“Let’s go see Rushdoony in Vallecito this Sunday; what do you think?” It was 1996, and the world was as busy as ever. I was having dinner with my friend Byron Reese in Palo Alto while doing a stint in San Francisco for my employer. He had a sweet red convertible Mustang that made his invitation very inviting indeed.
I knew who Rushdoony was, having been introduced to him ten years earlier by Eugene Newman. He drove all the way from Detroit to Toronto just to play us a Rushdoony tape and then have a discussion about it, something that impressed me more than the lesson did. But going to Vallecito was the start of something bigger than I realized at the time. I was only beginning to appreciate the man we were about to meet in person for the first and only time in our lives.
The Birth of a Notion
About twenty years earlier, in 1975, my dad took me to the Ontario Science Center where we saw a film about computers and “Moore’s Law,” the now-famous proposition that computing power would double for the same price every eighteen months. I was seventeen and had a great desire to perform some work for God. I decided that this was something worthy to be captured for Christ; the growing power of computers seemed like an excellent tool to employ for God’s Kingdom.
While at Reformed Bible College, my friend Doug Vos and I started Computers for Christ to try to build on this idea. It was 1979, and IBM was just starting to think about selling PCs. We read every issue of BYTE magazine and dreamed about somehow putting this knowledge to work for God’s Kingdom.
Several years later I was married, finished with college, and looking for a job. I had spent some time in pre-dentistry and carbon chemistry without learning much, and I earned a degree in classical civilizations, which convinced me that Christianity needed to be de-Greek-ified. The Greeks were thoroughgoing humanists.
Looking for a job to support my family, I found that there were not many openings to be found in which this degree would be of any help. While working any odd jobs I could find, I entered a community college for one year, earning my diploma in telecommunications management. With this diploma I was able to land a job quickly, and I began my life as a professional computer geek.
Computers were still very new, and most people didn’t understand them well. I wasn’t brilliant, but I discovered how to use CompuServe and then the newly formed Internet to solve any problems that I came to, giving me an edge many people didn’t have.
I discovered the Christian Reconstruction movement while in college and read almost all of Gary North’s books. One of the new books at that time was a co-authored work called Fighting Chance: Ten Feet to Survival written by Gary North and Arthur Robinson. I bought quite a few of these to hand out to people I knew, but I had a thought: with the new abilities of the computer, you could scan a book and place it on a floppy. You could put it in your computer, copy it, and make another floppy that would be just as good as the first one. You could give this copy to someone else, and he could make copies, and then his friends could make copies, and the book could be spread faster and cheaper than anyone could ever imagine with a paper book.
I had proposed this idea to some people before, but was not given a chance. This time, however, when I proposed it to Dr. Robinson, he listened to me seriously, and after I finished, asked, “So what kind of scanner should I buy?” It was the beginning of what would be a longstanding relationship between Dr. Robinson and me.
During the following years I worked for EDS (a large computer corporation) as a systems engineer during the day, while doing work on the side for both Dr. Robinson and Gary North. For Gary North I created freebooks.com, and with Dr. Robinson I created robinsoncurriculum.com and the software for the first version of the Robinson Curriculum, a computerized facsimile of the homeschooling process Dr. Robinson used to homeschool his children after his wife died. This curriculum was created in response to the rising godlessness of the public schools and the need for a curriculum that could be used by parents unable to cope with teaching multiple children in multiple subjects every day.
With all of the work I put into these projects, along with my day job at EDS, I came close to having a nervous breakdown. When the first version of the curriculum was brought out, the Internet sales supplemented my income, but it became too difficult for me to maintain both the curriculum work and my job, so I had to make a decision. Either I had to trust that the sales of the curriculum would grow and God would help me with what I believed was my calling in life, or I could remain with the more reliable job I had with EDS.
In the end, I decided to see if I could make a living working at home. Perhaps I was so tired through overwork that the thought of home was more appealing than it might have been otherwise, but I decided to trust myself to God and hope in His aid. The sales of the curriculum did grow, and I was able to support my growing family while carrying out my calling. It was a dream come true for me, and I believe God’s providence clearly helped me through this difficult time.
Eventually Dr. Robinson and I expanded and upgraded the curriculum and made the website even more extensive. God blessed me with a steady income, and I felt I now had the time and energy to move on to another project that I had thought of for many years.
In 1998 at a dinner at our church, I was talking to a friend, Glenn Moots, who told me about a vast collection of sermons and lectures on audiotape, including many lectures by R. J. Rushdoony, at the Mount Olive Tape Library. The story of that amazing collection of material stayed in my mind through the following years, and I thought how wonderful it would be to take that collection into the twenty-first century by digitizing them, making them easily available and preserving them for future generations.
It took until March of 2002 to find a machine, which, with some modification, would enable me to digitize tapes at sixteen times normal playback speed, both sides at a time and two tapes at a time. In other words, if a tape was an hour long, it would take only 1/64th normal play time for me to record the tape in a digital format on my computer. It was God’s providence that I was able to get this machine because with the advent of CDs, technology was leaving the tape further and further behind. Tape player technology could be said to have come to its greatest heights by 2002.
Now I only needed the tapes. I already had an agreement with George Calhoun giving me the right to digitize the Mount Olive Tape Library, but some of the organizations that followed in the wake of the great men whose lectures were included in the Library did not wish to lose control of their material, so I was not allowed the entire collection. But Chalcedon allowed me Rushdoony’s tapes, and since that was the lion’s share of the collection, with over 1,600 lectures, I happily busied myself with this, the most beautiful gem of the treasure trove.
It has now been four years. Almost all of Rushdoony’s material has been digitized, and much of it has been cleaned (of background hums and noises) and organized. Most of the material is available through Chalcedon on CD and as downloadable MP3.
My wife and six children, ages eight to eighteen, help with many aspects of my work.
Dinner with Rush
“You bet! When do we leave?” We drove early, before sunup, into the heart of California. We had little trouble finding the church, which didn’t look much like a traditional church. I had only spoken to Rush on the phone. It so amazed me that such a great man would answer his own phone that I was left almost speechless.
We heard a good lesson by Rush from the book of John on the miracle of the wine of Cana. After the service, Rush and a coworker asked us to lunch. We were instructed to follow them. Rush drove. It was a cool day, and he wore an insulated vest over his clothes. While he drove, we could see him in the car ahead talking animatedly to the person with him, using his right hand to make points.
At the restaurant, a family style, down-home place, Rush ordered first, an open-faced turkey sandwich with dressing and gravy on top. The man with him said he would have the same; then I ordered the same. Byron was tempted, out of politeness, to order the same, but he really wanted a Monte Cristo sandwich, a large, breaded, deep-fried ham sandwich, not only extremely unkosher, but unhealthy as well. Rush looked a bit disapproving at his order, and somehow the topic of keeping Old Testament dietary laws came up. He said, “I think God tells us the best way to eat, and we should follow it.” Byron wished he had ordered the turkey. From this point on I began to ponder the ongoing validity of all of God’s laws—even though we see them from a different perspective this side of the Resurrection of the Messiah. This is now the single most invigorating paradigm of my life.
I asked him if I could digitize his books and make them available on the Internet. He thought that Dorothy (his wife) might need the income they provided should he die, so he said no.
It was a great privilege to meet Rush and have dinner with him, but I have gotten to know him a lot better since then through his writings.
A proper biography has yet to be written about Rush. Suffice it to say here, though, that, through a series of unique and unlikely circumstances, God provided to us in the person and work of R. J. Rushdoony a curriculum in applied Biblical law, a reform of a wayward Christianity, and a vision for God’s Kingdom that will serve us for many generations to come.
God’s Law Still Applies
I had an inkling of this when, later in that same year, Glenn Moots had told me about the Mount Olive Tape Library and how it included all of Rushdoony’s tapes. Immediately I had written to George and told him I felt called to digitize those tapes, especially those by Rushdoony. I knew that time was going to compromise those tapes and make them less and less viable. It then took me several years to create a high-speed digitization system (not a mass market item) and start the work. But it did finally all happen. Meanwhile, both George and Rush passed on, but Rush’s teachings will still be alive for generations to come.
Once I started digitizing the tapes and turning them into MP3 files, I could also easily listen to them, and I did, every day. After a few months of listening every day, I was in Rush mode. Things started to clear up in my head. My posture improved. My brain woke up and started learning new things and relearning things I thought I knew. It was like getting an upgrade from black and white to color and then to HD (high definition).
I started buying MP3 players for my wife and each of the older kids with instructions that they listen to a lesson of Rushdoony every day. I had an MP3 player installed in the car and now have a fancy phone (Cingular 8125 with a 2 GB memory card and The Core Pocket Media Player) with room for lots of Rushdoony so I can easily go to class and sit at the feet of Rush no matter where I am.
For their inheritance, I am making a portable hard drive full of all these materials for each of the children. Over time, Lord willing, I will have it all organized and searchable and set in a lifelong curriculum format.
Now I must wax theological for a minute. Jehovah, our God, has revealed Himself to us in two ways, through His inscriptured law-word and through His incarnated law-word. You cannot understand the one without believing the other. I am enthusiastic about Rush because he is enthusiastic about God’s law-word. “But he that is greatest among you, shall be your servant” (Matt. 23:11). R. J. Rushdoony serves me every day as I listen to him teach me, in good Levitical fashion, the law-word of God.
These tapes are all now available as MP3 files at chalcedon.edu for regular supporters and at chalcedonstore.com individually.
- Arnold Jagt
Arnold Jagt is a self-employed computer expert dedicated to developing Christian education resources on the internet. He has developed numerous web sites including RobinsonCurriculum.com and Freebooks.com. He has done a great service in converting all of R. J. Rushdoony’s lectures into the mp3 format. He currently resides in Michigan with his wife Ann and six homeschooled children.