Biblical Basis for Decentralization - Responsibility vs Centralization - RR183B3

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Lesson[edit]

Professor: Rushdoony, Dr. R. J.
Title: Biblical Basis for Decentralization; Responsibility vs. Centralized Control
Course: Course - Church and Community in History
Subject: Subject:History
Lesson#: 3
Length: 0:49:23
TapeCode: RR183B3
Audio: Chalcedon Archive
Transcript: .docx Format
Church and Community in History.jpg

This transcript is unedited. It was:
Archived by the Mt. Olive Tape Library
Digitized, transcribed, and published by Christ Rules
Posted by with permission.


Well, our next subject is the Biblical basis for decentralization, because as we see the humanistic community arise, it seeks to centralize power. The Biblical basis for decentralization of course rests on the fact that the word of God, the law of God, does not permit either a powerful state or a powerful church. The civil tax in scripture is limited to half a shekel for all males twenty years old and older, the same for the rich and the poor. It’s called the atonement tax, but that meant covering, civil covering, civil protection. And we have a long history of the Jewish collection of that civil tax. It meant that the state could not be strong when it was limited to so much and no more. The church as a worshipping body is likewise limited. According to Numbers 18:2-29 the tithe went to the Levites who were in charge of health education and welfare and they were according to Deuteronomy 33:10 the instructors of Israel, but they in term gave a tenth of the tithe to the priests for worship. Thus while church and state are both important in the sight of God neither is permitted to be the top power center. The people are the ones who are to apply the faith. You see, what we see in the church today is not Godly, the televangelists in some instances, not in all, epitomize this, the star system. [00:02:17]

About 1820 what developed was that great preachers...[edit]

About 1820 what developed was that great preachers or famous preachers began to dominate the church and the people became spectators going to listen to a star who was a preacher. And this is what we have today, and the hard working pastor in those circumstances who is trying to educate the people to become responsible working Christians is not a successful one when the star mentality prevails among the people. Their idea of Christianity is to sit in the pew and let the minister and maybe the church officers do all the application of Christianity. One of the greatest of Christians, General William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, wrote the best program of Christian Reconstruction that I’ve ever read in Darkest England and the Way Out. It’s a book that’s had a powerful influence on me, and what he wrote about in that book was the failure of the churches and in other works as well. He said the problem with many of our churches today is that when they convert someone they promptly mummify him. So he has one function, to sit in the pew and listen, and he has only enough life in him to reach for his wallet and he doesn’t do that very well. Well, read General Booth and you’ll see that reconstruction is not anything that R.J. Rushdoony thought up of. It has a long history and it goes back before Booth, although Booth was one of its great formulators. [00:04:22]

Now, when you have the star system, whether it is politics...[edit]

Now, when you have the star system, whether it is politics or in the church, you have a power structure, a power system, because you concentrate action and power on a focal point. And you create a spectator people, whether in politics or in the church. In the dictionary of Sociology ‘power’ is defined in these words and I quote: “The ability or authority to dominate men. To coerce and control them, attain their obedience, interfere with their freedom and compel their actions in particular ways.” Unquote. Notice the words: to dominate, coerce, control, interfere, compel. That’s what power is about, the power such as the Gentiles seek. Fallen men do seek such power, and they do exercise it to the detriment of the people. Society today is a system of power relationships, and because of the fall, men both seek to gain power and also to exercise that power to exalt themselves at the expense of others. The modern state is seeking a monopoly of power. They seek to gain power in the name of one class or another. And they say to various groups ‘If only the lower class could gain power, or the middle classes, or the upper classes, the intellectuals, the scientific elites, or any other group, than the problems of society would be solved’ when in fact they are aggravated. That’s why the scripture warns us against trust in any class or group instead of the Lord. Psalm 62 tells us: “Surely men of low degree are vanity, and men of high degree are a lie: to be laid in the balance, they are altogether lighter than vanity. Trust not in oppression, and become not vain in robbery: if riches increase, set not your heart upon them. God hath spoken once; twice have I heard this; that power belongeth unto God. Also unto thee, O Lord, belongeth mercy: for thou renderest to every man according to his work.” Now this is what Scripture says, power belongs only to God. But the quest for power is in the church, in the state, in economics, in education, everywhere. This, our Lord says, is what the Gentiles seek. But ye are to be ministers, servants one of another, members one of another. [00:07:57]

Now it is interesting that even as we are told that...[edit]

Now it is interesting that even as we are told that power belongs unto God, we are also told that mercy belongs to Him also. Only in God do you have the coincidence of power and mercy. Never in man or in the church or in the state or in any human agency because when they gain power, they use it to dominate men, not to be merciful. And if they talk about mercy and if they talk about welfare, it is a means of controlling people. Mercy and power are united in the Lord. Moreover there is justice also with the Lord, David tells us. For it is God who renders to every man according to his works. We thus have a Trinity presented of God. God is the source of power, mercy and justice, and the three inseparable in our Lord one from another. Man is not the source of these things and he can only exercise them partially, subject to Gods word and to a limited degree. We are told that the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel, that when men seek to exercise any power or justice or mercy apart from God, these things becomes evil. Man’s goal in power always has been a tower of Babel, a centralized humanistic world order, whereas Gods law limits man and the state and the church and everything else. But the modern state is our modern tower of Babel in construction. [00:10:35]

And we have to see this...[edit]

And we have to see this. The builder said let us build us a tower which will reach unto heaven, which will replace God, which will exercise all the powers of God over man. Which will supplant God, and this is what the modern state is doing. The state seeks to become greater than the sum of its parts, to be like God. The state has undercut the word of God as the source of law all over the world. The state is now the source of law and there is no appeal beyond the state. We have a monopoly of legal power in the state, a monopoly of military power. In Israel the tribes or clans each provided the troops as they did in Scotland and elsewhere for centuries. In Medieval Europe the feudal lord each had their own fighting power. The king’s army was like that of his lords, a limited one, a limited number of men. Did you know that William the Conqueror had only six thousand men when he took England? In every area the modern state seeks a monopoly. Did you know that up until a little more than a century ago any bank or any private association could coin gold and silver? As long as they met the weights and measures set up by Congress? That in fact the coining of gold was very popular in California and very widely used. Some people collect California gold, most people don’t even know that it even exists. But in California even quarters, twenty five cent pieces were of gold, as was fifty cent pieces. [00:13:07]

In a number of spheres feudalism undercut centralism...[edit]

In a number of spheres feudalism undercut centralism. Not because of the feudal lords but because the Christian community fought against the centralizing of power. They believed that power belongs only to God. Even in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries many, many merchant companies had their own laws, business law, and to this day although the state is moving in here, many areas of economic activity have their own laws and arbitrators. And these functions. In recent years we’ve seen the state move into these spheres, we’ve seen, for example, in the past twenty years a number of corporations heavily fined and penalized for bribing federal officials. This is an interesting fact because the Bible tells us that the crime in bribery is on the receiving end, not the paying. Why? Well if you examine the situation today in the United States what you find is that these bribes are shake downs and pay offs, the price of staying in business. One California city contractor told me that if he applied for a license to even put up a garage door, let alone put up a building, unless he made a payoff he would have to wait for months. And he said if it is ever found out, I will be the one who’s punished, not the officials. That’s exactly as it has been for the corporate payoffs to federal officials. In fact, a former California state senator, a very prominent one, in a book which was published last year, James R. Mills, The Disorderly House, describes in that book a mild example of political pressure, the threat of closure, on a business firm that was showing an independent spirit. And in fact when Otto Scott of the Chalcedon Staff wrote an unfavorable book review in the San Diego paper of Mills, Senator Mills’s book, not this one but a previous one, Mills called up the newspaper office and had him fired. [00:16:34]

The desire for a total monopoly of power by the state...[edit]

The desire for a total monopoly of power by the state means that the areas of existing freedom, the family and the church, are now targeted for controls. And that’s why we have all the cases; everything else is controlled so now the goal is let’s control the family and the church. The urge for centralization and a monopoly of power is always the same over the centuries. It’s the will to be God. We see this desire in one area after another; we see it in the family and tyrannical husbands who want total control and power over their children. We see it in churches and churchmen who want to replace with their rules and regulations the Holy Spirit. We see it in little Caesars in every sphere of life today. And the only check to this drive by fallen man to centralize power, to build a modern tower of Babel, for total power and control, the only checks are first: a truly Biblical faith, one which applies the law word of God to every area of life and thought. And second, the recognition that God’s word speaks primarily to the person not to the institution. God’s spirit works in and through man primarily. And God does not identify himself with an office or an institution; he does not say anyone who holds this office is my voice. [00:18:32]

There have been theologians who held that...[edit]

There have been theologians who held that. The king in Israel was required to know God’s law word; he was anointed to remind him of his prophetic duty to speak for God by Gods word and spirit. And even the most blessed of kings, the man used by the spirit, was still rebuked for a sin by a prophet of God, David rebuked by Nathan. Where the Holy Spirit works we have two factors at work, first we have a radical decentralization of authority. The Holy Spirit will work through the humblest believer, because the believer who acts as Gods spirit and opens his life to the Lord does not need to wait on institutions to serve God. He begins in his own life to govern himself and then to meet needs and responsibilities in terms of the Word of God. And second, at the same time where the Spirit works there we have true community and unity. And the purpose of organized action is not a tower of Babel-like power structure but to do the will of God: lo, I come and a volume is written of me to do thy will, oh God. David tells us that believing God means hearing him and doing his will.

He says in Psalm 40:4-8: “Blessed is that man that maketh the LORD his trust, and respecteth not the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies. Many, O LORD my God, are thy wonderful works which thou hast done, and thy thoughts which are to us-ward: they cannot be reckoned up in order unto thee: if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered. Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; mine ears hast thou opened: burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required. Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.”

[00:21:35]

Faith without works is dead, James tells us...[edit]

Faith without works is dead, James tells us. Faith must therefore have results. It means sound morality, it means godly charity, it means being members one of another. We cannot, James tells us, neglect the need of our brethren and claim to have faith. The faithful will minister to all needs as they see them. We must not assume because the early church did these things that they were remarkable saints. Whether rich or poor, of high or low estate, their Greek or Roman culture included every kind of depravity and a common acceptance of them as natural. As a result we find in Corinthians Paul had real problems, moral problems to face in the church. In the Council of Ancyra in 314 they issued some canons, rules, about moral delinquency among church members, things such as adultery, fornication, divinization and the like and even mentioned bestiality. This was the early church! But the difference was they did something about these problems. They did bring people into light; they did motivate them for action. So they had people then far faultier than the people who in the churches today, but they were motivated for action. They were disciplined in their waywardness and therefore they were a mighty army for the Lord. [00:23:48]

Thus the early church had to deal with people whose...[edit]

Thus the early church had to deal with people whose moral sights were very low at the time of their conversion. They were steadily brought into line with the world of the kingdom and the power of the Holy Spirit. The church began by summoning all such people to repentance in its true and original meaning, a reversal of direction. This meant moral responsibility; it means separation from sin, a separation unto holy works. It meant membership with the brethren. We can see from the surviving records how seriously they took this. In Rome itself at about 260 A.D. there were between thirty to fifty thousand Christians. There were a hundred and fifty four pastors. These people, the members, were supporting one thousand five hundred widows and needy persons. Now counting the clergy and their families there were perhaps two thousand who were supported by the believers, thirty to fifty thousand. And Rome was not one of the better centers for this kind of action. It was a major center of persecution and the church was regularly being hurt, broken by persecution and martyrdom. [00:25:44]

When Rome fell it was not followed by a collapse and...[edit]

When Rome fell it was not followed by a collapse and feudalism was of Roman origin. In fact, Sir William Ramsey a generation or more ago told us that serfdom began as people surrendered their property and freedom to various lords in exchange for cradle to grave security. And he wrote and I quote: “Salvation of Jesus and Paul was freedom.” The salvation of the imperial system was serfdom. What fell with Rome was centralization. What Christianity then did was slowly to transform a broken culture into a Christian one. It worked with barbarian Europe and barbarian Europe meant peoples, Germanic and other tribes, that practiced human sacrifice. And barbarians regarded decentralization, charity, humility and grace as signs of weakness. And the church had to convert them and say ‘what you as pagans called signs of weakness are in the Lord Jesus Christ signs of strength’. But the Roman dream of centralization is very much with us again. It has always been the motive of fallen man and it is the dream of the tower of Babel that marks our time. Only a total Christian faith can counter act it and assert what was once the battle cry of the Puritans in England, the crown rights of Christ our king. We need to work for the crown rights of Christ our king. Thank you. [00:28:23]

I believe we are going to have questions now so if...[edit]

I believe we are going to have questions now so if you will pass your questions to the center aisle we can then begin to answer them. [Pause] Well these are questions that are not simple to answer…the first one:

“What are the economic indicators that we can look for that will precede an economic collapse in America? What will we see six months to a year before a collapse of the American monetary system? This question came to mind after listening to your tape with Otto Scott, Money and Debt.”

Well, I’m going to try to be brief with these questions; it will be difficult to answer them briefly. I think the first thing I would say is that we are going to see more than an economic and a monetary collapse. We are seeing right now some indicators of things; we have the first break in the market last October. Otto Scott was at one conference where every person who came to that monetary conference, an international monetary conference, predicted that between two and eighteen months we would see the big break in the market. But consider the fact of bad weather. We have a drought in much of the west. There are droughts in many parts of the world today. Our food reserves are running out. By September the last of the vast food surpluses created by subsidies will be ended. It will be all gone. So food prices will go up as shortages take place, as crop failures take place. There will be military and political problems. Certainly the current election no matter who wins is bad news. So what we have to say is this. We have to regard the present, today, and say this is the time to begin preparation for the time of trouble. Get out of debt, have your house in order. Be a person with strong spiritual resources, deepen your faith, and learn to depend on the word of God and to find your joy and peace of mind in that, because you’re not going to find it in the daily paper. So, I don’t believe there is anyone who will be able to predict what precisely is going to take place six months to a year before the collapse. I will say that some of the keenest minds in America, economically, feel that we are very close to it, that at the latest it will come in 91. They may be right. They feel that it may be very close. So, the time to prepare is ahead of time. Bernard Ruth said of the market he was a loser because he was always waiting for the peak to sell out and he was always caught when the market broke. And then he decided the time to get out was before he thought the peak had arrived and from there on he made money. [00:32:50]

In light of the coming economic collapse how should...[edit]

In light of the coming economic collapse how should we prepare ourselves in relation to the community? Could you describe what kind of things will happen in society when an economic collapse takes place?

Yes, because I lived through the depression, I remember it very vividly because a math problem I had in Junior High School at the time was that we were all to imagine that we had five or ten thousand dollars and we were investing in the market and we were to trade daily and we were to make various mathematical computations. So it was going to be a practical problem applied to the stock market and then we were to turn in the papers with all the problems worked out. Well, that was when the stock market crashed so everyone in that class I’m sure remembers it to this day and the teacher did too, he never called for the papers because he got wiped out and he was too sick at heart. Well, what happened was that there was a million and a half unemployed in 1930. A year later, thanks to Congress, there were three million, then after 32, thanks to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, there were six million and by the time of his second term it went to six to sixteen million. And the only way he got us out was by taking us into the second world war and by keeping the country on a military footing ever since. And the two wars we’ve been in, Korea and Vietnam, we really didn’t wage war… we spent money. We weren’t out to win. So, I am fearful that we may do the same thing again, because after all, hasn’t President Reagan made clear his great admiration for Roosevelt and made that a part of the Republican parties stance? And doesn’t Bush share that same kind of feeling? So, we have to say that we probably will see all kinds of federal measures taken and that will enhance the disaster. We will see people losing their homes and farms and businesses because they are in debt. We will see all kinds of problems, but the key thing is what happened on a very large scale and after 29. But the interesting thing is that at that time we had less crime after the crash then before and we had stronger churches, not financially stronger, but more people attending. So, there is an old Chinese ideogram for crisis’s and when I worked in Chinatown in the thirties as a youth worker at a church there, I was told that that means it is a combination of two ideograms to form the word ‘crisis’…it means dangerous opportunity. So what is coming ahead of us is a dangerous opportunity. [00:36:51]

Another question...[edit]

Another question…oh, this will keep me going for the rest of the day! [Laughter] I’ll try and pick out those that I think I can make more relevant to our subject. The question about Reagan’s administration, very briefly, he had a great opportunity such as few men have had and he blew it. And I think he will be remembered as one of our very worse, if not worst, president…although I may retract that in four years. [Laughter]

Could you give an analysis of Lincoln’s administration and how it has affected our countries development?

Well, in the modern age war is revolution. It’s a time where power is so centralized that it furthers the development of a power state. Before the Lincoln administration the United States was a plural noun. You would say ‘the United States are’. Afterwards, ‘the United States is’. It was the beginning of centralization. The next great step in centralization was taken by Theodore Roosevelt, but then the major one by Woodrow Wilson, and then his protégé Franklin Delano Roosevelt and from there on we’ve been on a toboggan slide. [00:38:58]

With the rise of control over the state and family...[edit]

With the rise of control over the state and family by the government state and federal what is a church or family, father as head, going to do? What recourse is there for a father who loses his children for standing on Biblical conviction or a church that is zoned or building permitted out of existence by the city?

Well the recourse is to go court and fight! Now I can tell you how bad the judges are because I’ve been in court again and again for years. But we have to fight. And the more we fight, we’re going to lose as we’ve have lost a lot of battles, but we start winning also. We have to be ready to go to jail if need be. We have to be ready to appeal; we have to be ready to use every kind of legal device to keep the battle going. One of the beauties of the courts today is that they are so slow. Now the trial I mentioned, a royal blue one in the Baptist church in Redding, California, it will be perhaps the end of the year before the judge renders a decision. It’s in a federal court. It’ll go to an appellate court and that will take a year or two. In other words it could be four or five years before it goes to the Supreme Court. Now this is marvelous because the very slowness of the court gives us an opportunity to fight to alter legislation on the state and federal level and we have to be active and zealous in doing that. Also, we must remember that men are governed by either the fear of God or the fear of men. The sad fact in most of these cases, there is nobody in the court room except the person affected. I was in a trial of seven pastors in North Carolina, which is a part of the Bible Belt, and the charge was that they were not practicing but upholding child abuse, because of this book, Spare the Rod and Spoil the Child, and because of the requirement that parents sign a statement that their children could be spanked if they misbehaved. It was going to be in a certain way, only so much and in front of a witness. No parent ever complained, but the state took the churches to court and the deputy attorney general held the book in her hand said ‘this is a child abuse manual.’ Do you know apart from the ministers on trial there was only one other person, a pastor who was heading up the financial aspect of the battle, trying to get people to give money in order to fight the case? When I have seen on rare occasions, not only the court room packed, but the hallway packed and a crowd on the steps of the court house, singing A Mighty Fortress of Our God you see the judge in the courtroom nervously rattling papers and his hands shaking. He isn’t used to a crowd, unless it’s a sensational murder case the courtrooms are empty and they’re used to doing as they please. Since they aren’t governed by the fear of God they are governed by the fear of men. It’s a long battle and we had better be very zealous in it. I’m going to quit in five minutes because we have something very fine ahead of us. [00:43:00]

Could you please discuss the interplay between the...[edit]

Could you please discuss the interplay between the state desire for a monopoly of power and its God given role as a minister of justice, Romans 13? How may we both obey God’s ministers of justice as God’s word requires and still legitimately honor Christ’s lordship where the state interferes?

That’s a very important question and it deserves an hour to deal with it. Now, I’m not going to take an hour, however very briefly by turning to Romans 13, let’s see what we are required to do and let me say, I do not see any justification for the tax revolt because Jesus had a tax revolt in his day and would have nothing to do with it. We’re not to fight for our money, but the things of God.

“Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.”

Now first of all let’s remember this: when the gospels and the epistles were written Rome was in power and Rome was afraid of trouble with the people in Judea and the Judeans and the Christians scattered throughout the empire. We’re told by them when they came on the question of the tax revolt, is it lawful to render tribute unto Caesar, that they brought spies with them so anything written would read by the agents of Rome. Whenever a Christian group formed as soon as they were aware of it they would have someone there, alright. Therefore when you wrote something you were careful in how you worded it. So what does Paul tell the Romans and he tells us? Rulers are not a terror to good works but to the evil. So he’s telling us what the function of the state is, to be a terror to the evil. So what’s happened when the state is persecuting Christians in the courts rather than going after hoodlums? Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? Do that which is good and thou shalt have praise of the same. How often has the state today expressed its gratitude to the church for what we do to keep our people law abiding? It isn’t our youngsters that are arrested except on rare occasions. It isn’t our members that are trouble makers and murderers and thieves. Where is the praise of the state? It used to be commonplace in this country for the civil magistrates to pay their respects to the church, to the godly, and to praise them for their contributions to the life of the country. [00:47:20]

Then we are told that civil rulers are ministers of...[edit]

Then we are told that civil rulers are ministers of God to thee for good. The word literally is ‘diaconos’ in the Greek, deacons, servants. So there is a ministry of grace and the word of God and the church and the ministry of justice in the state. So very definitely what Romans 13 says is that the state has a certain duty to perform and we’re told very definitely what it is. We are to obey the state as ministers of justice but to resist it when it does evil, to try and change things and when we have the means of change. Did you know that until this decade the overwhelming majority of the fifty five or sixty million people who professed to believe the Bible from cover to cover were not even registered? It is only reached fifty percent in recent years and it’s equally divided among Republicans and Democrats and most of them pay no attention to anything scriptural in voting for their candidates. If the Christian community would wake up, we could take back government in this country, we could decentralize it. We could do a great many things. Well, I will hold these other questions and begin with them later this afternoon. [00:49:08]