Systematic Theology – Church
Training for Government
Dr. R.J. Rushdoony
Our subject this morning is Government. Last week we dealt with the subject of Training for Government, and today we shall concern ourselves with how are men to be trained, boys to be trained, to exercise the kind of government that scripture requires. Let us turn, first of all, to Exodus 13:8 and 14. “And thou shalt shew thy son in that day, saying, This is done because of that which the Lord did unto me when I came forth out of Egypt.”
And verse 14, “And it shall be when thy son asketh thee in time to come, saying, What is this? that thou shalt say unto him, By strength of hand the Lord brought us out from Egypt, from the house of bondage.”
Now, this has to do with the Passover service. Let us turn now to Psalm 78:1-8. “Give ear, O my people, to my law: incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark sayings of old: which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, shewing to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done. For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children: that the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children: that they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments: and might not be as their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation; a generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not stedfast with God.”
Note that Rushdoony focuses on boys and men, when it comes to government. And there are at least three reasons for this:
- Men naturally want authority, rule, government, and will sacrifice quite a lot to gain political preeminence over others. As it’s more likely that they will rule, it’s the wise decision to focus regal training on them.
- In the Old Covenant, joining the Covenant was tied to circumcision: and only boys (and men) can be circumcised. Authority rests on those within the covenant, not those without.
- Until the invention of electricity, movement, power and tools were strongly tied to physical strength, including the ability to fight and kill. This was – and in many ways, is – tied to physical strength and a commanding physical presence. So the strength, stamina, speed, load-bearing potential, and endurance of men makes them natural leaders.
There may well be others I missed, including aggression, tolerance of physical pain, the respect of other men, etc.
Now, there are many references in the Bible, in the New Testament, to the home as the locale of church meetings. Prior to the Fall of Jerusalem, the church was not illegal in the Roman Empire because it had the protection that was given to all Jewish groups. After the Fall of Jerusalem, secret meetings were necessary, so the church continued to meet in the home, but in very small groups, lest they be discovered, but before it became a necessity, the church was meeting in the home. The qualifications of the officers of the church were also family-oriented. Read sometime what 1 Timothy 3:1-13 has to say. The church officer must be a man who has proven his character by his headship of a family, by demonstrating his capacity to rule in the product, that is, in godly children. The very terms for church officers are derived from the family. Elder, an elder in biblical times was the head of a family. Deacon, a family servant, so that both deacon and elder are family-oriented terms.
Even more, training for government in not only the church, but in the state, but in every area of life is, in the Bible, seen as essentially a training within the family. There are two key texts that reveal this. First, in Exodus 13:8 and 14, we are told that in every Passover service in Israel, beginning with the very first in Egypt, instruction and participation were basic, participation by the sons. Now, every religious festival in the Bible has a strong element of instruction as a part of it. It was essential in all things that the children be reared in the essentials of the faith, but in the Passover service, the child, and normally the youngest male child capable of understanding was required to ask the question as the beginning of the service. “Father, what is the meaning of this that we do?” and then the child was instructed by the father in the meaning of the Passover. God’s salvation, the history of salvation, its implications for the child. So that the Passover service was oriented to training the child in the meaning of redemption.
Boys are taught to rule from within their family. This authority is tied to his godliness and his obedience to the Law of God, and not to his masculinity alone.
Now, it is interesting that in the early church, this was continued. As a matter of fact, there was a memorized prayer taught to every boy, and the children offered, in unison, the prayer that preceded the communion service, a prayer that set forth the meaning of the service, and communion was served to the children. This practice prevailed for the first eight centuries. It was only terminated when, in Charlemagne’s France, they rules against this, but it persisted in many portions of the church, into the 14th century.
Moreover, it is interesting that the term “Passover” was retained for the communion service for centuries. In Scotland, not only was it called the Christian Passover, but it was celebrated with the use of a lamb, and a Passover supper. It was, in other words, seen for centuries by the church, beginning in the New Testament era, as essential that the covenant child understand the meaning of salvation as early as possible, and to share the responsibilities of the redeemed. He was taught to ask the question, because it was his responsibility to give an answer for his faith from his earliest years, to be able to say, “I believe, and we do these things for these reasons.” We see this kind of teaching device elsewhere in the Bible.
For example, when Joshua and the Israelites entered into the Promise Land and crossed the Jordan, they erected there a pile of stones, and Joshua said, in time to come, you shall bring your children, have them ask the question, “What mean these stones?” and then you shall tell them how God delivered us, and by his wonder-working power, gave us a great and mighty victory.
Then second, as we saw last time, in Deuteronomy 6:4-7, verses 20-25, the child was to ask, “What is the meaning of these laws of God? Why did God give us these laws? What is their purpose,” and they were to say, “The Lord God gave us these laws for our good, because he separated us unto himself and made us his people.” So, first the child was to ask concerning the meaning of salvation in every Passover and Communion service, and second, the child was to ask the meaning of the law, and they were required to make clear the meaning of how they lived, why they did the things they did, to talk of them continually, to instruct their sons in the meaning of God’s salvation and in the meaning of God’s law.
Interestingly, the fathers were not to merely command their sons “obey God’s Law”, but were to tell them why they should obey God’s law.
We are expected to learn how to reason in a godly manner, to think God’s thoughts after Him, to know the spirit, as well as the letter, of the Law.
Passover ties in directly with the Lord’s Supper, with fellowship and with taking in the bread and wine, the flesh and blood of Christ. Not as a dead ritual presided over by a religious professional, but as a lively and talkative family/neighbourhood feast among believers, where we share our stories, our lessons, and ourselves. With singing at the end, and not a focus of the feast. Eating, drinking, and talking — fellowship — is the focus of the feast.
Psalm 78 is given as a part of that function. It is over seventy verses long. Read it in its entirety when you go home. This was to be taught to children. “We will not hide them from their children, shewing to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done,” and then, having spoken of the law and the necessity of knowing the law, then it goes through the whole of the history of Israel, how God had delivered them, and yet they sinned more against him by provoking the Most High in the wilderness, and they tempted God in their heart by asking meat for their lust. So they did eat and were well filled for he gave them their heart’s desire, but for all this, they sinned still, and believed not for his wondrous works.
The Psalmist gives us a picture of cycles of judgment, again and again, smiting Israel. Why? Because they forgot God’s salvation and they forgot God’s law, and so the child is to memorize this so that he might understand the pattern of history, that these things will befall men if they depart from God’s salvation and God’s law. So, the Psalm was to be memorized as a teaching device, even as they were to be taught the law.
History, the child was to know, illustrates God’s judgment, that the wages of sin are always death, that life must be built upon the law of God and the law must be taught to children. God requires it. But it is not merely knowledge that is to be taught, but faithfulness. The goal, as the scripture makes clear in this Psalm, verse 7, that they might set their hope in God and not forget the works of God but keep his commandments, and might not be as their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation that set not their heart aright and whose spirit was not stedfast with God.
Not only law, logic, and supreme reverence to God is to be taught. The historical record of God’s actions among men – especially among His covenant people – also matters.
God acts to reward and bless those who love Him and His Commandments, and to punish and curse those who hate Him and His Commandments. And this is done in history, where everyone can see, and not just in the afterlife.
There is still another aspect of the training for government. The meaning of salvation and the meaning of the law is to be taught, but also, as these text indicate in this Psalm: responsibility. That because they are called to be elders, because they are to be men, they are to be responsible. This is taught repeatedly in scripture. For example, in Leviticus 4, we have the graded sacrifices. The greater the responsibility, the greater the sacrifice a person had to offer, and our Lord summed it up thus in Luke 12:48, “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required, and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.” In other words, the more God gives us, the greater our responsibility. The more gifts we have, the more money we have, the more honor and position we have, the greater God requires of us in the way of fruits, and the greater our culpability and our punishment if we go astray.
The Bible makes clear that men are judged more severely than women. We used to have the double standard, now we have none. The double standard said that women had to be virtuous and men could sow their wild oats. Actually, that was altogether wrong, because the Bible requires the same standard of both, but judges men more severely for their sins, and God makes it clear repeatedly as in Hosea 4: 12-14, that he will not judge the sins of the wives and daughters because they are guilty. Rather he will bring judgment upon the entire nation, because when the heads of households go astray, God says the culture is gone, because they are the key and when they sin, the whole culture collapses. We have today, child’s liberation movements underway because we’ve had women’s liberation, because men have sought liberation from God’s movement. The one follows after the other. If the one is going to be irresponsible, the others will also.
God holds men responsible for their actions.
More than this, God holds men more strictly responsible for their actions, than He does women. Men are the covenantal heads, so if they fall, everything under them falls as well.
But if men stand, everything under them can more easily stand.
With greater authority and greater power, comes greater responsibility and greater punishment.
As it was for men then – and, to a large degree, even today – so it is with Christians vis-a-vis nonChristians, covenant keepers vs covenant breakers.
Self-governance is stressed in the Bible for very good reasons.
The attitude of modern man is that status is a license for irresponsibility, and if you are a man, you can get away with things that women supposedly cannot, but this is anti-scriptural. The greater the position, the greater the responsibility. The greater the requirement that there be a discipline in word, thought, and speech, and our culture has reversed the whole thing. Children should mind. The parents should have freedom. This is why children do not mind, because we’ve broken the cornerstone of responsibility.
In Antiquity, in pagan culture, the same thing prevailed which prevails among us now. The man was the law. He could do as he pleased. He had total power over everyone. He could sell his wife and his children. They became virtual property. In Rome, a man had the right to sell his children, but the Bible says, in the law, “Do not prostitute thy daughter to cause her to be a whore, for the land will be accursed.” The curse that God pronounced upon the world will be enhanced when men are so irresponsible, and we are also told, “Fathers, provoke not your children unto wrath.” Teach them so that they grow and they rejoice in God’s law. They rejoice in the way of righteousness. Even as man is God’s property, so, too, is all that man has God’s property and man must see himself as God’s possession.
Men hate this teaching.
And not just pagan men, either.
Even so, God and His Law-Word stands in authority and power over man and his piffle-waffle tyrant-babble.
Men talk a lot. God makes the decisive call.
So then, the wise and godly man will see himself, his family, and all he possesses as property of God, to be used and disposed of as God commands and as God decides. At best, man acts as Go’s lawful trustee, speaking and acting in the name of God to accomplish God’s objectives.
Fathers are to teach their sons to rejoice in God’s Law. This becomes implicitly difficult – I would claim, impossible – if the father secretly hates God’s Law. Children, both boys and girls, tend to have ways to suss out what their fathers actually believe.
When a believing father has a believing son, is where real multi-generational power comes in. Even better if we are talking about many children, sons and daughters, all holding close to God with father and mother.
Thus, training for government means that boys must not only be trained to be good and to be responsible, but to be able to rule themselves and everything that is under their jurisdiction. One of the key texts concerning men in the New Testament is in 1 Timothy 3:5, where Paul says, “If any provide not for his own, and especially for them of his own house, he hath denied the faith and is worse than an infidel.” In other words, the essence of being a man, and a Christian man, is that you are responsible for everything in your house and every person. You provide for them. You take care of those of your household, outside your immediate family, too. You have a responsibility under God. You are a governor, a ruler, and you learn within the family what it means to be an elder under God, and if you do not provide for your own, the most elementary function, then you’re worse than an infidel.
Now, you can understand the biblical pattern of government. Men, trained to be responsible, every head of a household a responsible man. For every ten families, an elder over those ten families, and then over fifties and over hundreds, and every area of life, church and state, governed by elders. The alternative to this is what we have today, centralization, totalitarianism, and tyranny, government at the top instead of in the family. We can understand why, in Bible times, when this form of government was practiced, there was almost no government at the top of the state. Virtually no state. In fact, one leader of libertarianism, or anarchism, a generation ago, said the perfect anarchistic society was Bible society.
Now, he was partly right in that it was, virtually, a society without a state, but it was not totally without a state. There was always some government there, but he was right in that there was virtually no civil government governing things. It was done on the local level, and we know from archeology that in the prosperous times of the Hebrew commonwealth, the houses which were built of stones had no doors, just a canvas door, because it was easier to throw it aside and keep the place cool, and the reason for it was, that when you had this kind of government, every family was responsible, and you did not have problems of crime. When the family system broke down, heavy barred doors and windows replaced the earlier order. Today, the family has broken down. It is in a state of collapse, not only in the ghetto, but in the middle class neighborhoods, and in the best neighborhoods, and there is nothing the police can do to cope with it. It’s the family that is the key to government, and God says, “This is the way to govern. Rear up your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord that they may be rulers in the kingdom of God.” Let us pray.
God created a bottom-up society of free, self-governing men, as he laid out to Moses.
Men prefer a top-down Pharaonic society of fearful slaves, under a God-King (or Philosopher-King), as laid out by that same supposedly Above-the-Law man.
Idols increasingly have a weaker and weaker enduring presence on God’s Land. Let’s not put our trust in them.
Let’s put out trust in the real deal, the Triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.