At is with sadness, yet a spirit of hope, that this tribute is written to acknowledge a great man, Rousas John Rushdoony. His greatness, however, will probably remain one of the best-kept secrets of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, except for a devoted and loyal following that Dr. Rushdoony accumulated in his lifetime.
I did not have the opportunity to meet "Rush" (as he was called by his friends) more than half-a-dozen times during the past twenty years. We corresponded intermittently over this period. Eventually meeting him and knowing him more intimately was a privilege, a very great honor, and a thoroughly pleasurable experience. To be in Rush's company was always a most enjoyable experience.
In 1991, I made the first of several visits to Chalcedon and the home of Rev. and Mrs. Rushdoony. What was significant was that in all his work he always had time for guests. He and his wife enjoyed company. And the many visitors that passed by were always made welcome. For those not brave enough to drive the Californian freeways, Rush's hospitality always extended to driving to the airport to pick up his guests.
In his home, the hospitality was always friendly, warm, and intensely theological. Rush liked nothing better than to discuss life from a theological perspective. He was interested in the Australian economy and how it matched (or didn't match, as the case was more often) Biblical ideals. When the opportunity came for me to bring Rush to Australia for a conference in 1992, it was with humor that I would welcome him to the land where "socialism worked" and suggested he need only ask Australians on the street for verification of this.
It was on that visit that I also learned a very practical lesson about book reading. After more than twenty-four hours of traveling, Rush landed in Australia in the early hours of the morning. His dilemma was to sleep during the day and be awake at night, or somehow find a way to stay awake for another 15 hours so the body can fall into the local seep patterns. Rush's solution was simple: "Take me to the second-hand book stores." We managed to take in five bookstores before he was ready to call it quits for the day.
It was also on that occasion that I learned something else about Rush and his commitment to scholarship. As he was accumulating books to be shipped back to America, I tried a little humor on him. "Rush," I said, "you shouldn't buy more books until you've read all the ones you have already." I had been in his home and seen the 35,000 some books. Reading these would have been a monumental task.
In reply, Rush responded without a smile and in that slow Californian accent that Australians find so fascinating, "I may not have read all the books from cover to cover," he said, "but I know what is in every one of the books I have." To view his library and see his indexed notes in the books was evidence that this was no idle boast.
Rush's books tell the story of a man who was determined to provide an understanding of Christianity in a unique but important manner. He was not the usual abstract theologian. In making the Faith practical, Rush also made it exciting. By showing what an idea meant in practice in the past, he showed how we might work out our faith in the future. This is one of the main attractions of his work.
Despite his great learning, his ability to think in a structured and logical way, he always had time for ordinary people. He had, moreover, the ability to communicate with them in down-to-earth language. I think this is one reason his work is not popular in academic circles. He wrote with clarity. It was not possible to misunderstand the point he was making. His style of communication is indicated by his followers. The academics of this world, with few exceptions, were not his readership. Ordinary men and women, those seeking real answers that made sense, were the people who bought and read his books. These are the people who have been the backbone of support for Rush and over the years.
Rush was a man who knew the sadness of being maligned and misunderstood by those he sought to win to a better understanding of the Scriptures. Yet in this he never sought vindication for himself, for he knew that he was no more than the messenger of the great King and that it was not God's role to vindicate his messengers but to vindicate Himself.
And I think that if we had asked Rush what his desire for each one of us would have been, his reply would have been: "Be faithful to the end in all things."
Rush will be missed by all those who had the privilege of knowing him. He was like a father to us, offering words of wisdom and counsel, always encouraging. We loved him and now we miss him. And we look forward eagerly to that day in the future when we will all be united under King Jesus and pain and death and suffering are no more.
Rush knew his share of difficulties in this life, but they did not stop him from exercising his calling. He had a sense of destiny that is rare, and his family's historical contribution to the faith played an important part in developing his own contribution to the ongoing reform of the world. His contribution to a new Reformation will remain indelibly in the history of Christianity.
- Ian Hodge
Ian Hodge, Ph.D. (1947–2016) was a long-term supporter of Chalcedon and an occasional contributor to Faith for All of Life. He was also a business consultant in Australia, USA, Canada, and New Zealand, and a prominent piano teacher in Australia.