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Law and Transformation

The laws of God are to play a major role in the discipleship and transformation of a culture. However, the primary emphasis for transformation is the individual and the family unit - not a top-down approach that is usually found in secular man's approach to transformation, such as in Babel.

The Battlefor Righteousness: The Application of Biblical Law to Secular Society

By Rev. R.J.Rushdoony


The battle forrighteousness, or justice, must concern all Christians. Moreover, the onlystandard, source, or law of justice can be the law-word of God. We face asecular society. It is secular in the sense that it is not governed by priestsor clergy, but by laymen, and it is also secular in that it is outside God'sKingdom and seeks a kingdom apart from the Lord.


In considering the application ofGod's law to such a society, we face two problems: 


First,the world is in revolt against our God and His law. Psalm 2:1-3 describes thisworld conspiracy against God:


1. Why do the heathen rage (or, tumultuously assemble, or conspire), andthe people imagine a vain thing?"

2.The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together,against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying,"

3.Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.


Second,the church is in revolt against God's law and sets it aside to a large degree. Too often churchmen are ready tolisten to ugly misrepresentations of God's law, and to accept them. The law ofGod is seen as harsh, oppressive, and conducive to tyranny.

The fact is, however, thatthe total number of laws in Scripture are only a few hundred. All the rest ofScripture is to a degree a commentary on those laws, and the whole of the Biblemakes up one none-too-large volume. The laws of the nations, and even ofcities, fill libraries and are increased annually and often daily. Thus God'slaws are few, and they provide for a godly free society. But this is not all.Many of God's laws are without any provision for penalties by man, the state,or the church. An example of this is tithing. In Malachi 3:8-12, we are toldthat God imposes penalties for failure to tithe, and blessings forfaithfulness, but, here as elsewhere, men cannot play god and impose penalties.

Purposeof the Law

The purpose of God's lawis to provide government under God, not under men, not the church, nor thestate. God's law isthe means to a free and godly community. In surveying Biblical law, we mustfirst recognize its premise. Fallen man can only create a sinful society and atyrannical one. The goal of unregenerate man is a new Tower of Babel, Babylonthe Great. It means playing God and controlling all things. The goal ofregenerate man in Christ is the kingdom of God and the New Jerusalem, a realmwherein righteousness or justice dwells (2 Peter 3:13). Fallen man cannot builda just social order because he is in revolt against the God of all justice orrighteousness and His law, which is justice. God's law is "the perfect lawof liberty" (James 1:25), and it is a law hated by all who are in sin,which is slavery (John 8:31-36).


Second,for God's government and law to function, we must tithe. The tithe is God's tax, for Hisgovernment. This tithe is then tithed to worship (Num. 18:25-28), so that thesanctuary receives one percent of a man's increase. Because civil governmentreceives only half a shekel a year from all males twenty and over, it too, likethe church, is limited. The rest of the tithe, as well as the poor tithe, goesfor a variety of governmental functions, including education, health, andwelfare.The early church provided courts (in terms of 1 Corinthians6:1ff.),inns for Christian travelers, homes for the needy and aged, hospitals, homesand schools for homeless children, ransom for captives, and more. ThroughoutScripture, the test of faith includes ministering to people in distress. OurLord declares, "Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, yedid it not to me" (Matt. 25:45).


Third,the basic institution in Scripture is neither church nor state but rather thefamily. Because thefamily is God's basic institution, it is most protected by God's law. Theoffense of Biblical law in the eyes of many is its strict legislation toprotect the family, because treason in Scripture, on the human scene, is to thefamily, not to the state. The modern concept of treason does not exist in theBible. Because the family is the basic order of life, God's law guards the lifeof the family. The family is man's first and basic government, church, school,and vocation. Anthropologists and sociologists have recognized the centralityof the family in history. C. C. Zimmerman, in Family and Civilization (1947),classified families as trustee, domestic, or atomistic. The trustee family isbasic to social order; the domestic family is still strong, but the state isgiven preeminence; the atomistic family marks the death of a society. The law ofGod requires a trustee family. The law is addressed to the covenant family, asin Deuteronomy, or in Proverbs. It requires the covenant people of God toestablish God's order, beginning in their families.


Fourth,because God's order must be just or righteous, His people must have courts ofjustice. Hence, in 1Corinthians 6:1ff., Christians are commanded to establish such courts. Thisthey did, and soon provided justice in terms of God's law for believers andnon-believers for many centuries. In the United States, Laurence Eck hasreestablished Christian courts, and the results have been excellent.1 Thedefinition of justice in a humanistic court will not agree with God's law andjustice. Hence, in a humanistic society, a separate court system becomes a necessity,and the Bible becomes the law book of such courts.


Fifth,according to Scripture, the penalty for crime is essentially restitution. In minor offenses, corporalpunishment of a very limited sort is cited; in capital offenses, the deathpenalty is required. According to Exodus 22:1-17, restitution can be double orup to fivefold, depending upon the nature of the offense. Forgiveness inScripture means, charges dropped because satisfaction has been rendered, or,charges deferred for the time being (Luke 23:34). Restitution thus means thatthere must be a restoration of God's order. If men do not enforce God's law asa nation, God will enforce it against them.


Sixth,a basic aspect of God's law is its concern for the earth. The land too must have its Sabbaths;war cannot be used as an excuse to destroy fruit trees and vines; sanitation isrequired, and more. Paul tells us about the goal for creation in God's plan ofredemption:

19. For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for themanifestation of the sons of God."

20.For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason ofhim who hath subjected the same in hope,

21.Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage ofcorruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.

22.For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain togetheruntil now.

23.And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of theSpirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, towit, the redemption of our body. (Romans 8:19-23)

In our era, because ofPietism and its retreat into the inner man, we have lost this perspective. Let us remember that Calvin, whiledecrying idle speculation, insisted that Paul's words meant the resurrection ofanimals in God's glorious new creation. Let us remember too that God imposedseventy years of captivity on Judea for the seventy Sabbath years which had notbeen observed. Such laws were not a curiosity to our Christian forebears, andwe dare not regard them as such now or ever.

Seventh, there is a veryimportant thrust to God's law which we now disregard or spiritualize intomeaninglessness. Paulechoes these laws in declaring, "I have learned, in whatsoever state I am,therewith to be content" (Phil. 4:11). Scripture says,

8. Remove far from me vanity [or, futility] and lies: give me neitherpoverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me,

9.Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the LORD? Or lest I be poor, andsteal, and take the name of my God in vain. (Prov. 30:8-9)

6.But godliness with contentment is great gain.

7.For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothingout.

8.And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. (1 Tim. 6:6-8)

If we limit these words totheir spiritual implication, we lose their full scope. In Deuteronomy 15:1-6,we are forbidden to go into debt, in times of need, for more than six years.The seventh or Sabbath year must also be a rest from debt. The goal is to livedebt-free, to "owe no man anything, but to love one another" (Rom.13:8). God's purpose for our lives is to live well because we live infaithfulness to Him.

Eighth, according to 1John 3:4, "sin is the transgression of the law" (i.e., the law ofGod). The wordtranslated as sin in this verse is defined as anomia, anti-law or lawlessness.Since God's law is righteousness or justice, to be a sinner is to oppose byaction God's justice. Jesus Christ is our Savior from sin to righteousness orjustice. We have been saved, says Paul, in order

That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk notafter the flesh, but after the Spirit. (Rom. 8:4)

The law must be fulfilled,i.e., put into force, in us and through us. It is an error to teach that Christsaves us from hell; He saves us from sin and guilt. Hell is simply the logicalconclusion of sin, of rebellion against God and His law: it is total separationfrom God.

Ours is a secular agebecause it wants no part of God. Remember, the death of God school of"theology" in the early 1970s did not say God is dead, but rather,God is dead for us, and we refuse to acknowledge whether He exists or not. Thisis secularism. If we refuse to live by every word that proceeds from the mouthof God (Matt. 4:14), then we too become secularists in this same sense.

Thegoal of God's Kingdom is the total holiness of all things.

According to Zechariah14:20-21,

20. In that day shall there be upon the bells of the horses, HOLINESSUNTO THE LORD; and the pots in the LORD's house shall be like the bowls beforethe altar.

21.Yea, every pot in Jerusalem and in Judah shall be holiness unto the LORD ofhosts: and all they that sacrifice shall come and take of them, and seethetherein: and in that day there shall be no more the Canaanite in the house ofthe LORD of hosts.


Takenfrom In His Service: TheChristian Calling to Charity byR. J. Rushdoony.