Authority and Morality - RR178A1
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[Introduction] For those of you who are hearing him for the first time, I promise you that you are in for a rare treat. For those of you who have heard him in the past, you know that you will be challenged to think more deeply, be committed more fully, and act more positively as a result of his message. It is a distinct privilege and a deep pleasure to present to you the president of Chalcedon, the Reverend Doctor Rousas John Rushdoony. (Applause)
[Rushdoony] Well when you’ve seen Truman and me together, you’ve seen the long and the short of the Christian reconstruction movement. (Laughter) About twenty years ago I spent a day in southern California with Truman and a friend of his who was even taller than Truman’s six feet seven inches, and we walked the streets, I had to take two step to their one, and I was between them and as I chatted with them I wound up with a sore neck by evening. (Laughter) [00:02:07]
My subject in this session is authority and morality. In the world of antiquity a number of remarkable cultures developed with a knowledge of astronomy, a developed architecture, even modern plumbing and much much more. All these cultures are now relatively neglected, while one culture which was relatively inferior and minor, and its advantages were a result of borrowings, is now singled out as the great source of science and wisdom. This was classical Greece. In a recent issue of The Ancient World, Hawkes, the author of The Dawn of the Gods is quoted as saying and I quote: “can it be chance that in so a minute corner of the earth’s crust the unique quality of Minoan civilization should be succeeded by the Greek miracle.” According to (Ellar Hill?) writing on the roots of the classical age, and I quote: “the Greek miracle was the discovery of humanism.” Now this is a very curious definition of miracle, to dispense with God. But this for the humanists is the great miracle of history, and this is the reason why Greek society, a relatively inferior one technologically has become so exalted, it is a definition moreover, which tells us much about modern man. A Unitarian minister who is chairman of the department of religion of philosophy at Springfield College in Massachusetts has written and I quote: “traditionally humanists have affirmed the anthropocentric or man centered nature of truth, values and religion.” Of course Doctor (Odes?) is thus very favorable to liberation theology, and he cites very very favorably James Comb, and his black theology for whom salvation for blacks is liberation from white oppression. As (Olds?) goes on to summarize and I quote: “how is such salvation to be obtained? The black church must break with society and attack the structures of racism in all its forms. As such, the church must become prophetic, it must preach Christ, but not in the traditional way. It must interpret Him in terms of black power, this means that the work of Christ is a liberating work, for he seeks to liberate the oppressed and in turn asks them to liberate society.” [00:06:45]
Olds is also very receptive to feminist theology, and...
Olds is also very receptive to feminist theology, and cites Rosemary Radford Ruthers, a liberal ecumenical Roman Catholic very favorably. And Olds tell us that Ruthers speaks as a white female, she opposes universalism, and calls for theological pluralism so that white Christian feminism, black feminism and Jewish feminism will each have their theologies, their truths. Olds writes and I quote: “she does however, insist that theology be free enough to allow people, especially women, to encounter the divine as goddess.” Truth is humanistic and everyone is in the business of manufacturing their own truth. Ironically humanism began by charging Christians with belief in an anthropocentric faith, which is a false statement. It now presents itself as the truly anthropocentric religion, as though this were now a virtue, and it calls for a radical polytheism, be your own god or goddess, manufacture your own religion, have your own truth. Now this is a logical development, since for humanism man is the measure of all things, therefor truth and religion must be man-made. The appeal and prestige of Greece has been based on this fact, its humanism. On no other ground can one exalt classical Greek culture. It has for centuries been an article of faith with many that the Greeks of antiquity were the source of wisdom. [00:09:25]
I submit that if you go back to Aristotle and read...
I submit that if you go back to Aristotle and read him without all the developments of Aristotle over the Christian centuries, you will find him very much a stranger from the textbook Aristotle. In 1846, George Grote, an Englishman, began publishing his twelve volume history of Greece, a very detailed account which presents us with the source of historical meaning. Let me add I have the twelve volumes in my library, and it’s among the few that I struggled with for a time and gave up on, because it consists of a breathless adoration of Greece, and one wearies of his worship of every little artifact. The Greek miracle for Grote and for others was the triumph of humanism, and its presentation as an alternative to Christianity. Humanism however, did not work well for the Greeks, it destroyed them. It led to tyrants, and to one evil after another, the pupils of Plato and of Aristotle were the tyrants of Greece. As Coulanges pointed out: “tyrants were men whose rule was not a religious function.” The word tyrant,” says Coulanges pointed out and I quote “designated in fact something quite new among men, an authority that was not derived from the worship, a power that religion had not established. The appearance of this word in the Greek language marks a principle which the preceding generations had not known, the obedience of man to man.” [00:11:51]
Because the tyrants derived their power and authority from man and not from god, they sought their rule from human concerns, and when you do that, you cannot have justice, because the tyrants sought no transcendental truth the way they maintained their power or gained it was to make war on the rich. They appealed to envy, and they stirred up conflict between the classes, they did not because could not appeal to a supernatural justice. And this is why the politics of the modern world is a politics of tyranny, because it cannot appeal to God for its idea of justice, it has to appeal to class hatred, to envy, to the idea of conflict between the classes. Of course the way for this tyranny had been prepared by Greek religion, there was no morality in the Greek gods, they fornicated, they lied, cheated, and generally did as they pleased. While they were subject to fate they were beyond good and evil, and this fact marked many pagan faiths as witnessed the Norse gods. Each of the Greek gods was a law unto himself or herself, autonomy, self-law prevailed, not theonomy, Gods law, and there are no other alternatives either autonomy, self-law, or theonomy, Gods law. [00:14:04]
Humanism was a logical outgrowth of Greek religion...
Humanism was a logical outgrowth of Greek religion, it made every man his own god, determining for himself what is good and evil, and this is as Genesis 3:5 tells us, original sin, the premise of man’s fall, and it governs all non-biblical faiths, it also governs false theologies, within Christendom. In such thinking authority is derived from man, not from God, and law is derived from man and not from God. It is experiential, and existential, derived from man’s being, not revealed, not God ordained. Cornelius Van Til, a generation ago declared that the conflict was to be between autonomy and theonomy. And he clearly stated the differing presuppositions and authorities of Christian versus humanistic morality. He wrote in his Christian Theistic Ethics and I quote: “The Christian position maintains that man as a creature of God, naturally would have to inquire of God what is right and wrong. He has to learn from the scriptures what is the acceptable will of God for him, in opposition to this, the non-Christian position hold that man does not need scripture as a final authority, and this is maintained because the non-Christian does not believe that man ever needed to be absolutely obedient to God. Non-Christian ethics maintains that it is of the nature of the ethical life that man must in the last analysis decide for himself what is right and wrong.” [00:16:35]
Because Christianity and humanism each have a differing...
Because Christianity and humanism each have a differing source of authority, they then quite logically have differing ideas of morality. If God is the creator of all things then his law word governs all things, and as the only moral premise that man can have. If however, man lives in a universe of chance, then no ultimate moral law exists or can exist, and both authority and morality are human products. But there is more. If God is not our ultimate and total environment, then the universe is our environment. Van Til has shown that a human personality is not independent of its environment, if God is our environment, in whom we live and move and have our being, then God is the governor, the lawgiver, and the determiner of all things. If however an evolving universe is our ultimate environment, then that universe, that environment is our controlling and determining force. Then our morality will be environmental, peer pressure, the group will determine us, unless we choose to be determined by ourselves. It will be situational and existential because for us then the truth will come from the context of the moment, from our own mind and from the biology of our being. Modern environmentalism is not an accident, it is a logical consequence if the evolutionary world view, it gives us an ultimately impersonal cosmos, whereas Christianity gives us an ultimately persona environment, the triune God, and we can never step out of that totally personal environment, because in Him we live and move and have our being. [00:19:36]
To quote Van Til again...
To quote Van Til again: “in order to avoid misunderstanding, we should distinguish the concept of an absolutely personalist environment from philosophical determinism. It is all too common to men hastily to identify consistent Christianity with Philosophical necessitarianism, yet they are poles apart. Philosophical necessitarianism stands for an ultimate impersonalism, consistent Christianity stands for an ultimate personalism.” If the universe is ultimately impersonal, man’s life and character here have no meaning. An ultimate impersonalism means an ultimate and present immoralism, in that nothing matters nor counts so that men can say as they have over the centuries: let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die. The eras when non Christianity has prevailed have been times of tyranny, torture was virtually abolished as Christendom replaced Rome, it returned with the renaissance, it has again returned in our century, especially in the more openly anti-Christian nations. If the universe is impersonal, man as a person is unimportant, and hence he is treated casually and brutally. If man is created in the image of God, then man’s life has a supernatural and eternal focus, meaning, power, and purpose. Again citing Van Til, “God himself is naturally the end of all man’s activity; man’s whole personality was to be a manifestation and revelation on a finite scale of the personality of God.” [00:22:13]
This is our calling, to manifest and reveal on a finite...
This is our calling, to manifest and reveal on a finite scale the nature and personality of the triune God. The goal of man cannot be himself, nor can it be his will, nor his welfare. Our Lord commands us saying: Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness. Our authority and morality then can come only from the law word of God. Today because authority in every sphere has been separated from the only truth source, the triune God, morality is in every sphere profane. Profane means literally outside the temple, that is outside God. Such authority as is profane is also tyrannical because it is outside of God and is self-willed. Profane authority varies between two poles, tyranny and anarchy. And both rest on autonomy, the self-law of man. All too often now authority in the home is either tyranny or anarchy, thus men are ready to use the verses in Ephesians 5:22-25 in demanding the subjection of their wives, while overlooking the fact that we are told that Christ our head sets the example of service to His people, and so must the husband use his authority as a ministry and service, not as an exercise of self will and power, and the same is true of his authority over children, over the church, in the state and in every sphere. The sad fact is that every time that I’ve written and called attention to this meaning of Ephesians 5, I have had an angry letter from one pastor or another. There are several Greek words in the New Testament for both authority and power, perhaps the most frequently used word is exusia (?) which can be translated both as authority and power. It is the bible, the every word of God as we are told in Matthew 4:4, which tells us what is lawful or moral in the sight of God. [00:25:23]
Now this is a fact of very great importance, for biblical...
Now this is a fact of very great importance, for biblical faith, all morality and all power and all authority rests on Gods law, on biblical morality so that to forsake biblical law or morality is to forsake authority and power. It was John Wycliffe who saw the clear implication of this fact. He declared that God is the universal Lord over all things, all men hold whatever they have or are as a grant from God because they are His creatures, and the world is His creation and dominion. They hold what they possess as a feudal grant, and every grant implies and requires a corresponding service. When men revolt against God and disobey His word, they are refusing, Wycliffe held, to give God his due service, a service God requires to Himself, and to His creatures, and to our fellow men. Men therefore then forfeit their authority their grant from God, and have no rightful possession of anything, so that he said, the true Christian alone is Lord over all things. The righteous will at times, Wycliffe said, lack power, have true dominion and authority. Again quoting Wycliffe “every righteous man is lord over the whole sensible world.” It is his duty then to seek lawfully to exercise that authority. Wycliffe shared this premise with other medieval thinkers, some used it to justify tyrranicide since the wicked do not truly have authority, they can be killed to deliver Gods people from their hands. Wycliffe however, saw the solution in regeneration, not revolution. We today face a world where Godly authority is separated from power and power is lawless and immoral, it rejects the constraint and restraint of Gods law word and it pursues a course of hostility to the redeeming Christ. Saint Augustine in terms of scripture declared that when civil governments refused to be under Gods justice they become no different than a band of robbers, criminal gangs, or to use our words, a mafia. He said in a passage some of you have heard me quote before no doubt, but I think it’s one which our age needs to think and to rethink. I quote Augustine: [00:29:22]
“Justice being taken away, then, what are kingdoms...
“Justice being taken away, then, what are kingdoms but great robberies? For what are robberies themselves, but little kingdoms? The band itself is made up of men; it is ruled by the authority of a prince, it is knit together by the pact of the confederacy; the booty is divided by the law agreed on. If, by the admittance of abandoned men, this evil increases to such a degree that it holds places, fixes abodes, takes possession of cities, and subdues peoples, it assumes the more plainly the name of a kingdom, because the reality is now manifestly conferred on it, not by the removal of covetousness, but by the addition of impunity. Indeed, that was an apt and true reply which was given to Alexander the Great by a pirate who had been seized. For when that king had asked the man what he meant by keeping hostile possession of the sea, he answered with bold pride, “What thou meanest by seizing the whole earth; but because I do it with a petty ship, I am called a robber, whilst thou who dost it with a great fleet art styled emperor.”
The basic issue in authority and morality is exactly what Van Til declared it to be, autonomy versus theonomy, self-law versus Gods law. If we cultivate autonomy, we will exalt self-will against God and man, thus John Paul Sartre held that the solitary drunkard is superior to the leader of nations, because his motivation is more purely governed by his existential being. Sartre also declared and I quote: “I have always been regretting that I was not as wise as on the day I was born.” [00:31:58]
After all he was then more existential...
After all he was then more existential. Emerson’s philosophy of self-reliance was part of the gospel of autonomy; it is the philosophy of egotism, of egoism. When Thoreau, who sometimes took walks with the Unitarian leader William Ellery Channing, took such a stroll on November 9 1851, Channing reacted negatively to Thoreau’s interest in nature. According to Thoreau, and I quote: “he would say the confines himself to the ideal, purely ideal, he leaves the facts to me. Sometimes too he will say a little petulantly, I am universal, I have nothing to do with the particular and definite.” Now this is the world of autonomy. Given such a faith our present crisis is understandable, there is no solution outside of Jesus Christ, and Christ’s atonement tells us how serious Theonomy, Gods law is to Him, and therefore must be to us. Thank you. (Applause) [00:33:42]