A Look at Books

Rousas J. Rushdoony: THE FOUNDATIONS OF THE SOCIAL ORDER, 232 p. Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co.

Today we are told that the historic Christian faith as formulated by the councils in the official creeds is irrelevant to the needs of modern man. Because of the change in man’s circumstances and understanding a new approach is demanded. On the level of the man-in-the-street this shows itself in the indifference to truth, to the facts and mysteries of the Christian faith. Not doctrine but action is what people want.

In the volume which should be required reading for every Reformed believer Dr. Rushdoony demonstrates that this “vaunted creedlcssness is in practice a hard and intolerant dogmatism, savagely hostile to Christian creedalism in the name of humanistic creedalism.” These two—and no man lives without some creed -stand in radical contradiction to each other. Thus today those claiming to be Christian must examine the foundations of their faith. This is the more necessary because here lie the foundations also for a social order which has room for truth, goodness, and liberty. The humanistic creed in its several forms destroys all the precious gifts which in a measure are still ours. The validity of these convictions is demonstrated by this volume which studies the creeds and councils of the early Christian church. It demonstrates convincingly that when, for example, the truths of the Apostles’ Creed are ignored, muted and rejected man’s freedoms in the social and political order perish. An example is given here,

Unless the ascension and session of Jesus Christ be confessed, men will seek their own ascension into omnipotence and their own session of absolute power over man….The essence of the humanistic and socialist state is that it is the enthronement of man into the government of heaven and earth. The consequence is warfare against God and Christ. There is no victory possible for men, who, in the direct line of fire, fail to see that a war is on.”


John Richard De Witt: JUS DIVINUM, 261 p. J. H Kok, 1969 (copies available for $5.00 from E. J. Koehler, 119 Lewis Street, Paterson, N.J.)

Church order seems to hold little interest for many ecclesiastical leaders in these days, when all order is challenged and the organization of Christ’s church is reduced to a matter of purely practical concern. On every side we hear voices urging not merely the reconstruction but the very dissolution of the church in its instituted form. Much of this can be traced to the notion that the New Testament contains no abiding principles for the right government of the church. And where the authority of the Scriptures, also for this area of man’s life and experience, is denied, we begin to understand the prevailing distaste for a subject such as the one treated in this excellent volume.

This work deals with the justly famous Westminster Assembly and the manner in which it dealt with the burning issue of those years, that of “the divine right of church government.” Presbyterians and Puritans with groups of Independents, long dissatisfied with the halfway reformation of the Anglican church and disturbed by the “Romanizing” tendencies of the king and his favorite, Archbishop Laud, recognized the vital significance of a sound ordering of ecclesiastical life. In the turmoil which produced civil war and the Commonwealth men of various convictions acknowledged that the church, rightly organized and ordered, was one of the chief safeguards of true freedom. And since the source of the church’s life was in God, the issue of “divine right” of a specific form of church polity could not be lightly dismissed.

Here we have a piece of excellent scholarship. Careful research, thorough-going discussion of the social and political influences which led repeatedly to impasse, and balanced evaluation mark the volume. It is regrettable that a detailed review cannot be given in the magazine. We congratulate the author on his academic achievements, of which this volume affords a measure of evidence. All who hold to the normativity of Scripture also for questions of church government would do well to acquaint themselves with the course and consequences of the stirring events discussed here.