R. J. Rushdoony: Champion of Faith and Liberty

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Late
this past Thursday evening, Rousas John Rushdoony, founder and long-time
president of the Chalcedon Foundation, was ushered into His Lord's
presence after several months of rapidly declining health.

The
Christian world has lost a giant.

I
first encountered Rushdoony in what most consider his magnum opus,
Institutes of Biblical Law. I was a young intellectual fundamentalist
(yes, there are such people), pastor of a small Baptist church in
the Midwest, and committed to a system of doctrine called dispensationalism.
This theology taught, among other things, that the spiritual and
moral conditions of the present world are destined to get worse
and worse. The implications of this view had worked themselves deeply
into my consciousness and ministry. As I read Rushdoony's Institutes,
I recall thinking to myself, "I don't understand much of what
this man is saying; but whatever it is, it surely is important."
In time, Rushdoony's writings rekindled in me a vision of earthly
victory (theologically called postmillennialism); and it reoriented
my entire life.

Rushdoony
gave me back my hope.

And
he gave the Christian world much more.

Central
to Rushdoony's thought was the authority of Biblical law. He did
not mean by this just the law of the Old Testament, essential though
it is, but the entire Bible, which he saw as God's binding word
for man, His creature. In fact, Rushdoony often used the expression,
"the law-word of God" to refer to the whole Bible. He
believed that man's main problem was sin, human autonomy, the attempt
to play God by rebelliously establishing his own, depraved moral
standards. The Bible (all of it), Rushdoony believed, was given
to man by God to govern his entire life.

Despite,
or rather, because, of his commitment to the binding authority of
God's Word, Rushdoony was an unflagging advocate of liberty: political,
religious, and ecclesiastical. Two of his books from the 60s, The
Nature of the American System and This Independent Republic showed
that the United States' heritage of freedom is anchored squarely
in the Bible and the Christian Faith. He considered himself a "Christian
libertarian," and he believed that sustained political liberty
was impossible apart from orthodox Christianity. He hated with a
passion every form of statism (including "Christian" statism),
and he was almost as hard on secular libertarians as he was on statists,
since both, he was convinced, manifested a sinful autonomy toward
God that guaranteed the tyranny of man by his fellow man.

Perhaps
no man was more responsible for the 70s revival of Christian political
action than Rushdoony. He held that the Christian Faith cannot be
limited to Sunday church meetings, but must work its way out into
the marketplace and society on Monday. Amid the ravages of the Cold
War (Rushdoony was not a pro-militarist conservative) and the moral
breakdown of the 60s, Rushdoony boldly proclaimed that Christians
must apply the Faith in all areas of life, including politics, and
that meant dismantling the mammoth state. He wanted political government
replaced with church government, family government, and especially
self-government. If these governments did their job, there would
be little use for the state.

Most
importantly, R. J. Rushdoony was a man of faith. Like all other
great Christians, his faith was simple, and therefore, profound.
He simply took God at His word. If the Bible taught it, he believed
it, no matter how odd or silly it seemed in the eyes of the modern
world. He was a man who absolutely abhorred the theologically liberal
dictum that Christians must conform the Bible and the Faith to the
modern culture. He believed just the opposite: Christians must conform
the modern culture to the Bible and the Faith. He loved God, he
loved the Bible, and (therefore), he loved liberty.

One
of the great privileges of my life was his request that I join him
at Chalcedon in his work. His life and thought have made an indelible
impression on me and on countless others, many who have known him
only through his writings.

He
will not be forgotten, and his work will stand the test of time.

February
12, 2000

P.
Andrew Sandlin is Executive Vice President of the Chalcedon
Foundation
which since 1965 has been dedicated to applying
historic, Biblical Christianity in today's world. He is the author
of Christianity: Bulwark of Liberty and several other works.

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