In this postmodern age, the idea of a Christian Manifesto may sound like a throwback to a time when the Church prevailed as a political entity, or a time when more people claimed the name of Christian. However, the need is not to return to some idealized past, but to surge forward into the future, thinking in terms of what R. J. Rushdoony calls Christian Reconstruction. For this discussion I will draw on four Chalcedon Reports written by Rushdoony over the years. This blog article is not merely a summary of what Rushdoony has already stated, but a charge to move forward into the future with his ideas of Christian Reconstruction and all that can mean for Christians in this age and the years ahead, whether or not one totally agrees with Rushdoony on every point. The one thing on which we as Christians can all agree is that Jesus Christ is our King, the victory over all of life is ultimately His.
Salvation by Politics
As I stated in last month’s blog article, we live in a political age. We look to the State to meet all our needs and to rescue us from the difficulties that we confront as a part of living. I too harbor guilt for this way of thinking that crept into my life for a number of years. Rushdoony a number of years ago wrote about The Fallacy of Politics (Chalcedon Report 357, April 1995). He stated that one of the truly great evil ideas of the Twentieth Century is that the American people came to see themselves as some kind of victim at the hands of others. Victims tend to be helpless, and so by default they look to others to help them. In a political age, the American people called on the State to save them from their victimhood – whatever they surmised that to be. Consequently, people sought political answers to their dilemmas. Rushdoony pointed out that politics means that a small minority exerts control over the majority. Once the State intrudes into our lives, it will seek to maintain its existence in whatever way it can, including our pocketbooks. Note our present Thirty-trillion dollar debt. Handing over power to the State means topdown control and an ultimate pragmatism on the part of politicians who will sacrifice principles to stay in office. Rushdoony claims that God has made men the primary agent of government (Chalcedon Report 357). If we sacrifice self-government by handing over our lives to the State, then ultimately we destroy ourselves.
This raises the question of what Rushdoony means by self-government. He delineates seven points of self-government in Self-Government Under God, (Chalcedon Report 364, November 1995). First of all, government is the self-government of the Christian man. Second, the basic government institution is the family. Third, for the Christian, the church plays a part in an individual’s government. Fourth, education and the school make up a component of the Christian’s government. Hence, we see the conflict between homeschools/private schools and state schools. Fifth, our vocations govern us. We are to do our work as unto the Lord. Sixth, as members of society, we should meet social expectations where they do not contradict God’s law. And finally, civil government makes up only one part of what is considered government from a Christian perspective. These are the areas that as Christians we must take captive to Christ. When we give our lives over to the State, government becomes and external power that rules over us. Rushdoony states, if self-government is lacking, then no good government can prevail in any sphere (Chalcedon Report 364). We see today a persistent intrusion into the first six components of self-government from the seventh component, civil government or the State. Although now there appears to be more freedom for homeschooling and private schools, these entities had to fight the State for some time to exist. Even today many Christians still send their children to State schools while deploring the content their children receive there. Additionally, those people who homeschool or send their children to private schools are coerced by the State to support State schools via taxation.
The Fundamentals of Statism
In April, 1985, Rusdoony penned Chalcedon Report 237 titled The Ten Fundamentals of Statism. I will summarize what he claimed. First, as citizens we have to realize that the State will seek to maintain its own existence at the expense of the people. This is why it is naive to look to the State for any kind of security, and above all to depend on the State for salvation from life’s daily struggles. Second, although other States are occasional enemies of the State, the people are always enemies of the State. A truly liberated people is not to the State’s benefit. Third, the purpose of taxation is confiscation and control. Note the rise of Executive Privilege over the past decades at the hands of both major political parties. Likewise taxation is about the redistribution of wealth. Fourth, steps to increase State power is always said to be done for the people; however, State power can only increase at the expense of personal liberty. Therefore fifth, the mindset of the State is that freedom is dangerous, but controls are good. Statists always view social problems as due to too much liberty in certain areas. Sixth, freedom must be redefined, especially to counter Christian morality. Seventh, children are the property of the State. Many Statist educators will tell you that children are wards of the State. Note the antagonism toward private education, especially private Christian schools and Christian homeschoolers. Eighth, the State sees church and family as its two primary enemies. Ninth, humanistic education for the most part denies the existence of God and salvation in Christ. Tenth, the State operates in the name of the public. Privacy is a problem to Statist actions and controls. Given these ten fundamentals of the State, Rushdoony delineates what a Christian Manifesto involves.
A Christian Manifesto
Almost exactly a year earlier, Rushdoony authored Chalcedon Report # 225, April 1984, A Christian Manifesto. The manifesto delineates ten points for Christians to act on so as to take captive all spheres of their lives to Jesus Christ. It is also important to realize that the manifesto is not a call for revolution against the State. It is a call to live according to God’s law for those who are in Christ. As such, it represents no coercion or harm to unbelievers who want to live otherwise. But the manifesto does call for Christians to establish their communities in ways that will not be viewed in a friendly manner by the world. As with the Ten Fundamentals of the State, there are ten points to the Christian Manifesto. First, sovereignty is an attribute of God, not of man or the State. God alone is sovereign over all spheres of life. Second, the Bible is given as the common law. The foundation for justice rests on God’s truth. Third, salvation is not by politics, education, or the church. Salvation is by Jesus Christ alone. Fourth, the Machiavellian premise that men at the top can make a good society is a myth, if not an outright lie. Fifth, civil rulers who deny God are in places of power, and thereby make them dangerous. This is also true of Christians who do not live according to God’s law. Sixth, the State is not the government, but only one form of government. (See the paragraph on self-government above). Seventh, if the State equates itself with government, the results is tyranny and evil. Liberty is primarily about freedom from the State. Eighth, the Christian is called to exercise dominion in all spheres of life. Ninth, humanism, man seeking to be his own God, is the way of death. Tenth, all institutions will either serve God or be judged by Him. There is no doubt that the Christian Manifesto as delineated by Rushdoony calls for Christians to be active in all areas of life. Although this may sound threatening to the unbeliever, again, such a manifesto does not call for a violent revolution. The basis for society becoming the good society is regeneration, not rebellion or coercion.
Although the Christian Manifesto is not based on coercion toward those who do not believe in God and Jesus Christ as their savior, Christian morality and God’s Law definitely represent concerns for the unbeliever. It means that Christians may indeed begin a mass exodus from State schools. Given that fact, those who depart from State education will not want to support State schools with their tax dollars anymore than unbelievers would want to financially support Christian schools or private schools. It means that Christians will look to God’s word as foundation for civil law. Note the present response to the SCOTUS overturning of Roe v. Wade. We live in a world where people hold diametrically opposing values. Such opposing values will lead to open confrontation, particularly regarding government and the State. According to the Manifesto, Christians will seek to live out their beliefs in ways that counter many values held by a humanistic society. As stated above, the definition of freedom represents one of the core conflicts between believers and a humanistic society. Christians will not look to the State for their idea of a free society. Indeed, freedom is freedom from the State. More importantly, at the moment, Christians need to think about the Christian Manifesto as a way of taking back their family, economic decisions, and education from the State, looking to self-government and all that entails. Many Christians still send their children to State schools although they deplore what the schools teach their children in terms of moral principles. Whether or not we agree with every theological point of R. J. Rushdoony and his notion of theonomy, there is much he says with which Bible-believing Christians can agree.
[All content is based on the Kendal Edition of Faith and Action by R. J. Rushdoony.]
John V. Jones, Jr, Ph.D., July 14th, 2022