History of Thought (2)
Anselm to the Enlightenment
Dororthy said I got to find a new way to introduce Rev.. Rushdoony, I don’t know whether I should do a song and dance, or what! So often when we do introduce Reverend Rushdoony we concentrate on his scholarly accomplishments, and you tend to forget there’s a very real person behind all of this. For instance, he is the father of six children, four beautiful daughters whom I have met, and two sons. I can’t say that they are handsome because I haven’t met either of them. The oldest son is married, which adds a daughter-in-law to the family, and, as of a few days ago, is a granddaughter. With five teenagers and young adults remaining at home, it must be a problem of logistics, for Mr. Rushdoony and his extremely talented wife Dorothy to keep up with all the comings and goings of this young group.
In any given week, Mr. Rushdoony travels on the average of one thousand miles, can you imagine that!? For instance, this afternoon after he speaks here, he will fly up to San Francisco to speak tonight, fly back again tomorrow, then go back up again next week. So you can begin to see how he can log this type of mileage in. He personally conducts two regular Bible-study classes, one in Westwood on Sunday morning, the other at Dorothy Evans’ home at 7:30 Sunday evening.
Mr. Rushdoony writes a guest editorial for The California Farmer, and that is published twice a month. He also publishes his own newsletter which goes out once a month that is now mailed to recipients all over the country. And this I am informed, is growing at a rate of approximately one hundred new subscriptions per month. As if this were not enough, he is at present writing five new books. He is also president of Chalcedon Inc. Founded for the furthering of Christian higher education, all of this is really a fraction. You know, I am practically panting just telling you about all of this, and he is the one who is doing all this, and he is not even breathing heavily! But I would like to introduce a great Christian philosopher, scholar, and a very great person, the Reverend Rousas John Rushdoony.
Our purpose in this series on the shapers of the modern mind is to give a kind of road map to philosophical history. Today our scope is from Anselm to the Enlightenment. Now, in order to appreciate some of the problems that appear in this particular period that we are dealing with. It is important for us to understand the relationship between ‘noetics’ and ethics, or morality. Now, noetics is knowledge; how we know, what we know. What is the relationship between noetics and ethics? There are two possible relationships between knowledge and morality. First, we can hold that man’s autonomous reason is able to discern and to know reality without reference to his moral state, that is, it makes no difference whether you are a communist or a Christian, a pervert or a moral man. When the facts are presented to you, you can grasp them, assimilate them, and deal with them impartially and objectively. Now this position of course is the Greek position, that of Greek philosophy, of scholasticism, of Medieval Arab philosophy, of Jewish Medieval and modern thought, and the Enlightenment, of modern thought and modern religion.
The other or second possible relationship of noetics and ethics, of knowledge and morality is that man’s knowledge and knowing rests on a common religious premise with his moral concepts. That is, because noetics and ethics have a common foundation with a religious faith they are both a product of that faith, therefore if man is a sinner it is going to make a difference in how he knows. If a man is a communist, it is going to make a difference in what he knows and how he knows. He is going to refuse to accept certain facts. And if a man is a Buddhist, because he is a Buddhist, this is going to govern not only his knowledge but his morality. Have you ever tried to present some facts to a communist? Obviously, he has a different way of knowing things, and a different morality. Therefore, since he has a faith that undergirds his knowledge and morality, he will not accept this fact that which you consider facts.
Now these two perspectives are very important for us to grasp, because we as Christians are the only one’s today who declare that there is a relationship between noetics and Ethics, between knowledge and morality. That the two rest on a basic faith. But the rest of the world is trying to say: “It makes no difference who you are, or what you are, as long as you have the facts, you are going to accept the facts.” Now, this position of course they turn against us, and they tell us, being sinners: “We reject God, there is no evidence for God. We reject your conservative position, there is no evidence for it.” Of course, they are governed by their faith, as they say these things. “We reject your idea that there is a good or evil, there is no such thing as good and evil, and why discriminate?” As I read a statement last night from a very prominent source as against homosexuals that they are another minority group that we’ve discriminated against. You can go on and on and add these things. And you see, we then, are people who refuse to face the facts. “Any impartial man,” they say, “Has them. Accepts them, copes with them.” But we blind ourselves by our faith. As a result, this is the great gap between the Christian position and all others, and I submit that the Christian position is the only sound one, and this is why, on principle, these people today cannot have any sense of what reality is, because they hold a position which denies a vast area of reality, and which tells them that theirs is the only sound position. So their minds are closed, they have a mental block and a moral block against a vast area of knowledge. They wear a mask over their eyes, and they tell us we are blind.
St. Anselm with whom we are going to start today, had the Christian position on noetics and ethics, knowledge and morality. St. Anselm’s dates are 1033-1109. He was born in Italy and became the great Archbishop of Canterbury. A very tried man, who underwent severe and bitter experiences, in the face of that, maintained his courage, and wrote some of the greatest philosophy in the history of the world.
The basic premise of St. Anselm was this; what you know depends on what you believe. Every man has a basic perspective. Now, my perspective on this room is different than yours. I see that wall and I see you, but you sitting there see this wall and you see me, you have a different perspective. Now when religiously we have differing perspectives, we see the world differently, or else we do not see it at all. Because if you believe, as the Hindus do that the world is ‘Maya,’ illusion, you say: “All people are illusions, they are phantasms of the imagination, and I myself am an illusion, and the ultimate fact about reality is nothingness, nirvana.”
You see in terms of what you believe. And so, St. Anselm said his famous statement:
“I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe that unless I believe, I should not understand.”
In other words, Anselm said, basic to every philosophical position is a faith, and I begin with my Christian faith. I believe, in order that I may understand the world, understand myself, understand God. Because, if I do not believe in the Christian faith, then I am believing in a humanistic one, I am believing in myself. And when I begin by believing in myself, my reason, what am I going to do? I am going to see the world in terms of myself, so I am going to say: “There is no God, he doesn’t agree with me when I say that I want my way. And there is no moral law because that doesn’t agree with me, I make my own laws.” In other words, what I believe is going to govern what I understand.
Then Anselm said in his Monologion and Proslogion, that God is an inescapable fact, that in fact, thinking is impossible without God. St. Anselm said that all of us when we talk and when we think, think in terms of differences and in terms of degrees. We say: “This is better, and that is not as good, this is higher, and that lower.” And he said: “This is an interesting use of language, how can anyone use this kind of language unless they have embedded in their being a concept of the absolute?” Can you put up a ladder against nothing? So that, when you think of degrees, of better and best, higher and lower, you have embedded, written on every fiber of your mind, the concept of God. The absolute, the ultimate good. He who sets the standard, so that we find inescapable this concept of degrees, this idea of differences. We may deny God, we may say we reject any absolute, but we still do not get away from degrees. So that, to modernize his language, the revolutionist says: “I do not believe in God, I do not believe in absolutes.” And so you say to him: “Why then are you rebelling? If everything’s the same, what you are demanding is not better than what you have, they are all the same.”
Lenny Bruce, who died not too long ago, had a famous statement which he said was the truth about reality, and he said: ‘Whatever is, is right.” Everything is right. Well then why was Lenny Bruce complaining against the establishment? Why was he complaining against us? If everything is right, why fight anything? Everything is equally good. And so St. Anselm said it is impossible for the unbeliever to get away from the fact of God, because every time he opens his mouth, he presupposes degrees which point to the absolute. So he said I begin by believing in order to understand. I say yes, I make differences as I look out into the world. Because differences, degrees, higher and lower, good and evil, these are inescapable ideas. And so I start with the inescapable fact of God, and I believe in Him, and therefore I understand what all these differences add up to, what these degrees mean.
Now St. Anselm was the great Christian thinker of the Medieval period, unfortunately now much neglected. Soon after Anselm, the thought of the Middle Ages took another turn. The revival of Greek thinking, Aristotle in particular, Abelard was the great name here, and the revival of some neoplatonic thinking, by Abbot Joachim gave civilization a new turn. Let us first examine the Abbot Joachim, a Cistercian monk, probably born in 1145, and probably died about 1202, so that he died about a century after Anselm.
We hear very little about the Abbot Joachim today, but the Abbot Joachim’s thinking is all around us, and undergirds a great deal of our revolutionary ferment today. The abbot Joachim said that there were three ages in history. The first was ‘the age of the Father,’ the Old Testament period, the period of law, the period of wrath and of judgment and of justice. Thus, in terms of the doctrine of the Trinity, with his three-age theory, the first age for Joachim was the age of the Father, the age of law. The second age was from the year one to the year 1260, the age of the Son, the age of grace. And in this age Christianity came into the world with its doctrine of salvation, and its doctrine of grace. But, he said, now the age of Christianity is nearing its end, the age of the son, and it is to give way to the third age, the third world. Now this third age will be the age of the Spirit, and the age when love takes over. In which the Father and the Son will be dead, and the Spirit now in all men will live.
Now this thinking became intensely popular, and it led to a variety of the revolutionary movements in the Medieval period, it infected a great many prominent people, incidentally Christopher Columbus was a believer in this third-world kind of thinking, third-age kind of thought, and it effect Hegel greatly, Hegel’s philosophy, and through Hegel Karl Marx, his thesis, antithesis and synthesis, your three-age period you see, and the Communist revolution to usher in the third world, the third age, the ultimate period, and of course your death of God movement is Joachimite to the core, we’ve had our age of law and our age of grace and now it’s time for the age of love, a one-world order in all men are brothers, in which no longer do the religious differences matter. This kind of thinking infected the church very heavily. And at the same time with the revival of Aristotelian thought, the belief that the state is the true home of man, and the true order, the divine order, again became basic to thinking. And this infected the church as well, so that Innocent III for example, very, very strongly subscribed to this kind of thinking. And it became a period of the powerful concentration of forces both in church and in state.
Similar claims were made by the state, and one of the greatest emperors of all time, Frederick the II of the Holy Roman Empire, whose dates are 1194-1250, subscribed strongly to the Joachimite third-age kind of thinking. And he saw himself as the great founder of this third-age period, and so, he was beyond religion, beyond good and evil, and in his empire he tried to merge the differences, for example, between Moslem and Christian. The Crusades had been fought previously, but he went and negotiated with the Muslims, and had Jerusalem reopened to the Christians, and he was able to do this because he was beyond religion. “After all,” as he said to the Muslim Sultan: “Those differences are no longer the differences of our age, let us live beyond the old confrontation in the new era of coexistence.” This kind of thinking became very popular as a result of Frederick’s work, and there was a time when Moslem and Christian felt that: “Well, we are now beyond the old days of conflict and of confrontation, we are now in the age of negotiation and coexistence.” It is interesting that Frederick II called his birthplace ‘the New Bethlehem,’ and his mother was in all court ceremonies referred to as ‘the divine mother’ and ‘the new Mary.’
Another thinker who very prominently subscribed to this third age, third world kind of thinking was Dante the poet. Today of course Dante is regarded as a very devout Catholic poet who wrote very devoutly about Heaven and Hell, as well as purgatory. But he was the champion of the Empire against the C hurch, and his thinking was very much in line with that of Frederick II.
In De Monarchia, Dante wrote that the goal of civilization is not faith but peace. So that if faith is not important, then coexistence is. And he wrote:
‘The human race is most likened to God when it is most one.”
This sounds very much like our death of God school of thinkers who say: “God is dead but he will be reformed when humanity, which is the true God, is again one. When this dismembered body of mankind is put together in a one-world order, then God having been put together will again be alive, he will be resurrected.”
Again, Dante wrote:
“It is clear then that everything which is good is good in virtue of consisting in unity.”
Then those who are divisive, who stand in terms of doctrine and creed are therefore evil, because they are against unity. And this is why of course Dante peopled hell in his Divine Comedy with all kinds of churchmen and popes. The goal of empire then for Dante is the perfection of the human race, and then the withering away of the empire. This sounds very Marxist, does it not? In other words, you’ve got to have a super world state. Then this super world state, having accomplished its purpose, and man will live in perfection with his fellow men. And how? Well, in world communism or anarchism. And this is the thesis of the fifteenth chapter of his Purgatory. Until then the emperor was man’s hope.
In his Epistola VII, Dante asked the emperor, when he was hopeful the Emperor Henry would be the one to usher in the third age: “Art thou he who should come, or do we look for another?” the words of St. John the Baptist to Jesus. And then he continued:
“Yet although long thirst, as it is want, in its frenzy turneth to doubt, just because the hour is close at hand, even those things which are certain, nevertheless we believe and hope in thee, affirming that thou art the minister of God and the son of the church and the promoter of Roman glory, and I too who write for myself and for others have seen thee as beseems imperial majesty, most benined, and have heard Thee most clement, when my hand handled thy feet and my lips paid their debt. Then, (That is, as he was on his knees kissing the emperor’s feet) “Then did my spirit exalt indeed, and I spoke silently with myself. I behold the lamb of God, behold him who hath taken away the sins of the world.”
In other words, salvation by the state. And the Divine Comedy Is the story of this political salvation. At the same time, a little earlier in fact, the great scholastic theologian and philosopher, St. Thomas Aquinas, lived. His dates are from 1224-1274. St. Thomas Aquinas, unlike Dante and Frederick the II and others ,was a very earnest and devout man. He was deeply disturbed about the new radical thinking, he was very much concerned about the Aristotelian revival that Abelard had inaugurated. And so, he felt: “I will try to take the weapons of the enemy and use them for Christ.” And so he decided to accept Aristotle’s philosophy and to build a Christian faith in terms of that. He was like many of those today who say: ‘Well, I am going to try and be orthodox, but I am going to have dialogue with the opposition, and try to build a bridge, and try to use their premises and reach Christian conclusion from them.” It’s like saying: “I will be an atheist, and use my atheistic belief to reach Christ.” It does not work.
And so Aquinas reintroduced dialectical thinking into church theology. And he began his thinking with the ‘analogy of being,’ which means that man can interpret himself in terms of himself and work from himself upwards. Instead of starting with God and with revelation, and then seeing the world in terms of that, you start from yourself and you are going to work upwards to God.
One of the first premises of his thinking was of course the noetic concept that man’s autonomous reason is able to discern and to know reality without reference to his moral state. In other words, the non-Christian position, that it makes no difference what your religious and moral principles are, you are going to be impartial, you are going to be rational, you are going to see the facts and accept them. Then he held to the unity of being. Now this of course is a concession to the non-Christian position, because the Biblical faith is that there are two kinds of being, the uncreated divine being of God, and the created, human, or earthly being of man and of all creation.
Not only did he hold to the unity of being, but St. Thomas declared that all being is good. Well, if all being is good, what is evil then? Well, evil is a lack of being or nothingness, shades of Mary Becker Eddy. In other words, evil is nothing, it is an illusion. So that, insofar as Satan is real, he is good. He is thoroughly good. St. Thomas argued the only trouble with Satan is that he spends most of his time concerned about nothing. Therefore there is no such thing, you see, as evil, it is nothingness, and you’ve been absorbed with nothingness, when you believe there is any evil, or as Mary Becker Eddy added, death. Death is an illusion together with evil.
So what is evil then? It is nothingness or deprivation. And here, of course, you have the fundamental principle of the liberal thinking. Are they rioting? Well it is because they are lacking something, they have deprivation, so let’s vote millions to Watts and to the Washington ghetto, because these people have been deprived of something. Is your child a hoodlum? Well he has been deprived of love, so give him more love.
In other words what St. Thomas did was to incorporate all the evils of the Greek world, of the pagan world, and make them ‘Christian.’ Moreover, because he held to the noetic belief that man’s autonomous mind is capable by itself of grasping all things, he could not therefore say man’s mind is as sinful as any other part of man. And when man thinks he thinks as a sinner. So what was his concept of the mind? “Man’s mind,” he said: “Is like a tablet on which nothing is written.” The neutral concept of the mind, now you know where Locke and all of modern psychology got their concept of the mind as a blank piece of paper. A white piece of paper on which nothing is written. Man is passive, and therefore you condition him and you can make him whatever you want.
This is why Catholic theology has always had a problem of rampant liberalism, and they have had to sit on it and say: “Look, you can go no further than Aquinas.” Why? Because Aquinas’ thinking always leads right straight into total revolution and total radicalism. This is why the genuine conservative in the Catholic church are Augustinians, not Thomists. And one of the most brilliant Catholic professors of political science in a Catholic university in this country, a man who is a good friend of mine, often says: ‘All our trouble in our church are due to Aquinas, Thomism has corrupted us, and we’ve got to get back to Augustine.”
But out of this belief, that man’s mind is like a tablet on which nothing is written, you have man as a passive creature who is to be conditioned. Man then is passive as he meets the world, but he is active then with respect to God, which means ‘works.’ Whereas for us as Christians the reverse is true, man is passive in relationship to God, but active in relationship to the world.
Now, last month we dealt with ‘the problem of the one and the many,’ and we will come back to it again next month. But suffice it to say that in reincorporating Greek philosophy, scholasticism again reincorporated its problem with the one and the many. And again it had the same breakdown. By the end of the middle ages you had those who held to the Thomistic position, who were universalists, who felt that unity was basic, which of course was the Joachimite or neoplatonic tradition also, ending up at total statism. Unity was the only truth, and therefore the totalitarian regimes of the late Middle ages came into being, and a totalitarian trend in the church which had not existed previously. On the other hand, those who denied unity fell into the pitfall of anarchy, and you had the collapse, by the end of the Middle ages of a vast segment of society into anarchism. The goliards were the wandering student revolutionaries, they were folk singers. They would compose revolutionary songs and go from campus to campus throughout Europe, they were professional students who never went to classes. Their one concern was to propagate their revolutionary ideas, their free love ideas, their nudist ideas, and they actually staged in many cities nude marches to demonstrate their thinking. So that there is nothing new today, we had all of this at the end of the Middle ages and a great deal more. And there were many of these colonies started dedicated to nudism and to free love and to these revolutionary movements. We have many of their folk songs of the period collected by the way, some of them are very interesting reading. We must say that they at least, were better song writers than the ones today.
With the Renaissance this kind of thinking came to the fore, man was now his own goal and his own God. And he no longer needed the pretense of the church, and so he regarded the church with open contempt, and even of course some of the Popes of the day, the Borgia pope and others were flagrant unbelievers, contemptuous of the faith, maintaining their mistresses in the Vatican. Man was now his own God, and how seriously they took this is apparent in George Chapman’s play Bussy D’Ambois, written in the Elizabethan period in England. The latter part, when Bussy is stabbed and begins to die, he is shocked as he sees his blood flowing. How can a god die? And it is a very moving scene and it is very real, because this was a problem for them, because after all they were gods, and what a horrible thing that a god dies, that he bleeds. And in Castiglione’s Courtier he makes it clear that the true gentleman, the true courtier is his own God and has no God except himself, and the world is his stage. And therefore he makes sure that he is always performing in the presence of men, and therefore he says that the true courtier never risks his life in battle unless he is sure that somebody of importance sees him. It is then that he performs his deeds of bravery, and charges the enemy, when he knows that a prince or a king is an eyewitness to what he is doing.
Machiavelli applied the same kind of thinking to his politics in his The Prince. “There is no law, therefore it is the duty of the prince to promote the welfare of the state without regard to law.” “Because,” he said: “Not right, not truth, but power is the reality.” The idea of right, or right and wrong is a myth. Therefore,” he said, “terror can be useful, or it can be a mistake.” The only thing is, does it work. And if you can use it to make it work without backfiring on you, well then fine. He was a total pragmatist, in other words; truth is what works.
Incidentally, Lenin strongly recommended Machiavelli in his book Left Wing Communism. Machiavelli said that there are two ideas in conflict in the world. The one is that which holds that the way men ought to live is the right way, and the other, the way men live is your truth. And he said: “The way men live is the reality.” So, you drop overboard ideas of good and evil, right and wrong, and you move in terms of reality.
Incidentally this has nothing to do with the history of philosophy, but much of his life Machiavelli was simply a clerk in the bureaucracy in Florence. Later on he became a diplomat, and that was when he got clobbered and got into trouble, he was now in the firing line. But he spoke of the power of the bureaucracy very tellingly, and he said: ‘We who are the little underpaid clerks in the bureaucracy were the real power, because we could bottle up things, and gum them up and process them indefinitely, and we could have the Lords of Florence come and dance attendance on us, and say: “Well what’s happened to this document and this paper and that paper? It was supposed to have been approved long ago?” “Well, I will check, it may be in this department, or in that department, and we will track it down sir.” And they could keep the most powerful men of Florence and the most powerful rulers waiting on them endlessly, and take vengeance for their poor pay. And so he says: ‘The powers of a bureaucracy are beyond estimation by most people.” Thus, by the time the Reformation was born Europe had reached a point where it lived not in terms of what men ought to do, but in terms of what men do. In terms of sin, in terms of anything goes, in terms of pragmatism. ‘Truth is what works,’ and if terror works, then it is the truth for you. And if terror backfires on you then it is not the truth for you.
With the Reformation there was a new direction given to society, and at this point it is important to say something about both Luther and Calvin which is normally neglected. The three great Reformers of the period, or let us say four, were Luther, Calvin, Zwingli and Cramer. But when you list those 4 names you immediately know that there is a difference between two and two of them. Luther and Calvin are the two great figures and Zwingli and Cranmer, and I am fond of Cranmer, are not of the same stature. Why? Zwingli and Cramer were basically churchmen concerned with the church, and in spite of what Lutherans and Calvinists nowadays try to tell you, Luther and Calvin were not churchmen, basically. They were Christian thinkers. They were only secondarily, at best, concerned with the church, they were primarily concerned with the reformation of Christendom, with the reordering of all of life in every sphere, in terms of biblical faith, in terms of a Christian philosophy. Luther was a professor, Calvin was trained in law.
Now as they approached society, they felt first, the primacy of the Word of God is basic to every area, second salvation is the work of God, not of man, third God is prior to man and therefore the eternal decree to historical action, fourth man is passive in relationship to God, God has saved him. It is the work of God entirely, but man is active with respect to nature. And so you had a tremendous period of explosive activity did you not, men moving out to the four corners of the world, and age of immigration, into the New World. Of tremendous scientific activity. Of energy, imperialism you might say, in every domain, because man now moved out into the world in terms of a strong, an aggressive faith, aggressive in terms of the world, passive with regards to God.
And finally, for Luther and Calvin, not man the philosopher, or man the scientist is prior, but God is prior. Not Autonomous man, but autonomous God. God alone is independent. Man is at all points dependent upon God.
This was the Reformation. And its effect was immediate; on church, state, and school. But unfortunately, the Reformation very quickly was limited to the area of the church, and counter-forces took over in society, and then in the church. As a reviving scholasticism began to infect the church, and you had after Luther, Melanchthon with strong traces of scholasticism in his thinking, and a progressive return to scholasticism in Lutheran circles, and then a progressive return to scholasticism in Reformed circles. An interesting development too, ‘ecclesiasticism’ in both areas, in other words, primarily concerned with the church rather than the gospel in terms of the whole world.
And so it was that very quickly the older kind of thinking began to revive. Philosophy again went back to autonomous man, and the new starting point was with Descartes, René Descartes. Now Descartes was himself basically a very pious Catholic. So that, when he worshiped in church he was a very devout and humble man, but in his thinking he was thoroughly non-Christian. Because his starting point was not God, not the Christian faith, but autonomous man, and of course you remember from your courses in philosophy his great starting point was’ “Cogito Ergo Sum” I think, therefore I am. The analogy of being. I will start with myself and work upward, and I will prove then that there is a real world out there and that there is a real God. The basic thing is that reality exists only so far as man the philosopher and man the scientist establishes it, and Descartes was basically a scientist and a philosopher of science. So, it is only that which the scientist says exists which does exist. And Descartes felt that he had proved that God exists, but if some other scientist comes along and proves that God does not exist, because it is man the scientific thinker who establishes reality.
So, the expert autonomous man is thus the new working God. Scripture says God spake the word, and the world was created. God said: “Let there be light, and there was light.” But Descartes said in effect: “I will say there is God, and then God exists. But if I next say God does not exist it disappears.” Man became the new working God. The result was the Enlightenment. Man now, as the scientist, as the scientific philosopher, determining the world. We will deal more with the enlightenment next time, but to summarize now the five basic perspectives of enlightenment philosophy on the world, and these points are not mine, they are the work of Doctor Louis Bredvold, in his book; The Brave New World of the Enlightenment. Dr. Bredvold does not share our position, and it is interesting I read in the past week an attack on Dr. Bredvold, which said that he was a very fine thinker but he had a lapse of insanity, you might say of conservatism, of reactionary thinking in this book The Brave New World of the Enlightenment.
At any rate, what did Bredvold summarize philosophy in The enlightenment as holding too? First, the rejection of the past and of history. It’s not important any longer. How do you approach the world, well not in terms of history and knowledge about history, but in terms of social science, the science of the scientific control of man. And so, you no longer teach history now you teach social science, the science of the control of man.
Second, the rejection of institutions and cultures. After all, what difference does it make whether the white man in America has produced a great culture and the Negro has produced nothing, this is meaningless. The scientist doesn’t consider cultures and institutions, they are of no importance, he is interested in the facts, and the fact is the naked man. So when you take all these away from the white man and from the Negro, what is the difference between them? Just a little color. Now I am not caricaturing his position, this is the statement of one of our most distinguished contemporary historian,; in my forthcoming book The Biblical Philosophy of History, I have a chapter on the rejection of history by the historians in which this attitude is taken precisely with regard to the Negro. The Negro and the white man in the United States. Strip both of them of everything, and what is the difference between them? Well isn’t that something! Isn’t that something! Well what is the Negro, if he is not his past and his intelligence and his achievements? And what is the white man if he is not exactly what he has produced here in this country? And if you take away from us everything that our past has given us, our physical inheritance, our abilities, who are we then? I’m no longer myself. If you deny to me everything that my inheritance has given me, everything that my thinking has given me. But this is the essence of the enlightenment position, the rejection of institutions, of cultures, of all these things.
Third, for Enlightenment philosophy, evil is not in man but in the environment. So it isn’t the rioters or the delinquents to blame but it is there environment, and you are their environment.
Fourth, and I am quoting now:
“By changing human institutions, human nature itself will be born again.”
As Christians we believe that man is born again through the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart of man, it is the work of God, it is an inner transformation by the Holy Spirit. But in terms of Enlightenment philosophy, human nature itself will be born again by changing human institutions. So, what we need then are millions of dollars in Watts, and in Washington DC, and in Ghana, and in North Vietnam and South Vietnam, and those people are going to be born again.
And fifth and finally, this must be done by the new managers of society, the scientific planners.
This then is the position of the Enlightenment. An enlightenment philosophy governs us today. It is the faith of Washington DC, and of the courts, and of Sacramento, and of City Hall and of the county board of supervisors. We are, therefore, in the midst of a religious war, a philosophic war. They are at war against our faith and our philosophy, and they are fighting us in terms of this Enlightenment faith and philosophy. The issues of our time therefore are ultimately and basically and essentially religious. We cannot cope with the world of today by just presenting facts. You can present facts until you are blue in the face, and they will vote out one set of Enlightenment reformers for another set of Enlightenment reformers. They are still going to try to change men by changing their environment, believing that men will be reborn that way, still believing that the answer is another set of men in Sacramento, or Washington, or another set of laws.
One of our finest conservative state senators, said to me within the past week, he said: “My biggest problem is that most people…” (and he said ‘My district is made up of conservatives’) …think that the answer is a new set of laws, and a new set of rules.” And he said: “We didn’t have these problems thirty years ago when we had fewer laws than we have now.” “Our problem,” he said: “Is a religious and moral breakdown, and no set of laws that I can enact in Sacramento can change the fact of that breakdown. We have enough laws now; we don’t have enough people who believe in them.”
We are therefore in the midst of a religious war, and the beginning of a Christian reconstruction of philosophy and of society begins therefore by acknowledging that the issue is religious, and then reordering life and philosophy in every sphere of life, in terms of Christian faith and Christian philosophy.
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 is credited with igniting the modern Christian school and homeschooling movements in the mid to late 20th century. 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