A series of short posts summarizing my thoughts as I work my way through the archives of the Imprimis newsletter from Hillsdale college.
Rousas Rushdoony was a leading proponent of a Christian theological view called Theonomy. He is very well known and either loved or decried within conservative Christian circles. I was surprised to see that he spoke at Hillsdale in 1973 which is the same year he published his best known work “The Institutes of Biblical Law, Vol. I“.
Here is a link to a page with more videos of Rushdoony, (disclaimer, I don’t know anything about the site I found them on).
The central thesis of the article is demonstrate the unavoidable religious nature of the state. When the state rules apart from God it is in conflict with God. Rushdoony provides a brief history of the Roman ruled landscape leading up to birth and ministry of Jesus and then goes on to examine the radical claims of the disciples which would have been in direct opposition to Rome’s own claims.
In not too many years, a disciple of Jesus Christ was to declare, in a challenge to the religious and civil leaders of Judea, and to all authorities: “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Warfare between Christ and Caesar was thus inescapable: here were two rival gods claiming the same jurisdiction over man. It was not a struggle between church and state but between two kingdoms each claiming ultimate and divine powers, Rome and the Kingdom of God.
In Genesis man is commanded by God to exercise dominion and subdue creation. Sinful men, apt to twist the words of God, instead attempt to centralize power and control in the state. The state then exercises dominion and subdues creation by enslaving men by enacting thousands of laws and regulations apart from any higher authority. Rushdoony makes the point that when the state claims jurisdiction beyond the realms ordained by God, it is sin.
The Bible gives us numerous examples of what constitutes signal evil on the part of the state. Drafting youth for non-military services to the state and taxing beyond the head tax to as much as 10% (a tithe) of a man’s wealth or income is cited as evil (I Sam. 8). For the state to claim a priestly role, and ‘ the control of religion, is evil (II Chron. 26: 16-21). Expropriation of property by the state is a very serious transgression (I Kings 21). Debasing the coinage is charged against Judah as part of God’s indictment (“Thy silver is become dross,” Isa. I:22). Much, much more could be cited. 10 Suffice it to say that the state is at every point under law, God’s law.
Rushdoony has much more to say in the article and it is well worth reading. Let me end with thus poignant quote.
In the modern world, we have the messianic fervor of election campaigns, in which the candidates pre-sent themselves as heroes whose election will mark the advent of a new world. The religious fervor of partisans is the mark of a political theology. Modern man’s religious hope is in politics, and the result is the politics of Babel and the growing confusion or confounding of man’s hopes, and his enslavement. In effect, modern man, with his political faith, says to the state, “Hail, Caesar! We who are about to die salute you!