It was in 1981 that Rousas John Rushdoony wrote in The Philosophy of the Christian Curriculum, “The great issue of the years ahead is the developing battle between Christianity and Humanism. It is a war unto death.”
In other words, how Christians educate their children has become a matter of life and death for the future of Christianity. And one of the chief aims of the Christian Reconstruction movement has been to make Christians keenly aware of the war they are in.
Dr. Rushdoony had little patience with Christian parents who kept putting their children in public schools controlled by humanists whose aim it was to convert Christian children to humanism. A writer in The Humanist magazine of January 1983 stated:
I am convinced that the battle for humankind’s future must be waged and won in the public school classroom by teachers who correctly perceive their role as proselytizers of a new faith: a religion of humanity that recognizes and respects the spark of what theologians call divinity in every human being.
Dr. Rushdoony saw clearly that political power was at the heart of the humanist thrust against Christianity. He wrote: “The founders of statist education in the United States were Unitarians. They rightly believed that control over the child through the schools is the key to controlling society. Control over the schools will determine control over state and church finally.”
And that is why Dr. Rushdoony devoted so much time and energy to writing on education and lecturing far and wide at conferences and conventions of Christian educators. He urged and encouraged Christian ministers to start church schools. And he insisted that Christian schools must be more than warmed-over secular schools with some Bible reading.
He was also instrumental in helping the fledgling homeschool movement get off the ground. He defended Christian homeschoolers in the courts, helping to set legal precedents that extended educational freedom to parents who refused to put their children in government schools.
The Essence of the Struggle
It was in The Messianic Character of American Education, first published in 1963, that Dr. Rushdoony captured the essence of the struggle that was going on in American education between Christians and humanists. That book established him as Christendom’s most profound critic of secular humanist education. In that seminal book he reviewed the lives of the men who made American education what it has become: the proselytizer of humanism and statism. These men included Horace Mann, Henry Barnard, William Torrey Harris, Col. Francis Wayland Parker, William James, Nicholas Murray Butler, G. Stanley Hall, John Dewey, J.B. Watson, Edward Lee Thorndike, Harold O. Rugg, and others.
Dr. Rushdoony understood the corrosive, anti-Christian nature of their ideas and the tremendous power they had in shaping the American secular mind, which has led to a blasphemous, depraved culture. He recognized the financial strength of the enemy, with their endless sources of support from the great private foundations and government treasuries.
But he also recognized the inherent strength of Christians who placed their faith in the everlasting love and sovereignty of Jesus Christ. It was a faith that conquered the Roman Empire not by the sword but by the promise of salvation, forgiveness of sin, and eternal life after death.
Dr. Rushdoony’s legacy lies in his unconquerable belief in Christian victory. He awakened the Christian consciousness in untold numbers of people. He was critical of those Christians who had abdicated their role in society by surrendering it to the enemy and waiting for the Rapture.
Christian Reconstruction preached an uncompromising belief in ultimate victory. The growth of the Christian homeschool movement was a clear indication that victory was not only possible but inevitable if Christian parents took up their responsibilities as educators of their own children, for it was the control of children that determined the shape of the future.
The achievement of victory would be slow and painstaking because it required one family at a time making a decision for Christ. Dr. Rushdoony had no illusions about the majority of human beings doing the right thing or leading godly lives. The prevailing sinful culture was forever seducing the young through mass media entertainment, evolution, sex ed, death ed, drug ed, etc.
Thus, the road to Christian victory was forever uphill, taking two steps forward and one step backward. The remnant would remain the strong core of the struggle, like a ship plowing slowly through the Arctic ice. Dr. Rushdoony was like the bow of that ship.
Victory Starts with Content
It also goes without saying that Dr. Rushdoony was greatly concerned with the content of Christian education, and that is why he addressed that subject in The Philosophy of the Christian Curriculum. First, he stressed the idea that education is a religious function. He wrote: “An excellent means of analyzing the religion of any culture is to study its concept of education.”
How true! The current Islamic war against Western civilization is fueled and supported by the Madrassas, the Islamic schools that indoctrinate children in hatred of Jewish and Christian infidels. These schools have shaped the new Islamic culture, which has become a mortal danger to the West.
Likewise, American public schools have helped shape our present blasphemous, decadent, oversexed, and increasingly illiterate and nihilist culture. So much so, that when Christian youths rebel against the culture and declare themselves virgins until marriage, it becomes a cover story for Newsweek magazine.
Dr. Rushdoony writes: “The centrality of Biblical instruction is basic to the liberal arts of Christian education. But the rest of the curriculum must be revised in terms of Christian liberty, the arts of Christian freedom and dominion under God. The study of law is therefore necessary.”
For Rushdoony, law is an expression of God’s holiness and order. Thus he considered it a duty to study the U.S. Constitution which had been written by Christians in conformity with God’s law. He’d be pleased to know that the homeschool movement has given birth to Patrick Henry College, a new institution devoted to the study and application of Constitutional law. Its students will put their education to work in the halls of Congress. That is a manifestation of Dr. Rushdoony’s legacy.
Authority and Relevance
Dr. Rushdoony made it clear that the question of authority is never secondary but primary:
The Christian School is an anti-neutralist institution. It must teach that Christ is Lord over all things, including the state, and that God’s law is binding on all men and nations, because He is the Lord of all.
The great Christian universities of the past were founded on that philosophy. They helped build Christian civilization, especially as it existed in the early days of the United States.
But Dr. Rushdoony’s idea of education was not rooted in the curriculum of the past. He believed that Christians must be able to adapt themselves to the revolutionary changes taking place in the world. He wrote:
The sound curriculum will be the relevant curriculum, and relevancy requires two factors, a world of absolutes, and a world of change. It is not enough to hold to God’s absolutes: they must be continually and freshly related to the changing times.
In other words, the Christian is expected to see the world of change through the lens of Biblical absolutes. “The reality around man and within man,” Rushdoony wrote, “can only be truly known in terms of the sovereign God who created all things. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of all instruction and learning.”
The Harvard University founded on the legacy of John Calvin no longer exists. It became humanist. A new Christian institution is needed that will replace Harvard in influence and learning. Rushdoony gave us the philosophical blueprint for such a new institution. That is the historic, long-range challenge of Christian Reconstruction.
A Legacy Embracing All Creation
Dr. Rushdoony also very wisely wrote about the teaching of science, which has been so thoroughly secularized by today’s humanists. “For a Christian,” he wrote, “the task of instruction is made simpler by the fact that the Biblical, Hebrew word for instruction, Torah, means both law and instruction … Modern science is a product of a Biblical worldview, with its belief in God and the world under God’s law … Thus, for the science teacher, the ultimacy of God must be basic.”
Of course, it was God who made Adam into a scientist when He brought before him all of the creatures He had created and told Adam to name them. “And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field.” And so Adam became a lexicographer and an observer of the natural world. In other words, he became a scientist.
Dr. Rushdoony’s legacy will be found in all the streams of our culture. But it is most easily discernable in education. The growth of both the Christian school and homeschool movements are indeed the direct result of a lifetime of writing and lecturing, expounding and preaching, helping and advising.
These are blessings that will be with us always.
[Editor’s note: Sam Blumenfeld had written this essay in December 2002 as a reflection upon the legacy left by R. J. Rushdoony. It is being published here for the very first time.]
- Samuel L. Blumenfeld
Samuel L. Blumenfeld (1927–2015), a former Chalcedon staffer, authored a number of books on education, including NEA: Trojan Horse in American Education, How to Tutor, Alpha-Phonics: A Primer for Beginning Readers, and Homeschooling: A Parent’s Guide to Teaching Children.
He spent much of his career investigating the decline in American literacy, the reasons for the high rate of learning disabilities in American children, the reasons behind the American educational establishment’s support for sex and drug education, and the school system's refusal to use either intensive phonics in reading instruction and memorization in mathematics instruction. He lectured extensively in the U.S. and abroad and was internationally recognized as an expert in intensive, systematic phonics. His writings appeared in such diverse publications as Home School Digest, Reason, Education Digest, Boston Magazine, Vital Speeches of the Day, Practical Homeschooling, Esquire, and many others.