I have had occasion to re-visit R.J. Rushdoony’s book, Sovereignty (Chalcedon/Ross House Books: 2010). Published almost ten years after the theologian’s death, it poses an urgent question.
Who is sovereign–God or man?
There’s no such thing as “sort of sovereign.” Sovereignty is absolute and indivisible. Either God is sovereign Lord of all, or He is not. Either God is the source of law, or He is not. And if He isn’t, who is?
Oh, well, the serpent told us that–we are! “Ye shall be as gods,” Genesis 3:5. And then we have to decide whether each and every individual is to be sovereign–nah, that won’t work!–or if our sovereignty is to be collectivized in the form of an institution: a state, for instance. Yeah, that’ll work!
Rushdoony, analyzing history, saw the modern state perpetually expanding its powers. He perceived clearly that “the state” has no life in itself, but is rather the creation of flawed and sinful men: that is, an idol. And because one of the chief flaws of statists is an insatiable lust for power, the state devours its citizens’ personal liberties–because those who do not acknowledge God as God are unable to conceive of any authority higher than the state’s, to which the state and its representatives will be held accountable. For them the state, not God, is sovereign. And this, Rushdoony discovered, is a very widely-held delusion: even churches succumb to it.
So the state is sovereign, and next thing you know, they’re dragging people off to forced labor camps. First they try to punish every offense, said Rushdoony, because every offense is ultimately an offense against the state. But that’s not enough for them. From there they go on to punish all dissent.
He did not live to see them go even one step farther than that. From punishing dissent, punishing refusal or failure to hop on the bandwagon, the priesthood of the idol of the state goes on to punish at random. Like the Ontario Human Rights Commission says, you can offend against the Human Rights Code without meaning to, without even knowing that you’re doing it.
The image that comes to mind is some poor sod being hauled off to the guillotine crying, “What did I do? What did I do?”–and getting no answer.
Inalienable liberty is possible only under the sovereignty of God. Jesus Christ is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and if we believe Him to be such, then we can only view the government as being under Him.
This is a matter to which Christians need to give more thought.
Before the state kills and eats them.