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The Basic Ingredients for Success in the Social Order

By Chalcedon Editorial
February 27, 2019
Scripture gives us the basic ingredients for success: the godly family, and the system of elders. The early Christians created new institutions, all aspects of the Kingdom of God: a state within a state, a church within the existing church of Israel (the Temple and synagogues), a welfare system (the diaconate) and much, much more.[1]

Christian Reconstruction is always from the ground up, but if you listen to a good many Christians, you’ll hear far more about politics, culture, or the economy than you will the work of reconstruction. It’s a common shortcoming to place blame on our institutions, and a good reason for that is to avoid discussing our responsibilities. That’s because it’s always easier to vote our faith than it is to apply it.

What are we to do then about changing the social order? Rushdoony gives us some of the basic ingredients found in the family, the eldership, and the diaconate. And if you’re familiar with Rushdoony, you’ll assume that his view of these areas and institutions were broader than most theologians. For example, Rushdoony writes,

The church calls and ordains her elders, but there is little reason to limit the office to the church. Christians in education, civil government, the sciences, law, and other professions can constitute themselves as Christian bodies and examine and ordain men who will further the law and rule of God in their sphere. The eldership is a calling from God, and the church is one agency in which the calling is fulfilled.[2]

An Ecclesiology of the Kingdom

Rushdoony’s view was an “ecclesiology of the Kingdom” so his concept of the church was more comprehensive than simply a religious institution. For him, the church as the body of Christ was almost synonymous with the visible reign of God though His people:

[T]he church is more than the local building and congregation. The term is closer in meaning to the Kingdom of God. It has reference to the called people of God in all their work together for the Lord.[3]

However, this does not abstract the institutional church but rather makes it a training center for godly dominion:

Thus, since the fall, the church has a task of redemption through Christ. Man must be restored into fellowship with God; this fellowship requires the restoration of man first of all into God’s grace: salvation. The work then is the application of the aspects of God’s image, righteousness, holiness, knowledge, and dominion, to every area of life and thought. The church is God’s armory for this purpose. The church issues God’s draft or conscription call, trains the troops for action, and sends them out weekly to conquer in Christ’s name.
In such a view, the prophetic, royal, and priestly offices of man are given their due functions under God. Instead of precipitating a withdrawal from the world, the church then becomes the instrument whereby all things are made new (Rev. 21:5).[4]

Rushdoony argued that the problem with too many denominations is that they identify the faith with the institution and therefore church leaders seek to conform members to the institution rather than equipping and sending them out into the Lord’s field to exercise dominion. You can’t adequately advance God’s Kingdom if you’re consumed with building yours!

We cannot isolate the rule of God to the institutional church nor the government to that of the state. God’s rule is decentralized throughout many spheres, but the foundation to all government and rule is the family.

The Basic Government of the Family

The office of elder was more than tribal: it originated in the family; the head of the family was its elder. God thus ordained that the family be the nucleus of government; Moses was not called upon to create a novel and rootless government but to use and develop an existing one which, in the providence of God, is basic to all government.[5]

The “nucleus of government” is the family, but because it’s based upon flesh and blood and does not bear stone pillars like a state capitol building; feature a logo like an international corporation; or is housed in something like a Vatican City, men demean the family as something far less than an institution.

However, the family is where God will raise up elders to govern in multiple spheres of life, and the thrust of Christian Reconstruction is to empower the trustee family to do just that. Rushdoony describes this as God’s essential pattern for all government:

The trustee family is clearly the Biblical pattern; it is society’s basic institution; it is a law center as well as a life center; and is the basic governing force.[6]

What a tremendous amount of responsibility, power, and influence this places on us as Christian families. The work of reconstruction begins with us, but are we fueling our families with that vision by the power of Christian education? Are we amplifying such a mission from our pulpits and study groups? It’s good to study and teach theology, but theology is for godly action and not merely an intellectual exercise. God has called us to govern.

The pattern is a clear one: a high degree of decentralization, with a strong emphasis on the individual and his family to govern in their spheres and to provide the necessary support to enable the Levites, or the deacons and their coworkers, to minister in God’s Name.[7]

The Diaconate: Christian Levites

Lest we steer into another ditch of placing too much upon the family, the simple point to note is that the primacy is the Kingdom of God, not any one institution. We need the institutional church as much as we need the godly family and even the civil magistrate. The importance is God’s covenant, law, and Kingdom.

God’s Kingdom is much more than the Christian Church, state, school, and family, and it is more than time and history. The necessity for salvation, God’s Kingdom, and God’s church refers to more than man’s institutions, although it can be inclusive of them.[8]

Still, these are theological propositions, but what about acting on them? God’s Kingdom is more than any one institution, but it includes them, so at that point we ask, “What can any one institution do to further the visible reign of God in history?”

For the church, much of the emphasis is placed upon the presbytery, or elders, but in Rushdoony’s powerful book, In His Service: The Christian Calling to Charity, he highlights the great need for a restoration of the diaconate—a ministry that’s lost its meaning over the centuries:

There is no adequate history of the diaconate, but one fact in its history deserves both attention and revival. Just as the presbyter’s calling is a full-time ministry, so too the deacon’s service requires a full-time commitment. As the church revives and strengthens the diaconate and makes it a vocation for those called to it so too will the church grow and society become steadily Christianized. Nothing is clearer from Acts than the fact that the seven deacons were not part-time workers but full-time servants of Christ. The Christian Levites were the functioning grace and mercy of Christ’s Kingdom. The deacons revealed clearly that Christ’s Kingdom is indeed a government. The works of charity carried on by the deacons were in marked contrast to the costly and evil welfarism of Rome. At times, this made deacons a special target of persecution because their work not only manifested Christ’s royal government but also His grace and mercy.[9]

If we keep in mind that charity and service are forms of leadership and government, then we will better understand the central role that the diaconate plays in manifesting the Kingdom of God in the social order. Because of a lack of Biblical tithing—God’s means of social financing—and a weak diaconate, the state has assumed the role of provider and ruler. Dominion belongs to the state because Christians abdicated the responsibility.

It cannot be stressed too heavily that social financing is a necessity. If God’s covenant people do not provide it, then the state must and will. The present welfare state is in part due to the dereliction of Christians who have withdrawn the faith into the inner life of man … Wherever the Christian community abandons its necessary task of government and help, other forces take it over.[10]

What began as seven appointees in the Book of Acts (Acts 6:1–7) can become as extensive as need be as we see a restoration of the Christian Levites (deacons) who are supported by the tithe to create alternative means of government, education, welfare, and more. Try to imagine the impact of the combined force of the trustee family, Christian education, strong churches, an active diaconate, and tithing. It’s no wonder Rushdoony would refer to these as “the basic ingredients for success.”

At Chalcedon, we labor to reach more and more Christians with this simple message of Christian Reconstruction, and as the world appears to grow darker, the opportunities to share this message grow even greater. People want solutions, but they’re looking to politicians, pietism, or a rapture, when the answer is found in their embracing of their responsibilities in Christ’s Kingdom.

Please help us reach them. You can do that today by becoming a Chalcedon Underwriter. Click now to learn more.

[1] R. J. Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law: Law and Society (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1986), p. 369.

[2] R. J. Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law (Phillipsburg, PA: P&R Publishing, 1973), p. 742.

[3] R. J. Rushdoony, Systematic Theology in Two Volumes (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1994), p. 670.

[4] ibid., pp. 670-671.

[5] ibid., p. 680.

[6] ibid., p. 671.

[7] R. J. Rushdoony, In His Service: The Christian Calling to Charity (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 2009), p. 158.

[8] Systematic Theology, p. 678.

[9] In His Service, p. 160.

[10] ibid., pp. 4–5.


Topics: Charity, Christian Reconstruction, Church, The, Culture , Dominion, Education, Family & Marriage, Government, Justice, Theology

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