A Tribute to R. J. Rushdoony
A Lighthouse at the Edge of a Stormy Sea
A world without Rush is going to be a very barren and sad place for those of us who knew him and loved him. Rush, by the way, is the name his friends and colleagues used with his okay. I had met Rousas John Rushdoony in 1984, after I had written Is Public Education Necessary?, the writing of which turned me into a Calvinist. Therefore, it was quite a marvelous thing for me to become acquainted with the world's leading Calvinist theologian. It was Rush who made me a member of the Chalcedon family, the original think tank of the so-called Christian Right. I will always consider that the best thing that ever happened to me.
There were so many happy times during those years: my summer visits to Rush's home in Vallecito, California; the delightful lunches prepared by his wife Dorothy; the fellowship with other Chalcedon members; our convivial conferences in England; the many visits to bookstores; the conferences in the U.S. I cannot explain what it was like to be in his presence. For me it was a kind of quiet awe. I was in awe of the fact that such a human being actually existed and that he exerted such a powerful spiritual influence on my life. I was in awe of the fact that I was so privileged to know him.
As long as he lived, Rush was an unequivocal, undaunted upholder of Biblical truth. That was his lifelong profession, his lifelong passion. Those of us who spent years in the wilderness before we finally came to the foot of the cross envied the fact that he had never been a liberal, or a secularist, or an agnostic, or an unbeliever who had to be dragged kicking and screaming to Christ. I once asked him how it was that he never succumbed to modernism. He said it would have been tantamount to committing suicide.
He had never doubted God's call or God's Word. That was his strength. Everything he read, everything he studied at Berkeley and elsewhere never undermined his faith, and no man ever read more books both for and against Biblical religion. He came through the twentieth century unscathed by its false philosophies and secular temptations. He was like a lighthouse at the edge of a stormy sea; or an oak tree weathering a violent hurricane. He defended an ancient faith in a manner that liberals could not understand.
We thank God that Rush left us his books and his recordings. So we shall be able to read his words and listen to his voice and pass on these treasures to future generations. His life will always be for us an example of holy fulfillment on earth. Being close to him was as close as we shall ever be to the sustaining faith that gives meaning and purpose to life. He embodied that sustaining faith with such grace and simplicity. It was in his Armenian blood and bones.
Losing Rush is almost worse than losing a parent. He was that source of good that nourishes our will to live righteously. He taught us the great lesson of life: that it is to be lived for the glory of God and nothing else.
But Rush was not merely a theologian living in a cloister. His attachment to the world of human action was ever evident in his critical writings about education, politics, culture, government, economics, philosophy, the church, home schooling, and everything else. He was one of the few Christian theologians to recognize the damage that humanist education was doing to Christian children, and he urged Christian parents to educate their children in the manner prescribed by the Bible in Deuteronomy 6.
He understood the essential nature of the war between humanism and Christianity, and he inspired thousands to enter the battle on the side of the angels. The growth of Christian schools and of home schooling were to a great degree the result of his strong arguments in favor of both. He also knew that religious freedom depended on educational freedom and vice versa.
Rush was easily the most knowledgeable human being one was ever likely to encounter. If you asked him a question about Kosovo, you got a dissertation on Serbia, Croatia, the Balkans, encyclopedic in scope. He had read so much and knew so much. There was hardly a question he could not answer, and he loved answering questions. Even in his Sunday service he provided time for the congregation to ask questions after his sermon. I always saved questions to ask him during my visits. Even now I have questions I was saving for my next visit. But they will never be answered.
Whenever I visited Vallecito, Rush would spend a day taking me and Mark or Andrew Sandlin to bookstores within a fifty-mile radius of his home. The conversations during those visits were forever stimulating. In the bookstores he would browse at leisure, accumulating a stack of books for his incredibly voluminous library. He was an insatiable seeker of knowledge. The more he knew, the more he wanted to know.
To all of us in the Chalcedon family, Rush was the immoveable center, radiating faith in God's benevolent power in the way that the sun radiates light. As a Calvinist, he had tremendous intellectual and spiritual power, yet was remarkably modest in demeanor but unequivocal in expressing his opinions to any audience that would have him. He was appreciated for his candor and his intelligence. You listened to him because he minced no words and gave you the straight story. He was the embodiment of Longfellow's assertion that "Life is real. Life is earnest, and the grave is not its goal. Dust thou art to dust returnest was not spoken of the soul."
To lose such a man is to lose more than many of us can bear. Yet we must bear it, because that is what life is about and that is what is expected of us. I will miss him very, very much, knowing full well that for the rest of my days I will never know another human being who was so good to me. And at the moment his soul left his body and found itself in the presence of the Lord, the Lord must have said, "Well done, my son. Well done."
Thank you, Lord, for Rush.
Samuel L. Blumenfeld is the author of eight books on education, including NEA: Trojan Horse in American Education, How to Tutor, Alpha-Phonics: A Primer for Beginning Readers, and Homeschooling: A Parents Guide to Teaching Children. All of these books are available on Amazon.com or by calling 208-322-4440.