Rushdoony, born in 1916, the son of Armenian immigrants, was ordained as a minister in the
Orthodox Presbyterian Church and distinguished himself as a missionary on the American
Indian reservations. One of his early books, The Messianic Character of American
Education, was a major influence in the fledgling home school movement in California.
During the 1960s, Rushdoony was called upon in court cases as an expert historian on home
schooling as a legitimate alternative to public education.
Rushdoony was primarily influenced by the teachings of Cornelius Van Til's
Presuppositional Apologetics and began to work to restore the historic Christian doctrines
of Postmillennialism and Christian Dominion in the church. Not until 1973 with the
publication of R. J. Rushdoony's The Institutes of Biblical Law was there an attempt at a
Biblical social philosophy that uncompromisingly affirmed the validity of biblical law.
Since then over 100 volumes have been published elaborating the details of Calvinistic
social philosophy from a "theonomic" perspective. Led by Rushdoony, Gary North,
Greg Bahnsen, James Jordan, and Gary Demar, theonomic authors have expounded the Mosaic
law with a fullness of application to modern society never before seen in Church history.
R. J. Rushdoony:
Champion of Faith and Liberty
by P. Andrew Sandlin
Late this past Thursday evening, Rousas John Rushdoony, founder and long-time president of
the Chalcedon Foundation, was ushered into His Lords 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 Rushdoonys Institutes, I recall thinking to myself, "I dont
understand much of what this man is saying; but whatever it is, it surely is
important." In time, Rushdoonys 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 Rushdoonys 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 Gods 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 mans 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 Gods
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
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, 2001