Rushdoony revisited

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My comments on the late RJR have stimulated some feedback. One writer has helpfully brought my attention to the following, where RJR revises his revisionism in a Sept 2000 article from chalcedon report

" It is difficult to imagine that anyone can deny the reality of the mass slaughter that characterized the twentieth century, whether it be the Armenian millions murdered by the Turks, the Jewish millions murdered by the Nazis, or the untold millions murdered by the communists in China, Russia, and Cambodia.

In my Institutes of Biblical Law, I noted that the scope of such mass murder had so numbed the modern conscience that the murder of a "mere" thousand, or ten thousand, no longer shocked, tempting some to inflate the scope of lesser atrocities, lest they not seem sufficiently horrific.

It was not my purpose to enter a debate over numbers, whether millions were killed, or tens of millions, an area which must be left to others with expertise in such matters. My point then and now is that in all such matters what the Ninth Commandment requires is the truth, not exaggeration, irrespective of the cause one seeks to serve. It is as wrong to exaggerate in order to shock as it is now clear happened in early reports of Serbian "genocide" as to deny the reality of what the Nazis did, and in the case of the Communists, what they are still doing.

Historical revisionism condemns the future to play by the dangerous rules of exaggeration and denial. As I noted then, this will inevitably lead to even greater horrors as the bar of the capacity to shock is continually raised. This is the true danger of the myth of neutrality, where God's law is viewed as merely "one side of the debate." "

This is good to see; but I remain sceptical that this addresses the issue of incompetence/racism.  First, the sources RJR uses to make this point are disreputable -- and one would have thought that if one is going to use the Holocaust to make the point about exaggeration (and that choice itself is somewhat odd), one would have been very careful to vet one's sources first; second, there is not simply the denial of numbers but also of the actual nature of the Holocaust as an intentional exercise in mass murder - a point inextricably linked to the statistics of the Holocaust; and, third (related to the first and second), the question of whether the issue of the difference between the figures offered by, say, Rassinier and those accepted by mainstream historians (ca. 6 million) is really an issue of dishonest denial versus dishonest exaggeration as opposed to denial based on flawed history versus a credible figure based on competent historical analysis.  If RJR couldn't tell the difference, then the issue of his competence is once again at the fore.

I'm also aware that RJR is not the only Reformed theologian who enjoys some respect in some quarters who is vulnerable to accusations of racism.  My point in this instance has less to do with any racist attitude he may or may not have had and more to do with his historical competence. Can a Holocaust denier bake a good cake or fix the brakes on a car?  Quite possibly.  Their HD does not impact their abilities in this area.  The question is more specific: can they be trusted to teach competent history?  No.  And if, as the Harper's writer claims, RJR is a guru figure for homeschool history, then I find that very disturbing indeed.

Posted December 21, 2006 @ 1:48 PM by Carl Trueman
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