Access your downloads at our archive site. Visit Archive
Magazine Article

The Failure of the Conservative Movement

The failure of the conservative movement in the United States has been a failure of the churches. This has been true in other countries as well. With rare exception, conservatives have lacked Biblical and theological roots. This is not surprising, given the fact that the clergy are themselves abysmally ignorant.

R. J. Rushdoony
  • R. J. Rushdoony,
Share this

The failure of the conservative movement in the United States has been a failure of the churches. This has been true in other countries as well. With rare exception, conservatives have lacked Biblical and theological roots. This is not surprising, given the fact that the clergy are themselves abysmally ignorant.

I have repeatedly been amazed at the ignorance on the part of pastors and clergy of the doctrine of sin and total depravity. These are now termed by some as simply Calvinistic dogmas, but at one time they were common to all churches.

Without the doctrine of sin and total depravity, men will trust in the abilities of men and civil governments to do good, and they will concentrate powers in the hands of church and state, an action which will surely lead to evils. We have today a millennialist expectation of politics which is destructive to men and nations. In my lifetime, beginning with President Woodrow Wilson, more than a few times an apocalyptic hope has surrounded politics. The League of Nations and the United Nations are evidences of this. Many other like efforts are now forgotten. Who now remembers the Kellogg-Briand pact to outlaw war? In my early school days, it was hailed internationally as the dawn of a new era, and school teachers solemnly told us of its epoch-making nature.

Men and nations who disregard the fact that man is a sinner will never cope wisely with evil.

Again, the doctrine of soteriology, of salvation, has a great implication for society. It means that salvation comes, not by politics nor good workers, but by the grace of God through Jesus Christ. Man cannot be saved by acts of state, but he can be corrupted thereby. Congress, parliaments, and other like bodies are in the salvation business, and their failures do not convince them of the error of their ways. The salvation state, instead of securing society’s redemption, tends to work its damnation by shifting the hope of salvation from God to acts of state.

Furthermore, the state seeks to bring about communion though enforced community. Granted that hatred of other races and groups is evil, can it be solved by legislation or enforced communion? Community is a religious fact and it requires a unified faith. Racism is a modern fact, a product of evolutionary thinking. For Charles Darwin, evolution "explained" why some races were superior. Darwin never doubted Anglo-Saxon superiority. Like other evils of our time, racism had scientific origins, and, when science, faced with Hitler, chose to discard it, it blamed religion for racism!

Christian eschatology tells us what our hope is, and it depicts, in classic postmillennialism, the triumph of Christ from pole to pole, "From Greenland’s icy mountains, to India’s coral strands," as the old hymn had it. Now, on all sides, we see the decay of humanistic eschatologies, Marxist, democratic, scientific, and otherwise.

Those forms of humanistic eschatologies still surviving are weakening. At the same time, Christian eschatologies have become defeatist or escapist. They surrender the world to the devil. This is not surprising, given the fact that "conservative" churches have abandoned most of the Bible by abandoning God’s law. Most modernists, by giving the prophets a social gospel meaning, have a bigger Bible than evangelical Christians.

The law of God was given as a means of dominion, of godly rule. But too many Christians limit their interest to being saved from Hell, not to the Kingdom of God. Not many pay attention to our Lord’s command, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness" or justice (Mt. 6:33).

The Christian element in the conservative movement lacks theology; the non-Christian elements are usually inconsistent humanists, closer to the Left than to anyone else.

At present, by the grace of God, here and abroad some conservatives are beginning to rethink their position and to abandon antinomianism. As a result, a sound theology may again undergird politics. Until, then, the conservative movement will continue to retreat because it has nowhere else to go. It better represents the Left’s yesterdays than conservatism’s future.

But more is needed, for "faith without works is dead" (Jas. 2:17-26). Christians must manifest their faith in works of grace and charity. Socialism is the humanistic solution to society’s problems with the sick, unemployed, needy, homeless, and broken peoples. Today statist "social services" insist on their "right" to do what was once a part of the Christian ministry.

In recent years, more and more Christians have begun ministries to human needs, with excellent results. Certainly Christian and home schools represent a major advance in the Christian ministries, as do services to care for unwed girls who are pregnant. All across the U. S., such ministries are abounding, and new areas of relevance are steadily developed. Quietly and steadily, a major movement is underway that promises to reconstruct both church and state.

Almost any issue of the Chalcedon Report will tell you of a few such activities.

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.

More by R. J. Rushdoony