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Holiness is not contagious, but uncleanliness and sin are.

R. J. Rushdoony
  • R. J. Rushdoony,
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CA Farmer 234:10 (May 15, 1971), p. 23.

You can catch a cold from your friends, but can you catch good health? The answer is very obviously, no. As God made clear to the prophet Haggai long ago, holiness is not contagious, but uncleanliness and sin are (Hag. 2:10–14).

The fact is almost too obvious to be stated. Yet it must be repeated, because our generation has apparently forgotten that good apples can’t change bad apples, but bad apples can affect the good ones. Parents often allow their children to move in very unclean circles, morally derelict groups. Then they justify it, saying, “My child can be a real influence for good there.”

Can anyone be an influence for good when he is morally compromised to begin with? The degenerate philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau once accompanied a prostitute to her room, undressed, got in bed with her, and then tried to lecture her on the evil of her ways. He was in the wrong place and the wrong position for any such preaching.

Evil is contagious. Man as a fallen creature has, at his best, enough sin in him to respond to evil if he allows himself too much contact with it. Righteousness, however, is not contagious. It is a product of saving faith and a steady growth in holiness, in a process known as sanctification. Righteousness is a product of faith, discipline, and work.

A beautiful house can burn down in an hour. It takes weeks to build or rebuild it. The ease of evil’s power is precisely in its destructiveness, and destruction is an easier process than construction.

It is for this reason that Scripture emphasizes godly discipline and, also, separation. We need discipline to school us in righteousness, and separation to avoid the contagion of evil.

There is no substitute for discipline. It is discipline which provides the muscles and power of moral character. Professional and amateur athletes alike require a disciplined training period in order to be able to compete successfully. We cannot expect less in the realm of morality. Spiritual exercises are as valuable in their area as physical exercises are to the athlete.

The idea, therefore, that contagion can produce health or character is nonsense. The Bible compares the discipline of faith and character to sowing a field. It takes time for the harvest to come, “but to him that soweth righteousness shall be a sure reward” (Prov. 11:18).

R. J. Rushdoony
  • R. J. Rushdoony

Rev. R.J. Rushdoony (1916–2001), was a leading theologian, church/state expert, and author of numerous works on the application of Biblical law to society. He started the Chalcedon Foundation in 1965. His Institutes of Biblical Law (1973) began the contemporary theonomy movement which posits the validity of Biblical law as God’s standard of obedience for all. He therefore saw God’s law as the basis of the modern Christian response to the cultural decline, one he attributed to the church’s false view of God’s law being opposed to His grace. This broad Christian response he described as “Christian Reconstruction.” He is credited with igniting the modern Christian school and homeschooling movements in the mid to late 20th century. He also traveled extensively lecturing and serving as an expert witness in numerous court cases regarding religious liberty. Many ministry and educational efforts that continue today, took their philosophical and Biblical roots from his lectures and books.

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