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ASK CHALCEDON ~ Purification of Women after Childbirth

Mark R. Rushdoony
  • Mark R. Rushdoony,
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I have a question concerning your father's position on animal sacrifices for today. In the INSTITUTES, vol. I, p.43, he states, "There is no valid reason for the discontinuance of the rite."

1. Does he mean that today's mothers are to bring an actual animal sacrifice to the church---lamb or two pigeons or doves? Does it occur at the church and who slays the animals? If so, are there other sacrifices valid for today?
2. Or, is he saying something else? If no animal sacrifices are binding today how would mothers, at the time of childbirth, fulfill this ritual today according to your father?

Your help in this matter would be greatly appreciated. ~ Thank you, Rev. B.T.

Mark Rushdoony's Response:

     My father did not practice or condone the continuation of any animal sacrifices, as he made clear in The Institutes of Biblical Law as well as his commentary Hebrews, James, and Jude (Ross House Books, 2001).
     The reference to "the rite" which my father felt was valid for today has its antecedent in the previous sentence's reference to "the ritual of the purification of women," though the context of that was "(T)he service continues in the church, and appears, for example, in The Book of Common Prayer as ‘The Thanksgiving of Women after Child-birth' or ‘The Churching of Women.'" It was the ongoing Christian rite he felt was valid.
     The lamb or, in the case of a poor family, two pigeons doves, by the way, was not described as sacrifice, but as an offering. The distinction is an important one. There is no New Covenant necessity to eliminate the practice of the giving of offerings. The days of separation after childbirth and the offering that followed are described by my father as representing "hope... in regeneration" and "a reminder that covenant righteousness was of the grace of God, to mother and child, and that grace, not race or blood, is the fountainhead of salvation" (p. 43). He thus described the ongoing right "in the church" as atrophied because it is reduced to a prayer of thanksgiving, but his implication is that it be continued in its full theological meaning, which was more than gratitude.
     There is a modern tendency to emphasize only the positive and hopeful in an infant. Both circumcision in males and the related purification of women gave witness to the sin nature of all humanity and their need for redemption. My father's point was that this is a well-placed emphasis, and one the church should address.


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Mark R. Rushdoony
  • Mark R. Rushdoony

Mark R. Rushdoony graduated from Los Angeles Baptist College (now The Master’s College) with a B.A. in history in 1975 and was ordained to the ministry in 1995.

He taught junior and senior high classes in history, Bible, civics and economics at a Christian school in Virginia for three years before joining the staff of Chalcedon in 1978. He was the Director of Chalcedon Christian School for 14 years while teaching full time. He also helped tutor all of his children through high school.

In 1998, he became the President of Chalcedon and Ross House Books, and, more recently another publishing arm, Storehouse Press. Chalcedon and its subsidiaries publish many titles plus CDs, mp3s, and an extensive online archive at

He has written scores of articles for Chalcedon’s publications, both the Chalcedon Report and Faith for all of Life. He was a contributing author to The Great Christian Revolution (1991). He has spoken at numerous conferences and churches in the U.S. and abroad.

Mark Rushdoony lives in Vallecito, California, his home of 43 years with his wife of 45 years and his youngest son. He has three married children and nine grandchildren.

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