People told my father, Rousas John Rushdoony, that Chalcedon was a mistake when he formally began it in 1965. The problem, they said, was that it was dedicated to an idea, one so broad and sweeping that its mission would be too hard to define or inspire financial support.
Some suggested he jump on the anti-communist bandwagon; at least people could tangibly identify the Marxist threat. Worse yet, when he identified self-consciously Christian education as a priority for the reconstruction of a godly order, he was viciously treated by those whose professed theology was closest to his. The Christian reconstruction of society and culture in terms of a rigorous submission to the transcendent rule of God has always been a harder sell than the subjective “spirituality” of an other-worldly pietism.
The impact of Chalcedon’s work has nevertheless been significant, as witness the testimony of its critics, both those within the church and secular academia. Churchmen tend to ignore it. It is the secular critics who keep returning to Chalcedon, and particularly the writings of my father, as significant, even fundamental, to understanding what they group collectively as “the Religious Right.” It is the secularists, particularly those who decry the decline in the progress of liberalism (which they now call progressivism), who see R. J. Rushdoony as the godfather of right-leaning Christian activism.
The reason is that they see no depth or extension to most aspects of the Religious Right. Many groups focus on single issues or limit themselves to a specific course of action, such as politics, education, or the family. In trying to understand some larger unifying factor to these assaults on humanistic liberalism, they often find the writings of R. J. Rushdoony. “Ah,” they say, “Rushdoony had the big idea, the master plan. He envisioned the Christianization of every aspect of life. He must be the mastermind, the godfather of the Religious Right.” They become conspiracy theorists and see Rushdoony as the source of all they fear and loathe, largely because he described a larger picture, a worldview that had far-reaching implications. When Hillary Clinton referred to a “vast right-wing conspiracy,” she was not creating a new idea but rather speaking to the fears of her base.
Because most leaders and groups on the Religious Right only speak to limited issues, the tendency has been to see Rushdoony as their source. This is not to say this observation is at all accurate. When a child skips numbers on a dot-to-dot drawing, we look at the result and say, “This can’t be right.” Likewise, when we hear that Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and the neoconservative Republicans in Washington, D.C., get their marching orders from Rushdoony, we immediately say, “Wait, this picture doesn’t make any sense. You connected the wrong dots.”
He was not the architect of the Religious Right (which is a largely political agenda), though he certainly inspired some of its leaders and supporters. Those would not, however, include the Republican leadership and not at all the neoconservatives. Yet the counter-attacking secularists are right about one thing (more perceptively than most in the church): they see in R. J. Rushdoony a broad, consistent worldview that makes the Christian faith applicable to every imaginable part of life and thought.
Chalcedon’s work is to further that application. We know my father’s work was, ultimately, only a call to renounce humanism in church, state, family, and elsewhere and seek “first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness” (Matt. 6:33). Chalcedon exists to call men to their duties as citizens of the Kingdom of God and His Christ.
Nevertheless, the writings of R. J. Rushdoony are an important means of teaching men their Kingdom duties. His contribution to that educational process dwarfs that of any other man of his or our time.
When most men die, their writings soon follow. Of all the quality writings of the nineteenth century, few are still available. As we go back in time, far fewer survive. Only those few that continue to sell well remain. The rest tend to be lost to the future. Other factors also exist. The rights to the writings of former Chalcedon scholar Otto Scott are in the control of a family member who shut down his website and has yet to make any of his work available. Unless this changes, his influence will decline precipitously within a few years.
It is my personal responsibility to my father and Chalcedon’s institutional responsibility to its founder that the works of R. J. Rushdoony be preserved and disseminated. This is not because we venerate a man but because we recognize his invaluable contribution to the church in its coming struggles. These works are many and varied and cannot be adequately described in a brief space. They include titles that were in print when he died and those that were out of print that are being reissued.
At this time there are more Rushdoony titles available than ever before. This preservation includes also those manuscripts that were completed but never published. This year alone we shall publish Deuteronomy, the last of the Pentateuch series, and new titles on confession (The Cure ofSouls and Sovereignty). Several more titles are in the works. A major project beginning to come together is the republication of twenty-five years of columns from The CaliforniaFarmer in a series of seven books. I have collected huge stacks of manuscripts on the church, the state, and the family. Other manuscripts include essays on Indians, charity, revolution, subversion, ethics, art, economics, magic and witchcraft, and more.
My father wrote constantly, whether he could foresee quick publication or not. He wrote because he believed that Christian Reconstruction, that “big idea” behind his work and the founding of Chalcedon, was a long-term commitment and needed to address every area of life and thought. He published what he could in his lifetime, but consciously wrote to a church that largely rejected his ideas because he felt that was his calling.
R. J. Rushdoony was not the architect of the Religious Right. His vision went beyond its largely negative (“anti” this or that) and political goals. He was a preacher, a teacher, and a theologian. He preached the Kingdom of God as a present and future certainty in an era of failing humanism. He taught men to think in terms of what they professed to believe. And, as a theologian to a compromised antinomian church, he recalled the people of God to an uncompromising obedience to God’s law.
We often wonder if our constant references to R. J. Rushdoony will cause a misconception that we follow a man and not Christ. Reformed thought is still smeared with the false accusation that it follows John Calvin more than Christ. But God repeatedly reminds us of great men of faith in telling us that He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The very real heritage of faith we see in those patriarchs never detracts us from distinguishing between God and men of God. Chalcedon merely stands on the long-term importance of the very human and fallible but still great man of God my father was.
Our mission, therefore, is to teach men faithfulness to the Kingdom of Jesus Christ while acknowledging our generation’s indebtedness to the writings of R. J. Rushdoony. They are, at the same time, a critique of the approaching failures of humanism and statism as well as a witness against false pretenders within the church. Likewise, they are a blueprint for a compromised church for repentance from its repudiation of the sovereign God and His law.