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Restoring Spiritual Capital: Rushdoony’s Solution to World Crisis

The time of our greatest witness is “when salvation by politics is prevalent.” It is then that the church must press the total lordship of Christ in every sphere. Our role is therefore to be a witness to our time, but too much of our existence is built upon the sandy foundation of this present world system. We are not of this world (John 15:19), but our economics, science, justice, and education are built squarely upon the world’s foundations.

  • Christopher J. Ortiz,
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Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall. (Matt. 7:24–27 NKJV)

The city of man is near bankrupt, and I’m not referring to its economic condition—that is only a symptom of a more systemic crisis. Its bankruptcy is moral because its foundation is sin; and as the Apostle John declared, “He that committeth sin is of the devil” (1 John 3:8). In other words, the foundations of non-Christian world societies are devilish—as Rushdoony notes, they are all beast systems:

The beast, the symbol of human government and empire, of anti-Christian states and culture generally, represented the Roman Empire of St. John’s day, and all other anti-Christian orders. The beast represents the totality of all such empires in the ancient world, and all to come.1

In his commentary on the book of Revelation, Rushdoony sees beyond a contemporary beast limited to the period of the Apostle John. Instead, Rushdoony sees an archetype for all beast systems—systems that serve as the messianic child of Satan and the great hope of humanistic man:

The world is clearly Satan’s messiah. Man is man’s one and only savior for humanism. The humanist therefore delights in the centralization of power into the hands of human government, because this is his hope. The pretensions of apostate culture are his glory and hope. The humanist holds to the limitless possibilities of human culture and to the sovereignty of man’s rule, and he declares proudly, “Who is like unto the beast? Who is able to make war with him?”2

In some ways, we are beyond this type of humanistic optimism. Even though we witnessed glimpses of it in the messianic euphoria over President Obama, humanistic man only has a skeptical hope that the centralized state can deliver him. In other words, there is no such statist power that can elicit the type of beast worship necessary for complete totalitarian power without compulsion. The Soviet system collapsed; the American system is teetering; and the distrust of the institutions of banking, government, and industry are presently at their lowest. Therefore, fear shall be the attempted means to control as the state continues to absorb each pillar of society by coercion:

In political theory, in the name of the people, the modern state has swallowed up the people and reduced them to nothing. The state is now in theory and often in practice totalitarian. As a result, civilization is in crisis and decay. Material comforts are not lacking, but men’s hearts fail them for fear. The state has devoured the people and their institutions.3

The Church as Chaplain to the World Order

As I mentioned, there is a glint of hope that a new U.S. presidential administration will restore stability to the American scene; but even the political experts say that this euphoria will soon wear off as economic reality settles back in. The American populace will grow disenchanted with its institutions, but as Rushdoony notes, this coming disillusionment will yield a significant opportunity for the church:

The true saints, the true heirs of the kingdom, shall witness mightily during the period of the false heirs, when salvation by politics is prevalent. Against the humanism of the City of Man, the City of God proclaims the lordship and kingship of Christ.4

The time of our greatest witness is “when salvation by politics is prevalent.” It is then that the church must press the total lordship of Christ in every sphere. Our role is therefore to be a witness to our time, but too much of our existence is built upon the sandy foundation of this present world system. We are not of this world (John 15:19), but our economics, science, justice, and education are built squarely upon the world’s foundations. Therefore, if any one of these areas collapses, its effect upon the church will be manifest. By isolating the faith to personal sanctification, all other spheres are dominated by the humanistic order. Instead of modeling the fierceness of John the Baptist in laying the axe to the root, the church has taken the corner office in the new world order as the paid chaplain of American socialism:

[T]his socialistic alliance of big business with big government has added to itself big labor, big foundations, and statist education to make up our modern establishment, with the big churches as chaplains of this new order.5

We were able to truly witness a fitting symbol to Rushdoony’s assessment in the 2009 inaugural prayer by megachurch leader Rick Warren. While many conservative Christians lauded Warren for being so “Christian” in his prayer, they missed the even greater transgression: it symbolized and solidified the American church’s role as chaplain instead of prophet. Mr. Warren should have declined the invitation and used his pulpit to call the American system to repentance. This would have shown the church in opposition to the humanistic dream. Instead, the mainstream church has laid its hands upon an unclean head and now shares in the sins of the state
(1 Tim. 5:22).

Here is the posture of the purpose-driven church: obese, powerless, and lacking authority. All its talk of being “Kingdom-minded” reduces to moral attempts at being an “influence,” but a compromise with the world order is treason against our King. It is not enough to simply say, “Jesus is Lord.” You must press the total claims of His lordship in every sphere. This is the great opportunity that lies before us.

The Impotence and Strength of Modern Christianity

It is the truncated gospel that has reduced the power of the modern church. It is the isolation of the faith to matters of the heart, and a heaven-focused salvation, that has delimited the success of the Kingdom of God from advancing in every sphere. The “system” of the Christian faith is now an abridged one, and humanism has written in the remaining chapters:

The strength of the Christian can only be a “system,” i.e., systematic theology, a knowing, intelligent, and systematic obedience to the triune God, and a faithful application of God’s law order to every sphere of life. If the Christian operates without this system, he is a humanist without knowing it. And this is the reason for the great impotence of conservative, evangelical Christianity: it is neither fish nor fowl.6

The impotence of the modern expression of our faith is due to a syncretism of humanism and orthodox Christianity. Humanism is now the inescapable concept because without a systematic development of the implications of our faith in every sphere of life, humanism fills the gaps. The Christian is not aware of who he is, what he believes, or what are the implications of his faith. In short, as both Van Til and Rushdooony have stated, the Christian is not epistemologically self-conscious:

The humanists religiously deny every authority other than man, and their totalitarian state is a deliberately conceived man-god defying the order of God with man’s own order. The intensely powerful religious force of humanism, with all its hatred of God and God’s world of law and order, can never be defeated by people whose ground of operation is vaguely Christian and largely humanistic. The lack of Christian epistemological self-consciousness is one of the major reasons, if not perhaps the major, for the growing victory of the enemy. Christians are too often trying to defend their realm on humanistic grounds, with Saul’s armor, and as a result, they are steadily in retreat. Often, they are actually fighting for the enemy without knowing it.7

The enemy prevails because the Christian is basically a humanist—his faith is compromised and weakened at every point. Only systematic instruction in the responsibilities of the faith for every area of life will produce the type of Christian that can easily reverse the effects of humanistic dominion:

It is therefore of the utmost importance for Christians to develop epistemological self-consciousness. This means Christian education. It means a Christian philosophy for every sphere of human endeavor.8

Christian action in terms of Christian education is desperately needed. The world systems are reeling, and our calling is to equip the church for societal leadership. The failure of humanism is a door of opportunity, and we can only secure a defeat of it if the church can muster its forces. “[A] great and effective door has opened” (Rom. 16:9 NKJV), but much of the church is too hung over to get up off the couch:

Today the impotence and confusion of humanism is marked. It is wallowing in failure all over the world, in failure, but not in defeat, because there is no consistent Christian force to challenge and overthrow it.9

I may sound like a broken record, but the timing is even more crucial now as the battering winds of political, economic, and social tribulation are set to wreck the humanist dream. As Rushdoony said, humanism is failing, but it is not defeated—and it cannot be defeated without the advancing of Christian Reconstruction:

This points us to a third perspective, one to counteract moral disarmament: Christian reconstruction. This means facing up to the facts of the situation and recognizing how far gone we are, and it means driving that fact home to people. It means then re-educating and reconstructing society from the ground up. This means Christian schools instead of statist education. It means new and truly Christian churches instead of humanistic ones. It means building from the ground up in politics in terms of Biblical perspectives. It means Christian economics, godly science, agriculture, and so on. It means the centrality of the family, and it also means a Christian principle of authority as against a humanistic doctrine of authority.10 (Emphasis in original)

Restoring Spiritual Capital

Christian Reconstruction begins with a restoration of spiritual capital. The forerunner to the boom and bust of the world economy is a decline of faith and character, but this fact is not generally recognized. Therefore, the Christian cannot look to politics for the answer, for no political system can sanctify the mind and heart:

[P]olitics cannot produce character: Christianity must. The decline of faith is a decline of character and a decline of character is the forerunner of political decay and collapse. Christianity has an obligation to train a people in the fundamentals of God’s grace and law, and to make them active and able champions of true political liberty and order.11 (Emphasis in original)

Political mobilization can win marginal victories, but it cannot transform the nature of the man working within the political system. That’s why all political solutions are short-lived. Lasting change begins with a recapitalization of faith and character, and this is why the inflationary state will war against it:

[T]he greatest enemy of inflation is faith and character. Inflation and socialism attack as the enemy Biblical Christianity, because it is their common purpose to destroy the roots of capitalization.12

That’s why the real crisis of our time is not an economic one but a spiritual one. The devaluing of our currency should not be our greatest concern, but rather, the devaluing of spiritual capital. Men may rob the coffers of economic capitalism through taxation, inflation, and the debasement of fiat currencies, but that is only because the specie of spiritual capital is already cheapened.

The threat of monetary inflation is unsettling, but an overemphasis upon the protection of assets can obfuscate the real issue, viz. the already debased spiritual capital. Granted, we should strive to protect our investments by transferring our wealth from paper to hard assets, but we must do that in tandem to our continual “reinvestment” in spiritual capital. The cable news networks are replete with statistics monitoring the rising prices of gold and silver, but there are no analysts decrying the loss of spiritual capital:

Surely there is a mine for silver, and a place where gold is refined … but where can wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding? Man does not know its value, nor is it found in the land of the living. (Job 28:1, 12–13 NKJV)

Man does not know the value of wisdom; therefore no “Wall Street” exists to support it. Wisdom has no NASDAQ that rivets the attention of men, because none are concerned about its daily rise and fall in the marketplace of man. The financial pundits in media are only sweating the gain and loss of capital investments, but none of these are concerned with wisdom’s value. Their god is mammon, and so they cannot serve God:

No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. (Luke 16:13 NKJV)

Job said, “Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding” (Job 28:28 NKJV). Wisdom’s stock market is measured by the prevalence of godly fear and the suppression of evil, but is this even the church’s concern? When our financial assets are at stake, we too can be guilty of devaluing wisdom—viz. the fear of the Lord—by hand-wringing over our wealth. If the world is in turmoil over its economic loss, then let the Christian distinguish himself by coveting the riches of wisdom:

If you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God. (Prov. 2:4–5 NKJV)

Wisdom demonstrated by a fear of the Lord is the source of our spiritual capital. Therefore, the responsibility of the Chalcedon Foundation is to establish a “NASDAQ” for spiritual capital. This is the real wealth that must consistently be measured and analyzed. For if this collapses, so goes the people and society built upon it. The financial economy may fail, but a people of faith and character—i.e., replete with spiritual capital—can easily rebuild.

The Firstness of the Kingdom is Our Greatest Security

In the meantime, wherein lies our security? For the Austrian school of economics, the answer is in hard assets, saving, and less regulation. For the paleoconservative, security rests in a return to strict constitutionalism. No doubt, these simple items would transform the American system significantly, but can they provide us with lasting security?

In Matthew 6:25–34, security is found in a life devoted to God’s service. It is by seeking first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness, that our Lord promises to add to us all our needs (v. 33). But this is not as simple as it looks because it’s based upon something more than obedience alone. This was demonstrated in the instance of the rich young ruler who had kept the commandments from his youth, but still lacked a willingness to forsake his assets in order to follow Christ (Luke 18:18–30).

Even those who stood by said, “Who then can be saved?” (v. 26). They understood the level of sacrifice our Lord required of them, but none were willing to do anything more than the rich young ruler. It was then that Peter said in verse 28, “See, we have left all and followed You,” to which Jesus replied,

Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life. (Luke 18:29–30 NKJV; emphasis added)

This is the secret to the “firstness” of the Kingdom of God: when God knows you are willing to leave all for the sake of the Kingdom, you will find a divine security that rewards both physical and eternal life. The rich young ruler had to be proved in a manner similar to that of Abraham, who after receiving his promised child was then commanded to sacrifice him:

Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me. (Gen. 22:12 NKJV; emphasis added)

God wanted to prove that Abraham did not lack the most important element to the victory of the Kingdom: the fear of the Lord. It is our spiritual capital. It means to begin first with God’s revelation as the foundation to all truth, and His Kingdom as the purpose for our existence and work. This is what must undergird our law-keeping, because without it, we are no different than the discouraged young ruler who could not bring himself to become a true disciple.

Rushdoony established the Chalcedon Foundation to protect and enhance our spiritual capital. Although he was greatly concerned about the security of our national wealth, the preservation of our civil liberties, and the richness of our Christian heritage, he saw the enrichment of spiritual capital as the best means to sustain all other forms of wealth:

This letter is written by one who believes intensely in orthodox Christianity and in our historic Christian American liberties and heritage. It is my purpose to promote the basic capitalization of society, out of which all else flows, spiritual capital. Without the spiritual capital of a God-centered and Biblical faith, we are spiritually and materially bankrupt. We will only succumb to the inflated and false values which govern men today and which are leading them to destruction. Where do you stand?13 (emphasis in original)

The Army of the Faithful

There is no doubt the church suffers in times like these. As I’ve stated, much of that is due to the fact that we’re established upon the same foundation of sand. But as the army of God, our approach to tribulation is to see it as a call to activation:

The church is not merely a victim in the world struggle: it must also be an active and aggressive army.14

We cannot take the posture of a victim, nor be reduced to doomsaying. We are called to victory in Christ Jesus, and we must proclaim that victory to the wider Christian community so that they, too, might share in our security. It is by our faithfulness in these times that God becomes for us a refuge. Therefore, I both anticipate and expect to see God’s provision made manifest on behalf of those that keep their focus upon the true riches that exceed gold and silver. It is my simple belief that God concerns Himself with those that concern themselves with His Kingdom. This is the calling of the redeemed:

Regenerate man … works to reestablish the law order of God among men, to establish church, state, and society in terms of the word of God, and to manifest the kingdom of God in its every meaning.15

No financial crisis should delay these efforts. The lesson of Matthew 6:25–34 is to cast off concern for tomorrow, for tomorrow will take concern for itself. If our heart-cry is for His Kingdom to come, and His will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven (v. 10), then He will give us each day our daily bread (v. 11). Our primary concern is seeking the restoration of His order in the earth, and this work must continue despite what develops. Besides, it is not we who should worry, but those who are not faithful:

[T]oday, men, churches, and nations which are not faithful to Shiloh are, like Judah, cast aside and sent into captivity. Those who stand by faith and under the Messiah’s authority reign with Him. It is the nations of our time, not Christ’s Kingdom, who are in trouble and under judgment. Until they are in obedience to Christ, they are under His wrath and His judgment.16

Prepare Your Heart for Action

Humanism is a house built upon sand, and the coming storms will wreak havoc on its structure. The house of humanism is on fire, but out of it can arise the visible Kingdom of God, if the church can become epistemologically aware of the implications of its faith. This is where you and I come in. It is our responsibility to gather up what we have learned in order to disseminate it aggressively to a church more prone to listen.

Mobilization is the key. Or, as Rushdoony once wrote: “We are interested in thinking for action.”17 Theology in itself is insufficient, unless it is used to transform the church into a marching army. The purpose of Chalcedon is to help prepare a generation of Christian soldiers who will not flinch in perilous times. This is the great calling by the Lord of Hosts.

To reach this point, we must first establish our hearts (1 Thess. 3:2). Let all fear be dispelled (2 Tim. 1:7), and rejoice always (Phil. 4:4). Let us not be anxious about our times, but rather bring them up to God in prayer with immeasurable thanksgiving (v. 6). The God of peace will be with us (v. 9). By these means you can endure as a good soldier of Jesus Christ (2 Tim. 2:3).

1. R. J. Rushdoony, Thy Kingdom Come: Studies in Daniel and Revelation (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 2001). 170.

2. Ibid.

3. R. J. Rushdoony, Sovereignty (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 2007). 24f.

4. Rushdoony, Thy Kingdom Come,163.

5. R. J. Rushdoony, Roots of Reconstruction (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1991), 664.

6. Rushdoony, Roots of Reconstruction, 597.

7. Rushdoony, Roots of Reconstruction, 596.

8. Rushdoony, Roots of Reconstruction, 596.

9. Ibid.

10. Rushdoony, Roots of Reconstruction, 637.

11. Rushdoony, Roots of Reconstruction, 552.

12. Rushdoony, Roots of Reconstruction, 592.

13. Rushdoony, Roots of Reconstruction, 593.

14. Rushdoony, Thy Kingdom Come, 175.

15. Rushdoony, Thy Kingdom Come, 169.

16. R. J. Rushdoony, Systematic Theology in Two Volumes (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Book, 1994), p. 234

17. Rushdoony, Roots of Reconstruction, 949.

  • Christopher J. Ortiz

Christopher J. Ortiz is a freelance writer and independent communications specialist servicing churches, ministries, and publishers.

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