"Except the Lord build the house they labour in vain that build it." --Psalm 127:1

Dr. R.J. Rushdoony: All Law In Every Culture Is “Religious” In Origin

From the Introduction to “Institutes Of Biblical Law,” 1973.

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Law is in every culture religious in origin. Because law governs man and society, because it establishes and declares the meaning of justice and righteousness, law is inescapably religious, in that it establishes in practical fashion the ultimate concerns of a culture. Accordingly, a fundamental and necessary premise in any and every study of law must be, first, a recognition of this religious nature of law.

Second, it must be recognized that in any culture the source of law is the god of that society. If law has its source in man’s reason, then reason is the god of that society. If the source is an oligarchy, or in a court, senate, or ruler, then that source is god of that system. Thus, in Greek culture law was essentially a religiously humanistic concept. In contrast to every law derived from revelation, nomos for the Greeks originated in the mind (nous). So the genuine nomos is no mere obligatory law, but something in which an entity valid in itself is discovered and appropriated… . It is “the order which exists (from time immemorial), is valid and is put into operation.”

Because for the Greeks mind was one being with the ultimate order of things, man’s mind was thus able to discover ultimate law (nomos) out of its own resources, by penetrating through the maze of accident and matter to the fundamental ideas of being. As a result, Greek culture became both humanistic, because man’s mind was one with ultimacy, and also neoplatonic, ascetic, and hostile to the world of matter, because mind, to be truly itself, had to separate itself from non-mind.

Modern humanism, the religion of the state, locates law in the state and thus makes the state, or the people as they find expression in the state, the god of the system. As Mao Tse-Tung has said, “Our God is none other than the masses of the Chinese people. In Western culture, law has steadily moved away from God to the people (or the state) as its source, although the historic power and vitality of the West has been in Biblical faith and law.

Third, in any society, any change of law is an explicit or implicit change of religion. Nothing more clearly reveals, in fact, the religious change in a society than a legal revolution. When the legal foundations shift from Biblical law to humanism, it means that the society now draws its vitality and power from humanism, not from Christian theism.

Fourth, no disestablishment of religion as such is possible in any society. A church can be disestablished, and a particular religion can be supplanted by another, but the change is simply to another religion. Since the foundations of law are inescapably religious, no society exists without a religious foundation or without a law-system which codifies the morality of its religion.

Fifth, there can be no tolerance in a law-system for another religion. Toleration is a device used to introduce a new law-system as a prelude to a new intolerance. Legal positivism, a humanistic faith, has been savage in its hostility to the Biblical law-system and has claimed to be an “open” system. But Cohen, by no means a Christian, has aptly described the logical positivists as “nihilists” and their faith as “nihilistic absolutism.” [3] Every law-system must maintain its existence by hostility to every other law-system and to alien religious foundations, or else it commits suicide. (Rousas John Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law, 1973).

[1] Hermann Kleinknecht and W. Gutbrod, Law (London: Adam and Charles Black, 1962), p. 21.

[2] Mao Tse-Tung, The Foolish Old Man Who Removed Mountains (Peking: Foreign Languages Press, 1966), p. 3.

[3] Morris Raphael Cohen, Reason and Law (New York: Collier Books, 1961), p. 84 f.

Here is an excerpt) from mid-1980s interview of Rushdoony by Bill Moyers on subjects of law, “religion,” Bible and more.

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