The Interpretation of History - II - RR144T35

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Professor: Rushdoony, Dr. R. J.
Title: 35. The Intepretation of History, II
Course: Course - American History to 1865
Subject: Subject:History
Lesson#: 35
Length: 0:38:34
TapeCode: RR144T35
Audio: Chalcedon Archive
Transcript: .docx Format
American History to 1865(13).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.

How shall we view history then? We cannot view it existentially or in terms of liberal humanism, or accidental determination, or in terms of evil determination. We must see history as an act of God. All things are Gods creation, and even history is his sovereign act.

Luther at a critical point in his career and I quote: “God alone is in his business. We are seized so that I see that we are acted upon, rather than act.” Unquote. Man is the instrument of god. We are not only God’s creatures, made by him, but we are his instruments by whom he works, by whom he accomplishes his purpose. Because man is the instrument of God, man can never be passive. This is why predestination never leads to a passive view, determinism does.

Determinism does not see man as an instrument; it just sees a blind, materialistic determination of all things. But in the Christian perspective, man is the instrument of God. Never a spectator, never passive, he is acted upon to act. He is an instrument, and an instrument is always held in the hand of the user and used. Therefore, because man is Gods instrument, man’s operation in history and his activity in history is never futile. This is one reason why whenever there is a strong Calvinistic faith or a strong Augustinian faith, in brief a strong Biblical faith, a faith in God as Sovereign and Lord, there is no pessimism with regard to history. There is then instead an incurable confidence. [00:02:56]

Saint Paul laid the ground work for this...[edit]

Saint Paul laid the ground work for this. He declared in this last verse of first Corinthians 15, that: “Because of these things that I have told you, you know that your labor is not in vain, in the Lord.” That everything you do counts. Whereas for the Liberal and for the Arminian who is essentially a liberal and will ultimately become one if he follows the implications of his thought. Everything depends on man, there is a frenzied kind of activity, but there is also a note of hopelessness and despair. Because all he does can be futile. All he does is ultimately futile because it is done against the background of the universe that is essentially futile.

I may have mentioned to some of you that when I was at one University campus I was on a platform with one of the most distinguished political scientists in the United States, distinguished in the eyes of his colleagues, teaching at a very prominent and powerful graduate school.

Our discussion became quite philosophical, and I asserted, categorically that the universe is one of total meaning. Total meaning. That as a theist who held to the absolute sovereignty of God, I had to hold that History was a domain of total meaning, so that there was not a single face, a single event in the universe devoid of a meaning; that while we may not know that meaning and usually don’t because of the limitations of our knowledge, the Universe is one of total meaning.

He was very upset with that point of view. I held it against the perspective of men such as himself who insisted that there was a meaningless universe around us. And so I said: “If the Universe is meaningless, then all that we are and all that we do is meaningless, because we are in terms of your theory, in terms of your evolutionary presupposition, a product of this meaninglessness. Therefore you either assert this total meaning, or you assert meaninglessness." His answer was: “Indeed the universe is a vast mass of undifferentiated matter, a vast mass, an ocean of meaninglessness.” But, he said: “On top of this vast mass of meaninglessness, there is a thing razor edge of meaning.” Why? If we fail to posit this thin edge of meaning, then we reduce our world and our scholarship to meaninglessness also. [00:07:06]

Now, as I pointed out to him, what he was saying was...[edit]

Now, as I pointed out to him, what he was saying was that he put himself out of a job. There was no meaning in the world if his basic presupposition were true, there would be no meaning in his scholarship, there would be no point to all that he was doing. But he had to retain that thin edge of meaning, and it was very clear that that thin edge of meaning could be summed up in himself, and his fellow colleagues, his associates in the liberal fraternity of course. And this is why they have a basic elitism.

Such a point of view of course is ridiculous, it is contradictory. It doesn’t rest on any factuality, but on a religious presupposition, a presupposition of total meaninglessness combined with a faith that whatever Gods may be in the Universe, we are they. For us however, there is no futility in the Universe. Saint Paul again, stated this: “We Know that all things work together for good, for them who are the called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28.

An assertion of total meaning, not only an assertion of total meaning but it tells us that if we are a part of Gods covenant people, we have moved out of this world of meaninglessness in which men religiously trap themselves, into the world of Gods total meaning. And in terms of that total meaning we cannot lose, because all things having their origin in God are totally determined by God; they move totally towards Gods purpose. And we have the privilege of seeing all things work together for good for us, in time and in eternity where we see the fullness of it. [00:09:37]

However, if anyone denies that faith, if they affirm...[edit]

However, if anyone denies that faith, if they affirm an ultimate meaninglessness, they must say that instead of all things worked together for good, they cannot say that all things even work together. They cannot affirm that all things are good or evil because there is no possibility of differentiation, and the whole universe is one of undifferentiated factuality. There is then no way of saying there is a difference between a cat and a dog, except a very arbitrary one.

There is then no way of accounting for anything. Thus, we must hold that history is primarily the act of God. Then, that man is the instrument of Godin his activity, not the only instrument but very definitely, Gods instrument. However we must state further that the limitations of man are not the limitations of history, because history is primarily Gods activity. We can never reduce history to man’s capacities. We must never see it is merely man’s actions. If we limit it to man, to man’s possibilities, then we misread history.

One of my favorite illustrations of that some of you may be familiar with. A good many years ago I read Egon Fridell’s A Cultural History of the Modern Age, and in the third volume as he concludes writing in the 1920’s, he sums up quite remarkably the possibilities for the future. Now mind you, his writing in the 20’s when Hitler was a nobody, and people were sure the Bolsheviks would collapse any day. He said: “The future can be ruled by a revived Germany.” And he felt that such a thing was fraught with danger as to what could develop, and would be a disaster for the world. Second, the world could be ruled by an all powerful Bolshevism, and again this spelled disaster. Third, the world could be ruled by a Materialistic American Imperialism, and the power of the dollar. And again he felt that this would be a disaster. I forget the fourth and fifth possibilities, but one of them I think was a break down internationally into anarchy. When he concluded these 5 points which he said humanly speaking were the possibilities for the future, he then added, “But I do not expect any of these to become ultimately the dominant and powerful factor. Because history is more than man, and there is something beyond history that governs history.”

It’s not surprising of course, that if you read historical journals on the rare occasions when they refer to Egon Fridell, they ridicule him as a romantic. Why? Because he believed that there was more to history than man. And as a result he was no historian. He was ruled out of court.

But history cannot be limited to man, the limitations of man are not the limitations of history, because history is primarily Gods activity. And man indeed is very often very limited in his perspective. This past week I have been reading a very moving and powerful book which Dave gave me, The Pastor’s Wife by Sabrina Wurmbrand. In a sense it has some relevancy to our discussion yesterday about individualism, in that because in Romania the same individualism did not exist that existed in other parts of the world, there was a greater community spirit and a possibility of greater resistance, coming together with a greater ability to trust each other to organize underground activities against the communist regime in Romania. But also, because we have to see both sides, the fact that individualism had not progressed to the same degree there was also one of the marks of their backwardness. So you see each position has its liabilities and its penalties. [00:15:35]

And Romania was backward as compared to the rest of...[edit]

And Romania was backward as compared to the rest of the western world.

But some of the limitations of man as we meet them in history come out clearly as Mrs Wurmbrand in Hospital in a prison camp describes how even in prison camps people continue in their blindness. The horrors, the tortures, the depravity she describes are appalling, and yet in the midst of that, this kind of foolishness: “Cernavoda, (This prison) was full of famous names. A breezy society column could’ve been composed about their doings, in the third person perhaps. Cuing for toilet bucket this morning, bystanders noted Countess X chatting with former lady in waiting Baroness Y. Over the latest kitchen rumor that all grades of socially opprobrious personalities are to be opened and gold and jewelry to be removed for the benefit of the state. What strange meetings we saw. One working party consisted of fascist women, their chief was Mrs Kodrano, wife of the iron guard leader, who had helped to push Romania into alliance with Nazis. He had boasted in a book that he had never shaken hands with a Jew, or entered a Jewish shop. Now Mrs. Kodrano slaved for the Communists alongside Jewish Women, but the prejudice was unchanged. “That criminal Churchill” she raged. “A Zionist, a Jewish stooge. And Roosevelt, surely a Jew himself, it’s because of them we’re here today.” The guards were ruthless to these women. Fellow prisoners attacked them, but they had courage. Because I tried,” (And this was Wurmbrand, a Christian Jew) “To show them understanding and love. One of them approached me. “My friends and I have decided, when all of Romania’s Jews are wiped out dear, you and your family will be spared.” She was surprised that I did not receive the news with enthusiasm. Wives of other politicians, politicians who were communist, politicians who had been royalist, they were all there together. In fact if you waited long enough, if your term was long enough, you would see the person who had sentenced you, both husband and wife pointed this out. The Communists kept throwing each other into prison. Wives of other politicians and women who had been involved in politics themselves held long discussions on how the world should be run. On said to me: “I’ve been awake all night thinking out a plan for the future, do you want to hear it?” I was not given any alternative. “First, there must be a complete military reform. All the uniforms must be royal blue with big (shockos?)” I said: “Thank you very much, there’s no need to develop the plan further. If all the uniforms are Royal Blue, that will be, just enough.” [00:19:36]

Now of course that episode reveals how blind man is...[edit]

Now of course that episode reveals how blind man is, and how limited without faith. This is why we must say that history is not limited to what man does, whether man is with or without faith. As we look at history we must realize the providential element. Something that has completely dropped out of our history now, which was once very common place was to list the providential acts whereby the establishment of this country was possible, and its victory was possible, in the War of independence. That is never in history now. Because it would say there is a causality of the man.

New England when it was settled would’ve been wiped out within an hour or two, if an epidemic had not wiped out most of the Indians, the winter prior to the settling of New England. It’s the only reason why New England was successfully colonized. Washington at a critical point was saved by a storm which stopped the English. A like natural event prevented the British fleet from destroying the French forces and materials which came, and enabled Washington to win. We could not have won without the French. And it was something totally beyond man, that faith is possible.

Now it is possible to go through history over and over and over again to find such episodes. At key points in history. But these are the things which have been dropped out of history entirely. They smack of the miraculous, they have no place in modern historiography. And thus it is that our perspective on history limits history to man. It would be possible if a person took the time to go to the original sources and dig up some of the episodes, to write a history of how much history has been determined by what men would call today, “Natural Events.” Storms, a sudden illness, a sudden disaster, totally unexpected, whereby and army has been stopped in its tracks. History is determined by more than men.

There is some very interesting stories here, one of my favorites concerns Arius, and I have included it in the Foundations of Social Order. Perhaps you remember it because to me it’s one of the most dramatic, and there is a certain satisfaction in that story. Because Arius, the perverter of the faith who was professing a God who was totally unconscious, in other words it was a death of God theology, and a Christ who was not a savior nor very God of Very God, had through political influence gained his restoration and was going to come back and take over the great church in the Capitol. And this one old man, who was going to see his church taken over by this arch heretic, prayed all night long, virtually. Stretched out in the front of the Church. “Oh God, let not Arius come and take possession of thy temple. Strike him down, oh Lord I beseech thee. Turn his triumphal parade tomorrow into a disaster.” Well of course there was a triumphal parade with all the heretics out to cheer as Arius was being led to the Capitol, to take possession of the church, and the Emperors troops escorting him, really a tremendous victory celebration for the heretics. But at a key point, Arius felt an intense griping pain in his intestines and talked to one of the officers, and asked if there were a service station or a comfort station or something around, and there was a construction job nearby, and a little enclosure with an open hole there for toilet facilities, so he excused himself and went there. And suddenly had an attack, and fell headlong down into it and died.

Well, of course the triumphal parade turned into a disaster, and into a joke, and all the true believers rejoiced, and saw it as the hand of God. Now the episodes like that can be cited one after another, but you never hear them, you never hear them. And yet, how different history would have been in Arius could have gone there. His followers were so discomfited and shocked and disorganized by that unexpected event, that they couldn’t rally their forces and the Orthodox were able to capture the scene.

The limitations of man are not the limitations of history, because history is primarily Gods activity. But we must say that history has multiple causality. Multiple Causality. There is a very brilliant young scientist who is working on a Chalcedon study. He may be some years in writing it, it is a very difficult and rather involved thesis, but his point is that Scientist can no longer talk about causality. Why? Because the old, materialistic idea of causality was that here you have a cause, and here you have an effect. And he said, “This old materialistic idea of the older science is an impossibility, because you never have a one to one effect. That here is the effect, but there may be a hundred or ten thousand factors leading in to that effect.” [00:28:14]

“So that you cannot use the language of causality,...[edit]

“So that you cannot use the language of causality, although the idea of causality is inescapable. And the very fact of multiple causality, multiple total meaning, points all the more to God. Points to God more thoroughly than anything else could.” Now his thesis is a very, very telling and a very important one, I’ve given it very crudely because I don’t have his scientific knowledge and terminology, but at every point there is a vast complex of causes that come to bear on any effect. However what we must say is that we cannot reduce all these multiple causes to meaninglessness by saying: “Well, there are so many causes that there can be any one of these things, or a combination of any one of these things.” In other words, we can also lose ourselves in the multiplicity of causes, and fail to see that what these things point to is a world of total meaning. So that behind all these causes is a total unity. The very complexity of causes indicates that ultimately behind it all, there is a total meaning. It is not a one to one relationship, but it is a total relationship.

So, when we study history, yes indeed we can see in the events for example, leading let us say to the recognition of Peking recently, possibly a hundred and one causes that went into the determination to recognize Peking, and all of them important. In varying degrees. However we must see also behind all of that a basic purpose that will only unfold as God in his total purpose develops the meaning he has for us. The course of events he has determined. And so there is a unity as well as a totality of causality, and the basic determining factor is always God. [00:31:10]

Are there any questions now, with regard to anything...[edit]

Are there any questions now, with regard to anything we’ve said or have failed to say?

When you read history books of course, almost always you will be exposed to the liberal or the existentialist sometimes, view of history; and we have been so saturated with it that I felt tonight it was imperative for us to look at the interpretation of history so that we can be aware of the fact that we represent something totally different and alien, which while they will not recognize, is none the less going to be determinative of the future, since we are the people of God, and God is our absolute sovereign and Lord. It is Gods meaning and not mans that shall prevail.


[Audience Member] I was thinking of an example or for an example of the multiple terminology… geological records which are virtually as clear as photographs but they deny it because of their religion…. Multiple causalities… probabilistic determination of all reality…

[Rushdoony] Yes, the matter of Creationism vs Evolution. You see you have a totally different set of facts because of totally different faiths, and it’s just not the same body of facts. In fact, we must say that for some a fact is not fact if it does not fit in with their theory. I believe its Doctor Harold Slusher who found a few years ago a foot print of a dinosaur, in the mud and a human footprint superimposed upon it, and he got into trouble with that fact because it upset the professors and they refused to acknowledge its existence. When he called it to their attention they simply would not consider it. So it’s a non fact. It just simply does not exist, they will not give it any place in their theory.


[Audience Member] Van Til used to say: “What my net can’t catch isn’t fish”

[Rushdoony] Yes. There are many examples of this kind of thing, of course (Velkovsky?) you see, his books were persecuted, Macmillan I believe it was, started to publish his first book and was compelled to drop it by scientists, they were so outraged. It was so totally unscientific. Well on point after point (Velkovsky?) has been proven to be right. His predictions concerning what is now called the Van Allen Belt around the world, his predictions concerning the condition of Venus and so on have been so very accurate that is has been a source of embarrassment. So what are they doing? They haven’t changed their basic point of view, but they are making allowances so they can kind of scoop him into their picture, and put him on the shelf and forget about him. But they haven’t changed their basic point of view. Well, if there are no further questions… Yes.

[Audience Member] I wanted to make an announcement. I’d like to thank Rush for coming to California and spending two weeks with us, it’s been a wonderful time, our first visiting lecturer at Fairfax Christian College, I’d like to congratulate the students who all pulled through with A’s, in the course, and so we’d also like you who have been coming out to the lectures. Shall we close in prayer?

Gracious God, thou who art sovereign, who dost rule the affairs of men and of nations, who does raise up kings and who does put down kings, whose purposes are altogether good, we bow together to acknowledge thou art our God and we are thy people, and to thank thee for the great history of our country, how thou hast dealt with our ancestors, those who came to establish this great nation. Oh Lord we do thank thee for thy great blessings upon our native land. Both material and spiritual, and we pray thee that thou wouldst bless us as a people, enable us to work to see thy purpose carried out on this soil, that we might be a light to the world.

Our heavenly father we thank thee for this college that thou hast raised up for these students who have come to study, and we are grateful tonight for Mr. Rushdoony and his work, we pray that thou wouldst bless him and his family and the staff of Chalcedon, and that thou wouldst continue to use them for the great work of Christian Reconstruction in our time. We thank thee that thy providence we have a part with thee in this work. So we pray that thou wouldst bless our work as Christians. (In Jesus name, amen.) [00:38:23]