A Preference for Tyranny

From R.J. Rushdoony’s article Freedom from Man, available at www.chalcedon.edu

Tyranny is man’s rule without God, and it is obviously very popular because it is so common. Men may complain about it, but they obviously prefer it to its alternatives. Rule without God is preferred by many because they find God’s government to be too obtrusive. This is an article of faith with them because, as sinners, God’s government makes them fearful of discovery and judgment. More than once I have seen immoral priests and pastors well regarded by their parishioners, who feel then easier in their own sins. They will turn on their church leader only when his exposure embarrasses them.

If freedom were as much loved as men profess to love it, we would see much more of it in history. Men find it convenient to honor things they do not want because the claim to virtue is easier than the practice of it. Pretense is a basic characteristic of fallen man.

What God’s law offers is freedom from man. Man’s law has always been one expanding claim to power over man. God’s law, however, requires virtue, whereas man’s law simply calls for moral behavior. In fact, Leviticus 20:7-8 says plainly:

7.  Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be ye holy: for I am the LORD your God.

8.  And ye shall keep my statutes, and do them: I am the LORD which sanctify you.

However, for some strange reason too many scholars, theologians, and pastors go, not to the Bible, but to one or another confessional standard when they discuss the law. As a result, they too often say nothing about God’s purpose with the law: holiness.

What churchmen fail to see, the ungodly clearly recognize. God’s law requires holiness whereas man’s law requires conformity.


Holiness means a separation and a consecration to God. We are summoned to become holy because God is holy. This holiness is gained by a separation to God and by an obedience to His law.

In this light, the law has a radically different meaning. The law is God’s law, and it must be applied to all spheres of life. Whether in church, state, family, or any other sphere of life, holiness is gained as we separate ourselves to God by His law.

There is freedom under God because we know the limits He Himself has set: His law is unchanging and His law does not encroach on us because its limits are fixed. Man’s law, and statist law, have no limits. The next session of any legislative body will increase the number of laws.


Men who rule without God and His law are tyrants because they rule without restraints. God’s law is a restraint upon man. It also tells us about God’s restraining hand, how He allows to man the freedom to sin, the freedom to learn, and the freedom to fail. Men cannot regenerate either themselves or others, and they therefore substitute coercion for rebirth. As a result, the new order they envisage is logically a slave state because they have no power to conform men to their goals in any other way.

Taken from The Institutes of Biblical Law, Volume 3, The Intent of the Law, p. 169.

Looking at the failure of tyranny from another perspective, let me point out why Evil Empires don’t fall.

They don’t fall because they are evil: they are mortal because they are evil. God told Adam that he would die when he ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil: but Adam only spiritually died when he did so. Physically, Adam continued to live for centuries, until his evil finally caught up to him.

In the same way, the Nazis were not condemned for their wickedness until after they lost; and the Soviet Union was never rejected by the intellectuals merely because it was oppressive and vicious and full of lies. Any Christian waiting for some revolt against Our Betters because they strip people of their dignity at airports, or because they sell the body parts of babies, or because they oppress and keep ignorant entire segments of the population, is simply wasting his time.

They fall for one of two reasons:

  • a crushing military defeat, resulting in the destruction of the government; or
  • economic bankruptcy.

It is quite unlikely that there will be a military defeat of the West significant enough to discredit the leadership. It is very likely that the West will be economically busted within the next twenty years. And a bankrupt West can’t afford the welfare bribes needed to keep the people quiet and the various power-elite factions compliant.

The coming decentralization is what Christians should be preparing for. Sure, the majority of men will still prefer tyranny, but all they will find are petty tyrants and low-rent two-bit thugs: our particular imperial Establishment, once fallen, won’t be coming back up.

(But keep an eye out for new silver-tongued liars, spinning new delusions…)


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