Though he was a controversial figure in many circles, many defenders of the orthodox Reformed faith affectionately looked to Dr. Rushdoony as a father and teacher. He was one of the men whom God raised up in the latter half of the 20th century to emphasize neglected aspects of Biblical Christianity, especially its societal implications, awaken the church to engage in the cultural battle for Christ’s Kingdom, and reject theological, philosophical, and personal compromise. While we mourn his loss in 2001, we thank Jesus Christ for giving us this precious gift, and rejoice with Dr. Rushdoony, as he is now part of the Church Triumphant, enjoying the presence of the triune God to whose Word and doctrine he devoted his entire life.
Dr. Rushdoony’s writings have made a tremendous impact on my own thinking. I will never forget the first time I read through his Institutes. His ability to show the application of God’s law to every area of faith and life was invigorating and challenging. I began to understand what David meant when he wrote: “I have seen an end of all perfection; your commandments are exceedingly broad.” Given the shallow and truncated version of the Bible espoused by the majority of evangelical churches, his works are revolutionary, demanding an entire reorientation of the Christian mind toward Christ, law, and liberty.
Dr. Rushdoony’s life exemplified how Christian theologians and pastors ought to engage the culture in which they live. God places each believer in a specific cultural climate and expects him to live out and defend his faith in it. When the response of evangelicalism to the ongoing moral collapse of our culture was defeatist eschatology (“Wait for the Rapture”), ethical pietism, and cultural compromise, he showed us our duty to stand for the truth of the entire Bible at exactly the place where it is under the fiercest attack. This included advocating the Bible’s principles of social, judicial, and economic justice, even when these were largely abandoned by the church and violently ridiculed in academic circles.
Dr. Rushdoony was a defender of the faith; this cannot be denied. His life demonstrates the abiding duty of every Christian to know the Bible, understand the culture, and issue a direct challenge to unbelief, autonomy, and rebellion.
Dr. Rushdoony’s message spawned a movement. Movements are always difficult to define, but it must be said that his writings and preaching have created a groundswell of affirmation that Biblical law and order, personal obedience to God’s law, and the reformation of society in terms of submission to Jesus Christ and His law are every Christian’s calling.
This is Dr. Rushdoony’s greatest contribution to the revival of Biblical Christianity in the late 20th century. He encouraged Christians to be renewed and purified in their minds by the authority of God’s holy Word. Even those in Reformed circles who cannot call themselves “Reconstructionists,” or who take issue with some of Dr. Rushdoony’s principles, are forced to clarify their positions in terms of sola Scriptura, which Rush, among many others historically, continually taught. It was this great principle that drew the ire of his enemies and the thanksgiving of his students. For if Scripture is not relevant, authoritative, and binding everywhere, it is not so anywhere. Its claims are comprehensive, and so must be our obedience if we would be Christ’s disciples.
Critics of Dr. Rushdoony might object to high praise of him on the grounds that he had many enemies or that his teachings were divisive. Great men, however, whom God raises up to lead the church out of a period of darkness and into the blessed realm of greater conformity to His Word, are not cheerleaders. Their message is not usually universally received, for they must go against popular sentiment and tradition to redirect the church toward the Kingdom of God.
All praise must go to our great God for the life, teaching, and legacy of Dr. Rushdoony. He was one of Christ’s wonderful love-gifts to the church. It is my prayer that even though he is now dead, he will continue to speak to generations to come, calling them to total obedience to Christ, cultural discipleship, and liberty in submission to Messiah the Prince.