The Need For A Theology Of The State

R.J. Rushdoony


R.J. Rushdoony: 00:01 Our Lord and our God, we come to thee mindful that the heathen rage and take counsel together against thee and against thine anointed and thy Kingdom. And they seek to break thy bands of thy law to cast them aside. Oh Lord, our God, give us strength, courage, and faith in thy government that we may be more than conquerors in the face of this threat.

R.J. Rushdoony: 00:34 Bless us as we begin our studies in the theology of civil government, that we might know what is thy will concerning our times, concerning civil government, and concerning our relationship to it. Bless us in thy service, make us strong in thy cause and rich by thy spirit. In Jesus’ name, amen.

R.J. Rushdoony: 01:17 We face today a growing inquisition in this country, an inquisition conducted by federal and state governments against Christianity. It is not publicized by the press and with good reason. The press is humanistic. There is perhaps the lowest percentage of Christians in the press of any segment of American life. Naturally as humanists, they are not going to favor anything which calls attention to the argument of the Christians against this persecution.

R.J. Rushdoony: 02:12 As a result, we need very definitely a theology of the state and our subject in this first session this evening is the need for a theology of the state. For a number of sessions, we shall be dealing with the theological premises and the historical facts, and then we will go into the biblical premises as we come home to what should civil government to be.

R.J. Rushdoony: 02:51 One of our problems as we approach the theology of civil government is that evolutionary thought is so commonplace among us and has so infected are thinking that when we approach even the subject of religion, we think in terms of Darwin’s three suppositions and evolutionary thought generally. For example, in terms of the scenario of evolutionary thinking, in the realm of religion, first you had animism, the belief in vague spirits inhabiting all things. Then polytheism, the worship of many gods, then monotheism, and finally, reason and science.

R.J. Rushdoony: 03:52 This is the evolutionary perspective of the development of religious thought, but this is not historical. It is philosophical and it is mythological not only from the standpoint of scripture, but from the standpoint of some evidences. Everything points not to an original animism or polytheism, but to an original belief in theism, in one God. So that the belief in polytheism and many gods was not something in the evolutionary stage of man, but the mark of sin, the mark of a cultural decay and collapse.

R.J. Rushdoony: 04:47 Thus we begin with this fact, polytheism marks a culture in decay. Dr. Clark Kerr, former president of the University of California, in his I believe harbored lectures, spoke about the fact that we no longer have a university in this country, only multi-versities. We have multi-versities instead of universities because we no longer have a universe but only a multiverse.

R.J. Rushdoony: 05:22 What he meant by that was simply this, man no longer sees the world as the creation of God and therefore a unity of law and of meaning. Rather, he sees the universe as a product of chance so that all kinds of things are possible in such a universe. It is then a multiverse and what is true in one segment need not to be true in another. Indeed, to speak of truth in a multiverse is a contradiction in terms.

R.J. Rushdoony: 06:02 Thus there is no unified cosmos, no overall truth nor unity, only a fragmented atomistic world. That is what creates polytheism and polytheism is remarkable culture indicating collapse. The key fact in polytheism where you have many gods is that meaning is limited to man. Now increasingly, people decide on what religion they want and even what church they want in terms of, well, it appeals to me. In other words, there is no overriding truth.

R.J. Rushdoony: 06:52 There is no belief that God says, “This is the way, walk ye in it.” Instead, the premise is we have a smorgasbord here and I can go along and choose which religion I want and I can choose which form of Christianity or which form of Buddhism or Mohammedanism I want in terms of my tastes. That’s polytheism, no overriding truth, every man makes his own meaning. There is no universal scope, sway, or meaning.

R.J. Rushdoony: 07:33 In a polytheistic world, the only kind of unity that can exist is imperialistic. In other words, since there’s no truth for every realm, the only way the realms can be brought together is the way that Alexander the Great did, by imperialism. Every time you have a polytheistic age, you have imperialism because it’s the only way there can be any unity, an imposed unity by man. This is why ours is an imperialistic age.

R.J. Rushdoony: 08:14 And the more a nation is in unbelief as Marxism, the USSR, and Red China, the more imperialistic it will be because the only way there can be unity is by force, by imposition. There is no overriding truth to give unity. In polytheism, if there are gods and the gods of the Greeks were not gods in our sense, they were simply men who were great heroes and they called them gods.

R.J. Rushdoony: 08:52 The gods of polytheism each kept their own [inaudible 00:08:55] Zeus, Mercury, Venus, Apollo, and the other gods made no attempt to have an exclusive and universal jurisdiction. None of the gods of Athens attempted to control the state or education or family life. There was no religiously prescribed political and economic order. After all, men declared who the gods were. In Rome, the Senate said, “Go to now, we will declare Julius Caesar to be a god, or we will declare Marcus Aurelius to be a god.” Gods were manmade products.

R.J. Rushdoony: 09:50 In such a religion, the temples did not speak a command word to men saying, “Thus said the Lord.” Instead, they accepted gifts and bribes because they had no authority. When religion becomes polytheistic, it ceases to be Catholic. That is universal. It cannot make universal claims. It cannot speak to all of life and say, “Thus says the Lord.” The gods have at best a very limited jurisdiction and are simply seeking crumbs from the table life.

R.J. Rushdoony: 10:38 In Western civilization, beginning with the Enlightenment, the churches began to limit their spheres of relevance. One of the first things that began to collapse was tithing. Because if God no longer had a command word for every area of life, how could he then say, “Thus shall you do?” He could not command the man’s [inaudible 00:11:07] So with the Enlightenment, God’s binding word began to crumble. First of all, tithing.

R.J. Rushdoony: 11:18 Now very definitely, prior to the Enlightenment the church had often claimed two great powers. On the church’s sphere can and must be limited, but that of God cannot be because God is the Lord. He is Lord over the church, the state, the family, the individual, the school, the arts, the sciences, all things. By him were all things made, and without him was not anything made that was made. And therefore, God’s sphere of jurisdiction cannot be limited. It is total. It is universal.

R.J. Rushdoony: 12:04 God requires universal obedience because he has a universal jurisdiction. He is the Lord. He is the creator of all things. Hence it is that as Christians, we believe in the kingship of Christ. In fact, the battle cry of the Puritans was the crown rights of Christ, the king. Man must be, in other words, Christian in all his life in all of life. We are not like the polytheists of old and polytheists of today who can move from one God to another as they go from their home, to their work, into a federal office, into a church or into a school.

R.J. Rushdoony: 13:05 God is Lord of every sphere and sin is sin everywhere. The Enlightenment limited the sphere of God to the spiritual realm and Freud boasted that he was going to abolish God even from the spiritual realm. The historic view of the churches, Catholic and Protestant and most emphatically of John Calvin was that every sphere must be under God. God is Lord over all things. The Enlightenment not only limited God to the spiritual sphere, but it limited his role in creation to that of an absentee landlord, deism.

R.J. Rushdoony: 14:03 God made the universe and then, like a master watch maker, having made it, it was running by itself and so God walked away. Thus deism held that God had very little to do with the world and the politics of deism was the politics that left God out of the picture, quite logically. Polytheism, unfortunately, was born in the church, modern polytheism, because the churches were ready to surrender most of the world, the material realm, at least to the state.

R.J. Rushdoony: 14:48 They abandoned the battle cry of the Puritans, the crown rights of Christ the king, and they were ready to say, “We are not interested in politics. We are not interested in education later on or the arts and the sciences.” The work of Christ was limited steadily to one realm, soul saving. Even here by the mid 18th century, the picture began to change for the worst also because man was given some park by means of Arminianism and the saving of his own soul.

R.J. Rushdoony: 15:42 So the jurisdiction and power of God became very limited and the cosmic Christ was traded for a polytheistic Christ. The Bible was read not as God’s law word, his command word, but simply as a purely personal devotional manual, one which had nothing to say about the world outside our own spiritual exercises. The consequence of this was the state was freed from the Christian faith to go its own way, to become humanistic as the modern state has become.

R.J. Rushdoony: 16:34 But God in his word claims a total jurisdiction, a universal jurisdiction. And Christ is proclaimed by scripture to be indeed king of kings and Lord of lords. Thus we must have a theology of the state. It is a biblical necessity because our Lord Jesus Christ is a sovereign Lord. Psalm two, one of the great passages of scripture tells us that a heathen take counsel or conspire together against the Lord and his anointed. Saying, “Let us break his bands asunder.”

R.J. Rushdoony: 17:27 Now, the term bands there means law. Revolution against the king is a revolution against his government, his law. So the nations say concerning God, “Let’s break the bondage of his government and law.” The psalmist tells us he that sitteth in the circle of the heavens shall laugh. The Lord shall have them in derision. Theology of the state, therefore, must consider Psalm two. It must challenge the state’s claim to be the sovereign or Lord because sovereignty means lordship. Only Jesus Christ is sovereign.

R.J. Rushdoony: 18:20 And the state when it claims sovereignty is a veil of false lord, which is what veil means, a moloch because moloch means king and it stood for the state. The Church of the 20th century must rouse itself out of polytheism and surrender, and the crown rights of Christ the king must be again proclaimed. Are there any questions now? Yes.

Speaker 2: 19:07 You think that polytheism is the theology of imperialism, and is consistent with that. [inaudible 00:19:25] maybe I would understand if you would define imperialism.

R.J. Rushdoony: 19:31 Yes. Unity can be obtained basically in two ways, in terms of a common faith and common truth or by coercion. I can say to a group of people, “Here is the truth and we ought to be united in this truth by faith and work to convert everyone.” And as we are converted, we are united. But in a world where nobody believes that there is truth, a world that says with pilot, “What is truth,” it doesn’t mean anything.

R.J. Rushdoony: 20:17 How are you going to bring people together? Well, you’re going to use a gun and you’re going to say, “You will have to do what I say.” This is what the world is doing today. For example, the Soviet Union has to have guards on its borders and fences to keep people in. Now claims to have the ideal social order, but if it were what it claims to be, it would have to have guards to keep people out. Instead, it has to keep people in because it’s a failure and coercion alone can establish unity there.

R.J. Rushdoony: 21:09 We had an example of that kind of imperialism just recently when the Supreme Court told the Amish, “You do not believe in status social security, but take care of one another.” You have to be in social security because social security is a common good. Well, if it’s so good, why isn’t the Supreme Court under it? Federal employees have turned it down every time, but they will not allow anyone else to turn it down. And so a fence has to be erected to force the Amish into social security. That’s imperialism.

R.J. Rushdoony: 21:58 But if it were something that everybody believed in, they would all be united in wanting it and say, “We want to be a part of this.” So imperialism, coercion, develop where ever you have polytheism. No overall truth. This is why, because we don’t believe anything as a people today. Our Supreme Court has made it clear that it does not believe in God. Well, the Supreme Court, the only truth is that there is no truth.

R.J. Rushdoony: 22:42 Now, when you have that kind of attitude, you are going to exert more and more coercion over people. The United States is not like the Soviet Union exerting coercion at home and abroad, but we are at home. We are controlling people more and more every day. So Washington is becoming imperialistic towards us. It’s controlling us more and more, not by faith but by coercion. But a few generations ago, within the lifetime of some of us, we were a very happy and united people, not because somebody was telling us, “You do this or else,” but because we love this country.

R.J. Rushdoony: 23:41 And we all had a common faith. Now, we have all of us together a common coercion fencing us in. Does that help explain?

Speaker 2: 23:58 Yeah. A force of coercion aspect of imperialism [crosstalk 00:24:03]

R.J. Rushdoony: 24:03 Yes. Any other questions? Yes.

Speaker 3: 24:27 What are your dates for [inaudible 00:24:32] You say the Christian church began to fall over the various aspects of life and begin to limit God. Could you give me some dates on that?

R.J. Rushdoony: 24:43 Yes. A very convenient date and very true one is 1660. That marked the collapse of the Puritan regime in England. It also marked a change throughout Europe. After 1660, the Enlightenment took over and the church per aggressively retreated into its own corner.

R.J. Rushdoony: 25:13 Now, in the American scheme of things, the Enlightenment did not take hold until much later. In fact, one would have to say that the Enlightenment triumphed in this country in 1860 with the war. And after that, we saw the progressive de-Christianization of this country. It has been stepped up dramatically with World War I and especially World War II. Yes?

Speaker 4: 26:00 What was it particularly about the wars that helped spread the enlightenment philosophy?

R.J. Rushdoony: 26:08 One of the things in the modern era that might marks a war is that a war means tremendous centralization of power. When a nation wages a war, it has to control nowadays the economy and the people to gear everything to the war effort. As a result, a war has become now equivalent to a revolution. One of the best reasons to work for peace is that if you get a war, you get a revolution. It’s a dramatic change in the country because the tremendous powers gained by the central government are not surrendered by and large.

R.J. Rushdoony: 27:03 Alexander Hamilton Stevens in his constitutional view of the late war between the states points out very tellingly how the war had proven to be a revolution, which dramatically changed the whole legal nature of the United States. World War I was the same thing, a major revolution, and World War II the greatest of all because by World War II, you had a much larger federal government working consciously and deliberately to increase its powers and to retain those increased powers after the war.

R.J. Rushdoony: 27:50 So war in the modern age is revolution. Any other comments? Well, if not, we’ll take a recess for a few minutes and then in about 10 minutes, continue with religion and the state.