Christianity and Culture PAST - RR196A1
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|This transcript is unedited. It was:|
|Archived by the Mt. Olive Tape Library|
|Digitized, transcribed, and published by Christ Rules|
|Posted by permission of the Chalcedon Foundation|
[Introduction] Charles Spurgeon once said, in response to a question, of why he read so many Puritan commentaries and why did he not just allow the Holy Spirit to teach him what he ought to say on Sunday mornings? He responded this way; he was amazed about how much emphasis people put into what the Holy Spirit said to them and how little emphasis they put into what the Holy spirit said to anyone else. Those of you who are, members of Westminster Presbyterian Church, you have, uh; you hear me as pastor of this church preach week in and week out. But a great deal of the God trends and the truth that the lord and his infinite mercy and grace is taught me is that he has used Dr. Rushdoony as an instrument to get me to think biblically, to think consistently. Dr. Rushdoony really needs no introduction, I simply consider him the foremost Christian scholar of our generation. And it’s a joy, a privilege, and thrill to introduce to you, Doctor R. J. Rushdoony.
[Dr. Rushdoony] Some years ago Dr. Henry Van Til, the nephew of Dr. Cornelius Van Til wrote a book on Christianity and Culture, he pointed out that culture is religion externalized, culture is religion externalized. If you want know what the religion of a people is, look at the culture. That does not say too much for our country right now. Let us add a bit to Henry Van Til’s very telling point, no one has been able to successfully challenge it. Where is religion most externalized? In two areas; law and education. If you want to know what the religion of a country is, look at their law and look at their education. Well that clearly tells us that we are a humanistic country. Because our law today is humanistic to the core, our education, except in Christian and home-schools, is again, humanistic to the core. The temple, the synagogue, or the church, do not reveal the religion of a country as much as it’s law and education. If the people keep their faith bottled up in the church or the synagogue, or the temple, they have no impact culturally. They have surrendered the culture to the enemy. Now this year were are going to deal with Christianity and culture in the past in antiquity. The first thing we must recognize about the world of antiquity outside Israel is one key fact. The state was the church. There was no separation of church and state. The state was the church. The state was religion incarnate; either in the person or the ruler or the office, or the machinery of the state. The pagan state may have had temples. The common people used them, but the real high priest was the ruler. [00:05:22]
[Dr. Rushdoony] He was in varying degrees, god walking on earth or the state was. Whatever the religion of the country in antiquity, that religion was incarnate; it’s gods who are incarnate in that state. This means there was no such thing as separation of church and state. Just as in Islam today which exemplifies the old pagan order, there is no separation of church or state. And it used to be that all of Islam was united in the figure of, the kind of divine figure of the caliph. The caliph represented the authority of God on earth, and there was no questioning his will. This is essential for understand because as we move away from Christianity in our culture we are seeing the re-divinization of the state. Since Hagel’s day at the beginning of the last century, it has increasingly been an implicit aspect of political theory in the western world that the state is God walking on earth. The humanists do believe in an incarnation, the forces in history the Geist as Hagel said, the spirit working and evolving in history, regularly incarnates itself in the state; so the state is God walking on earth. Now this is paganism. The ruler was the high priest. And one of the most audacious things in the whole of the New Testament, that very few people appreciate today, was the statement by Saint Paul in 1 Timothy 2 verses 1 and 2. “I exhort therefore, that first, of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.”
Paul was totally subversive in that statement...
Paul was totally subversive in that statement. Prayer for the ruler? Why the ruler was the high priest and the future god. On his death he was proclaimed a god by the Roman Senate. During his life he could say, as one Emperor did, he felt himself becoming a god. If you’ve ever read, Suetonius; the Lives of the Twelve Caesars, it reads like pornography. Why? Because of the conduct of the Caesars. How they deliberately violated every moral law, committed unspeakable crimes, because now they were on their way to godhood and they were above the law. For them, unlike for us, law was not the expression of the righteousness, or justice of God, it was something to keep those stupid mortals in check. Look at the gods of Greece and Rome and of the other religions. Now to them, adultery was nothing, incest was nothing, murder was nothing. They were beyond good and evil, to use Nietzsche’s phrase, beyond good and evil, beyond right and wrong, beyond morality. So Paul says pray for the rulers. Now he did not say bless Caesar or bless president Bush, Clinton or what-have-you. No. Pray; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. Keep them out of our hair. Odd that nobody ever calls attention to what Paul was saying there. [00:11:23]
“Lord, keep those fellows in Washington out of my hair...
“Lord, keep those fellows in Washington out of my hair and out of my life.” That’s what Paul is telling us to pray. So that we may have the freedom of our faith; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. Praying for Caesar? Why Caesar was the one who was supposed to pray for you. All intercession was made by Caesar. And for these Christian slaves and nobodies, to pray for Caesar?
Who did they think they were? Well, they thought and knew they were the sons of God, by the adoption of grace. This was one of the most revolutionary things in all of the New Testament, and page after page reads, if you know Roman society and law, like a revolutionary manifesto, although without ever advocating violence. As Stewart H Perowne, one historian, commented about this statement by Saint Paul; if it were needed, it proved to the Romans, I quote: “that Christians were a seditious and subversive organization.” I think we ought to do a lot of praying with regard to Washington D.C. and be just as seditious and subversive. It is our God who is on the throne. It is not Washington that is on the throne of the universe. Well, the pagan state was totalitarian, it governed everything. There was nothing outside its jurisdiction. We are, wickedly taught, that democracy and freedom originated in Greece and in Athens in particular. And yet one classical scholar W.K. Lacy, has written and I quote; “The slogan of the Athenian democracy was to, ‘live as you please’. But it was not so liberalizing as it sounds, and in practice, the democracy through its course imposed an considerable measure of conformity with the customs of the numerically dominant middle and lower middle class. And provided in the persons of the informers, the means where by the wealthy could be forced to toe the line.” End quote.
In other words it was a very un-free place...
In other words it was a very un-free place. There was no freedom of conscience; there was no freedom of speech; without reason whatsoever you could be exiled. The religion of antiquity was the state and the culture of antiquity was the state. The form of the state could vary, but whether it was Egypt, China, Greece, Rome, Persia, Assyria, whatever. The ultimate power was in the state and the ruler was a divine human power. In some of the Asiatic societies the ruler was called the son of heaven. They had their doctrines of incarnation, in some fashion. And heaven was incarnate in the ruler. So that for Christ to come, as the son of God, was a direct challenge to the powers that were in that day. Think of the revolutionary implications of the gospel. It was a threat to every civilized order. The Christians were called atheists! Because, for them, in those day these pagans god was present in the social order in the state. Henry Frankfurt, in the study of the ancient pagan cultures wrote some few years ago, that to be a stateless person was to be a nonperson. Think about that. You’re only a human being if the state recognized you, apart from that, killing you was no murder. You’re a nonperson. We fail to appreciate in our day, what a revolutionary gospel the early church preached, and why they were persecuted. Rome was ready to recognize any religious group, provided they went to a government center, offered incense before an image of Caesar, and took out a form to post that they were a legal meeting. And it meant that their gods or spirits or whatever they worshiped were under Caesar, who was the true link between heaven and Earth. And of course the Christians refused. For this they were persecuted, again and again they pleaded with the Christians, ‘recognize Caesar and we’ll let you do as you please.’ The classic Christian answer was given by Paul in Philippians 2:9-11. And there you have the first confession the baptismal confession, of all Christians, who were of age. Jesus Christ is Lord. Lord meaning God. Not Caesars is lord as they were supposed to confess at a government center, Jesus Christ is Lord. Now can you think of anything which would be a more direct challenge to Rome? Rome said you must confess that Caesar is lord. And the early church made its baptismal confession beginning with the time of Saint Paul, Jesus Christ is Lord. That he is over Caesar, not Caesar over him.
The state was everything...
The state was everything. The state controlled every kind of activity. The state was the church because it was everything. The state when it chose could say; ‘we have too many people, abort your babies.’ And it did. The state could say; ‘we need more soldiers, and more workers. You’re going to have more babies.’ And they were obeyed because the state was everything. The classical scholar who would never agree with us in our Christian faith, Pierre Grimal, has written of Roman morality that it’s very distinct aim was the subordination of the individual the Rome. Not to God, but to Rome as god walking on Earth. Paganism worshiped the state; it believed that salvation was through the state. When the first emperor celebrated his success on a birthday shortly before our Lord was born, the heralds, or messengers of the emperor, went all over the empire with this proclamation; ‘There is none other name under heaven whereby men may be save than the name of Caesar!’ Now do you appreciate what was that Saint Peter said? And how radical it was? When early, not many days after the resurrection, he stood up and declared; ‘Men and brethren there is none other name given under heaven among men whereby men may be saved than in the name of Jesus Christ.’
That was a direct challenge, a direct confrontation...
That was a direct challenge, a direct confrontation. And you can be sure, because Rome had a good espionage system as all groups in antiquity did, all states. So that there was never a crowd or group anywhere but when an agent was to be found in it, that they knew about that, and that they felt these people have to be watched. They are potentially dangerous. It’s an interesting thing, now we hear very little about the martyrdom of Christians. About twenty-five years ago someone, who had just returned from a trip to Europe, and was taken to the coliseum in Rome where the Christians were martyred, and the guide said: ‘This is where, according to legend, Christians were martyred.’ According to legend? We have eyewitness accounts, of the martyrdom of Christians in the arena. One of the first very, very early, was of these two young women, very young, in their twenties at most, the one had just had a baby, the other was pregnant. And as they looked around they said; ‘What a horrible a world to bring up a baby in.’ And they wound up in a secret Bible study group of Christians and became converted. They came from good families. The one’s father pleaded with her perpetually to give up this insanity. She refused. They were arrested, the whole group, put on trial, and because the Roman governor was a friend of her father’s, he pleaded with her; ‘Come to your senses girl, think of what this is doing to your father.’ And at the trial her mother held up the baby who was crying and said; ‘Come home, take care of your baby.’ And she said-we have words written down by a Christian who was present- ‘My breasts were heavy with milk and ached for my baby, but I could not renounce my Lord for my child.’ And she said: ‘From that moment on my breasts hurt no longer.’ The other girl had her baby in the prison cell. And the guards stood around and laughed at her as she was groaning and crying in travail, and they said: ‘if this is how you take childbirth, which is normal to every woman, what will you do when the lions tear at you?’ And she answered back: ‘When I’m the arena, my Lord will be with me, and I will feel nothing.’ They were put in the arena, they knelt in prayer. And after a while Perpetua and said: ‘when are they going to turn the lions loose?’ she called to one of the guards. Who was on the other side of the barred area. And the guard called back; ‘Look at yourself girl; the lion is tearing you apart.’ She felt nothing. And she died quietly. Because she and the others knew that Caesar was not the lord. Jesus Christ is.
And they worshipped him...
And they worshipped him. There was no freedom in antiquity. The early church was an illegal institution because it refused to submit to Caesar. It refused to get a license to hold meetings. It declared it’s king to be Jesus Christ. Every time I read about those early Christians, I feel distressed because we don’t talk about Christ as our king. But he was their Lord, King, and Savior. We have to recognize what it means to call him Lord; that he is the absolute governor over us and over all creation. There was no freedom in the ancient world, but there was license for libertinism, licentiousness. Consider the implications of that. The more licentious people are, the more immoral they are, the more they are prone to slavery. They are not free men, they are slaves of sin and easily enslaved of man. And every time a culture moves into license or libertinism, licentiousness; it moves deeper into the slavery of all the people.
This is why abortion, gay rights, euthanasia, all the...
This is why abortion, gay rights, euthanasia, all the trends of the culture today are so devastating. They are as they had been before in history, the precursors to total slavery, and the death of a culture and the death of a people. This is why. Against their own self-interest, one society after another has moved into licentiousness, because it wants total control over the people. As a matter-of-fact, Rome and all the cultures of antiquity had something we hear very little about today because we might learn too much from it. They had, what was known in Rome as the Saturnalia, elsewhere by other names. A religious holiday, from two or three days to as much as two weeks. During that time everybody was forbidden to work, except the bakers. They had to work so that people could pick up loaves freely at the states expense, and stay alive. But the rest of the time all laws were set aside. If they had a king or they had some kind of ruler, whatever-the-name-was, for the time being, the worst criminal in the prison was taken out and made to take his place, even to possessing his queen or his wife or whatever she was called. During the period of the Saturnalia, no moral law could be abided by, everything, bestiality, incest, you name it; was routinely practiced because it was revival meeting. Now that may seem strange, but it’s basic to the paganism of antiquity, and basic to the paganism of our time. Why? [00:34:42]
Well there are two way the universe came into being...
Well there are two way the universe came into being. Either God made all things as the Bible tells us it did. Or everything evolved out of chaos! If you don’t worship God you’re going to worship chaos. And how are you going to have a revival meeting if your religion is a cult of chaos? Which all paganism is. You’re going to have a period of ritual chaos! The Saturnalia is, because you’re going to revive the cultural energy supposedly. Every culture sooner or later, if it abandons faith in the God of Scripture, moves towards Saturnalias; towards the cults that lead to revival through every kind of depravity. ‘This is why we are morally on the skid.’ say the people. Because we have forsaken the word of God, because we have worshipped chaos, evolution. It’s taught in every public school. What amazes me is that the students don’t act any worse than they do. They’re given the blueprint for total evil. Well the culture of antiquity was suicidal. Every time a culture has adopted that kind of faith, as with Renaissance, it has been suicidal. It has gone into tyranny and collapsed. The world was culturally at a dead end when Jesus Christ was born. [00:37:09]
If you read the thinking of the time, the writers of...
If you read the thinking of the time, the writers of the time, their thinking was pessimistic. They felt they were at a dead end. That kind of thinking came again with the Renaissance, it is with us again. Our Lord was born in the fullness of time because paganism was bankrupt. And the only hope was obviously Jesus Christ. Paganism is once again being glorified. Do you know that national and international scientific meetings are often begun nowadays with a religious invocation a service to Gaia, the great mother goddess. I think that is very amusing in a grim, a very grim sort of way. Gaia was known by a variety of names in antiquity, Isis, Astarte, and a number of others. One of the teachers of Gaia worship was that when they had their annual festivals, the priests would whip themselves up into a frenzy and then castrate themselves and make an offering of their organ to the mother goddess. It was a fitting symbol for that kind of religion. Modern culture is involved in a similar self-immolation. It is suicidal, it cannot continue its existence, it is destroying itself. We, if we will stand in terms of the full or Biblical faith every jot and tittle, which our Lord tells us shall not pass away, neither shall we. We shall become the people of victory. For the kingdoms of this Earth ought and shall be the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ. Let us pray. [00:40:19]
Our Father we thank Thee that we are the people of...
Our Father we thank Thee that we are the people of victory. Called to move in, to conquer. To occupy until our King comes. And we have Thy promise that wherever the sole of our feet shall tread in Thine name and in obedience to Thee, that ground shall be Thine and ours in Thee. That we fear, need not fear no man, but fear thee alone. For Thou only art King of Kings and Lord over all Lords. How great Thou art oh Lord. And we praise Thee. In Christ’s name, Amen.
[Speaker] The lecture that you just heard is a series on Christianity and Culture. This first lecture is Christianity and Culture, Past. The second lecture is a question and answer period. The third lecture is Christianity and Culture, Present. The fourth lecture is a worship service by Doctor R.J. Rushdoony from Luke 18; 1-8. And the fifth lecture is Christianity and Culture, in the Future. These tapes we delivered at the Westminster Presbyterian Church in Opelousas, Louisiana. And is distributed by the Mount Olive Tape Library with permission. The address of the Mount Olive Tape Library is P.O. Box 422 Mount Olive Mississippi, 39119. [00:42:52]