If there is one book that I can honestly say took my nascent Reformed faith and shifted it into theological overdrive, it was R.J. Rushdoony’s Institutes of Biblical Law (1973, Craig Press). This single volume is considered by many to be Reconstructionism’s “founding document” and its most cogent, erudite statement of what it believes.
When I first picked up a used copy of Rushdoony’s Institutes in late 1989 and began reading it in early 1990, I had already been questioning and shedding my Arminian, Dispensationalist, Fundamentalist, Pentecostal views. A refugee of the televangelist wars of the mid-80s and a former follower of “defrocked” Gospel crusader Jimmy Swaggart, I had begun to read some of the Puritans and other Calvinist writers and was slowly becoming attracted to (what appeared to me) the rock-solid stability and doctrinal consistency of the Reformed faith.
Believe me, after the deflating disappointment of Edgar Whisenant’s failed prediction of Christ’s return and the Rapture of the Church in 1988, I was ready for a BIG change in my evangelical worldview, as well as in my eschatology.
Rushdoony’s book was not immediately appealing to me. Too academic, too dry, too intellectually dense. My tastes leaned more towards fervent, devotional, pietistic reading and teaching. That began to change.
As I started reading, I began to change my entire Christian outlook. Or, I should say, GOD began to change my entire Christian outlook. (That darned sovereignty thing again!) The Institutes of Biblical Law became a theological lifeline. Christianity took on flesh and bone and a more extensively (and intensively) “mission-critical” significance. The Scriptures became a flood where they once were only a creek.
Anyway, one thing led to another and this book introduced me to a host of other like-minded, Reformed/Reconstructionist writers, including Dr. Gary North.
It is not for the faint-of-heart, though. This is nearly 900 pages of high-octane, high-protein, heavy-duty reading. But, for a well-grounded, scripturally and historically informed understanding of biblical law, this is the one to read. The book is structured according to the Decalogue: an introductory section on the Importance of the Law followed by ten chapters, one on each of the Ten Commandments, then separate chapters on the Promises of Law, the Law in the Old Testament, the Law in the New Testament, the Church, the Law in Western Society, and several appendices, three of which were written by Gary North.
If you want what is probably the most astute introduction to biblical law and Christian Reconstruction, Institutes is still available in hardcover from the Chalcedon Foundation, Amazon, and possibly from other resellers used. It can also be viewed online here.