No more birth control.” So they fluctuate from one to the other purely in terms of state planning. One set argues we need more labor, and the other set says, “We’re not producing enough food, so even though your department needs more labor, we can’t produce enough food, so you’ve got to discourage births.” The family in effect is abolished.

R.J. Rushdoony: 21:38 The meaning of the family is not to be sought in procreation. There are some churches that define marriage and the family in terms of procreation. But the family must be defined in terms of Genesis 1:27 through 30. That instrument which God called into being as his chosen instrument whereby man is to exercise dominion over the earth. It is to be the home base, as it were, for dominion, for authority.

R.J. Rushdoony: 22:20 Or we must say that the function of the wife in this aspect of God’s orders to be a helpmeet to the man in the exercise of his dominion and authority. Her position is like that of a prime minister to a king. His calling is to exercise dominion in a particular realm, and she is to be his right-hand man, as it were, in the fulfillment of that calling, to subdue the earth and to exercise dominion over it in his domain. A prime minister is not a slave because he is under the king. Neither is a woman a slave because she is under the authority of the man. Those who so represent the woman’s position in Scripture are guilty of perverting it. The description of the virtuous woman, the good woman in Proverbs 31 verses 10 through 31, give us a picture of a confident wife who is a manager of a sizeable estate, a businesswoman, a mother, a person of real competence and authority.

R.J. Rushdoony: 23:45 In terms of Scripture therefore, the family has the central function in society, and great authority for the man and the woman in terms of it. It is the key institution. It is significant therefore that the family has been, under the evolutionary frame of things, the center of attack. Their reasons for attacking it, this whole evolutionary scheme, are completely false. But they are right in seeing it as the key institution, they are determined to destroy it, they can tolerate private property and religion to a far greater degree than they can the family, because they know that once they have destroyed the family, the others will crumble. It is not surprising therefore, that today there is a rapid crumbling of religion and of property, because the family has been undermined. We shall see as we analyze the significance of the family and relationship to property, what has happened to the concept of inheritance, what has happened to the concept of society and of culture. The family as God created it was the one institution in paradise because it is the central institution under God for a man and his being. Let us pray.

R.J. Rushdoony: 25:58 Almighty God, our Heavenly Father, we thank thee that thy word speaks plainly, clearly and authoritatively. We thank thee that thou hast called us to be men and women under thee, to live in family. We thank thee for our families. We thank thee, our Father, that thou hast made us as families, thy chosen instruments, they bulwarks of strength against an evil world. We thank thee that as we face this evil world and its assault, we have the assurance of thy word that we shall conquer in Christ’s name.

R.J. Rushdoony: 26:51 That which survived the assault of Satan in the fall, and that which survived age after age the assault of tyrants and of the enemy, shall by thy greatness prosper and abound. May thy glory be the instrument for the reconquest of the kingdoms of this world. Bless our families therefore to this purpose, and give us joy and pride and thanksgiving in our family life. 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