From The Ninth Commandment
Dr. R.J. Rushdoony
First of all, we must say that the law does not command us to do what we cannot do as men. Having said that, next, we must ask, how shall we understand this requirement? And wherein can we be perfect without bearing false witness concerning ourselves?
What does perfect mean? Very obviously when we begin to examine the word, it has changed its meaning. I’ve heard more than one person state that their English teacher in a public high school has told them that when the Constitution was written, the founding fathers used bad grammar, because they said that they were gathered together, or that we the people of the United States were trying to form “a more perfect union.” And that was bad grammar supposedly because how could a thing be more perfect than perfect? They were not using bad grammar. Obviously, the meaning of the word has changed. We will not take time trace (because it’s irrelevant to our subject), the meaning of the word as it has changed in English. Our concern is with the biblical meaning of the word perfect. Very clearly, it has another meaning than we think of now. When we examine the Bible, just to cite a few uses of the word perfect in the Bible,
- We are told in Genesis 6:9 that Noah was perfect
- In Genesis 17:1, Abraham was called to be perfect
- In Psalm 37:37, there is a reference to perfect men as though they were an everyday fact of life
- Again, in Psalm 101:2, David declared, “I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way; I will walk within my house with a perfect heart,”
Very obviously, therefore, when the Bible says, as our text declares in Deuteronomy 18:13, “Thou shalt be perfect with the Lord Thy God,” it is commanding something that was not an impossibility, something that was a fact of life from before the flood, from the days of Noah at least.
What does it mean? There are several words in the Old and New Testament which are translated as ‘perfect.’ These words mean in the original Hebrew and Greek, ‘upright, having integrity, blameless, mature,’ and also the sense of ‘complete.’ They do not imply sinlessness. The addition of sinlessness to the idea of perfection is something done by Pietism in the modern church. In other words, to be perfect in the biblical sense was to have integrity before God and to be mature, to be blameless. It did not mean sinless.
What is blameless in a child is not blameless in an adult. What is blameless in an adult at a certain stage of growth is inexcusable 10 years later. Maturity means continuous growth towards God’s appointed purpose, and we are summoned to be mature, blameless, perfect before the Lord our God
The greater the responsibility, scripture says, the greater the maturity required to be blameless. As a result, the greater the position given to us, the greater our responsibility and what would be blameless in others becomes blame-worthy in us then. A minister, a doctor, a judge, a civil officer, as well as their wives, have responsibilities which require more maturity of them, so the things that are blameless in others are blame-worthy in them. Thus, in England, until not too long ago, in the foreign office, the Labor Government had a man who was very blame-worthy because of his injudicious remarks. Now many of the things that Brown had to say were things that the average Englishman felt. He expressed opinions that sometimes were very blunt, forthright and honest opinions. But in a person holding high office, they were so indiscreet that they created international repercussions almost every time. And finally he had to be replaced.
Biblical perfectionism, if we use that word (which it would be better to drop) means maturity, the ability to grow in terms of our experiences, to use them to draw closer to God’s goal. When a civilization, when a people loses maturity, and it turns on itself, at the end of an age, when a civilization begins to lose its mature ability to deal with new experiences, what does it indulge in? Why, it indulges in a witch hunt. Or, it concentrates on subversives.
Now this is a very significant fact. It doesn’t say very much for the Conservative Movement today because the Conservative Movement, like every end-of-an-age group that has lost its maturity, its ability to grow, to mature in terms of experiences, is concerned with subversion. Now this does not mean we tolerate subversion. But societies which concentrate on the problems of subversion are near death. They have lost the capacity of growth, the capacity to cope with their problems.
Without the ability to grow in terms of a goal, no cause can endure merely by rooting out its subversive elements. The salt that has lost its savour, our Lord said, is good for nothing but to be cast out and to be trodden under foot of men. There is no divine protection for men and nations who lose their calling and savour. In fact, there is then no escaping judgment. The scripture tells us it is, as if a man did flee from a lion and a bear met him and went into his house and leaned his hand on the wall and a serpent bit him. There is then no escape. It is a sick society. Its destiny is death. But God summons us, “Thou shalt be perfect.” Blameless. Mature. Upright, having integrity, with a capacity to grow, before the Lord thy God. This, the law requires of us. This we can do. God has not borne false witness in summoning us to be perfect before Him.
Thou shall be perfect is not an impossible command. It is a command to strive for perfection, to be blameless. To be flawless and sinless is not possible in this life, but we can live a blameless and upright life, even in the here and now.
When a civilization, when a people loses maturity, and it turns on itself, at the end of an age, when a civilization begins to lose its mature ability to deal with new experiences, what does it indulge in? Why, it indulges in a witch hunt. Or, it concentrates on subversives.
This is the only thing Progressives are interested in now.
… societies which concentrate on the problems of subversion are near death. They have lost the capacity of growth, the capacity to cope with their problems.
This applied to the Conservatives in Rushdoony’s time.
Now that the Conservatives are utterly irrelevant now —
“nothing more the Leading-edge Liberals of 20 years ago,
and the Screaming Lunatics of 40 years ago” —
subversion has become the key focus of the Progressives today.
Dying humanistic ideologies are dying as they ‘mature’ to the grave.
What a surprise.
Christians are to focus on perfection, to grow, to learn… to live.
To reach the holy standard that God has set for them.
“Be ye therefore perfect, as thy Father in heaven is perfect.”