Rousas John Rushdoony
|Born||April 25, 1916
New York City
|Died||February 8, 2001
|School||Calvinism, Presuppositionalism, Christian Philosophy|
|Main interests||Political Philosophy, Philosophy of Education, Epistemology, Cognitive Metaphysics, Psychology of Religion, Predestination|
|Notable ideas||Christian Reconstructionism, Christian homeschool|
Rousas John Rushdoony (April 25, 1916 – February 8, 2001) was a Calvinist philosopher, historian, and theologian and is widely credited as the father of Christian Reconstructionism and an inspiration for the modern Christian homeschool movement. His followers and critics have argued that his thought exerts considerable influence on the Christian right.
Rushdoony was born in New York City, the son of recently arrived Armenian immigrants. Before his parents fled the Armenian Genocide of 1915, his ancestors had lived in a remote area near Mount Ararat. There are claims that since the year 320, every generation of the Rushdoony family has produced a Christian priest or minister. Rushdoony himself claimed that his ancestors "…would perpetually give a member of their family to be a priest to perform a kind of Aaronic priesthood as in the Old Testament, an hereditary priesthood. Whoever in the family felt called would become the priest. And our family did so. So from the early 300's until now there has always been someone in the ministry in the family." Within weeks of arriving in America, his parents moved to Kingsburg, California, where his father founded an Armenian-speaking Presbyterian church. Except for a time when his father pastored a church in Detroit, Rushdoony grew up on the family farm in Kingsburg.
Rushdoony attended public schools where he learned English. He continued his education at the University of California, Berkeley, where he earned a B.A. in English in 1938, a teaching credential in 1939 and an M.A. in Education in 1940. He also attended the Pacific School of Religion, a Congregational and Methodist seminary in Berkeley, California, from which he graduated in 1944, the same year he was ordained by the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. Rushdoony then served for eight and a half years as a missionary to the Shoshone and Paiute Indians on the Duck Valley Indian Reservation in a remote area of Nevada.
It was during his mission to the Native Americans that Rushdoony began writing. His first book, By What Standard? was published in 1959. In the early 1960s he was active in the homeschooling movement, appearing as an expert witness to defend the rights of homeschoolers. He moved to Los Angeles in 1965. That year he founded the Chalcedon Foundation; the monthly Chalcedon Report, which Rushdoony edited, began appearing that October.
After he and the mother of his five children were divorced in 1956, he married his second wife, Dorothy Barbara Ross Rushdoony. She died in 2003. His daughter Sharon married Gary North, a Christian Reconstructionist writer and economic historian. Rushdoony's only son, the Rev. Mark R. Rushdoony, is the current president of the Chalcedon Foundation and editor of the Chalcedon Report. R. J. Rushdoony died in 2001 with his children at his side. Gary North states that Rushdoony read at least one book a day, six days a week, for fifty years of his life; underlining sentences, and making an index of its main ideas in the rear.
Rushdoony began popularizing, albeit densely, the works of Calvinist philosophers Cornelius Van Til and Herman Dooyeweerd into a short survey of contemporary humanism called By What Standard?. Arguing for a Calvinist system of thought, Rushdoony dealt with subjects as broad as epistemology and cognitive metaphysics and as narrow as the psychology of religion and predestination. He wrote a book, The One And The Many: Studies in the Philosophy of Order and Ultimacy, using Van Tillian Presuppositional philosophy to critique various aspects of secular humanism. He also wrote many essays and book reviews, published in such venues as the Westminster Theological Journal.
Rushdoony's next focus was on education, especially on behalf of homeschooling, which he saw as a way to combat the intentionally secular nature of the U.S. public school system. He vigorously attacked progressive school reformers such as Horace Mann and John Dewey and argued for the dismantling of the state's influence in education in three works: Intellectual Schizophrenia (a general and concise study of education), The Messianic Character of American Education (a history and castigation of public education in the U.S.), and The Philosophy of the Christian Curriculum (a parent-oriented pedagogical statement).
Rushdoony then pursued history – of the world, of the United States, and of the church. He maintained that Calvinistic Christianity provided the intellectual roots for the American Revolution and had thus always had an influential impact in American history. The American Revolution, according to Rushdoony, was a "conservative counterrevolution" to preserve American liberties from British usurpation and it owed nothing to the Enlightenment. He further argued that the United States Constitution was a secular document in appearance only; it didn't need to establish Christianity as an official religion since the states were already Christian establishments. Drawing on the work of theologian Robert Lewis Dabney, Rushdoony argued that the American Civil War "destroyed the early American Republic, which he envisioned as a decentralized Protestant feudal system and an orthodox Christian nation", Rushdoony saw the North's victory as a "defeat for Christian orthodoxy".  Some historians have argued that this aspect of Rushdoony's thought has influenced some activists in the Neo-Confederate movement  and conservative writers like J. Steven Wilkins.  He would further this study in his works on American ideology and historiography, This Independent Republic: Studies in the Nature and Meaning of American History and The Nature of the American System.
Rushdoony's most important area of writing, however, was law and politics, as expressed in his small book of popular essays Law & Liberty and discussed in much greater detail in his three-volume, 1,894-page magnum opus, The Institutes of Biblical Law. With a title modeled after Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion, Rushdoony's Institutes was arguably his most influential work. In the book, he proposed that Old Testament law should be applied to modern society and that there should be a Christian theonomy, a concept developed in his colleague Greg Bahnsen's controversial tome Theonomy in Christian Ethics, which Rushdoony heartily endorsed. In the Institutes, Rushdoony supported the reinstatement of the Mosaic law's penal sanctions. Under such a system, the list of civil crimes which carried a death sentence would include homosexuality, adultery, incest, lying about one's virginity, bestiality, witchcraft, idolatry or apostasy, public blasphemy, false prophesying, kidnapping, rape, and bearing false witness in a capital case. Although supporting the separation of church and state at the national level, Rushdoony understood both institutions as under the rule of God, and thus he conceived secularism as posing endless false antitheses, which his massive work addresses in considerable detail. In short, he sought to cast a vision for the reconstruction of society based on Christian principles.
The book was also critical of democracy. He wrote that "the heresy of democracy has since then worked havoc in church and state ... Christianity and democracy are inevitably enemies." He elsewhere said that "Christianity is completely and radically anti-democratic; it is committed to spiritual aristocracy," and characterized democracy as "the great love of the failures and cowards of life."
Rushdoony's work has been used by Dominion Theology advocates who attempt to implement a Christian theocracy, a government subject to Biblical law, especially the Torah, in the United States. Authority, behavioural boundaries, economics, penology and the like would all be governed by biblical principles in Rushdoony's vision, but he also proposed a wide system of freedom, especially in the economic sphere, and claimed Ludwig von Mises as an intellectual mentor; he called himself a Christian libertarian.
Rushdoony was the founder in 1965 of the Chalcedon Foundation and the editor of its monthly magazine, the Chalcedon Report. He also published the Journal of Christian Reconstruction and was an early board member of the Rutherford Institute, founded in 1982 by John W. Whitehead. He later received an honorary Doctorate from Valley Christian University for his book, The Philosophy of the Christian Curriculum.
Rushdoony was, and remains, a controversial figure, as is the Christian Reconstructionist movement in which he was involved.
Pointing to Rushdoony's support for the death penalty, the British Centre for Science Education decried his perceived dislike of democracy and tolerance. Furthermore, Rushdoony has been accused of Holocaust denial and racism. According to Frank Schaeffer, Rushdoony believed that interracial marriage, which he referred to as "unequal yoking", should be made illegal. He also opposed "enforced integration", referred to Southern slavery as "benevolent", and said that "some people are by nature slaves". Kerwin Lee Klein, however, argues that Rushdoony was not a "biological racialist" and that for him "racism founded on modern biology simply represented another pagan revival."
In The Institutes of Biblical Law he uses the 1967 work Judaism and the Vatican by Léon de Poncins as a source for Paul Rassinier's figure of 1.2 million Jewish deaths during the Holocaust, and the claim that Raul Hilberg calculated the number at 896,292, and further asserts that very many of these died of epidemics. He calls the charge of 6 million Jewish deaths "false witness" against Germany. In 2000, Rushdoony stated concerning this passage in his Institutes "It was not my purpose to enter a debate over numbers, whether millions were killed, or tens of millions, an area which must be left to others with expertise in such matters. My point then and now is that in all such matters what the Ninth Commandment requires is the truth, not exaggeration, irrespective of the cause one seeks to serve." Carl R. Trueman, Professor of Historical Theology and Church History at Westminster Theological Seminary wrote in 2009 regarding the passage and Rushdoony's Holocaust denial:
His sources are atrocious, secondhand, and unverified; that he held this position speaks volumes about this appalling incompetence as a historian, and one can only speculate as to why he held the position from a moral perspective... He deals with the matter under the issue of the ninth commandment and, ironically breaches it himself in his presentation of the matter.
- The Institutes of Biblical Law (3 Vol.)
- By What Standard?: An Analysis of the Philosophy of Cornelius Van Til
- The One And The Many: Studies in The Philosophy of Order and Ultimacy
- This Independent Republic: Studies in the Nature and Meaning of American History
- The Nature of the American System
- The Foundations of Social Order: Studies in the Creeds and Councils of the Early Church
- Intellectual Schizophrenia: Culture, Crisis, and Education
- The Messianic Character of American Education
- Politics of Guilt & Pity
- The Roots of Reconstruction
- Law & Liberty
- The Biblical Philosophy of History
- The Mythology of Science
- Christianity and the State
- The Word of Flux
- "Rousas John Rushdoony" at Banneroftruth.org.
- An interview with R. J. Rushdoony. Retrieved June 9, 2007.
- William Edgar. "The passing of R. J. Rushdoony". First Things. August/September 2001.
- Gary North. "R. J. Rushdoony, R.I.P.". LewRockwell.com. Feb. 10, 2001.
- Founder's Forward: Born Rich. December 1997.
- "In Extremis – Rousas Rushdoony and his Connections". British Centre for Science Education. Accessed Dec. 12, 2007.
- Larson, Janet (1980). The Oral History Interview of Dr. Rousas John Rushdoon. Ross House. pp. 16–17.
- Michael J. McVicar. "First Owyhee and Then the World: The Early Ministry of R. J. Rushdoony." Faith For All of Life. November/December 2008 issue.
- Gary North, “Baptized Patriarchalism.' (Tyler: ICE, 1996), p. viii, 66.
- Dorothy Rushdoony, Chalcedon Matriarch, Dies
- Euan Hague, and Edward H. Sebesta, "The US Civil War as a Theological War:Neo-Confederacy, Christian Nationalism and Theology" in Neo-Confederacy: A Critical Introduction, edited by Hague, Sebesta, and Heidi Beirich, University of Texas Press, 2008 ISBN 0292718373 (pgs. 57, 58, 67) .
- "Wilkins is the leading proponent of the theory that the South was an orthodox Christian nation unjustly attacked by the godless North. This revisionist take on the Civil War, known as the “theological war” thesis, had little resonance outside a small group of Southern historians until the mid-twentieth century, when Rushdoony and others began to popularize it in evangelical circles." Leap of Faith by Ryan Lizza, The New Yorker, August 15, 2011.
- Greg Loren Durand. "Reconstructionism's Commitment to Mosaic Penology". Christian Reconstruction and Its Blueprints for Dominion. Retrieved June 10, 20087.
- Liz Gore. "R.J. Rushdoony turns 80". Freedom Writer. July 1996.
- Michael J. McVicar. "The Libertarian Theocrats: The Long, Strange History of R.J. Rushdoony and Christian Reconstructionism." The Public Eye. Fall 2007 Vol. 22, No. 3.
- Sugg, John. "A Nation Under God", Mother Jones, December 2005. "Rushdoony denied the Holocaust and defended segregation and slavery".
- Braun, Aurel; Scheinberg, Stephen J. The Extreme Right: Freedom and Security at Risk, Westview Press, 1997, p. 71. "Rushdoony, a one-time John Birch society activist, has in his books 'maligned Jews, Judaism and Blacks, and [has] engaged in Holocaust "revisionism"'".
- Lane, Frederick S. The court and the cross: the religious right's crusade to reshape the Supreme Court, Beacon Press, 2008, p. 40. "Despite its provocative suggestions, the book [Institutes of Biblical Law] did not receive widespread attention when it was published[...] in part because Rushdoony also used the work to deny the Holocaust, defend segregation and slavery, and condemn interracial, intercultural, and interreligious marriages."
- Holthouse, David. "Casting Stones", Intelligence Report, Southern Poverty Law Center, Winter 2005. Retrieved November 4, 2009. "The elder Rushdoony was a racist and Holocaust denier who took his group's name from a medieval council of bishops that proclaimed the subservience of all nations and governments to God."
- Schaeffer, Frank. Patience with God: Faith for People Who Don't Like Religion (or Atheism), Da Capo Press, 2009, p. 117. "Rushdoony was also a Holocaust denier."
- Trueman, Carl R. Histories and Fallacies: Problems Faced in the Writing of History, Crossway, 2009, p. 30. "While Rushdoony's followers do not like to acknowledge his Holocaust Denial, it is incontestable that he held such a position..."
- Brock, David. Blinded by the Right: The Conscience of an Ex-Conservative, Random House of Canada, 2003, p. 201. "Rushdoony was also a Holocaust denier."
- Blumenthal, Sidney. The Clinton Wars, Plume, 2004, p. 319. "One of the members of the small founding board, RJ Rushdoony, was a Holocaust denier who favored the death penalty for homosexuals and doctors performing abortions."
- Schaeffer, Frank (Reprint 2010). Patience with God: Faith for People Who Don't Like Religion (or Atheism). Da Capo Press. p. 117. ISBN 978-0-306-81922-3.
- "A Dozen Major Groups Help Drive the Religious Right’s Anti-Gay Crusade". Intelligence Report (Southern Poverty Law Center) (117). 2005. Retrieved 2013-12-18.
- Klein, Kerwin Lee (2011). From History to Theory. University of California Press. p. 152. ISBN 978-0520274495.
- Ramsey, William L.; Quinlan, Sean M. (2005). "Southern Slavery As It Wasn't: Coming to Grips with Neo-Confederate Historical Misinformation.". Oklahoma City University Law Review 30 (1): 14. SSRN 633361.
- Rushdoony, Rousas J. (1973). The Institutes of Biblical Law. Nutley, NJ: Craig Press. pp. 586, 588. ISBN 9780875524108., citing Vicomte de Poncins, Léon (1967). Judaism and the Vatican: An Attempt at Spiritual Subversion. London: Britons Publishing Company. p. 178. "The false witness born during World War II with respect to Germany is especially notable and revealing. The charge is repeatedly made that six million innocent Jews were slain by the Nazis, and the figure—and even larger figures—is now entrenched in the history books. Poncins, in summarizing the studies of the French Socialist, Paul Rassinier, himself a prisoner in Buchenwald, states: Rassinier reached the conclusion that the number of Jews who died after deportation is approximately 1,200,000 and this figure, he tells us, has finally been accepted as valid by the Centre Mondial de Documentation Juive Contemporaine. Likewise he notes that Paul Hilberg, in his study of the same problem, reached a total of 896,292 victims. Very many of these people died of epidemics; many were executed..."
- Rushdoony, Rousas J. (September 2000). "Exaggeration and Denial". Chalcedon Report.
- Trueman, Carl R. Histories and Fallacies: Problems Faced in the Writing of History, Crossway, 2009, p. 30, footnote 4.
- The Chalcedon Foundation
- Interview with R.J. Rushdoony (RealPlayer streaming video format)
- Works by or about Rousas John Rushdoony in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
- Works at LibraryThing
- Rousas John Rushdoony at the Notable Names Database
- R. J. Rushdoony: Champion of Faith and Liberty, Andrew Sandlin
- R. J. Rushdoony – R.I.P., Gary North
- Foreword to A Comprehensive Faith: A Festchrift for R.J Rushdoony (1996) by John Frame
- A 1976 Review of The Institutes of Biblical Law by John Frame
- Articles of Rushdoony in "Résister et construire" (French)
- "Why Wait for the Kingdom? The Theonomist Temptation" by Richard John Neuhaus in First Things, May 1990
- The Rev. Rousas John Rushdoony; Advocated Rule by Biblical Law, Los Angeles Times, Larry B. Stammer, March 3, 2001
- Rousas John Rushdoony at Find a Grave