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Beginnings
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Jesus Christ and the Beginnings of Christianity

Christ’s coming attracted political attention from the beginning, and Herod’s massacre of the children of Bethlehem, those two years old and younger, was one consequence. There was good reason for this. Although Christ’s kingdom was not of this world, it was definitely for this world and over this world.

R. J. Rushdoony
  • R. J. Rushdoony,
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"A Christian Survey of World History" (Chapter Seven)

Introduction

As against the pagan views of a chaotic universe, the Bible declares that God is the Creator of all things. As against a belief that the universe is ultimately meaningless or perverse, the Bible sets forth the total and gracious government of all things by God. Jesus declared concerning the persecution His disciples would undergo that God still reigns absolutely and would rule and over-rule all things. In Matthew 10:24-34, our Lord tells us:

The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord.
It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household?
Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known.
What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops.
And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both body and soul in hell.
Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.
But the very hairs of your head are numbered.
Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.
Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I also confess before my Father which is in heaven.
But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.
Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.
For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.

Our Lord tells us that life is indeed a battle, but it is a battle unto victory. All things are under the total government of God, not in Satan’s or man’s hands. All things that men do shall be revealed, judged, punished, or rewarded. God’s government and care are total, to the very hairs of our head. Confess me, Jesus said, before men, before My enemies, as you battle against
them, and I shall confess you before the Father. He had come not to unite good and evil, but to divide and destroy evil.

In the Bible we have thus a more unflinching and infallible account of the sin of man and the evil of history, but we also have the certain promise of victory.

Chapter Seven

Jesus Christ, of the House of David, was born in Bethlehem of Judea between 6 and 4 B.C. His birth and life are events which most historians, being in the Hellenic tradition, are content to mention briefly, at best, and then to ignore. They choose to ignore the Biblical record because it does not coincide with their conception of history, which leaves no room for the supernatural. By virtue of their naturalistic prejudice, they refuse to consider anything to the contrary and choose to act as if it were not there.

The Biblical record is clear-cut: Jesus was conceived of the Holy Ghost and was born of the virgin Mary. The miraculous events surrounding His birth were public knowledge; too many persons were involved in those remarkable events for them to have been secret. Long after all persons involved in the New Testament events were dead, and only after they were dead, rabbis venomously called Jesus the son of an adulteress and tried to spread scandalous stories concerning Him. It is significant that none such were written during His lifetime or in the years immediately thereafter, for there were too many living witnesses to disprove all such malicious tales. The rabbis waited until much later before setting down any such statement. The
absence of all open, contemporary Judean references to Jesus is due to this same fact: the life and miracles of Jesus were common knowledge, and to write anything to the contrary
would have discredited His enemies.

Christ’s coming attracted political attention from the beginning, and Herod’s massacre of the children of Bethlehem, those two years old and younger, was one consequence. There was good reason for this. Although Christ’s kingdom was not of this world, it was definitely for this world and over this world. God had been the King over ancient Israel. When He was rejected for a human monarchy, He used that monarchy, whose progressive breakdown He had ordained, to be both the vehicle of the coming Messiah, His Son, and also, by the failure of that human monarchy, to lead people to realize that their only hope of salvation is in God’s Kingship and Priesthood and in God’s Word, not in any human, political order.

The implications of the Messiah’s coming had been explained by the inspired prophets. He would save men from the power of sin and death through His own atoning and sacrificial
death as the representative of the elect, God’s chosen ones of every people, tongue, and tribe. He would come as the great King of the Universe, upon whose shoulders is the government
of all things (Isaiah 9:6), and He would be very God of very God, as that same verse of Isaiah affirmed.

God made it clear in speaking to Cyrus through Isaiah (45:7) that Cyrus’ dualistic religion was false: “I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil. I the LORD do all these things.” Instead of two gods, there is one totally absolute and sovereign God who creates, ordains, and governs all things.

Jesus Christ, by His incarnation, was both this sovereign and absolute God, the second person of the Trinity, and also truly and fully man. He was hated by the religious leaders for
“making Himself equal with God” (John 5:18), but they also hated Him for refusing to be their king of kings, for refusing to place His divine kingship and miraculous powers under their control (John 6:14-15). Jesus, in answer, declared that man could only partake of His humanity by accepting His sacrifice: that is, eat His flesh and blood, accept the sacrifice of His humanity for their sins (John 6:30-63). Man’s membership in the body of Jesus Christ and His Church, as set forth in the sacrament of the Lord’s Table, can thus be only a membership in His perfect humanity! There can be no bridging of the human-divine gap by man, and Christ’s incarnation is, as Chalcedon saw clearly, not to be understood in pagan terms, for it is a union without confusion of the two natures.

Jesus challenged the Satanic alliance of religion and earthly kingship, of hopes of salvation in and from a political order. In challenging the religious authorities He cited Psalm 82:6, “Ye are gods; and all of you are children (or sons) of the Most High” (John 10:34). Why were they so called, why had God addressed so extravagant a title to them? Because they are the ones “unto whom the word of God came” (John 10:35). By reminding them of this verse, Jesus reminded them of the sentence of death promised for failing in their responsibility: “Ye shall die like men”
(Psalm 82:7). Every member of the Sanhedrin knew that this was the conclusion of the quotation. Jesus indeed passed the death sentence on Jerusalem (Matthew 24).

The conflict between the two conceptions of the kingdom, God’s and Satan’s, was sharply presented in the Temptation. Satan’s would have miraculous economic security, the very stones turned into bread, and of a world in which it would be unnecessary for man to have faith, for great miracles would compel belief. Christ’s Kingdom instead called for faith and testing. As Paul stated it, “We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).

Jesus, moreover, made it clear that He stood in an exclusive and total relationship to God. As He stated plainly, “No one knows [or understands] the Father except the Son” (Matthew
11:27). He calls Himself the Son of Man, clearly a divine and messianic title.

On the cross, Jesus clearly appeared not as a victim, but as the suffering yet victorious Priest, Prophet, and King. When the dying thief, in liturgical language, invoked Jesus, saying, “Remember me,” Jesus answered as God, unconditionally promising him a place in Paradise “Today” (Luke 23:43). In the formal, legal language of family law, He made arrangements for the care of His mother Mary (John 19:26 f.). The messianic Psalm 22 was uttered, the supreme confidence then of Israel’s family prayer, Psalm 31, and finally, the priestly conclusion, “It is finished” (John
19:30).

In His resurrection, the power of sin and death was broken and the fulness of His kingdom proclaimed, that is, the great and final victory over sin and death which is to come with the end of history. 

The silence of historians then, and the silence of historians today, is eloquent. Try as they will, they cannot fit Jesus Christ into a Hellenic mold. Their usual course has been to
act as though He never existed, to attack the church for its every frailty and to bypass Jesus Christ. The efforts of critics to destroy the validity of the Biblical record have always
ended in a maze of self-contradiction and studied attempts to suppress the historicity of anything offensive to their naturalistic faith. They choose to deny the status of fact to anything
and everything that does not fit into their limited worldview, a method with very obvious weaknesses. 

The church Jesus established is not to be identified with His kingdom, which is His reign everywhere. A godly nation is a part of His kingdom, as is a Christian school or college, business, farm, or any other institution or activity, but none of these are parts of the church. The church is simply one aspect of Christ’s kingdom, entrusted with the ministry of the word and the sacraments, even as the Christian state has the ministry of justice in terms of God’s word. The church Jesus established was endowed, in the apostolic company, with gifts of the Holy Spirit as a witness to the living power and presence of Jesus Christ.

The church in the New Testament included men in high places and low, and may have numbered half a million by the time of John’s last writing. But it was a scattered group, meeting in homes (there is no record of a church building in the New Testament era), persecuted, and rife with many heresies. Judeans and exilic Jews brought in legalistic heresies, and the Gentiles brought in Hellenic and other heresies, as well as a low morality. The work of the church against these handicaps and persecution as well, seemed a hopeless task, but the true church has always been more than man: it is the living body of Jesus Christ, who defends and preserves His true church.

Paul, as the great missionary of the church, not only established churches in Asia Minor and Europe, but, by his epistles, also dealt with the heresies which arose. The world Paul and the other apostles faced was more like the twentieth century world than any other era. For the first time, history was dominated by great urban centers, a situation not to recur after the fall of Rome until the twentieth century. The old, established ways had been eroded; the old faiths and certainties were gone. Men were atomistic, in that they had none of the old loyalties to family, clan, country, or faith. It was every man for himself in a rootless and harsh world. Although all the old institutions were weakened or eroded, one institution had increased in strength: the state.
Men looked to the state for every kind of answer, hoped for salvation through political leaders and forms, and demanded security from the state.

It was also a world that was increasingly sick of war and wanted peace and security. Rome offered the Roman Peace, peace in the unity of the Empire and in submission to its jurisdiction and controls. Jesus had promised division in terms of Himself, not peace but a sword (Matthew 10:34-36). Even the closest ties of family were to be shattered in terms of allegiance to Him. The peace He offered was in sharp contrast to the world’s peace, and it was peace in the face of trying circumstances:

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).

The first persecution the Christians faced was from the Judean authorities, who worked throughout the Empire to create trouble for the Christians. After the Jewish-Roman War of 66-70 A.D. the persecutions came from the Roman authorities. 

That particular war was foretold and described by Jesus, who clearly presented Himself as the Lord of all history. When the Sanhedrin tried Him, He revealed to them that He was their judge and would soon come in the form of judgment upon them (Matthew 26:64). John 1:1-18 made clear who Jesus was: “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” This is the assumption of all the Scriptures.

The conclusion of one historian, John Warwick Montgomery, in The Shape of the Past (1962), is to the point:

Jn. 14:6 (Jesus speaking): “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no on comes to the Father, but by Me.” Acts 4:12 (referring to Jesus): “There is no salvation in anyone else at all, for there is no other name under heaven granted to men, by which we may receive salvation.” To disregard these testimonies of Jesus and of the primitive church concerning the uniqueness and finality of Christianity is to do no less than abrogate one’s position as a historian.

One very important point remains. Throughout the Old Testament, the plurality of the Godhead was clearly in evidence. The common word for God was “Elohim,” the plural of “El,” God, so that the reference is to Gods, except that Elohim is a plural noun taking a singular verb, indicating thereby the plurality of the Godhead and its unity. More than that, the Spirit of God is constantly in the Old Testament, as is also the Second Person of the Trinity, as the Angel of the Lord, as Wisdom, and in other names. In the New Testament the Trinity is plainly set forth and clearly delineated in many passages.

The implications of this doctrine are tremendous. Here is the answer to the old problem of the one and the many. For the Christian, it is not one or the other but both, for both are equally ultimate in the Godhead, the unity of God and the plurality of the Triune God. Thus, it is not for the Christian man or the state, but man and the state, not the individual or the group, but the individual and the group. It is neither anarchism or totalitarianism, but rather a proper place for both the one and the many, with neither one claiming all reality and obliterating the other. The basic problem of philosophy has here a marvellous solution — for those who want it. The social order which can alone preserve for man liberty and order must have its basis in a trinitarian faith in which the unity and the equality of the Three Persons is maintained, together with their equal ultimacy. To weaken Christian orthodoxy means therefore to open
the door to anarchy and totalitarianism.


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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