The Inescapability of "Perspectivism"
"People do not rally to scholarship," observes Rushdoony, "they rally to a cause." People do not rally to scholarship precisely because scholarship is not something that inspires people. No one is really passionate about scholarship because the very nature of scholarship — certainly modern scholarship — includes a commitment to a dispassionate, objective search for truth. Actually, this dispassionate approach, what Richard Hofstadter refers to as a certain "playfulness" of intellectuals, has been abandoned by the most recent scholars, the so-called postmodernists. Following Nietzsche, the postmodernists are committed to "perspectivism," the idea that every individual speaks from a particular perspective from which any attempts to grasp or articulate a rational, objective truth is nothing but a sentimental mirage. Nietzsche insisted that man's reason is restricted by his nature and that what the philosophers considered the objectivity of reason was nothing more than the rationalization of a particular human perspective. Nietzsche and the postmodernists are on the right track in this observation, though that track does not lead them to the right destination.
The Biblical teaching, set forth by men like Dooyeweerd, Van Til, and Rushdoony, is that men do indeed speak from a particular perspective — and that perspective eventually reduces either to covenant-breaking or covenant-keeping. Man's perspective is that which glorifies either the creature or the Creator. The cause which inflames consistent covenant-breaking man is the cause of dismissing, denying, and decimating God and his word and work. The cause of consistent covenant-keeping man is no less passionate — glorifying God and enjoying him forever.
Chalcedon's cause within this covenant-keeping context is bold and forthright. It is that historic, orthodox, Biblical Christianity should govern every area of thought and life. Chalcedon's cause is simple, radical, and comprehensive. It admits no division between the "private" and "public" spheres. If God is sovereign and Jesus is Lord, this divine sovereignty and Lordship is designed to engulf every aspect of human existence — not just the private and "spiritual," for instance.
Man's sin has polluted every area of life. In his Sacred Scriptures, however, God has outlined his will for man and all areas of human existence. The only hope for man is faith in Jesus Christ and his substitutionary atonement. From this faith necessarily flows obedience — adherence to God's law in every sphere. Biblical law is the standard toward which godly man must consistently strive. Biblical Christianity is the only legitimate form of Christianity; it is summarized in the early ecumenical creeds and brought to its fullness in the great sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Reformation confessions. Its objective is nothing less than restoring Christian civilization.
Furnishing the framework for this restoration is Chalcedon's sole objective (note our vision statement inside the front cover). Its scholarship is neither dispassionate, nor neutral, nor objective — it is scholarship in service of a cause (as all scholarship is). All of our preaching and teaching and lectures and literature and counsel are motivated by this single objective — reorienting all areas of life to the standard of God's infallible word. This includes not only the individual and family and church, but also vocation, technology, economics, education, science, the state — and everything else.
Romanticism Goes to Church
We live in a highly anti-intellectual age. If the prevailing error of the eighteenth century was rationalism, the prevailing error of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries has been romanticism — hatred of the mind and worship of intuition, feeling, and emotion. This error is no less prevalent in the church than in the secular society. Christians during this century have abandoned to Satan and secularists one area of life after another, and then had the hypocritical gall to complain loudly about the pervasive evils of modern life — immorality, abortion, homosexuality, blasphemy, socialism, and so forth. It was the Christians' own pietistic inertia that created the vacuum into which modern secularism readily rushed. By and large, modern Christians are consummate narcissists — they live to worship the Great Self. They want to feel good about Jesus, and they will serve Jesus as long as Jesus is making them feel good about themselves. They even invent churches to foster this blasphemy. Notable examples are the laughing revivals and the church growth movement. They have adopted a dualistic approach to life no less intense than that of the ancient Greek philosophers — for many modern Christians and churches, escape from modern life into the recesses of personal feel-good-ism is what religion is all about.
These religious narcissists and others often complain about Chalcedon's being "too intellectual" or "too scholarly." What they really should be saying is that we take both the modern sinful predicament as well as the historic Christian solution very seriously indeed. A century and a half of ecclesiastical and social apostasy will not be assuaged by three sermonic points and a poem, four tearful verses of "Amazing Grace," mule-braying revivals, or super-glossy demographic church growth charts. Neither the latest version of Microsoft Windows nor revival of a pale imitation of Eastern Orthodox liturgy will solve the problem of the modern apostasy. The modern evil is a comprehensive evil, and comprehensive evils require comprehensive solutions. Even the modern Christians who do recognize and lament the evils spawned by modern secularism and ecclesiastical apostasy are usually blind to the real extent of the problem. They therefore advocate quick-fix solutions. They have been seduced by the ethos of instant gratification — they believe that they can overturn the effects of a century and a half of apostasy with one fell swoop. They are simply out of touch with reality.
Chalcedon's Theological Root Excavation
Chalcedon knows better. The deeply rooted apostasy of modern culture requires a theological root excavation. We cannot simply fuse a superficial, modern Christianity onto the lush stem of modern secularism. We must rethink every area of the modern outlook in terms of Sacred Scripture and Christian orthodoxy. This requires work. It requires sacrifice. It requires money. It just so happens that most modern Christians are not interested in a ministry that requires work, sacrifice and money. For this reason, Chalcedon does not appeal to modern liberalized generic Christendom any more than it appeals to theological liberalism itself. Rather, we appeal to those devout, rock-ribbed saints who believe that if the Bible is good enough for the church, it is good enough for the school and state; who believe that if Jesus Christ is Lord of the family, he is also Lord of the laboratory and the board room; who believe that if Christianity is good enough for them, it is good enough for their great-great grandchildren. We appeal to Christians who have a long-term vision for godly social change across the entire spectrum of life.
A gratifying and gifted number of younger men have emerged to carry on Chalcedon's work and the work of godly Christian civilization. They are carrying Rushdoony's vision into the twenty-first century. They are the vanguard of bold, Biblical leadership in the face of well-armed combatants like secular humanism, Islam, and New Age paganism. Chalcedon and its cadre of men are at the center of the struggle for the very soul of Western culture. As convinced postmillennialists, we are confident of long-term victory.
But there will not be long-term victory without long-term battles, and battles require resources. We appeal to you with the greatest sense of urgency to pray for this work, and support Chalcedon monthly. Phone Chalcedon (209/736-4365) or email us at [email protected] to find out how to become a Chalcedon underwriter to assist us in this task.
We cannot survive without your support. In the cause for godly reconstruction, time is of the essence.
- P. Andrew Sandlin
P. Andrew Sandlin is a Christian minister, theologian, and author. He is the founder and president of the Center for Cultural Leadership in Coulterville, California. He was formerly president of the National Reform Association and executive vice president of the Chalcedon Foundation. He is a minister in the Fellowship of Mere Christianity.. He was formerly a pastor at Church of the Word in Painesville, Ohio (1984-1995) and Cornerstone Bible Church in Scotts Valley, California (2004-2014).