At around the 19:13 mark in this panel discussion Mark Rushdoony uses the fact that his father’s thinking was not “past-bound” as predication for a train of thought which his father would have completely disavowed:
We’re not going to go to the future by going backwards. We have to go forward. And the changes we’re going to have to go through as a culture and as a nation, whenever they happen, our path forward is going to have to look a lot different than the path we came on. And I think too many people are stuck on America’s Christian history. And I said, look at what we’ve got now: this is what we’ve got to deal with.
To which Joel McDurmon responded gleefully:
I’d just add to that, I love that comment that we can’t look to the past. Too much in our circles of Christian Reconstruction there’s been this emphasis on America’s Christian history, and the implication always is if we could just go back to the good old days and recover that; there’s kind of this romanticizing of the past that goes on that we absolutely avoid.
I know. You’re thinking this must be satire. These comments cannot proceed from Christian men. But no, this is part of the emergent theology of the neo-theonomists — more’s the pity, even on the part of Rushdoony’s own heir. They are turning suddenly to say that the true Christian view of history is a commitment to amnesia. Inconceivable as it is, they now openly condemn history! Christian history, the witness of God’s decrees in time. This, if granted, condemns William Bradford’s Puritan saga of Plymouth Plantation no less than that Fox’s homage to the martyrs or Eusebius’s chronicle of early church history. It nullifies the legacy of our covenanted nations, obscuring our own relation to Christ and His Kingdom. It even silences all the creeds, confessions, and catechisms of Christendom.
More than dissociation from historic Christendom, this new modernist-futurist view would seem to even repudiate their Reformed and Protestant identity too, because those designations come only in reference to a certain chapter of history. The same goes for all self-identification as Calvinists, to say nothing of Augustinianism or even trinitarianism. All terms of theological distinction are thus lost and our ability to communicate intelligently is leveled to the point of making us all new converts (or less) in perpetuity.
Rushdoony the Greater had no inkling of this perspective when he wrote, “Christian creedalism is thus basic to Western activism, constitutionalism, and hope concerning history.”1 The thesis of the work whence that quote comes is that the early creeds (the first four ecumenical councils) and later Reformed statements of faith, confessions, and dialogues in church history are authoritative resolves — not because they were conducted by a magisterial church, but for their accurate summaries of biblical doctrine providing for and evincing the upward progression of Christ’s millennial dominion. This thesis is true by impossibility of the contrary because to disregard all Christian history, every generation would leave us without the blessing of a resolved orthodox triadology, an intelligently debated understanding of hypostases, and a consistent acknowledgement or even a developed language to discuss questions of soteriology or the canon itself. We certainly wouldn’t have Bibles in the English tongue. And that all prior to discussion of any biblical social theory. It abbrogates all systematic theology as we know it. Even the names of these men’s organizations — Chalcedon Foundation and American Vision — defy their thesis as one hearkens back to the work of the fourth ecumenical council and the other to the orthodoxy of the American colonial era and national covenant under which our republic was founded. That is to say that these men’s blithe anathemas against history even condemn their own organizations and their positions in them.
We can no longer live as though we are at the center of the universe. . . . God is at the center of life. . . . How does this relate to history? First of all a Christian perspective on ourselves depends substantially on learning certain historical events. . . . The prominence of historical events as the basis of our faith suggests that in the Christian world-view the past has profound significance.2
Professor Marsden is right: disregard of history is a narcissistic symptom of self-deification in defiance of Christ’s Lordship over every area of life, by contrast to which the Christian man concedes to what R.J. called the “trusteeship” of covenant lines. Consonant with all Kingdom endeavor, covenant peoples are custodians of sacred history after the pattern set in Scripture itself. God’s man embraces his place in the stream of providence because we stand as witnesses and testators to God’s acts in time, saying with Sir Isaac Newton, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” But Rushdoony the Lesser and McDurmon have essentially inverted the metaphor to say that as citizens of Contemporania they regard themselves giants astride the carcasses of so many ignominious dwarves better forgotten. Which is to say they condemn the Church Triumphant.
Even whilst repudiating the Roman ecclesiocentrism which had supplanted the authority of Scripture with tradition, Calvin did not in the least condemn nor dismiss history. In fact, a sizable portion of Calvin’s Institutes is committed to proving the early church fathers aligned with Protestant doctrine over Roman. Sola Scriptura is not Solo Scriptura. Scripture provides all of the needed information for the explication and development of true doctrine and its application to all areas of life, but that process occurs inside the context of history which the Scripture itself authoritatively sanctions, defines, and guides. And because the Scripture provides the only lens through which history may be redeemed, history itself — which is integral to natural revelation — necessarily testifies to special revelation (the Bible) as its own predicate. This was Van Til’s view as much as Clark’s.
But we note the neo-theos’ emphasis on suppression of America’s covenant history in particular: “The changes we’re going to have to go through as a culture and as a nation, whenever they happen, our path forward is going to have to look a lot different than the path we came on.” This runs exactly opposite R.J.’s having emphasized continuity of Christian Reconstructionism with the American covenant in works like “The United States: A Christian Republic,” among so many others.
But this emphasis on discarding America’s covenant history in particular communicates something in itself, doesn’t it? That they’ve come to regard the outworking of Christian law in America’s colonial and founding eras as conflicting with their new conception of God’s Law and millennial dominion. The real question, then, is why might that be? What has compelled these mantle-bearers of Christian Reconstructionism to suddenly do an about-face with respect to the historical administration and application of theonomy in America’s past? R.J. himself answered the question well in advance:
As against Biblical Christianity . . . Humanism holds to a faith in man, in brotherhood and equality. . . . There is as a result, a marked hostility toward history . . . man is in revolt against history.3
Precisely so. They comprehend now that in order to advance their inverted social theory — Alienism — they have to eschew all theonomy past as it ever assumed and reinforced patriarchy, familism, tribalism, ethnonationalism, protectionism, natural aristocracy, and general conservatism: everything they now claim to be the antithesis of theonomic Reconstruction.
Where Rushdoony the Greater’s social theory embraced a postmillennialism which retained the sort of historicism assumed generically in Christendom past — the idea that Christ’s millennial reign was inaugurated in His incarnation and resurrection — his son’s and McDurmon’s social theory does not. Their new PC view demands the millennium to be conceived, if not wholly in the future, then having began round about the time of the Civil Rights Act. Which is to say that their postmillennialism is drifting into a new sort of futurism which heretofore had been synonymous with premillennialism. Yes, these blithe anathemas over the historic church only undercut the anno Domini under which Christendom understood itself to exist for two thousand years, making of these men who yet call themselves theonomic postmillennialists, a new order of antinomian premillennialists. Strange, indeed.
This new futurist version of postmillennialism seems to embrace Fukuyama’s post-WWII thesis that internationalism has ushered in “the end of history” in civil rights, egalitarianism, open borders, and racial integration. But in pursuit of this new cosmopolitan faith they commit themselves to a radical temporal provincialism segregated forever from the legacy of the Church Triumphant. Hence McDurmon’s recent repudiations of the Christian banner of the Confederacy as well as most other positions he’s taken lately. This new futurist postmillennialism has anathematized the past because, as Nisbet explained, it has harmonized with the humanist eschatology of progressivism:
But now it is the long, withdrawing roar of liberalism and secularism that is heard, not Christian orthodoxy.
To regard all evil as a persistence or revival of the past has been a favorite conceit of liberals nourished by the idea of Progress. For several centuries Western liberal thought has been buoyed up by the assumption that history is more or less continuous emancipation of men from despotism and evil. Past, present, and future have been convenient categories into which fit precisely the moral qualities of bad, good, and best. Present evils could be safely regarded as regrettable evidences of incomplete emancipation from the past — from tribalism, from agrarianism, religion, localism, and the like.4
The late stewards of Reconstructionism have talked themselves into these alien ideas to the point that they have permeated and redefined the very nomenclature of their movement, converting the term Reconstruction into the idea of abnegation and rejection of all that went before; but this conception thereof is itself a novelty. Chalcedon Foundation Fellow Otto Scott may have said it best: “We’re not introducing something new; we’re trying to restore what we had.” Indeed, R.J. ever described Reconstructionism as a call to conservation and restoration over against progressivist revolution.
When the neo-theos say, “We can’t go to the future by going backwards. We have to go forward,” and, “The path forward is going to have to look a lot different than the way we came,” they only testify against themselves: not only is Reconstructionism rightly understood as restoration, but even in the most practical sense, we all know that when one has gone too far the wrong direction, one often has to go back in order to go forward. And from the standpoint of biblical law and the millennium, we have taken a very wrong turn and must turn around (i.e. repent). Because when one skirts off on some rabbit trail of oblivion — the gnostic route pursued by the neo-theos today — the shortest route forward is to go back to “the old paths where the good way is” (Jer. 6:16). Like Christian in the Pilgrim’s Progress, the neo-theonomists have been turned aside from the King’s Highway by the secular ethics of Messrs. Wordly-Wise, Legality, and Civility. And like Evangelist, we now rendezvous with the Pilgrims to inform them that their late advisors are descendants of slaves and not to be trusted.
All because they fear the Trotskyite hex word: ‘racist’. That acquiescence to Marxian penology and ethics now, in pursuit of consistency and coherence with those alien commitments, compels the Alienists to dismiss even the many admonishments to keep and cherish history:
“Remember the former things long past, for I am God and there is no other; I am God and there is no one like Me.”
“For ask now of the days that are past, which were before thee.”
“I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old, Which we have heard and known, And our fathers have told us. We will not conceal them from their children.”
“Remember the days of old, Consider the years of all generations. Ask your father, and he will inform you, Your elders, and they will tell you. When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, When He separated the sons of man, He set the boundaries of the peoples According to the number of the sons of Israel. “For the LORD’S portion is His people; Jacob is the allotment of His inheritance.”
They find themselves compelled to ignore all such texts and condemn history as an irredeemable heathen thing, because:
History teaches that multiethnic states are held together either by an authoritarian regime or a dominant ethnocultural core, or they are ever at risk of disintegration in ethnic conflict.5
Which is to say that history, especially inside the Christian era and in keeping with Scripture, attests that ethno-tribalism is the divinely ordained social order. And having spurned the legacy of Christendom, they have consigned themselves to the ash heap: denaturing everything about Reconstructionism as they are, and embracing the antithesis of Reconstruction in the name of Reconstruction, they self-nullify, and must therefore diminish.
But beyond being an objection to Christ’s sovereignty over all things, it is also simply an incoherent position to renounce history: because even the very words used to level the statement beg the question. And apart from the arduous translational work of the Scripture into the Anglo-Saxon tongue procured by the blood of so many martyrs, they can’t rationally dismiss history on account of Scripture; our ethnic history is fused to the Scripture in such a way that we cannot even discuss one wholly apart from the other. Even to advance into discussion of any facet of theology presupposes the validity of accruals of knowledge which can only have significance if we assume their contribution to further accruals and applications in the future.
Moreover, historicity is a defining feature of Christianity over against other worldviews. Where all other faiths teach revolution or revolt against history or the imposition of abstractions or artificial lenses upon history, Christianity uniquely harmonizes history as being wholly authored by God from the beginning. And where all other faiths posit either a transcendent deity wholly alien to the created world or a wholly immanent god who imparts no context against which history may be measured or coherently interpreted, Christianity proclaims the One and Only God who is both transcendent and immanent, defining and giving context to the whole timeline of existence by reference to His own being and incarnation. And reconciling all things to Himself, He inaugurated the anno Domini, removing us from a lunar calendar of the shadow into the solar calendar of the Son. And all history, B.C. and A.D., is defined by His condescension. He is the Lord of time, and history is, if not etymologically, then by the providential coincidence of a homophone, literally “His story.”
So then, the alternative — the neo-theos’ new doctrine of temporal solipsism — implies more than a general cynicism: it borders closely on a total denial of the Christian faith.