A Christian Survey of World History
Twentieth Century, I
*This is an unedited and unoffical print version of R.J. Rushdoony’s lecture.
R.J. Rushdoony: 00:00 Tonight, as we conclude our series in world history, our purpose will be to discuss something of the movement of history in the 20th century. The basic events of the 20th century, the two World Wars, and other major developments are familiar to all of us. It will be our purpose, therefore, to look behind them and see what has been a motive force. A week ago, we dealt with Britain from the 18th century through the 19th. I commented on the loss of the will to live as the Enlightenment and its skepticism with regard to God, brought to men everywhere.
R.J. Rushdoony: 00:56 Let me cite a further example of that from Edmund Gosse’s study of Thomas Gray, the poet who wrote the Elegy in a Country Churchyard. It says of Gray, “He never, henceforward, habitually rose above this deadly dullness of the spirits. His melancholy was passive and under control, not acute and rebellious like that of Cowper, but it was almost more enduring. It is probable that with judicious medical treatment, it might have been removed or so far relieved as to be harmless, but it was not the habit of men in the first half of the 18th century to take any rational care of their health.
R.J. Rushdoony: 01:39 “Men who lived in the country, and did not hunt, took no exercise at all. The constitution of the generation was suffering from the mad frolics of the preceding age and almost everybody had a touch of a gout or scurvy. Nothing was more frequent than for men, in apparently robust health, to break down suddenly at all points in early middle life. People were not in the least surprised when men like Garth and Fenton died of mere indolence because they had become prematurely corpulent and could not be persuaded to get out of bed. Swift, Thompson, and Gray are illustrious examples of the neglect of all hygienic precaution among quiet, middle class people in the early decades of that century.”
R.J. Rushdoony: 02:34 People had no will to live. They ate in a frenzied way, as though there was nothing else to life except eating. Pictures of the period indicate the incredible obesity of people. The fact that men, including men of prominence, would simply go to bed and stay there and wait to die, is indicative of the loss of the will to live.
R.J. Rushdoony: 03:07 It was also an era of man centered morality. To cite an example from France, from a classic of the day, the sageist Gil Blas, and a very revealing passage about how people were governed. Gil Blas has just met this very young widow, and within four or five minutes of their meeting, he is trying seduce her. And I quote, “‘Hold,’ said she. ‘You are too importunate. This is like a rake. I fear you are but a loose young fellow.'”
R.J. Rushdoony: 03:49 “‘For shame, Madame,’ explained I. ‘Can you set your face against what woman of the first taste and condition encourage? A prejudice against what is vulgarly called vice may be all very well for citizens’ wives.'” That is, for the middle class, the puritan element, the Huguenots. “‘That is decisive,” replied she. ‘There is no resisting so forceable a plea.'”
R.J. Rushdoony: 04:21 Now, that’s the mentality that prevailed int he 18th century. It was barely pushed back by the evangelical reawakening. It began to return full force for the 20th century. With the 20th century, there began something that was unique in history, except in the latter days of Rome. A strong tendency towards suicide. Early in the years of this century, Masaryk, the great Czech scholar, called attention to the face that suicide was something new in Christendom. A high rate of suicide and suicide as a major cause of death. It still is.
R.J. Rushdoony: 05:27 Far more so than it was before World War I. The difference is that now, of course, the statistics on suicide are almost impossible to get because too many doctors will cooperate with the family to cover the cause of death and it will not be properly reported in the press and in death notices. In the 18th century, taste was what reasonable, cultured people could enjoy and the world was to conform to their taste. Joseph Addison said, and I quote, “The taste is not to conform to the art, but the art to the taste.”
R.J. Rushdoony: 06:19 In other words, what an elite group of people said is good taste determined what constituted are, what constituted proper attire, everything. Of course, with taste changing, in terms of the fad created by the elite, what was good art and good music also, therefore, was a changing concept. Last week, we saw how the aristocracy took over and became a governing elite. The 20th century saw this aristocracy progressively replaced by an equally anti-Christian group.
R.J. Rushdoony: 07:12 The 18th century had seen these people quite powerful in France, the Philosophes of the enlightenment. In the 20th century, the modern philosophes, the intellectuals, came to the fore, so that the old aristocracy that was anti-Christian was replaced by an even more vicious element and even more anti-Christian. When we speak of them as intellectuals, this is a technical term. It doesn’t mean they are more intelligent or that they are more scholarly than others.
R.J. Rushdoony: 07:51 By soft definition, the intellectuals are anti-Christian. Thus, recently, in another part of the country, a professor, an associate professor, at a major university, lost his position and one of the central charges against him … He was a very popular, a very successful professor. One of the central charges against him in the hearing that ensued, and it was in the press, was that he had assigned, to his classes a book, by a man name R.J. Rushdoony, entitled The Messianic Character of American Education, which was actually against the public schools and how could such a man, be a scholar, assign such a book.
R.J. Rushdoony: 08:46 In the hearing, the professors, who engineered the firing of this associate professor, admitted on the stand that they had not read this book by Rushdoony, but it was obviously unscholarly in view of its thesis because it was Christian and it was anti public schools. So, you define an intellectual as one who takes a particular line of necessity anti Christian, of necessity socialist status in orientation. We saw how, in France, Louis XIV introduced the pentagon concept, the use of experts, government by experts, so you had the rise of expert to power, of intellectuals and scientists. Increasingly, as the 20th century moved ahead, the great expert came to be the scientist. Louis Mumford, who definitely is not a Christian nor conservative, has commented on the role of such people in his book The Pentagon of Power. He says, among other things, concerning the goal of these scientific experts, and the goal, he says, is to create life.
R.J. Rushdoony: 10:35 They are governed, he says, and I quote, “By a more insidiously flattering idea, who he creates life is a God. Hence, the very idea of a creative deity who science, from the sixteenth century on, has regarded as a superfluous hypothesis in analyzing matter and motion, came back with redoubled force in the collective persona of organized science. All those who serve this God participated in its power and glory and for them was the ultimate kingdom too.”
R.J. Rushdoony: 11:12 “Even a few years ago, this interpretation might have been seen unacceptable except in an avowed science fiction track, but in 1965 the President of the American Chemical Society, a Nobel Prize laureate in a parting address, put this ambition into so many words, ‘Let us martial all our scientific forces together.’ He urged his colleagues, ‘in order to create life’.” Unquote.
R.J. Rushdoony: 11:46 So, the God concept, he says, is fact, full force, except, now, the desire is for a new god, the scientific expert. Man has made the machine and now, scientists are seeking, he says, to remake man in the image of the machine, to program man. And, he goes on to say and I quote, “The final consequences of such submission might well be what Roderick Seidenberg has anticipated. A falling back of man into a primordial state of unconsciousness, forfeiting eating, even the limited awareness other animals must maintain in order to survive.” In other words, to be like Zombies.
R.J. Rushdoony: 12:37 “With the aid of hallucinatory drugs, this state may even be described by, the official manipulators and conditioners, as an expansion of consciousness or some equivalent tranquilizing phrase that would be provided by public relation experts. If proof were needed of the real nature of electronic control, no less a promulguer of the system than McLuhan has, had supplied it. Electromagnetic technology, he observes, in understanding media requires utter human docility and quiescence of meditation, such as befits an organism which, now, wears its brain outside its skull and its nerves outside its hide.”
R.J. Rushdoony: 13:26 “Man must serve his electric technology with the same cerebral mechanistic fidelity with which he served his corporal, his canoeist typography and all other extensions of his physical organs. To make his point, McLuhan is driven brazenly to deny the original office of tools and utensils as direct servants of human purpose. By the same kind of slippery falsification, McLuhan would reinstate the compulsions of the pyramid age as desirable features of the totalitarian electronic complex.” Unquote.
R.J. Rushdoony: 14:05 Now, some of this seemed like peculiar language. What he is saying is that McLuhan and others require utter human docility and quiescence of mediation as befits an organism that now wears its brain outside of its skull. What does that mean? Wearing our brain outside of our skull? Why. the idea there is that we are creating giant computers and all, so those are now the real brains of humanity, they and an elite group that will run them.
R.J. Rushdoony: 14:43 So, our brains are outside of our skull and therefore, what’s left inside of our skull must be utterly docile and totally quiet and with drugs it will be made quiet. This, then, is the vision of the future that the new governing elite of the twentieth century has. World War I and II were preceded by a great deal of thinking and planning by these people, whereby, the world was to be now an area of utter safety. A world of peace and unlimited progress. It became, instead, an age of total war.
R.J. Rushdoony: 15:33 With the peace treaties, after both wars, the dream of creating world peace was revived. After all, was not World War I fought, according to Woodrow Wilson, to make the world safe for democracy, a war to end war? And, the same was ostensibly the purpose of World War II. The peace treaties, however, reflected Comte, August Comte, C-O-M-T-E, the founder of sociology and sociology with the results of the League of Nations and the United Nations.
R.J. Rushdoony: 16:14 Now, according to Comte, mankind has three stages in its history. The first was the stage of religion and of myth, in which man was trying to find the meaning of things. The second was the stage of reason and philosophy, when man was still trying to find the meaning of things. The third is the stage or the age of science, when man has advanced to the point where he realizes there is no meaning to anything and it is only the religious idiot who is interested in meaning, and in purpose, and morality, as though these things were real and important when they are just myths.
R.J. Rushdoony: 17:05 The age of science is the age of technology, of technique, where you try to solve all problems by scientific technique and technology. Now, of course, this is exactly what was attempted after both wars. The League of Nations, United Nations, techniques for differences together and resolving them scientifically, rationally. No consideration given to the fact of sin as important, no. Technique is everything and thus, the twentieth century is the century of technique. The problem therefore must never be seen as sin, but simply inadequate technology.
R.J. Rushdoony: 18:07 One of the most important statements of this was in 1962, by John F. Kennedy, at Yale University, at the commencement exercise. When he said, we have now passed the age of ideology, the age of religious conflict and the conflict of ideas. We, now, understood that all problems were technological problems, and we now had the experts who could cope with them. This is why, of course, all the intellectuals dream of the days of Kennedy as the days of Camelot.
R.J. Rushdoony: 18:48 He was their shining King Arthur because for him, all answers were answers that the experts were going to solve, and he was gathering the experts into Washington to settle all the problems of the world. Thus, any concern with truth, any concern with meaning, with purpose, was an indication that you really belonged to the realm of the idiots, the religious people. You were a fool. It is interesting that Will Durant, not a Christian by any stretch of the imagination nor conservative by any stretch of the imagination, still had enough in him of the old fashioned world to be concerned about truth. Some few years ago he wrote, June 8, 1931, a letter to Lord Bertrand Russell, and sent it to Presidents Hoover and Masaryk, Prime Minister Ramsey MacDonald, Lloyd George, Winston Churchill, Philip Snowden, Briand de France, Benito Mussolini, Marconi, D’Annunzio, Madame Curie, Mary Garden, Jane Addams, Dean Inge, Joseph Stalin, Igor Stravinsky, Leon Trotsky, Gandhi, Tagore, Paderewski,, Ricard Strauss, Albert Einstein, Gerhardt Hauptmann, Thomas Mann, Sigmund Freud, G.B. Shaw, H.G. Wells, John Galsworthy, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and Eugene O’Neill.
R.J. Rushdoony: 20:40 Now, that, certainly, was a letter that went to some of the most important people in the world. Of course, the letter was regarded, by most of them, as a joke, but why? “ I am attempting,” I’ll just read a few passages, “to face,” in my next book, “a question that our generation, perhaps more than most, seems always ready to ask and never able to answer. What is the meaning or worth of human life?” “The Industrial Revolution has destroyed the home, and the discovery of contraceptives is destroying the family, the old morality, and perhaps, through the sterility of the intelligent, the race.
R.J. Rushdoony: 21:25 Love is analyzed into a physical congestion and marriage becomes a temporary physiological convenience, slightly superior to promiscuity. Democracy is degenerated into such corruption as only Milo’s Rome knew, and our youthful dreams of a socialist utopia disappear, as we see, day after day, the inexhaustible inquisitiveness of men. Every invention strengthens the strong and weakens the weak. Every new mechanism displaces men and multiplies the horrors of war. God, who was once the consolation of our brief plight and our refuge in bereavement and suffering, has apparently vanished from the scene, no telescope, no microscope discovers Him.
R.J. Rushdoony: 22:09 Life has become in that total perspective, which is philosophy, a fitful pullulation of human insects on the earth, a planetary eczema that may soon be cured. Nothing is certain in it except defeat and death, a sleep from which it seems there is no awakening. We are driven to conclude that the greatest mistake in human history was the discovery of truth.” That is, the truth that there is no God, supposedly.It has not made us free except from delusions that comforted us and restraints that preserved us. It has not made us happy. For truth is not beautiful and did not deserve to be so passionately chased.”
R.J. Rushdoony: 22:59 Spare me a moment to tell me what meaning life has for you? What help, if any, religion gives you? What keeps you going? What are the sources of your inspiration and your energy? What is the goal or motive force of your toil? Where you find your consolations and your happiness? Where, in the last resort, your treasure lies. Sincerely, Will Durant.” Well, you can see why it was a joke because even though he was an atheist like the rest of them, he was still concerned about truth, about meaning, when all there is supposedly is technology and sensation or pleasure. You see, Will Durant didn’t get the message that your grade school children have gotten today and this is why they are the way they are. This is why you have books like E.F. Skinner, Beyond Freedom and Dignity, and people act surprised about it. But, as Mumford makes clear, when you have to eliminate man as a factor you have to teach him that his brain is over there in the computers and the governing elite. Why shouldn’t you openly propose that he have electrodes put in his brain so that he can be controlled better?
R.J. Rushdoony: 24:49 The twentieth century however saw something else, the Russian Revolution of 1917, which wound up in a Bolshevik victory. In the old Russia, the nobility had been working with the revolutionists, subsidizing them, because they wanted to overthrow the Czar. It ended up, of course, with their overthrow. The Bolsheviks, who were a small handful, not enough to overthrow a village really, were able to overthrow the entire country by turning loose the mob, promising the mob everything. So, what you had for a while was anarchy and destruction in Russia. The anarchists were fully encouraged, and the mob, the peasants, the working men were turned loose with the promise of everything. Take it, its all yours.
R.J. Rushdoony: 26:07 It was a period of wild looting as the mobs poured, without any interference, into good homes and into the best homes, into the palaces, everywhere, to loot, to kill, to take. This was going to be their enrichment. The Bolsheviks could never have done it without the mob. The mob, because the loss of faith was filtering down to them, was ready to do what they were asked to do.
R.J. Rushdoony: 26:49 Thus, the modern age sees, first a dissolute degenerate monarchy, then a dissolute and degenerate aristocracy, a degenerate class of intellectuals and scientists, and a degenerate people turned loose to destroy. So, it was a very easy matter, after they had destroyed the old order, for the Bolsheviks to take over and to organize it. Lenin held that the end justified the means. He was a totally merciless man.
R.J. Rushdoony: 27:39 For him, the goal was a scientific socialist order. He had an utter contempt for truth and the idea of truth or honoring his word. When his fellow Bolsheviks brought him the Brest-Litovsk peace treaty in 1917, early 1918, to be signed with Germany, the treaty was surrendering great portions of Russian territory to the Axis powers, and he was asked to read it before he signed it.
R.J. Rushdoony: 28:22 His remark, in indignation was, “What? Not only do you want me to sign this impudent peace treaty, but also to read it? No, no, never. I shall neither read it nor carry out its terms whenever there is a chance not to do so.” Unquote. Lenin made it clear. You sign whatever is necessary, that’s our policy. You keep your word about nothing unless it is necessary or convenient to do so. Mass executions were ordered, Zinoviev said that the bourgeois kills separate individuals, but we kill whole classes.
R.J. Rushdoony: 29:10 A Czech official wrote, “We are exterminating the bourgeois as a class, don’t look for evidence of proof showing that this or that person, either by word or deed, acted against the interests of the Soviet Power. The first questions you should put to the arrested person is ‘To what class does he belong,’ ‘What is his origin,’ ‘What was his education,’ and ‘What is his profession?’ These should determine the fate of the accused. This is the essence of the red terror.” Unquote.
R.J. Rushdoony: 29:48 So, it was the mass execution of all officers in the army, of all the middle class, of all the upper class, of everyone in certain professions, of all the clergy and so on. Moreover, Lenin said in 1920, “All phrases about equal rights are nonsense. They were a fine language when they were getting the mob on their side.” He also said, “We repudiate all morality, which proceeds from supernatural ideas or ideas, which are outside class conceptions. In our opinion morality is entirely subordinate to the ideas of class war. Everything is moral, which is necessary for the annihilation for the old exploiting social order and for uniting the proletariat.
R.J. Rushdoony: 30:43 “Our morality, then, consists solely in close discipline and in conscious war against the exploiters. We do not believe in external principles of morality, and we will expose this deception. Communist morality is identical with the plight for strengthening the dictatorship of the proletariat. There are no morals in politics. There is only expediency.” Unquote.
R.J. Rushdoony: 31:20 Psalm 64 tells us that our trust is not to be in the upper, or the lower classes or in man. Weigh them in the balances, and they are less than nothing. Our trust is to be in the Lord and modern history has amply demonstrated that as one group after another has gained power. The scientific socialist state was what triumphed in the Soviet Union. The people, the common people, had power for a while during the overthrow and the anarchy and they demonstrated what they were made of. The scientific socialist state now governs in, virtually, every country of the world in varying degrees. Its concept of society is that it is a scientific experiment.
R.J. Rushdoony: 32:23 Now, in an experiment, there can be no freedom, so you must progressively eliminate freedom as a factor. In an experiment, you can make mistakes, but you do not sin and even a mistake, in an experiment, is not really bad because you need a variety of experiments to determine what will not work, and you keep performing experiments until you come to a solution that works. Man, thus, is the test tube animal in the scientific socialist state.
R.J. Rushdoony: 33:07 The scientific society is with us everywhere on both sides of the Iron Curtain. We have a scientific society in this country, and it is, of course, exactly what people want. At the beginning of the modern age, Bacon and Descartes said and held that the accumulation of scientific knowledge would automatically bring more human welfare. In recent years, some have said, “We must put the emphasis more on social sciences.” This means a political problem and humanistic politics as the answer.
R.J. Rushdoony: 33:51 Now, like it, or not the answer of the over whelming majority of people in every part of the world is that a scientific state will provide the answer, that the problems of man will be solved by the sciences. Those who believe in God are few and far between. If you do not believe in God, the logic of the situation is that humanism has the answer, and the most logical forms of humanism are Marxism and existentialism. The new view of reality as men see it today is that man is the measure.
R.J. Rushdoony: 34:47 Men are humanistic today. This goes not only for the ones on the left but those on the right and where men are humanistic, the logic of humanism will carry them into either existentialism or anarchism or into communism. Moreover, the new view of reality is that realism means dirt. One of the pioneers in, so called, realistic writing was [inaudible 00:35:24] and J.B. Priestley, himself a humanist, Therefore, ineffectual in protesting against realism as said of [inaudible 00:35:35], and very validly.
R.J. Rushdoony: 35:40 What he says applies to writers today, and I quote, “In spite of their objective naturalistic manner, which so easily deceives the young and the innocent, when that manner is in fashion, they are no closer to the facts of our common existence than the tales of the earlier romancers.” They, monstrously, over simplify life, rob it of most of its potentialities of change and growth, deny it any power of compensation to make their one cruel point as if they were matadors and life, a dying bull. There is so much falsification in the cool neat cynical [inaudible 00:36:27] type of short story as there is the sentimental and rosy fiction of the popular magazine.
R.J. Rushdoony: 36:34 There are as many tricks in this business of leaving characters desolate forever after three incidents in thirty pages as there are in leaving them in a permanent glow of happiness. Thus, what you have today in novels and in fiction, in television and in movies, the so called realism, is something as unrealistic as the old fairy tales because it is no more a faithful picture of life, but it is their concept of what reality is, a myth.
R.J. Rushdoony: 37:24 Moreover, as we saw last time, appearance has become reality. The essence of life is to put a good front, to make an impression, to be seen and heard, to make an impact on the public. This is why, even men like McIntyre, essentially a humanist, want parades down the streets of Washington. This supposedly is going to change men. This, of course, is precisely humanism. It is Comte psychology and sociology. What is Comte’s essence of what constitutes the third age, the scientific age: technology.
R.J. Rushdoony: 38:14 You don’t work in terms of meaning but to make an impact with technology and so you are going to manipulate people by making an impression on them. Appearance, a show, a parade, in place of reality, in place of moral principles, and in place of changing the hearts of men. Moreover, the new temple has become the humanistic state school, the true temple of the modern age, its religious institution.
R.J. Rushdoony: 38:54 Charles Francis Potter, in Humanism, a New Religion, 1930, himself a leading humanist, wrote, “Education is, thus, a most powerful ally of humanism and every American public school is a school of humanism. What can the theistic Sunday schools, meeting for an hour once a week and teaching only a fraction of the children, do to stem the tide of a five day program of humanistic teaching.” Unquote.
R.J. Rushdoony: 39:34 Moreover, as men dream of the future, their vision of that future is totally in terms of this scientific society. Two of the most popular books, best sellers of recent years, which deal with this subject are John McCall’s The Future Of the Future and Alvin Tippler, Future Shock. Now, Tippler was associate editor of Fortune and a professor at Cornell and elsewhere, and McCall is also a very outstanding writer and scholar.
R.J. Rushdoony: 40:22 Their vision of the future is, of course, precisely the kind of thing that Mumford was describing. It is a world in which artificial men are created, in which man himself becomes obsolete and makes way for clonal man, in which the least of things done to men is to put electrodes in their brain. It is a world ruled by the scientific elite in which there is no room for God and really no room for men in any sense that we can recognize them.
R.J. Rushdoony: 41:05 Very definitely, the death of God means also the death of men. For when God goes, man is expendable in the minds of these men. He’s poorly made, he doesn’t meet their specifications, and since they cannot remake him, they will invent something to take his place. Niche claimed to be the great humanist and lover of life and of man, but he ended up with the slobbering hatred of man and demand that superman be created. Now, the scientific elite tells us that they will make superman artificially.
R.J. Rushdoony: 41:53 They actually claim that the time will come when you will go to an air terminal to the counter to get your ticket, and you’ll not be able to tell whether the very beautiful girl waiting on you is an artificial girl or a human being and of course, ultimately, the artificial girl will be much more reliable than any real girl and so, you can guess who will be dispensable. This is the mad, the truly, insane dream of the new scientific elite. It’s a dangerous dream. It’s a dream that spells murder, the murder of man. The millions upon millions that were murdered by Stalin, and the millions upon millions who were murdered by Mau in Red China, are just a drop in the bucket. To what men, in the universities very close to us, all across the country, in England, in France, Germany, all over the world, are contemplating when they discuss, plan, make a scientific goal to do the things these writers describe.
R.J. Rushdoony: 43:28 It is the planned murder of man, of mankind. Moreover, they are doing this with the hearty approval of most men. The overwhelming popularity of these books can scarcely be believed. The average man is ready to accept these because he hates life. This book was published in July of 1970, it appeared, condensations of it, in Horizon, Red Book and Playboy.
Speaker 2: 44:16 Please, turn over the cassette and continue the message.
Rev. R.J. Rushdoony (1916–2001), was a leading theologian, church/state expert, and author of numerous works on the application of Biblical law to society. He started the Chalcedon Foundation in 1965. His Institutes of Biblical Law (1973) began the contemporary theonomy movement which posits the validity of Biblical law as God’s standard of obedience for all. He therefore saw God’s law as the basis of the modern Christian response to the cultural decline, one he attributed to the church’s false view of God’s law being opposed to His grace. This broad Christian response he described as “Christian Reconstruction.” He is credited with igniting the modern Christian school and homeschooling movements in the mid to late 20th century. He also traveled extensively lecturing and serving as an expert witness in numerous court cases regarding religious liberty. Many ministry and educational efforts that continue today, took their philosophical and Biblical roots from his lectures and books.
Learn more about R.J. Rushdoony by visiting: https://chalcedon.edu/founder