Neo-Platonism vs Christainity I - RR255A1

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Professor: Rushdoony, Dr. R. J.
Title: Neo-Platinism vs. Christianity-Delivered 1 26 72
Course: Course - Neo-Platinism vs. Christianity
Subject: Subject:Philosophy
Lesson#: 1
Length: 1:09:46
TapeCode: RR255A1
Audio: Chalcedon Archive
Transcript: .docx Format
Neo-Platinism vs. Christianity.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.

Let us begin with prayer. Our Lord and our God, we give thanks unto Thee that Thou Who art Lord of all things art our God also, that there is nothing too great, nor too small for Thee. And so, our Father, we come to Thee with our needs great and small, with our hopes and our burdens, great and small; and we cast our every care upon Thee, according to Thy Word, knowing Thou carest for us. Minister to us in Thy mercy; relieve us of our burden; confirm us in our joys; bless us in our service; and enlighten our minds, that we might better serve Thee and magnify Thy holy Name. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Our subject tonight and for, perhaps, two more weeks is Neo-Platonism and Christianity. Neo-Platonism is essentially a Greek philosophy common to the world of antiquity. It gets its name from Plato; and neo-platonism means the new forms of platonism that have come up age after age. Neo-platonism has had a great deal of influence on Christianity, and we’re going to look for a moment or two at some of the results it has produced. When we go back through the centuries, we find many things that are regarded as holy and saintly that are really shocking to us—very distressing to us as Christians when we encounter them. The lives of some of the so-called saints make really painful reading. Palladius, for example, saw the goal of Christian living as release from this world and the flesh. And he said, and I quote, “All those who love Christ make haste to be joined to God through these virtuous acts, each day preparing for the release of the soul.” In other words, the whole purpose of life was to get ready to die. [00:02:38]

Then, when we got to Isidore, the elder, who was guestmaster...[edit]

Then, when we got to Isidore, the elder, who was guestmaster of the Church of Alexandria, we are told by Palladius as though this were a great virtue on Isidore’s part, and I quote, “Up to the very end of his life, he wore no fine linen, except for a headband. He neither bathed, nor ate meat.” Now, the idea that it made you a saint to avoid taking a bath certainly doesn’t set well with us, I can see by the expressions on your faces. It doesn’t, certainly, agree with your idea of sanctity. But, this was very common. For example, after a hot journey, when one Christian named Jovinus washed his tired feet and hands in cold water, and stretched out to rest, a woman who was regarded as especially holy, Melania, rebuked him and said, quoting again from Palladius: “Melania approached him like a wise mother approaching her own son, and she scoffed at his weakness, saying, ‘How can a warm-blooded young man like you dare to pamper your flesh that way? Do you not know that this is the source of much harm? Look, I am sixty years old and neither my feet nor my face nor any of my members, except for the tips of my fingers, has touched water, although I am afflicted with many ailments and my doctors urge me. I have not yet made concession to my bodily desires, nor have I used a couch for resting, nor have I ever made a journey on a litter.’” Now, here was a very well-to-do woman, deliberately avoiding using a bed, or traveling in a litter, or bathing; and doing this, because she felt it was a way of being holy. In fact, we might say that very obviously this kind of sainthood did have an odor of sanctity about it, to use the old expression; but it is not what we would call the odor of sanctity. Killing the body, short of suicide, was a common practice. The body was treated as an enemy. [00:05:27]

One ascetic of thieves, when he was asked, ...[edit]

One ascetic of thieves, when he was asked, “What are you doing, Father, killing your body in such a way?” And he answered, “It kills me. I will kill it.” Suicidal self-mortification was called sanctification. The body, or the flesh, was regarded as THE enemy; and therefore, some of these so-called saints and ascetics would whip themselves; they would roll in thorns on rose bushes (try that for size, sometimes) to enhance their spirituality. We are told, for example, one such saint, Ammonius, that “he never pampered his flesh when desire rose up in revolt, but he heated an iron in the fire and applied it to his limbs, so that he became ulcerated all over.” And there were many who admired this. Now, of course, very obviously, there was a false principle involved here, as though the flesh were that aspect of man which was fallen. But the Bible does not tell us that the flesh fell, but that the whole man was the sinner and the whole man fell, and it is the whole man that is redeemed by Jesus Christ, body and soul. And the resurrection of the body and the new creation culminates the total redemption of man. The doctrine of total depravity tells us that the whole man is fallen, every aspect of man. Thus, to exalt the mind against the body is to exalt, really, to capital sin, for it is man’s desire to be as God which is original sin—not some bodily urge. It was man thinking “I want to be like God; therefore, I will disobey God” that was the cause of sin. So to treat the body as though it were the source of sin is to, in effect, say it is the suburbs of sin that are responsible, and forget the capital. [00:08:12]

Actually, the acetics, in all their warfare against...[edit]

Actually, the acetics, in all their warfare against the body, revealed a great deal of mental sin and pride. On one occasion, one such acetic named Nathaniel refused to show courtesy to seven holy bishops who came to see him. And the deacons told him, and I quote, “You are committing an arrogant act, Father, not escorting the bishops forth.” But he said, “I am dead, both to my sovereign bishops and to the whole world. I have an intention, which is hidden, and God knows my heart why I do not escort them forth.” Now, this so-called hidden intention was really the sin of Adam, we would have to say—the desire to be as God, to transcend creatureliness. The thing they disliked about the body, the flesh, was because they believed, while the soul was supposedly eternal, the body was mortal and perishable; and therefore, they should have nothing to do with it. Their desire was to be more than man; and this, for them, constituted holiness. For example Macarius of Alexandria gives us an instance of this, and I quote: “He decided to be above the need for sleep, and he claimed that he did not go under a roof for twenty days in order to conquer sleep. He was burned by the heat of the sun and was drawn up with the cold at night. And he also said, ‘If I had not gone into the house and obtained the advantage of some sleep, my brain would have shriveled up for good. I conquered to the extent I was able, but I gave in to the extent my nature required sleep.’ Early one morning when he was sitting in his cell, a gnat stung him on the foot. Feeling the pain, he killed it with his hand, and it was gorged with his blood. He accused himself of acting out of revenge, and he condemned himself to sit naked in the marsh of Scete out in the great desert for a period of six months. Here the mosquitos lacerate even the hides of the wild swine, just as wasps do. Soon he was bitten all over the body, and he became so swollen that some thought he had elephantiasis. When he returned to his cell after six months, he was recognized as Macarius only by his voice.” [00:11:03]

In other words, to attain holiness, to obtain perfection...[edit]

In other words, to attain holiness, to obtain perfection meant to transcend creatureliness, to become more than a man. Some of them actually, in order to mortify the flesh, castrated themselves. This, fortunately, was not too common, although among the pagans in antiquity, it was very common. The goal was to be, as the stoic philosophers held it, like God; and the stoic idea of God was to be passionless, to be above feeling; so that feeling of any kind was decried. Even to have loved, some felt, was to give way to feeling. The monk, Diocles, said that “desire is beast-like; anger, demon-like.” The goal was to have no feelings about anything material or fleshly. One very prominent person regarded as an extremely holy man, Sorathia, wore only a loin cloth. When he heard that there was a virgin who claimed to have great holiness, he went to challenge her, because he wanted to see “is she was living in a high state of passionless life, above feeling, above caring about anything?” And so, he went to challenge her. So, this is the exchange that follows: “He said, ‘Where do you travel?’ And she, ‘To God.’ He asked her, ‘Are you living or dead?’ She answered, ‘I believe in God that I am dead, for no one in the flesh makes that journey.’ He said, ‘So that you may, indeed, convince me you are dead, do what I do. Go out and show yourself. Disrobe yourself and place your clothing on your shoulders, and go through the middle of the city with me in the lead in this way.’” In other words, let’s both strip and go naked through the middle of town. “She said to him, ‘I would scandalize many doing such an indecent thing, and they would have to say: that one is insane and demon-ridden.’ He told her, ‘And so far as you are concerned, what does it matter that they say you are insane and demon-ridden?’ Then she told him, ‘If you wish anything else, I will do it, but I do not boast that I have come to this point.’ Then he told her, ‘See now, do not consider yourself more pious than the others, or dead to the world. For I am more dead in that sense than you are. In fact, I will show you that I am dead to the world, for I will do this without shame and without feeling.’ Thus, he left her humbled and broke her pride. There are many other wonders which he did, also, proving his perfect self-control.” [00:14:22]

Now, we’re moving, when we discuss such men, into a...[edit]

Now, we’re moving, when we discuss such men, into a world not like anything we recognize as Christian; in fact, closer to the modern hippie, very definitely closer, because the modern hippie in a sense is following the same kind of ideal. Remember that he was preceded by the beatnik. The beatnik got his name from “beat”—the Italian for “beatitude”: we are perfect, saintly, holy. They were the new saints of the modern age. They didn’t care about material things. And this is why the beats and, after them, the hippies let their hair go; they become dirty and filthy, totally careless about their appearance; in fact, they feel happier in old, ragged, dirty clothing, because they’re holy—they’re above material things—and they despise their parents and all the squares, because there is no spirituality in them; they’re out grubbing for money, which proves they’re such terrible people.

Now, this kind of asceticism, which crept into the church (and I have given you examples of it), we had in its worse form in Greco-Roman culture. And, of course, you find great extremes of this in India. But the examples I have given are really pale, compared to what was commonplace in the world of antiquity. If you travel to India today, you will see far, far more extravagant things than anything I have cited. The origin of this is pagan. All of this came into Christianity through neo-platonism; and neo-platonism was not without its influence from India. Now, what was the background of this kind of thinking? It was grounded in the dialectical nature of Greek philosophy and Greek religion, Greek thinking. [00:17:10]

Now, what is dialecticism? We hear a great deal of...[edit]

Now, what is dialecticism? We hear a great deal of dialecticism today, because the church by and large today is taken over by dialectical theology. The modern world is dialectical in its thinking; and we’ll come in our last lecture to the dialecticism and the neo-platonism in Marxism and other modern philosophies—just what it means in those philosophies. Now, dialectical philosophy is any philosophy which tries to hold two things which are mutually exclusive, at war with each other, alien to each other, so that they should not go together; and yet, they feel they have to hold them, somehow, together, because otherwise they would be denying the reality of an aspect of life. For Greek philosophy and thought, as well as for Hindu philosophy and thought, mind and body, spirit and matter are two different substances, entirely different substances; substances that have nothing really in common. Somehow, they’ve been brought together by evolution or chaos; so that we are both spirit, or mind, and body. But the two are against each other. They are at war with each other. Doesn’t this sound familiar? And, therefore, sooner or later one or the other has to give way; and, of course, the higher is mind or spirit: it is eternal, according to Greek thought; whereas, matter is mortal and perishes. The principle of evil is matter; and the principle of good is spirit. So, man is an unhappy union of good and evil—the good being his mind, his reason, his spirit; and the bad being his body, his flesh, matter; for man is half holy and half evil. [00:20:13]

Then, how do you become holy? Well, you live the life...[edit]

Then, how do you become holy? Well, you live the life of the mind; you pay no attention to the life of the matter. You can do this two ways—and in India, you have the two ways of holiness: you can do it by having nothing to do with the body, as it were, and trying to destroy the body. And you have in India the ascetics, who do everything to torture the body, to suppress it, to destroy it. Then, you have also in India others who are trying to accomplish the same goal of holiness by saying, “Since the body is nothing, I will abuse it through anal sexuality; I’ll treat it as nothing.” Now, you have this type of thinking among your hippies today, because, as existentialists, they are neo-platonic. In other words, the whole neo-platonic view of man is schizophrenic: man is made up of two alien substances. One is the uncreated mind, matter, or reason, which is ultimately going to be reabsorbed into the universal mind. Now, what does that sound like? Christian Scientist, Mary Baker Eddy; and she was neo-platonic to the core. It was pure neo-platonist. And the other is matter, which is bad, it’s evil; and some would say—good neo-platonists—it’s an illusion. So you forget about it. You try to get rid of it. [00:22:05]

Now, in terms of the Bible, you do not have anything...[edit]

Now, in terms of the Bible, you do not have anything of a dialectical perspective. Body and soul are, alike, created by God; created very good, the Bible tells us. Man as a unity fell into sin. The doctrine of total depravity says that the whole man sinned, body and soul. The whole man is redeemed by Christ. And we cannot say, “Well, yes, there’s still sin in me, because I’m not perfectly satisfied. It’s in my body, but my mind is pure.” That’s rubbish. That’s neo-platonism. If your body sins, it’s because your mind is leading it there. You are a unity in the Bible, you see. In the Bible the problem is not the body. It is not matter. It is sin. This is the problem. In the Bible, the Savior is not mind or spirit or soul. It is Jesus Christ. But in neo-platonism, it is mind or reason or soul that saves man from evil matter. [00:23:42]

Plotinus, one of the greatest philosophers of neo-platonism...[edit]

Plotinus, one of the greatest philosophers of neo-platonism, who, together with Plato, can be considered the two great minds of this movement, said he was ashamed to have a body. He was a pagan philosopher. This is the essence of neo-platonism. As a result, the goal of all such people is to escape from the body, to regard the body as man’s problem and enemy. The pagan mystics, the pagan saints and ascetics, and I quote, “prayed to be delivered from the flesh, rather than from sin.” The body was a prison, or a tomb, dissociation from which was the soul’s one hope. You see, salvation was to get rid of the body, to control it; finally to be separated from it: that was salvation, not Christ redeeming us from sin. Salvation, therefore, meant relief, if possible, from suffering in this present life; and relief from the shame and limitation of the body in the life to come. [00:25:28]

You can see why, when St...[edit]

You can see why, when St. Paul began to talk to the Greeks in Athens about the resurrection of the body, they turned and walked away; and about a Savior Who would come as their judge: Oh, no, this is impossible. Why, man’s savior is his mind or spirit or reason, to save him from this world of matter, including his own body. And as a result, the resurrection of the body was a very painful thing for these pagans, who became pseudo-Christians, to deal with. They didn’t like it. They tried to get rid of it and to say, “Well, we believe in the immortality of the soul.” And, of course, in the modernist churches today, they don’t talk about the resurrection of the body; they will talk about the immortality of the soul. And, of course, at the same time, they will not talk about Christ as man’s only Savior. No. The mind of man, applied reason, working through the state, and social action is going to save the world—man’s mind, mind/spirit, as against the body. [00:27:01]

Moreover, conversion meant the soul turning to seek...[edit]

Moreover, conversion meant the soul turning to seek higher, nobler, spiritual goals, as against material ones. Then, too, some of the neo-platonists have held that the one emotion or feeling that can be tolerated—you should be passionless, basically—but the one tolerable emotion, which is a spiritual emotion, is love. So, if you’re going to be spiritual, you love. But if you get angry and you say you hate communism; then, you hate hoodlums and murderers—oh, you’re material, you’re fleshly; and therefore, you are not holy. This has been a common strain in many varieties of neo-platonism. The neo-platonists throughout the centuries have attacked Christianity, because of what they call its downward movement, instead of its upward movement. The upward movement is, a la Mary Baker Eddy, everyone being mind or spirit, forgetting the world of matter, and trying to rise higher and be reunited with divine mind. But the Bible talks, instead of any upward movement—there’s none of this, none of this in the Bible—it talks, instead, about a downward movement: The Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us; the Incarnation. And then Christ saying when he washed his disciples’ feet that you are to be servants of men; go down amongst men; work with them. You’re not to rise upward to try to escape the world and from problems. [00:29:24]

This is why I had a very famous sermon, which I’ve...[edit]

This is why I had a very famous sermon, which I’ve referred to a time or two in the past six years in speaking to you: Martin Luther, in talking about the Virgin Mary, when the angel came to her and told her she should conceive and bear the only begotten Son of God. Martin Luther said, “And what did she do—retire under a convent, and seek in prayer and meditation to rise above this material world? No, she went on sleeping on the floor, slopping the hogs, and doing all the work that a good girl would do around her father’s home.” Now, this is the emphasis; it is on the downward aspect. You are saved? All right, you get down to the nitty gritty level of human responsibility, and you’d do your work.

Moreover, if and when neo-platonists have believed in prayer—because if it’s a divine mind that is not really personal or conscious, how’s He going to hear you; but to the extent that they believe in prayer—when they pray, their prayer should be, they hold, a meditation on higher things. And prayer should be very spiritual. And as a result, they have through the centuries been very, very critical of Christianity. “Why, these Christians are so materialistic. They pray—why in the Lord’s Prayer, there’s a prayer, ‘for give us this day our daily bread.’ How crude can you get? And look at these Christians who are praying about very material things. They want to get well, to be healed. They want a better job. They want to prosper in this or that thing, and they actually pray about these things—how shocking!” Now, that’s the neo-platonists’ attitude. [00:31:58]

And, of course, you can see the influence of this in...[edit]

And, of course, you can see the influence of this in many areas in the church. In many churches, the people who claim to be super holy are the ones who have a sanctimonious, smug way about them; and who are above being concerned about spiritual things. And their idea of being a Christian is that they can really pray by the yard. And if you’ve ever had the misfortune to go to a prayer meeting where some of these so-called saints hold forth, they can take over for 20 and 30 minutes, and say nothing, except to be very spiritual and prove how holy they are, you see. Their prayers never got down to the needs of Christ’s people. All it’s done is to do what the Pharisees did: exalt themselves spiritually. The goal of neo-platonism is to rise upward above the material things, and to be spiritual; and ultimately to be one with God, to become divine, to merge in the divine mind; and, meanwhile, to be so spiritual in this world before you merge with God that you are actually a rival to God: you’re holier than God, in effect. [00:33:39]

If you think this is an overstatement, let me quote...[edit]

If you think this is an overstatement, let me quote to you what Ficino a few centuries ago said. After going on along this vein about how the soul should rise above all these things, then he concluded: “If one with all this before his eyes will not admit that the human soul is a rival of God, he is undoubtedly out of his mind.”—very baldly, in other words, saying this is the goal: “We’re going to rival God; we’re going to be holier than God.” Now the implications of this were very, very plainly pointed out by Anders Nygren in commenting on Ficino’s position, and those of other neo-platonists, like Ficino, and I quote, “Since man is fundamentally a divine being, he cannot bear to see in God any perfection and power which he does not himself possess. He is inflamed with desire to vie with God. So Nietzsche was not the first to think, ‘If there were gods, how could I endure not to be a god.’ What is new in this idea is the hypothetical beginning, and the negative conclusion: ‘Thus, there are no gods.’ It is not a far cry from Ficino to Nietzsche, who replaces God with a Superman, and to Feuerbach, who conceives God as the projection of man’s wish-fantasy.” In other words, what Nygren is pointing out, the neo-platonist says he is divine; he ends up by seeking to rival God; and finally, he proclaims the death of God, and that he is God. And this is precisely what happened. [00:36:10]

Neo-platonism infected the life and thought of the...[edit]

Neo-platonism infected the life and thought of the early church, and of all Europe. It saw man in schizophrenic terms. It saw the problem, not as sin, but as matter. In other words, it reversed the problem. It is the heart of man—of the whole man, body and soul—which is the source of sin. Sin comes out of the whole being of man. It is a willful act of the whole man. Neo-platonism says the mind is pure, but it’s just the flesh which is a problem to this pure mind that gets out of hand; and this pure mind has to try to bring it back into line periodically. In other words, the whole issue is reversed. Salvation is made separation from the flesh, not the atoning work of Jesus Christ. The effect of neo-platonism, thus, is very deadly. It is very extensive. We shall be tracing it’s influence in our succeeding meetings. But neo-platonism has saturated the church with a false doctrine; and where it gets a foothold, ultimately, it ousts truly biblical faith, because if one does see the flesh matter as the problem, Christ, as Savior, is ultimately excluded, because then the savior is the mind of man. Then you have humanism as your gospel; and you have man and the reason of man, man the planner, as the savior, and somehow able ultimately to transcend the body. [00:38:42]

It is interesting that Kenneth [sounds...[edit]

It is interesting that Kenneth [sounds/like] Furer, a British astrophysicist, has said that someday science will actually enable man to get rid of the body; and then man will be able to travel throughout the universe without any problem of a body that needs repairing, and a body that dies. In other words, he fails to see that the real problem of man is not the body. It is the heart of man, the whole man; man the sinner. This is why the hand of neo-platonism is raised against the gospel, because, as against neo-platonism with its pride and the pride of man as pure and all wise, the gospel points the finger at the whole man and says, “Thou art the man, the sinner. Thou art the rebel against God. Sin is in you, all of you. And the only Savior is Jesus Christ and his atoning blood.”

Let us pray. Almighty God, our heavenly Father, we thank Thee for Thy Word, and for plain speaking. Thy Word is truth, and Thy Word is the only corrective against the powers of darkness and the evil philosophies which flood our world today. Enable us so to understand Thy Word and to apply it day by day that we may grow in grace and in knowledge of Thee, and by Thy Spirit flourish in Thy service. In Jesus’ name. Amen. [00:40:52]

Are there any questions now on our lesson? Yes?...[edit]

Are there any questions now on our lesson? Yes?

[Questioner] Yes … I don’t know exactly how to word it, but I wanted to ask you about fasting, because it’s difficult to fast at certain times; and is it mixed up with this neo-platonism, somehow, on the fasting by overdoing a good thing? {unclear}

[Rushdoony] Yes. Now, fasting in the Bible was required one day a year on the Day of Atonement. That’s all. And then, it was only until sundown. In other words, you started on the night before at sundown, and you continued to sundown of the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. There were other fasts on special occasions—say, a day of national prayer, or a call for a special purpose—so there could be fasts at different times. The purpose of the fasting was to stop the ordinary everyday workings, both work and eating, in order to have a season of prayer, of study, of earnest supplication to God for some particular cause. It is thoroughly godly. It is also a good thing for the body when it is properly done, because fasting enables the body to throw off certain wastes, which, otherwise, the body doesn’t have an opportunity to do. [00:42:33]

[Questioner] {unclear} –

[Rushdoony] Yes.

[Questioner] – in the New Testament, though, our Lord fasted in the Garden of Gethsemane –

[Rushdoony] No, He fasted in the wilderness. Yes, in the wilderness.

[Questioner] – oh yes, for 40 days; and for your Lenten prayers and supplications, and so forth. But, and I think that’s been sort of destroyed and damaged in some of the {unclear} Protestant churches, you know … They lean too far in the other direction. They protest too much {unclean} somebody.

[Rushdoony] Yes. Now, for Lent there is no authority in scripture for us. It can be something with a purpose, none the same. Fasting has dropped out of Protestantism; and it’s dropping out entirely from Catholicism now, too; and it’s too bad, because in its proper place, it has a function. It has been very much overdone in the past, just as now, forgetting about it is very much overdone, too.


[Questioner] Also, if it’s done secretly, {unclear}

[Rushdoony] Exactly. The physical fasting has nothing to do with the neo-platonic fasting. And, for example, the Day of Atonement, which was a fast day, ended with a banquet. So, it wasn’t because you were to deny the body. That wasn’t the purpose of it. [00:44:09]

[Questioner] So what ...[edit]

[Questioner] So what {unclear}

[Rushdoony] That’s right. It was not to be regarded as a work to commend yourself in the sight of God.


[Questioner] Do you have a favorite book in the Bible?

[Rushdoony] Um, hard to say where, now; all of it. Sometimes I’ll concentrate on one, more than another, but I try to read systematically through; and that’s the best way.


[Questioner] I have an article I’ve had from some years ago explaining dialectical materialism; and as I recall (it’s been some time since I looked at it), it was speaking of dialectical materialism, or rather dialectic thesis, antithesis, and synthesis; and this is a recycling process, is that correct?

[Rushdoony] Yes. However, the synthesis they have in mind is not entirely a synthesis. It’s something that transcends and becomes a spiritual order, you see. I’ll hold off on that until we get to Marxism and its neo-platonism, because I’ll get ahead of myself, if I go further into that. [00:45:44]

[Questioner] Could you repeat the ...[edit]

[Questioner] Could you repeat the {unclear} the verse that he used?

[Rushdoony] Yes. Marxism has, of course … Well, Hegelianism has thesis, antithesis, and synthesis, so that it has the sense of a dialectical conflict, which his somehow resolved. But the resolution, of course, is not a resolution in terms of anything except dialectics. But, as I say, that will get us ahead of ourselves, if we go further into that.


[Questioner] In reading the Bible, you speak of a systematic way of doing it {unclear}.

[Rushdoony] Yes. One of the weaknesses of many Christians, and especially of the clergy, is that they tend to say, “Well, I like the Gospel of John, or I like St. Luke’s gospel; and they will concentrate on that in their preaching and their reading. And they end up with a distorted ministry, because they are not taking the whole Word of God, but just a small portion of it. And, as a result, they forget so much else that the Bible teaches. Now, a systematic study means beginning with Genesis and reading right through regularly. This is the best way to do it. This way, even if you may not understand the great portions of it, you are exposing yourself to the whole Bible, and the whole impact of it on your mind and spirit. Now, in the course of that, what you can do, also, is to read certain sections more frequently. While you’re going through the whole Bible, say, chapter by chapter, you can also read at the table or in your evening devotion, some section that lends itself to your attention. For example, very frankly, I tend to read the Psalms much more heavily than almost anything else; and I’m beginning at the beginning of a psalm, and reading right through continually; and I’ll tend to do that with Proverbs, too, because I really enjoy them. They tickle me. They’re so telling in describing so many things that are commonplace in our experience. So, it’s very easy to start some of these books with a very simple reading, and read them by the way. But, a systematic reading is essential. [00:48:48]


[Questioner] That brings to mind the expression, systematic theology {unclear}

[Rushdoony] Yes. Systematic theology is something that is not taught in most seminaries and schools today. In fact, one seminary, where they have a chair in systematic theology, when the professor of systematics was inaugurated into the chair, he made a point of saying he denied systematics. Now, what systematic theology means is this: theology literally is theos—God; logos—Word; the Word of God; the Word about God. And systematic theology means that there is a coherent, systematic knowledge and truth about God, because God is sovereign and omnipotent. If a person is insane, his actions will be often unpredictable, will they not; so that you cannot say there’s something systematic and disciplined about this person, because they’re unpredictable. But the more rational and the more sane we are, the more dependable we are; the more stable and set we are in our ways. We can be depended on. Now what systematic theology means is this: that God—being omnipotent, sovereign, all-wise, all-knowing—everything He is and does is absolutely dependable, so that you can know from the Word of God that this is what God is; and that God is always true to Himself. [00:50:55]

Now, to make this a little clearer, you can say, for...[edit]

Now, to make this a little clearer, you can say, for example, about such and such a woman, that she is a thoroughly godly woman; I’m sure she would never commit adultery. And you can be almost positive that that’s true about that person, because she is a godly woman. She is trustworthy in her character. And yet, you’d have to say, of course, she is a human. She’s not perfect in this light. So, you’d have to say, while it’s a remote possibility, a one-in-a-million chance, you couldn’t say of any human being it’s impossible for her to commit adultery. You understand that point. I don’t believe she ever will, but I cannot say it’s impossible for her to ever do it. Now, for God, what you have to say: because God is God, this and that is not only certain about him, but it is impossible for it to be otherwise. Therefore, our knowledge about God can be systematic. It’s sure. It’s absolutely trustworthy. This is why, of course, they deny systematic theology now, because they don’t believe in an infallible Word or a sovereign God. And if you have (which is the best some of these preachers have today) a limited god who’s struggling, trying to find himself in the universe; and it's a problem – he’s trying to get ahead, just like we’re trying to get ahead – you can’t have a systematic theology; because while he may be trying to do the right thing, it’s not absolutely sure that he’s going to. [00:53:02]


[Questioner] The word “fundamental”, too … a lot of them may look down upon it now. What’s happened there with their thinking?

[Rushdoony] Yes. The word “fundamental” came from a series of essays that were written, oh, about 1890 or 1891, by a group of very fine Christians. And what they did was to challenge Darwinism, to challenge atheism, to challenge every aberration from scripture and from scriptural thinking. And from that movement came the churches and the groups that are called “fundamentalists.” Now, what has happened since World War II, and this is why the word “fundamentalist” is beginning to lose its character, is that a very large segment of fundamentalism—in fact, you might say the overwhelming portion of it—has become neo-evangelical. In other words, it’s become soft on the fundamentals. It has become soft in its attitude towards the social gospel, for example; and a lot of fundamentalist preachers will be semi-socialistic, and so on. But, most of all, it has opened the door to existentialist philosophy. And it says, “Well, we can both be strong on the fundamentals, and we can also have an open mind about these new insolences.” And this is what’s happened to fundamentalism. So, this is why the word has lost a great deal of its meaning, because the people who are claiming it today in the majority of cases—but definitely not all—have gone sadly astray. [00:55:10]


[Questioner] Who are the mentors of new world evangelicalism? Is it primarily Bartians?

[Rushdoony] It is semi-existential and semi-Bartian. Some of the leading mentors and thinkers of this neo-evangelicalism are Dr. Ockenga, Carl Henry, um, Vernon Grounds, who has been for a generation one of the biggest fundamentalist leaders, and now he has a book out entitled Revolution and Christian Faith, which is pro-revolution; ah, quite a number of others; um, oh, Bernard Ramm over here; and of course, Fuller Seminary was neo-evangelical, and now it’s becoming more and more Bartian, really.

[Questioner] {unclear}.

[Rushdoony] Yes?

[Questioner] What is the best modern bible commentary? I {unclear}.

[Rushdoony] Yes. For a good commentary, which I understand may be out in three volumes soon through the Religious Discount House for $15 to $20 (it’s out now in an eight-volume set), C. J. Ellicott – Commentary on the Whole Bible. Now, I wouldn’t agree with everything in there; and a few of the writers are a little shady and fuzzy at some points, but by and large, it’s a great work done by a group of Anglican bishops and scholars the latter part of the last century. It is really a gem, on the whole. Then, there is another modern commentary, if you want a one-volume one. It’s rather limited, but sometimes it’s helpful. It is The New Bible Commentary by, let me see, Davidson, Kevan, and Stibbs—three English scholars, again. The New Bible Commentary, by Davidson, Kevan, and Stibbs. And this, too, I’m sure you can get it through the Discount House. These are the best of the modern, briefer commentaries. [00:58:01]


[Questioner] Dr. Rushdoony, I’m following the explanation about affecting the whole man. But what is the attitude we’re supposed to take toward the body. Maybe I missed it, but what is it?

[Rushdoony] Oh, the attitude towards the body is that it is God’s creation, and –

[Questioner] Yes, I understand that; but the treatment of the body.

[Rushdoony] The body is to be treated with respect. And this is why, among Christians, immediately, the burial of the dead and respect for the body of the dead, as well as for the living, came in. Now, the kind of thing I’ve been describing has been the far-out characters within the church. You always had a main stream that regarded the body very, very respectfully; and they thought that it was a sin to abuse God’s creation. So that the body was to be used as a gift of God, even as the mind was to be used as a gift of God, and under God.

[Questioner] I’m thinking particularly of the care of the body in day-to-day living {unclear} there are all kinds of Christians: you’ve got those that don’t think anything of it; some of them are concerned about it; some of them are on health food, and just like anybody else, some of them aren’t; but generally, what is the attitude there?

[Rushdoony] The attitude towards the body and towards the care of the body is to be a respectful one. The body is not to be abused through bad eating or bad health habits. Neither is the body to be glorified, as though the body were everything. The body is God’s creation and to be used for His service and glory, just as our mind is God’s creation, and to be used for his purpose and glory. [00:00:10]


[Questioner] Where does this come in? Doesn’t it say, “Take no thought of what you should eat or what you should drink”? How does that …?

[Rushdoony] Yes. “Take no thought” there means don’t be anxious, don’t be fretful. In other words … but it does not mean don’t work or don’t be prudent, but don’t be a worrywart about these things. Ah, yes. “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” In other words, don’t be borrowing trouble and saying, “Well, this and that thing may happen next week or the week after.” Do your duty today. Take the reasonable precautions about the future, and leave the rest in the hand of God.


[Questioner] Is the body to be respected after death?

[Rushdoony] Yes.

[Questioner] Isn’t cremation {unclear}?

[Rushdoony] Well, I wouldn’t say it’s against it, but what definitely did happen with the coming of Christianity was that care was taken for the body; and there were cemeteries and respect for the dead in a way that didn’t exist before. Now, this doesn’t mean that cremation is banned, but it does mean that, definitely, the Christian does not feel that the body is something to get rid of or something to ashamed of, and the sooner you forget about it, the better.


[Questioner] What about willing your body to science, too?

[Rushdoony] Yes. That, ah –

[Questioner] The body … it isn’t your body; it belongs to the heirs.

[Rushdoony] Yes, very good. And to the Lord, also.

[Questioner] Well, that’s what I mean; but it’s their responsibility to handle it regarding this.

[Rushdoony] Yes.


Any other questions? Yes? ...[edit]

Any other questions? Yes? [01:02:41]

[Questioner] Would this be an incident of sin, that...[edit]

[Questioner] Would this be an incident of sin, that you should not donate a kidney or a cornea to someone else that had {unclear}, or permit them to have a continual sin life?

[Rushdoony] No, I wouldn’t say that. But the very casual treatment of the body, as though it’s nothing – let the lab take it, you know. Well, let’s put it this way: it’s one thing for a medical student to have a cadaver to work on; but it’s another thing, just any student who’s taking physiology, to have them available; which is increasingly the case in some of our institutions. And I would say that goes for a lot of the dissections on frogs and other animals. I think it’s really reached the point of being sinful, because students are put through a lab course where they dissect bodies endlessly, who have no intention of ever going into medicine. It’s a waste of time. When I think of all the (when I took college biology) all the animals I had to dissect, and I could have learned everything from a textbook. But I put in five hours a week in the lab in dissection, because that was what they thought in that particular course was necessary. And they’d haul in all kinds of animals by the cases that somebody was going out and trapping; and I think that is sinful. I didn’t enjoy it at the time; and since then, I’ve come to the conclusion it was really sinful. [01:04:30]


[Questioner] {unclear} now am I long-winded, but I also said, “Let the dead bury the dead.” And how is that {unclear}.

[Rushdoony] Yes. Ah, in that case, the person in question was not ready to follow Christ, and was using an excuse that his father had died. And so what our Lord said, “Let the dead bury the dead; let those who have no purpose, no meaning in life – just spent all of their time on the trifles of life, as compared to following Me.” So He wasn’t saying that it’s wrong to bury your father. ”If you’re using this as an excuse to evade your responsibility, so it’s the dead—the living dead, the spiritually dead—who are going to fill up their life with this type of thing, as against their higher duty.”


[Questioner] How is an autopsy –

[Rushdoony] I can’t quite hear you?

[Questioner] – an autopsy. How is that considered? Would that be proper under proper supervision?

[Rushdoony] Oh, yes. Surely. There’s nothing wrong with that. And, of course, be sure it is proper supervision, because you’d be surprised, in some cases today, autopsies are performed by those who are not qualified by the proper authorities. There are some university hospitals that are not recognized by the Association of Official … ah, what’s the name for …

[Questioner] {unclear} medical health.

[Rushdoony] … the ones who licensed; those who …

[Questioners] The coroners {unclear}

[Rushdoony] I guess so. And, uh, because some of these university hospitals are just given to playing games with bodies. [01:06:42]

[Questioner] Wouldn’t the county health commissioner...[edit]

[Questioner] Wouldn’t the county health commissioner be the person who authorizes {unclear}