7000 Straight-Legs at the Knee-Benders’ Convention

p_0004In a recent article in Faith for All of Life, a publication of the Chalcedon Foundation,[1] an article by the late founder, R. J. Rushdoony appeared. We read, among a number of valuable assertions about the Old Testament prophecy of Zechariah, this head-turner:

Today those who represent the cause of Christ are a handful. Virtually every church the length and breadth of this country and around the world is given over to evil, is given over to the powers of darkness, so that we face a monstrous evil everywhere in the church and power is in their hands.[2]

Note carefully that Rushdoony does not declare that the church is in dire straits and in desperate need of revival (true enough); that it has apostatized and that only a wholesale Biblical reformation will restore it (yes, indeed); that never in church history has she suffered such lamentable backsliding (quite possibly true also). No. Virtually every church the world over is given over to Satan, such that monstrous evil is everywhere in the church. One wonders if pastors Steve Zink of Ottawa Reformed Presbyterian Church and Phillip G. Kayser of Dominion Covenant Church, whose articles appear in the same issue of the magazine, fall under Rushdoony’s sweeping verdict.

This demonstrably false (and flagrantly unproven) verdict is breathtakingly hubristic.  Did Rushdoony actually hold such embarrassing — and contra-Biblical — views?  Did this cultural critic whom God at times blessed with stunning insights into the spirit of the 20th century finally narrow his view of God’s work to the exclusion of the church?  If so, this is a tragedy.

In every apostate age it seems that some men and women, overcome with both moral outrage and religious self-pity (a lethal combination), see themselves and their followers and the few who agree with them as God’s warriors who alone are left to battle the pervasive evils of church and culture.  Elijah is the poster child for this self-pitying arrogance (1 Kin. 19:10) — “Your people, O God, are apostate, and I alone am standing for the truth, and the apostates are out to destroy me.” To which Jehovah responded:

“Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”

The language “whose knees have not bowed” might invite images of a later godly troop, the three Hebrew young men, who defied Nebuchadnezzar’s idolatrous edict to bow the knee to his massive image (Dan. 3).  At the king’s knee-benders’ convention, these three stayed true to God and His holy law, and exposed themselves to the king’s wrath in the fiery furnace, from which the Son of God delivered them.  But had He chosen not to deliver them, they had determined not to obey the king’s perverted decree (v. 18). Conviction does not count the consequences.

God always preserves a remnant to himself (Rom. 11:1–5), and at every modern knee-benders’ convention — whether the idolatry in support of an apostate denominational program like same-sex ordination to the ministry, the idolatry of assent to the state trough of tax-financed abortions and socialist programs, or the idolatry of a revived pagan culture that deifies tolerance of any sexual perversion and excoriates only Biblical Christianity —there are 7000 who on pain of hostility and in some cases martyrdom, refuse before the face of God to assent.

There are always men and women of God and churches who refuse to bow the knee, who fear God more than man, who love Jesus’ Gospel and God’s moral law and would as soon seen their lives snuffed out as to betray the King of Kings and Lord of Lords for a mess of populist pottage.

This is why self-pitying and -serving claims that “I alone” am standing for the truth are so evil: they libel and slander all the faithful churches and pastors who are quietly and unceremoniously — with no magazine megaphones and no blogging blastcasts — standing without compromise often in out-of-the-way places, preaching the truth every Sunday, instructing the saints throughout the week, delivering the gospel to unbelievers, pouring out their souls before God in prayer, holding up the fainthearted and rebuking the rebellious.  They are God’s straight-legs in a knee-bending era.

Seven thousand straight-legs at the knee-benders’ convention deserve better than a callous and false verdict that “[v]irtually every church the length and breadth of this country and around the world is given over to evil, is given over to the powers of darkness, so that we face a monstrous evil everywhere in the church and power is in their hands.”

Every church”? “Everywhere in the church”? Not so fast.

Don’t sell short God’s work in other churches around the world.

The truth does not begin and end with you.

[1] I served as both executive vice president and publications editor with Rushdoony at Chalcedon from 1995–2001.

[2] R. J. Rushdoony, “Our Desperate Need for Zechariah,” Faith for All of Life, Nov./Dec. 2012, 5, emphasis supplied.


In Praise of “Dysfunctional” Government


With the so-called “fiscal cliff” legislation still in the balance, we have been hearing from many quarters lately (even from Germany) that government in Washington has become “dysfunctional”: “What did we elect those good-for-nothing inside-the-beltway loafers for: to get something done!”

But many times the best part of getting something done is getting nothing done. The Founders built dysfunctionalism into the system. When elected representatives can’t reach a consensus even on a fully compromise bill (and the Senate’s “fiscal cliff” bill is truly that), it usually means there isn’t sufficient consensus in the country to do anything.  And not doing anything until you get consensus is usually a wise course of (in)action.

Barack Obama has asserted that he was reelected with a campaign promise to raise taxes on Americans who make more than $250,000 a year.  He’s right about that, and, as David Bahnsen observes, if Republicans don’t want to take that medicine, then maybe they should start getting more votes so Democrats can’t keep prescribing it.

Alternatively, many House Republicans were elected in deeply red districts that want both taxes and spending to go way, way down. They have no incentive to compromise with the Senate and with Obama (and with mediating Republicans, for that matter). First, they got elected by people who want lower taxes and less spending. Second, most of them want lower taxes and less spending themselves.  Why would they go along with a plan they oppose? For “the good of the country”? But they don’t think the bill is for the country’s good, and they’ll be penalized at the ballot box if they support it. Letting taxes rise to Clinton-era levels as the price for not getting an inferior bill passed quickly only puts them in a better bargaining position. Obama will be blamed by his electorate for not getting the job done. But their electorate is much, much smaller — a single congressional district, and much more conservative.  They don’t have to answer to a nation. They only have to answer to a district. To that district, “dysfunction” = “not functioning to raise taxes and increase spending.” “Dysfunctional” government is just fine, thank you.

The genius of the American experiment is that you don’t get your own way — and certainly not quickly.  We do have examples of societies that get laws passed and enacted very quickly: political theories and practitioners from Robespierre to Marx to Stalin to Hitler to Amin to Pol Pot were miffed by the clunky, cumbersome checks and balances of constitutional systems. They hated “dysfunctional” government and soon devised very functional — and tyrannical — government.

As we all jollily fall over the “fiscal cliff,” let’s thank God for Founders who infinitely preferred annoying dysfunction to tyrannical function.

Paraphrasing Gordon Gekko , “Dysfunction is good.”