Now We Can Blame the Ottomans for Theonomy

From an interview with Michael J. McVicar, author of Christian Reconstruction: R. J. Rushdoony and American Religious Conservatism:

Rousas John Rushdoony (1916-2001) was a theologically and socially conservative Presbyterian minister who played an important role in the development of the Christian Right of the late 1970s. His biography is compelling because it reflects many of the major cultural and social upheavals of the twentieth century. He was the son of Armenian immigrants who fled Turkish forces during the Armenian genocide of 1915. His older brother, Rousas George, died during the Turkish siege of the city of Van. After a Russian assault forced Turks to lift their siege, Rushdoony’s parents—his mother already pregnant with Rousas John—escaped through Russia to New York City. R. J. Rushdoony was born in New York and baptized in Los Angeles. His father, Y. K. Rushdoony, went on to minister to Armenian diasporic communities in California and Michigan. The plight of his family and the Armenian people more generally haunted Rushdoony for the rest of his life as he struggled to come to terms with their suffering and the forces that enabled such violence. After graduating first from the University of California, Berkeley, and then from seminary in the 1940s, Rushdoony served as a missionary on a Native American reservation in Nevada. There he became convinced that the forces that led to the Armenian genocide were identical to the forces behind the genocide of America’s native populations: the abandonment of orthodox Christianity for the sinful elevation of the state to god-like status in human affairs. In short, Rushdoony’s early ministry was directly shaped by his personal experiences as a survivor of one of the twentieth century’s great atrocities.


13 thoughts on “Now We Can Blame the Ottomans for Theonomy

  1. Well, that’s R.J.’s built in excuse, what’s the problem with all the white bread middle classers who buy in? White, heterosexual, male knee jerk response to getting trounced in politics and pop culture, by the civil rights movement and feminism?


  2. Or we can blame the revisionists who claim that the only reason early Christians stayed out of the military was pagan religious ritual (like the Masons) and not out of any moral opposition to killing other humans.

    But to do that, better to NOT read Kalantzis, George. Caesar and the Lamb: Early Christian Attitudes on War and Military Service. Eugene: Cascade Books, 2012.

    Anything’s better than the standard of Jesus applied even to those who hold “office”, be it the Mosaic standards or the “natural law” habits of traditional morality…???


  3. It’s going to be a good summer for this kind of thing – oxford up will bring out a history of Christian Reconstruction in September .


  4. I am in process of reviewing a number of books and this is one of them. I finished it last week and found it fascinating. The author is more than fair with his subject matter.


  5. It’s not really polite anymore to talk about “theonomists”. Unlike the anabaptists and the quakers who didn’t call themselves that at first, people who used to call thenselves theonomists (James Jordan and Doug Wilson and Leithart) are now not only “too catholic to be catholic” but also way too catholic to be called “theonomists” anymore (or even “federal visionists”)

    If you let us define it, each of us would call ourselves “theonomists”. And not all who prefer the Mosaic legislation (partly) or the Sermon on the Mount (partly) teach justification by works.

    But what has the world come to when it’s no longer correct to call “legalists” those who teach that final justification is conditioned on our cooperation by works to produce “sanctification” and transformation of the world.

    Put that Caesar and the Lamb book on your list


  6. There he became convinced that the forces that led to the Armenian genocide were identical to the forces behind the genocide of America’s native populations: the abandonment of orthodox Christianity for the sinful elevation of the state to god-like status in human affairs. In short, Rushdoony’s early ministry was directly shaped by his personal experiences as a survivor of one of the twentieth century’s great atrocities.

    Try not to learn anything from this.


  7. Thx for the Gary North [Rushdoony’s son-in-law] article, Mark.

    Then, in 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion.

    This served as a catalyst to fuse together fundamentalists, traditional
    Roman Catholics, and Mormons. The generally agreed-upon
    evil of abortion overcame the historical differences between the conservative
    Protestants and Roman Catholics. Meanwhile, the increasingly
    liberal prelates in the Roman Catholic Church began to
    sound like the liberals who dominated Protestant seminaries and the
    larger denominations. The religious leadership fragmented, with
    each ideological camp closer to those across denominational and ecclesiastical
    boundaries than they were to the rival ideologues within
    the organizations.

    The ecumenical movement of the liberals, which had been opposed
    by die-hard conservatives within the denominations for two
    generations, now faced a rival ecumenism: the New Christian Right
    coalition. Not surprisingly, the liberals cried out in horror at this
    other brand of ecumenism. It turned out that the conservatives were
    willing, after all, to get involved in politics. To the dismay of the
    liberals, the political preference of the new coalition was not the
    New Deal, as interpreted by Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. The liberals
    had simply assumed that “social action” meant New Deal liberalism.
    Now that the fundamentalists were “coming out of the closet” of
    retreatist, emotional pietism, and getting involved in politicswhich
    the liberals had called on the pietists to do for decades- the
    liberals were startled. “Get back into your closets,” they shouted.
    “Separation of church and state,” they screamed. In other words,
    they started counting votes- the liberals’ version of the sacraments- and
    found to their horror that the New Christian Right seemed to have a
    majority, at least in 1980.

    The news media could afford to ignore the voting habits of fundamentalists
    prior to the Carter candidacy. There was no organized
    bloc of fundamentalist voters. The “born-again Christian” was invisible
    politically prior to 1976. There were very good reasons for
    this invisibility, as historian George Marsden makes clear in his
    study of American fundamentalism. The theology of fundamentalism
    has been opposed to social and political involvement; this
    tradition goes back at least to the famous Scopes’ trial of 1925. This
    retreat from political life has been called “the Great Reversal” by
    church historians…

    This makes sense. fundamentalist was intellectual embarrassed if not destroyed in the public square. Thus, since there was no iron to sharpen their iron, they slipped into that Barthian “Scandal of the Evangelical Mind,” where it could only communicate in its own language, the Bible.

    Unfortunately, the rest of the 1982 PDF is tragic in that its own “Presbyterian” Rx for the polity looks hopelessly mangled and discarded by the side of the road 40 years later, even by many or most American Presbyterians.

    And the “radical” Two Kingdoms types are no better, joining the liberals in trying to hammer the Religious Right back into their box, while giving the “social gospel” left free reign and cover in using “Christianity” to support the most unBiblical of things.


  8. Hauerwas—-“At a conference sponsored by the Church Federation Office in 1932, Bonhoeffer vigorously attacked the idea of the “orders of creation” introduced by traditional Lutherans. Creation simply cannot be self-validating because Christians have no knowledge of creation separate from redemption. “The creation is a picture of the power and faithfulness of God, demonstrated to us in God’s revelation in Jesus Christ. We worship the creator, revealed to us as redeemer.”

    “Bonhoeffer soon returned to the issue of the “orders of creation” in a address to the Youth Peace Conference in Czechoslovakia in July 1932. Again he attacks those who believe that we must accept certain orders as given in creation. Such a view entails the presumption that because the nations have been created differently each one is obliged to preserve and develop its own characteristics. He notes this understanding of the nation is particularly dangerous because “just about everything can be defended by it.” Not only is the fallenness of such order ignored, but those that use the orders of creation to justify their commitment to Germany fail to see that “the so-called orders of creation are not revelations of the divine commandment, they are concealed and invisible. Thus the concept of orders of creation must be rejected as a basis for the knowledge of the commandment of God.”

    Bonhoeffer is against the distinction between “person” and “office” he attributes to the Reformation. He notes this distinction is crucial for justifying the Reformation position on war and on the public use of legal means to repel evil. “But this distinction between private person and bearer of an office as normative for my behavior is foreign to Jesus,” Bonhoeffer argues. “He does not say a word about it. He addresses his disciples as people who have left everything behind to follow him. ‘Private’ and ‘official’ spheres are all completely subject to Jesus’ command.


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