R.J. Rushdoony left this life in February, 2001, just 10 years ago. At that time I wrote a tribute to a remarkable man, a friend, and a mentor. Here’s my updated version of that tribute.
It is with sadness, yet a spirit of hope, that the tribute was written to acknowledge a great man, Rousas John Rushdoony. His greatness, however, remains one of the best kept secrets of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, except for a relatively small devoted and loyal following that Dr. Rushdoony accumulated in his lifetime.
“Rush”, as he was fondly called by his friends, was a unique man. I did not have the opportunity to meet him more than a dozen times during the 21 years of our association. But I thoroughly enjoyed every moment with him.
In the first part of this Tribute to R.J. Rushdoony I recalled the personal side of my relationship with him and some of the fond memories I have as a result of a 21-year association.
In this portion of the Tribute, I’m going to highlight what I think is Rush’s very significant contribution to Christian thought.
The name R.J. Rushdoony is tied up with two concepts: theonomy and Christian Reconstruction. But for Rushdoony, these two concepts are tied together in a unique manner.
For those of us raised outside of Reformed circles, his call to return to God’s law was somewhat radical. Yet for those raised on Reformed catechisms, Rushdoony’s view was not that unusual in some respects. Both the Heidelberg Catechism and the Westminster Larger Catechism expound the Ten Commandments using what Rushdoony called “case law”. That is, the Ten Commandments were given substance through the many laws given in the Pentateuch (or Torah).
Many of Rushdoony’s followers, then and now, came from outside the Reformed tradition. What is curious, however, is the hostility Rushdoony received from the Reformed community, and I can understand why.
In an earlier article, False Worship? The Christmas and Easter Debate I suggested that the dating of Easter did not follow the Biblical dating system. Easter is the Passover event, and in Scripture was set to a calendar date, 14 Nisan (or Abib, same month), not a day of the week. This date is critical for understanding New Testament events, including the Last Supper and Pentecost. Both occurred according to the dating patterns of the Torah. But is that dating pattern still applicable today?
Recently, however, I found some fascinating information about the dating method, and the reason why the Christian Easter does not necessarily coincide exactly with the Jewish calculation of the Passover feast.
The Gregorian Calendar is thus a recognition of the continuity of Old Testament by the New Testament followers of Jesus Christ.
At the center of the discussion is a calculation that remains somewhat difficult. It is the determination of a ‘year’. It was not until the Gregorian calendar of 1582 under Pope Gregory XIII that the former Julian calendar and the lunar cycle were reconciled. They were only reconciled by determining the number of days between two vernal equinoxes. The result was 365.25 days—a year, adjusted every fourth year. But even that is not so simple, since there is an 11-minute ‘drift’ in the calculation of the equinoxes that needs to be addressed. That is, the actual calculation of the year is 365.25 days minus 11 minutes. If you like exactness, a year is 365 days, 5 hours, 49 minutes, and 12 seconds.
It was the purpose of the Gregorian Calendar to provide a constant calculation of Easter according to that which was determined at the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. Why did the bishops at Nicea find it necessary to regulate the Passover date? There was an issue.
Another atheist loses it.
When Street-Preachers are confronted by atheists, there is always a challenge. “Prove the existence of your God,” they demand. Then when you present them with the evidence they reject it as proof. It is a rather obvious conclusion that the proof for a Creator is the creation itself, as the Bible affirms. But atheists reject this. They have convinced themselves there is no evidence for the God of the Bible. Thus, one atheist threw down the gauntlet in a Facebook group:
So here is my challenge to anyone on this page. Make a positive argument for the existence of the Christian god that does not ultimately fall back on the “I know because of personal experience” position. If you are unable to do such a simple task then your position is ultimately untenable.
I took up the challenge, with a deliberate plan of how I was going to do it. And the way I did it frustrated this atheist. We pick up the dialogue:
In attempts to substantiate the idea of libertarian free will, as the history of Pelagianism and Arminianism has shown, it is necessary to find a new starting point in theology: that is, God. By a new starting point, I mean an entirely new doctrine of God, one which does not fit with traditional Christianity. In this realm, the more recent ideas of Open Theism have been an attempt to apply the logic of Pelagius-Arminius in a more consistent manner. It is something they themselves recognize.
The arguments go like this: “We recognize that the Augustinian-Lutheran-Calvinist idea of eternal decrees hangs on the basis of the idea of God as timeless, immutable, omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. We reject these ideas because they do not fit with what we observe about the human condition (people make choices), or what we see in some parts of the Bible ( God relents, repents) and, anyway, these concepts of God come from Greek philosophers.”
What, then, is the basis for the rejection of this picture of God? There are a number of syllogisms:
The Blank Slate Concept of Free Will.
It is interesting to see how the law of non-contradiction is applied in real life by those who uphold the belief that this law is the ultimate standard, or test, that must be used to determine if a statement is true. Remember the law of non-contradiction is this: something cannot be one thing and something else at the same time. A cannot be A and non-A at the same time and in the same relationship.
When it comes to an application of this principle, there are some challenges. Most of all, they occur in this area when the idea of libertarian free will comes to the surface. The idea of libertarian free will is that man is a blank, his environment is a blank, and his will is a blank. Anything that interrupts that blank thus becomes an interference to man’s will and therefore human will is no longer free. Thus, in this plan, God cannot have an eternal decree because it takes away the blank environment and interferes with the libertarian free choice of man.
It is not possible to get rid of doctrine before you come to the text to do your exegesis.
An application of the laws of logic occur in philosophical thought when men attempt to answer the question “what is true?” Non-theistic thought ends up with the notion there is no absolute truth, which, if this statement were true, violates the laws of logic, non-contradiction.
In theology you get similar kinds of statements: “We all come to the bible with presuppositions. We come with doctrinal baggage. You must get rid of the doctrine and do your exegesis first, then develop your doctrine from that.”
Now you ask this question: “Is it your doctrine—doctrine, by the way, just means a body of belief—that you must abandon doctrine in order to create the ‘blank environment’ of the human mind so that ‘correct doctrine’ is determined?”
Within the long-running debate in Christian theology over soteriology (salvation), is the superglue issue. It is the answer to the logical dilemma created by positing deism on the one hand and fatalism on the other.
In order to escape “brute” or “random” facts it is necessary to ask how objects remain in place day in and day out to become “facts.” When people see day and night occurring in regular patterns, they say “this is a fact.” If it happened without any regularity, you could not call it a ‘fact’ because it would be random and unidentifiable. When an object falls to the ground, after a few times of this regular occurrence you suggest that the “law” of gravity is a fact. But the only reason you can call it a “law” is because of its regularity.
It is necessary to explain the phenomenon of “regularity”. Is it the deistic concept of the clockmaker who makes his clock, winds it up, and let’s it run without further interference from him? Or is “regularity” itself the result of pure contingency? Neither of these explanations fit what the Bible says.
“If not another penny was borrowed starting now, and we started to pay back all that debt at a rate of one dollar per second, it would take over 100,000 years to pay it all off.” —Scott Craig Mooney
Debt and usury are tied together. This is the thesis of Scott Craig Mooney in his original book on the topic, Usury: Destroyer of Nations. Now he’s returned to the fray with a small—but powerful—reminder that we’re in economic trouble. The Fall of the House of Usury
Mr. Mooney is concerned that no one is talking about what is really wrong, and what is really wrong is usury. The reason for the lack of discussion on usury is simple: no one really believes it is a principle to be found in Scripture and practiced today. One of the reasons for this is the apparent “refutation” of usury by John Calvin.
Calvin effectively undercuts biblical law theory.
The contents of a letter by John Calvin to Oekolampadius provides us with insight into the great reformer’s view on the topic of usury. It also provides an opportunity to view any biblical arguments that might be found to support the pro-usury position.
Calvin’s position, however, appears somewhat ambiguous. For example, he argues on the one hand that “there is no scriptural passage that totally bans usury.” This is true, but the issue at stake today is not whether there is a general ban on usury, but whether there is any ban at all on the charging of usury. The Old Testament did not place a total ban on usury: it allowed usury to be charged to foreigners.
While he is not prepared to argue against usury on biblical grounds, Calvin nevertheless attempts to put moderation on the charging of interest. He prefers that “usurers were chased from every country.” Hardly an endorsement for usury.
- See Scott Mooney’s book, Usury, for an explanation of the meaning of ‘foreigner.’↵back
Whatever Happened to Ecclesiastical Government?
I know you might think this is crazy. But bear with me, and see if the logic fits.
While driving through Canada in 2009 I listened to a lecture Dr. Rushdoony gave somewhere. It was an introduction to lectures on Corinthians, and he had one vitally interesting point that I cannot get over.
Rushdoony pointed out that the word ekklesia in the Greek — usually translated ‘church’ or ‘congregation’ in the New Testament — has its origins in Greek culture. The ekklesia were the ‘called out ones’. This would be a group in a city or town who were ‘called out’ to deal with issues of the township.
The Fracture of the Biblical Worldview
A survey of the history of Europe and its offshoots such as USA or Australia, reveals a worldview that transformed the culture. The transformation included limited government—federalism—and economic prosperity previously unknown.
But the impetus for the transformation—Christianity—came to a sudden halt. Was it the Reformation that brought the transformation to a halt, or something else? Limited government has become unlimited government; economic prosperity has become a debacle as politicians and central bankers attempt to use monetary expansion to turn stones into bread.
A survey of Roman Catholicism and Protestantism reveals many common issues. A commitment to Athanasian Trinitarianism, acceptance of the Chalcedonian formulation of the two natures of Christ, acceptance of the minimum 66 books as the canon of Scripture, and a universal belief in the ultimate moral standards, the Ten Commandments.
But one event shattered both Catholicism and Protestantism in a single blow. It was the Copernican revolution in astronomy, the shift from an earth-centered universe to a sun-centered universe.