In the Beginning: Chalcedon and the Journal of Christian Reconstruction, vol. 1, no. 1

The year was 1973.

Gary North had persuaded Chalcedon’s founder, R.J. Rushdoony, that after years of cranking out articles and books and sermons designed to blow up the dikes of humanism with Bible-based truth-charges, it was time to get serious with the message of Christian reconstruction and publish a scholarly journal.

Not for scholars exactly. Not even college professors. No, this was to be written for “intelligent laymen, working pastors, and others who are interested in the reconstruction of all spheres of human existence in terms of the standards of the Old and New Testaments.”

Its mission: to boldly go where no semi-scholarly journal had gone before.

The ambitious project was coming on the heels of Rushdoony’s magnum opus in Christian casuistry, The Institutes of Biblical Law. The die had been cast. Now it was time to get the assembly line moving.

“Igor! Flip the switch!”

Rushdoony said yes to the proposal. On one condition: North had to do the editing. North, in a season of youthful exuberance, agreed to accept the challenge. “Sure thing, boss. I’ll do it. I like herding cats!”

And so began the hopeful publication of The Journal of Christian Reconstruction, vol. 1, no. 1.

Decades later (actually, the next century), North would ruefully reflect, recording this about that:

Scholarly journals sit on library shelves, gathering dust. Anyway, they did before online publishing. On average, according to Nobel Prize-winning economist Richard Thayer, the typical journal article is read by no more than a hundred people. He might have added this: 80% of these are read in the first month after publication. After that, they are forgotten unless an article gets cited by other authors. Very few articles are ever cited by other authors, and then hardly anyone reads these authors’ articles.

To which he added:

Except for getting tenure, publishing articles in scholarly journals is a waste of time. I did not know this in 1973.

Hmm. “A waste of time”?

I don’t know. Maybe in hindsight it was. But, GOLLY, it sure seemed like a good idea at the time!

Gentle Reader

And who was the intended audience for this new journal?

As the editors’ preface puts it:

The editors are convinced that the Christian world is in need of a serious publication that bridges the gap between the newsletter-magazine and the scholarly academic journal. The editors are committed to Christian scholarship, but the journal is aimed at intelligent laymen, working pastors, and others who are interested in the reconstruction of all spheres of human existence in terms of the standards of the Old and New Testa­ments. It is not intended to be another outlet for professors to professors, but rather a forum for serious discussion within Christian circles.

A noble undertaking, indeed.

The editors agreed with the Marxists that “theory must be united with practice”. But they made it clear that they believed regeneration “through God’s grace in Jesus Christ and in the extension of God’s kingdom” was the way to do it, not violent revolution.

Reconstructionists place their hope in the shedding of one Man’s blood. Marxists placed their hope in the shedding of LOTS of men’s blood!

They ended on a note of optimism:

In the long run, it is the kingdom of God, not Marx’s “kingdom of freedom,” which shall reign triumphant. Christianity will emerge victorious, for only in Christ and His revelation can men find both the principles of conduct and the means of subduing the earth—the principles of Biblical law.

I’m all for optimism. Especially the biblically warranted kind!

And on that victorious note, the maiden voyage of the JCR was launched.

And the evening and the morning were the first day.

I. Symposium on Creation

Six-Day Creation, that is.

That is the central theme of JCR volume 1, number 1. Gary North in his introduction spells out the “Basic Implications of the Six-Day Creation”. He says that the biblical doctrine of a literal six-day creation is crucial and fundamental to everything. It is the bedrock upon which all the disciplines of the arts and sciences must be built. All other ground is … well, you know the hymn.

If you don’t read anything else in this book, read North’s Introduction! That and his article on Economics: Magical or Creationist.

But I’m sure you will find other articles that are worth turning to.

Remember, these were written especially for you if you are:

  1. An intelligent layman
  2. A working pastor
  3. Someone interested in what Christian Reconstruction is all about based on the application of Old and New Testament principles

Otherwise, there are plenty of periodicals and lots of literature out there aimed at unintelligent laymen, distracted pastors and others who are NOT interested in learning how to rebuild a crumbling civilization and a fallen world according to the infallible, transformational standards of God’s Word the Bible.

“That’s too much like works. We believe in pure grace. No law but love. No creed but the Bible. Speaking of that, biblical prophecy says that Satan has to burn the place down first so Jesus will show up with His heavenly fire extinguisher and rescue us!”

But, I digress.

Apologetics, Mathematics and More

A few years have passed since publication, so you might not recognize some of the authors named in this volume. No worries.

You might appreciate the fact that the article on The Doctrine of Creation and Christian Apologetics was written by Cornelius Van Til.

Or that the article (one of the longest) on Worshipping the Creature Rather Than the Creator was authored by Greg Bahnsen.

Or that the article on Creation and Mathematics: What Does God Have to Do with Numbers? was written by the one, the only Vern Poythress!

Or that the article on Contemporary Issues was penned (literally) by R.J. Rushdoony, from which we pull this salient observation:

The modern era is thus in trouble and is deathly sick. Its inability to create a tenable image for man to live by, to understand himself, and to find a purpose for living, is very much in evidence. Only as man sees him­self as a sinner, one made in the image of God but in rebellion against his Maker, and then returns to the Lord whose image he bears, can man find a meaning to life, a purpose for living, and, in Christ, the true image of power, truth, and life.

Go ahead. Browse the table of contents. Thumb through… make that, scroll through the pages and chapter titles. See what interests you. Slow down, read some. Read some more. Rediscover the roots of reconstruction!

After all, these things were written that you might believe.

True, hardly anybody read the original volumes. And, true, hardly anybody has (or will) read the digital PDFs of them.

But that shouldn’t stop any of us who care deeply about these things from reading them ourselves and appreciating them for what they really are: groundbreaking intellectual and theological forays into the uncharted waters of modern-day application of God’s laws and God’s Word in EVERY area of life and every sphere of influence, in pursuit of fulfilling the biblical mission of Gospel reformation of all things to the glory of God and the advancement of Christ’s kingdom!

And with that eschatological wind blowing and filling your sails, go forth and make disciples… start with YOU, your family and friends.

Bon voyage!

Start at the very beginning. (A very good place to start, to quote Julie Andrews.)

Gentlemen, start your downloads!

For a free PDF of this historic first edition, first volume of the Journal of Christian Reconstruction, click HERE.

For a list of the first 14 volumes (1974 – 1981) of JCR, all available as free PDFs, click HERE.

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