BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES OF 3 AMERICAN THEONOMIC LEADERS
Steve Schlissel, Paul Murphy, Patrick Buchanan
By J. Parnell McCarter, in collaboration with friends and correspondents of Puritan News Weekly
The movement which ultimately led to the American Revolution started with small numbers of men dedicated to a vision for a country independent of professedly Protestant Great Britain, and ultimately free of established Protestantism. Even while relatively small in size, one would have been foolish to discount the importance of the movement or the men who led the movement. Leadership of the movement took different forms, but each of the leaders played an important role in his own right. Some leaders were more behind-the-scenes, and some were more public spokesmen. It is similarly the case with the modern American theonomic movement. And in order to understand and appreciate this modern movement, one needs to understand its leaders, which are many and various. In this article I would like to focus on three of its leaders, offering a brief biographical sketch of each: Steve Schlissel, Paul Murphy, and Patrick Buchanan. Understanding its leaders and advocates is very instructive in understanding the movement itself.
Steve Schlissel is a Jewish rabbi turned Christian minister. He has been pastor of Messiah's Congregation in Brooklyn, NY since 1979. Messiah’s was part of the CRC denomination, but broke with it some years ago. Since then it has remained independent of a presbyterian-structured denomination.
Steve Schlissel has been a prominent voice in the American reformed community, and especially in its theonomic movement. He sits on the board and plays a prominent role in the leadership of the National Reform Association. The National Reform Association lobbies for explicitly Christian theonomic government in the United States. The National Reform Association defines “Christian” in such a way as to embrace and include Romanism. This is no doubt why Romanist Patrick Buchanan has been allowed to speak at its conference. And men like Andrew Sandlin who have been prominent leaders in the National Reform Association have made clear Romanism is not heretical, and therefore Romanists should be an integral part of their theonomic Christian government (see http://www.puritans.net/onheresy.htm ).
Along with other American theonomic leaders like Andrew Sandlin and Doug Wilson, Steve Schlissel has called for a Second American Revolution ( http://www.forerunner.com/revolution/ ). This revolution would lead to a nation consistent with their theonomic principles.
Several years ago Steve Schlissel led an attack upon the Regulative Principle of Worship, which is a prominent feature in the historic reformed confessions. His refutations of the Regulative Principle of Worship were published on his church’s website and newsletters, as well as in magazines like The Chalcedon Report.
More recently Steve Schlissel has issued various barbs against the sola’s of the reformed faith. An example quote is this one:
“Does the LORD delight in the solas as much as obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the systems of men…Do not trust in deceptive words and say, “The solas of the Reformation, the solas of the Reformation, the solas of the Reformation.” (Steve Schlissel, “We Must Be Christians, Not Hellenists”, unpublished paper, p. 9.)
Another sample barb is this one issued on a reformed e-mail list:
“Subject: Re: [co-urc] Re: Church Membership
Date: Wed, 18 Dec 2002 17:54:34 EST
…The Law does not condemn the righteous man. It converts the soul, as someone
who knew from experience once said (Psalm 19:7). If the Bible is read without
Luther's ignorance (pre-conversion ignorance is what I refer to, though his
post-conversion ambivalence regarding it marred his system beyond repair), no
one would ever make of it what Aristotelian Scholastics, many presbyterians
included, have made of it.”
This quote and others would suggest that, according to Schlissel, Luther’s Protestant system of justification through faith alone, necessitated by man’s inability to keep the Law as God requires, is “marred…beyond repair.” And those Presbyterians who would dare really agree with the historic Westminster Confession of Faith are “Aristotelian Scholastics.” On this same e-mail list he has thus urged readers to progress in their understanding of justification beyond 1645.
Yet between these barbed attacks directed at the historic reformed faith, Steve Schlissel has found the time subtly to point out the strengths of Romanism, as when he recommended to Banner of Truth editors Dabney’s outline of Romish strengths (see http://www.banneroftruth.co.uk/articles/2002/01/popery.htm ).
Paul Murphy has closely collaborated in the ministry with Steve Schlissel for many years. He was born in the Roman Catholic Church, and he even was blessed by the Pope as an infant. Murphy received a thorough Jesuit education, graduating from a Jesuit preparatory school, as well as Jesuit’s Fordham University in New York. He joined Steve Schlissel’s church after graduating from Fordham, ultimately becoming an elder in Schlissel’s church in Brooklyn. He attended Westminster Theological Seminary, and subsequently served as minister in the Christian Reformed Church and later in the United Reformed Churches. They have worked together in such ministries as Urban Nations. And Steve Schlissel has often been invited to speak in the church where Paul Murphy ministers.
One sample collaborative effort is described below (from http://www.iclnet.org/pub/resources/text/reformed/archive94/nr94-060b.txt):
“Unauthorized Letter to PCA Churches Causes Stir at Alliance and in
Presbyterian Church in America
by John Van Dyk
c 1994 Christian Renewal
Distributed by Reformed Believers Press Service
Lynwood, Ill. (November 30, 1994) RBPS - A letter sent to over 600 pastors,
leaders, and others affiliated with the Presbyterian Church in America caused
a stir in that denomination and led to extensive debate on the floor of the
Alliance of Reformed Churches.
The letter was written and sent this past August by Rev. Steve Schlissel of
Messiah's Congregation in Brooklyn, New York and Rev. Paul Murphy of Dutton
Independent Reformed Church in suburban Grand Rapids.
The letter invited those churches who "share our conviction that the time
has come for a re-alignment of Reformed and Presbyterian churches in North
America" to come to this November's Alliance meeting and participate as
delegates by expressing agreement with the Three Forms of Unity.
The letter goes on to identify the Alliance of Reformed Churches as being
"in a unique position to serve as a birthing room for a United Reformed
Church, made up of truly Reformed elders and congregations from both the
Continental and British Isles traditions. The goal of a united church would
be greatly served," the letter suggests, "by the presence of official
delegates from your congregations at the next meeting of the Alliance in
"It was sent to the mailing list of the Presbyterian Advocate and some
select others," said Schlissel in a subsequent interview. "I would have sent
it to every Presbyterian church but I was advised not to because it would be
a waste of money. My intention was to have everybody in North America know
about the Alliance, not just the PCA but the Orthodox Presbyterian Church,
the Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America, the Reformed Presbyterian
Church General Assembly, the Associate Reformed Presbyterians, and everybody
else who is truly Reformed."
More recently Paul Murphy has been offered and accepted a call from Schlissel’s church to collaborate in another ministry effort in New York City. The website of Steve Schlissel’s church on 12/21/02 said this about the call:
“Rev. Paul Murphy has just accepted our call to come to New York
City to plant a church near Ground Zero. We have secured a
lovely facility to use for worship. The first service will be held,
D.V., at the Seamen's Church, 241 Water Street (next to the
Fulton Street Seaport), at 4pm on February 2, 2003. God has
already put us in touch with a small number of people eager to
form the nucleus of this new, Heidelberg Catechism-confessing
church. Now the Lord has provided the tremendous
encouragement of this matching grant.”
Like Paul Murphy, Patrick Buchanan was also Jesuit educated. He was born in the nation's capital, educated at Jesuit schools (including Jesuit Georgetown University), and received his master's degree in journalism from Columbia University in 1962. At twenty-three, he became the youngest editorial writer on a major newspaper in America, the St. Louis Globe-Democrat. In 1966, Mr. Buchanan moved to New York to become the first full-time staffer in the legendary comeback of Richard Nixon. He traveled with the future President in the campaigns of 1966 and 1968, and served as the Special Assistant to the President through Mr. Nixon's final days of Watergate. On leaving the White House in 1974, Mr. Buchanan became a syndicated columnist. He has run for the Presidency various times, both within the Republican Party and also as a third party candidate.
Like Steve Schlissel, he has advocated a Second American Revolution. As we read at http://watch.pair.com/megiddo.html :
“In 1996, Pat Buchanan's campaign committee boasted that Scotland's hero: "Braveheart himself - Mel Gibson - has endorsed our Braveheart - Pat Buchanan!!!" In true William Wallace-style, Buchanan then called for a Second American Revolution:
"As Pat said, 'Don't wait for orders from headquarters. . .Mount up!' All Buchanan Brigades across the USA find friends, neighbors and co-workers who support our cause. Enlist members and start a local Brigade, get your forces in shape and ready for the battle. Join us, the Buchanan Brigade, and with our united front, we will win the Second American Revolution!"
A current campaign memo carries forward Pat Buchanan's revolutionary fervor. "[Pat said] 'When I take the oath of office their New World Order comes crashing down!'. . . Pat is going to need us. Not only to stand with him, but to also be courageous enough to embrace the challenge and lead the revolution when necessary. As a Brigade member once said: 'Pitchforks my ***! It's time to lock 'n load for liberty!'"
This memo closed with an appeal for prayer to St. Michael: "PS - Above all, please remember to pray -- Pray for Pat and Shelley, for his staff, for me, and for all of us in the Brigade. And if you happen to be a traditional Catholic, the prayer to Saint Michael the Archangel is needed now more than ever." [Linda Muller, 10/15/99, The Internet Brigade, http://www.buchanan.org]
According to the World Book Encyclopedia, "Saint Michael was the patron saint of (Scottish) knights." We refer the reader to The Rosicrucian Connection to discover the significance of "Saint Michael" in bringing the Antichrist to power.
Is Pat Buchanan a true American patriot or does he have a hidden agenda? The 1995 Edition of Who's Who in America states: "Buchanan, Patrick Joseph, journalist. b. Washington, Nov. 2, 1938:... Named Knight of Malta, 1987..." Albert Mackey's Encyclopedia of Freemasonry and Its Kindred Sciences identifies the Knights of Malta as an offshoot of the Knights Templar:
"This Order, which at various
times in the progress of its history received the names of Knights Hospitalers,
Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, Knights of Rhodes, and lastly, Knights of
Malta, was one of the most important of the religious and military orders of
knighthood which sprang into existence during the Crusades which were
instituted for the recovery of the Holy Land. It owes its origin to the
Hospitalers of Jerusalem, that wholly religious and charitable Order which was
established at Jerusalem, in 1048, by pious merchants of Amalfi for the succor
of poor and distressed Latin pilgrims....
"The Organization of the Order in its days of prosperity was very complicated, partaking of both a monarchial and a republican character. Over all presided a Grand Master, who, although invested with extensive powers, was still controlled by the legislative action of the General Chapter....
"...There are now two bodies -- one Catholic and the other Protestant, but each repudiates the other....
"The degree of Knight of Malta is conferred in the United States as 'an appendant Order' in a Commandery of Knights Templar. There is a ritual attached to the degree, but very few are in possession of it, and it is generally communicated after the candidate has been created a Knights Templar...." [Albert G. Mackey, M.D., Thirty-Third Degree, Encyclopedia of Freemasonry and Its Kindred Sciences, Vol. I, Masonic History Company, Chicago, New York, & London, 1925, pp. 392-95]
According to William Cooper's Conspiracy Forum, "Membership in the [Sovereign Military Order of Malta] denotes an allegiance to a foreign power in the form of the nation of Malta and the Pope... The Knights of Malta are the militia of the Pope sworn to total obedience by a blood oath. The Pope as the head of the Vatican is also the head of a foreign national power.”
And as previously noted, Patrick Buchanan has spoken before the National Reform Association as special guest speaker (http://www.natreformassn.org/pr/confsched.html ). He has spoken in favor of this becoming “God’s Country.” But it is clear that his theonomic vision- like that of so many other American theonomists – is a far cry from the vision of reformed Christian government delineated in the historic reformed confessions.