First the Blade
“First the Blade” Dr. Rushdoony’s Influence on My Life
[Editor’s note: This article is cast in two distinct sections. In the first section, the author explains how he arrived at his current convictions and what those foundations mean to him. The second section is, in effect, a recounting of what the author and his fellow believers are doing in light of those convictions, i.e., how he is implementing them in the real world. I have extracted this second section from an autobiographical statement provided to me by the author because it allows our readership to see what happens when theory is translated into practice. We exhort you to follow this article through to the end to fully see the connection. – MGS]
“For in Him we live, and move, and have our being … ” Acts 17:28
“God’s redemption involves the restoration of all things to their true relationship to Him as Creator and Redeemer. The source of all things is God’s eternal decree, and all things have their total and exclusive meaning in God.” (R. J. Rushdoony, The Politics of Guilt and Pity, p. 37)
We live eight miles from the northwest Alabama rural farm where I was born and raised. My own children were raised there until we moved in their teen years to the “city” within the same county. Mine was a simple country upbringing filled with meaningful work and simple values. Though my parents were not Christians, one of the great delights (and awful anguishes) of my early life was being across the field and staying the night with my godly grandparents. Retiring at night no later than 8 P.M., we grandchildren slept in the same room on an extra bed where my dear grandmother slept. The delight was that I got to hear that precious lady pray for all my brothers and cousins and their many sins. Those prayers were as refreshing as the taste of a spring-cooled watermelon on a hot August afternoon. Not content with having taken care of the primary sinners in the family, she would exercise herself concerning my sins and my need of Christ. What horrible anguish that precious lady caused my youthful spirit.
I was an early entrepreneur (having started my first business at age twelve) and converted to Christ at the age of seventeen. Immersed in the dispensational doom dominant throughout the area, I was at least aware of the inherent conflict between this theological training and an optimistic entrepreneurial outlook. With no maturity of life-experience or mentors who could offer an alternative view, I allowed this conflict to breed instability and inconsistency in my decision-making and lifestyle patterns. To help matters along while in this state, I entered college, married, and we had three children in thirty-three months.
The tremors to this foundation began with a $1 used book, A. W. Pink’s The Sovereignty of God. The implications were frightening because if he was correct, my existing theology was not just an illusion but a fraud. How I remember my heart yearning that Mr. Pink was correct, that God was that Sovereign, that powerful, that God. But?
Shortly thereafter, the theological earthquake came. At a conference in the spring of 1983, I obtained some writings by a gentleman named R. J. Rushdoony. I learned later that the pastor I obtained these from was a disciple and personal friend of Mr. Rushdoony. Astonishingly, here was a Christian faith that was comprehensive, practically applied, advocating victory for Christians in time and history. I ordered Rushdoony’s The Institutes of Biblical Law in the early summer of 1983 (and received my first Chalcedon Report in October of that year).
WhenInstitutes arrived, I opened it at the mailbox on our dusty unpaved country road and read (with a now-somewhat illumined mind) the fourteen-page “Introduction.” “This Bible is for the government of the people, by the people, and for the people,” he quoted Wycliffe as saying. “The concern was less with church or state than with government by the law-word of God.” My very existence resonated with these declarations. I cleared my schedule, hibernated, readInstitutes for the first time coupled with another reading of the previously obtained books and a continual read through the Scriptures. My life was being redirected.
My Early Failure Corrected
At this stage in my life, I had some awareness of the “issues” but one discovers that new knowledge does not immediately translate into maturity in character or wise lifestyle application. I had, up to this point, focused on national violations of the concepts of freedom and liberty that I perceived. Emphasizing concerns where I had no influence and no reasonable foundation for optimistic outcomes amounted to intentionally courting these frustrations, which, in their proper turn, nurtured a critical spirit that then became the master of my thoughts and tongue.
I brought this ill-conceived lifestyle baggage into our home. I chose to fight the culture war on battlefields where I ensured the defeat of my objectives because there was no influence. Heartbreakingly in many cases, I can see in the lives and conversations of others a choice to follow the same self-defeating path I had rumbled upon and the authoritarianism of their critical spirit serves primarily to defeat their professed objectives. Like me, most are blind to it—the people around them are not. I am thankful the internet was not around when this infection purposed my worldview.
It was here that Dr. Rushdoony had his greatest impact in my life. His continual emphasis throughout his writing and speaking labors on “first the blade” eventually led to the repudiation of my former framework and the formulation of positive direction through applied practical localism—beginning with self-government and correcting my family government miscues. Two primary directional questions were developed because of Dr. Rushdoony’s insistence on the absolutely sovereignty of God in every area of life:
Question 1: What does God require me to think about that?
Question 2: What is the wisest way to implement what God requires me to think about that?
These two questions were the foundation to what has become known throughout our area as the Circles of Influence. The emphasis stabilized my thinking and brought consistency to my character over time. All the young people, churches where I have taught, community classes, homeschool groups, our public readings groups, etc., have all been exposed to this methodology of determining and assigning God’s priorities to the decision-making process in a comprehensive manner.
Because of these exercises over many years, I do not have to create diverse starting points when discussing economics, education, health care, arts, business, money, church, civil government, war, oaths, marriage, children, etc.—the starting point is always the same: what does God, in the Bible, require us to think about that? That consistent starting point requires no mental gymnastics, no compromises with humanism, polytheism, dualism, or any of the other myriad of man-centered attempts at dethroning our Lord. Of course, in many circles, it is interpreted, quite correctly, as the battle cry of an advancing army.
Localism and First the Blades
I recently posted that Sunday, November 6, 2016, was a tremendously encouraging evidence of the work of God in that I was fully aware that on that day there was preached in the United States more Election Day sermons than if you combined all of them that had been preached in my lifetime. Another brother noted to me in conversation that there were probably more Election Day sermons preached on that day than since the 1700s combined! I think his observation is more accurate than mine.
Immediately after my post, another individual, with good intent I am certain, stated that all we had to do now was to make sure those sermons were Biblical and right. My very spirit rose up in thanks to God for using Dr. Rushdoony to teach me what I shared in response (paraphrase):
It is true that the probability is high that many of these sermons need maturity being that they are newly sprung forth. But are we not witnessing God’s bringing forth of “first the blade.” I have now lived nearly sixty years and am fully aware that some of these blades will die due to lack of sunshine, a lack of water, a lack of nutrients, etc. Some of them will die because they will be stepped on and crushed, some mangled by the weather beyond recovery. But shall we not recognize that without “first the blade” there will be zero that will ever reach maturity? I have learned to be filled with rejoicing and thankfulness when God gives us “first the blade” for it is there that He nurtures encouraging hope, gives direction for future endeavors, and strengthens the inner man for another crop. If those blades are to die or not be able to withstand the storms necessary, let it not be because we did not attempt to nurture them or offer what protections we can in their moments of weakness. For who knows the mind of God or will give Him counsel to His own doings with His own blades? If He has put us there, let us arise and advance as caretakers of our Father’s crops.
If you have read Mr. Rushdoony and his emphasis on “starting,” one cannot miss the significance of the victory tones of his influence and his guiding of my perspective here.
“First the blade” was also instrumental in spurring theintentional development of our apprenticeship/mentoring program via businesses, counseling, and community-based classes. What incredible lessons have been taught us in these past thirty-plus years as God has brought more than four hundred young men and women under the influence of a comprehensive gospel through these endeavors!
Dr. Rushdoony, whom I never personally met, counseled me many an evening through his writings and encouraged me to see my early experience as a young believer who could find no mentor as a Providence of God for direction. I knew it was a problem, and that God intended me to offer a solution to that problem where He had planted us. Hence, God led us to vow before our Lord that, if at all possible, no young person throughout our area would go without a willing mentor. It takes a lot of time, a maturing in your own discipleship, a patience in God’s process, a willingness to watch failure, but mostly, it must be an intentional lifestyle. Shall we not, by God’s grace, run after them before we watch them try to stand alone? The young man and the young woman need that great visionary antidote for life: a victorious hope in the Crown Rights of Jesus Christ!
My County, My Communities, My Cities
I was thirty-five years of age before a genuine brokenness for my county, our local communities, our local cities—the place where God planted us to leaven—began to dominate and restructure my life’s mission. Indeed, much is wrong and we will yet pay a heavier price for it, but God influenced us through Dr. Rushdoony: plant where you are; plant intentionally; and maintain awareness for “first the blades.” It is there, in the sprigs that sprout, the seed that swells, the ground that cracks, where hope for the potential of the mature harvest will first appear. Dr. Rushdoony’s great lesson to my life and home is best summed up, so I think, by Pierre Viret:
In reading the Scriptures we learn the theoretical, but we are never good theologians until we practice our theology in divine letters, and never shall we comprehend it well without being exercised in it by various trials, by which we come to the true understanding and knowledge of the matters we read of, and taste the goodness and assistance, help, and favor of God. By this we see how blessed they are who trust in Him who shall never forsake them. For apart from this we speak only of the Holy Scriptures as armchair generals, and as those who discuss the war or other matters after only hearing of it, with no understanding or experience of it whatever. (Pierre Viret, Letters of Comfort to the Persecuted Church, translated by R. A. Sheats, p. 18.)
Our communities, so my experience teaches me, have never been offered the paradigm of a comprehensive, victorious Christian worldview marinated in the aroma of a conquering King. “The meek shall inherit the earth”: “first the blades.”
SECTION TWO (Extracted from Tim Yarbrough’s biographical statement)
I have owned and operated my own businesses for forty years, which has taken me to several nations and three continents. Our business group has helped successful apprentices launch a number of businesses and we are constantly working with new endeavors and trying to help existing businesses. I teach classes to our Christian young men and women on the dominion orientation of owning businesses and have helped launch over sixty different enterprises. A lot of my direct work today is consulting with companies for energy and structural efficiencies.
The following are a few of the items which we are working on throughout our community (county).
James 127 is a work that flows from the combined efforts of two of our local congregations, in which we seek to identify widows in distress and meet their basic life needs (including housing or house repairs) while engaging their families with the requirements of God’s law in terms of their relationship with the widow. By “engaging their families,” we mean visiting with them and teaching them (whether they’re believers or not) what God’s law requires regarding widows. It is a great way to explain the gospel because of endemic lawlessness. In addition, we have written some short position papers that we use with other churches in the area and are actively working on more substantial position papers for this aspect of the endeavor.
What we have discovered is that pastors and congregations who are antinomian and/or dispensational are open to the value of this aspect of God’s law because they can see it clearly. It is what we call a necessary bridge work. Our rural county has over nine hundred widows. We have recently purchased nine acres to develop into homes (and have one already which a family has moved into) for genuine younger widows (by death, Biblical divorce, abuse) who homeschool and want to continue to do so. Our goal is to put up a building there this coming year to house outsourced work from various companies we are contracting with. This way, the families can live and work together, supplying their needs in a community of peers with the support of the local congregations. One of the goals is to teach them the skills to run the company so that it can then be delegated to them.
All of the CR (Christian Reconstructionist) families in our area are home educators and a large number are basic Reformed as well. There has been a great hue and cry about Christians getting their children out of government schools but not a lot of active evangelizing of them to do so. This project, which we have practiced for some years, is being formalized for launch after January 2017. The framework here is that we are training our existing families, some in their second generation, to become specifically assigned mentoring families to those seeking to move to the home education model. Our plan is to hold five-county introductory “meet and greet” meetings in different locations where interested families can meet both first and second generation home educators and talk with them one-on-one. From those meetings, the interested families will be invited to three different hospitality meals at the homes of existing home educators just to get to interact personally. Our aim for this coming year is to help launch another five hundred children out of the public school sector by this process.
In addition to the homeschool evangelistic program, we teach in different existing homeschool co-ops. Among our CR participants we have taught economics, history, Greek, music, philosophy, etc. At present I am teaching one particular co-op with the following approach:
1st hour: Life Styles of the True and Faithful in which we seek to define, explore, and apply basic lifestyle principles. As an example, the first one in this series is Why Should Anyone Trust You or Anything You Say? The premise is that one must be willing to embrace that they have a duty to earn the trust of others by being trustworthy in both word and practice—including in their home.
Next 30 minutes: This is a class on “Who Said That?” wherein we take the declarations of a historical figure, read them, and discuss the implications. Of course, attendees try to guess who “said that.” The goal here is to get them to see and understand the different philosophical approaches to life and why the Biblical view is superior.
Final 30 Minutes: Biblical Economics: Understood and Applied
All three of these teaching segments are designed for significant interaction.
Deeper Outreach at Multiple Levels
We meet constantly with our County Commissioners, mayors, city councils, etc., providing them with instructions from the Scriptures, history, and present-day problem solving. As a group, we have pored over our county, city, and school budgets and are preparing to provide privatization alternatives (we did this in 2002 and the politicians did not want to give up spending other people’s money). We are planning to launch a countywide program identifying the tremendous benefits of everyone becoming “debt free” and that there is a way to do that.
Tied to this is the launch in January 2017 of our classes for training Proverbs 31 men (see verse 23 of that chapter). Our textbook will be The Institutes of Biblical Law with a specific emphasis on what the local problems are that can be solved at the local level (certain things that are federal and state concerns require a different approach). The goal is to have qualified individuals prepared to run for every open county office in 2018. It must be understood that the courage for interposition will be a necessary component.
At present, with all the groundwork we are and will be doing, our game plan is to run on a idea: Restoring Community Through Faith, Freedom, and Frugality using Article 1, Section 35 of the Alabama Constitution as the platform launching pad: “That the sole and only legitimate end of government is to protect the citizen in the enjoyment of life, liberty, and property, and when the government assumes other functions it is usurpation and oppression.” We have one group here in our county, another group that we will be teaching in Colbert County, and this year I am making my first attempt to teach this class online. These classes all require the undertaking of community based projects that are intentional and where one can actually exercise influence.
Historically, we developed a program in our area where Christian families who saved their money and were able to buy their land and the material to build a modest home had access to organized donated labor to build that home debt-free. So far, we have built seventeen of these. This approach reaches across all kinds of denominational barriers via the homeschool community. What we are now doing is combining some resources (Lord willing) to purchase thirty acres in the local area (the price per acre drops significantly when you buy more acreage). Then the young men and/or young families will be able to purchase the land in increments of three to five acres while paying for that land at the thirty-acre rate. The goal is to allow them to own and build with a reduced cost function and without debt. This is an effort entirely premised on inter-generational thinking and planning. Such intentional capitalization for benefit to future generations also holds forth promise that sacrificial examples will spur greater maturity in those generations and their vision will go beyond where we have been.
We put on three major conferences each year, one at our congregation (fall—3-day) and two at Pastor Jim’s (spring and fall—one evening and one day). The young men and women govern this and they are simply excellent at handling it. Their work here has a wide impact and influence.
We carry on a public outreach at our fairs, trade days, etc., where we set up booths and prepare literature to pass out, films to see, and training for young and old in one-on-one apologetics. This is great training.
We have a number of other activities, such as our public reading clubs, minister newsletters, and instructions to judges and other public officials reflecting our objective to demonstrate that the ideas of CR are well founded in both Scripture and history. The work here is now influencing similar undertakings in six other Alabama counties. Our prayer is to reach all sixty-seven counties in the state and that such work would be undertaken locally and grown organically. We are often asked, but we honestly do not have nor desire any formal organization for our endeavors. What we have discovered is that the free market works just as well in the influence market as it does in the product/service market. We consider the example of Acts 8:1–4 to be one of the greatest examples of genuine leadership in all of history.
One of the latest developments has originated with a young man in Bibb County who has developed an excellent method of creating a news alternative online for his county. He’s still working out the bugs but he has been successful so far and we hope to duplicate what he is doing in our own county this spring and encourage it across our state. His initial process for gaining access to readership was simply a stroke of brilliance and its most notable feature is that we then govern the conversation. This is a frightening prospect for enemies of the gospel and Kingdom of Jesus Christ.
Our greatest obstacle and challenge is the toxic creation of dependency by families, churches, and the civil government. Our second greatest challenge would be antinomianism (but there is a way to work with that), followed by dispensationalism (but young people are abandoning that in droves here) and dualism. The need to apply wisdom in confronting these and other obstacles has never been greater nor the opportunity more favorable.
We do not have full-time people on these initiatives because we determined long ago that our local work would be funded by those actually involved (an idea that we gleaned from one of Dr. George Grant’s books, as well as from the example of David in the Scripture). We determined that if something was worth pursuing, one of the questions that must be answered “yes” is that it also be worth paying for.
Personal mentoring/counseling also consumes, on average, twelve hours a week of my time. As we say, it is an intentional lifestyle. Actually, it is a glorious lifestyle.
Until His Enemies Are His Footstool,
Tim Yarbrough (b. 1957) has been married to Deborah since 1977 and has three children: Erick (b. 1978) married Cheryl and they have two daughters: Aliyah Rose (15) and Chloe Diane (12); Emily (b. 1979) married Keith Lacy and they have two sons: Brantston (14) and Tristen (12); Ernie (1981) married Myra and they have two sons and a daughter: Ridley McCheynne (7); Cameron Tyndale (4); and Nora Evangeline (1). His family has attended the Trinity Free Presbyterian Church since 1993 and was one of its founding member families. He has served as an elder since the organization of the congregation.