By Rev. R.J. Rushdoony – bio
The nature and the meaning of law have changed from one culture to another. First of all, all law is religious in its presuppositions, because it is an expression of basic and ultimate values.
Laws protect those values most important to a society and prescribe those regarded as alien and evil. Every legal system embodies a concept of ultimate concern, of religion and ethics. Second, laws, beside protecting values, also protect men. The men protected in contemporary states can be, theoretically, all men within the society, the state and its agents, or one class of men, such as the proletariat. It is not our concern at the moment whether or not the protection is theoretical or actual. In antiquity, the law was commonly royal law; even more, it was often the law of an ostensibly divine-human King whose word was law. In some sense, the law is always partial; it protects those whom the law deems just and prosecutes those suspected of injustice. Where the partiality of the law is determined by men, all who differ from the law-makers can be judged illicit and criminal.
There is thus no freedom for capitalists in the soviet Union, and there are limitations at times on the freedom of communists in some democracies. where laws come from men, men will determine the limits of the law’s protection.
The law thus always has an interest; law protects and punishes in terms of pre-theoretical presuppositions which are in essence religious. The important question to ask of law is the nature of its interest or concern. The interest can be royal, democratic, fascist, racist, and so on. In every case, it is an expression of values.
Historically, law, which we like to see as the expression of justice, has been very commonly seen as injustice. The royal law in India for centuries was exploitive of the peoples and seen as oppressive. One aging missionary who had a contact with elderly Chinese who had seen the rules of the empress, the “republic,” and the communists, asked them about the difference from one regime to another as they affected them, the peasants. Their answer was that all things were essentially the same: “All masters want their will and our work.”
Theoreticians of the law like to see it as equivalent to justice. During most of history, men have seen it as the oppressive will of the masters.
Ancient Israel was an exception to this. Law-making was recognized in times of faithfulness as God’s prerogative, not man’s, and God had revealed His covenant law through Moses. This law was defended and expounded by the prophets, and it was binding for the King and the people. Nathan’s indictment of King David, one of a long series of such confrontations, was without parallel in antiquity. A law beyond man and from God judged both kings and peoples, indeed, all men and nations.
For our purposes here, a few limited aspects of Biblical law must be noted.
First, every system of law imposes certain restraints on some for the freedom of others. Outside of Biblical law, these restraints are on one segment of men for the freedom of another, sometimes only a few. In Plato’s Republic, the free are very few; they are the philosopher-Kings. In other systems, other elites are free and the rest restrained. Second, not only is freedom in a social order selective, but it is also both positive and negative. Thus, in Soviet Russia, there is a freedom from capitalism, and a freedom for the state to control its citizenry.
A man who exercises the freedom to sin thereby ensures freedom from virtue and its many blessings. No stand or act has a single consequence; we are at all times in a nexus of events, past, present, and future. Biblical law gives us freedom from men and from the state, but not from God. The social order created by Biblical law distrusts man as a sinner and thus minimizes his controls while stressing his responsibility. Continue reading article…