Foundations of Social Order (1)

The Foundations of Social Order, I

R.J. Rushdoony

Because our triune God is he by whom all things were made, and: “…without Him was not anything made that was made…,” there is not an atom in all creation outside of Him and His creating purpose. Nothing can exist outside of God and His holy will. Every possibility in all creation in heaven above and the vast universe beneath is of His making. No man can think or do anything outside of His design, God declares: “I form light, and create darkness, I make peace, and create evil, I the Lord do all these things.” God creates all possibilities, and man can neither think nor imagine anything outside of God’s ordination.

Very early theologians called Satan ‘the ape of God,’ because Satan is imitative, not creative, he seeks to be a substitute for God just as all of fallen mankind seeks to imitate him, striving to be their own God, Genesis 3:5 tells us, knowing, or determining all good and evil, all law and morality for themselves. To attempt to usurp God’s throne makes no creature a creator or a lord. The implications of the fact that God is the creator, are that in every sphere of life and thought, man must of necessity think God’s thoughts after Him. He may do this in obedience, or disobedience, as either a faithful and regenerate man, or as a rebellious and disobedient covenant-breaker who is trying to supplant God, a futile attempt. Man will either think or act as a covenant man, or as a would-be god, but he cannot think creatively. He is a creature, not a creator.

Accordingly, all man’s thinking will be theological, the difference being that for covenant man, God is the Lord whereas, for the covenant breaker, man is the lord. Let us begin with a very practical question: “what is crime?” How we define ‘crime’ depends upon our theology. If God is the Lord, then His law is the law, and crime is sin, it is a violation of God’s law. In fact, John, in his first letter, makes clear that sin is every want of conformity to God’s law, and the word he uses for sin is ‘anomia,’ anti-law.

Crime is a sin, it is a violation of God’s law, crime then is injustice because God the lawgiver is totally justice, and just. In Isaiah 45:1, God identifies himself as both a just God and a savior, there is none other beside Me. because there is no other god in all the universe, He alone can define good and evil, He alone can define crime, by His law-Word, God defines sin and therefor crime, He defines grace, truth, mercy, love, all things, there is no other premise for a true or honest definition.

Men have, of course, tried to define crime apart from God, all non-theistic, non-biblical definitions of crime mean either that man or the state becomes the definer, but all such definers lack authority, state-created law is a changing law, a law that has no roots in man’s being, but only in his sin. As a result, such state-made laws further the disintegration of a society. I had a discussion recently with someone who, while a very devout Christian and I would have to say a very fine man, was naïve in his thinking. He assumed that what the bible says lays down categories of truth that all men accept, and I had to tell him: “you’re assuming that a Turk,” because this is what he said, “has the same idea of truth as a Christian,” but I said: “no other religion says the truth is basic to the Godhead, our Lord says I am the way the truth and the life.”

John tells us in his prologue the truth came in the person of Jesus Christ. Other religions may say: “it’s nice to tell the truth,” but truth is not a part of the Godhead, it is not basic to the universe, whereas what we are told in the scriptures is that the truth manifests the being of God. In modern society truth is pragmatic, it is what works, it is what Nietzsche says helps you get along, and he said: “the best truth can sometimes be a lie.” Nietzsche in his Beyond Good and Evil, and in other works, rejected God-ordained biblical standards. For Nietzsche, the ‘good’ had to be whatever served the superman, and ‘truth,’’ whatever advanced your own interests. The tie of his ideas to national socialism and Hitler is a very real one. No valid concept of good and evil, of law and justice, or truth and error has stood apart from the biblical one. The goundations of social order are thus biblical ones. The definer of justice, thus, is the determiner of society. Man as the determiner is dangerous, because he is a fallen creature, he believes [he is God], but he is not God, and he is prone to use power to serve sin.

The state is no less untrustworthy as a definer, and it is especially prone to use its self-made laws to increase its power. Either God defines good and evil and gives us His law, or else either man or the state does. I am baffled by those who claim to be Christians, who insist that they want not God’s law, but the state’s. They are rejecting God, because God’s law is the expression of His nature, of His righteousness, His justice.

The foundations of social order are theological. This means, first, as we have already seen, that law comes from the sovereign, the lord. This means, second that there must be a sovereign or a lord over society, it can be the state, or a variety of man made lordships, or it can be God the Lord. The lordship of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ does not mean an elite group of men ruling for God, it means rather that God reigns over all of us in our hearts, families, vocations and so on, so that we are a people whose God is the Lord, in a very practical way in our day-by-day functioning.

There is no shortcut to this lordship, by seizing power or winning elections, it comes through the triumph of His government over us. We now currently believe in the ‘sovereignty’ of civil government, because all over what was once Christendom, sovereignty is now firmed for the state, not Christ. I’ve sometimes thought of writing a paper on the millennium, the political millennium, the ones the people in Washington are dreaming up for us, which will be hell on earth. It was no accident that the word ‘sovereign,’ and ‘sovereignty’ or ‘lordship’ were left out of the US Constitution, and no accident that the US Supreme Court introduced it into American life and thought. The first edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, 1776 defined law as ‘the will of the sovereign.’ The concept of ‘sovereignty’ is related to deity. There is no appeal against a sovereign power! This is why in every country the state seeks, and now virtually the world over, claims sovereignty.

Because the US Is now held by the courts to be sovereign, no law can bind Washington. It is the binding power, it binds us but cannot be bound. Twice in recent years laws requiring the end of deficit financing have been passed to please the people, but they are invalid, and quickly forgotten because a sovereign power cannot be bound, you cannot legislate against a god, and when Washington began legally to claim sovereignty, it is said: “you the people cannot bind us, no law of Congress can bind us, we are the sovereign, god walking on earth.” The sovereign is the source, not the subject of law, but God being God, His law expresses His nature, so He does not act against His nature, or His law but what is the nature of the state? It is sin, it is made up of fallen man, it does not claim to be under Christ. And so it is bound by no law whatsoever.

God’s law reveals God. Man and the state both change and can set aside their law, because God is the Lord, the same yesterday and today and forever, His law never changes because He does not change. Then, third, if God is the sovereign and not the state or man, and if law comes from God the Lord and not from anything in the human order, then it follows that the centrality of the state in society is not justified nor good. To look, as the modern world does, to the state for solutions, or for its millennium, is to expect our problem-maker to become our problem-solver.

Every society in the world in every age of history has been and is organized religiously, although, throughout history, many of those societies, most, have been non Christian. At present, the religious center of many societies is Humanism, which is no less a religion than Christianity. Humanism confesses to be non-theistic, but to all practical intent, it has a god and he is man. He may be elitist man, Marxist man, intellectual man, but man is the god, the ultimate concern of humanistic faith. Centrality in any society belongs to the god of that society, the center of our world is no longer Jesus Christ, it is no longer Christianity, and even though a majority may profess to believe the Bible from cover to cover, and to be born again as is the case in the United States, the core of its faith hope has for some generations been political and humanistic.

This is true not only for the unchurched, but also for the churched. Their priorities are not theological, believer and unbeliever are practical humanists, their answers to problems are political answers. It’s a difficult thing to be a pastor nowadays, because the people in the pews may profess to believe the Bible from cover to cover, and the five points of Calvinism, but in effect they say: “speak unto a smooth things, not hard things from the word of God.” As one elder told me once: “I come to church to feel good.” Another elder once told me: “I don’t like your preaching, I’ve never been able to fall asleep under it, and a man should feel relaxed in church,” and he meant every word of it. I submit that’s true in a lot of the churches all over the country that are among the very best.

Some of the problem comes from the churches and the seminaries in particular, we have narrowed the sphere of faith to the walls of the church, to exegeses and theological concerns, all of which are good, but I wrote some years ago about ‘box theology.’ Theology which is only good inside the church and has no application outside the walls. We should recognize that pornography in our time does not profess to be ‘writing dirty books,’ it professes to be telling us what is the way of heath. They are theological writings, anti-Christian to the core, they profess to be telling us: “this is the way, walk ye in it.” Too many professional exegeses theologians are willfully ignorant also of economic problems. They are not interested, they confine themselves only to professional theology, in fact in one country abroad, I hesitate to tell this, but it upsets me every time, there is a periodical that professes to be the best reformed periodical in the country, every issue, maybe they changed in the last year because I no longer take it, rehearses over and over and over and over again the five points of Calvinism. Well, first of all, that’s not there is to Calvinism. For one thing, Calvin said, and I wrote an article about the unknown Calvinism a couple months ago, I think in June. I didn’t hear one comment about it pro or con. Calvin said: “The marks of a true church are faithful preaching of the Word of God, and deacons who carry on the work of mercy to all the needs of the community.” How many churches that profess to be reformed practice that?

God is the Lord, and if He is the Lord, every sphere of life and thought is under the province of theology, the word of God, the word of God speaks to everything. If theology is the queen of the sciences under Christ our king, such ignorance is a surrender of Christ’s lordship. It is sad that so much current ignorance is willful, lest there be any misunderstanding, I feel very strongly about the five points of Calvinism, but having read a great deal of Calvin, I know it isn’t all, and I know what he did in Geneva, he preached in fact every day because he felt he had to bring the people out of their ignorance of the word of God through continual preaching, but he also worked to take care of every human need. He created hospitals, these were hospitals in the old fashioned sense of the world, to take care of the sick, but the homeless, the aged, homeless children, every kind of charitable work, he made sure it was taken care of. The deacons took an offering toward the end of the service, and to make sure that nobody missed the plate, they went outside and stood by the door to give everybody a second chance to contribute. Nobody could go through Geneva and be homeless, in fact, Calvin invited strangers whom he’d never seen before into his home. Did you know that about John Calvin? `Of course, the proud people of Geneva did not like that, they named their dogs ‘Calvin’ and sic’d their dogs on John Calvin, they would shoot guns off under his window to awaken him at night. Ours should be truly a catholic faith, universal in jurisdiction. To reduce Christianity to Churchianity is to abandon it, to limit Christian concern to Church ones is to abandon scripture.

It has been said that too many Christians have a divided loyalty in that other things and other organizations share their allegiance, in reality the situation is worse, in that Christianity gets at best second or worst billing with too many. Our loyalties and priorities are too often wrong. If we are not ready to die for our faith, we are not ready to live for it. Isaiah 26:13 declares:

“O Lord our God, other lords beside thee have had dominion over us, but by thee only will we make mention of thy name.”

That last clause: “…by thee only will we make mention of thy name,” can be better rendered: “…but thine authority alone today we own.” This is the key. If God is God: “thou shalt have no other gods before me.” He must reign in every sphere of life and thought, this is the meaning of the now-forgotten doctrine of ‘the priesthood of all believers.’ Martin Luther, preaching on this one Christmas triumphantly said:

“The angel came and announced to the Virgin Mary that she would give birth to God the son, to the incarnate God-man, and what did Mary do? After that great announcement did she retire into a convent to spend the nine months in prayer and meditation? Oh no! She went on doing the housework like a good daughter in the family in carrying the garbage out to the animals to slop it, and doing all the jobs she’d been doing before.”

This is the meaning of the priesthood of all believers, which means also that Christ as king must prevail in every area of life and thought without any exception. If we do not acknowledge the absolute authority of God the Lord over us, if in every sphere of life and thought we are not under the dominion of the triune God and His law word, then other lords indeed rule over us and we will be judged and found wanting.

We are moving now, as never before in history, into a time of worldwide judgment. God the Lord is bringing judgment upon the nations, and we shall see that judgment for a generation or more perhaps, in one sphere after another, in the life of the church, for judgment begins at the house of God. As those whose faith is weak as water depart from among us, we will see it in the state, which is teetering on the brink of moral and financial bankruptcy, we will see it in every economic area, we will see it and are beginning to see it all over the world now in the weather. We are seeing it in heightened activities; earthquakes, volcanoes and more. God is going to bring this generation to its knees, it is a time of unequaled opportunity for us. Men’s hearts will fail them for fear, and if we proclaim the undiluted word of God, the Lord God of hosts will use us to reap the greatest harvest in all of church history. I believe that, and I am living and working in terms of that. May God prosper you as you serve Him to that end, thank you.

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 is credited with igniting the modern Christian school and homeschooling movements in the mid to late 20th century. 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:

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