My first exposure to the writings and thought of Dr. R.J. Rushdoony was through a multi-year sermon series at our church based upon his Institutes of Biblical Law. The sermons were delivered by our late pastor, Rev. Ronald Welch, who, just before his immersion in Institutes, had been doctrinally Arminian, premillennial, antinomian, and dispensational—and he probably carried with him a few other residual heresies.
A pivotal moment in the history of Tri-City Bible Baptist Church, now Tri-City Covenant Church (CREC), took place during that sermon series, when Pastor Welch courageously and humbly said to his congregation, “This [antinomianism] is what I have taught you in the past, but I believe I was wrong in teaching you that. Tri-City Bible Baptist Church, I’m calling us back to the law of God!”
How often do you hear of a pastor so unequivocally refuting his previous erroneous position on a theological matter? Those new doctrines, clearly and powerfully conveyed in Institutes, certainly had conversion power!
I read the book for the first time during that period and have since reread it several more times. Our Christian school, Tri-City Christian Academy, has used that book as the primary text in our required senior high Christian Ethics course every other year since the 1990s. Without question, Institutes has been Dr. Rushdoony’s most influential book for our congregation, for our parish school, and for me personally.
Many Chalcedon readers might join me in ranking Institutes at the very top of their Rushdoony favorites. But which Rushdoony book would rank next in its influence? There would surely be many answers here, but for me it would be his Foundations of Social Order: Studies in the Creeds and Councils of the Early Church.
I had the privilege of teaching a one-week intensive seminary course to a wonderful group of Russian pastors in March 2019. They were from across Russia and the Ukraine, from the Urals to Vladivostok, from the Crimea to Siberia. The seminary was the center piece of Rev. Blake Purcell’s Hope Russia missions work in St. Petersburg. The course dealt with church-state relations, and I used Foundations of Social Order extensively.
My lecture points included such quotations as:
• “Chalcedon handed statism its major defeat in man’s history.”
• “If the two natures of Christ were confused, it meant that the door was opened to the divinizing of human nature; man and the state were then potentially divine.”
• “If the human nature of Christ were reduced or denied, His role as man’s incarnate savior was reduced or denied, and man’s savior again became the state.”
• “By denying the confusion of the human and the divine, Chalcedon established a standard against that pagan stream of mysticism which sought precisely the union of the divine and human substances into one being.”
Those pastors were hungry for such solid Reformed teaching. And I was transformed by the experience. Imagine lecturing on church and state relations to Russian pastors—right in St. Petersburg, of all places! I wanted to leave them, and future seminary students like them, something that would substantially help with their work in a uniquely challenging field.
Jenya, my translator, and I became good friends, and through our conversations between sessions, the project of translating Foundations of Social Order into the Russian language was born. He did a marvelous job of careful translation. Mark Rushdoony of the Chalcedon Foundation gave us permission to publish. I collected brief endorsement statements from Mark Rushdoony, Dr. Gary North, Dr. Peter Leithart, Pastor Bogumil Jarmulak of the Evangelical Reformed Church (CREC), Poland, and Pastor Ralph Smith of Mitaka Evangelical Church (CREC), Japan.
God had placed a wonderful family in our church, Ukrainian refugees, who had maintained contact with a Ukrainian friend, who was—a book publisher! Our church financed the entire project, and now, copies of Foundations are in the hands of students in three seminaries, and numerous Reformed churches. One thousand copies altogether.
We lobbed a “little creedal time bomb” right into one of Satan’s rapidly disappearing strongholds. Strongholds of Marxist statism, strongholds of pietistic asceticism, and strongholds of various forms of heretical subordinationism. We should do more of this! Dr. Rushdoony wrote many other books, and there are certainly many other nations hungry for them.
Jesus said, “Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are ripe, already to harvest.” If it could happen here in New Hampshire, it can happen in St. Petersburg, Russia—and beyond!
- Rev. Paul Edgar
Rev. Paul Edgar is an elder at Tri-City Covenant Church in Somersworth, NH.