Rushdoony’s Approach to Strengthening the Family and the Church in the Face of an Ungodly World
“[T]his writer’s weekly Bible and theological studies are tape-recorded and circulate across the United States and sometimes beyond its frontiers. Some of these studies are appearing also in print, as witness The Foundations of Social Order, Studies in the Creeds and Councils of the Early Church (1968). This work, regarded by some pastors as too difficult or theological, is still circulating heavily among laymen. It is listened to by groups in various states in home meetings. The usual situation is that a man or woman opens his home to friends, provides refreshments, and holds weekly study sessions to a steadily increasing audience.”1
What a difference a year can make. At the outset of 2020, it was life as usual for church, family, school, restaurants, events, and travel. By the end of 2020, most of the civilized world was homeschooling, families were working from home, and churches were streaming their services via Zoom, YouTube, Facebook, et al.
Oddly enough, much of that was the norm for Chalcedon and its supporters, so the adjustments were not too extreme for us.
Much of our staff have always worked remotely even when Rushdoony was active as president. Because he himself did not require oversight to do his work, he expected the same from office staff and adjunct writers. This helped to minimize expenses while maximizing time and productivity. As of 2020, much of America learned this the hard way.
Throughout 2019, Chalcedon was hosting weekly livestreams via Facebook, YouTube, and our own website for our Chalcedon Chapel services followed by an hour of Q & A with Martin Selbrede. This enabled us to reach more people throughout the world, but for too many, the idea of watching or listening online wasn’t so appealing. All that began to change in the early Spring of 2020.
Now, many churches, small groups, and Christian leaders are operating this way because of the lockdowns and public restrictions, and that means people are more interconnected than ever before, and they are more savvy to the technology that makes this possible.
For Chalcedon, leveraging technology was a necessity in order to be cost-effective and productive, and that makes possible something Rushdoony always saw when it came to the life of the church and the family.
Finding Others of Like Mind
For years, a recurring inquiry we receive is from those who can’t find a church that espouses Christian Reconstruction. For some, just finding a strong Reformed church is difficult, but what this shows us is that people are looking for fellowship, encouragement, strategies, and resources regarding advancing Christ’s Kingdom in their life and work.
Consider for a moment the citation featured above where Rushdoony in the early days of Chalcedon (1973) saw the value in his lectures and books being widely distributed internationally by laymen who hosted meetings in their homes.
He saw this as reminiscent of the early church who would meet in homes under fierce persecution while living in the midst of ungodliness. As you’ll see in the next article, by 1994, Rushdoony was still excited about the possibilities of home meetings as a way to strengthen the Christian family and better equip the Christian community for godly action.
The keyword used in the citation above is circulating in that an otherwise neglected message was making its way throughout Christian homes by utilizing the existing technology of print, mail, and audio recording. Had they been able to livestream video in the late 60s and early 70s, the growth, reach, and influence of Chalcedon would’ve been vastly different. Now, we have free technologies that dwarf what was available when Chalcedon began, but are we all taking advantage of them?
As mentioned, Chalcedon has always tried to be innovative with using contemporary technology in order to promote Christian Reconstruction. Consider for a moment the article on page 4 where Rushdoony recorded and mailed his Easy Chair audio series in podcast fashion years before we had even heard of such a thing.
What’s needed is a growing, active laity who are also utilizing the resources provided by Chalcedon in order to host meetings either in their homes or through the web using conferencing platforms such as Zoom.
Moving Us to Faith and Action
We must also consider the fact that the culture is growing more unfriendly to Christianity and the family, so the need for a more active laity is even greater.
In the introduction to his two-volume Systematic Theology, Rushdoony wrote:
Theology belongs in the pulpit, the school, the work-place, the family, and everywhere. Society as a whole is weakened when theology is neglected.2
Good theology belongs everywhere, so we should bring it more into our lives by meeting in the ways that we can whether physical or digital. The reason, as Rushdoony noted, is because theology should create action:
For me theology means the total mandate of God through His word. What I have written only scratches the surface; it is an introduction to the subject, and it is written to move men to faith and action.3
The Vitality of Lay Outreach
What was developing with Chalcedon in its early years wasn’t unique. Rushdoony saw a similar development with the controversial John Birch Society:
In recent years, numerous organizations have demonstrated the superior vitality of lay outreach. Two illustrations will suffice, first, the John Birch Society. This illustration is deliberately chosen. It is not our concern, nor is it relevant, to discuss here the pros and cons of that organization. It is important to our purpose that this society is both criticized, hated, and attacked as the early church was to a far greater degree, and that it is led by volunteer laymen. Groups of men, women, and youth, normally not exceeding twenty persons, meet in homes regularly to follow a course of study under a leader. These leaders are usually surprisingly busy men: doctors, dentists, businessmen, and others who have a full schedule but still take time to prepare a lesson, invite friends and neighbors, and recruit, with help from other members, new members.4
In other words, whether it’s the early church, or a contemporary movement, the greatest effect is initiated outside of the major institutions by an active laity, and this can be accomplished alongside faithful churches and schools who are equally committed to the cause of Christian Reconstruction.
Even if no so such church can be found, one can still participate in online groups as a way to supplement their ecclesiastical life, but are there “doctors, dentists, businessmen, and others” who will take the time and invest in the resources to host such meetings?
Be Faithful With What We Have
Throughout his ministry, Rushdoony never wavered from the value he saw in an active laity and the need to provide them with the theological resources for faith and action.
And as of 2021, our mission at Chalcedon is no different. If anything, the time has never been better to see a rise in lay ministry, and Chalcedon has never been more prepared to supply the theological resources for such a ministry.
It matters little that Rushdoony is no longer with us. He supplied us with more than enough to equip the church for a century and beyond. No doubt, we will continue our work in Christian education with contemporary scholarship, but we must be faithful to make use of what we already possess in as many ways as possible.
1. R. J. Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law, Volume 1 (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 2020), p. 761
2. R. J. Rushdoony, Systematic Theology in Two Volumes (Vallecito, VA: Ross House Books, 1994), xv.
4. Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law, p. 761.
- Chalcedon Editorial