From the President's Desk:
Rousas John Rushdoony,
April 25, 1916 February 8, 2001
Funeral Eulogy by his son, Rev. Mark Rousas Rushdoony
February 16, 2001
Thank you for coming today and showing your love and respect
for my father, Rousas John Rushdoony, and for celebrating his
entrance into eternal reward.
He was a man with a great command of words. As such, he deserves
a more eloquent eulogy than I can provide. My father was a remarkable
man, a man of firm faith, and a man who was certain to act on
his convictions about what that faith required of him. We knew
him in different capacities. It would be too difficult for me
to speak about him as a father and I would like to keep those
memories forever my own. I would rather like to say a little about
Dad's life as it relates to his labors as a minister of the gospel
of Jesus Christ.
My father was born on April 16, 1916 in New York City of Armenian
immigrants to the U. S. He was conceived in the Old World and
born in the New. His parents waited until he was a few weeks old
before they traveled to Kingsburg, California where his father
was the founding pastor of the Armenian Martyrs' Presbyterian
Church. This was an Armenian-speaking church made up of recent
immigrants who, like his parents, had fled the twentieth century's
first genocide. My father spoke limited English before he started
The beginnings of my father's world and life view took shape
in that setting of extended family and friends who all shared
a horrific past. My father was aware that these people, his people,
had lost all because they were Christians unwanted in a non-Christian
culture. My father had a phenomenal memory. He remembered the
stories told by those of the Armenian Diaspora who came by the
farm seeking information about loved ones lost in the massacres
or to reminisce about the Old Country. His father also spoke with
him at great length of life in the Old Country and imbued Dad
with a love for a land he never saw. Despite the tragic experiences
of that generation, my father always remembered them as a happy
group that loved to laugh and sing. My father could see their
character, their strength, and even their greatness as coming
from their Christian faith.
My father loved to laugh and enjoy life. He believed the Christian
life was one of joy and fulfillment. He did not believe in "sourpuss"
piety. The ability to see the Christian faith as one of joy and
victory despite temporal difficulties became part of who he was.
His family lived in Detroit, Michigan for a time before returning
to Kingsburg. By the time he finished high school, he had lived
on a farm and in an industrial city, and had seen roaring prosperity
and depression in both urban and rural settings. He was already
a voracious reader.
When he attended the University of California, he saw a secular,
cynical, humanistic worldview. Marxism was in vogue and the Soviet
Union was hailed as a model of progressive reform. He ended up
taking much of the teaching selectively. He often took a class
for its stimulation and then dropped it.
Seminary was a like challenge. But by that time he knew enough
to attend a seminary that was openly modernistic. He said he preferred
that to modernism under the pretense of orthodoxy.
My father knew quite early that he wanted to write. But after
his graduation and ordination in 1944 he did something that was
a bit unusual. Instead of seeking an urban church pastorate that
would provide him exposure and access, he became a missionary
for 8 1/2 years on a remote Indian reservation in northeastern
Nevada, where he would sometimes be snowbound for months. He did
this out of a real, though not sentimental, regard for the Indians,
a belief that they had been treated badly. But he also felt that
he needed to learn how to make the Faith relevant. He was already
a well-educated young man, but he wanted to learn how to make
the Faith meaningful to others. The isolation also enabled him
to study and begin writing articles. He loved his years on the
reservation, and always spoke of them in the fondest terms. He
so frequently said "during my years on the reservation"
that more than a few people thought he was a Native American.
Family constraints made him leave the Indian reservation and
he then moved to Santa Cruz, California where he pastored two
churches. Santa Cruz was then a retirement community, and he once
estimated that he had performed over 500 funerals, the majority
of them during these years. It was in Santa Cruz that he began
to write his books.
After nine years in Santa Cruz, he retired from the full-time
pastorate to devote himself to writing and in 1965 moved to Los
Angeles and founded Chalcedon, a foundation devoted to the application
of the Christian faith to all of life and thought. People told
him an organization dedicated to ideas could never succeed, but
he was undeterred. Devoted to writing, study, and teaching full
time, my father began to produce manuscript after manuscript.
When people think of my father, they think of him as a teacher,
a theologian, a historian, or a philosopher. Many have come to
respect him for his brilliance, but my father's emphasis was never
himself, but about the message. These were all areas in which
his knowledge could point people to God and His righteousness.
Most people know my father wrote books and that he loved to read
and collect them. My sisters and I all learned that tearing or
scribbling in a book was a sin you did not repeat. Few people,
however, knew my father wrote poetry. One such poem is about his
love of the written word. He wrote it in 1970. I would like to
read it. It is entitled "The Luxury of Words."1
The luxury of words, beyond all
Empires, makes me lord
And King. No beggar here,
In majesty, I can afford
The treasured wealth of ages.
Come, gather round and never fear
A drought of gold and silver.
This is the sphere
Of endless plenty, a dower
Of wealth and hammered power.
All words when servant to the Word
Are potentates whose laws are heard.
At the time my father founded Chalcedon and began intensive study
and writing, some Christian ministers were making names for themselves
and bringing in a lot of money promoting conservative politics,
denouncing communism, or fighting one straw man after another.
But my father knew this was not what his ministry was about. My
father saw the big picture.
My father saw time itself as a creation of God. Human history
lies within this boundary of God's plan. Human history has a beginning
in Creation and an end in the final judgment. The focal point
of this span of human existence is the incarnation of Jesus Christ
and His death on the cross which paid our deserved death penalty
for rebellion against God. At the end of time, my father would
say, all men will know Jesus Christ. Some will know Him as their
Savior and Lord Who restored them to fellowship with God. And
some will know Him as their Judge. The minister's role is to point
men toward Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, and pray that God's
Spirit turn them to repentance and faith in His saving work on
My father always considered himself a minister first, because
that was to him his highest calling. Sadly, many saw him as a
threat to the gospel itself. He upset a great many people. My
father once wrote that he believed in a maximal, not a minimal,
Christianity. He did not believe the ultimate goal of the church
was to see sinners saved. He believed that was where the church's
work began. He believed that the church, the family, the school,
and all individuals and institutions should be taught how to serve
God in word, thought, and deed. My father believed God to be infinite,
and so he urged Christians to see their faith in terms of the
implications of the immense grandeur of what they confessed.
My father denounced the tendency to restrict the Faith to one
part of our life. To my father, the Faith was more than a personal
spiritual matter, though it is that. He saw the Faith as being
as big as time and eternity. He saw no limits in God and no limits
to His claims. He called men to not only believe in God and His
Son Jesus Christ, but to obey in all areas of life. When he spoke
of the power and majesty of God, he spoke more than theological
lessons; he spoke with a certain faith and practicing confidence.
My father believed that the future is as bright as the promises
of God, and he urged others to so believe. But he never saw this
as great faith; he saw it as the minimal essence of faith.
I remember when my father was not held in high esteem. Some thought
he was a rogue who confused a simplistic spiritual message with
this big picture and the responsibility it placed on men. But
in the 1970s when Christians were being imprisoned and children
were being removed from homes and churches were being padlocked
for educating children in Christian and home schools, many across
the country saw a distinguished, white-haired man they had never
met appear in courtrooms to act as an expert witness in their
defense. My father testified in dozens of these cases, and slowly
the tide turned as victory after victory was won for religious
liberty. People then saw my father in a new light. He helped them,
yet made them re-examine their own beliefs. He expressed a faith
that helped them take a stand based on the Word of God. Once my
father was ridiculed on the witness stand by a prosecutor who
sought to discredit his testimony. The prosecutor wanted my father
to appear ignorant and prejudiced by saying he did not believe
in evolution just because the Bible taught creation in six days.
When the prosecutor cynically asked him why he did not believe
in the theory of evolution, my father incredulously replied that
he did not have that much faith. Many began to see that my father
was a man who could teach them something about taking a stand
for the Faith.
My father loved his work, because it was for the kingdom of God.
His illnesses in recent years made his work difficult, and his
only regret was that he had more work he would like to do, but
he was ready to die. He believed in God and in the reality of
Christ's substitutionary death for our sins. He believed that
by God's mercy and grace Christ's work was put to his account.
He knew that he would reign with Christ.
My father often spoke with delight of the Old Testament references
to being gathered unto one's fathers. Many have commented that
because my father was a minister, theologian, and scholar, he
was already speaking with Moses, Paul, Calvin, Luther, Van Til,
or other great men of the Faith. But several times over the last
few years he spoke of going to heaven and his first thoughts were
of seeing his "Mother and Papa." And then he would choke
up and say "and so many godly ones." I knew his thoughts
were going back to his Armenian heritage and his home and church
life in Kingsburg. My father kept a framed picture of the old
Armenian Martyrs' Presbyterian Church near his desk where he wrote.
He also kept a copy in one of his Bibles with the inscription
"my home church" on the back.
Dad revered his Armenian forebears. Some thought it to be part
of a nationalistic pride. There was pride, but he saw in their
witness the essence of what it meant to stand for the Faith. In
a different time and in a different way, he made a stand for the
Faith, and many will look back to his life and work and derive
a similar strength and courage. My father's faith strengthened
many of us and will continue to do so for years to come.
My father believed the Christian life was one of joy because
our victory was certain in time and eternity, our victory having
been achieved two thousand years ago by Jesus Christ. Our task
is to believe and to stay faithful in dutiful obedience as long
as God gives us breath. But even a guaranteed victory necessitates
our entrance into the battle. And he constantly encouraged Christians
to do battle against evil in service to Jesus Christ.
My father stayed faithful. His final words to his family were
to fight the battle unto our certain victory. He said, "We
are ordained to victory." He could say, as did Paul when
he said goodbye to the Ephesians elders:
I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the
kingdom of God, shall see my face no more. Wherefore I take
you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men.
For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel
Last year I suggested to Dad that he was pushing himself too
hard trying to preach, even on an occasional basis. His response
was, "If I can't preach, there is no reason to go on."
Though very ill, my father preached just a month before his death.
The Sunday before he died, he apologized that he couldn't preach.
It was that evening he asked me to gather my sisters. I would
like to read the last paragraph of his last, undelivered sermon
on 1 John 5:10-12:
"He that hath not the Son of God hath not life"
(vs.12). Life is not a property of flesh but of God, Who by His
grace gives us life. It is He Who made us and can alone give eternal
life. Life must be lived on God's terms, according to His law,
and in His grace. Thus, life is a gift, not an attribute.
Paul said, "For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain."
My father lived for Christ and His kingdom. For the family, his
friends, and the church of our day his passing is a great loss.
For Dad this is gain. He has gained his certain victory in Christ.
But the battle goes on. And we honor my father and his life's
ministry by continuing our labors in the kingdom as he urged us.
They will continue at Chalcedon and Ross House Books and they
will continue in his children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren
and in their children. And many of you have come from great distances
today because those labors of which he spoke continue in you.
Our labor for Christ and the great moral battle of which they
are a part continue. And as he urged his family, we must fight
on because we are "ordained to victory."
Many people were impressed by my father's command of words. But
even his greatest gift he saw as nothing before the God he served.
I would like to conclude with another of my father's poems, this
one written in 1952 when he was on the Indian reservation.
When the Silence Comes2
What shall I say when the silence comes?
The words, which like lush grass,
Grow rapidly on Babel's soil, will wither. The scums
Of speech, which with unhallowed brass,
Trumpet the emptiness, shall turn to shame.
Silence, that borderland of all our speech,
Sends lengthening shadows on our name,
Lays hands upon us. It is a death we never reach
But daily live in. It comes most surely.
The last is the essence of the first
And the certain guardian of the purely
Providential silence, hunger, thirst.
Lord God, when the time of silence comes,
When my sustenance is less than crumbs,
When I stand without a plea,
Let Jesus Christ then speak for me.
1. "The Luxury of Words" Copyright 2001
by Dorothy Rushdoony and the Rushdoony Irrevocable Trust.
2. "When the Silence Comes" Copyright 2001
by Dorothy Rushdoony and the Rushdoony Irrevocable Trust.