Missouri's 7th District, U.S. House of Representatives




Congressional Issues 2012
The State vs. Society

Congress should:
  • remember the distinction between "the State" and "society."
  • remember that "society" is just an abstract description of the way individuals act.

"Society" is human beings acting together in orderly cooperation to increase their standard of living. Aristotle said,

Hence it is evident that the state is a creation of nature, and that man is by nature a political animal. And he who by nature and not by mere accident is without a state, is either a bad man or above humanity; he is like the "Tribeless, lawless, hearthless one."

Aristotle was confused. "The State" is not "natural." The Mafia is not "natural." Society is natural.

Human beings can be loyal to "tribe" (family), law, and "hearth" (religion) without being a part of "the State" or "the mafia."

Aristotle failed to draw the distinction between "society" and "the state."

Thomas Paine did not make that mistake: see "Society Is a Blessing, but Government Is Evil."

Franz Oppenheimer also made the distinction. Murray Rothbard sums up his thinking:

In essence, he said, there are only two ways for men to acquire wealth. The first method is by producing a good or a service and voluntarily exchanging that good for the product of somebody else. This is the method of exchange, the method of the free market; it’s creative and expands production; it is not a zero-sum game because production expands and both parties to the exchange benefit. Oppenheimer called this method the "economic means" for the acquisition of wealth.

The second method is seizing another person’s property without his consent, i.e., by robbery, exploitation, looting. When you seize someone’s property without his consent, then you are benefiting at his expense, at the expense of the producer; here is truly a zero-sum "game"--not much of a "game," by the way, from the point of view of the victim. Instead of expanding production, this method of robbery clearly hobbles and restricts production. So in addition to being immoral while peaceful exchange is moral, the method of robbery hobbles production because it is parasitic upon the effort of the producers.

With brilliant astuteness, Oppenheimer called this method of obtaining wealth "the political means." And then he went on to define the state, or government, as "the organization of the political means," i.e., the regularization, legitimation, and permanent establishment of the political means for the acquisition of wealth.

n other words, the state is organized theft, organized robbery, organized exploitation. And this essential nature of the state is high­lighted by the fact that the state ever rests upon the crucial instrument of taxation.

“Socialism, like the ancient ideas from which it springs, confuses the distinction between government and society. As a result of this, every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all. We disapprove of state education. Then the socialists say that we are opposed to any education. We object to a state religion. Then the socialists say that we want no religion at all. We object to a state-enforced equality. Then they say that we are against equality. And so on, and so on. It is as if the socialists were to accuse us of not wanting persons to eat because we do not want the state to raise grain.”
― Frédéric Bastiat, The Law (1850)

Anarchy, State, and Government: No Means No

Wendy McElroy has also done helpful work Defining State and Society.

Here are some more definitions of "the State."

"The State" is the Greatest Criminal in the world.

An orderly and harmonious society is our goal. Not a strong "State."

In 1776 America declared her independence from the British State, but not from the entire concept of "the State." The British government was replaced with a new government created by "The Articles of Confederation." That government was subsequently abolished and replaced by a new one created by the Constitution of 1787. The Founders could not imagine living without any State at all, just a prosperous, orderly, and harmonious society. America's Founders believed that the State was ordained by God to hold society together.

Today they would see that "the State" is at war with society.

“The term ‘society,’ then, denotes a pattern of interpersonal exchanges among human beings. It is obviously absurd to treat ‘society’ as ‘real,’ with some independent force of its own. There is no reality to society apart from the individuals who compose it and whose actions determine the type of social pattern that will be established.”
Murray Rothbard, Man, Economy and State

The basis of our Declaration of Independence from Britain was said to be certain "self-evident" truths regarding the rights which were endowed to us by our Creator, the Supreme Judge of the world. Rights are not arbitrary customs or conventions, nor are they the creation of "the State"; they are the product of "Intelligent Design," the social blessings that result when human beings conform their behavior to "the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God."

"The State" -- our State -- the "United States" -- the federal government -- makes it illegal -- "unconstitutional" -- for teachers in government-owned schools to teach children the self-evident truths that create an orderly and harmonious society. The federal government is thus a threat to a humane society. Every single person who signed the Declaration of Independence would agree that such an atheistic government is a tyranny which must be abolished. Not only would they agree that this atheistic tyranny is worse than the one Americans fought in 1776, but they could now see that the entire concept of "the State" is a threat to liberty, true religion, and the existence of mankind. They would abolish "the United States" — and not replace it.

We should join them.

And hopefully we would all agree that muskets and cannons are not the weapons of choice in the battle against atheistic tyranny. The key is regeneration, not revolution.

At one time health, education, and welfare (or charity) were all in independent hands, and this too needs to be restored. The early church was very effective here, as was John Calvin in Geneva and Bishop Charles Borromeo in Milan. We must as Christians recapture the areas which in statist hands have led to social catastrophes.

Because such efforts rest on the initiative of persons and families who work together to establish new and free agencies to meet needs under God, this means a radical decentralization of government and of society. It means that civil government is increasingly replaced by society, the community in action.

In an early version of the Apostles’ Creed, in English before the Norman conquest of 1066, the article on the communion of saints reads, “And of the saints the societie” (E. Thomson, editor: Select Monuments of the Doctrine and Worship of the Catholic Church in England before the Norman Conquest, 1875, p. 85f.).  A state or civil government is a compulsory order, and, for many churches, the church is a necessary order. The term communion is clearly connected, and rightly so, to its church use. But the word society carries the meaning of the Apostles’ Creed in a community in the Spirit and governed by a more powerful motive than either the church or state. The communion of saints, or their society, is an aspect of our life in the Holy Spirit. This is also a realm of necessity, but it is one ordained by God rather than by some institution.
R. J. Rushdoony on Chalcedon’s Vision

Dominion, the Gospel, and Regeneration
From American Vision

In his landmark magnum opus, The Institutes of Biblical Law, Rushdoony wrote:

All law is religious in nature, and every non-Biblical law-order represents an anti-Christian religion. But the key to remedying the situation in not revolution, nor any kind of resistance that works to subvert law and order. The New Testament abounds in warnings against disobedience and in summons to peace. The key is regeneration, propagation of the gospel, and conversion of men and nations to God’s law-word.(2)

A few pages later, Rushdoony teaches that “evil men cannot produce a good society. The key to social renewal is individual regeneration.”(3)

Another: “Clearly, there is no hope for man except in regeneration.”(4)

Again: “In terms of God’s law, true reform begins with regeneration. . . .”(5)

Rushdoony also held dominion and the reconstruction of society as a secondary priority to that of conversion:

The primary purpose of conversion is that man be reconciled to God; reconciliation with his fellow man and with himself is a secondary aspect of this fact, a necessary by-product but a by-product nonetheless.(6)

Here’s Rushdoony in another publication stating the same ideas:

This is the purpose of the law of God, restoration, and the means is faith, or regeneration by the sovereign grace of God.(7)

I suspect nearly any Rushdoony book (and there are over 60) would confirm these same sentiments. Just to test my suspicion, I grabbed a random and lesser-known work that happened to be next to my chair (yes I am writing this from my easy chair), the commentary on Genesis. Sure enough, here’s the confirmation on page 107:

The truth remains that . . . man is a sinner, and can never escape the fact except by regeneration and sanctification in Jesus Christ, a member of Him and His new humanity. . . .

But what about other “dominionist” and “Rushdoonyite” authors? We have plenty of examples:

Gary North

Dominionist and Rushdoonyite Gary North wrote of our views in 1987, in a popular book called Liberating Planet Earth:

We are talking about the transformation of this world. Only when the present world has been transformed by the gospel of salvation and the transforming work of the Holy Spirit, as He works through God’s redeemed people, will the world at last be delivered completely from sin, at the final judgment (Revelation 20).(8)

(Note: you only had to read eight pages into this one to get the gospel point.)

Here the transformation happens not only “when” but “only when” the gospel is preached.

In preaching against humanism and communism, North contrasts “the preaching of the gospel of personal, individual salvation,” with “the imposition by force of an elitist, top down revolutionary cadre.” He obviously sides with the former.(9) Indeed, North condemns the socialist message as “the gospel of ‘salvation through political plunder’”(10)

In another place, North affirms the centrality of the Gospel once again, this time quoting Rushdoony in Political Polytheism:

“The key to social regeneration is individual renewal,” wrote Rushdoony in 1973. But we must begin this process of reconstruction with confident faith in the gospel; we must be confident that God’s salvation is as comprehensive as sin is.(11)

North gets more explicit:

The long term goal of Christians in politics should be to gain exclusive control over the franchise. . . . The way to achieve this political goal is through successful mass evangelism followed by constitutional revision.(12)

I had to straighten out a raging liberal on this quotation some time ago. To his credit, he at least quoted us. Mr. Friel has not yet risen even to the scholarly level of this leftist atheist.

One Reformed critic of theonomy and dominionism, William Edgar, actually represented our position correctly in First Things, in a memorial of Rushdoony after his death: “they tend to believe that God’s Kingdom will eventually be established on earth through the faithful preaching of the gospel and the faithful application of God’s law to society.”

David Chilton

How do dominionists say the kingdom of God shall gain dominion in all the earth? Dominionist David Chilton (deceased) in Paradise Restored, wrote: “The Garden of Eden, the Mountain of the Lord, will be restored in history, before the Second Coming, by the power of the Gospel; and the desert will rejoice, and blossom as the rose (Isa. 35:1).”(13) How was that again? “By the power of the Gospel.”

Disagree with the eschatology, if you will (another discussion to be had), but don’t accuse the man of calling for political activism “without the gospel.” This is something of which everyone at the table should take note.

Chilton reiterates: “By means of the gospel, His people are extending His rule over the face of the earth, until all nations are discipled and Paradise comes to its most complete earthly fulfillment.”(14)

Chilton commented on Revelation 21:24–27:

This is written of a time when the nations still exist as nations; yet the nations are all converted, flowing into the City and bringing their treasures into it. As the light of the gospel shines through the Church to the world, the world is converted, the nations are discipled, and the wealth of the sinners becomes inherited by the just. This is a basic promise of Scripture from beginning to end. This is the pattern of history, the direction in which the world is moving. This is our future, the heritage of generations to come.(15)

Chilton was quite clear here about the gospel flowing through the church.

Interestingly, Chilton directly addressed the very criticism Friel and Co. leveled here, only consider: this was published in 1985 (it is still available for free online). Chilton responded to the exact same criticism as it had come from Hal Lindsey, that “postmillennialists . . . believed that Christians would … [bring] about the Kingdom of God on earth through their own efforts.” Chilton said,

This is one of the most commonly heard objections to the Hope. The dominion outlook is equated with the liberal “Social Gospel” movement of the early 1900s. Such an identification is utterly absurd, devoid of any foundation whatsoever. The leaders of the Social Gospel movement were evolutionary humanists and socialists, and were openly hostile toward Biblical Christianity. It is true that they borrowed certain terms and concepts from Christianity, in order to pervert them for their own uses. Thus they talked about the “Kingdom of God,” but what they meant was far removed from the traditional Christian faith. Orthodox postmillennial teachers such as Benjamin Warfield and J. Gresham Machen vigorously opposed the Social Gospel. True postmillennialism has always been truly evangelical: It teaches that the Kingdom was established by Jesus Christ alone, and that the Kingdom is advanced through the spread of the gospel and the application of the Bible to every area of life.

There is another dimension to this issue, however. Since we believe that Christians will overcome all opposition and will bring the gospel to the ends of the earth, postmillennialists are accused of having faith in man. This is a radical distortion. The truth is that postmillennialists believe in God, who works in history through redeemed man. We believe that the omnipotent Lord of heaven and earth is indwelling His Church, and will not allow us to be defeated in the mission He gave us. St. Augustine prayed: “Give what You command, and command what You will.” That is our attitude as well. Because God works in history to bless the godly and curse the ungodly, history is on our side. In the battle between redeemed men and wicked men, we have faith in redeemed men. We believe that God’s people will overcome, in time and on earth, as well as in eternity. In Christ we are the heirs of all things.(16)

Chilton addressed this 28 years ago. 

Kenneth Gentry, Jr.

Ken Gentry, another postmillennialist and dominionist, writes in He Shall Have Dominion:

In response to the Pharisees, Christ specifically declared that the kingdom does not come visibly with temporal fanfare. “And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:20-21). Obviously a spiritual conception of the kingdom is here demanded, in contradiction to an Armageddon-introduced, earthly, political kingdom.

This is why Christ went about preaching what is termed the “gospel of the kingdom” (Matt. 4:23; 9:35; 24:14; Mark 1:14-15). He proclaimed a redemptive, spiritual kingdom. Hence, being exalted to His throne leads to a spiritual effusion of grace, not the political establishment of an earthly government.(17).

On page 232 of the same work, Gentry writes,

The New Testament clearly expects an era of Christian dominion to occur prior to the Second Advent of the Lord Jesus Christ in power at the final judgment. This era of dominion will produce the worldwide transformation of society through the preaching of the gospel and individuals’ widespread positive response to the message of redemption – a continuity of dominion.

Note once more: “through the preaching of the gospel”—not “political activism without the gospel.” Get that. Mr. Friel didn’t.

Ray Sutton

Dominionist Ray Sutton, in That You May Prosper, explains a little of how this works: not through government or political activism, but through individual evangelism:

The spread of the Gospel is not a top-down operation. Salvation comes from above, in that it is applied through the work of the Holy Spirit. But normally, the spread of the Gospel should be from household to household, “leavening.” This is certainly what we see in the Book of Acts. The Gospel begins in the menial households of the Roman Empire, and it spreads to the greatest family, Caesar’s household, when Paul is taken captive and converts Caesar’s own bodyguards.(18)


Well, there you go. Here are twenty quotations with references from the most popular and widespread works on dominionism and Rushdoonyism, all of which directly mandate the preaching of the gospel before political activism and as the only successful foundation of it. These references make this explicit, are stated in no uncertain words, and have been easily accessible for decades—some for over 40 years.

We have not even touched the writings of Gary DeMar, nor my own, nor have we examined the dozens of other writers in the movement or more loosely associated with it, now or at one time. We could find similar examples in all of these.

Mr. Friel, Mr. Johnson, Mr. Wax, and Rev. Glenn have missed all of these. These Christian leaders are all respected and trusted not to miss these kinds of things. I am glad to enter the discussion. I hope to hear from them soon. Heck, maybe we can get everyone together for another steak dinner and film the discussion over again.Endnotes:

  1. Mr. Wax actually spoke much good sense against the points Friel and Johnson made. Though I would be critical of some of his comments, I will have to address the good points as well in a separate article.()
  2. Institutes of Biblical Law, 113.()
  3. Institutes, 122.()
  4. Rushdoony, Institutes, 449.()
  5. Rushdoony, Institutes, 627.()
  6. Institutes, 777.()
  7. Rushdoony, Politics of Guilt and Pity, 340.()
  8. Liberating Planet Earth, 8.()
  9. Ibid., 71.()
  10. Ibid., 154.()
  11. Political Polytheism, 20.()
  12. Political Polytheism, 87.()
  13. Paradise Restored, 46.()
  14. Ibid., 148.()
  15. Ibid., 208.()
  16. Ibid., 227–228.()
  17. He Shall Have Dominion, p. 226()
  18. That You May Prosper, 134.()

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