Posted in philosophy

By What Standard?

“Christian thought has consistently gone astray, throughout most of its history, by seeking to answer the world in terms of the world’s own categories.”

R. J. Rushdoony, By What Standard? An Analysis of the Philosophy of Cornelius Van Til, 1958 Reprint (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1995), 3.


4 thoughts on “By What Standard?

  1. It must be at least 20 years since I’ve ‘heard’ anyone refer to RJ Rusdoony. I had read a fair bit of his writings as a young man. Reading Cornelius van Til almost always was a challenge. The only writing by CVT that I had a chance of comprehending was his little tract “Why I believe in God”.

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    1. I just purchased this book through American Vision. They had a limited number on offer. I agree that Van Til requires a bit of fortitude to get through. I suppose the difficulty could be that English wasn’t his native tongue. I’ve found Greg L. Bahnsen’s “Analysis of Van Til’s Apologetic” to be a great help. Although it isn’t exactly a light read either being around 600-700 pages. Earlier this year I started listening to Rushdoony’s “institutes of Biblical Law” but since they’ve closed our gym due to COVID-19 it’s been sitting in the dock on my phone. I’ll probably pick it back up when they reopen in June (at least I hope they do).
      So what was your overall impression of their works?

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      1. Rushdoony has been accused of starting a new Galatian heresy (mixing law and grace for salvation). I did not see that in Rushdoony’s writings, but some of his ‘disciples’ might have crossed that line (but I have not read them, so cannot say for sure). I liked the challenge of van til. His ‘defense of the faith’ is worth reading. His main point seems to be that there is no common ground (something upon which we can agree as a starting point) between believers and unbelievers. Our only commonality is our joint sinfulness and need for Christ. I don’t think the difficulty of his writing comes from his Dutch upbringing. The Europeans tend to understand English better than Australians, at least. I was reading his ‘Common Grace and the Gospel’ and two particular pages in that book were so difficult conceptually that I found his footnote (in Dutch) to be easier to understand. All the best.

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      2. I have not heard of the “Galatian heresy”. But I do know that Rushdoony like others in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church held to a Reformed understanding of salvation. Only Gods grace is sufficient (efficient) to reform the rebel sinner, to transition our ethically hostile heart towards God from an enemy to a lover (I.e., regeneration). I do know that much of Rushdoony’s teaching as a Christian Reconstructionist was met by resistance and vilified by opponents of an application of Gods Law-Word to all of life. After “By what standard?” Bahnsen followed with “By this standard” and then when that met opposition Bahnsen followed up with “No other standard.”
        I think confusion often enters discussion regarding God’s Law in that some have difficulty seeing, understanding and then separating the categories of thought existent in then (eg., ceremonial vs moral law). I have read Defense of the Faith yet but it’s on my ever growing list of must reads. Thanks for the dialogue. God bless.
        In Christ

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