By R.J. Rushdoony
An offense against justice is an offense against God whose law is subverted. A judge who accepts a bribe or tolerates perjury is as guilty as the offender. The subversion of justice is an offense against God and His court and therefore a great evil. Bribery is called, in Deuteronomy 16:19, wresting or tampering with justice, and the perversion thereof. Because the law is the Lord’s, and justice is the expression of His being, any offense against justice is directly against God and brings about His judgment upon the land and the people who tolerate it.
The number of laws given by God is a short one; 613 by the rabbinical reckoning which divides one law at times into several, less by Christian reckonings. It was mandatory that this body of laws be read and taught faithfully. In Joshua 8:30-32 we read that Joshua had the laws published in an open place; this assumes literacy on the part of the people. We see an instance of the public reading of the law in 2 Kings 23:1-3, an aspect of King Josiah’s reformation.
The proverb, “Ignorance of the law is no excuse,” has reference to Biblical law. Statist law, and especially bureaucratic law, requires great libraries to contain, so that ignorance of man’s law is inescapable. First, the laws are too numerous for even lawyers to know; and, second, humanistic law has no basis in the order of things, whereas God’s law is imprinted by the Creator in His creatures.
Where laws are too numerous for men to know, the knowledge of the law is restricted to specialists in the law; to lawyers. But humanistic law is too vast in volumes for even lawyers to know it all, so that specialization in particular fields becomes necessary. In the 1970s, the vice-president of an international bank said that the laws and regulations governing banking were so many and so contradictory that any banker could be imprisoned at the will of Federal authorities. This is now no doubt true of all of us. It is questionable that a free society can long exist when its laws are unknown to most of the citizens. It is ironic that 20th and 21st century countries must emphasize education while at the same time keeping their peoples most ignorant of the law. This is a precondition of tyranny.
Today, who can know the law? Congress passes laws of more than 2,000 pages in length, which no member of Congress ever reads in full. This is a prescription for tyranny and dictatorship.
The Ten Commandments sum up God’s law in ten sentences. All the laws which develop these Ten Commandments are comprehended in a short number of pages. They are moral premises which all men know, whether they accept them or not. Who can know the law of any state now?
One lawyer has observed that the best and most learned men in criminal law are convicted criminals who spend their time in prison libraries studying the law to find loopholes in it. A society in which criminals know the law far better than the law-abiding citizenry is a strange one, to say the least.
Ignorance of God’s law, a willful ignorance, is rampant in the churches, and by choice. For this ignorance, God will in some way exact His price. God’s law must be studied: Deuteronomy 6:6-7, 20-25; 11:18-19, requires that one teach them to the children and study them constantly; because, God’s law is the way of righteousness or justice for His redeemed peoples.
[Further], there can be no adding to or subtracting from God’s law (Deuteronomy 4:1-2). The law is God’s law, and man has no right to alter it, add to it, nor to subtract from it. It is God’s grace that we are given His law as the way of life. Since we created neither ourselves nor this world, we must obey the Creator’s law as His way of life for us. As Psalm 1 makes clear, those who do not delight in the law of the Lord have chosen death.
The Appearance of Truth and How We Perceive
From the time of the Greeks to the present, misreadings of the Bible have been prevalent. The perspective of Greek philosophy predisposed men to reduce everything to abstractions and often to read particular statements in their crudest sense. God is the ultimate Person and power: He is not an abstraction but the Supreme Being and totally personal. His revelation is therefore particular and personal, not abstract. For the Aristotelian and Platonic mind, the Bible is a crude book. For the Biblically governed mind, the Greek philosophers are airy bubbleheads living in the clouds of their foolish minds. Each to the other appears ridiculous, but the important question is not one of appearance but of truth. If the God of the Bible is denied, there is nothing.
Biblical law tells us that there are consequences to all human action, in time and in eternity. Because there is an ultimate right and wrong, good and evil, there is a heaven and a hell. The deterioration of justice in this world follows a denial of justice in the world to come. When man denies the validity of good and evil and the necessity for and the consequences of decisions, then he denies the reality of a future. The future is the consequence of the present. The goal of a static world, the behavior or ant-hill goal of Marxists, socialists, and statists, is a futureless world. The views of such a world envision no religion, no morality, no marriage, and no meaning except “the acceptance of self as God.”
To deny God’s law is to replace it with man’s law, the goal of which is to replace God’s justice with man’s changing, statist whims of tyranny. The purpose of God’s law is our freedom under God whereas the purpose of humanistic statist laws is freedom from God and slavery to the state.
The insistence of humanism, as in the Humanist Manifesto I and II, is freedom from God. But freedom from God is freedom from life and freedom. It is the freedom for death to reign; to deny the validity of God’s law is far worse than denying the validity of medicine and surgery where needed. The society which departs from God’s law leaves behind health, healing, and freedom — for a license to sin and die.
The Western world, once known as Christendom, has abandoned its centuries old adherence to God’s law for an antinomian and modernist position. This antinomianism has been an abandonment of the Faith, because whose law you follow, he is your god. The horrifying premise of church thinking is that the law is bondage!(?) That is indeed true if you are a law-breaker. The lawless man finds the law a fearful handicap. If priests and churchmen create and impose their own version of law upon us, it is a yoke and a hindrance.
But is this true of God’s law, the law of the Holy One? James, the brother of our Lord, in James 1:25 and 2:12 (c.f. Gal. 5:1), speaks of “the perfect law of liberty,” very obviously seeing the law as a blessing to the righteous. Now the giver of law is the god of that society, whatever name he may be given. The law-giver defines good and evil, right and wrong, and he thereby ordains the course of that society; law is a key form of determination, and laws are given by rulers and states in order to set the course for a realm or social order. On the human scene, laws, together with social planning, regulations, and controls, are a humanistic form of predestination. We live in a time of fanatic dedication to humanistic, statist predestination, which, naturally, finds talk of predestination by God intolerable.
The choice for men is anarchy or law. But humanistic law is a form of anarchy because it has no relationship to God’s fundamental order. Humanistic law thus leads to anarchy. By necessity, humanism has chosen the tempter’s program, every man as his own god, knowing or deciding for himself what is good and evil (Gen. 3:5). In humanism, sometimes the individual is his own god; at other times, the state exercises this power for all the people.
Biblical faith means recognizing God’s law as the ground of our freedom. Law is liberty, not slavery. If I am a murderer, the law is bondage and a yoke to me. If I am a godly man, it is freedom for me that law restrains the men who would like to see me dead. The law to me then is liberty from murderers, thieves, and others. How much freedom can any of us ever enjoy if we are suddenly in a world ruled by a Marquis de Sade, where all crimes are legal because they are natural (being the acts of fallen man), and only Christianity is illegal, because it is supernatural and hence anti-natural? Law is liberty, and religious antinomianism is a guarantee of slavery because it exalts the laws of the fallen men over the law of God, and because it makes a holy cause of contempt for God’s law.
Can there be a free society, the professed goal of modern men, when God’s perfect law of liberty is despised? How free can any society be when it drops God’s Ten Commandments, and the whole body of His law? It is no accident that the Western World — no longer Christendom — is moving into statist tyranny.
The cause of freedom is a futile one on anything other than God’s terms, His Son the King, and His law our way of life. For men to seek freedom apart from God is comparable to seeking heaven in hell. The humanistic state constantly expands its power, because its goal, and the goal of its citizenry is to be as God, determining their own laws, lives, and morality (Gen. 3:5). Because it is not God — the humanistic state has a problem — never having enough power to play god as it hopes to do. As a result, by an ever expanding body of law, the humanistic state strives for the total power that is its [ultimate] dream.
Humanistic law means tyranny, whereas God’s law is liberty. God’s law cannot expand: it is a limited body of legislation, and, in much of the law, God reserves the right of judgment to Himself. God’s law is full of promises of blessings to His people. What freedom can exist in a lawless society? And whose laws alone give justice and freedom? How we answer these questions reveal who our God is.
“Shall the throne of iniquity have fellowship with thee, which frameth mischief by a law?” (Ps. 94:20)
This article is derived from excerpts of ‘The Institutes of Biblical Law Vol. III, The Intent of the Law’ by Rousas John Rushdoony, featured online at www.chalcedon.edu