I wrote “An Open Letter to Rousas John Rushdoony” twenty-five years ago for The Counsel of Chalcedon (May 1980). My appreciation for him remains unchanged. What follows is an abbreviated version of that letter:
My heart is overwhelmed with gratitude to the living God for what He has done in my life through you. “I thank my God every time I remember you” (Phil. 1:3).
I was introduced to your writings in 1971. Since that time I have studied no non-inspired books as intensely, thoroughly and continually as your books. As a result no one man has influenced my thinking, living, and preaching as you have, and I do praise God for that.
Most particularly have I devoured and digested your Institutes of Biblical Law, which I have read many times. In my opinion it is one of the most important books of the twentieth century. (However, I still heartily recommend the Westminster Larger Catechism on Sabbath-keeping and still enjoy pork and shrimp [Mk. 7:19]!)
The first time I came into contact with you personally was when you wrote me a letter after the publication of my article, “Why I Don’t Give Invitations: The Failure of the Invitation System to Uphold the Free Offer of the Gospel of Free Grace” in The Sword and Trowel several years ago. You gave me some advice in that letter which, at the time, I thought to be a little extreme, but which since then I have come to appreciate. You advised me not to ask people to join our church normally, but to allow them to be compelled by the Holy Spirit to come, since God blessed this method in your previous ministries. I have followed that advice and God has blessed our church through the years with many members.
Although you began ministering to me through your writings in 1971, I never met you until spring 1979 at the Atlanta Christian Training Seminar on “Christ, Politics and Morality.” Seeing and talking with you in person was important to me, because I saw clearly manifested in your life the patriarchal (Gen. 18:3-8) and apostolic (Ac. 16:15,34) qualities of graciousness, charm, warmth, hospitality, gentlemanliness and personal piety which are essential to our task of world conquest. It was important for me to see these things in you because too often intellectualization robs of warmth and graciousness. Contrary to your critics, this sad fact is not produced by your perspective, but by the indwelling sin that remains in us all.
Besides your influence on me personally, I am greatly aware of the Spirit’s influence through you on our church, which is not accidentally named Chalcedon Presbyterian Church. We deliberately and consciously stand in the tradition of both the Council of Chalcedon, 451 A.D., and in the Reformed perspective of the Chalcedon Foundation. Many of our people, including young people in their early teens, read your books because in them they hear truth, vital Scripturalness, practical victory-orientation, and power absent from emasculated forms of Calvinism and non-reformed evangelicalism.
Lastly, your influence on American Christianity is obvious to me as well. God has used your influence to awaken the charismatic and fundamentalist movements to political and cultural awareness, and to their responsibility to stand for Christ and the application of His Word in all the political, social, moral and economic crises of our day. More and more people from across the range of denominations are realizing that the choice today is between the reconstruction of America by the Law and Gospel or chaos. I praise God for this renewed vision and hope of victory through faith that God is working in the hearts and lives of the nation and world.
I pray that God will raise up more and more people to support, carry on and expand what you have pioneered. You have not dug new wells, you have cleaned out the old wells dug by our fathers (Gen. 26:18).
I also pray that God would keep on reforming us by His powerful Word and Spirit until that day “when the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Is.11:9).