Blog Entry #3
Institutes of Biblical Law
Rousas John Rushdoony
This is kind of short but I wanted to note that one of the critiques of Theonomy in general that I have always heard from both Christians and non-Christians has been that it would turn the Civil Magistrate, where it was implemented, into another Iran or Taliban-era Afghanistan. However one place this is proven to be false can be found (and there are a number of other examples where this can be confirmed not to be the case) in reading through Rushdoony’s discussion of the First Commandment (specifically pg. 49ff in his Institutes of Biblical Law). He notes over and over again how much of a blessing the Tithe Laws were (and would be) to the downtrodden in society in a way that the current attempts by Socialists and others to lessen the burden felt by those in difficult situations cannot and have proven incapable to do. The widow, homeless, orphan, the poor, etc. are taken care of in a manner and a way that secular societies and Islamic states neither have the capability or the right of doing as is seen under the blessing of the Law of God. It also delineates one of the many differences between the God of Christianity and the false gods that man has created to replace the God of the Scriptures. One can think of a myriad of other examples where Biblical Law goes nearly out of its way to care for the poor and oppressed. A notable example includes the requirements to leave a part of your field unharvested for these types of people in society. We can even see this profiting our Lord and the Disciples in Luke 6:1-3.
More to come…
R.J. Rushdoony often is portrayed by his critics as mean-spirited and crotchety. Well here is a little antidote for that criticism in the form of a short quip from Rushdoony’s daughter Rebecca:
Rebecca, Mark’s oldest sister, and the woman most likely to answer the Chalcedon phone, described her childhood with her father this way:
My father loved large, noisy family gatherings where he spent hours sharing his stories and wisdom with us. He loved the noise of his children and grandchildren talking, laughing and sharing, and would often sit back listening to their chatter, smiling. “Very good, very good,” he would repeat. He understood that his legacy would continue in their lives. The first few family dinners after he passed from this world were very quiet in comparison, and I can remember sitting there wanting so badly to hear one more story, one more joke.
My father’s libraries were always a special place we entered with the reverence of church. In Santa Cruz, Dad’s library was at the back of the house in a beautiful room with parquet floors and a large bay window that had a window seat. There were rows and rows of bookcases with aisles just narrow enough to walk through. It was a place of refuge for me. As the oldest daughter I spent a lot of time helping and watching my little brother, Mark (a handful, I might add), and three little sisters, Joanna, Sharon, and Martha.
Dad understood that I sometimes needed to have time away from them and would help me hide between the rows of bookcases with a book to read. It was there, hidden in his library, I read Moby Dick, David Copperfield, and many other classics from his library shelves with Dad sitting just a few feet away sharing my secret. It was there too that I learned one of Dad’s sweetest and most endearing habits. Often as he sat writing he would absentmindedly repeat the names of those he loved. What a joy it was for me to hear him softly repeat “Rebecca, Rebecca” as he worked.
When my siblings and I were small, Dad would often borrow small toys that we found special and set them on his desk. They would sit there for a time and be returned or disappear into the niches in his library. Many of them were packed away and moved from house to house, finally finding a place in a drawer or tucked away on a shelf in his library here in Vallecito, California.
What a joy it was to find these small remembrances of our childhood in his library. For me, finding several of the tiny wooden Chinese and porcelain figures I loved as a child brought a flood of memories of happy times spent with my father and the joy of finding a childhood treasure. With each treasure we relived the memories, laughed, and shed tears of joy and thanksgiving for the loving record he had kept for each of us. Small treasures and letters which would have been lost are now mine again to share with my granddaughters. They are time capsules of a father’s love. He was not a man who sought wealth, but he did leave behind for his children a record written and physical of the life God had blessed him with.
Taken from a Chalcedon Foundation story you can read here.
Blog Entry #1
Institutes of Biblical Law
Rousas John Rushdoony
“Thomas Shepard wrote in 1649, ‘For all laws, whether ceremonial or judicial, may be referred to the Decalogue, as appendices to it, or applications of it, and so to comprehend all other laws as their summary.’”
“To attempt to study Scripture without studying its law is to deny it. To attempt to understand Western civilization apart from the impact of Biblical law within it and upon it is to seek a fictitious history and to reject twenty centuries and their progress.”
These two quotations, one from a Puritan forefather of New England and the other from the author of the work to which we will be studying lay the groundwork and put forward the underlying thesis of Rousas John Rushdoony in his desired goal for the work and give us an understanding for the necessity of his work. Rushdoony is interested in cogently presenting a case for the re-introduction of the place of Biblical law into the life of the Christian believer. He is concerned that anti-nomianism has taken over the preaching and teaching of the Christian church (for Rushdoony this primarily concerns the reformed churches in America). In short Anti-nomianism is the understanding that because of Christ’s work on the cross believers have been freed from following the Law and now are no longer required to Biblical morality.
It is worth taking a moment at this time to dismiss one of the most pernicious arguments against Rushdoony’s work in IBL. You will hear some refer to Rushdoony as a “Rabbi” or a “Talmudic Scholar”. In other words some will try and convince you that what Rushdoony is putting forward is merely a Legalistic Christianity, which is the other side of anti-nomianism. Another one of the crassest attacks and one that would be false and a violation of the 9th Commandment at this point is for Rushdoony’s detractors to say that Rushdoony at any point believed that one was Justified by the works of the Law or that man by his following of the Law in any way contributed to his own salvation. Often people who disagree with Rushdoony’s thesis and with his writings claim that he has in fact placed the Law in such a position as to put the Law in such a place as it becomes a necessity for making one right with God. It takes Rushdoony two pages into IBL to deflate and do away with this charge. One can say that the “key verse” for Rushdoony is Romans 8:4. In other words man has been freed in Christ to “…a position of law-keeping.” We who have been saved through the redeeming work of Christ have been made able to now look to the Law no longer as a burden or leading to death but have been freed to follow the Law as a rule of Life and out of love for God. The author is concerned in fleshing out exactly what this looks like and how this plays out in the life of the believer.
The basic outline of the work has Rushdoony examining each of the 10 Commandments, the Purpose of Law, the place of the Law in the Older and New Testament, the place of the Law and the Church, and finally the place that the Law of the Bible has played in defining Western society in general.
Coming tomorrow I will examine the introduction.
You can find the Institutes of Biblical Law for sale here.
Well I have had an unsettled last month or so and therefore my promised blog posts on Rushdoony’s IBL have been postponed for far too long. I’ll be posting them starting today. I have in the past month read all the way through the Institutes and so the blog posts will more than likely follow a chapter-by-chapter movement.
No not the one everyone else in Christendom is blogging about this year but the Institutes of Biblical Law by R.J. Rushdoony.
I am going to start reading the work in earnest tomorrow morning and will give updates and discussion as I feel so provoked.