The North-Rushdoony Split on Church Membership (Dominion Files: 2)

My good friend Kevin Johnson correctly challenged some reconstructionists on church membership.  They are devotees of Rushdoony, accepting even the worst aspects of his position.  That reminded me of an old North book, Westminster’s Confession, where he identified the basis of the split in Christian Reconstructionist circles.

Mr. Rushdoony always gave me a nearly free hand regarding what went into it. Here is what really happened. I submitted to his Chalcedon Report my monthly essay. It relied on an insight regarding biblical symbolism in James Jordan’s 1981 Westminster Seminary master’s thesis. My essay discussed the background symbolism of the Passover.  Rushdoony sent it back and insisted that I rewrite it, saying that it was heretical, and even worse. I refused to rewrite it. I did not insist that he publish it; I just refused to rewrite it. He…had rejected one other article of mine in the past, so I was not too concerned.
He refused to let the matter rest. He challenged me to make my theological position clear, to prove to him that it was not heretical. I then wrote an extended defense. He still said it was heretical. He then said thatJordan and I would have to recant in writing, and also agree in writing never to publish our essays in any form, before he would agree that we were no longer heretical. When we refused, he submitted a protest to our church elders informing them of our heresy, and asking them to discipline us both. When the church sent the essay (and my extended defense of it) to other theologians, including Westminster Seminary’s John Frame, they replied that it was somewhat peculiar but certainly not heretical. The then elders asked Mr. Rushdoony to submit formal charges against us regarding the specific heresy involved. He refused. They also reminded him that he was not a member of any local congregation, and therefore was not subject to discipline himself should his accusations prove false. He blew up when challenged on this. He then publicly fired me and Jordan from Chalcedon, announcing our dismissal without explanation in the Chalcedon Report. This surprised Jordan, since he was not
even aware he was employed by Chalcedon, not having received money from Chalcedon in years.
My full essay, “The Marriage Supper of the Lamb,” was later published in Geneva  Ministries’ Christianity and Civilization, No.4 (1985), and sank without a trace. I have never received a single letter about it, pro or con. The “crisis ofthe essay” was clearly a tempest in a teapot. But it points to the underlying tension which Mr. Clapp refers to. What is this disagreement all about? It is Tyler’s disagreement with Mr. Rushdoony about the requirement of local church attendance and taking the Lord’s Supper. We think all
Christians need to do both. The Tyler church practices weekly communion. In contrast, Mr. Rushdoony has refused to take Holy Communion for well over a decade, nor does he belong to or attend a local church. This underlying difference of opinion finally exploded over a totally peripheral issue (334-336).




One thought on “The North-Rushdoony Split on Church Membership (Dominion Files: 2)

  1. Pingback: North and Rushdoony, Clashes Regarding Church Membership | elenctic

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s