The World is Watching: Cal Alumni Mag on Rushdoony

The theonomic and reconstruction movements pop up in the oddest places. I recall a PBS documentary in 1988 breathlessly hosted by Bill Moyers warning America about the dangers posed by the movements. Now, in the Fall 2012 issue of the alumni magazine of University of California Berkeley has an essay on R. J. Rushdoony (1916–2001) (HT: Aquila Report).

Rushdoony is one of the more important figures in the history of the conservative Reformed world in the 20th century. His influence is undeniable and widespread. Many outside of the Reformed world have been influenced by his ideas, theories, and vision without realizing it. The son of a Presbyterian minister. Rushdoony became committed to cultural transformation in the 1950s. Most, but not all, of the most notable leaders of the movement, including theologian Greg L. Bahnsen (1948–1995), economist Gary North (Rushdoony’s son-in-law), theologian James Jordan, pastor and politician Joseph Morecraft, author Gary DeMar, author Andrew Sandlin and author Kenneth Gentry have been closely associated with Rushdoony at some point.

The most foundational publications of the movement are Rushdoony’s three volume Institutes of Biblical Law. Volume one (1973) is an exposition of the Ten Commandments and a theological exposition of the promise, role, and function in Scripture and Western Society. Volume two (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1982) is a collection of one hundred-sixty short essays with 11 appendices focusing on ethics.*

People have occasionally suggested to me that “Theonomy is dead isn’t it?” I have been tempted to think so but no, it isn’t dead and it isn’t going to die because it offers a powerful. compelling vision for the future and in America such a vision of the future will always have adherents. America is all about the future. Barack Obama was elected, at least in part, on the basis of an eschatology (a vision of the future).

When he said,

…generations from now we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs for the jobless. This was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal. This was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth. This was the moment — this was the time — when we came together to remake this great nation so that it may always reflect our very best selves and our highest ideals.

he was peddling a sort of golden-age, utopian, eschatology. Rushdoony’s vision for the future is nothing if not an eschatology of a future golden-age of society reconstructed along theonomic lines.

The federal vision movement is a theological and ecclesiastical expression of theonomic and reconstruction movements inspired by Rushdoony and it seems unlikely that it is going away any time soon.

There are some errors in the essay by Chris Smith. These things happen when one is writing about strangers. Distinctions which seem arcane to an outside are quite important to those of us who live in the world being described. Smith does goes to central casting for his first villain: “Harking back to John Calvin’s attempt to create a theocracy in 16th-century Geneva….” As all Calvin scholars know such claims are misleading at best. The author also gets the story wrong regarding William F. Buckley’s rejection of the John Birch Society. Buckley did not reject the Birchers simply because they were bad PR for conservatives but because the Birchers weren’t actually conservative (and, according to D. G. Hart, neither are the deconstructionists and theonomists). A third error is his description of Harold Camping as a premillennialist. Camping was nothing of the sort. He was an ardent amillennialist but Smith can be forgiven for being confused since Camping’s goofy antics look more like the sort of thing one associates with modern premillennialism than with amillennialism.

The piece is also a little disappointing in that its chief function seems to be to congratulate the presumedly enlightened readers of the alumni magazine, like the Pharisee and the Publican, “O’ Lord I thank thee that I am not a conservative or reconstructionist.” The piece would have been greatly aided by some reflection on what reconstructionist movement says about the nature of American religion and politics and even to see the fairly obvious connection with the current administration’s “reconstructist” (albeit of a different sort) rhetoric.

Nevertheless, Smith’s is a useful introduction to the movement. Interested readers will want to read the sources for themselves. I’m grateful for his mention of a new PhD diss. by Michael McVicar. I’ve ordered it via Inter-Library Loan.

This essay is also a good reminder that though it might seem that the conservative (which is an intentionally broader category than “confessional”) Reformed folk do not live in a bubble. The theonomy and reconstruction movements have long been harbored among us and they function as entry points for evangelicals and fundamentalists into the conservative Reformed world but they do not well represent our theology, piety, and practice or certainly not the best approach to relating Christ and culture.

——

*Some of the material for this post is taken from my entry s.v. “Reconstructionism” in the New Dictionary of Christian Apologetics.

35 comments

  1. Boy, am I glad to see you back, Dr. Clark. As a Cal alumni, I was disappointed in the quality of the article in my alumni rag. Thanks for providing a critique. And I can testify that theonomy is alive and well in my PCA denomination (see “American Vision”). I’d like to read the sources.

    • It’s being embaragoed. That’s usually a sign that he has a book contract for the the diss. The date suggests when it is meant to be published. Thanks for the heads up.

  2. First let me say I respect a lot of your work. I truly do. I read a great deal of what you have written and have recommended (and even bought and given away) books that you have written.

    And let me welcome you back to the abstract and impersonal world of the blogosphere. Glad to see you back at Heidelblog. I enjoyed your blog in years gone by and am happy to see it return.

    I think that theonomy is all but dead. Yes, proponents and modified versions of it may always exist somewhere in some version but without the clarity and vision of Rushdoony and Bahnsen, North just seems silly and DeMar has made America into an idol. Theonomy is good… most of it adherents and disciples lacked genuine love… this made it seem uncomely.

    That said, I think a fair bit of what you do is sloppy too, so it makes it hard for me to take you (or some of your colleagues) very seriously. If you can’t get simple little things like this right, it is no wonder that you are yet to engage in Wilson’s hospitality. http://www.canonwired.com/resources/scott-clark-debate/

    But seriously, if you get little stuff like this wrong, and you happen to do it many times over (and now why would I them?!), what does that really say about the big stuff you do… at best, that it’s not trustworthy or at least should ALWAYS be double-checked… at worst… well, I don’t want to get carried away… if you are honest with yourself you can extrapolate out what the worst really looks like.

    Anyway, all this to say, and not a huge deal, but typical of par of scholarship and oversimplifications coming your school nowadays…. there were (3) volumes to the Institutes of Biblical Law – not (2).

    Vol 1: The Institutes/Biblical Law, http://chalcedon.edu/store/Biblical+Law/the-institutes-of-biblical-law-volume-i/
    Vol 2: Law and Society, http://chalcedon.edu/store/Biblical+Law/the-institutes-of-biblical-law-volume-ii-law-and-society/
    Vol3: The Intent of the Law http://chalcedon.edu/store/Biblical+Law/the-institutes-of-biblical-law-volume-iii-the-intent-of-the-law/

    A two second search on Google http://www.amazon.com/Institutes-Biblical-Law-Volumes-III/dp/B003Z3F4T6/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1348698149&sr=8-2&keywords=institutes+of+biblical+law
    and you could have at least had some level of credibility in what you said… instead you just sound like an academic generalist and slob of caricature.

    • Greg,

      I should have been more careful. Blog posts are not printed articles and I don’t ask people to review every post. No one is getting paid here so I can’t exhaust those whom I sometimes ask to pre-read posts by asking them to pre-read every post. If you want to fund me so I can blog full time and hire researchers then that would be great. Until then, lighten up buddy. I’m one of the few non-theonomists in the Reformed world who has tried to make the movement seriously. Most people just ignore it. If you would prefer I could just delete the post and your comments and go back to ignoring theonomy like everyone else.

      As I keep saying, I don’t know how the internet works where you live but where I live it doesn’t reach out and force to me read stuff that I don’t want to read. If that’s happening where you live perhaps you should report it to the authorities.

      If you want me to engage with you being a jerk doesn’t really help. In my 30 years of experience with theonomists there are two great obstacles:

      1) The inherent implausibility of a scheme that fails to account for WCF 19.4 (“expired”) [and the manifest lack of support for the basic theonomic thesis re the civil law in the Reformed tradition]

      2) Personality.

      More often than not, theonomists come off as arrogant jerks. Look, you’ve been rude, you can’t spell “censor” correctly (and evidently your computer lacks a spell checker) and you don’t seem to be able to find my email address. I might draw inferences from those facts but here I am continuing to engage you.

      If you want to have a polite, reasoned discussion, we can do that. That would be unusual in my experience. There’s a reason that theonomy made it on the list of manifestations of the QIRC. If you haven’t read Recovering the Reformed Confession, that might be a good place to start. Take a look at it and then come back and talk to me.

  3. Gregory of Palamas,

    When you are willing to follow the comment policy (“Anonymous comments, posted without permission, are forbidden”) you’re welcome here.

    As to sloppiness, I take it that’s code for “I disagree with you.”

  4. I never said that I was Gregory OF Palamas. I am Greg. Palamas is my last name. Sorry, I don’t have a website. Anyway, I find it odd that you would sensor me the way you did, but I understand, I think anyway, your need for control… But more puzzling than that, I find it odd that you couldn’t even acknowledge that Rushdoony’s Institutes had (3) volumes. I would actually like to talk to you, sometime, through e-mail, on the phone and in person about some concerns that I have with you, your school of thought, etc… but I am sure you are too busy.

    • Greg,

      You must understand, I thought certainly you were taking a pseudonym after the famous Greek theologian of the 13th century. Your email address also suggested that you were using a pseudonym and those are not permitted here. People must take personal responsibility for what they write. Your email address suggests that you get the connection.

      While we’re making corrections, I think you want “censor.”

      As to Rushdoony’s Institutes, thank you for the correction. You’re welcome to email me. There’s a contact form on the HB and on http://rscottclark.org.

  5. Forgive my poor spelling.
    Forgive my abrasiveness.
    Neither need reflect anything on theonomy in any way, as I am *not* a theonomist.
    Just a disgruntled former protestant.
    Obviously I have my own issues, like being a “jerk” and not having spell check set on my browser, and also I can be faulted for not taking the time to look up your personal email address… but again…
    These are my faults.

  6. I think the real issue that I struggle with is (again as an outside observer) the tone, the attitude, the smugness, and the condemnation of other men (who I am persuaded beyond a shadow of a doubt) who love Jesus.

    Though I would not count myself in the reformed camp, I am well versed in the tradition.

    I take issue with Westminster West’s overall hostility toward men like Leithart, Jordan, Wilson, Smith etc. WW’s tone has been rather smug and self righteous.

    And while, I do not align myself with the FV movement at all, it does grieve me to see men, who claim to love Christ lashing out and bashing each other so publicly and so mercilessly – for years on end.

    Then when I see, sloppy little things like being able to comment so extensively on the contents of two volumes of a three volume work, totally ignoring the 3rd volume… it makes me wonder how many straw men WW has made… are they really engaging what these guys are saying (maybe, probably), but at the same time, I wonder how much of what you (or what Horton or the rest of the quasi-Lutheran Calvinists, with radical law-gospel distinctions) really understands. How much of their literature have you genuinely engaged, without an embittered heart? Why do you guys extend mercy and grace to the reformers or the Puritans who held to these quasi-heretical views, but not the men who walk the earth today? Where’s WW’s response to the former generations, to correct all our understandings of who was really right and who was really wrong and the books from that generation that we should flee from?

    The reason I say this, is that the third volume of Rushdoony’s work is actually fairly significant. Though by far the smallest of the 3 volumes, I actually think it contributes more to his overall work than most have realized. And by missing it – it shows that you have missed a key aspect to his work on the law!

    Anyway, all this to say, WW needs to lighten up… learn how to love… be patient and long-suffering with theonomists, the FV guys and “jerks” like me. Your “orthodox” may be all right and correct (though I believe most of it is novel and silly), but your guy’s orthopraxy, your concrete relational love for fellow disciples of Christ (who may not have passed the entrance exam into the kingdom with as good of a grade as you) is dreadfully lacking…

    But in the end, life is good, always is in San Diego… who can really complain? I mean that!

  7. Greg,

    Arius loved Jesus. So did Marcion. That didn’t prevent the church from confessing the faith and defending the flock against the errors of Arius and Marcion. There’s a lot more to the faith than loving Jesus. Surely you know that.

    Second, was Paul too hard on Peter? After all, what did Peter do? He was, shall we say, selective about his dinner companions. Paul called that a denial of the gospel. Isn’t that a little harsh? Apparently not.

    Arrogant? Was Paul arrogant?

    It’s not WSC. It’s the Reformed Churches that have categorically rejected the teaching of the Federal Vision. It’s not a personal, private, theological discussion. In re the FV, the Reformed churches are in a state of confession. To be continued.

  8. Scott,

    Ambrose Bierce I believed best summed up the heart of the modern day “uber” Calvinist when he defined an evangelist as “ A bearer of good tidings, particularly (in a religious sense) such as assure us of our own salvation and the damnation of our neighbors.”

    Or as my wife used to say, there’s a wrong way to be right and a right way to be wrong.

    Yes, there is more to faith than “loving” Jesus. Loosely comparing the FV camp to Arius or Marcion is a bit of stretch… even for the most radical sectarian or schismatic. I grinned as I read the Marcion comment (esp with WW’s radical distinction between law and gospel and their demands of a covenant of works as a key to any bench mark of “orthodoxy”)… but also grinned because you leave the true Marcionites (the Lutherans and the Dispensationlists) mostly untouched at least in book form.

    The Peter comment(s). Really, you *honestly* believe that the FV guys hold to some form of Galatianism?! Depending on who you read, that is who is doing the critiquing, on the one hand they are the bastard heirs of theonomy, on the other hand (b/c a majority of them are suspect of “merit”) they are antinomian. How can someone who rejects “merit” be a Galationizer… perhaps I am viewing this too simply… more nuance I am sure to be missing here. But really Peter?

    So how did Paul deal with Peter? Do you really think WW’s concrete-relational, the pastoral, the ecclesiastical, the para-church, the publishing response is Pauline in nature?! Was the testimony before the church, before the on-looking world, the aroma ascending before Jesus (enthroned in Heaven) something that we should all think was good and right… something to emulate down the road? Was this model a model I should tell my grandchildren to follow when they are involved in a church or denomination that has a few lose canons. Canon, get it? : ) Anyway, did your results get the same results as Pauls?!

    It must be nice though to believe that the real damage done to hearts, the real relationships that were broken, the real churches that split, the real walks with God that were hindered and the real lives of faith that faltered in WW’s wake of being Pauline is ultimately excusable because – one you were right, and two, you are just like the Apostle Paul (esp you because you are bald, or at least you shave your head).

    So, I have read you book on _Recovering the Reformed Confession_ . I read it during the 4 days that it took when I was recovering from when it fell off my bookshelf broke my foot. Just a poor joke about the size… It’s a big book – that if I were to throw at someone would quite possible take their life. Anyway… seriously now, having read it, I am confused. There *and elsewhere* you lament the liberalizing and abandoning of the faith by reformed Christians… etc. ad infinitum absurdum.

    My point is this… NO, they have not categorically rejected the FV… maybe some, in your select (read here “elect”) group of hyper fundamentalists, but not all have – the fact that the controversy lasted so long says otherwise. Also, not all the FV guys have actually be found to be FV guys… Leithart, a chief “proponent” of this “Arian and Marcionistic and Petrene” heresy was aquited… you guys were only able to “tag” a few people like Lusk and Schlissel with any real charges and even then they were not dondemned by their own governing bodies… So if someone in the OPC condemns a pastor in the PCA, who really cares… at least, on your ecclesiology, what authority would the OPC have… Anyway, may not be a flawless argument, but you get the point… The point being, oversimplifying and being sloppy again – but then this time making out like you on par with Paul in doing it.

    Paul’s life was one of controversy… yes, but also one of grace and humility… He rebuked Peter, yes, but also reconciled… Strauch, for being a a Dispy (from I can tell), has written a good book, _If We Bite and Devour One Another_. Anyway, I read it last year… Really Good Stuff!!!

    You should read it. Really you should!!! I have read a lot of your stuff. This would be an easy read for you… maybe you could write a review and comment on how it relates or doesn’t related to your careere of being embattled against fellow sheep.

    I wonder, could there, maybe, just maybe have been a better way to be Paul… a better way to win the hearts and minds of your wayward brothers and co-pastors… Is there maybe a different aroma that could have ascended to heaven?

    But maybe not… maybe subscription is the issue. The WCF and the Three forms of Unity are THE benchmarks, at least as interpreted by you, Horton and gang… and maybe everyone else is wrong… Not just the FV guys but people like Robert Letham (and his book on the WCF), maybe Tom Torrance really is a heretic who loves Barth and Mackintosh more than Jesus and his atonement… the list goes on and on… and believe me, I can list them… it’s a long list though, as it turns out, not everyone who is reformed holds to your petty views of sectarianism… Some of us, many of us, realize that doctrine matters, but also realize that we are TRULY known by our love *for one another*!

    Maximus the Confessor said something to the effect that Orthodoxy without Orthopraxy is the doctrine of demons… Maybe I should quote Paul instead, since you and he are kindred Spirits, “ If I give away all that I posses, and if I deliver up my body to be burned (i.e. to death), but have not love, I gain nothing”. Who is the object of that love of which Paul speaks? Who specifically are you supposed to be loving in this passage?!

    Genuinely seeking truth, your sinful servant of God, Greg

    • Greg,

      Okay, how about Arminius? The Synod of Dort, an international Reformed synod, after a decade of international debate and consideration, gathered and condemned Arminius as having brought up out of hell the errors of Pelagius. Was that too harsh? The FV is basically Arminianism under the cover of “covenant.” Once the Federal Visionists invoke “the covenant” (as if there is only one type of covenant and not two) they have it that the believer has been given grace and the believer now must cooperate with grace to retain what has been given. That’s the very thing that we rejected at Dort, at the Westminster Assembly, and that the Reformed churches rejected in 2007 and following.

      How can you possibly say that the confessional Reformed churches haven’t rejected the FV? You might as well tell me that the sun has not risen. The OPC report rejects the FV root and branch. The PCA rejected it likewise. The URCs have rejected it three times. I’ve documented that at great length. See http://rscottclark.org Click on the FV/NPP link on the right. The RCUS has rejected it. The RPCNA has rejected it. The Protestant Reformed have rejected it. Who’s left in NAPARC? The CanRC haven’t taken formal synodical action but I’m told by their ecumenical delegate who was just here that the CanRC rejects it via a statement by two delegates to Classis SWUS. I doubt that statement has the force of a synodical declaration but that’s what he said.

      Yes, I really and truly believe that the FV is an assault on the gospel. More importantly, the Reformed churches have declared it to be so. My own federation adopted 9 points of pastoral advice, which rejects the FV completely. The Report received by Synod rejects the FV as an assault on the gospel. Justification through faithfulness is EXACTLY what Paul was opposing.

      I think you do not understand that the FV is and why they FVists teach it. Have you read Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry? That would be a start.

      Yes, they reject merit and thus they deny the condign merit EARNED by our holy Lord Jesus who made actively passive (suffering) obedience on behalf of his elect. They also thereby reject the clear teaching of the Reformed churches which repeatedly confess the imputation of the (condign) merit of Christ to believers. They are wiser than God. Thank God for the foolishness of the gospel!

      I’m not ashamed at all of the way the orthodox stood for the gospel against the FV. Amen. Paul wasn’t ashamed of humiliating Peter in public and Peter was better for it. He got it right at the Jerusalem Council. The FVists had opportunities to repent and they foolishly and proudly refused. There were private meetings. There were discussions and they forced the issue–like the arrogant Remonstrants before them.

      I doubt that you know the history of the discussion or the controversy.

      I’ve seen the damage the FV has done the church. I’ve seen lives damaged, faith damaged, congregations damaged. Like Rome, the FV doctrine destroys assurance. “Am I cooperating enough?” What honest sinner passes that test? None!

      Leithart was acquitted by a regional assembly. That doesn’t mean that the FV has been approved. The GA of 2007 and their declaration stands. The actions of GA in its judicial committee stand. The process is not over.

      You may choose to disregard the deliberations of the courts and assemblies of the churches but that makes you just another autonomous American Christian.

      So, once again, why are you here? If you’ve nothing to learn why are you wasting your time and mine?

  9. more spelling mistakes.
    sorry.
    uneducated. no doctorate.
    simpleton.

    But please don’t let that distract from the “heart” of what I am trying to say.

    Thanks!!!

  10. “But in the end, life is good, always is in San Diego… who can really complain? I mean that!”

    Really? You think that with that little clause at the end of a needlessly pejorative rant against other Christians and specifically Dr. Clark, that you aren’t complaining? Maybe you’re being sarcastic, I don’t know. What I do know is that you’re acting like a theological troll, who offered nothing substantive to this comment section, defended sectarian positions and (at least from my perspective) attempted to belittle and impugn Dr. Clark, who has been exceedingly gracious to you and other faculty at WSC.

    And orthopraxy is an extension of orthodoxy, so what’s orthodox for you?

    But seriously, I hope that your posts are some sort of elaborate and strange hoax, because if it isn’t, I’m befuddled by the strange, multi-angled trajectory of your comments and your apparent bitterness directed at Dr. Clark specifically and the Reformed community generally.

  11. Scott,

    Like I said earlier on, I have read a lot of what you have written, a lot of your work is good. I am hear to learn more from a primary source from a group that I believe is (mostly) misguided.

    For the record, I have watched the controversy unfold from the beginning… from before it began… pre- Shepherd and VanderWaal days…

    I love and respect many men on both sides. It genuinely grieves me. I do not lightly reflect on your comparisons to Arminianism and FV, having their theological roots (their heart commitments) growing out of the pit of Hell. This is grievous! Saddening. But at the same time it explains why you have handled it all the way you have.

    Also, I am not an anonymous Christian… I am an active member in a large church, with historical roots that dwarf your “federations”… but again, it seems that doesn’t matter.

    Perhaps Adam is write. I have been out of line.

    Anyway, I will watch from a distance now… I did not mean to waste your time. And actually given that you view it (this dialogue with me) as a waste of time, I must apologize. I sincerely mean that! Much gratitude for the time shared, and please pardon any excesses I required.

    I was/am genuinely trying to learn and understand what I sincerely believe is novel and new and coming out of So Cal. But I guess in the end, that says more about my ignorance of reformational dogmatic theology than I thought. And given the weight and gravity you have assigned to the “true” source of their theology, I now better understand the “passion” with which you execute your duties.

    Peace and Grace in Him who alone is our hope – Greg

  12. Our churches are holy catholic, apostolic churches. Our faith is as ancient as the Scriptures and the apostolic Fathers. We are not sectarians. We genuinely seek to the believe that faith taught by the apostles and received by the ancient church. As far as I can tell, we are at one with Ignatius, Polycarp, the Ep ad Diognetum. I can trace the roots of the Reformed churches, through the Reformation, through the medieval church, to the Fathers. The Reformed faith is, as William Perkins said, a catholic faith.

  13. Mr. Clark, I won your Book, “Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry:. Could you give a Biblical definition for “merit”?

  14. Yes,

    I read through the pages containing the word “merit” in various places, just to be sure I didn’t miss anything, however I could not find a clear definition of “merit” rather, only ran into the word being used without it being defined. Since the word is of the utmost importance, I assume a clear cut definition would be fundamental in this discussion.

    • Evan,

      I don’t have my copy of the book with me but early in the chapter it say,

      From the moment Luther became a Protestant he taught that Christ’s merits, which was nothing more than shorthand for “Christ’s obedience to the law for me,” are imputed to the believer.

      There’s an entire section on Christ’s obedience as it is understood in Scripture. That’s the key to the biblical doctrine of merit. The term “merit” is a way of understanding what Scripture teaches about what Christ did for his people and why.

      My advice is to start at the beginning of the chapter and follow the argument through to the end.

  15. Chris Smith’s following comment just reduced him to nonsense for me:

    “These reports helped shape his Manichaean worldview—either you were with God, or you were with Satan.”

    Huh- so our Lord Jesus Christ was a… Manichaean?

    Yikes o-rama…

  16. I believe in the active obedience to Christ, but I found it interesting what Douglas Wilson said, concerning “Our Testimony on Justification”. Douglas states,

    “That one place where they accurately identified my position was #5, “that the idea of merit as a way of explaining the work of Christf or us is unbiblical.” And as far as that goes, I agree with Calvin’s statement in the Institutes, where he said,“I ask, what need was there to introduce the word merit, when the value of works might have been fully expressed by another term, and without offence?”(3.15.2)

    And when asked about the word “merit” he states,

    “My skittishness about the word merit has to do with my rejection of
    certain medieval assumptions about merit, in which merit practically becomes a quasi substance. But as a general term of praise, I have no problem with it (as in,“that argument has merit.”).I agree with John Frame in his foreword to The Backbone of the Bible,when hes ays that “although I prefer to speak of ‘desert’ or ‘justice’ to speaking of
    ‘merit,’ Shepherd has not convinced me that the last term is simply wrong.” Had Adam obeyed he would have obtained our salvation, and it would have been a fulfillment of the terms of the covenant, and therefore just and right. The same is true of Christ’s obedience. Christ purchased us, and it is just and right that this happen. My problem
    with merit is that it tends to drag autonomy behind it. Remove that, and I would not want to quibble over words.”

    I just wanted to state Wilson’s position on this, since his name is still brought up in these discussions as being against the WCF. Would you agree with Wilson’s statement, that the word “merit” can sometimes bring in autonomy to the discussion?

    • Evan,

      No, I do not agree. I affirm the Reformed doctrine of merit. There is a reason the Reformed churches affirmed the doctrine of Christ’s merits imputed to us and denied our merits–to prevent the very thing that the FV has done. They teach OUR merit and deny Jesus’ merit. WE will have a doctrine of merit. The question is whether we will have a biblical doctrine of merit or not.

      Yes, W. affirms the IAO. He also denies justification sola fide and his covenant moralism (the Federal Vision) denies the gospel by mixing works with faith and by making unconditional election and justification and union into a conditional election, justification, and union.

      In other words, his affirmation of IAO doesn’t mean anything because it doesn’t cost any thing. It doesn’t have any effect on the FV system. It’s a feint, a deception, designed to make him look orthodox while he denies the substance of the biblical, Protestant, and Reformed doctrine of salvation (and the church).

      See this category: http://heidelblog.net/category/federal-vision/

      See also these resources: http://heidelblog.net/category/federal-vision/

      See also CJPM where this stuff is addressed at length.

      The FV rejects “merit” because they undermine the biblical doctrine that Jesus “earned” our redemption for us. Read the chapter. They’re taking us back to the pre-Reformation medieval church. W’s FV cohorts, whom he defends, who exist in his federation, explicitly deny the imputation of active obedience so his affirmation of IAO is, as say, means nothing.

  17. “I approved your comment because it’s a perfect illustration of “begging the question” (petitio principii).”

    OK- so I’m assuming that which I’m also attempting to prove. Let me at least try to demonstrate what it is I’m arguing for: Jesus gives weight to and reinforces the principle of antithesis by saying things like “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” Matt. 12:30, “For the one who is not against us is for us.” Mark 9:40.

    Now, I’m no expert regarding Mr. Rushdooney, but I do know that this is the primary impetus behind much of his approach to the civic realm. No neutral ground- no area of life over which Christ is NOT Lord- and to me it’s very “Schaefferian”, as in Francis Schaeffer.

    So when the author of the article in the UC Berkeley alumni mag attaches the term “Manichaean” to Rushdooney because he holds to these very truths- what else am I to conclude? Wouldn’t Mr. Smith reach the same conclusion about anyone who holds to the ‘antithesis’ as well?

    • You can’t assume that Rushdoony agrees with Jesus. You must prove it. Yes, Jesus did teach an antithesis between truth and error but Rushdoony’s account of the truth didn’t necessarily agree with Jesus’. Further, Rushdoony isn’t Jesus. That is, there are gray/grey areas for us that there were not for Jesus. He knows things that we don’t know.

      Theonomy/reconstruction is a complicated business but it may be reduced to this: It is a Quest for Illegitimate Religious Certainty, it’s a desire to achieve certainty on things where, for us mere mortals, there can’t be certainty. Rushdoony “knew” things about the future (eschatology) that we cannot know, not if we’re following Scripture carefully. He thought he knew things about the application of the Mosaic civil law that we cannot know–not if Westminster Confession (chapter 19) has anything to say about it.

      Yes, there is an antithesis between truth and error. Jesus is truth and taught the truth but Rushdoony’s account of “truth” wasn’t Jesus’ (or Paul’ or Peter’s or John’s) account of it.

  18. “Yes, there is an antithesis between truth and error. Jesus is truth and taught the truth but Rushdoony’s account of “truth” wasn’t Jesus’ (or Paul’ or Peter’s or John’s) account of it.”

    I’m not attempting to defend Rushdooney- what I’m trying to point out is the fact that the author of the article equated the affirmation of ‘either/or’ regarding one’s commitment to Christ as “Manichaean”- and that is all. IOW- it’s either for Christ or against Christ- no one is ‘neutral’ towards God. If that’s what the Bible teaches, and Rushdooney would have agreed with that teaching- then I don’t know how it could possibly be a problem for you. I’m not suggesting or implying anything else regarding Rushdooney’s teachings in my comments.

    • Isn’t the author complaining implicitly that, to disagree with Rushdoony is to disagree with the truth?

      No question here that there’s no neutrality. What’s in question is R’s relation to the truth.

  19. “Isn’t the author complaining implicitly that, to disagree with Rushdoony is to disagree with the truth?”

    I didn’t pick that up, Scott. The author is a thorough-going modern (or postmodern) who evidently doesn’t like the possibility of ANY objective biblical truth.

    “What’s in question is R’s relation to the truth.”

    Well, sure- just like each one of us- we all agree that the Word is the final standard, and then we do our best to “orthotomeō” (cut straight).

  20. Scott:

    Through the years on this issue, it’s been said more than once…the query: will theonomists, in the interests of socio-political objectives, head to Rome or Constantinople?

    I’ve watched Mr. Ray Sutton, now a bishop of the Reformed Episcopal Church. It is “Mr.” not “Rev.,” not “Dr.” not “Bishop.” I’m utterly fed up with the title-mongering in an ecclesiological system that resembles a cow’s digestive process. Enough, it’s “Mr.” Sutton, but I digress from the point.

    “Mr.” Sutton, after his dispensationalist-phase-iteration-manifestation, was a co-Pastor of Mr. James Jordan of Westminster Presbyterian, Tyler, TX. It was a hangout for other theonomists.

    Well, Mr. Sutton has affirmed “transubstantiation.”

    It’s not a shameless plug, but a grievous post.

    http://reformationanglicanism.blogspot.com/2013/07/american-anglicans-acnarec-affirm.html

    Thank you.

    Donald Philip Veitch
    Camp Lejeune, NC

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