Eschatology and History - RR144F12
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One of the great men of church history was Saint Augustine. Saint Augustine’s work was in the days just before and during the fall of the Roman Empire. Saint Augustine like other great men had a very powerful influence both for good and bad on subsequent centuries. The influence of it has been determinative both in Catholicism and in Protestantism. So that both of these two great branches of Christendom can rightfully look to Saint Augustine as the great church father, and a profound influence on their formation.
We are interested this morning in Saint Augustine’s eschatology. Eschatology means the doctrine of the last things. In Eschatology we deal with how the future of the world is to be determined as it approaches the end of all things. Now those who are pre-millennial have a particular type of eschatology, those who are au-millennial another. Those who are Post-millennial have still a different form of Eschatology. Those are three main branches of Eschatological thinking.
The Eschatology of Saint Augustine was very profoundly influenced by his background which tended to be Manichean. [00:02:04]
Now, Manichaeism was a very powerful religion of the...
Now, Manichaeism was a very powerful religion of the day which spread throughout the Roman Empire, was very popular in army circles and carried by the army wherever it went. For a time Manicheanism was the great rival of Christianity. It also had a very profound influence on Christianity, a very deep one, and it was a thoroughly bad influence. The basic belief of Manicheanism was that there are essentially two kinds of God, and two kinds of being. On the one hand, there is the good God, with spirit, mind, light. Then there is the bad God, who is matter, who is desire, and who is darkness. Now this meant the world was divided in half, and Manicheanism could not agree with Christianity that the world had been made by God. Genesis declared that in the Beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Things both spiritual and things material, all the work of God. And God when he created it declared that it was all very good. So that for God, both Spirit and matter, mind and body are alike good. When man fell, Man fell in the totality of his being. You often hear the emphasis that we should as Christians be more spiritual. Well now the people who say that don’t fully realize, perhaps what they mean, and in fact we are all guilty of using that kind of language because it’s become so much a part of our language. I know I have sometimes I am sure, used it. But we really don’t mean that, what good is there in being spiritual, necessarily? After all Satan is a spiritual being, and he is totally evil. You can be Satanic and be spiritual. [00:04:57]
What we mean really is that we should be Godly...
What we mean really is that we should be Godly. To be Godly in all our being. Now because of the influence of Manicheanism, spirituality was held aloft as the great and the good objective of man. And the Godly man was one who fled from the world of matter, into the world of spirit. From the world of desire into the world of mind, from the world of darkness into the world of light. So that he was continually forsaking this world for this world. This meant also that if you were too interested in material things, there was something wrong with you. And you find this among some people; they act as if, if you are interested in being well dressed, and if you really enjoy food, there is something very, very ungodly about you. You are not spiritual. Well, this is not Biblical.
The bible tells us that God blessed Abraham materially. The Bible makes it clear that we are to rejoice in the good things that God has given us. Nowhere does the Bible despise material things. Nor does it identify sin as material. It Identifies sin as resentment against God. As trying to be your own God. And sin is as much in the mind, as it is in the body. Sin is something that possesses, that governs the whole life of man. Just as holiness, Godliness, (confesses?), and governs the whole life of man. [00:07:10]
Now we’ve taken a little time to go into this matter...
Now we’ve taken a little time to go into this matter of theology, because it is so important to an understanding to a very basic aspect of church history, and it effects American History. Because Saint Augustine, who was a very great theologian, very sound in many respects, strong in emphasizing predestination, strong in emphasizing the sovereignty of God, strong in his emphasis on the Trinity, had as a young man been a Manichean for a while and never entirely shook the influence of that. So when he looked ahead to the future of the world his idea of the church was that the church was a kind of a monastic cell. That the purpose of Chrisitans was to withdraw from the world, and of the church to reach out into an evil world, and take people and bring them inside the walls as it were of the monastery. So all around you had the evil city of man. Now that’s Biblical to see the world as divided into the city of man and the City of God, but not to see the development as Saint Augustine saw it. So he felt what we must do is to bring people into the church, and the church is the kind of fortress and a refuge where you sit out and wait out the end of the world. [00:09:01]
So, in a sense, the essence of being saved was to retreat...
So, in a sense, the essence of being saved was to retreat from the world. Now, the to hold such a belief certainly is going to color your attitude as to what constitutes the Christian life. And so it is that wherever Saint Augustine’s eschatology has had a profound influence, as in the middle ages, the highest form of Christian life is to retreat into the cloisters, into the convent, in the monastery, to withdraw from the world into the church. In the same way where it has had a profound influence as in various aumill circles, au-millenial circles, it has produced a like belief. You had protestant groups for example in this area, not that far away that is, in Pennsylvania, who in the Colonial period were building cloisters, monastic cells, and when you were converted you withdrew from the world and you lived in a convent. And for many of these groups they were against marriage, Protestant groups. Why? Because they had bought Saint Augustine’s eschatology, and they believed that there should be a retreat from the world.
Saint Augustine’s view thus was very powerful, throughout the centuries. Now it did not determine everything within the Catholic church, because their were Catholics who did not share this, but it was determinative in a great deal of the middle ages. It has been very powerful in the protestant churches. The Christian Reformed Church for example, some of you may know of it, is predominately au-millenial or Augustinian in its outlook, to a great extent the Orthodox Presbyterian Church is, to a very great extent a great many other churches and denominations are Augustinian. Others hold to other positions of some of the church fathers, and instead of retreat they hold to rapture. That you are going to be raptured out of this evil world, which is a variation of this kind of belief. [00:11:49]
Now, a belief that was becoming increasingly important...
Now, a belief that was becoming increasingly important before the reformation, and men like Columbus held it, and which after the reformation became very important in England and then especially in America, was the Post-millienial position which held to an eschatology of victory, that instead of running away from this world, instead you saw the whole of the world as the work of God. It’s all God’s world. And therefore the Christian man has the obligation to conqueror in every area. As a result, under this eschatology the duty was to conqueror the wilderness, to conqueror in one area of scholarship after another, to conqueror in one area of institutional life after another. It’s not surprising for example that the Puritans in England were the founders of modern science, or that in America under the influence of this kind of eschatology there was a very, very tremendous outburst of inventiveness. This was a form of conquest. To go out and conqueror in one area after another, as a religious duty.
So there was emphatically a very, very different character to any country that held, instead of retreat and rapture, to the belief in conquest. This emphatically pointed (seen?) as a duty under God, to conqueror, is going to change a person outlook. When America was settled, the early settlers predominately had this eschatology of conquest. They came over here and they sent back statements to England, declaring that they wanted people to come and join them. In what? In a program of turning the wilderness into a paradise. There has been a book written by a former teacher of mine who is at Harvard precisely on this thing, how the Puritans saw the entire continent as a wilderness to be made into a paradise, and that this was there Christian duty. That unless they turned that wilderness into a paradise they were falling short of their duty to God and they were guilty of sin. (?) [00:15:25]
Now this early attitude began to falter, and disappear...
Now this early attitude began to falter, and disappear, after about 1650, the first generation of settlers, when they left their sons and those that followed them were not particularly given to this point of view. We shall subsequently come back to this subject, but one of the most interesting things is that we misunderstand, early American history if we think the Christians were in the majority. When the Mayflower came to this Country, only a small handful of those on the Mayflower were actually Christian. The rest came over because they wanted to get away from the old country or they thought they could make money. This was true throughout the colonial period, this was true in early constitutional America, the majority of the people were not Christian. Then why did they have so strong a social order? Why were they so devout and godly? Precisely because the Christians whenever they were dedicated to a belief and their obligation to conqueror in Christ’s name, and to rule in the name of Christ were doing precisely that, and it is amazing the extent to which they did dominate the society. It would be very difficult for us to grasp the extent to which they dominated the society at the time. Perhaps when we return to this subject later I can bring you some of the statistics on the mayflower, I don’t have them with me a present. But emphatically their proportion was very, very small. It remained small for a long time.
There are today more people who are Bible believing Christians then in any previous era of American History, and they are more impotent. Why? Because they do not have an eschatology of victory, and they had it at that time. This made the difference. We shall be dealing somewhat later with the extent of the ignorance of Americans of the Bible, especially when the frontier was opened up, I’m going to give an entire hour, we might get to it tomorrow, we might get to it later in the week, of the Frontier and the religion of the frontier, how ignorant the people in the frontier were. These people went out there, they lived out there far from anyone else, there was sometimes a mile between log cabins, and the children would grow up without any knowledge of the Bible. [00:18:59]
I’ll tell you a good many stories later on of how ignorant...
I’ll tell you a good many stories later on of how ignorant they, but just one now as a little foretaste of the kind of thing that we are going to be dealing with. One of the frontier preachers who went to a lonely log cabin to work with these people, to speak to them about scripture and to try and convert them, and several of the families for a few miles roundabout were invited there for the evening, when they sat down to eat, he opened both the dinner and later on the service with prayer. And the next day when he was going elsewhere a little boy who had heard about him from other boys came up to him and said, “Are you the man who talks to his plate?” Now that is all he knew about prayer, it was something totally new to him, and somebody who began dinner with prayer was some peculiar character who talked to his plate. Now that’s how ignorant people were of any knowledge of God. And yet, that society was dominated, by Christianity, precisely because of its eschatology. You see you never had to have a majority to dominate a country. Only a dedicated minority who knows what it believes and is determined in the name of God or whatever it believes, to establish a particular belief or faith as a dominant social force of the day. Now before we go any further are there any questions about anything we’ve dealt with at this time? In a sense our subject thus far has been more theoretical and theological than historical, but I do want you to understand this thoroughly, so please do not hesitate to ask any questions. If you think a question in your mind might be stupid, don’t worry that’s the best kind of question because it’s the kind of question you can learn the most from. No questions? All understood it perfectly? [00:21:44]
Alright, well perhaps I’ll ask a question or two...
Alright, well perhaps I’ll ask a question or two. Now, in terms of a Manichean state, to what great extent has the modern world been influenced, and what extent would you say, the modern hippy is a Manichean? Yes?
[Rushdoony] Right, did you all hear that? The hippy because he rejects the material world, and despises people who are interested in material things, who rejects cleanliness, and people who are Manichean tend to feel there is a virtue in being dirty, because it show you are despising the body, you see. You are not putting any great value on it. The Manichean tend therefore like the hippy to despise the body, to despise material things, they look down the hippies do upon you and upon their parents because they feel there is some virtue in having a good home, good clothes, and being well dressed and clean and neat in appearance. Consider for example one very important sign of Manicheanism in our midst, the fact that for the first time in a looong long time, lice has become common. There was an article in the Wall Street Journal about how lousy the Public School Students have become, and it has become a major problem in many public schools, the kids are lousy. And the biggest growth industry of the past few years has been the industry dealing with lice powders, or some kind of lice control. They have been doubling their business every year or so. And of course this is a product of Manichaeism, a contempt for this world, a contempt for anything that points to a respect for the body. [00:24:50]
Now any other examples of Manichaeism in our modern...
Now any other examples of Manichaeism in our modern world? Can anyone else think of instances of Manichaeism? Well, how about the radicals and their contempt of little quiet virtues, the middle class liking for good homes. Have you noticed how although the hippies talk a great deal about a policy if they take over any house the yard becomes an ecological disaster? Now that’s Manichaeism. They may talk a great deal about having a respect of nature, but ultimately they really desire to despise it, because being Manichaean they are just using it against us, that we who profess to like the world are really abusing it. So they have a (?) contempt for the world round about them. Now, let me add this; some Manichaean’s would switch their God, they would say this God is the good God, and this God is the bad God. So we are going to like matter darkness and desire. This is why today you have a group of people who worship what? Satan, yes. Because you had a revival of Manichaeism through the hippy movement, Satan worship followed. Now those who are Satan worshipers have become so precisely because they have decided “This is good and this is bad.” They have divided the world in two, and they say “We have got to see the world in part as good, and in part as evil.” And yet God said it is all good, it all fell, and it is all going to be redeemed. And it is not one aspect of the world that is good or bad but it is sin, sin that is the problem, sin that corrupts both mind and body. Now are there any other examples of Manichaeism in our midst? [00:27:45]
Well, anyone who is pessimistic or hopeless about the...
Well, anyone who is pessimistic or hopeless about the future has elements of Manichaeism in them, because they are saying: “Well the world is just going to go to the dogs because, it isn’t the world that is important in the sight of God, its’ just the soul.” And yet God so loved the world, the whole of it, that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believeth on him should not perish but have everlasting life. And how did he create man? In his image, to exercise dominion and to subdue the earth. When man fell from that task what did God do? Through Christ he redeemed him and restored him so that man now has the obligation exercise dominion, and to subdue the earth. And when man departs from a Biblical faith, he loses hope about the world. And he starts withdrawing into a convent or monastery and he treats the church as though, “well, here is the safe place, let the world around me go to pieces, the important thing is that I am in the church.” He retreats, he develops the psychology of retreat, and wherever you have the psychology of retreat, of surrender, you have Manichaeism. There is a great deal of Manichaeism around us isn’t there? [00:29:38]
Because if we hold to a Biblical position, we are going...
Because if we hold to a Biblical position, we are going to believe in victory. “If God be for us, who can be against us?” Now our time is just about up and I don’t want to start the second half prematurely, when is it that you go to your class? Is it ten of or exactly? Yes. Are there any questions now.
[Rushdoony] The question is, was Manichaeism a majority belief in Augustine’s time. We don’t know enough, you know they didn’t have a census going around asking everyone are you a Manichean or a Christian? Earlier it was illegal to be a Christian, it had become legal by Augustines time, but Manichaeism had earlier, somewhat earlier than Augustine, been perhaps the dominant religion in the empire. It had taken over very powerfully until Constantine almost a century before had made Christianity the official religion. Now this didn’t mean that Christianity was the majority, but it mean that it was now in control of the state to a great extent. But Manichaeism has been very, very powerful; the origin of Manichaeism was probably in Persia. It had been spread westward by the troops, because soldiers picked up this religion, and everywhere they went they propagated it. So it became extremely powerful. Now Manichaeism again came into the church and became a powerful threat in the middle ages. It had a variety of names, that are perhaps unfamiliar to you, (Polishan?), (Vovalmeal?), (Cascars?), and Albigensian. Now have any of you ever heard of any of these names? Yes. Now the Albigensians for a while conquered and controlled almost all of southern France, and during the middle ages the Vatican proclaimed a crusade against the Albigensians, and they went in and after a very bitter and hard fought war they wiped out a great proportion of Albigensian power there. But there are some who believe that to this day there are underground elements of Manichaeism or Albigensianism in southern France. Well, our time is up now, so you may go to your class. [00:32:58]