The Law, Transgression vs. Crime, and Personal Responsibility
—<Quote from Sixth Commandment: Responsibility and the Law by R. J. Rushdoony>—
“Thou shalt not subvert the judgement of the stranger or of the fatherless, nor take a widow’s raiment to pledge, but thou shalt remember that thou remember that thou wast a bondman in Egypt and the Lord thy God redeemed thee thence. Therefore I command thee to do this thing.”
A central point of biblical law is summed up in one sentence in Deuteronomy 24:16. “The father shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers, every man shall be put to death for his own sin.” This is a fundamental and important point. This law is cited in Kings and Chronicles as well as in Jeremiah and Ezekiel. There are certain aspects of this law which must noted in order to appreciate its significance. First of all, responsibility is an aspect of every law system. Someone must be held responsible whenever there is an offense. No law system can escape this fact, there must be a responsibility this is inescapable. If there is no responsibility then no law enforcement is possible.
Thus the important question to ask with respect to any doctrine of responsibility is this: Who is responsible? The answer to this question is a religious question. It makes clear how you answer this what you believe. The responsibility can be attached to the family, to the society, the community, the environment, to the gods, or to a person. Where the responsibility is placed makes for a fundamental difference in your social order… who is responsible? This is an all important question, and the way you answer this makes all the difference as to how you begin then to deal with the world.
Individual responsibility is God’s focus.
Any other focus — typically some politically expedient red herring, like class or race — merely destroys justice for the individual man, in the name of some abstract Collective.
Moreover, it places both the power and the definition of the Law in the hands of the Leader of the Collective. (Or, often enough, in anonymous, accountably-free bureaucrats enforcing the rules they have created.) This is wrong, oppressive, and idolatrous: God alone defines the Law, and different authorities uphold the Law in different spheres of authority.
Second we must not in terms of this law that the biblical doctrine is one of individual responsibility. The essence of sin is personal guilt. According to Genesis 3 verses 9-13, the sinner tries to evade personal responsibility this is basic to his sin nature; so that when God confronted Adam and Eve with their sin the attitude of Adam was, the woman whom thou gavest to me, she did give me and I did eat. So that Adam instead of confessing his personal guilt blamed Eve, my environment, my wife, and ultimately God. You, God, are responsible for my sin because you gave Eve to be my wife… I would never have been in this problem if it had not been the woman and you. Similarly Eve evaded her responsibility by saying, the serpent did give me and I did eat. This then in the essence of sin and the biblical point of view the evasion of personal responsibility, whereas Godly man assumes responsibility assumes responsibility for his actions. He does not say it was the condition that made me do this, but I even I, have done that which is evil in thy sight.
God does not permit the successful evasion of personal responsibility. Not definitely, and often enough not temporarily either.
Third, related to this question of who is responsible, the question is to whom? Because the very word responsible means accountable to someone, or to something. So that, when you say man is responsible, or is you say society is responsible, or the family is responsible, then you have to follow with this point… to whom? And again this question is all important, and the answer is religious one. Are you responsible to the family, or to the community, or to the state? The biblical doctrine is that we are responsible first of all to God.
In essence to God; against thee, thee only, have I sinned and done that which is evil in thy sight; David said with respect to his sin. Now it was an act of adultery so that there was a responsibility to a man and to a woman, and yet in essence it was to God. Primarily it was a sin against God, secondarily only, against man. God confronts man at every point with his total law, and therefore man has a total responsibility at every point to God. Essentially and basically to God, only secondarily to man.
We are responsible to God, first and foremost. And only secondarily to other men, the church, the state, etc.
For we must then say that guilt cannot be shifted to others or passed on to the people around man. Guilt is non-transferable. This is an important point in theology. A disposition or a nature can be inherited, but not guilt. We may inherit a disposition from our parents which predisposes us to a temper which can lead us into guilty actions, or a stubbornness which may be a vice or virtue depending on how we use it. Or a disposition perhaps to alcoholism, but we inherit only a nature, not a guilt! Thus man inherits from Adam a sinful nature, but he does not inherit Adam’s guilt. In Adam we have a nature that is one of total depravity, that is every aspect of our being is tainted with sin.
The only one who can truly see clearly, who is not deluding Himself in any way, is Jesus Christ. Every other human being is flawed and cracked, twisted and corrupted, to a greater or lesser extent.
So that if you take responsibility away from the individual, where it rests in biblical law, you transfer also guilt and punishment. And so it is, when you begin to weaken Christian faith or destroy it, you destroy also the doctrine of individual responsibility which has been responsible for all the progress of the western world. And you pave the way for collective guilt and collective punishment. This is the essence of Marxism. Marxism holds an entire class to be guilty, and this guilt attaches itself and is transferred to anyone who in any respect by any opinion associates itself with that class.
Why imprison just one man, when you can imprison a nation?
Why kill just one man, when you can starve, shoot, or work to death XXX millions?
As any Marxist — or Darwinian — would say, “We are not designed for truth, but for survival.” and gaining absolute, unlimited power is the best guarantee of survival, no?
Thus, the family is responsible. The parents, or the husband, or the wife, or the community. Society is blamed for the crime of the juvenile delinquent and of the criminals and so it is punished. The lawless thus are absolved of guilt and the guilty made innocent while the innocent are punished. Now, we must ask the question because those who are critical of our position will raise it, does the bible teach nothing of community responsibility? And the answer is yes, of course it does. But the responsibility of the community according to scripture, is to see that justice be done. It is not that the community is held guilty for the crime but only that the community is held guilty of the crime if it does not see that justice is done.
There is a form of collective responsibility: to uphold the Law of God, as outlined in the Bible.
God insists that all communities uphold this Law, believer or not, pagan or Christian.
Otherwise, judgement… and, after a sufficient level of judgement, death.
It is interesting at this point to note that the biblical law does not use the word crime. Check a concordance, and you’ll never find the word crime. Only, transgression. Transgression. Now the word transgression indicates a deliberate offensive action… the word crime which is crept in in modern times is different. It doesn’t indicate responsibility in the same way.
A crime has been committed, we say, but when we use the biblical word there has been a transgression it is an active word, it indicates that somebody willfully, deliberately, was guilty of a transgression or an assault. An offensive action against another. So that, the word transgression means a deliberate violation of God’s law whereas the word crime is neutral, it does necessarily imply an actor. It speaks just of an offence, and you can attach that offense to society or the family, or the environment generally. In biblical law you see we have an ultimate personalism. The triune God, you see, is the author of all things and every offense is an offense against the person of God primarily and secondarily the person of man. Whereas in modern sociology, in modern criminology we have a basic impersonalization.
Because of its evolutionary perspective we evolve out of nothing and persons are not the basic thing, ultimately there is chaos, impersonal chaos. And so crime to is an impersonal kind of thing. It isn’t the self conscious, deliberate act of a man, and therefore you read persons out of offenses, out of crimes. Crime becomes an impersonal offense. Thus, law that is humanistic, evolutionary, is disrespectful of persons. Persons are not in charge, things govern the world. Hence people are treated very callously by social scientists. Because their belief is that since man involved out of an impersonal world and has always been manipulated by an impersonal environment, why should man object when social scientist manipulate him? Because, after all, he’s never had anything in the way of a personal world… and the best that he can account for is this impersonal social scientist. He’s never had it so good.
The de-Christianization of society therefore, is also the depersonalization and the destruction of man. Thus our text, Deuteronomy 24:16, disappears from all society with it’s belief in individual responsibility where a belief in the personal God. Where a belief in Christian faith wanes and disappears. To have individual responsibility we must return to biblical faith. Let us pray.
Secularists and rationalists always do love their abstractions.
They find it really useful for both 1) gaining power over millions without an ounce of personal responsibility, and 2) a useful tool to rob, lie, steal, and kill millions because “It’s just an enemy class of people. So, who cares?”
Christians are not to follow in their footsteps. Our nations and our courts are to be based on a different foundation.
God’s Goals: Restitution, Restoration
—<Quote from Sixth Commandment: Restitution and Restoration by R. J. Rushdoony>—
God’s purpose in redemption is the restitution or restoration of all things in, through, and under Jesus Christ our king. This is very plainly summarized for us in Acts 3:21. The goal of all history is, according to Matthew 19:28, the general regeneration or to use the greek very literally, the new Genesis of all things in Jesus Christ. The consequences of sin are removed God’s kingdom established. This is not only the goal of history it is declared that it must be our primary petition in all prayer. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, in earth as it is in heaven. This is at the heart of the Lord’s Prayer, it is the first petition.
Restoration means that humanity is to be restored to blessedness and the earth to be blessed together with men. Now, the principle of restitution is basic to biblical law.It is especially forcefully brought out in the sixth and eighth commandments but it is present in all the law. It is the tragedy of our time that this basic principle of biblical law has been neglected and virtually forgotten. Briefly summarized, restitution means that if a man steals a hundred dollars from you he must restore the hundred plus another hundred. The exact amount he hoped to profit thereby.
Now the summary statement of this principle of restitution which appears in law after law throughout the whole of the mosaic legislation and elsewhere in scripture is given to us in the statement “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” and so on. This means restitution. It is revealing that not only the modernist scholars who are trying to discredit the bible but also so many evangelicals insist that this means that in the early days of the new testament and through much of the old testament, if by accident you knock out the eye of someone else then your eye had to be gouged out!
Now of course this is evolutionary thinking applied to the bible. There isn’t a shred of evidence that this is what the bible ever meant. In fact it goes directly contrary to all the evidence! We can understand why the evolutionist insist that this is what must have been the case even though there is no evidence for it. But why should the evangelicals, like Maryle Unger of the Dallas theological seminary insist on the same meaning? It is of course to discredit law. Because they are antinomian they do not want law to stand, so at this point they join ranks. Premillennial dispensationalists with the unbelievers to try to undercut the bible. But the principle eye for an eye tooth for a tooth simple sums up the legislation which we have read.
To pay back the loss, to restore the victim to his original position before someone transgressed against him, is the goal of actual Justice.
A grim amusement it is, when Atheistic enemies of God’s Law and Christian enemies of God’s Law join hands against what binds them together. But you know it had to happen.
Criminal law now works to imprison the man. it regards his offence as an offence against the state, so that the primary concern of the court is not restitution but the punishment and imprisonment of the guilty party. As a result, if you have been the object of any offense and you want damages and they refuse to pay you have to go to court. Not to a criminal court, but to a civil court, and sue at your own expense! Now this is reversing the whole procedure! Under biblical law, the criminal court -if we can use that term for biblical court- declares that the punishment for the criminal is restitution. It did not sentence him to prison but it sentenced him to repay. If we go back, for example, to early American law (which was biblical) a man was guilty of any kind of offense towards another when he was taken to court, had to pay. And the normal American principle was triple. In other words he paid if he had done damages to the tune of $500.00 he paid $1500.00, and if he failed to pay then he became a bondservant and worked it off.
What happened to the biblical law of restoration, or restitution? To understand what had to happen is to realize that this was made by the early church in terms of scripture the principle for all Christians and for all Christian societies. For all law. But, as the middle ages progressed towards the latter parts the feudal barons and the medieval church stepped into the picture. And they said to themselves, as it were, here is a tremendous area of profit for us! If we collect it for ourselves as the penalty against the person, if we say it is an offence again the the person. If we say it is an offense against the state rather than against the person! And so, the feudal barons and the church, well they began to hail all offenders into their courts and throw them into prison and say “You’re not getting out until you pay us!”.
And so they began to imprison them for ransom. And they either confiscated all their property, or their relatives paid up a certain sum as was laid upon them. The victims in the process were neglected. The state collected, or the church collected, but not the victims. Thus, the theory developed out of this that is now the theory of every modern state… that crime is an offense exclusively against the state. It is an offense against, say, California, or against her majesty Queen Elizabeth, or against the french government, whatever the case may be. The rights of the victim thus are neglected and he must start a civil suit[?] to get compensation.
Now to sum up this entire history, a transfer of law from restitution to imprisonment, we must note first what we’ve already stated that the shift from restoration and restitution to imprisonment has its roots in the seizure of power by the church and the state which was originally a shake down with imprisonment as part of the shakedown. In the process of course the church has lost out and the state has taken over entirely. Second, the state made imprisonment its criminal law and relegated restitution to civil law with little care to enforcing the results of its own decisions in civil courts.
There’s good money to be had, for the State – not the Victim – to gain compensation for any transgression or violation of the law.
That’s why law-breakers go to jail, which is collected by taxes to fund the System and its operators. For the Right Sort, this gathers far more power than having the criminal pay the victim for his loss. Also, it teaches people to fear the State, not violating other people’s lives, liberty and property.
Third, restitution is, according to the scriptures, always mandatory always required for a society to be healthy before God. Thus, when there is no person to make restitution, the state must make it. Where no guilty part is found, then the state for having failed to make the law punishable in this case for having failed to locate the criminal must restore to you that which was stolen. In other words, there must be restoration or else the society faces God’s judgement. Thus the goal of society is clearly spelled out the law of restitution. It is the restoration of God’s law and order. The evil must be punished or penalized, the Godly defended, and Godly law and order developed. This is what is involved in part in our prayer: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, in earth as it is in heaven.” If we pray that prayer then we have a duty to live in terms of the principle of restitution, and to bring all of our society into conformity to it. Because, God’s will is declared in scripture to be restitution. Thus to be faithful to the Lord’s prayer we must work and pray for a law order in which restitution is again basic.
Of course, the secular state laughs at the concept of restitution for people (but takes extremely seriously any violation of its own property, privacy and power). And it’s pointed contempt for God’s Commandments is well-known.
Which is just another way of saying that we are under judgement. And the judgement will only get heavier, until there is repentance or death.