I am a theonomist who dearly loves Chalcedon and Rushdoony. So I was shocked to discover on page 257 of "The Institutes of Biblical Law" (the sixth commandment) the following statement by Rushdoony:
"The burden of the law is thus against inter-religious, INTER-RACIAL (my emphasis here), and inter-cultural marriages, in that they normally go against the very community which marriage is designed to establish."
Is there a bow towards racism here, or am I misreading Rushdoony? Any kind of help with this would be of great value to me.
Mark Rushdoony's response:
The quote you reference from my father's Institutes of Biblical Law I was dealing with Paul's prohibition of "unequal yoking" in 2 Corinthians 6:14. Paul's words were an application of, and borrowed the language of Deuteronomy 22:10, "Thou shalt not plow with an ox and an ass together."
My father's comments dealt with what could constitute an unequal yoke in the marriage relationship. He pointed out that Paul was not just calling marriages between believers and unbelievers "clearly forbidden," but any unequal yoking. There is a negative way we approach God's law in what we avoid as unlawful. There is a positive way by which we obey God through an understanding of what we must foster in ourselves and others. His comments dealt with thinking how we could find the marriage partner who could best help us fulfill our callings.
Positively, marriage must be seen as a covenant of a man and a woman to further godly dominion. It is not just a contract with rules. There are many marriages in which neither party violates their vows, yet godly dominion is nowhere present. Note that he describes a "helpmeet" as a reflection of the man, " ... indicating that a woman must have something religiously and culturally in common with her husband." This is his point. Note that it is unlikely anyone ever tried to plow with an ox and an ass yoked together. It would not work and the people of Moses' day knew that an absurd picture was being drawn to warn against certain unions that had nothing to do with farm animals.
It is from his very next sentence some have drawn unwarranted conclusions: "The burden of the law is thus against inter-religious, inter-racial, and inter-cultural marriages, in that they normally go against the very community which marriage is designed to establish." Note this is not an absolute condemnation. Having just said that marriages between believers and non-believers were "clearly forbidden" by Paul's words regarding unequal yoking, he uses far less restrictive terms. It is the "burden" of the law, not its mandate. Some relationships, he says, "normally" work against the unity of the marriage partners and their work; he does not say they always or definitively do so. If you compare the difference between what he says about marriages between believers and non-believers on the one hand, and these other problematic marriages, you can see he is saying the former are clearly forbidden while the latter may be counter-productive to a covenantal relationship.
The three problematic marriages he identifies are 1) inter-religious, 2) inter-racial, and 3) inter-cultural. He does not define inter-religious, but it has to refer to something other than a marriage between a believer and a non-believer. He has already defined that as "clearly forbidden" by Paul. I believe he is referring to differences between Christian theological traditions. Very likely he intentionally did not define inter-religious. This is the role of churches, parents, and individuals. They must decide what theological deviation remains within the realm of orthodoxy. They must ask the question, are these different understandings of Scripture going to compromise this couple's ability to serve God as one?
Likewise, "inter-racial" and "inter-cultural" are undefined. Again, this is likely intentional. Many people individually represent a mixture of races and cultures. Again, what constitutes what is an unacceptable difference is not a matter for any one person to decide, but the individuals and families involved. Let me explain what I believe were his references.
As a young pastor (he was ordained in the spring of 1944) there were commonly problems associated with the returning "war brides." Many GIs married foreign women. Japanese women were particularly attractive to many men who served in the Pacific theatre, because they saw what they believed were "old-fashioned" values and respect for men. What they were actually seeing, however, was not a personal character trait, but a cultural trait. When these women became Americanized, they acted very differently, often to the great displeasure of their husbands. Many of these marriages did not last. The two did not really know one another or even understand them on a very basic level. These inter-racial and inter-cultural marriages were not based on a mutual understanding of the marriage covenant and its role in Christian dominion.
When my father grew up (he was born in 1916), and when he wrote (Institutes of Biblical Law was published in 1973, but many of the chapters were written in the 1960s) there were still very distinct cultural differences between racial and cultural groups even within this country. Regional differences among the same racial groups were even strong. That is far less true today, so such differences that remain are usually rather minor things such as accents.
Another factor that may have played into my father's comments is that in the 1960s inter-racial dating and marriage became a fashionable statement that one was a liberal. Much like advocating for homosexuals, or animal rights today, it was a political statement, an in-your-face announcement to an older generation that one was not bound by the past. Such an approach was anything but a covenantal approach to marriage.
So, even given the fact that my father did not condemn inter-religious, inter-racial, or inter-cultural marriages as unscriptural, what was my father's approach to them personally and as a minister? He performed many weddings, but I was at very few of them. One, however, I am very familiar with. When asked to perform an inter-racial (white groom and black bride) marriage between two professing believers, he met with them, was satisfied that they were both Christians, and told my mother that the bride was a "superior girl." I was present when he admitted that he personally was not sure he liked the idea but he made a point to say his feelings were irrelevant, and added, emphatically, "I cannot forbid what God has not!" He performed the ceremony.
I might note that the issue came up long before my father was a minister. His first sweetheart was a Swedish girl whose parents did not approve of my father's ethnicity (he was Armenian and attended his father's Armenian language church). When he was young, the Swedes and Armenians maintained very distinct cultures. That disapproval ended the relationship.
Some may wish to read something sinister into my father's words. The purpose of my father's comments and his ministry was to get Christians thinking of how they could pro-actively increase their dominion footprint by self-consciously applying the faith to every area of life and thought. As this regarded marriage, it meant finding the right helpmeet, one who could join that work like a reflected image. His comments were about what could make that work succeed or hamper it. These comments did not reflect on any race but on what could potentially create an unequal yoke. Note his words just a few lines down: "Man ... cannot treat his fellow-men or any part of creation with contempt."
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