History of Thought (3)

From the Enlightenment or Rise of Deism, Darwin, Kant, Hegel, Lenin

R.J. Rushdoony

A very important history of the enlightenment was written this past year by the historian Peter Gay. One of the things that marked the significance of this work was that Peter Gay openly acknowledged, in fact developed the fact that the Enlightenment had been through and through anti-Christian. In fact the great shame of the modern world said these enlightenment thinkers at the dawn of the modern era, was the church and Christianity, and therefore the purpose of these thinkers was, and their slogan was, to ‘erase the shame,’ wipe out, blot out the shame of Christianity.

While the Renaissance had been pagan to the core, but it was a paganism that lived at peace with the church. The church had been captured, the popes were Renaissance popes who freely took part in the general skepticism and immorality. But that peace of church and paganism ended with war, the Reformation. Now with the Enlightenment, a new assault began by subversion.

The new faith that was propagated by the Enlightenment was deism, a substitute Christianity. Now deism paid lip service to the God of scripture by saying that indeed there is such a God, although its perspective was essentially unitarian, and it went on to say that this God did create the universe, at some unknown date in the remote past. But this God, having created the universe, like a watch maker who makes a watch and then has nothing more to do with the watch, is now an absentee landlord, as it were, from the universe, and has nothing more to do with it. So that, since the time of creation, there has been a general social evolution of man and society, and God, although he is there, has nothing to do with the world. As a result, the Greek idea of evolution was reintroduced into Society. Now it was not until Darwin that biological evolution was formulated, but very early in the seventeenth century and especially in the eighteenth, the doctrine of social evolution was formulated and developed at great length.

Immanuel Kant, as the great Enlightenment thinker, expanded this concept of isolation from God by developing to the nth degree the concept of ‘autonomous man.’ Man independent from God, whose reason is the ultimate judge. Reason in Kant is the arbiter, the judge over all things, so that all things are brought to the bar of man’s reason, and man sits in judgment over whatever gods may be as well as all things in the earth.

God was thus outlawed from the world by Deism, and by Kant from scientific and from rational thought. From now on, scientific and rational thinking, by definition, did not include God, in fact you became anti-rational and unscientific, if you at all included God in your thinking. So that to this day, all thinking which pretends to be intellectual, excludes automatically God from all consideration. You find this even among so-called ‘conservative’ thinkers who are nominally Christian. For example Russell Kirk is now a professing member of the Catholic church, and yet you will not find him making God the premise of his thinking, because to do so would be, in the circles in which he moves, intellectual suicide. God is something you bring in after you’ve paid lip service and bowed down to the gods of science and of reason. God is as it were, something that cannot be made central. He is outside the thinking, only after you have gone the route with science and with rational philosophy can you make a bow in the direction of God.

Now as we come to the beginning of the eighteenth century, on the threshold of the world as we know it today, the thinker who caught up all these tendencies in himself and gave great expression to them was Hegel. For Hegel, God, whom he brought back into philosophy is now redefined. The old God is to all practical intent dead. The God of Scripture is no more, there is no longer a God to whom you can pray, no longer a God who can work on men, or govern them by His grace, or absolutely predestine them by His sovereign decree. The God of Hegel is the historical process, it is ‘reason’ in History. So that, wherever you find reason developing and working, there God is manifest in history. Now without saying a word, Hegel had very definitely said that the philosophers and the scientists are the ones who best manifest God in history, as far as individuals are concerned. And the state that is a rational state, a scientific state best exemplifies God in history, in fact, the goal of history is the incarnation of reason or of God in history as the state.

And thus, modern statism began to come to focus in its modern concept. The state as the incarnation of God in history. There is no God beyond the state, because the state is the embodiment of God; that is the rational, the scientific state. Now all that was necessary for Marx to add to this was the scientific, socialist state, as the embodiment of reason is the only God in history. Others were also to add that instead of being a particular state, it was the universal, the world state. Hegel said that it is the most powerful, the most dominant state in history that manifests God. Moreover, Hegel laid the groundwork for a one-world order because he said the particulars, the individuals are in themselves nothing, they must unite with one another because the Union, the one, alone is truth.

History thus, for Hegel, is God’s will. What man’s reason works in history is the work of God, the intellectual, the scientist, is thus the manifestation of God in action, to put it in Hegel’s words: “The march of God in the world, that is what the state is.” In other words, the state is God walking on earth, it is the only god there is. Thus, we see, in terms of the new philosophy, history is moving in terms of a new incarnation. For us as Christians, history from the fall to the birth of our Lord moved to one end, the manifestation, the incarnation of Jesus Christ the son of God. And from His death and resurrection to the second coming, it moves to the manifestation of Christ’s law-Word in history, so that all things can be subjugated unto him, so that every thought and every area of thought can be brought into captivity to Christ.

This new philosophy, the philosophy of the modern age says that: “that Christ of Scripture, that God incarnate, the triune God is dead, that history is moving to incarnate a new God,” and of course this is precisely what Altizer, Hamilton, and van Buren and the other death of God thinkers are talking about, as well as Rubenstein. They say: “God is dead, and we must bury the old God. Then, as we have a unified world, the brotherhood of all men, God will be reborn,” that is he will be incarnated again in this triumphant world-state. History, thus, moves to a new incarnation.

Now, Jean Jacques Rousseau added another aspect to this philosophy; the democratic aspect. He declared that the general will, that is the will of all the people, manifests this hidden God, this inner reason, this purpose of history, and this general will becomes incarnate in the leadership, so that ‘the democratic consensus’ will reveal this new God. So that now democracy as the manifestation of this God, ‘the voice of the people is the voice of God,’ who has added to this belief in the coming incarnation. Moreover, since there is no God out there, we are in this perspective, ‘beyond good and evil.’ Good and evil are categories that belong to the Bible, and because there is no God out there and the only God is the state, the idea that there is a truth and an error is fallacious.

So that, Friedrich Nietzsche, as he spoke of the superman and of this great future world order, the incarnation as it were in the superman and the super-state of this God in history declared:

“The question is, how far an opinion is life-furthering, life-preserving, species-preserving, perhaps species-rearing, and we are fundamentally inclined to maintain that the falsest opinions (to which the synthetic judgments a priori belong), are the most indispensable to us, that without a recognition of logical fictions, without a comparison of reality with the purely IMAGINED world of the absolute and immutable, without a constant counterfeiting of the world by means of numbers, man could not live–that the renunciation of false opinions would be a renunciation of life, a negation of life. TO RECOGNISE UNTRUTH AS A CONDITION OF LIFE; that is certainly to impugn the traditional ideas of value in a dangerous manner, and a philosophy which ventures to do so, has thereby alone placed itself beyond good and evil.”

We saw of course that in the statism of Plato, the lie was a necessary tool in the hands of the true God, the state. Now again, as modernism eliminates the God of Scripture it again goes back to the lie, only this time it says there is no truth, and in effect there is no lie, you are beyond good and evil. And what the Christian calls a lie may be the most valuable thing under the sun. As a result, the modern state and the modern scientist, the modern planner, has no compunctions about lying. After all, he lives in a world beyond good and evil, and occasionally his lie is an embarrassment, because there are enough of us who still believe in the old God and the old truth to trouble him, but basically, he is moving in a world ‘beyond good and evil’ according to his thinking.

Now what Karl Marx added to this thinking was that this incarnation is in the dictatorship of the proletariat, and the kind of activism that is needed is revolutionary activism. In other words, activism takes the place of God’s grace and the believer’s response to that grace. It takes the place of prayer. Activism was statist activism in Hegel, in Marx it is now revolutionary activism. And this is the role of reason or of God in history, revolutionary activism. So that, there is the inevitability of the dialectical process, the inevitability of revolution for the Marxist, it is inevitable because it is the working of the God of their religion, and of course a God by definition cannot be frustrated, what he decrees is inevitable.

For Marx therefore, heaven is in the realization of this incarnation. When this God triumphs, when the scientific socialist state finally becomes fully manifest, fully incarnate, then Heaven is here, paradise has arrived, but it is interesting that in the process there must be a hell decreed in order to make it possible for men to realize where Heaven lies. Marx wrote in his early writings: “The criticism of religion ends with the doctrine that man is the supreme being for man….” That is, man is his own God.

“It ends, therefore, with the categorical imperative to overthrow all those conditions in which man is an abased, enslaved, abandoned, contemptible being.”

That is, everything which says that man is not God, because any philosophy or any religion that says that man is not God makes him an enslaved and a contemptible being. Man must be his own God.

Then he goes on to say:

“For a popular revolution and the emancipation of a particular class of civil society to coincide, for one class to represent the whole of society, another class must concentrate in itself all the evils of society, a particular class must embody and represent a general obstacle and limitation.”

He goes on at great length to develop this point, but you get the point. To make one class, that is the scientific socialist planners and revolutionists, the embodiment of God, the embodiment of the dialectical forces of history, another class must represent everything that is an obstacle, everything that is evil. So that the capitalist must be made to represent the demonic, the satanic in society, and to have heaven, a hell must be created for this demonic element and they must be relegated to it. Thus now we have the idea of the state as the new God, revolution, scientific socialist revolution as the means of achieving this God in history, of incarnating him.

The next step was provide about the same time by Charles Darwin who dropped God as the source, as ‘the great watchmaker.’ Remember we pointed out that deism began the whole of the modern movement by saying: “Yes God started it, but God has had nothing to do with the world since, it has evolved on its own.” Now, with Darwin God was dropped. The world began out of nothing and evolved from some primordial spark of life which in itself evolved out of nothing, so that God was entirely dropped. Marx and Engle’s greeted Darwin’s Origin of Species with great delight, and declared in letters to one another that now socialism had been made inevitable. With the old God out of the scene, the new God would become man’s only hope. Because, after all, man is going to have a God. God is an inescapable category of thought, and you will either have God in the Biblical form or you will have a God fashioned after your own imagination. And the God which is the God created by the imagination of modern philosophy, is this God; the state.

As a result, Darwinism became central to all of modern thinking. He was greeted with delight. Darwin’s Origin of Species sold out on the day of publication. This was what the world was waiting for. Instead of having a resistance, this is a myth created by the textbooks, it was met with open arms on all sides; only one bishop stood up against it in the Church of England. Churchmen almost everywhere greeted it with open arms, Queen Victoria herself welcomed it. We are given some very peculiar notions about Queen Victoria, as though she were the epitome of everything conservative, which is definitely not true.

One of the very famous bits of statuary widely circulated in countless forms in the last century pictures an ape holding a human skull and contemplating it. This little bit of statuary, which perhaps you can find in antique shops, was reproduced in vast quantities and circulated everywhere in the Western world. It took the place of the cross in many homes. This particular one was on Lenin’s desk, and still remains on his desk in the Kremlin. Robert Payne in his book on Lenin, The Life and Death of Lenin speaks of this as having had the significance of an icon, a religious symbol or Lenin. And it meant for him that man can be used, that even as this ape contemplating a human skull was a primitive crude animal who was the forerunner of man, so man today is, by comparison to the man of the future, an ape, and an ape need not be treated with much respect. An ape can be used, he can be treated as an ape to make way for the future man. And so in terms of this, Lenin felt justified to lie to the masses, to murder them ruthlessly, to abuse them in any way possible, because they were the raw material, the apes out of which the great man of the future was to be molded by the scientific socialists, like Lenin and his associates. This statue, therefore, was the religious symbol for the modern tyranny.

About the same time also Comte the sociologist gave birth to modern sociology and positivism. For Comte history had three stages; the first stage is the religious stage where man has all kinds of myths to account for the origin, the ‘why’ of things. The second stage is the religious stage which is still religiously oriented, but man is thinking a little more rationally, but he is still asking questions as to the ‘why’ of things. But the third stage of history, the modern stage, is the scientific stage, and this third age is the one which will lead to the glorious future. In this third age, man is no longer childish, he is no longer religious, he no longer asks ‘why,’ he no longer wants to know the reason behind things, he is only interested in the ‘how’ of things. How do things work? How can I control man? How can I control nature? The morality, the religion behind things, the ‘why’ of things, the right and wrong of things is thus an obsolete question. It is the mark of an immature mind, of a childish mind, of a mind which is still in the primitive stages of evolution, a mind which has not come into the ‘third world,’ the third age, and so cannot think rationally and sensibly.

Thus, not only was God declared to be dead, but any question that raised the ‘why’ of things, the truth of things, the rightness and the wrongness, the morality of things, was by definition a childish question. Thus, when we object to the modern state and its lies, when we raise moral questions, religious questions, we are revealing to these people who are the sociologists, the planners, that we are still in the primitive stages of man’s evolution, and are by definition primitive, not to be regarded. We are unable to grasp the real problem, which is the ‘how.’ How to control man? How to make things work? therefore there is no point in paying any attention to us, and even though we may sometimes prevail in voting, might be the majority, the democratic consensus is against us, because if we truly listened to the evolving God in us, we would be where they are, so they have the right to say that we are wrong, and that they know what we really want, because if we were not so primitive we would be wanting what they, representing the third world, declare to be the truth. This is the meaning of the concept a democratic consensus. Comte thus with his positivism and with his sociology, abolished from all rational consideration, the question of morality and religion.

Freud added to the modern perspective when he declared that to abolish God we must also deal with the question of guilt, by making it a scientific question. To touch on this briefly because I go into it at length in my study on Freud, Freud said that as long as men feel guilty and turn to religion for an answer for their guilt, they will turn to God. So that all scientific attempts to abolish God will fail until science says the question of guilt is a scientific question, and the psychologist or psychiatrist gives an answer to it rather than a pastor or a priest. The answer to it is that man has three basic urges, based on the fact that he was once in the primal horde, that he was a caveman, a savage. He had a desire because the fathers drove out the sons from the pack to kill his father, to eat his father, and to commit incest with his mother and his sisters, and these represent the three basic instincts of man. And this is why man feels guilty, because he has these things, this is the will-to-life in him, and his guilt feeling because he did this centuries ago gives him this feeling of guilt that he goes to religion about. So that, the only thing to do with any person who comes to you with these feelings of guilt about what he has done, is to tell him that this guilt is just an evolutionary hangover. Now this is what our mental institutions do today, so that a criminal who is given over to the care of a mental institution is ‘cured’ if he loses his guilt feelings about his crime, in other words he is released as a much more dangerous person, because now, as a modern man, he lives beyond good and evil, beyond the belief that there is any crime.

John Dewey, as another thinker in this school, declared that the purpose in a society must be to formulate first of all the Great Society, which is a step to the Great Community which incarnates reason or God. And all law in this great society is positive law, it is what the state enacts. There is thus no law beyond the law. This is a myth. The Christian, of course, believes that the law of God stands beyond the law of man and is a judge over it. But in terms of this legal positivism, of John Dewey, there is no law beyond what the state enacts, and therefore to challenge the law as unjust is nonsense. It is itself, the totality of justice.

Some years ago, about the turn of the century, a Russian philosopher and theologian, Vladimir Solovyov, who was not by the way orthodox or at all trustworthy, but was at times discerning, declared: “the Russian intelligentsia produced a faith based upon a strange syllogism; man is descended from the apes, therefore we must love one another.”

Now, this to us sounds very strange. We can take of course Vladimir Solovyov’s statement and say not merely the Russian intelligentsia but all modern intelligentsia believe man is descended from the apes, therefore we must love one another. If this sounds strange to us, Robert Payne in his study of The Life and Death of Lenin says that this statement by Solovyov really sums up the faith of Lenin and most modern revolutionaries. Why? To quote Robert Payne:

“Solovyov was saying in effect that the Russian intelligentsia that science would produce the reign of love among men, and Lenin, who never tired on insisting against all the evidence that Marxism was purely scientific in character, firmly believed that once the Marxist state had been established, then and only then would men be able to live together in peace and concord.”

What do they mean then that man is descended from the apes, therefore we must love one another? That man has evolved so far, and that man is going to evolve further under the leadership of science. In other words, now man is now going to control his own evolution, and in the course of it eliminate all these problems that man has today of hatred, because man the scientist his own evolution is going to bring about great changes in man’s nature, and all men are going to love one another and there will be paradise on earth, heaven on earth. Science will thus in this modern faith produce the new man. Man is still half-ape, man must evolve further, in other words man must be changed, and he must be changed by science. Man cannot be changed by the God of Scripture since he is by definition dead. The new God, or the new God who is in process of being incarnated in the state and its scientific socialist planners, must change man. Does science change man? Well it is trying. How? Well, consider the attempts at tampering with the genes in order to make a new kind of man, so that at will the scientist can produce any kind of person of any sex, any type of intelligence, or as many arms or feet, or as many heads as they choose. Or the attempts at mind tampering with drugs, and the tremendous interest in drugs. Is it any wonder that the young generation has gone in for LSD and other drugs? After all, everything that science is teaching them in the schools indicates that there must be a change by means of science, and that drugs are one of the instruments of this change in man.

Consider also the attempts at changing man by electrical control, so that in some mental institutions they are actually putting in sockets into the skulls of people to attempt to control them by the means of electrical impulses. Consider also the attempts at creating life, at creating test-tube babies. Of course, in every one of these areas what you read in the papers according to some scientists who are Christian is nine-tenths propaganda and one tenth fact. It is propaganda because they believe this will be done, and they want us to believe it will be done. But all these attempts are governed by the recognition that man must be changed, not that man is a sinner. He is good but he is incomplete, he is not fully evolved, and therefore he must be changed. Man must take control over his evolution and man must remake himself.

We must say therefore, that the left, the revolutionist, the radicals, move with a religious realism. They recognize that man needs to be changed. And, at this point we come face-to-face again with the impotence of conservatives. The left says: “man must be changed and we are doing everything we can to change man. Since there is no God out there, since God is dead, the scientific socialist state must remake man.” And what does the conservative say? “Let’s win this election.” Conservatism refuses to face up to the basic religious issue. The left is religious. That’s why it declares with such passion: “God is dead!” That is why it says with such passion: “by revolutionary activism we must bring the new God to birth.” They are religious, and fanatically religious. They know it’s more than a matter of winning an election, it is a matter of religious faith, of changing man. In that, and that alone they are right. And not until Christians come back to the basic religious issue is there any hope. “Except a man be born again he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” And, having been born again, a man’s responsibility then is to proclaim the crown rights of king Jesus. To establish the law-Word of God in every realm and in every domain. “For except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it.”

But one of the characteristics of the modern age has been that the church has steadily withdrawn to the inner world. It has said: “only things spiritual are our concern.” And yet the law-Word of God speaks to every area, it has rules not only with respect to the life of the state and the life of the family and the life of the farmer, but even with regard to our eating and drinking. It speaks to the whole of life, but we have withdrawn to the inner world, and now the enemy has invaded the inner world, and psychiatry and psychology has staked the inner world of man as their territory, and there is nowhere for the church to go except back to the Word of God, back to the whole of life, back to a reconquest of the world in the name of Jesus Christ.

The shapers of the modern world have proclaimed the death of the God of Scripture, and are working to bring to birth the God of their imagination. The one-world state. But their God, the closer he comes to birth, the closer the monster chaos approaches. The vision of William Butler Yates was a very real one. When he spoke fearfully of the second coming, this time of a monster slouching towards a new Bethlehem, waiting to be born.

The world thus is moving in terms of modernism, towards the Bethlehem of the Beast. But we under God are summoned to reestablish the new Jerusalem as the governing principle of all of life. The principle that the kingdoms of this world must become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ.

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:

Interested in more content by R.J. Rushdoony? Listen to all of his SERMONS and AUDIOBOOKS for free!