Review: Christianity and the State
by Rev. Dr. Rousas John Rushdoony
Ross House Books: 1986. 192 pgs.
Read on November 10, 2017.
Only Dr. Rousas John Rushdoony could successfully connect Donatism to modern anarchism in the same book that connects Thomistic metaphysics to totalitarianism. Someone reading this could easy be discouraged by what appears to be Rushdoony’s attack on every form of government, but properly paired with his other work (specifically “The One and the Many“) one can see that Rushdoony is really hard on the idea of the State as a vehicle worthy of much attention. The issue isn’t a ‘better’ system of government, but that political action is epiphenomenal: the State is only reigned in when the other spheres become more robust. The strength and faithfulness of families and the church are the only true “checks” on the state.
As typical of his style, each chapter can be read almost standalone, so certain themes are repeated often. Also noticed references and common themes to Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy’s “Out of Revolution: Autobiography of Western Man.”
The biggest problem with reading Rushdoony is the reading list he assigns in his footnotes. For example, here we get a quotation from FW Buckler (previously unknown to me) on the Holy Spirit:
“The Holy Spirit is the divine, Royal Glory of the kingdom of God, established on earth by our Lord. The doctrines of its divinity and place in the Trinity as of the same being (homoousion) with the Father and the Son, from whom it proceeds, is the Church’s assignment to its source of the Glory which is hers through her Lord. From the possession of the Glory proceeds the royal righteousness. It is this fact, which is symbolized in the sacrament of confirmation, which is, in reality, the chiefest of all sacraments, for it is the Epiphany of each son of man.”
And in the same section from Buckler, Rushdoony draws this conclusion on the significance of the “fire” at Pentecost. “A great blazing light or fire is the ancient symbol of glory. At Pentecost, it was not one fire nor one tongue of light which appeared, but tongues of flame. Previously, a tongue of fire had been carried before Great Kings such as Cyrus, Darius, and Alexander the Great, to signify their claim to be the light of glory. These were all man-made flames, because they were man-made claims to the divine Glory. Now at Pentecost it was God the Spirit who brings the fire, and it comes to all who are the called of God.”
Rush’s discussion of the Vatican is important to understand the state and religious politics of the Reformation. He also makes mention of the Vatican’s attack on the Armenian Church over Mosaic dietary laws under Benedict 14. Suprisingly, he is soft on monasticism and points out how these communities could defend against tyrant churches and states. Specifically points to Henry VIII as an example of the State recognizing the potential power of what we now call, “The Benedict Option.”