Irrational Man - RR101C6

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Lesson[edit]

Professor: Rushdoony, Dr. R. J.
Title: Irrational Man
Course: Course - Epistemology
Subject: Subject:Philosophy
Lesson#: 6
Length: 0:57:24
TapeCode: RR101C6
Audio: Chalcedon Archive
Transcript: .docx Format
Epistemology(5).jpg

This transcript is unedited. It was:
Archived by the Mt. Olive Tape Library
Digitized, transcribed, and published by Christ Rules
Posted by with permission.


[Rushdoony] I’ve listed a name here, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, a novel of {?}. Those who you have a more literary bent may find this of interest, because Dostoyevsky, while we cannot call him an orthodox Christian, he was Russian Orthodox, very, very effective, might be questionable whether we could call him a redeemed man. Nonetheless was sharply aware, and presented in this novel the implications of a denial of God for man. The title Possessed literally should have been translated (but the English translators are not too theologically self-conscious) as the demon-possessed, and Dostoyevsky in this novel was portraying the demon-possessed students, the radical atheistic students with their desires to create a revolution. And he felt of course that the world was going to be taken over by the demon-possessed men, and that the world was in for a fearful time until it returned to the faith. Now, the relevance of this book to our subject is that he shows these students, with an epistemological self-consciousness, self-consciously denying everything and therefore it might be very worthwhile to analyze what Dostoyevsky has to say, contrast it to the modern scene, the modern student, and of course in terms of Van Til’s A Christian Theory of Knowledge, which as I stated is in your library. Our subject today is irrational man, irrational man. As we have seen, man in the modern world began by viewing himself in Descartes as pure thinking substance. But he now, after Darwin, regards himself at best as an irrational animal. The consequence of this change are everywhere with us. Man, who at the beginning saw himself as a little god, now sees himself as a debased animal. Van Til has commented with regard to the Arminian view of the mind of man as independent of any ultimate decree of God that, and I quote, “Arminianism has been untrue to the Biblical point of view with respect to this matter. We usually think of Arminianism first of all with respect to its denial of the Biblical teaching of the sinner’s ethical inability. However, back of the error of Arminianism at this point lies the error to which we are now calling attention, namely, that it starts with the human consciousness as an ultimate instead of a derivative starting point. Arminianism has, in principle, denied the Biblical concept of creation. This is its basic error, and the source of all its other errors. So, for instance, Professor Donald Mackenzie in his article on “Free Will” in the Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics says that the trouble with Augustinianism and Calvinism is that it has started with the idea of an absolute God, and deduced the doctrine of decrees from it, while in reality we should start from experience and adjust the concept of the absoluteness of God’s grace as best we can do it. It is this assumption of human experience as an ultimate starting point that has now led him into the further error of the acceptance of modern irrationalism in the form of paradox theology.” Unquote. [00:04:44]

When you deny the sovereignty of God and His eternal decree...[edit]

Now the consequence of this kind of thinking is, when you deny the sovereignty of God and His eternal decree, you deny ultimately that a system is possible. You cannot have then no, any systematic theology. Now let us explain this before we go further. The only way you can have a systematic theology is, if you have a God who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. God says I am the Lord, I change not. When you have such a God, you can systematically say, here is God, and because God is eternally true to Himself, we can therefore say these things because His Word is truth, and God is true to Himself. So that you can formulate propositions. You can have propositional truth. Now, this is not possible if God, as with Karl Barth, is characterized by freedom. Now what does Barth mean by the freedom of God? For Karl Barth, God can be the opposite today of what He was yesterday. It might be valid for God to say thou shalt not kill or commit adultery one time, and He can change later. Moreover, basic to an idea of systematics, is an absolute self-consciousness, and potentiality and actuality being one. Thus, to be ridiculous, let us say you are going to try to work out a systematics of R.J. Rushdoony. Now the idea is absurd, because what is there that you can say about me, that would be the same yesterday, today, and forever, so that you could consistently chart everything about me and develop systematic propositional truths about me. Well, it couldn’t be done. For example, we do not have a coincidence as human beings of potentiality and actuality. There are potentialities which I may never realize until heaven. In heaven my potentiality and actuality will be one. But, it will be the potentiality and actuality of a creature. So, there is no systematics possible where I am concerned. Even though I am, I think, a very disciplined person, and my wife says she can tell in advance what I am going to say when she asks me something, so she says sometimes she doesn’t know why she bothers to ask. Still, we cannot say that you can derive propositional statements without fail from my being, or declare that you can develop a systematic of R.J. Rushdoony, it’s impossible. But when you have absolute predestinating God, who is eternally true to Himself, then you have systematic theology, and then only, and the minute you deny that God you deny systematic theology. This is why systematic theology really does not exist outside the Reformed community and other areas, while they maintain the term, they are busy denying it. Now let us have an example of that. [00:09:24]

Where you have only a world of brute factuality[edit]

You see, where you have only a world of brute factuality, you have no decree, no law, only chance. As a result there is no propositional truth, no system in a world of chance, you cannot have systematic theology. Now, let us examine how this works out very practically. In 1943, a very brilliant and distinguished Barthian, Joseph Haroutunian, was inducted into the chair of systematic theology at McCormick Theological Seminary, a Northern Presbyterian Seminary, in Chicago. Now like Barth, when you read Haroutunian, it’s sometimes a delight if you are not aware of his neo-orthodoxy, because I was a very young man the first time I picked up Barth, and here were these raving statements about the virgin birth. Only as I read and re-read I realized he didn’t believe a word of the virgin birth, it was not real history, and the same was true of the resurrection. And of course well this is not our subject, the same is true of his god. And this is true of Joseph Haroutunian, and I’ll put his name on the board, because it is important. Some of the things he says are brilliant a statement of the Reformed faith as you could hope to find except it is said dialectically, his god is a limiting concept. Now Scripture says, known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world, in Acts 15:18, therefore you have a systematic theology. But, when Joseph Haroutunian, who I knew, was, and I had a long discussion with him shortly after he was inducted into the chair at McCormick, walked the streets around the seminary for two, three hours, debating the issue and Van Til and a number of other things. When he was inducted into the chair, he gave a famous address, published as First Essay in Reflective Theology, in which he denied the possibility of systematic theology. He said, and I quote, “Systematic theology aping science has been dogmatic, for it has refused to subject the ‘essence of religion’ to criticism. It has been speculative because its ‘rigorous deductions’ have not been open to genuine verification. And when not sure of its own rationality, it has turned mystical or pragmatic, thus insuring itself against intellectual criticism. And it has also been irrelevant, for no system does itself justice to the complexities of human life. Existence is commerce with contingency, and ethical decision is a leap into the unknown. Hence the application of any system of theology to the infinite vicissitudes of life can only be partial and problematic. For these reasons, theology has earned a common reputation of pompous dullness. Now, I regret this as much as anyone here, and I promise you to do something about the matter. As a foretaste of my coming labors towards making the theology a more illuminating and therefore more interesting affair, I offer you the following reflections. The first step towards a non-boring theology consists in recognizing that ‘systematic theology’ is an illusion.” Why is it an illusion? It’s an illusion because the God of Scripture is an illusion. Now, Haroutunian was more open and honest than Barth, and maintained the façade of systematic theology to deny systematic theology. Saint Paul says of God’s eternal decree, “we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” For such a God, predestination is an inescapable consequence of His sovereign power in His creation. Systematics then is escapable also. To eliminate predestination means to eliminate systematics and to have a God who is only an idea, or to use their term, a limiting concept. And the God of Karl Barth or Joseph Haroutunian or Paul Tillich is a limiting concept. Now listen to Haroutunian, I’m quoting Haroutunian because before Tillich and others came out and {?}, he was more honest about the implications of Barthianism. [00:15:30]

He says, “The Living God of the Bible defies literal...[edit]

He says, “The Living God of the Bible defies literal statement. It is analogical in so far as God must be conceived in the likeness of life as we know it. The Biblical man whose reflection concerned existence and destiny, and not ‘intellectual objects,’ spoke of the mysterious Intruder, fittingly, as the ‘living God.’ The living, powerful, encountering and acting God, who is responsive to man and to whom man is responsible, must be an analogy to a person, the Living God is also metaphorical: a carry-over, a projection from nature. God is not a thing among things, and does not live in the likeness of the creature. If God is living, according to all that we know about life, He must have been born, and one day He will have to die. But the god of the Bible is eternal. (Now, when he speaks of Him as eternal, again it’s not in any sense that we know, it’s because He’s beyond all definition and beyond life.) Therefore He is living in a metaphorical sense. God is literally neither living nor non-living. (Try to make sense out of that.) The living God is thus a poetic expression. It is ambiguous, not in the sense of being vague or diffuse, but in that its signification is complex and inexhaustible. It is poetic, not in the sense of being fanciful, but in that it is imaginative, evoking an image which forbids identification with the Real. (In other words, He’s eternal but He’s not real. He’s living, but He’s not living.) The Biblical mind, which recognized God as the Creator of nature and not a thing in it, and was free from the sophisticated confusion between existence and ‘pure thought’, filled its discourses on God with images from nature, determined not to identify God with anything in ‘heaven above or on earth below or in the sea.’ The image both affirms and denies its likeness to the Imagined. (The Imagined is God) Therefore, Biblical language is continually paradoxical. A paradox is a tension between thesis and antithesis, an affirmation and a denial. It is also two images in opposition, pointing to their harmony in God: such as the loving God and the wrathful God, which insist upon their reconciliation in the hidden God. (Pure Barthianism) A paradox in the Bible is truth which can only be perceived in the form of a contradiction bearing witness to its own superficiality. Hence it constrains the mind to dig into its meaning: with the promise of indefinite penetration and clear warning that the quest is endless and its goal beyond all intellection. Thus it is that the Bible remains a source of illimitable insight into existence and a whirlpool in which all systems are drawn into the mystery of God. Now, what happens when our science-possessed systemmaking theologians set out to ‘translate the language of the Bible into another which shall be free from symbol and metaphor, from the contamination of image and emotion — precise, literal, and unparadoxical? If they carry out the task they undertake, and we find our theological scientists consistently refusing to do so, their translations are in fact mis-translations. The ‘living God’ of the Bible becomes the first cause, or ultimate Being, or a value producing factor in the universe, or the principle of integration, or an idea entity. Of course, as symbols, these expressions enrich a living mind in its intercourse with God. But as translations of the ‘living God’ they are mis-representations of Biblical religion. The notion of the first cause has no context except if one smuggles some into it from the paradox-ridden world of experience. ‘Ultimate Being’ is another paradoxical notion hovering between the idea of a being, which turns God into an idol, and the idea of ‘being in general’, which is the undefinable least common denominator of all being.” Unquote. [00:20:33]

I quoted this in length because here in summary fashion...[edit]

I quoted this in length because here in summary fashion we have the major currents of modern theology set forth in this address, and when you grasp what Haroutunian was saying, you begin to realize what modern theology is about, incidentally, one of the finest books in modern theology is his Wisdom and Folly in Religion. It’s beautiful reading, it’s the kind of the thing that you feel, well every Reformed person will agree with this, that, and the other, and some of the passages are really magnificent. But when he’s saying it, it is prophetic language only in the sense that it is poetic, it’s to stimulate. A limiting concept to act on man, in other words, man projects it here, so that it’ll influence him better, but it isn’t real. Now in this long statement and other passages of Haroutunian, we find first the denial of the term ‘the Living God’, it has any meaning except as a metaphor. He says “God is literally neither living nor non-living. If God is living, according to all that we know about life, He must have been born, and one day He will have to die.” Now this is a very, very important statement. In other words, how does he understand the world, and life, and God? In terms of man and nature. The only kind of life we know is created life which is born and must die, therefore if God lives, He must have been born, and He will die. Now this is anthropomorphism. You read God in terms of man, not man in terms of God. Rather, we must say God is a living God, He is uncreated being, and what we have derived from Him is on a creaturely level, so we cannot understand God’s light in terms of man’s light. God does not derive light from our standards, where it has a beginning and an end, but rather it is our limited light that derives from His eternal standard. What Haroutunian has done thus, is to renounce theology for anthropology; the doctrine of God for the doctrine of man, and God is to be understood in terms of man. Now this is total humanism. It is like the humanistic scientist who says, what my net does not cast is not fish, and if a fact doesn’t meet my standard, it isn’t a fact. [00:23:53]

Then second, Haroutunian insists that the Biblical...[edit]

Then second, Haroutunian insists that the Biblical mind was quote “free from the sophisticated confusion between existence and ‘pure thought’” Unquote. Now, this is what we were dealing with last week; the idea that there can be no unity, no parallel between the world of brute facts and mind, they’re two different things. Well he says this confusion between what’s in my head and what I think I see there, and my idea in here in my head that my sense impressions have given me, that I have a classroom of students out here, well that is a sophisticated confusion, he said, that the modern man has invented. Now of course, the whole idea that you are now out here and I am just locked up inside my skull is the sophisticated confusion of the modern mind, is it not? It never occurred to anybody until some philosophers thought about it. So, he’s projecting the {?} perspective back onto the Bible. And of course that is observed, for Haroutunian, existence means the world of brute factuality, not the world of God’s creation. [00:25:22]

Third, he insists in this passage we read that Biblical...[edit]

Third, he insists in this passage we read that Biblical language is continually paradoxical, not an accurate description of reality. The only reality is that which is inside; the autonomous mind of man. Biblical language, he says, is imagery. And he says the image both affirms and denies the likeness to the Imagined. I like that, because it’s honest, the Imagined is a good name for god of modern theology; The Imagined in capital letters. Now paradox has reference to dialectical concepts, and the Bible is not dialectical. Moreover, Haroutunian says, truth is beyond all thinking, all we have is the mystery of God. Something is out there, maybe you’re there, maybe you’re not, maybe God is out there, and maybe God is not. All we have is the mystery of God, and from my perspective (speaking in terms of Haroutunian), you’re a part of that big mystery. Whether you are or whether you are not, is a question mark. Now this is certainly not the world of the Bible. Thenfore, Haroutunian says, we cannot speak of God as ultimate being, without turning Him into an idol; a fact or a thing. In other words, theology cannot be scientific, a form of knowledge, it must cease to be systematic, it can only be poetic. And he says and I will quote further, “Let us therefore call a halt to theology which is hell bent for ‘science’ and the system. I deny that theology can be scientific, because God is not a thing among things. I deny that systematic theology is possible, because the paradoxes of the Christian faith signify the mystery of God which resists inclusion in any ‘system of nature’. The time has come to do away with the error and arrogance of “scientific” theology and system-making, and to break the stranglehold of a theological method which has for too long devitalized the mind of the Church.” Unquote. [00:28:07]

Now here’s a classic statement of the arrogance of...[edit]

Now here’s a classic statement of the arrogance of modern irrational man. It is modern irrational man who has devitalized the Church, and he blames us of the Reformed faith for doing it. Did you know we’re responsible? Now that’s what Haroutunian says. The Reformed believers who believe in systematic theology, and a God who gives propositional truth, they are to blame, we Barthians are going to restore the Church. However, since they’ve taken over, the Church has been taking a nosedive, has it not? Moreover, this mind is an irrational mind by its own willful desire. Everett W. Knight, in his book Literature Considered as Philosophy, Literature Considered as Philosophy, (It would be well worth your reading, in terms of this.) has this to say, and I quote, “The irrationality, despair and so forth of modern thought resides precisely in its refusal to believe in the possibility of system.” Unquote. Now Knight is not a Christian, but he has seen it; it’s the rejection of systematic, it’s an insistence that the world cannot have anything but chance, it cannot be systematic; that is responsible he says for all the despair, the hopelessness, the meaninglessness of Modern Literature, it is simply reflecting the philosophy of our time. As a result, you have the idea of the observed, the contrast between irrationality in the world, and the rationality of man’s reason. We dealt with Camus, C-A-M-U-S, and his very important book The Rebel, which some of you may wish to consider in writing your paper. Now in The Myth of Sisyphus, Camus says further (The Myth of Sisyphus, you remember is the story of the Greek and Hades, whose punishment is total meaningless in his consigned work, rolling the stone up to the top of the hill, and then it rolls back, he has to go back again, throughout all eternity, roll that stone up.) That’s the myth of Sisyphus. And he says, “I said that the world is absurd, but I was too hasty. This world in itself is not reasonable, that is all that can be said. But what is absurd is the confrontation of this irrational and the wild longing for clarity whose call echoes in the human heart. The absurd depends as much on man as on the world. For the moment it is all that links them together. It binds them one to the other as only hatred can weld two creatures together. This is all I can discern clearly in this measureless universe where my adventure takes place.” Unquote. [00:31:52]

Now of course, before Camus in the last century, as...[edit]

Now of course, before Camus in the last century, as men began to turn their backs on faith. This sense of meaninglessness, of total irrationality, began to {?} men. And it was very interesting how it sprang up all at once. I was more than a little disgusted with myself recently, when I realized that Tennyson’s reference in his poem, In Memorium to the senselessness of nature, it’s being a blind area of chance. {?} was not a product of Darwin. It came ten years before, and the various books in social anthropology which took an evolutionary perspective were being riven, all {?} books the same time Darwin was writing. How did it happen? They all came from the same epistemology. So at the same time all these writers were converging on a ripely evolutionary perspective, in which the world was totally meaninglessness. So {?}, Morgan, Maine, and all the other anthropologists who were reducing the world to meaninglessness, were doing it at the same time that Darwin was writing. It was not a product of Darwin, but they were all alike together a product of the epistemology of modern philosophy. This also appeared about the same time in literature. One of the famous poems of the last century is Matthew Arnold’s Dover Beach. How many of you are familiar with Dover Beach? Good. Now Dover Beach sees this, and Matthew Arnold was deeply infected by the whole of the modern despair with regard to epistemology. In the concluding section of Dover Beach, Arnold wrote, as he writes of faith disappearing and unbelief, a world of chance possessing the mind of man, “The Sea of Faith was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled. But now I only hear its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar, retreating, to the breath of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear and naked shingles of the world. Ah, love, let us be true to one another! for the world, which seems to lie before us like a land of dreams, so various, so beautiful, so new, hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light, nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain; and we are here as on a darkling plain swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight, where ignorant armies clash by night.” [00:35:46]

For Arnold and others, there was still hope that, all...[edit]

For Arnold and others, there was still hope that, all the world is meaningless, let you and I be true to one another. But as irrational man pressed the claims of the absurd on life, he forsook all standards, all norms, for a radical irrational lawlessness. Philosophically, it meant that men like Heidegger went a step further and separated thinking from reason, so then in Heidegger’s philosophy, thinking has nothing to do with reason or logic. Irrationality went as far as it could go. Sartre said man has only being, no essence. Odajnyk says and I quote, “Every man is a tabula rasa, he is nothing that can be defined beforehand, but must define itself through his life.” Unquote. The resolve of course, has been that as a result of this modern epistemology, and its insistence on the total irrationality and meaninglessness of the world. You have a return to barbarism, the study irrationality, and what police call purposeless crime, purposeless crime. People killing, robbing, for no motive other than the desire to destroy law, to lash out at order, because of a radical hatred of everything that it represents. Now in the modern literature, this is very, very plain. The modern writer exalts irrationality. Whether it is in painting, or in drama, or in sculpture, or in the novels, he exalts the irrational, the violent. For example, the dramatists of the Avant-garde, thinkers, Jean Tardieu, according to Wellwarth, “In Tardieu the modern mind — the mind, that is, of the ordinary man-in-the-street — craves irresponsibility and therefore willingly and uncritically, almost by now instinctively, abases itself before the first vague semblance of authority that it encounters.” Unquote. [00:38:42]

Modern man is portrayed as impotent and helpless...[edit]

Modern man is portrayed as impotent and helpless. As wanting irresponsibility, as hating everything that smacks of law, as wanting to destroy the whole world of law and order. Then we have another dramatist, Eugene Ionesco, of his character, Berenger, it is written, and I quote, “Having no belief of his own, he represents a society that no longer has any right to defend itself against evil because it is not convinced that it is better than the evil opposing it.” Unquote. Now how telling that is. In the last year, going back and forth across country, I have found more than one older person say, for example a doctor, who said I don’t believe in abortion, but of course the world is changing and how do I know that my standards are valid for today. Or parents who don’t like it that their children are shacking up with some boy or girl, well it’s not my way but how do I know that what was good for me is necessarily good for them. In other words, the ability to defend oneself against evil is gone. Because the ability to differentiate between good and evil is gone, or to say that good is better than evil. And so you have the growing impotence of modern man. His inability to defend himself from the flood-tide of evil that is overwhelming society, and the result is a growing rebellion against the whole world of law and order. For example in the plays of Alfred Jarry, a French Avant-garde dramatist who died in 1907, I don’t recommend them, by the way, by any means, first of all, they’re very stupid reading, senseless, and second what you will understand of them I prefer that you didn’t understand. Someone has said of Jarry’s philosophy that it is comparable to “a child’s refusal to bow to the bathroom training.” And I think that’s a good image. He is self-consciously a barbarian. Jarry himself says of Ubu Roi, his character who is the hero of his Ubu cycle of plays, that he is, and I quote, “an ignoble creature, which is why he is so like us all. He is really rather a spoiled child.” Unquote. It might be better to say he was a totally depraved child. [00:42:14]

Now, Jarry warred against realism in the theatre, and...[edit]

Now, Jarry warred against realism in the theatre, and the name of the new standard of rebellion, and his thesis was that since life is a nightmare, a meaningless nightmare, what must be on the stage is a nightmare. So the more horrible it is, the closer it is to what there is that might be called truth, if the word can be used. But he developed the principle of rebellion in himself, also very logically. This we must say of these men, they are true to their faith, would God we were as consistent. For Wellwarth, let me quote, “Jarry’s greatest gesture of rebellion, however, was his alcoholism. There can be little doubt that he deliberately drank himself to death. (This is very true. He set out to kill himself.) Not long after his arrival in Paris, he must have made up his mind to make the supreme rebellious gesture of suicide. He chose alcohol as his medium because it was slow and because the immediate effects of the alcohol enabled him to carry on his eccentricities undisturbed by the restraints of his own personality. Alcohol freed him from himself temporarily; eventually it freed him permanently from the whole burden of life. In a way it was a heroic death, (This is a liberal writing.) for it was a death for a cause, and probably it was not as pleasant a one as the casual drinker might suppose. It was certainly not an insane or unreasonable death. Rebellion as Jarry saw it was a quest for total freedom and a protest against the ultimate enslavement, which is death. Jarry chose to rebel against the ultimate by systematically destroying himself. (In other words, God has an eternal decree, well I defy His decree, I institute my own decree and I will institute my death to prove that I am God over my own life. Dostevsky has one insane student, Kirilov, who does the same thing. The only way he can finally prove that he is god rather than the God of Scripture is to say, I will kill myself, I will assert my ultimate independence of Him.) Jarry chose to rebel against the ultimate, by systematically destroying himself. In this way he conquered — paradoxically; for, having consciously sentenced himself to death, having decided to control his own death, as it were, by deliberately bringing it on, he was able to be completely at liberty, completely contemptuous of all manifestations of social order during the period of life that was left to him.” Unquote. [00:45:35]

That’s a good statement coming from someone who’s on...[edit]

That’s a good statement coming from someone who’s on Jarry’s side. Remember, we quoted someone of the modern school to the effect that God representing good, the only freedom for modern man in declaring his independence from God was to affirm evil. Since God represents light, let us affirm death. The modern world thus is intensely suicidal. In other words, irrational man seeks an irrational end. C.S. Lewis [Note: quote ought to be attributed to T.S. Elliot] said in one of his {?} “This is the way the world goes, not with a bang, but a whimper.” Are there any questions now? Yes?

[Audience member] Um, how do you see the Jesus movement today as a {?} systematic theology? {?}

[Rushdoony] Yes, it has no systematics, it doesn’t want systematics, it wants experience, you see. The essence of the modern epistemology is, that it substitutes human experience for the Word of God. Now, the Jesus movement says we want the modern worldview and Jesus too, so we’re going to put them together as an experience. And that’s why, they’re either going to outgrow the movement, or they’re going to go back to the world. Yes?

[Audience member]{?}

[Rushdoony] No, I missed that. There’s so much like that that I’ve read that I figure I’ve got to limit myself on the amount of garbage I {?}

[Audience laughter]

[Audience member] It sounds {?}

[Rushdoony] Yes, I’m aware that he is a part of this whole movement, what I’ve done is go back to some of the earliest figures in it like Jarry and others because there’s an uncomplicated simplicity about their expression of it. But you are right, from all that I’ve heard, it’s very much the same thing. Any other questions, yes?

[Audience member] Would you say that the {?}

[Rushdoony] Yes, now Dostoyevsky is, I indicated, was not a Christian in any Evangelical Reformed sense, he was a man who began as himself a very radical student, a very radical student. In fact, he was sentenced to death for his part in revolutionary activities and spent some years in Siberia, during which time, he reacted against his revolutionary thinking and became the most passionate champion of the Russian Orthodox Church and its theology. Now if you’re looking for the positive side in Dostoyevsky, it’s going to be painful. But, in his critique of what the world was going to be like, he was the most prophetic writer of his day, and in a series of books, he really set forth the problem tremendously. In his Crime and Punishment, he portrays a radical student who decides that there is no God, there is no moral law, I can kill. I will pick someone who is no better than a {?}, and I will kill them, it will be a useful work, I’ll rid society of somebody society is better off without, and I will demonstrate that it will not bother my conscience to do so. So he proceeds to commit this murder. And the consequence is that he finds that his conscience is troubling him. In the process, there’s a very interesting contrast that he draws, he takes up with Sonia, a prostitute, who’s just a girl who knows she’s a sinner. And the thing that comes out, the girl who’s a prostitute, because she knows she’s a sinner is morally superior to Raskolnikov, who says I am not a sinner. Because she at least knows her place in God’s world. And the whole of the book is how his sense of guilt pursues him, and ultimately he comes to a fate when he’s a prisoner. The thing that amused me, I read that as a student at the university and the course which we were studying Crime and Punishment there were a number of students who shared this kind of thinking. One was a philosopher major, he since became a professor of philosophy, but he was so totally on Raskolnikov’s side, and he said his thesis is right, I don’t care what Dostoyevsky does with him. And this one day, I was walking down the street and he was just ahead of me and he started around the corner and he ducked back hastily. And I went up to him and I said what’s the trouble {?}. And he began to swear Dostoyevsky, he said there was a cop around the corner and I ducked so I identified with Raskolnikov, I felt guilty of murder and I ducked from that cop. He said I’m going to drop that course, that book is no good. And he did, he actually quit the course. [00:51:45]

[Audience laughter]...[edit]

[Audience laughter]

[Rushdoony] So, don’t read it anytime if you have a bad conscience. Now, in his Brother Karamazov, he carries this thesis forward too. And there is a section in it that I commend to you, you will find it published separately. The Grand Inquisitor, The Grand Inquisitor. You can find that published separately and you can read it at a sitting. In which it speaks of Christ returning to the earth in the Middle Ages, and walking down a street I believe {?}. And he’s immediately arrested and the grand inquisitor cardinal has him brought to him, and he knows who he is. And he says why have you done this, why have you come back and messed up everything? We were doing so much good in your name. We want people to be free and to come and you’re putting it on the basis of character when what man needs is slavery and control; man-made controls, not from God you see. And we were instituting it, and in your name too. Now, that was aimed not only at the Catholic Church, but especially at the modern totalitarian state and its predestination. He’s well worth reading if you realize there are some totally non-Christian ideas there, but in The Possessed, he shows these students, self-consciously thinking as atheists, as little gods who are going to use the fools; the naïve Christians, the bureaucrats, and manipulate them as gods. And what the implications are, it’s not, it’s rather grim reading, but it is important for you as a Christian to see what he had to say. There’s another book which he wrote, which, while it’s not particularly good reading, is important in that the title Notes from Underground, is important in that there he says there is a new kind of man being formed in the Western world, the underground man. You have the underground press, and the people who go onto it. And he says, what motivates the underground man? It is envy and hatred, and the desire to pull down and to destroy, and this is all he’s capable of, nothing more; to be envious and destructive. And he said, the world is being taken over by ungodly world who are men from underground, they are like rats crawling out from the sewers, their desire is to tear down and destroy civilization and of course his thesis over and over again, only as men who are possessed sit like the man who is possessed of the demons at the feet of Jesus, is there any hope. So he’s not consistent at all in his Christianity, and it’s so defective that you might wonder is he saved, it’s an open question, but it is still important. Yes? [00:55:23]

[Audience member] I may have missed what you said,...[edit]

[Audience member] I may have missed what you said, but it seems to me in the course of the lecture, you talk about people who get {?} to say there can’t be any consistency and everything’s absolute chance and today you seem to have gotten the point where people set up a standard which is opposite our standard just to defy the Lord our God. Aren’t they asserting a system in doing that, or is there any meaning in their system?

[Rushdoony] Yes, a very good question. Man being created in the image of God cannot escape some kind of system, you see. So that the Marxists have created an evil system, they cannot escape it. The Fabian Socialists say we will not have a planned society, that’s too much system, we will have a planning society, but they still get an order, a system in. Because man is created in the image of God, when he sets out to assert his independence of God and system, he cannot do so. So while he denies system to God, he is sneaking it into himself as the new god. Very good point. Well our time is up, if you’ll remember your question till tomorrow, and tomorrow we’ll deal with the death of God, its implications.

[End of tape]