The Institutes of Biblical Law
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64 of 79 people found the following review helpful
on March 17, 2005
Rushdoony is a theologian that you either love or hate. And this is consistent with his presuppositional philosophy of no neutrality. Drawing from the great Christian philosopher and theologian Cornelius Van Til, Rushdoony clearly lays out in "The Institutes" and in his numerous other works, the defining question of all thought: BY WHAT STANDARD? Either we will uphold God's Law and repudiate man's attempt "to be as God, knowing [i.e., determining for himself] what constitutes good and evil" (Genesis 3:5); or we will accept the challenge of the tempter, believing the lie that we can be like god, living forever in a universe of our own invention (Genesis 3).

In short, we will either serve and worship God, or we will serve and worship His creation, attempting to ignore Him (Romans 1). We cannot have it both ways.

I cannot say that I agree with everything that Rushdoony wrote. How could anyone agree with all of his views, given how controversial, sincere, and rigorous he was? However, the corpus of his work -- including his Magnum Opus, "The Institutes" -- supplies a sure foundation for a systematic and "epistemologically self conscious" worldview: one that applies God's Law to every area of life and thought in a rigorous and uncompromising manner.

Given the "hidden" or "veiled" influence that Rushdoony has had on our society, more people -- both Chrisitians and humanists -- should pay attention to Rushdoony and his followers such as Gary DeMar, Kenneth Gentry, Gary North, and others. Many do not realize that Rushdoony was at the center of the fight in the '60s and '70s to legalize private and home education. His "Messianic Character of American Education" and "Philosophy of the Christian Curriculum" should be read by educators, particularly those of a Christian persuasion.

Rushdoony influenced many prominent and visible leaders in Christian circles today, even though many of these men are afraid to identify with him for fear that their reputations will be tarnished. Most people do not want to be thought of as radical, but Rushdoony had a different mentality. That is why, love him or hate him, a student of theology, philosophy, history, and law can greatly benefit from Rushdoony's distinctly Christian analysis and critique of society.

If you want to read something that encapsulates Rushdoony's thinking into a systematic set of works, read his three volumes of "The Institutes." If you can only read one, make sure to get the first volume.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on February 28, 2010
Rushdoony is rejected by many Christians and non-Christians alike as being on the lunatic fringe. There is good reason for this, though it is complicated. As John Frame argues, while rightly challenging in many ways, Rushdoony's work is a fine example of how *not* to engage in theological dialogue. Making accusations of "antinomianism" at every turn is not the best way to draw in your audience. I argue that Rushdoony's detailed insight into ignored aspects of history in the Christian era is fascinating and valuable (hence the four star rating), but the theological lessons to be learned do not always hold together. He makes a convincing case for political libertarianism (a.l.a. Ron Paul), but his theonomic vision is frightful to many fellow libertarians. He writes of the dual dangers of expanding militaristic and socialistic powers of the state, but he unfortunately sees fit to condemn interracial marriage. He masterfully makes sense of many Mosaic texts in a plausible way to the modern Christian, but the architecture of his theological argument is confounding. Are we really "sanctified by the law", as Rushdoony suggests? Surely we are "justified by grace", but juxtaposing that with "sanctification by the law" seems to diminish the Gospel.

Nevertheless, perhaps Rushdoony's critics have not read him closely enough. The man was incredibly well read and incredibly prolific. It took me THREE YEARS to get through _The Institutes of Biblical Law_! This is the best case for theonomy I have yet to read. If you follow him carefully, Rushdoony proposes that Christ's theonomic reign will only come as more and more people come to know Christ. Regeneration ALWAYS precedes civil reform. The bulk of the population in any nation (I've heard Rushdoony elsewhere say at least 80% of the population) needs to confess faith in Christ BEFORE biblical law can be implemented fully in a society. State coercion is NOT in Rushdoony's vision. Well, if that is the case, then those who fear the rise of the "Religious Right' have nothing to fear from the likes of Rushdoony. With less than 70% of Americans going to church and less then half of those claiming to be "born again", I think that the evangelical movement will be preoccupied for many years with evangelism and discipleship before it ever gets to the task of theonomic-based governance.

Rushdoony's whole argument for theonomy is based on both his presuppositionalism; i.e. there is no such thing as philosophical "neutrality," and his postmillenialism; i.e. the world is getting better and better all of the time. Presuppositionalism and postmillenialism are not well-understood nor well-embraced within Evangelicalism. A proper appreciation of Rushdoony will fail without an adequate grasp of these two theological concepts.

With this in mind, Rushdoony fans are faced with some intractable problems. First, Rushdoony rightly presupposes the Word of God to be true, but the sad history of Christian Reconstructionism is that the exposition of the biblical text gets mangled up by its interpreters. The theonomic vision gets lost in a sea of biblical disputation. Gary North, a contributor to this volume and his son-in-law, has a falling out with Rushdoony over biblical interpretation. Others have parted ways with Rushdoony and North, too. It appears that much of the reason why John Milton wrote Paradise Lost was one way of coming to grips with the futility of trying to get a bunch of conflicting religious groups together to build a theonomically-governed society in Oliver Cromwell's England.

Secondly, most politically-minded evangelicals do not share the rosy optimism of Rushdoony's postmillenialism. Having the patience to rebuild society by Christian witness and example is not always palatable to those more dispensationally-minded Christians who fear that Christianity is being attacked day-by-day in America. With such a pessimistic mood, it is tempting to use theonomic language to justify grabbing the reigns of political power. In other words, we need to appreciate the whole of Rushdoony's argument, less we misuse him.
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45 of 58 people found the following review helpful
on October 21, 1996
Clear, penetrating reasoning which considers the Biblical basis for respecting divine law, and working to obey it. The author also examines each commandment of the decalogue in detail, showing the application and implications of each. I have never seen such a probing analysis in a quarter-century of reading and study on this subject! You see, the overwhelming majority of churches in this century teach that God's law not only no longer applies to believers, but that it was sort of defective and evil anyway. They teach that attempts to respect and obey it repudiate what Christ did! For the most part, if you want to read well-thought-out arguments which show the bankruptcy of that position, you have to drop back in history and read selected works from the time of the Puritans up through the late 19th century, when numerous preachers and commentators could explain the relevance of divine law cogently. But their older style of writing doesn't always "compute" for the modern reader. This book is an entirely up-to-date, hard-hitting challenge to the prevailing concept. Face it: whatever you believe, somebody, somewhere thinks you're doomed for it! This book will force a serious Christian to consider whether what you've been taught holds water. It's not an "easy read," more like a college text; but the examples and citations are timely, modern. Caveat: While I enthusiastically endorse Institutes of Biblical Law to serious Christians as a tool for getting your brain in gear, I don't want to leave readers thinking this is a plug from the author's church or similar. I go to a different church than he, and I believe there were some erroneous conclusions in the book -- but he has really "done his homework" and he really made me think. Reading this whopper was well worth my limited time. What more can a reader ask of an author
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Rousas John Rushdoony (1916-2001) is the extremely controversial founder of the "Christian Reconstruction" movement; the second volume of this series is Law and Society: Volume II of the Institutes of Biblical Law. He has written many other books, such as Systematic Theology (2 Volume Set),The necessity for systematic theology (Studies in systematic theology),By what standard?: An analysis of the philosophy of Cornelius Van Til, etc.

He wrote in the Introduction to this 1973 book, "The Institutes of Biblical Law has as its purpose a reversal of the present trend. It is called 'Institutes' in the older meaning of that word, i.e., fundamental principles, here of law, because it is intended as a beginning, as an instituting consideration of that law which must govern society, and which shall govern society under God." (Pg. 2) This book is largely a commentary on the Ten Commandments.

He asserts immediately that law in every culture is "religious in nature," and that "there can be no tolerance for another religion." (Pg. 4-5) He discounts the evangelical concern with "personal holiness," noting that "the Bible is also concerned with NATIONAL holiness." (Pg. 88)

The book is interspersed with Rushdoony's opinions: e.g., "The statist school... basically trains women to be men" (pg. 188); "The women who gain by equal rights are those clearly hostile to Christian law." (Pg. 208) He says about the War Crimes Trials after WWII that they "represented ex post facto law... (and) were also based on weak legal and humanistic principles..." (Pg. 279) He argues that taxation of property is "a form of robbery." (Pg. 493)

Perhaps surprising to some, he argues that God does NOT require us to tell the truth at all times: the 9th commandment "does not mean that our neighbor... is ever entitled to the truth from us... about matters... of private nature to us... No one who is seeking to do us evil... is entitled to the truth." (Pg. 543) Later, he points out that the Bible is "unhesitating in its praise of Rahab" (who, of course, lied in Joshua 6, and was praised in Hebrews 11:31 and James 2:25; pg. 838).

This is a long, complex, and profusely detailed book; if one is at all interested in Christian Reconstruction, Theonomy, or the general question of Christianity and politics, this volume and its companion are essential reading.
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35 of 48 people found the following review helpful
on October 17, 1999
Get the volumes (a third is now out) and read for yourself. Don't let knee-jerk responses like the reader from Houston, TX (who obviously hasn't read the books)sway you. Rushdoony provides what the modern church scene has not - in depth, well grounded biblical analysis minus the pious gush, end times madness, subjective mysticism and emotional overdosing. His books will not appeal to those with lazy minds not willing to think things through to their logical conclusions. But who cares. There are plenty of books written for that crowd. Rushdoony is for those who are tired of playing church and want to know just how Christian faith works itself out in every area of life.
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36 of 50 people found the following review helpful
on January 11, 2005
The fact that Rushdoony's *Institutes* elicits such invective from theological/social liberals/humanists (l/h's) is proof of its value. If all I knew of the book was that l/h's hate it, that would be enough for me to want to read it. The truth is that l/h is the photographic negative of all that Rushdoony teaches in *Institutes*, and if l/h's had their way (which they mostly do), they would establish the same form of government that they say Rushdoony would establish, only upon humanistic tenets. Thus, their screeds, chest-beatings, name-callings, apoplexies, and histrionics regarding *Institutes* are completely hypocritical. Think about it - more people have died from humanistic governments (Hitler, Stalin, Mao, et al) than have ever been harmed by "Christian theocracies".

You should read this book. It will introduce you to ideas that you have probably never before encountered and that you should certainly seriously consider. But be prepared to be challenged, as you will have to reconsider many things that you were taught in government schools and fluffy, trendy churches.

Eventually, we all have to do battle on the field of ideas, whether it is in the arena of polemics or simply at the voting booth. And in this battle, there truly are, as one man wrote, "no rusty swords." If you are a Christian, arm yourself with serious iron by reading this book. If you are an humanist, read this book to give yourself a chance to see how you have been mislead.
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32 of 45 people found the following review helpful
on August 12, 2001
If I were stranded on a desert island with a few other people and wanted to form a Biblically based government, this is the second of two books that I would want with me. To put it another way, this would be in the top 10 items that I would save, if my house were burning. What does it mean to be dead to the law? Aren't we under grace, now? As an antinomian, this book has dealt me a body blow. Capital punishment? I used to be very indecisive, but now am confident. Did Rahab sin when she gave false directions regarding the where abouts of the spys? If a Nazi had asked you, if you were hiding Jews, and you were, would you be sinning to lie or sinning not to lie? When, if ever, does a Christian go underground in opposition to an ungodly regime? Is there a time not to turn the other cheek? These and countless other questions, that are often a quandary to Christians and that often render them fence straddlers , as to the correct response, are seriously and adequately dealt with. No, I do not swallow this book hook, line and sinker doctrinally, but it has helped me greatly to define what is the correct response, as to life's issues.
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15 of 21 people found the following review helpful
The modern church is characterized by antinomianism. The clergy and the laity spout forth cliché's and humanistic ideas and claim them as Christian. Modern man struggles with the idea of a perfect law word. Rushdoony, in "The Institutes of Biblical Law Vol. I", tackles this garbage with the idea that the law word of God is the only source of infallible truth we have.

Many humanists and pietistic Christians (which is a redundant statement) will attack this book, because they prefer autonomy to God's law, but Rushdoony shows in this masterful work that the law of God is far superior to any man made law system. It is rather ironic that many in the Church today are just as lawless as their non-Christian neighbors. They reject God's law without really even knowing it. In this book the law of God is examined, and it is found not to be wanting. The book is also full of many great examples of humanistic law that is supposedly so much better than Biblical law, and the entrapments that come with it.

I first read this book 12 years ago. There are many things Rushdoony writes that were a challenge to my thinking. This book, however, is a must read, for any one who has ever struggled with the question of the relevance of the Law of God in the Christian Life and in society. Far too often Christians reject God's law outright, or they simply internalize it. By what standard will we be able to disciple the nation if we reject the law word of our King?

I have also read Volumes 2 and 3 and while I considered the section on community in Book 2 to be very good, nothing in either of these volumes rises to the greatness of the first book.
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13 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on July 3, 2007
Although I am not a "theonomist" per se, this is a must read for any serious Bible student. Modern Christianity has turned the Old Testament into a storybook for simple life application. This approach renders most of the Old Testament, e.g., Lev, Num, Deut, et al. void and not applicable today. Such an approach is misguided, and this book will provide a framework of OT law and challenge you to apply it's principles today in modern culture. If you study the Biblical Law, you will find it wonderfully relevant to today's issues, and find yourself saying with the Psalmist, "I delight in God's law and meditate on it day and night". You will also marvel at God's wisdom, love, mercy, wrath, and sense of justice. This book will foster an in-depth understanding of God's law and help you to grow in Christ-likeness as well.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on November 9, 2010
This book should be standard reading inside every Seminary across the world. What Christian Reconstruction did, and this book really kicked it off despite Rushdoony's other works from a decade and more before, was to take the no-holds-barred Epistemology of Dr Cornelius Van Til and apply it to social theory.

If what Van Til said is true, and it is if only becoz of the impossibility of the contrary, then all social theory must draw its final influence from Scripture - in so far that any social theory departs from Scripture, it collapses under the weight of its own internal contradictions.

In closing, the fact that there are those who decry Rushdoony in their reviews speaks more to their own unstated presuppositions of unbelief rather than anything either constructively or destructively critical of Rushdoony, and Christian Reconstruction in general. What Rushdoony, following Van Til, showed in his other works is that we all have unstated assumptions about morality, nature, and how we know what we know. The difference between Rushdoony and his detractors is that Rushdoony freely admitted it - his detractors do not, if only through ignorance.
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