This article (in two parts) is not directly related to education, but is vital regarding philosophies and theology behind “Christian” education.
R.J. Rushdoony’s “Religious Liberty Verses Religious Tolerance” is a necessary subject to be discussed and understood. In his article there are many issues that are misrepresented. I must concede, however, that he does give credit to the Baptists, especially to Isaac Backus, regarding their vital role in fighting for liberty of conscience in this country. This one rose, however, does have many thorns.
The issue to mention involves his definitions of liberty and tolerance. Throughout my college career, and it seems clearer each day, I heard this statement: “Definitions are relative.” Today’s language is very sloppy, even among some scholars. Men make their own definitions to fit their point of view instead of taking the facts and calling them appropriately. The sloppiness of our language may times has revealed itself in generalization of definitions, which allows words to wrongfully be used interchangeably. The results of this misuse of language bring a misunderstanding of the truth.
His definition of toleration, in this article, states: “the state is paramount, and, in every sphere, its powers are totalitarian…The state reserves the power to license and tolerate one or more religions upon its own conditions and subject to state controls, regulations, and supervision.” As I have studied this subject, it is apparent that his has added some things to the definition of tolerance. From his own definition, he mentions toleration while combining two different things together, still without including the true definition of tolerance. He mentions that the state is paramount and totalitarian, which is dominion, not toleration. He then mentions licensing, controls, regulation, and supervision, which is still not tolerance, but I would call restraint (they do not tolerate or accept other groups, but they are allowed to operate under strict regulations. Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines tolerance as “the power or capacity of enduring; or the act of enduring.” His definition does not even closely match up with the true definition.
His definition makes it seem worse than it is, and he does not even include true tolerance in it. While there is a fine line between tolerance and restraint, and between restraint and dominion, there is a difference that must be maintained. Rushdoony would love to keep the blurring of the definition because of the theology that he stood on and preached. He is known as the father of Christian Reconstruction, which, as one of its foundational principles, promotes the Dominion Theory. Because of the society we live in, he knew that he would not be able to make a jump toward this quickly. His re-defining of terms allows for true tolerance to be included in his idea of liberty. This would be a small step in the “right” direction (according to him), but the door would then be open to progress further. Slow progression in this fashion has been the undercurrent for decades.