A Christian Survey of World History
Wars of Religion (so called), I
*This is an unedited and unoffical print version of R.J. Rushdoony’s lecture.
R.J. Rushdoony: 00:00 Almighty God, our heavenly Father, who of thy grace and mercy have called us to be thy people. Has given us such glorious promises through Jesus Christ. We gather together in thanksgiving and all thy blessings from the year past. We thank thee that as we look at the year past and at the ages past, we have the blessed assurance that our times are in thy hands, and all the issues of history, and all the issues of our lives, to the very hairs of our head, are all numbered, all come from thy hand, all reflect the glory of thy governance, and the certainty of thy rule. Bless us as we give ourselves to the study of these things, that we may understand thee better, serve thee better, and rejoice ever the more in thee. In Jesus name, amen. We went through the reformation last time. Tonight we will deal with the century and a half, approximately, after Luther, in the so-called wars of religion, which took place in Europe at that time. I spoke of them as the so-called wars of religion. Actually their origin was otherwise, as we shall soon see.
R.J. Rushdoony: 01:42 Before we begin, I’d like to read a few passages from freshman examination papers in the department of history at a major California University. These were copied down by someone in the department for me, as typical answers by intelligent students. They reveal the anti-Christian, humanistic bias.
R.J. Rushdoony: 02:16 The first, “During the Middle Ages, men accepted the things they were told were true without investigating the ideas themselves. The Middle Ages men lacked curiosity in anything. For this reason, the Middle Ages were labeled Dark Ages.”
R.J. Rushdoony: 02:37 The second, “The 18th century can be seen as an age of enlightenment. If we define enlightenment as a new or sudden awareness, as a ray of light breaking through the clouds, then the 18th century surely fits the definition.”
R.J. Rushdoony: 02:56 Third, “Superstition died, and so did the myths of the past, as men formed a record of history and looked to the future with optimism.”
R.J. Rushdoony: 03:07 Then last this, “The Italian Renaissance was the beginning of freedom of the individual and power of the state. The individual became freer because he became secular. He was no longer church dominated.”
R.J. Rushdoony: 03:26 Now of course this last one at least has one element of truth in it. It recognizes that the time of the renaissance was also the rise of state-ism. How you could have freedom of the individual and the rise of state-ism, of course, is impossible to reconcile. The renaissance was indeed the time of state-ism, and of tyranny. A time of man’s radical loss of freedom. It was also a time of the beginnings of nationalism.
R.J. Rushdoony: 04:07 Now at this point many conservatives go very, very sadly, very badly astray. As between nationalism and internationalism, they come out solidly for nationalism. Actually it’s like saying, which Cide should you have been on in World War II? National socialism or international socialism? Because it was a war between the two. Our answer should have been, “A plague on both your houses.” The same with regard to the quarrel between nationalism and internationalism. Neither represents the Christian perspective.
R.J. Rushdoony: 04:47 Nationalism speaks of the priority of the nation and the national state in everything. This we cannot agree to. Internationalism holds to the priority of the world state. Both are geared to a stateist perspective. Both are untenable positions for the Christian who cannot view things from a stateist perspective. He believes that a nation has a place under God. He believes that there is a kind of Christian internationalism, but not political. Therefore, he must dissent from both.
R.J. Rushdoony: 05:31 Now there was, in the events that led to the Renaissance, a growth of centralization of power into the hands of monarchs, kings. A development of the idea of the divine right of kings. As a matter of fact, this may come as a surprise to you, first of all serfdom was not a medieval product. This is a point I have made on other occasions. Serfdom began in the Roman Imperial Estates. Where on men traded their freedom for cradle to grave security. The Middle Ages did not invent serfdom. They improved a lot of the serfs, and some of it gradually disappeared.
R.J. Rushdoony: 06:24 As a matter of fact, serfdom did not come into Eastern Europe until the post-renaissance era, until modernism began. There were no serfs in Russia a few centuries ago. It was a product of the modern world, of the rise of nationalism and statism. The idea that for long centuries through the Middle Ages the peasants of Russia were enslaved as serfs, is ridiculous.
R.J. Rushdoony: 07:03 In the 18th century, latter part of the 17th and in the 18th century, and into the middle of the 19th, they were serfs, and their lot was very bad. You can’t read that back through the centuries. It was a part of the rise of modernism, of the depreciation of man, and of the appreciation of the state. Throughout Europe, in other words, in the modern era there was, from the renaissance on, until the 19th century, 100 years ago, a very marked loss of freedom for the individual. The poor people of medieval Europe were freer, than the people of 17th and 18th century Europe.
R.J. Rushdoony: 08:10 statism, the contempt of the common people, the brutal suppression of the common people, these and other things flourished throughout the continent. Only in one area did you see a growth of liberty. That area was Great Britain, England and Scotland. You had in that area also a tremendous drive, as you did on the continent, towards absolutism. That is absolutizing the state and the monarch, making it God on earth. The idea of the divine right of the kings, the divine right of the state in Rousseau later on.
R.J. Rushdoony: 09:08 Now, you had this same drive in England, you definitely had it in Henry VIII. You very, very powerfully had it in Queen Elizabeth. It was the faith of James I, and Charles I, and of Charles II and James II. There was one reason alone why England, instead of going down the drain with the other countries of Europe into absolutism, one reason why it didn’t take that path, and it was the Puritans. The Puritans, and to a lesser degree the Scottish Calvinists in Scotland. Those two together, but the Puritans have to be given prior credit, were responsible for the growth of liberty.
R.J. Rushdoony: 10:13 Now Christopher Hill, a brilliant English scholar, who is not a Puritan, not a Christian, nonetheless has emphatically made it clear that the growth of constitutionalism and liberty in England must be ascribed to the Puritans and to Cromwell. He has written a book about Cromwell in which he develops this thesis.
R.J. Rushdoony: 10:48 Now it’s ironic that, first of all, so many of the English scholars treat Cromwell as though he were the villain of their history when they owe their liberties to him, and the Puritans, as though they were really foreigners and something very un-English about them.
R.J. Rushdoony: 11:07 As a matter of fact, I just finished reading a book by one English scholar who says, by the way, that in his circles you identify yourself by the church you do not go to. In other words, what are you? Well the religion I do not take part in is high church Anglicanism, or the church I do not have anything to do with is low church Anglicanism, or non-conformity. In other words, they don’t belong to any, but if there’s anything they could tolerate, it would be that.
R.J. Rushdoony: 11:55 He says the church he does not belong to is high church Anglicanism. His thesis of course is that anything below that really is not English, and he despises it, and he says so. Well this is tragic. Actually when you go back to English history, you have to say that, well first of all Presbyterianism was a part of the Church of England. It was kicked out, against its will, by Charles II, who then kicked out all the really faithful bishops in the church as the next step, the Nonjuror bishops. You have to say then that the Puritans were really Church of England men, who were concerned with preserving the liberties of Englishmen in church and state.
R.J. Rushdoony: 12:55 Now, Europe, because it did not have this Puritan element, or the Calvinistic element in Scotland, was not preserved like Great Britain was, from the blight of absolutism. It went progressively into deeper and darker absolutism, which finally culminated in the absolutism of the state. The monarch being exchanged for the divine state, with the French Revolution as the logical culmination of these ideas.
R.J. Rushdoony: 13:36 The reason why in the 19th century, the last century, there was a tremendous birth of real liberty in Europe was because, and this an Austrian scholar has pointed out, of the influence of America, and of the War of Independence. It was the American influence in Europe that led progressively in the last century, to a tremendous birth of liberty there. As our influence began to wane after the end of the century, because we were departing from our own heritage, Europe and the whole world took a turn back to the absolutism, the totalitarianism, which the renaissance had instituted. Now one of the things that greatly advanced the developing statism, which the renaissance was beginning to see, and the early stages of the renaissance was creating, was the discovery of America in 1492. We don’t think of it that way, but the discovery of America was in some respect a very disastrous thing for Europe.
R.J. Rushdoony: 15:01 Now, I want to say at this point, Europe was taking the same course anyway. If America had not been discovered, it would have taken the same course, but the discovery of America speeded up the rise of statism in Europe. Why? Well, there was a tremendous flow of wealth, of gold, into the hands of Spain, and from Spain into all of Europe.
R.J. Rushdoony: 15:33 1492, gold was discovered. By 1550, in other words 58 years later, the Spanish discovery of gold was an established fact and the gold was pouring into Europe. Spain at that time was the Holy Roman Empire. It owned all of what is now Portugal and Spain. It had all of what is now Netherlands and Belgium. It had all of what is now Austria and Hungary, and Bohemia, or Czechoslovakia, a sizable portion of Germany, and a sizeable portion of Switzerland, and a sizeable portion of Italy. All that was controlled by the Spanish monarch. In other words, it was the power in Europe. Under Philip II, its strategic power and importance, owning that much in Europe, and then most of South America, well all of South America and Central America, and some of North America, you realize their wealth.
R.J. Rushdoony: 17:03 Now, inflation is the increase of the money supply. Normally inflation takes place when a civil government begins printing more money, or in the case of coining it, uses baser metals, cheap metals, instead of gold and silver, and gives them the same value as gold and silver. You can have inflation also, and you had it once in history, with a sudden influx of a large amount of fresh money, real money, gold and silver, as happened when all the accumulated wealth of the Incas and the Aztecs flowed suddenly into Europe.
R.J. Rushdoony: 18:06 Now, every now and then when I speak on the subject of gold, somebody brings up the question, where there’s not enough gold in the world to provide the necessary money. Well of course the answer in part is, there’s not enough paper in the world, if paper were the money, because you couldn’t print it fast enough, it would disappear in value so rapidly. What we must point out too is that the whole value of money is its scarcity.
R.J. Rushdoony: 18:39 That’s the trouble with paper money. After all, if money is ready and cheap and easily come by, then everybody could have everything, couldn’t they? Except you could get everything, it wouldn’t be available. When you start printing a lot of money, and giving it out in the form of welfare, and subsidies, and so on, what happens? Prices start going up? Because there are more people out bidding for the same limited number of items. Thus, between 1550 and 1600, prices doubled in Europe, because there was a sudden influx of new money, but no increase in production.
R.J. Rushdoony: 19:41 That was nothing compared with what happened in the next 50 years. To give an example from one record, wheat and hay sold in the Paris market in 1650 for 15 times the price of 1500. In 150 years, prices had increased 15 times what they had been. The reason of course was there was all this new money, real money, but there was no comparable increase in production. The amount of gold and silver in circulation was rising far more rapidly than any goods could be produced. If you increase money but not production, you always have a crisis. Of course, because with statism the common people were being suppressed, the farmers were being suppressed, the working men were being suppressed in their demands. Actually production in some cases was being limited, it was decreasing, so what was the answer? Well, for the next couple centuries or so it was mercantilism. A rise of mercantilism among the national states.
R.J. Rushdoony: 21:24 Now this in particular is very important for us to understand, because we are now in a new mercantilist age in the 20th century. The 20th century has been called a neo-mercantilist era. The idea of mercantilism was economic self-sufficiency for every nation, so that the idea was buy British, buy French, buy German, or buy whatever you were. You did not buy imports. In fact, everything was done to keep imports out of the country. Every country was trying to export, but not to import.
R.J. Rushdoony: 22:16 Well now, if the British were refusing to take French imports, but wanting to export into France, the French were going to say, and they did, “We won’t take British imports, but we’ll export into Britain.” Only they wouldn’t take it, so they closed their boundaries to each other.
R.J. Rushdoony: 22:38 Well the next step then was you developed colonies, and the purpose of the colonies was to have somebody to buy from you. You got your raw materials from them, and then you insisted on selling to them, and told them they had to buy from you. Of course, this is one of the reasons why Britain had trouble with the colonies. Because we told them they had to buy British goods at British prices, and they were charging them more than in the home country, because if they couldn’t make it there in England, they were forcing Canada and America to buy at their prices so they could make a profit.
R.J. Rushdoony: 23:27 That was the whole point of colonies. In other words, in each case a country tried to establish colonies in order to be able to live off of them. If you lost your colonies, your economy collapsed.
R.J. Rushdoony: 23:43 Of course, this is why France collapsed with the French Revolution. Because in the French and Indian war, what we had done was to rob the French of their colonies, Canada and India. They had nobody to export to. French business went into a decline, they had a depression, and they had a revolution. Now this is mercantilism, it leads to disaster, it leads to revolution ultimately, as it did in Europe finally. Of course, this is precisely what we are going into now.
R.J. Rushdoony: 24:32 The surcharge was a mercantilist act. We’ve pulled away from it temporarily, but we haven’t departed from the principle. Of course, with mercantilism, it meant creating industries. After all, there might be something you needed in the country that you didn’t make, and you weren’t going to go across the English Channel, or across the border into Germany to buy what they had. Oh no. Even though in your country you could not produce that as well, or as cheaply. In fact, it might be very costly to produce it. You went to work and produced it, and you had every kind of trade barrier to protect your production of it. The result was economic chaos.
R.J. Rushdoony: 25:29 It meant that the working man went deeper and deeper down economically. What was supposedly for the benefit of the masses and of the nation became their destruction.
R.J. Rushdoony: 25:48 Now to turn to the centrality of Spain in this era. Spain was the center of the counter reformation, as well as the most powerful political entity. It was the Spanish crown that was so intently concerned with reestablishing a Catholic Europe. The Council of Trent was the work of the Spanish Crown, not of the Popes. The Popes were not in favor of any kind of internal reformation, they resisted it.
R.J. Rushdoony: 26:35 Philip II of Spain carried on the work of his father, Charles V. It is very easy to regard Philip II with great admiration and also with great horror. This is why some scholars see him as a perfect monster, and other scholars, especially Catholics, see him as almost a saint. He was a very intensely devout man. Extremely devout.
R.J. Rushdoony: 27:12 He was an international ruler, in that he had within his empire not only the Indians of the Americas, Portuguese, and the Spanish, the Belgians, the Netherlands, various Germans, Bohemians, Slavs, Austrians, Hungarians, Italians, the Swiss, every kind of people imaginable. He himself, the family, was a German family. He saw himself as the defender of the faithful.
R.J. Rushdoony: 27:48 He built a palace, the Escorial, 30 miles outside of Madrid. It was built in the form of a grid, in honor of Saint Lawrence. Now by grid I mean literally that, a gridiron, because Saint Lawrence, in about the year 238, was martyred by being burned to death on a grid. The palace was intended to last forever. It’s a tremendous place. It was intended to be also not only a palace, but a monastery and a mausoleum. It was unlike other palaces, because its first and foremost thought was religious. At its center was a chapel.
R.J. Rushdoony: 28:52 Next week we’ll come to Louis XIV, and the rise of the modern state. At the center of Louis XIV’s palace was his bedroom, where he could make love to a procession of women.
R.J. Rushdoony: 29:05 The monks moved in before Philip II did, and then eight coffins of the family dead. He wanted to be reminded always that he too would die. He wanted it to be a center of worship so that always he would have the faith first in prospect.
R.J. Rushdoony: 29:36 He was in some ways a very heartless man. He was responsible for the fearful persecution of the Protestants in the Netherlands, under the ugly Duke of Alba. In other respects, a very selfless man. His son, who was to have succeeded him, died mysteriously. There are many who feel that Philip had him put away, because there was something twisted in the young man’s mind, vicious and cruel, and Philip was afraid for the future of the kingdom. Whether he had him put away or not, we do not know. He died mysteriously. He did make very great use of his dashing half brother, his father’s illegitimate son, Don John of Austria. Don John of Austria was one of the more dashing figures of the day, and it was he who won the great Battle of Lepanto against the Turks, the naval battle. Philip II had no hesitancy about using him, because he felt he could do a great deal of good for the empire.
R.J. Rushdoony: 31:11 His answer, unfortunately, to almost every problem, was to use the power of the state to accomplish what really was spiritual ends. He tried to destroy the Protestants in the Netherlands by blood, and only hardened their resolution. Philip II was responsible for persuading the French monarchy to have the Massacre of Saint Bartholomew’s Day, in which the Huguenot leadership was wiped out overnight.
R.J. Rushdoony: 31:48 Philip II was the one who in 1588, to destroy another Protestant country, Britain, assembled the armada. It was 130 ships weighing 58,000 tons, carrying 30,000 men, and 2400 pieces of artillery. However, the odds were in favor of the English. The English had 200 small ships, which were much more maneuverable and faster. Moreover, the commander of the armada was not even a seaman. On top of that, orders had to be issued in six languages to the crews, which made giving an order always a complex matter.
R.J. Rushdoony: 32:46 On top of that, there were several elements in the crew that didn’t even get along with each other. They hated each other about as much as they hated the English they were going to fight. For example, the Catalans, the Castilians and the Portuguese did not get along with each other. On top of that, the Irishmen, and the Emigrate Catholic Englishmen didn’t get along with each other. While the armada was quite a formidable assemblage of ships, you might say it really was doomed before it took off, because there were so many things about it that were unwieldy and unworkable. Moreover, life within Spain had left reality. People had long since ceased to think of work as the way to get ahead. The Spanish wealth from the Americas forever destroyed Spain. Now there were elements of this earlier. Spain, incidentally, was a Visigothic country. The Spaniards were a gothic people in origin. They became, over the centuries, intensely nationalistic. Nationalistic almost to the point of insanity. As a result, they became bitterly hateful of any foreigner. The word foreign came to have very detailed classification. You were a foreigner if you were not a Catholic.
R.J. Rushdoony: 34:35 The first thing they did was to eliminate the Moors and the Jews. Now the Spanish Moors and Jews were really Spaniards, Visigoths, who had been converted to those respective faiths. The total number of Arabs who had entered the country was a small handful, and by the time of … The total number of Jews a small handful. By the time of Isabella, the difference, physically, facially, in every way, between a Jew, a Moor and a Spaniard, was totally indistinguishable. As a matter of fact, Isabella’s husband Ferdinand was as much Jewish as he was Spanish, if you want to get technical. On top of that, their prejudice then extended to other groups, the Germans. The only one they didn’t dare apply that to was the emperor, who was a German. They even went so far as persecuting German Franciscans in the monasteries in California, in Mexico, in Peru and elsewhere. A very real persecution, which was tragic again, because some of the finest of the Franciscan brothers in the Californias were really of German origin. There was this fanatical nationalism.
R.J. Rushdoony: 36:15 Then there was this pride that developed in being a gentleman of the blood, of the nobility. Again, this reached the point of being almost insane. Let me read to you a passage from the poem of the Cid. You’ve heard of El Cid, because right now on KFAC there’s a commercial about the Campeador, El Cid, and there was a movie awhile back about El Cid. I don’t know anything about the movie, but El Cid, Cid means Lord, was a remarkable general of the lesser nobility gentlemen, who became in his teens a great general. He died at 56, a natural death. He was never once defeated in battle, no matter what the odds were. No one was able to stand up to him. To this day he is, with justice, one of the greatest heroes of Spain.
R.J. Rushdoony: 37:29 The poem of the Cid was written by someone who had lived during his lifetime, so it reflects the life and the times of the Cid and the episodes from the life of the Cid. Now, two of the heirs of Carrion asked for the two daughters of El Cid. He had a son and two daughters. The son died in battle, which is a great grief to El Cid. They asked for his two daughters, and of course they gained with them a very tremendous dowry. They really became quite wealthy, because El Cid had conquered such vast areas and had become Lord of Valencia through conquering it, and overthrowing the Moorish king, that he could really endower his daughters in a remarkable way.
R.J. Rushdoony: 38:39 They came, they went through a battle with El Cid, and they married his daughters and off they went, on their way back to their realm. The heirs of Carrion were of semi-royal blood. They camped by the way, and celebrating things with their wives. Then in the morning they insisted on some more lovemaking while they quietly ordered everybody to decamp and move on, except a handful. Then about ten o’clock in the morning they had their own tent struck, and ordered them to carry the tents. Then they told the girls, “You’re beneath our dignity. We’ve got what we want out of you, and we’re through with you now.” They beat them savagely and left them for dead, and off they went.
R.J. Rushdoony: 39:43 Fortunately one of the men of El Cid was suspicious about the whole thing. El Cid himself had not been in favor of the marriage, but because the king had approved of it when the heirs of Carrion had asked for the hands of the two girls, he had had to go along with it. At any rate, there was a trial. Now, one of these two heirs of Carrion, Diego González, this is what he said to justify it. He didn’t deny what they had done. The girls had survived, because they had been picked up in time by this man, and nursed back to life.
R.J. Rushdoony: 40:29 This is what Diego González said, “We are by birth of the purest lineage of counts. Oh that this marriage had never been made, that made us kin of my Cid, Don Rodrigo. We still do not repent that we abandoned his daughters. Let them sigh as long as they live. And what we have done to them will be thrown in their faces always. This I will maintain against the brave Saint, for in abandoning them, we have gained in honor.”
R.J. Rushdoony: 41:04 Now that is a shocker, isn’t it? To think that anyone could marry two girls, and then treat them that way, and then say in a court, “We have gained in honor.” After all, we’re the bluest kind of blue blood, and what more did they expect from our hands? They were lucky they got as much as they did.
R.J. Rushdoony: 41:37 They lost the case, because it was proven against them by some of the men of El Cid, that they had been cowards in battle. That put them to shame, so that none of the royalty who were there could give them the case. Now, this kind of emphasis on blue blood, on being above work, on living off the empire, made of Spain a parasite, a parasite on Latin America. The result was that Spain did not have a real economy, nor a real agriculture, until practically this century. When Spain finally lost, in the Spanish American War, the last of her colonies of any consequence, it meant first they had to begin to develop something in the country, and that this old mercantilist exploitation was now ended.
R.J. Rushdoony: 42:59 Second, it meant trouble within the country, because it had no real economy. The result of course was a long series of troubles, culminating in the Spanish Revolution of the ’20s and the ’30s. Franco taking over, trying to resurrect an economy out of Spain, which has proceeded to a minor degree, but is not as far along as it should be. Thus Spain, a country where there is a very high order of intelligence, really intelligence of a high degree, has never gotten very far because of this cultural heritage which makes it unwilling really to study or to work. Where the ideal is to be a gentleman. You do not do anything, you are something.
R.J. Rushdoony: 44:15 Among the common people, the standard was to live by your wits, rather than to work. I wonder how many of you ever read the life of Lazarillo de Tormes. The picaresque hero, and a man who lives by his wits. It’s a delightful story, but it’s the most popular story also for centuries in Spain. It really gives something of the popular ideal. Lazarillo lives by his wits, that is by conning people continually. He does it very cleverly, very amusingly, but that’s the whole point of it, you see. This is the way to live, not by work.
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