The February 1981 issue of Newsweek listed the Chalcedon Foundation as the only “think tank” for the then burgeoning Religious Right—the grassroots movement of conservative Christians who aided Ronald Reagan in defeating incumbent Jimmy Carter. Since then, secular critics ceaselessly tie Chalcedon and R. J. Rushdoony to a shadowy plan to seize political control in order to impose Biblical law upon an unwilling population.
Chalcedon was never the think tank of the Religious Right, nor will it ever be; and anyone who suggests such a thing has obviously not read Rushdoony. He writes of family before state or church, and he speaks far more about self-government with little mention of political strategy. Rushdoony was a staunch critic of statism in all its forms and once described himself as “close to being a libertarian.”
The Definition of a “Think Tank”
What is a think tank? It’s an organization containing a body of experts and researchers devoted to studying, developing, and publishing ideas and advice on political, scientific, economic, military, or other social and cultural issues. Examples include the Brookings Institution, the American Enterprise Institute, the Council on Foreign Relations, the RAND Corportation, The Heritage Foundation, and many others.
It’s these think tanks that feed the massive political bureaucracy with papers, journals, interviews, seminars, and more while they seek funding by special interest donors who are invested in the research such think tanks provide. Think tanks need researchers, so besides universities, a think tank is an alluring employer for graduating doctoral students in many fields.
Chalcedon is not so devoted to the American Establishment, although many position papers, essays, and seminars have clearly presented the Biblical model for many areas of society which some have no doubt used in their Christian passion to argue and work for change in certain laws or policies.
“A Think Tank for the Self-Governing Christian”
The Chalcedon Foundation is a think tank of sorts, but it’s certainly not a think tank for any Christian political movement. Since 1965, Chalcedon has employed a sizable body of researchers, but the objective was much different than that of the contemporary think tank, and the policies being offered by Chalcedon were for greater purposes than that of the state.
Since Rushdoony saw Christian government as essentially the self-government of the Christian man, Chalcedon’s function was more as “a think tank for the self-governing Christian,” and the “policies” Chalcedon developed were for Kingdom purposes. The application would be by the self-governing Christian and his or her family in every sphere of life.
This is why Chalcedon must rely upon the generous support of individual donors, because no large financial interests are interested in anything that promotes self-government—especially Christian self-government. Therefore, it’s only dedicated Christians that have kept Chalcedon operational since 1965, and that will continue to be the case.
From Politics to a True Kingdom Focus
It’s been 36 years since that Newseek article, and the once great Religious Right is a far cry from what it once was. And for all that effort, what has changed? Could it not be argued that things are far worse? Rushdoony was right. Change cannot come by politics but rather by a restoring of the spiritual capital of faith and character, and this means a continued commitment to gospel preaching, Biblical exposition, discipleship, tithing, dominion, and more.
At Chalcedon, we believe that we are not called to “take over” the civil government but rather to “take back” government by way of self-government. This was done in Christian education, and it can be done in other areas such as marriage, adjudication, healthcare, and more. This is true dominionism and a much more realistic focus for contemporary Christian Reconstruction. Our work and money should be devoted to it.
If you feel this represents your faith and values, then consider becoming a Chalcedon Underwriter today. This ministry desperately needs your financial support on an ongoing basis, so please take a few moments today to pray about what role you can play. Remember, your financial gifts to Chalcedon are tax-deductible and there are many great benefits to becoming an Underwriter. Click to learn more.
- Chalcedon Editorial