1. The Death of the Old Humanist Order (Remastered)

R.J. Rushdoony • Jun, 21 2024

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  • Series: World Orders: From Humanist to Christian (Remastered)
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The Death of the Old Humanist Order

R.J. Rushdoony

Our subject this morning is ‘the death of the old humanist order.’ This afternoon I shall deal with the forces of reconstruction that are very much at work.

The forces of destruction were born with the humanistic order. It had within it the seeds of decay. And it is a curious fact of history that there is a general ignorance of two wars at the beginning of this century that reveal the bankruptcy of humanism.These two wars were; first, the First Balkan War of 1912, and then the Second Balkan War of 1913. They were the prelude to World War I, and they were not insignificant wars. Within one month after the declaration of the First Balkan War, one million two hundred thousand soldiers were in the warzone. This was the first war in which the modern invention, the airplane, played a role. The Bulgarians used aerial warfare against their enemies, bombing troops and installations. It was the first war in which barbed wire surrounded troops and trenches. In many ways it was the prelude of World War I in its use of modern technology

Several nations were involved; Bulgaria, Serbia, Greece, and Montenegro, Balkan states were lined up against the Ottoman Empire, a great deal was at stake. Turkey was known as the sick man of Europe. Behind the scenes all the nations conspired to direct the course of the war. They wanted it to be a stalemate. In effect they wanted no winners. But, the Bulgarian army surprised them. Within a year, the war was over and it was a smashing victory for Balkan forces, the Bulgarian in particular. Then, with diplomacy, the victory was snatched from Bulgaria. Bulgarian Macedonia wanted freedom to unite with Bulgaria, this was prevented. Everything was done by all the powers to prevent the victory. Why? Russia was afraid that if Bulgaria continued, they would capture the Dardanelles, and the Dardanelles has always been the key area in the world for power. Control of the Dardanelles means control of more trade than Suez and the Panama Canal have. It controls all of Central Europe. And Russia’s position was, “if we cannot have it, the Turks must.” This was the position of Austria, the position of Germany, and the position of Great Britain. Everything was being done, by the great powers, to keep Turkey alive. This, in spite of the continuing anti-Christian atrocities and massacres perpetrated by Turkey. Why? A very simple reason; Turkey was a totally unprincipled nation. All the great powers knew they could buy Turkey and it would stay bought. They did not trust any other power to be totally unscrupulous. The result was a Second Balkan war was precipitated the following year, 1913, to undo the damage done by the First Balkan war, the victory of Bulgaria. And so Greece, Montenegro and Serbia and Turkey were manipulated and sent against Bulgaria, and Bulgaria was not only defeated, stripped of what it had gained, but stripped of its own territory. And, with that, the European powers felt satisfied. As King George V of England said: “I have eighteen million Muslim subjects, and he did not want their feelings hurt by having Turkey crushed.”

The war showed only one principle at work; the ‘balance of power politics.’ No nation in Europe wanted too much power to accrue to any other nation. There was no other principle at stake. This was the same thing that led to World War I, and World War II, no principles. In World War II we had a prelude when the powers built up Nazi Germany against the Soviet Union. Then the Soviet Union united with Nazi Germany against The West. All of them playing the ‘balance of power’ game, none with any principles. Two Balkan wars, Two World Wars, the Korean War, the war on Vietnam, and many another conflict in every continent, all fought to the death of any principle that anyone went into the battle with.

The total bankruptcy of our humanistic world order was increasingly apparent. Not justice; but advantage, not truth; but propaganda prevailed. All Europe had long professed to be Christian, but one thing that has been apparent in this century is that all the powers worked to help Turkey in the two Balkan wars; an anti-Christian, massacring power. The greatest recipient of American foreign aid in this century has been the Soviet Union. More has been done by Washington to help the Soviet Union, than the people of the United States.

I mentioned that Bulgaria came out the winner in the first Balkan war. Bulgaria itself is a very interesting story. Its Czar, for some years, had been Ferdinand II, known as ‘Foxy Ferdinand.’ He was a prince of Saxe-Coburg Gotha, a German prince, a descendant of Louis XIV, a relative of Queen Victoria. Related to the Kaiser and to the Emperor of Austria-Hungary. They were all his cousins, and they were all engaged in total warfare behind the scenes against one another. No-one gave Ferdinand the chance of lasting more than a few months when he was made ruler of Bulgaria. But he survived, gained the name ‘Foxy Ferdinand,’ not because he was intelligent, but because he was even more unprincipled than all the rest. One of the things he said not too long before he assumed power, speaking to Princess Louise of Belgium, he declared:

“The Devil exists: I call on him and he comes!” 1

Ferdinand was a homosexual, what Paul says about homosexuals in Romans 1 fitted him perfectly; “without natural affection.” And because Ferdinand, a man of ordinary intelligence, very ordinary intelligence, was a bit more unprincipled than all the other rulers, he usually came out ahead, until the whole concert of powers, as it were, ganged up on him.

After World War I, he abdicated in favor of his son Boris, who was later executed by the Nazis, and then his other son who succeeded Boris, Kiril, was murdered by the Communists. And the old Ferdinand, not long before his death, surveying the ruins of Europe at the end of World War II, the ruins of his own life and works, said; “Everything is collapsing around me.” And it was. The whole world-order was crumbling because there were no moral foundations.

Early in the last century Hegel had taught that the state represents the principle of absolute reason and spiritual power. That the state is God walking on earth, bestowing on man all the values he possesses

Horace Mann Callan, an American educator, writing in Saturday Review, in 1951, spoke of the world religion as ‘the democratic faith,’ by which he meant faith in the democratic state, which he saw as the one true Catholic church.

But that church was failing man. It was unable to give man anything to live for. And what was in evidence then is increasingly in evidence today; despair and a sense of impotence, of hopelessness, because what humanistic statism has done is to eliminate any transcendence to the state. There is no law, no god above the state for Humanism. Therefore whatever the state says, is the absolute truth about anything, the state is man’s immanent god, and there is no god, nor truth beyond it, according to Humanism. And when man denies himself transcendence with this faith, there’s no law of God, and no supreme court of God to which he can make supplication, to which he can pray.

And the result has been cynicism. A few years ago, an Attorney General of the state of California, Evelle Younger, when well documented charges were made that he was friendly to mob interests, said; “I never said I was tough on crime, and nobody paid much attention.” The cynicism was that great.

In one area after another, men began to turn away from the present world. Nostalgia, as never before in history, began to grip people as they looked to the ‘good old days,’ no matter how bad they may have been materially, they were ‘the good old days,’ because there was some kind of standard then. Paul Johnson, in Enemies of Society, wrote with regard to the world of art:

“In the eighteenth century the vast majority of musical works performed at concerts and in churches were contemporary. In 1776, for instance, the organizers of the London Concert of Ancient Music, explained that ‘ancient’ referred to pieces more than twenty years old. The proportion of modern music performed remained high throughout the 19th century. But a statistical summary, quoted by Roy McMullan in Art, Affluence, and Alienation: The Fine Arts Today, 2 suggests that over ninety percent of the music performed in the third quarter of the twentieth century was composed before 1900. Wilfrid Mellers, the leading critic and composer, who takes a pessimistic view of the musical future, observes that; “the desire to listen exclusively to the music of the past, rather than to that of one’s own time, is a phenomenon that has never happened before.” 3

This is true in all the arts. And it is true because establishment art, establishment music, is so radically bankrupt of meaning.

The insistence on past art and music is therefore understandable because of this alienation from reality and from people. Modern art, in every department, has become esoteric. And good art cannot find an audience, it is cut off from an audience. Because of the dislike of the present, much of the world today is trying to make itself into a museum, or a museum piece.

Consider, for example, and the instances abound; New England and England. The emphasis there is on their past glory and what they once were, on preserving the past. Well and good, but what about living in terms of the present and the realities of the present? The South was trying hard to do the same, but has been flooded with a lot of people, and the old order, in spite of its efforts, is collapsing. Australia has problems, but at least it has a little more orientation to the present and future than England, and is thus a more hopeful area, unless Christians in England and New England, and every area of the world that seeks to make itself into a museum, begin to say that; “under God we will be oriented to the future, and not to the past.” A dying order lives in the past, and in that respect the whole world is a dying order. A dying order cannot transmit its culture, and it becomes hostile to aliens. If that sounds like your community and mine, it’s because it fits.

And what happens in a dying order is that only the aliens appreciate what was good in the past, and are able to transmit it to the future. And so, the aliens who come in become the defenders. When Rome fell, the only ones who fought for it were the Goths, who had moved in and become a part of Rome, and had some appreciation of its past, and its possibilities for the future. The only ones who tried to resurrect Rome after its fall were Barbarians, who picked up some appreciation. The Romans themselves were only living in terms of the past and could never live in terms of the future. A dying order, by default, gives its realm to those who will take it by their vitality. The life and death of a culture is a religious fact. A culture dies when it becomes religiously bankrupt.

Today, first of all, humanism, by denying the fall of man, has an unrealistic view about man and history. It has built its house upon sand. It believes that man can remake himself in this world without Christ, and for this reason it is perishing. Second, man, humanistic man, has sought to be his own savior; state schools, psychotherapy, and so on. All these have become instruments of humanistic salvation, and have become instruments of destruction. Art has become messianic, instead of remaining art. Science seeks to save man and society by knowledge. Others tell us that humanistic love is the means of saving the world, and so on and on, all ideas thoroughly bankrupt.

And third, humanistic statism has denied to the Church a necessary public function. The state says: “we are the necessary, the public institution.” The Church is merely a private concern, it’s optional, you can take it or leave it, a man doesn’t need a faith to make society work. But of course they have been hypocrites there, because they have been offering an established religion, Humanism, through the schools. They are humanistic churches. The most public thing of all is religion, it is the foundation of society, the heart of culture. And if we fail to see that faith, religion, is the one necessary public aspect of life, then we contribute to the breakdown of a culture.

The fitting symbol of the modern humanistic state is the gulag, the slave-labor camp. The whole world is moving into a gulag state. Step-by-step, attempts are being made to control churches, Christian schools, private associations, families, the individual in every area of his life, the arts by subsidies, and so on. The end of this kind of control is full-scale coercion, the gulag-state. So that every modern state is on the road to the gulag. When the state denies that there is a truth above and beyond man, above and beyond the state, it lays the foundation for the gulag. When it sees itself as the only source of truth and law, it declares, in effect, that whatever the state does is, of necessity, right. This was the foundation of Nazism. Its foundations were laid as Hallowell showed, in the decline of Liberalism as an ideology, and the fact that the philosophers of law, step-by-step, denied that there was a god and a law beyond man’s law, beyond the state. And so, they came to a legal positivism whereby whatever the state decreed, was, ipso facto, right, because it was legal, and there is no truth beyond the state and its will.

But, for us, the truth is Jesus Christ. And for us all who deny that Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Light, becomes a part of the lie. And they do not live in a vacuum, that lie becomes progressively demonic. It creates the gulag state, it creates increasing coercion. Hitler came to power with the approval of the German intellectuals, and the universities. He was their child; he represented the legal positivism they had been proclaiming for a few generations. And Hitler’s dream was, after the war, to create a totally modern city as the scientific world center, dedicated to scientific research, to science’s truth. And of this, the universities approved.

To silence the Word of God, is to silence man’s only hope. And the modern state is bent on silencing the Word of God. And we are in the first stages of that today with controls upon the Church, and its schools. And we have seen in the past two years more than one minister go to jail. The late Lester Roloff, Levi Wisler, Everett Sileven, who is in jail again, and others as well. The proclamation of the Word of God is the proclamation of the truth that governs man in every area of life and thought, and to silence that Word is to silence, finally, freedom itself, man’s independence of the gulag state. But the Word of God cannot be silenced, it is written in the being of every man, and Paul tells us in Romans 1:19,20 that the ungodly;

“…hold down the truth in unrighteousness [or injustice - RJR]. Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them. For God hath showed it unto them. For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and godhead, so that they are without excuse.”

God’s inescapable truth confronts this dying humanistic order.

Materially, technologically, industrially, the world of today is very rich, but still bankrupt. It despises its wealth, because life without faith is empty. The gods of humanism are very vulnerable, and they change. In the last century, as Otto Scott will deal with very shortly, Greco-Roman culture was worshiped throughout the western world, and the ideals of the Greeks and Romans were made paramount, and people who were evangelical Christians were busy trying to merge Christianity with Greco-Roman faith, this is syncretism. Syncretism is attempting to bring two things that are irreconcilable together. It’s like trying to say atheism and Christianity can be reconciled. It’s like trying to say that chastity and adultery can be brought together and made one. Syncretism means the triumph of the evil, because it is a denial of the good and it holds to the good as a façade. So when men begin to compromise the Word of God, they indulge in syncretism, and the logic of their position leads to the death of their Christian confession.

Gladstone, one of the great figures, prime minister of England, was so dedicated to Greco-Roman culture that he tried to say that Jupiter, Neptune and Pluto really represented the Trinity and were a memory of the Trinity. Then he said Apollo represented in Greco-Roman mythology, Jesus Christ, the Messiah.

Then he was faced with a problem. How could he call Apollo Christ, when Apollo was involved in the very ugly rape of Marpessa? Well, he wrote at great length about it, trying to find a symbolic meaning in that rape, but finally he said it was a rape, but it wasn’t of a sexual character. Now that’s how far syncretists will go in trying to vindicate their syncretism. And today you have syncretists in the pulpit, who will become irritable if you talk about certain doctrines they don’t want to hear about. They don’t want to preach about them. They may be very likable, even lovable people, but they are syncretists. And therefore they are without power, without power. They lack the power even of a militant humanism, they halt between two opinions. They are lukewarm, and God says when the chips are down, our Lord’s letters to the churches, remember:

“…because thou art lukewarm I will spue thee out of my mouth…”

Humanism’s gods are imminent ones, they are manmade idols and they are readily bankrupt. Some of us can recall when the idol for the Humanists was the Soviet Union, the great hope of the world. Where truth and the future have become incarnate. Lincoln Steffens went there and came back, oblivious to all the evil that surrounded him, and saying:

“I have seen the future, and it works.” 4

Now, of course, they know a little too much about the Soviet Union, and while they’re still soft on the subject, their new future that works, listen to Jane Fonda at any time; it’s Red China, and in a few years it will be something else. The false gods have a short lifespan. At the same time, the contemporary enthusiasms increasingly represent moral bankruptcy. A cynical and a degenerate perspective. The rock stars are idolized by their followers precisely because their drug lifestyle is suicidal. And our popular culture increasingly is governed by suicidal motives. And like Rome it says; “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die,” and they are right, at that one point. Tomorrow they shall die. God declares;

“…he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul. All they that hate me love death.”

God gives to all such cultures their hearts desire, and unless they repent they shall surely perish.

We are surrounded by a dying world. The world of humanism, of humanistic statism. Our concern therefore must be Christian reconstruction. The reconstruction, the rebuilding of all things in terms of the law-Word of God. In terms of the savior, Jesus Christ. For the only alternative is death. And as we face a dying world, we face it, not alone, but in the power of God. The old saying; “One with God is a majority,” is always true.

One of my favorite saints, and with this I shall close, is the saint whose dates are a little before the venerable Bede, so that he was in what was known, wrongly, as ‘the Dark Ages.’ St. Wilfrid of Hexham was a man who was consumed by the zeal of the Lord. He became an abbot of a monastery, and a bishop, established several monastic houses, furthered learning, furthered evangelistic work, it was in his own day, and partly through his work that the last area of a pagan enclave, a pagan kingdom within England, was converted. Although most of them still were semi-pagan, under the surface. Whenever Wilfrid found something he did not like, and he found himself helpless against kings and bishops, he took his walking staff in his hand and started walking, walked to the coast, took a boat to France to go to Rome and to nag the Pope, until the Pope issued something to vindicate Wilfrid and put down evil.

But he didn’t go straight to Rome. If Wilfrid heard that there was trouble in a church somewhere or that they had become corrupt, or there was no good preaching of the Word, he took a long detour. He went there, and with the wrath of God he set them straight. To those who did not know Christ, he made byways to preach the mercy and salvation of God. So it took him sometimes a few years to get to Rome. And after the first trip, the pope was always glad, whoever was pope, to give him what he wanted, quickly as possible, because they knew Wilfrid was going to be there, preaching and nagging, until he got what he wanted, because he would say: “thus saith the Lord!” And that one man with his staff in his hand marched back and forth over the face of the earth, and it was never the same when he went through a place.

One with God is a majority, if he is faithful to the every Word of God. We have nothing to fear concerning the future, if we are part of it. If we are under God without reservations.

“Known unto God are all His works from the foundation of the world.”

And His perfect plan circumscribes the very hairs of our head. And His perfect plan concludes with His glory.

“The kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ. And He shall reign forever and ever.”

Will you reign with Him?

Thank You.

* * *

[Audience member] I want to ask John if chromite is available in California, then why are we getting it from the Soviet Union?

[John Sanders] That’s a good question, supposing you ask the United States government. I couldn’t believe it. I was working with a couple of geologists on another mining project when I had an interest in mining projects; I was working with another geologist who had done those studies over an eighteen month period, and he pulled out the California map and showed me where all eight of them was, and he said the concentration’s vary from eight to twelve percent in each of these deposits, and with today’s technology that’s economically feasible to mine, and I said why aren’t they being mined, and why are we importing this stuff from Russia and Zimbabwe, and he says because they’re all in wilderness areas and they can’t be opened until almost the year 2,000. And everyone says I know the environmentalists say well you can still open those areas, but if you ever tried to wade through the regulations that they have, it’s, forget it. I think there’s thirty-seven metals on our strategic metals list that are all in very, very short supply, and I think twenty-four or twenty-six of those we import from Soviet bloc countries.


[Audience member] There seems to be an interest in revival in the Hutterian pietism, how would that reconcile with Christian reconstructionism?

[Dr. Rushdoony] With Zinzendorf and his associates, you had the beginning of modern pietism in that there was a retreat from the major problems of the world and a retreat also from any emphasis on doctrine, to an emphasis on an inner emotional experience. This led to a decrying of doctrinal emphases, it led to a withdrawal from social issues, and it concentrated on building up a church fellowship rather than bringing all things into captivity to Christ.

As a result, it was the antithesis of reconstruction. Now at the same time it associated faith with an emotional experience. So that a problem arose as the influence of Zinzendorf and the Moravians spread through the various churches, first to Wesley and the Methodists, and then into Presbyterian and other circles, as to who could qualify as a Christian. Who was really born again? Well, you could not say you were born again unless you had a very dramatic emotional experience. It reached the point in some of the frontier areas of the United States that unless you fell down at the camp meeting and went through the jerks and a great many gyrations, you were not really born-again. So it equated the work of the Spirit with an emotional response, and it denied the fruits of the Spirit in the biblical sense, for the fruits of the spirit in a humanistic sense.

Now at the same time, it’s interesting that the word that was picked up and used for this, ‘experimentalism.’ Because of the new emphasis on science, externalism began to prevail. So while they were emphasizing an inner change, they refused to believe there was an inner change unless there was some physical actions, such as the jerks and a great deal of emotional outbursts, to go with it, without that you were not born again.

Now for a long time, that kind of thinking, which came to focus at its worst in the United States, had a very, very ugly effect on the church because there were many who felt they were born again, but they couldn’t qualify in terms of that kind of definition, and were excluded from the church and its fellowship.

Now Samuel Stoddard, faced with this, tried to develop the doctrine of the halfway covenant, but his premises were all wrong, even though he was aware there was a problem but that’s a long historical issue that I won’t go into.

[Audience member] Alright, yes sir.

[Audience member] I think there’s general agreement that the Ten Commandments is the summary of moral law, moral law, is applicable at all times and all people. But what must be said about the health laws, the community property laws, the so-called lesser laws in the Old Testament. May we assume that Jesus and the Apostles incorporated all of those in the New Testament doctrine of life, or may assume that they distinguished certain ones, for instance, when Paul gave advice that the Gentile Christians should abstain from eating things that had blood in them and this sort, what general principles may we draw from this?

[Dr. Rushdoony] I’ve dealt at length with that question in Institutes of Biblical Law: Volume 1. Precisely, of course, with the decision of the counsel of Jerusalem and its implications. So rather than take time now to go into what would be a long answer, I’d like to refer you to that.

[Audience member] I’d like to address John Sanders. For some of us who are beginning to work in the political realm, there are many issues that we would like positions on, and I understand that you have worked out position papers, regarding Christians, for instance, addressing hard money versus paper money, or the defense of Central America, or welfare laws. Are you going to publish those position papers so that we Christians can benefit from your research?

[John Sanders] Not ’til after I’m elected. Yes ma’am I will publish them. I have a system I’ve been, a work I’ve been doing since I’ve been at Chalcedon and everything that has to do with government…

[Audience member] Yes, in the back.

[Audience member] …that there is one difference, and I’ve just noticed by reading Gary North’s book and then Rushdoony’s God’s Plan for Victory book. The Reformation didn’t seem to have as its goal a theocracy, although Christian Reconstruction does have that goal. Could Dr. Rushdoony elaborate a bit on the theocracy covenant which is a goal of Reconstruction… what will the government be like?

[Dr. Rushdoony] Well of course the charge made against the Calvinistic reformers was that they were creating a theocracy, God’s rule, and that’s what we believe in, so we believe we are in continuity with that, that’s the charge against the Puritans in England and in this country. And the idea of a theocracy as being ruled by a group of men is nonsense, let me add, it’s the rule of God’s Law and it severely limits the power of man, because in a theocracy a great many instruments of government prevail; the family, the tithe, the school, the church, and so on and the state is merely one form of government among many.

[Audience member] Otto Scott mentioned the differences between the pitfalls we want to avoid from the first Reformation and the new Reformation. I wondered if, that the theology of Calvin and Knox particularly in the area of soteriology, is that a pitfall, or is that something that is a part of the new reformation?

[Dr. Rushdoony] There’s no difference. From the beginning of the history of the church every orthodox believer has believed that salvation, or soteriology, is only through Jesus Christ and His atoning blood. So I don’t see any difference. It’s been the same in every age as far as any orthodox believer is concerned.

1. Princess of Belgium, Louise. My Own Affairs. London: Casseli and Company, Limited, 1921, 120.

2. Roy McMullan. Art, Affluence, and Alienation: The Fine Arts Today. New York: Praeger, 1968, 55.

3. Paul Johnson. Enemies of Society. New York: Atheneum, 1977, 228.

4. Justin Kaplan. Lincoln Steffens : A Biography. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1974, 240.

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