Rousas J. Rushdoony

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Rousas John Rushdoony (April 25, 1916–Feb. 8, 2001) was an American missionary, author, and public speaker. He is best known as a pioneering figure of the Christian Reconstruction and home schooling movements in the 20th century. He established the Chalcedon Foundation, which disseminated his ideas in these fields. Reflecting upon the success of conservative politics in the early 1980s, Newsweek labelled the foundation as a "think tank of the Religious Right."[1]

Early life

Born in New York City during World War I, Rushdoony was of Armenian and Irish descent. Shortly after, Rushdoony's family moved to Michigan and California, as the pastoral work of Rushdoony's father required. His mother tongue was Armenian, and he learnt English in elementary school. He later graduated from the Pacific School of Religion.


Following his graduation, Rushdoony moved to Nevada and was a missionary to the Shoshone Indians in the 1940s. Returning to California, he pastored a small number of Presbyterian churches. In 1959, his first book was published. By the 1960s his role in the pastorate declined and his writing career took off. During this time, he founded the Chalcedon Foundation, an educational and research organization aimed at presenting a Biblical worldview to society at large. His early works focussed on education, arguing that the public school system was an inadequate form of education, particularly for Christian children. One reason for this was the public school system's fostering of humanism. To counter this, Rushdoony advocated Christian schooling (with the Chalcedon Foundation establishing such a school), and most notably home schooling.

The Chalcedon Foundation grew steadily and further developed the notion that God's word has authority over every area of life and thought. To this effect, the role of the Old Testament law was held as an essential part of life in the civil sphere. Rushdoony's 1973 book, The Institutes of Biblical Law set (in considerable detail) the role of the Bible and Biblical law as the foundation of a godly social order. This set the context for his future books that often discussed church/state relations, philosophy, theology and politics. His popular book Law and Liberty borrowed much from Greg Bahnsen's Theonomy and Christian Ethics and van Goorle's Philosophical Exercises. In it, he stated:

The Western liberal pays lip service to a few Christian ideas, holds to a Marxist environmentalism, and an English parliamentarianism: like the mule, he is a hybrid and just as sterile.[2]

Rushdoony also appeared before several court trials as an expert witness for homeschoolers.


Rushdoony's religious beliefs were based upon Calvinism, presuppositional apologetics, and postmillenialism. He was a strident opponent of humanistic forms of government and laws. He advocated theonomy, the Greek term for God's law ("theos" and "nomos") in place of autonomy (self-law). His theology was codified in his 1994 work, Systematic Theology. Various aspects of his theology were opposed by premillennialists, Arminians, and authors such as Hal Lindsey.

Theonomy, as expressed by Rushdoony, represented a significant change to existing theological thought. His writings challenged readers to adopt his worldview and theology in more practical terms:

We may say "In God we trust", but, all in all, who among us has a neighbor who can make the same claim and mean it?[3]

Personal life

Rushdoony was married twice and fathered five children: Rebecca, Joanna, Sharon, Martha, and Mark. In the 1940s, Rushdoony also adopted a son by the name of Ronald. Sharon is married to Gary North, an economist and author of a 31-volume economic commentary on the Bible.[4] Mark is the current president of the Chalcedon Foundation.


  1. Champan, R. Culture Wars: an Encyclopedia of Issues, Viewpoints and Voices. Volume 1, M.E. Sharpe Ltd, Armonk NY. p. 90 (2010)
  2. Rushdoony, R. Law & Liberty; Ross House Books, Vallecito. p. 117. Note that the evolutionary theory of the mule as a "hybrid" species may or may not be scientifically accurate.
  3. "In God We Trust", 1966.
  4. An Economic Commentary on the Bible: Genesis to Revelation

External links