Your visit to this good part of the country was a true blessing. Thanks for entertaining me with Rushdoony stories. My reading of Rush early on was instrumental in shaping my vastly dichotomized theology. Dr. Doony (inside joke, in case the readers are wondering) was majestically insightful and able to confront secular thought—and secular thought masqueraded in Christian clothing—with immense ease. This was not only because of his genius, but because he believed that the Bible tore down the supposed rationality of fools (Psalm 14). He was correct to assert that Van Til did not take the next step in his earth-shattering category of the “impossibility of neutrality.” Rushdoony and others moved boldly across the “neutrality” landscape in both Christian and non-Christian circles. As you know—better than I—this did not prove fruitful in terms of career advancement. Even the great Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia was not willing to publish anything related to R.J. Rushdoony until our mutual friend, John Frame, came along and reviewed Rush’s magnum opus, The Institutes of Biblical Law. That gem still remains a precious tool in the exposition of God’s sacred law.
My high regard for Rush’s intellect does not blind me to his many faults. Among them was his disloyalty to the Church, the Bride of Christ. Rush should have submitted to her discipline, but rather chose a path of his own, thus staying away from the Lord’s Table for many years, and inventing a patriarchal model which does not do justice to the redemptive purpose of Yahweh’s Bride, the Church. In this sense, Rushdoony did a tremendous disservice to the mission of the Church (Matthew 28:18-20). But his son-in-law, Gary North, answered him directly and appropriately in his Baptized Patriarchalism. I too have concluded editing a book which contains several essays defining this ecclesial mission, and hope to see the book make its long due entrance into this important conversation by late September.
I appreciate your thoughts on some of the context of our beloved Reconstructionist history. In some ways, Reconstructionism freed me to think biblically about everything. As I absorbed Reconstructionist thinking I finally began to connect those ideas that were simply invisible previously. And I must say, your works and articles were instrumental as I sorted through these issues before and during my seminary days. One of my major studies in seminary—under the direction of John Frame—was on the theology of Abraham Kuyper. Naturally, this led to me to consider the broader claims of Jesus as Lord of all, and through the process your engagement with some of Kuyper’s ideas of pluralism helped sort some of the confusion in my mind.
As you and I have outlined our similar vision for the future of Christendom there remain strategic differences. They are not to be minimized, but to be given their proper due. Therefore, we cherish these types of dialogues as a way of increasing our knowledge of each other’s strategies, but also to establish a more irenic model for political discourse; a model which some of our Reconstructionist forefathers did not follow.
Though it is easy to be critical of Rushdoony and others, we also acknowledge—as I am sure you will concur—that they were pioneers. And pioneers usually have a more prophetic and confrontational disposition. Irenicism is not at the top of their priority list. As a result, they are either misunderstood or deeply at fault.
My first confession is that I am utterly incapable of addressing these issues with the level of eloquence and finesse that you express. Whereas I have been delving into the political landscape wholeheartedly for a little over a decade, you have been involved, and at times right in the middle of the political discussion, for over four decades. So, I am the one that needs to learn from you.
One of the issues that usually goes unsaid in these discussions is that we all have our curmudgeons on both sides. Sometimes these cranks become terribly full of themselves and de-friending them on facebook is the only healthy alternative. For instance, one man equated Ron Paul—a Christian brother who has served this country’s military, who has been undoubtedly one of the most faithful politicians to his vow to uphold the Constitution, and a consistent voice of reason—with terrorists. I can understand disagreeing vehemently with his non-interventionist policies, but this type of rhetoric does nothing but damage this discourse that you and I cherish. You would not say such a thing, but I fear that some in your circles have made such disparaging and destructive comments to the wider public. Again I stress, it does not help make any progress in the Christian political discourse.
I consider myself something of a Christian libertarian ( I believe Rushdoony referred to himself in this manner), but I do not hold to the social theory of dominion by cataclysm. Rushdoony may have had this ingrained in him due to his Armenian background, which was filled with warfare and tyranny. This may explain the context of others who share this view also. Certainly as Eugen Rosenstack-Huessy observed, the world goes through revolutions. These revolutions take on different forms. Sometimes we must endure some pain before we can endure glory. This is nothing new. James Jordan has stressed this for decades in his emphasis on the death-resurrection themes that are found everywhere in the Bible. But revolutions do not necessitate the end of the West. God forbid.
I suspect you and I would point to similar problems at the root of this country’s disease: secularism, anti-nomianism, foolish compromise, etc., but we would perhaps take a different course of action.
I too believe in incremental change. This implies—in my thinking—that the change we need will happen over time. As a Postmillennialist, I believe time is on our side. This is not an argument for passivity, but rather an affirmation that God controls time and that He honors those who use time wisely. There is such a thing as good political stewardship. God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of courage and courage sometimes demands taking the less travelled road. This does not mean—in my mind—abandoning the Republican Party, but it does mean we need to challenge the status quo, and if challenging the status quo means choosing a different candidate, then so be it.
As for us we are profoundly concerned about the state of this nation. There were some in 2008, but there are many more today joining the We won’t be fooled again chorus.Their reasoning is sound in my estimation, especially because they were in the belly of the fish for years and were spit out. And as you can imagine, it left a bad taste in their mouths. Note that some of these men are not libertarians, they are hawkish in their foreign policy, but find the economic and moral journey of the Republican Party in the last 30 years to be abysmal. So, they are voting third-party or merely sitting out on this one. These are and were establishment Republicans saying Not again. They cried when George W. Bush beat Kerry, and by the end of Bush’s second term they were crying again for a different reason. “How long?” they ask.
As for us on the moral Libertarian side, we cannot but find the words of Chesterton prophetic and suitable for this discussion:
The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of the Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected.
The progressives are examples of intellectual suicide. When they open their mouths they spew the logic of a three year old before bed time. Once in a while a Democrat will say something worthy, but that one thing is crushed by a sea of absurdity.
On the other hand, conservatives work hard on preventing correction. Some try, but they are shut off by the Republican bureaucrats. The tea-party freshmen were a breath of fresh air. Congressman Justin Amash gave me some hope. Senators Rand Paul and Senators Tom Davis seem to have a bright future.
Conspicuously, what differentiates many of us is a matter of emphasis. Whereas you (Andrew) have a set of priorities, many of those I watch and engage are merely content to see a Republican in office no matter what his position may be. I want to emphasize certain things that once were important to this nation: a humble foreign policy, not a passive foreign policy, but one that takes into account the Augustinian Just War Theory. Even though the questions raised by the Just War Theory may not lead to an overwhelming consensus, I believe they are questions worth asking. One gentleman you know well wrote in a comment that he does not support the Just War Theory. To dismiss such a historical creed on warfare is titanically naive in my estimation. Also, we Moral Libertarians wish to emphasize the Federal Reserve system; a system that prints money out of thin air and then uses that money—without the knowledge of Congress—to bail out foreign banks. Travesty! Again I say travesty!
We need more virtuous Christian dialogue. I sense that you and your influence can help to shape this discourse especially within our circles. Our strategies may differ and there are certain important issues that we may find hard to let go. But unity is demanding, and so for the sake of it (John 17), let us continue to pursue it violently and vociferously for Christ and His Kingdom.
Christian theology serves the greater call of the Christian Empire founded by Jesus Christ. May our theology reflect mutual love and may wisdom shape our interactions and our decisions for the glory of the Triune God.
For the labors of the Kingdom of God,