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Law and the Future

posted Dec 7, 2016, 11:18 AM by Paul McClintock   [ updated Dec 22, 2016, 5:07 PM ]

Dec 12, 2011 by Rousas John Rushdoony

This article is from Law and Liberty, Chapter 6, by Rousas John Rushdoony, a Reformed scholar and brilliant writer of the last century. Dr. Rushdoony was the founder of Chalcedon Foundation, an educational organization devoted to research, publishing, and to cogent communication of a distinctively Christian scholarship to the world at large. His son Mark continues to publicize and distribute Rushdoony’s work through Chalcedon. We are grateful to Chalcedon for permission to publish this book serially, chapter by chapter. Visit Chalcedon’s website here.

Planning the future

Man is not alone in planning for the future. Animals store food, build nests, migrate to other climates, and, in a variety of ways, live in terms of tomorrow. With animals, however, such activity is instinctive. Man alone envisions a future, dreams of a hope or plan, and then works, self-consciously and purposefully, to realize that future.
Man lives, moreover, in terms of a future he believes in or looks forward to. To a very great degree, his life is governed and measured by his future. Recently, many very seriously ill hospital patients were questioned about their future. A high degree of correlation was found between thinking ahead and life expectancy. Those who could think ahead only a week usually lived a week; those whose vision included or spanned a month, lived a month. On the whole, it became apparent that usually, when a man’s thinking has no future he has no life.

The Nature of Man’s Vision of the Future

Historically, Western man’s vision of the future has been Christian. Christian man has seen the future of history, and of himself personally, in terms of the triumph of Christ and the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God. Beginning in the seventeenth century, this Christian future was gradually replaced by a vision of history as the fulfillment of man apart from God, in terms of a religious and scientific humanism.
Utopian writing began to express this dream of a marvelous new world in which science and technology conquer all problems, and man becomes a new Adam, living in a new paradise on earth. For the Christian the basic problem and roadblock is sin; for the scientific utopian, the basic problem is insufficient science and technology. As science and technology develop, all man’s problems will disappear.
In the Soviet Union especially, science fiction became the expression of this hope. Science cannot fail; technology will overcome all problems. The future will see communism triumph because it is scientific, and it avails itself of every instrument of science to create the perfect future for man. For Communist science fiction, there is no failure, only the steady triumph of scientific socialism. In the United States, many science fiction writers are beginning to see sin in man’s future destroying or misusing all the powers opened up by science and technology to create a hell on earth. The result is a vision of the future filled with great horrors and no faith. The American perspective is half-humanistic; it sees science as a new god and able to create almost at will. But the American perspective is also half-Christian; it sees science as also subject to original sin and thus able to use its powers to unleash fearful calamities and destruction. The Soviet Communist is forbidden to doubt the future; it is a question of science and controls, not a question of religion. The American still sees the scientist producing science; he sees the men behind science and is distrustful of man. The American is ready to believe in sin and depravity but not in salvation.

The Connection with Law

Now law is also closely connected with our thinking about the future, and it is very closely connected with social planning. As a matter of fact, law is the basic form of social planning. God’s law, His eternal decree, is His predestination of man and the universe, His foreordination and creation of the future. Man attempts to do the same thing with law, both under God and apart from Him. When the U.S. Constitution was written in 1787, that law was a plan for the future of the federal government under God. Because the framers did not claim omnipotence or perfection, they left room for improvements or corrections by means of amendments, but they did impose a basic law on the federal union as a plan for its future. The minutes of the Constitutional Convention give us their hopes and fears for the future, and they devised the Constitution as a means of realizing their hopes and preventing their fears from realization.
Thus, law is the basic form of social planning. Every law is geared to a belief concerning the nature of society; every law is expressive of some faith concerning life, liberty, and property, and it is a part of a plan to realize an envisioned future.
The question that we must ask therefore is simply this: of what plan are our new laws a part? They represent, as do all laws, a piece of social planning, but what plan?

What Plan?

As we analyze these new laws, certain facets become more and more clear. First, our laws are increasingly alien to Christian faith; they do not see man and the republic as “under God.” Instead, they are clearly humanistic. As a result, we do face a major legal revolution, and it is already well under way. Second, for American law, from its earliest days to the present, sin has been the problem. Checks and balances, divisions of powers, express powers, criminal law, civil law, and various levels of civil government all were designed to cope with the fact that man is a sinner, and he is no less a sinner when he becomes a civil official but rather more potentially or ably a sinner. Increasingly, our legal revolution is geared to a denial of the doctrine of sin. Not sin but environment is at fault. The answer is a change of environment through legislation, and this changed environment will thereupon change man. Instead of Christian salvation, man needs scientific reconditioning, either through mental health programs, wars on poverty, master plans for areas and peoples, or by means of controls.
Third, for the new law, man’s liberty is from God and from religion. The state must be separated from God, but it is not separated from agnosticism or atheism, and it embraces humanism. It affirms the sufficiency of man and the state apart from and without God. For the Christian, man’s true liberty is under God and from sin, and from the tyranny of sin as it manifests itself in man, the church, and the state.
Fourth, for Christian law, the future is a godly and law-abiding society under God, free from the tyranny of men and free to realize itself under God. For humanistic law, social planning as realized in laws has as its goal a scientific, humanistic world in which an elite plan for and govern all men in terms of technology and reason.
In discussing science fiction, we saw that the Soviet Union has a determined goal in terms of scientific socialism, and it is governing all things in terms of achieving that goal. American science fiction reveals a schizophrenic vision of the future—a partial commitment to scientific, socialistic humanism, and a partial retention of the Christian faith that man’s basic problem is sin and his basic answer is salvation through Jesus Christ.

Tyranny and its Remedy

Because of our ignorance of the Bible, of our Christian foundations, the erosion in our historic American system is both deep and widespread. Many of the people who are most worked up over this problem are the least prepared to cope with it, because they lack Christian foundations. They know the problem well. They can document our American crisis by the hour, with voluminous detail. But they are basically humanistic in spite of themselves because of their radical ignorance of the faith. It is not too difficult to stand by bedsides and know when men are dying, and to say so. It is much more difficult to prescribe the medicine, or perform the surgery necessary, to save a man’s life.

Law is a plan for the future. To return to law which undergirds and establishes a Christian future under God, it is necessary to know God in Christ, and to know His law and to know it well. The future we want is a future under God, not under tyrants. The law we need is a law which protects the Christian man in his God-given liberties rather than a law giving the state god-like powers over man.
A humanistic law must find its god and its devil in the world of man, since it denies any supernatural realm. Thus, a very influential book, written in Russia just three years after the Revolution, Eugene Zamiatin’s We, sees the future as a one-world order populated by people whose names are numbers. Every man has a “zip-code” instead of a name. The god of this world is named We, and its devil is I.
The thinking here is logical. If the supernatural is eliminated, then the natural must be the root and source of good and evil, the source of the god and the devil for the system. For the collectivist or socialist, the god is We; for the anarchist, the god is I. Both the I and the We, the individual and the group, become fearful monsters when they are made into gods, and, under humanism, one or the other must prevail. The loser becomes the devil and must be destroyed. This is why, under humanism, tyranny is inescapable. The very word tyranny comes from an ancient Greek word meaning “secular rule,” that is, rule by man rather than by means of God’s law. The true remedy for tyranny is not the rule of a church but of godly law, the rule of law which plans for a present and a future under the sovereignty of God. As the psalmist said long ago, “Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it” (Ps. 127:1).