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Selling Responsibility

​Biblical holiness is never in terms of an abstract principle, or in terms of withdrawal from this world, but in terms of meeting the problems and struggles of this life victoriously.[1]

Chalcedon Editorial
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Biblical holiness is never in terms of an abstract principle, or in terms of withdrawal from this world, but in terms of meeting the problems and struggles of this life victoriously.[1]

There’s no getting around the fact that after nearly 2,000 years the church is still here, history continues, and the same challenges face men and society.  There has been no rapture, no second coming, no worldwide revival, no unity of doctrine, and Western civilization appears to be coming apart at the seams. Although this is intentionally pessimistic, the point is that God is not working outside of us to bring about His visible reign through miracles, judgment, or the coercive power of the state. Men are still predicting a soon coming end of the world, but a successful gambling man would bet on the fact that all we’re facing is another 2,000 years.

Pietism and Evangelism

Men will argue over whether God is judging the world through political upheaval and natural disasters, or they will preach about—and pray for—a rapture or revival. What these have in common is that they minimize our responsibilities by shifting the onus almost exclusively to God. Yes, we should certainly pray without ceasing, but the 800-pound gorilla in the room is still us, which means the more important discussion to be had is that of responsibility. Why is the church still here, and what are our responsibilities in light of that fact?

For mainstream evangelicalism, the answer is clear: pietism and evangelism. We have a responsibility to grow in our faith so as to become more like Christ, and we are to share our faith with the unbeliever both local and abroad. No doubt, these are sacred duties which cannot be forsaken, but they are very much the foundation and not the building itself.

In modern pietism, there is a disproportionate concern with individual spirituality  because anything above and beyond a Christian’s immediate life is surely the territory of God and not us. Our only greater responsibility is evangelism while “fixing the world” is God’s task, and it’s accomplished by rapture, revival, judgment, or tribulation.

A piety which concerns itself only with man’s soul and leaves the world to the devil is a profane piety.[2]

What Are the Implications of Our Being Sola Scriptura?

As the world grows darker, the church is retreating from the world into a personal and institutional pietism. Not only is the individual Christian occupied with his personal holiness, but the institutional church is equally introverted, choosing to consume God’s tithe in buildings and bureaucracy rather than establishing alternative means of Christian government and welfare. Just “follow the money,” and you’ll see where the church’s priorities lie.

At least in Catholicism, there is a reason for the institutional introversion. The clerical orders are there to protect and present the Mass, so the emphasis is on liturgy more than doctrine—their focus is the table not the pulpit.

What about us? What’s the purpose of our churches? How extensive are the implications of our being sola scriptura? Are we preaching and teaching for a limited holiness, or are we preparing God’s people for something more?

The work of the laity must be seen as a chaplaincy, a carrying of the life of the faith into every area of life and thought. The layman does not leave the church when he walks out of the building; if it is not his life in his calling, then he is never in the church on Sundays either.[3]

Let’s be honest. You can’t build a big church by reminding Christians of their calling as dominion agents for Christ. That would be equivalent to “selling responsibility,” and we know there aren’t many takers for a message like that. Therefore, modern churches focus on felt needs and pleasing the fickle wants of people. Such an “outpost” cannot be pleasing to a King.

The church which pleases you will not please the Lord.[4]

The Church as a Power and Government at Work in the World

Our calling is not to bring people to Christ so as to “live their best life.” It’s to bring converts to the lordship of Christ who governs all things and then to work out the implications of their faith in every sphere of life. Christianity is both a faith and a responsibility. Do we not demonstrate our faith by our good works? We do not gain our faith by works, but we show it in our obedience to God and His law-word. This is Christian Reconstruction.

To proclaim this message is anything but easy. Since 1965, the Chalcedon Foundation has labored consistently to remind and equip Christians for their Kingdom responsibilities, but in some ways, it’s as if we haven’t scratched the surface. Much more work needs to be done, but together we can be faithful to that calling—a calling which is needed right now. The world is shaking, but we have the message of God’s unshakeable Kingdom. Our age is experiencing darkness, but we offer the light of Christ’s reign through the church.

Chalcedon is not opposed to local churches. Far from it. Our concern is the message that’s being taught and the mission that’s being presented. We feel our role as a parachurch organization can hold great value to local churches, but not until they embrace the greater vision of God’s advancing Kingdom in history. Hopefully, the times in which we live will drive more and more churches to consider the fact that the only way forward is by applying the faith to every sphere of life and utilizing God’s tithe to establish alternative means of government and welfare.

A church is thus not essentially a building or an institution, although both can be manifestations of its life. It is a covenant people who believe and apply the covenant law-word to all of life and who seek to bring men, nations, and all spheres of life under the dominion of Christ as Lord. Thus, while the church may be a building and an institution, and both can be important and needed aspects of its life, it is primarily a power and a government at work in the world.[5]

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[1] R. J. Rushdoony, Thy Kingdom Come: Studies in Daniel and Revelation (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 2001), p. 10.

[2] R. J. Rushdoony, An Informed Faith: The Position Papers of R. J. Rushdoony (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 2017), p. 327.

[3] R. J. Rushdoony, Systematic Theology in Two Volumes (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1994), p. 745.

[4] R. J. Rushdoony, A Word in Season: Daily Messages on the Faith for All of Life, Volume 5 (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 2014), p. 127.

[5] Systematic Theology, p. 745.

Chalcedon Editorial
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