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Man's vs God's Laws

Will we be ruled by God's laws or man's? That has been the issue throughout history that every generation has to deal with. The liberties we enjoy in America are a direct result of our Founders establishing our nation under God's laws (The Laws of Nature and Nature's God). They were aware of the history of tyranny when people were forced to live under the rule of men's laws that were unchecked by a higher law. Adolf Hitler is just one example of the tyrants that come to power when the laws of God are cast off by the people of any nation. The following video clip presents the issue clearly by the director of the Ten Commandments movie which starred Charlton Heston

Man's Law or God's Law

Man's laws lead to slavery and cruelty. This is because men will abuse the purpose of the law and try to change fallen human nature through the law. The end result will be coercion and murder in an effort to make people into the image that men want to see in other people. The following articles describe this dilemma.


Natural Law vs Statutes and Judgments

Jul 26, 2011 by Gary DeMar 15 Comments

I received the following from an advocate of Natural Law: “Natural Law is simply Biblical Law written on the conscience of every man.” If this is true, then why did God find it necessary to give us revealed law? He goes on to say:

The Reprobate knows that murder, adultery, rape and theft are morally wrong because of God’s Law written in their conscience. The proof for this is Romans Chapter 2. This is why the aforementioned crimes are punished in every civilized culture we know of. Another proof that these acts are wrong would be to look at the sanctions that follow these acts. Cultures which do not punish these acts like some African/Cannibalistic tribes around the world bear the proof of God’s Judgment in their being. These races of savages are usually enslaved and conquered by cultures which practice Natural Law to a larger degree. Look at the Arab conquest and enslavement of Black Africans over the centuries as an example.

First he argues that reprobates know that certain actions, like cannibalism, are wrong. This doesn’t seem to be the case since there were and probably are today cultures that practiced cannibalism. They didn’t believe eating an enemy was wrong. In fact, some cannibals believed that eating an enemy or drinking his blood enhanced one’s essence. What was powerful in the person being eaten was transferred to the person doing the eating. To really confuse things, he argues that cultures that do practice Natural Law also practice slavery. But I thought slavery was wrong. Natural Law tells us it’s wrong. If this is true, then why would those who practice Natural Law enslave people?

A Natural Law theory not tied to biblical law would have done nothing for slaves since there were many Natural Law advocates who believed in slavery because of what they believed Natural Law taught. Enslavement was best for some people. This was Aristotle’s view, and it was followed by a lot of New World explorers. He believed in the reasonableness and “natural order” for the institution of slavery because there are some people who are “slaves by nature,” a phrase found in his Politics. Aristotle’s views, as a champion of reason and Natural Law, were foundational for centuries, as was his distorted views on cosmology:

Of all the ideas churned up during the early tumultuous years of American history, none had a more dramatic application than the attempts made to apply to the natives there the Aristotelian doctrine of natural slavery: that one part of mankind is set aside by nature to be slaves in the service of masters born for a life of virtue free of manual labour.1

It’s true that the work of God’s law is written on the heart and that every person in the world will be held accountable to that work of the law “their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them” (Rom. 2:15). But it’s another thing to say that the replica of revealed law in its many details is written on the heart and that it can be accessed like pages in a book.

I asked the above Natural Law advocate the following: “Using only Natural Law, show me objectively and empirically that murder, adultery, rape, and theft are morally wrong.” He couldn’t. He needed biblical law to construct his Christian version of Natural Law. It’s not that sin has destroyed every vestige of the image of God in us. The conscience still operates, but this is a far cry from the comprehensive nature of God’s revealed law that God gave Israel as a light to the nations (Deut. 4:1–2, 5–8). If Natural Law is satisfactory, then why bother with giving Israel “statutes and judgments”? Douglas Wilson makes an important distinction:

Daniel in Babylon and Paul in Rome both show that believers can function in a society guided by natural revelation; this shows the legitimate authority of such realms is not thereby set aside. The authorities that exist are established by God whether or not they know His proper name. The question is not whether this can happen, but whether Christians should be content with it. The civil realm can be sub-Christian and remain a true civil realm. But should Christians work to keep it sub-Christian? Certainly the Bible does not require this of us. And if we base our civil involvement on natural revelation only, where does natural revelation teach or require pluralism?

Henry Van Til wrote that “Man does not need special revelation for acquiring the arts of agriculture or of war, the techniques of science and art; these things are learned from nature through the inspiration of the Spirit.”2 No one is disputing the use of general revelation in this way. But even this type of investigation has numerous ethical implications. For example, knowledge of what works in the field of medicine still leaves doctors and legislators with, for example, decisions that relate to abortion and euthanasia. An abortionist can be an expert in the way he performs an abortion. He has honed this “skill” through scientific study of the created order (general revelation). But is it right and just to use this knowledge in the destruction of preborn babies? That’s the question. Do such ethical principles exist solely by a study of nature?

The late Dr. Jack Kevorkian (1928–2011) designed a “suicide machine” that is efficient, effective, and painless, three criteria to consider in the practice of modern medicine.3 But is it right and just? Procedures that were designed as part of the healing craft are now being used to destroy life. There is no doubt that abortionists and the new suicide “doctors” are skilled practitioners of their respective crafts. So were some of Hitler’s doctors. In the Foreword to By Trust Betrayed, former Sen. Bob Dole writes:

Perhaps the ugliest aspects of Aktion-4 [a systematic program of killing people with disabilities] were its moral pretensions, its disregard for the intrinsic worth of people with disabilities, and the essential complicity of physicians and lawyers. The killings were justified by phrases like “final medical assistance” and beliefs about “natural selection,” but it was nothing but murder of some of the most vulnerable.4

The study of general revelation might lead some medical practitioners to conclude that since animals often abandon and kill their young, therefore human beings are little different if they do the same. A more highly evolved species like man can do it more efficiently. The great Hollywood moralist of our day, Scarlett Johansson had some thoughts to share on the subject. Here’s how Nancy Pearcey describes it:

What are the implications of seeing humans as “just another primate”? Even Hollywood actresses know the answer to that question. In an interview, Scarlett Johansson was once asked to respond to rumors that she had a reputation for being sexually promiscuous. Her reply was unfiltered naturalism: “Humans are merely biological organisms therefore the practice of monogamy – being sexually faithful to one person – is just not natural. “I do think on some basic level, we are animals,” Johansson said, “and by instinct we kind of breed accordingly.” (Nancy Pearcey, Saving Leonardo: A Call to Resist the Secular Assault on Mind, Morals and Meaning (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2010), 145.)),

The modern-day evolutionary hypothesis rests on a study of the created order. Modern scientists have made a thorough study of the created order and have concluded that man has evolved from some type of primordial chaos. Such a view conflicts with the Bible’s clear statement that “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). Such a conclusion has numerous ethical implications that if carried out consistently can have disastrous results as the mass killings in Norway demonstrate.5

It is this independent study of what we call “general revelation” that leads to anti-Christian conclusions. The Christian views general revelation “through the medium of a heart regenerated by the Holy Spirit. . . . The Christian looks at all that he receives through general revelation, in the light of the Scripture. It is only through the Scripture that he can see the true relationship between God and creation, and that he can see in creation its unity and purpose.” On the other hand, “the knowledge which the natural man receives from general revelation comes to him through the subjective medium of an unregenerated, depraved heart.”6 General revelation without the guidance of special revelation has no reference point.

A classic example of the claim that knowledge of God and His will is gained from general revelation is found in the ideology of Nazi Germany. Hitler’s National Socialist propagandists appealed to the revelation of God in reason, conscience, and the orders of Creation as justification for the Nazi state theology or cultural religion. Biblical revelation in Old and New Testaments was regarded by the Third Reich as a ‘Jewish swindle” and thus was set aside in favor of the Nazi natural theology. The Gottingen theologians Friedrich Gogarten and Emanuel Hirsch, by postulating the primacy of conscience and the flow of history as the chief modalities of revelation, provided theoretical justification for the Nazi ideology, which later wreaked havoc in Europe and beyond. A majority within the state church (known as the “German Christians”) unwittingly or otherwise embraced the new national religion, founded not on the Word of God but on the divine will allegedly embedded in the natural order. Emerging from this fatal exchange came a semi-Christian natural religion (some would say a new paganism) in which the church became a servile instrument of Nazi policy.7

The debate is not over how much one side depreciates the use of general revelation. Rather, the issue is over what ethical standard will be used to evaluate the conclusions formulated from a study of general revelation and Natural LawNatural Law takes on a life of its own as a nation steadily depreciates God’s specially revealed Word as the norm for all issues relating to faith (redemption) and practice (ethics). This situation results in using contemporary ideologies to build an interpretive framework so that general revelation can become specific. This means that Natural Law will be interpreted in different ways depending on what ideology is in vogue. A prevailing atheistic regime will interpret Natural Law one way, while a New Age humanist will put another slant on it. In each case, the church’s prophetic ministry is depreciated.

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1.   Lewis Hanke, Aristotle and the American Indians (London: Hollis & Carter, 1959), 12–13. [↩]

2.   Henry R. Van Til, The Calvinistic Concept of Culture (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1959), 162. [↩]

3.   Jack Kevorkian, Prescription: Medicine: The Goodness of Planned Death (Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books, 1991). [↩]

4.   Bob Dole, “Foreword,” in Hugh Gregory Gallagher, By Trust Betrayed: Patients, Physicians, and the License to Kill in the Third Reich (Arlington, VA: Vanadmere Press, 1995), ix. [↩]

5.   Henry M. Morris, The Long War Against God: The History and Impact of the Creation/Evolution Conflict (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1990). [↩]

6.   William Masselink, General Revelation and Common Grace (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1953), 71. [↩]

7.   Bruce A. Demarest, General Revelation: Historical Views and Contemporary Issues (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Academie, 1982), 15. [↩]


The End Game of Humanistic Law 

by R. J. Rushdoony


Biblical law requires restitution and restoration. Humanistic law begins by seeking the reformation of man by law. In reformatory legislation, the law-breaker is the goal of controls. The next step in humanistic law is regulatory legislation. Regulations seek to control all men to make crime impossible, or nearly so.


But humanistic law does not stop there. The third step is redistribution. The control of all men goes hand in hand with the control of all property. Men, land, and money are redistributed. Law becomes a total plan for the total salvation of men and society by means of total control.


In education, the goal becomes the equalization of all children in every way, so that grading is seen as an evil to be overcome or eliminated. Schooling stresses, instead of the acquisition of knowledge, the acquisition of social attitudes which will enable the child to belong to a leveled, redistributive society. Instead of an emphasis on excellence and individual achievement, there is instead an emphatic demand for socialization and group dynamics.


In religion, humanism seeks by law to eliminate or bring into conformity those churches which deny the Great Community as ultimate. All appeals must be to caesar rather than to God. Ultimacy is held to be in the state, not in God, so that the state is viewed as god walking on earth and as the agency of social salvation. The Christian School is thus seen as a dangerous agency, because it teaches a higher allegiance and trains youth in terms of another faith.


In economics, redistributive legislation in Marxist countries means the open transfer of land and wealth from private ownership to the state as the trustee of all the people. In the democratic nations, the same redistributive goal is achieved by a variety of means, most notably the inheritance tax and the income tax. In the United States, 75% of all farms, businesses, and activities are wiped out by the death of the owner because of the confiscatory nature of the inheritance tax. The income tax works annually to redistribute wealth, as does the property tax, and a variety of other taxes. In fact, the goal of taxation can no longer be said to be the maintenance of civil order and justice; rather, its goal is social revolution by means of taxation. Taxation has indeed become the new and most effective method of revolution; it is the reactionary redistributionists who still think in terms of the armed overthrow of existing orders. The more liberal ones know that taxation is the more efficient means of revolution.


In politics, the redistributive state works to equalize and scatter all independent sectors, whether religious, racial, or economic, which can form pockets of strength and resistance to the saving power of the state. The redistributive state wants no dissident minorities, only an undifferentiated and submissive majority.


In brief, the redistributive state wants a world beyond good and evil. Where there is no good nor evil, there can be no criticism, and no judgment. Doris and David Jonas, an anthropologist-psychiatrist couple, declared, in Sex and Status (1975), after discussing a number of obviously warped and sinning relationships, "What, then, constitutes a basis for an harmonious male-female relationship? We are forced to the conclusion that this is not determinable from the outside" (p. 102f.). For them, there being no good and evil, no God, sin and perversion are merely matters of taste and choice. In a world beyond good and evil, there is no standard for condemning a civil government, and the civil law is thus beyond criticism. Moral judgment disappears, and coercion replaces it. In fact, where there is no moral law, and no God whose court is the source of all law and judgment, then the only binding force in any social order is coercion.


Thus, the more humanistic a state becomes, the more coercive it becomes. The brutal slave labor camps of the Marxist states are not aberrations nor errors of principle on their part: they are the logical outcome of their humanism. The humanistic state replaces God's predestination with man's plan of predestination by total coercion, and it replaces God's moral law with a purely coercive law whose purpose is alien to man's being and destructive to it.


All three forms or stages of humanistic law are very much with us all over the world. The Christian cannot be indifferent to law without denying his faith. Humanistic law is a plan of salvation in terms of Genesis 3:5; its goal is to make man his own god, determining good and evil for himself. However, when man seeks to affirm himself in defiance of and apart from the triune God, what he actually does is to destroy himself. By his sin, he brings in death; by his rebellion in the name of freedom, he assures his slavery.


God's law, in its every aspect, requires restitution and restoration. "God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" (Gal. 6:7; cf. II Cor. 9:6). What shall this generation reap, when churchmen count it a virtue to be hostile to restitution and to God's law?


Law can never be neutral. Law always condemns one kind of practice and protects another. The law can be fair, and in its procedures conscientious, but it is never neutral. Law is always religious: it is an expression of faith concerning the nature of things and a statement of what constitutes righteousness or justice. Historically, and in essence always, law is a theological concern. For churchmen to be indifferent to the triumph of humanistic law means that they are indifferent to the claims and demands of the triune God. Such an indifference is suicidal, and it is sin.

Taken from Roots of Reconstruction by R. J. Rushdoony


Laws of the Kingdom 

Kingdom Men Kingdom Law

By Mark R. Rushdoony 


Much of Scripture is given to us in types and metaphors. These images teach because they are of powerful, often violent scenes which our cartoonish Sunday school images often avoid. The Exodus, Noah’s flood, and Jonah's deliverance all teach us of God’s salvation, but they involve horrific scenes.

The use of lordship, kingdom, and law also once carried very negative connotations, for the experience of the ancient world with these things was almost universally a negative one. Law was arbitrary and served the interests of the few. Political order was to serve the king; individuals mattered little. When God by grace rescued the Hebrews from Egyptian despotism, one of His first provisions for their future blessing was the giving of the law. It constituted a grace in itself, the gift of a law that represented not the arbitrary and abusive will of a political-religious oligarchy, but the justice system of a merciful God.

Biblical revelation often replaces negative connotations with superlative ones. God restores by making all things new. He offers us a Kingdom, “not of this world,” with Himself as King and commands us to pray that this Kingdom come in its fullness.


Having this command to recognize His Kingdom, we must address the issue of the law of the king. A king without authority is a figurehead. No kingdom is without law. Chalcedon has frequently used the term theocracy and theonomy. These terms describe more theology than political philosophy. Theocracy means, literally, “the rule of God.” It recognizes that God reigns through Jesus Christ, to Whom “all power” was given “in heaven and in earth” (Matt. 28:18). Theonomy, on the other hand, means “God’s law,” as authoritative in His Kingdom. The alternative to theonomy as God’s law is either a denial of theocracy and the “rule of God” or to propose that Christ’s Kingship is as a figurehead or at best a spiritual one. The first position renders the image of the King misleading, as there were no such monarchs in the ancient world; the later renders it weak because it means the King and His Kingdom are limited in jurisdiction.

Jurisdictional Matters

If we accept that Christ is now King (theocracy) and that His law is authoritative (theonomy), then we will view it as man's rules of Kingdom citizenship. When we travel abroad, we assume each nation has laws for its jurisdiction which bind citizen and foreigner alike. They also bind the law-abiding citizen as well as the rebel. They are, in fact, most obviously needed to control “the lawless and disobedient” (1 Tim. 1:9). There can be only one law in a kingdom, and this is particularly true in the Kingdom of God because all God's laws are, by virtue of their source, moral laws.

We must also ask ourselves where God's Kingdom is located. The pietistic tradition of subjective dispensational eschatologies suggests that it is in suspense until the return of Christ and that the "church age" has no part in the Kingdom. A popular trend in some circles is to limit the Kingdom of God to the church, the secular world actually referred to as a separate kingdom.

Church versus Family?

Amongst those who hold to the present rule of Christ (theocracy) and the law of God (theonomy) as the authoritative codification of the Kingdom law, there has been a difference of opinion as to the relative relationship of administrative duties. The question has centered on whether the family or the local church is the primary human sphere of and authority over Kingdom activities. Neither position denies the legitimacy of the other sphere, but how one answers this question dictates the emphasis and means whereby Kingdom work is pursued.

Though Chalcedon has historically come down on the side of the family on this question, it has never intended to weaken the church, but to strengthen the emasculated family.

The weakness of the church in our day is, aside from the general decline in faith in the West, largely due to its own retreat from the world into that of mere spiritual solace. Those modern churches that encourage dominion actively find their impact is pronounced.

The faithful church, moreover, has demonstrated that it can survive persecution. Often, in such troubled times, its message has been heard as most earnest and needed. The strength of the church is the Word of God itself.

The family is different. Its strength, even when faithful, necessitates both authority and capital. The Hebrew commonwealth was tribal, that is, family based. This is to say the basic government of the Hebrew society was the family. The great imbalance today lies not between church and family, but between family and state.

The modern family is now equated with the nuclear family rather than the patriarchal, tribal family that represented generations of wealth and wisdom. In the economic sphere we can see the modern family as emasculated. Each generation is decapitalized by inflation, debt, taxation, and inheritance laws alone. This is a revolutionary blow that is repeated with each generation. In a Biblical social order, family wealth would be accumulated and passed on, while today we expect each generation to capitalize itself. Recent Asian immigrants have followed older family-friendly strategies by living in crowded conditions while accumulating capital with which to purchase businesses and homes debt-free. Their emphasis on the family has caused them to go to great sacrificial lengths to create their own power-center. The increase in the power of the family we wish to see, likewise, would be in its authority and self-government, which is encouraged by economic power. If this replaces any other sphere of authority, such power would rob the state, not the church.

For the institutional church to add to the pressure on the already weakened family by attacking the necessity of stronger families involves a blow to an already weakened unit. Let the statists be on guard. Stronger Christian families will make for stronger churches. What pastor does not want to see that homeschooled family of six, eight, or ten visit for the first time?

The Larger Issue

The larger issue is not the relative roles of the church and family but theocracy, the rule of God itself. Thus, the more fundamental debate is that of theonomy versus antinomianism, that is, whether the law of God applies or not.

If there is no applicable law, there can be no theonomy as there is then no rule of God for men to follow. This creates problems. If obedience to God is subjective, there can be no objective disobedience, a very convenient result for sinful man. Moreover, no subjective obedience can be enjoined on another. The result of antinomianism has always fluctuated between lawlessness and arbitrary rule-making.

In our day there is a great expanse of open ground in need of Kingdom pioneers. If we acknowledge the law of God, then the question ought not to be what the godly church or family takes from the other, but what both can take back for the Kingdom. Ideally the church should be encouraging stronger families and families should be building up their local church. The government of the Kingdom is upon Christ's shoulders, not any of its administrative departments.

Who's in Charge?

The supremacy of God is the key to a distinctly Christian view of authority and this is what references to the Kingdom of God, the law of God (theonomy), self-consciously do. Because of a misunderstanding of the relation of the law and grace, many refer only to the Word of God. If Jesus is God and the Lord in Whom we profess faith (Phil. 2:9-11), then His Great Commission to teach men "to observe all things whatsoever" He commanded involves teaching all that Word including the law.

Antinomianism is also anti-Trinitarian because it assumes that what Jesus commanded was different than what the triune God declared in Scripture. Trinitarian thought demands that the Word of God is the Word of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It demands that Jesus would not command, nor the Holy Spirit lead us contrary to that revealed, authoritative Word.

The Norm

Theocracy should be the norm in our thinking, not as an ideal future, but as the present context for all of life. Sin and rebellion should be viewed as aberrations that will not last. We need to think in terms of the absurdity of sin and unbelief.

The “rule of God” means the sovereignty of God and this precludes that of the state, church, or family. The sovereignty of God requires the authority of His law-word as the standard for all spheres and all men. If we do not call the world to God and His law, then we call the world to God and imply that they can defy His law.

A man who refuses to believe in gravity has a problem. He must not be pandered to; he should be warned of the certain laws of physics and the consequences of ignoring them. Likewise, a society (or church) that refuses to believe in God’s moral law must also be warned of the consequences of its violation. Such a message is not substituting law for salvation; it is giving unbelieving man the whole gospel of the Great Commission, one which is not only of redemption but restoration and fellowship through obedience. We must preach both faith and faithfulness.

As the second person of the triune God, Jesus spoke of the entire Word when He said, “If you love me, keep my commandments,” (John 14:15; see also v. 21; 15:10) and “whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:19).


Taken from the Sept/Oct 2013 issue of Faith for All of Life. Get your subscription today!

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.