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An Open Letter to Rousas John Rushdoony

My heart is overwhelmed with gratitude to the living God for what He has done in my life through you. There is not a week that goes by that I do not praise God for you and your ministry. I thank my God every time I remember you, Philippians 1:3.

  • Joe Morecraft, III,
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(This letter first appeared in The Counsel of Chalcedon, May, 1980, when I [Rev. Morecraft] was 35 years old.)

Dear Brother,

My heart is overwhelmed with gratitude to the living God for what He has done in my life through you. There is not a week that goes by that I do not praise God for you and your ministry. I thank my God every time I remember you, Philippians 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. This is not to say that I have not also been greatly influenced by many of the Puritans and many Banner of Truth publications for which I also praise God.

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 this century. However, I still heartily recommend the Larger Catechism on Sabbath keeping and still enjoy pork and shrimp, Mark 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. I was more excited by that letter than my grandfather was when he shook hands with Calvin Coolidge! 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. For the past three and a half years I have followed it with the Lord's blessing. You advised me then 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. Four years ago we had fifty members, today we have over 200 members with close to 250 people in our worship service. Someone asked me recently what plan of church growth we have followed to experience such an increase. I answered we pray, pastor, and preach, and do not ask anyone (generally) to join the church. [Now it is 2001, we have around 500 members and, in addition, from our church have sprung three other churches in the Atlanta area. We still do not ask people to join the church, ordinarily.]

Although you began ministering to me through your writings in 1971, I never met you until the spring of 1979 at the Atlanta Christian Training Seminar on "Christ, Politics, and Morality," with Greg Bahnsen, sponsored by our church. 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, as is often the case with lesser lights in any movement, some young disciples are void of warmth and graciousness, having intellectualized your perspective, robbing it of the heartbeat that you have. Contrary to your critics, this sad fact is not produced by your perspective or system, but by the indwelling sin that remains within us all. Those frigid and sterile Calvinists, whose compassion and personal piety have shriveled, are the exceptions in our movement. Among my friends and associates and in my church, a full-orbed, thoroughly Biblical, well-balanced, theonomic, postmillennial Calvinism has fanned the flames of zeal, evangelism, faithfulness, faith, hope, love, and personal piety in our lives, rather than quenching them.

Besides your influence on me personally, I am greatly aware of the Spirit's influence through you on our church. Our church was not accidentally named Chalcedon Presbyterian Church, because we, deliberately and consciously, stand in the tradition both of the Council of Chalcedon (A.D. 451) and in the Reformed perspective of Chalcedon of Vallecito, California, of which you are president. The majority of our people, to one degree of awareness and consistency to another, are committed to the vision and perspective reflected in your writings, not because they slavishly follow any man, but because in your perspective they hear a ring of truth, a vital scripturalness and a power that are absent from scholastic and emasculated Calvinism and non-Reformed evangelicalism. Our church is in the grip of a vision the Christianization of the United States and the world; and we will not rest until Christ's banners are unfurled throughout the world and His sovereign rights recognized by all men everywhere, beginning in Atlanta, Georgia. As the introduction to our church directory says: "Chalcedon is committed to pray for and work toward the establishment of the crown rights of Jesus Christ over all the earth and the reconstruction of all aspects of human society by His inerrant and all sufficient Word. In fulfillment of the Great Commission, this goal amounts to nothing less that the Christianization of the world to the praise of the glory of His grace."

Lastly, your influence on American Christianity is so obvious to me as well. The awakening of the charismatic movement and the fundamental Baptist movement to political awareness and to their responsibility to stand for Christ and the application of His Word in the political, social, moral, and economic crisis of our day has largely been produced by God using your influence upon the leadership of these movements. More and more political conservatives, millions of charismatics and Baptists and a few Presbyterians are realizing that the choice today is clear: the reconstruction of America by Biblical law, along the guidelines your propose, or chaos. I praise God for this renewed vision and hope of victory through a faithfulness that God is working into the hearts of so many today. The sad thing is that, whereas the conservatives, charismatics, and Baptists appreciate your influence, many of the conservative Presbyterians view you as extreme and dangerous, thereby making themselves hostile to relevance regarding the critical issues of our day. When Presbyterians ought to be joining with you, their fellow Presbyterian, in advancing your thoroughly Reformed stance, instead, they oppose you and betray the influence of humanism on their own thinking. However, take comfort in this: He will redeem [your] soul in peace from the battle which is against [you] (Ps. 55:18). Let me assure you that many Presbyterians do join with you in working toward the Christian reconstruction of the United States and of our churches, to the glory of the highest authority of our land, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Be assured of our continued prayers for your health, welfare, and usefulness in the advance of God's triumphant kingdom. We also pray that God will raise up more and more people to support, carry on, and expand what you have pioneered in our day. You have not dug new wells, you simply cleaned out the old wells dug by our fathers, but stopped up through the years with a synthetic Calvinism (Gen. 26:18).

Pray for us that God in Christ would keep on reforming us by His powerful Word and Spirit until the day when the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Isa.11:9). SOLI DEO GLORIA!

Pro Rege,

  • Joe Morecraft, III

Dr. Joseph C. Morecraft, III, is a preacher of the gospel and a noted lecturer on contemporary political and historical trends in the United States and world at large. He is the founding pastor of Chalcedon Presbyterian Church (RPCUS) located near Atlanta, Georgia. He is married to the former Rebecca Belcher of Haysi, Virginia, who is a writer and an accomplished singer. They have four children and two grand-daughters.

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