Chalcedon Report No. 348, July 1994
It is a problem I hear about so often that it is one where I find myself able to supply the general outlines almost at once. A man and woman are under attack because their family and friends feel that their dedication to home schooling, or to a Christian school, or their practice of tithing, their faithfulness to God’s law, and so on, constitute foolishness, cultism, an embarrassing fanaticism, or just plain silliness on their part. Their critics, usually their family and close friends, are moral, churchgoing people, but they resent such “fanatical” practices. They equate patriotism and churchianity with Christianity, and they regard any deviation as cultism. The even threaten their children with disinheritance if they continue their course.
We must remember that the respectable and leading churchmen of our Lord’s day were shocked by His ministry and claims, so they crucified Him. The petty hostilities we incur are very small by comparison.
Respectable Christianity assumes that God’s purpose is to save and serve us. They love to cite Philippians 4:19, “But my God shall supply all your needs according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” But a text without a context is a pretext. Some years ago, J. J. Muller commented on this text’s meaning in these words, “Not only Paul, but also the Philippians have their needs. And in the same way as they supplied Paul’s needs by the gifts they sent him, so God with His gifts and blessings will supply all their needs” (J. J. Muller, The Epistles of Paul to the Philippians and to Philemon , p. 152). Calvin’s reading was similar.
We are not the focal point of the faith: the Kingdom of God is (Matt. 6:33). God does not exist to serve us, but we, Him. Our Lord did not endure the shame of the cross (Heb. 12:2) to indulge our shame at homeschooling or tithing. As for being disinherited, it is better to be disinherited by one’s family than by God Almighty. Remember, our Lord’s most fearful contempt in His letter to the seven (i.e., the fullness of all) the churches is for the Laodiceans, who were “neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth” (Rev. 3:15–16). Odd, is it not, that in our time so many people are lukewarm about God and “hot” over sports, styles, fads, and the like!
Listening to some of the wise men of television recently, it came very clearly to me that for these pundits, civilization means leniency towards criminals. Their tolerance towards evil was high, but their reaction to Biblical faith was harsh.
Respectability is the mark of a dying church which will not risk unpopular stances, no matter how godly they are. Such a respectable church will value highly the opinions of respectable members, but will pay only lip service to Christ and His Word. The church is being strangled with too much respectability!
Remember, the church of his day was embarrassed by St. Athanasius: he was “too controversial.” He was charged with rape and murder, both proven false and malicious, but they served their purpose. Most churchmen separated themselves from Athanasius for years: he was not respectable, and he was “quarrelsome.” But it was Athanasius’s willingness to fight that preserved the church. A book could be written on how much we owe over the centuries to saints who were not very good at public relations! A generation bent on respectability will always frown on God’s best servants.
Examine yourselves, and your priorities. What is most important for you? Making a clear-cut stand for the faith does not mean being unpleasant or unkind. After all, David said, “I am for peace: but when I speak, they are for war” (Ps. 120:7). Our faith is offensive to sinners; we should not mask the challenge of God’s Word by our foolishness and our wrongs.
To stand for the faith means that our primary purpose is to please God, not men, and we should not substitute for the offense of the cross our offensiveness.
We are surrounded by respectable Christianity, but we can by God’s grace convert it. We need faith with works, for “faith without works is dead” (James 2:20, 26). We need a vigorous and faithful Christianity striving to bring every area of life and thought, and all peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations into the faith. Shall we do it?
- R. J. Rushdoony
Rev. R.J. Rushdoony (1916–2001), was a leading theologian, church/state expert, and author of numerous works on the application of Biblical law to society. He started the Chalcedon Foundation in 1965. His Institutes of Biblical Law (1973) began the contemporary theonomy movement which posits the validity of Biblical law as God’s standard of obedience for all. He therefore saw God’s law as the basis of the modern Christian response to the cultural decline, one he attributed to the church’s false view of God’s law being opposed to His grace. This broad Christian response he described as “Christian Reconstruction.” He is credited with igniting the modern Christian school and homeschooling movements in the mid to late 20th century. He also traveled extensively lecturing and serving as an expert witness in numerous court cases regarding religious liberty. Many ministry and educational efforts that continue today, took their philosophical and Biblical roots from his lectures and books.