By Mark R. Rushdoony
The greatest freedom man has ever had was in Eden. He was in every sense exactly what he was created to be. He was righteous by creation, and his work prior to the curse was completely productive. In both mind and body as well as in relationship to God and his surrounding man, he had it good, “very good” (Gen. 1:31).
In the fall, Adam and Eve sought independence from God. Then and now man in sin wants freedom but finds himself in bondage. Man was created good, but not a god. Man was a creature, a mortal, subordinate to his Creator. When man rebelled against God’s righteousness, he became subject to His judgment, the curse. The man who sought freedom outside of God became instead the servant to sin and Satan. Slavery to sin is, then, a moral, religious reality, and man in rebellion against God cannot find freedom in that slave state.
Rather than admit the nature of the first sin, man tries to make good on Satan’s phony promise of independence from God. Man tries to make his own slave culture his dominion. “Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven,” John Milton described this attitude. Man repeats this quest for sinful dominion in many ways. Man sees theft and dishonesty as the means to greater wealth, fornication as greater satisfaction, and rebellion as a healthy and normal development.
It is not enough for men to cling to rebellion. They need justification, so if they do not seek it from God, they will seek means of self-justification. When man creates his own law and morality, he only strengthens the chains that bind him to his sin and its curse. Like the slave, Jim, in Huckleberry Finn, man seeks freedom but is drifting down the big river, deeper and deeper into slave country than where he started.
The rebel who does not return in repentance like the prodigal son ends up trying to redefine freedom in terms of his bondage. All reality must then be redefined. God’s law must be rewritten as man’s law. God’s grace must be replaced by man’s will or work. God’s justice must yield to man’s do-goodism. God’s providence must be declared the work of man or nature.
Always, in order to justify his rejection of God, man must assert himself. Men who claim the prerogatives of God will, then, soon enough act like gods. This is brutal enough when we encounter such arrogant bullies on the personal or intellectual level, but on the social level this is the recipe for total tyranny. Histories are full of the brutal consequences of man’s attempts to reorganize reality so that his sins might know success.
When some Jews bragged that they were never bond servants to any man, our Lord said, “Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin” (John 8:34). He was not speaking of a limited servitude, one of a merely spiritual nature, but a total moral subjection to sin. The only answer was to look to the atonement He offered: “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (v. 36).
In God’s justification, man is made “free indeed.” He is released from liability to sin’s penalty and restored to righteousness. Like Christian in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, the burden falls from his back and rolls into the empty tomb of Christ, never to be seen again. He is restored to fellowship with his Creator and is enabled to think and work in service to Him. He is not freed from sin in this life, but he is released from bondage to it. His complete and total freedom from the curse will come in the New Jerusalem, which is pictured as a garden (Rev. 21–22). Eden will not be restored by man’s sinful attempts at utopia in sin, but it will “come down from God” (21:2). John’s picture of the New Jerusalem represents God’s Kingdom in its eternal fullness. It also represents how we are to view who we are and what we are now called in Christ.
Social, cultural, national, and political bondage are but symptoms of the moral bondage of sin. Men who run from God and hold to their sin run from freedom, just as Adam and Eve hid from God. To seek freedom in sin, man must hold fast to the moral rebellion of Eden, to the false promise of Satan; he must cling to his bondage to sin and hide from God.
Bondage and freedom are, at heart, religious. Sin is bondage, and freedom is only found in redemption. Men freed by Jesus Christ brought freedom, as we know it, to the West. “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.”
Rev. Mark R. Rushdoony is president of Chalcedon and Ross House Books. He is also editor-in-chief of Faith for All of Life and Chalcedon’s other publications.
Article from Chalcedon.edu