2. Infallibility: An Inescapable Aspect - Q&A (Remastered)

R.J. Rushdoony • May, 30 2024

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  • Series: Humanism, Infallibility, and Money (Remastered)
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Infallibility: An Inescapable Concept - Q&A

R.J. Rushdoony

I am the LORD: that is my name:

And my glory will I not give to another,

Neither my praise to graven images.

Behold, the former things are come to pass,

And new things do I declare:

Before they spring forth I tell you of them. 1

This is the word of the Lord through the prophet, Isaiah. God declaring that when He speaks, His words surely and infallibly comes to pass. That He alone is God. And He will not share nor give His glory to any other. God the sovereign, the omnipotent, the infallible One. But in our day again, there are many who question this declaration by God, who deny His sovereignty, who deny that He speaks infallibly, and this denial is taking its toll of the churches, of society, and of individuals.

I recall not too long ago a Christian woman, a very fine woman, no question about her faith, but for some years she had been sitting under a ministry where the doctrine of infallibility had been slurred over, had not been clearly pronounced, had been fuzzed over. Then she attended a conference where this doctrine was set forth fully, clearly, unequivocally. And the woman was radiant with joy. And she told me, she said; "I have been a believer, but there has been a dullness, a joylessness about me, but now what this has done for me is that suddenly the Lord is very near. Right here, His very Word speaking to me.” This is what it does. The clarity of that faith, this is the very word of God, His infallible Word, communicates itself to the believer and gives him an assurance, a strength, a joy.

In the early Middle Ages, when the church still proclaimed the infallible word of God and taught it with a degree of faithfulness, the pictures we have of the day of people in worship are very revealing. We see the people in church in prayer, and their position of prayer is one of face lifted upwards joyfully and their arms spread open to receive. But when we come to the century before Luther, when, under the influence of scholastic philosophy, although the church nominallystill claimed to believe in infallibility, practically it had denied it, practically the scholastic or Thomistic philosophers had asserted the supremacy of reason, and when we look at the pictures of people at worship in those days and see them in an attitude of prayer, their head is bowed down and their hands over their head and their faces reflecting fear and terror. For to them God was a distant and a remote judge, and they were afraid of Him. He had no word for them. Today again the vitality and the joy and the strength is being drained out of the church by the open denial and the practical denial of the infallibility of Scripture.

The infallibility of Scripture can be denied. It's a wrong opinion, a false opinion, but it can be denied. But no one can deny the concept of infallibility. Infallibility is an inescapable concept. Men may refuse to apply it to Scripture, but when they deny it to Scripture it is only because they have transferred the doctrine to something else. And men have been transferring it to other things; to men, to concepts. They are not always open in their use of the word 'infallibility,' sometimes they are. Teilhard de Chardin, in Advocating evolution, actually uses the word 'infallibility' for evolution. A sorry faith that, to trade the infallible word of God for the infallibility of a blind evolving process, but de Chardin does.

We do have infallibility concepts all around us, substitutes for the infallible Word. Take democracy for example: what is the essential faith of democracy? What has it been since the beginning? From the days of Rome, one little motto has summed up the essential faith of democracy; ‘Vox populi, vox Dei.’ ‘The voice of the people is the voice of god.’ So that, in the doctrine of democracy there is a new god, the people, and the people speak infallibly in majorities. This is why, whenever you have a drive towards creating a democracy out of any country, it does mean a steady attack on orthodox Christian faith. It is the substitution of a new infallibility for that of Scripture, but this is not the only doctrine of infallibility around us.

The Italian philosopher Croce declared that the aesthetic experience is infallible. On the other hand, the Marxists insist that the dictatorship of the proletariat is infallible. A friend of mine teaches political science at a major university. A few years ago he wrote a rather interesting, rather involved study, which unfortunately has never been published, but which he shared with me: as an expert in the Russian language, he went to the Hoover institute at Stanford, and did extensive research in the meeting of The Communist International after the death of Stalin. And he told me as well as sharing it with me in his paper, he said it is a theological discussion. What happened? You recall that the new regime under Khrushchev wanted to gain popularity with the people at a moment when things were going badly, and they wanted to make their position strong. And so, Stalin having died not too long before, and Stalin having been a vicious and thoroughly unpopular tyrant, Khrushchev launched into a strong attack on Stalin. This gained him great popularity, but it created a crisis in the Party. And you recall there was a second meeting and Khrushchev got up, and he explained his remarks. Why? Because he had been immediately told; "Don't you realize what you've done with your speech? Basic to all Marxist doctrine is the doctrine of the infallibility of the dictatorship of the proletariat. And you have said that Stalin was not only not infallible but a tyrant." And so Khrushchev declared in his second speech; "What I meant was not that Stalin was bad but that Stalinism is bad for our day. Stalin was the infallible word for his time, but because history is changing we need a different word and a different leadership today. So that why Stalin was perfect for his time, he would be wrong for ours." And thereby Khrushchev preserved for the Party its infallibility. It was an important matter.

Every creed, every philosophy has, either openly or implicitly, a doctrine of infallibility, because man has to live by an authority of certainty. He has to have something as his ultimate standing-ground. A man cannot stand on nothingness, on thin air. I am standing on a platform here; it is this platform that supports me as I speak to you. And intellectually the platform that supports me and gives me the foundation for my speaking is the infallible Word. Now, every man has a platform on which he stands. And he must believe, he cannot escape believing, it is an inescapable requirement of human thought, that he affirm that platform without qualification, whatever it may be, that he hold to its infallibility, its certainty, its authority. And so, there are a variety of infallibility concepts current among us.

Rousseau, of course, formulated the doctrine of ‘the general will’ as representing infallibly the faith, the heart, the meaning, the purpose of life. And the doctrine of ‘the general will,’ of course, is clearly a doctrine of infallibility, and Rousseau did not hesitate to say so in his Social Contract.

Similarly, the Church of Rome, when it departed from Scripture, did it deny the doctrine of infallibility? No, simply transferred it. Where? To the church. And they finally stated it openly, it had been there implicitly for a long time, and at the first Vatican council they decreed the infallibility of the pope when he spoke from the chair of St. Peter. Of course! It was entirely logical. Having denied the infallibility of the Word, they had to affirm another doctrine of infallibility: the church.

The Deists, in the eighteenth century, had a doctrine of infallibility, which we are again hearing from the New Left. And Alexander Pope summed it up in one sentence; "Whatever is, is right." 2 And this has again been confirmed by existentialists. For the existentialist, it is impossible to take the law of God or any outside standard and criticize reality because reality is, it is infallibly right. And so whatever reality does cannot be challenged. Is there a revolution in process? Then it is the infallible word of the day.

Infallibility, thus, is an inescapable concept. If the infallibility of Scripture is denied, it is only denied in order to ascribe infallibility to man or some creature or creation or institution of man. Now there are certain aspects, certain concepts, related to this doctrine and a part of it.

One of the necessary aspects of the doctrine of infallibility is the total self-consciousness of whatever and whoever is infallible. What does this mean? We, as Christians, who hold to the orthodox doctrine of God, believe that God is totally self-conscious. There is no unconscious in God's nature and God does not sleep. He is totally self-conscious, no hidden potentiality in God. You and I, of course, are not totally self-conscious, we sleep. There are hidden recesses in our minds, there are potentialities in our being that we don't often realize. So we cannot fully determine that which we are and that which we are to do. Some years ago I lived in a community which was made up quite extensively of retired people. And it was interesting to see how these retired people often revealed potentialities they never dreamed of. A man, for example, I knew, who was a farmer, had retired there. His health was bad, his children had taken over the farm, they told him and his wife; "Dad, Mother, take life easy now." And this man had nothing to do, and he had worked hard all his life, and he fretted a great deal, and his wife was concerned. So somebody persuaded her to take home a painting kit and have him occupy himself. And he was irritated, irked. He said; "I am a dirt farmer, I don't know anything about being an artist." But having nothing to do, and being nagged quite a bit by his wife, as I recall it, he decided to try it. And it was amazing the potential that that man had. One or two of his pictures were exhibited at the local art museum about four years later. Here was something this man had had in his nature all these years and it had never been realized. Now, all of us have potentialities that we can never realize, never will in this life. But there is no hidden potentiality in God. God is totally self-conscious, he knows Himself totally. Therefore when He speaks, He speaks authoritatively, certainly.

Secondly, God is omnipotent. Now a God who is totally self-conscious and who knows Himself and says; "I am the LORD, I change not" 3 is saying something no man can say. We change. We are not perfect. We have hidden potentialities, we grow, or sometimes, we regress. But God can say; "I am the Lord, I change not." And because He neither changes, nor is weak, because He is omnipotent, He can declare what He chooses to declare and bring it to pass.

Behold, the former things are come to pass,

And new things do I declare:

Before they spring forth I tell you of them. 4

Thus, God can prophesy. He can predict because His word is a controlling word. It is linked with a changelessness and omnipotence. Therefore, when God speaks, His word is of necessity infallible. This is the only kind of word that God can declare. Because God is God, it is impossible for God to ever speak a word that is not infallible. Omnipotence, plus total self-consciousness necessitate an infallible word.

Therefore, anyone who denies the infallibility of Scripture is saying that their god is not sovereign, he cannot predestine, therefore he cannot predict, and he cannot prophesy. Their god becomes at best, if they have one, a struggling evolving god, who is trying to express himself and he is stuttering and stammering because he is incapable of knowing himself. This is not the God of Scripture.

I am the LORD: that is my name:

And my glory will I not give to another,

Neither my praise to graven images.

Behold, the former things are come to pass,

And new things do I declare:

Before they spring forth I tell you of them. 5

A sovereign, predestinating, self-conscious God can only declare an infallible Word. But, when someone else claims infallibility, when someone else declares that infallibility belongs to us, to our dictatorship of the proletariat, or to our ruling elite that represents the general will, or to our group that represents the democratic consensus or whatever else it may be that claims infallibility, they too then, will inescapability claim these same attributes of God. Because infallibility is not only an inescapable concept, but it requires omnipotence, total self-consciousness, and total power of prediction or prophecy. It's not surprising then that Sartre, the existentialist, says there is no self-conscious or unconscious in man. Man knows himself fully and totally.

It's not surprising that the modern state, which sets itself up against God, is seeking total power over man. The Marxist state claims this total power, it has to if it is going to declare itself infallible. And so, you have the infallibility of the dictatorship of the proletariat, plus total planning and control; predestination. The doctrine of predestination is simply the doctrine of total planning and control. What is the eternal decree, the eternal counsel of God? It simply says that God, from the beginning, planned, predicted, and totally controls everything that comes to pass in the whole of creation. And so the modern, totalitarian state declares, "We, as the new gods of creation in order to speak an infallible word, must have total control over man. We must have the power, then, to experiment with man and control everything from cradle to grave so that we can plan and predict.” This is why planning is increasingly an aspect of the modern state, because the modern state wants to predict, to prophesy, to control.

Total control for total power. Total planning in order to prophesy. The word ‘prophesy’ is actually used in one or two contemporary scientific writings and the word predestination as well. They are speaking that openly in the language of Scripture. It is their purpose to be able infallibly to predict what will transpire in their social experiments.

Infallibility, thus, is an inescapable concept, and today we have not an abandonment of the doctrine of infallibility, but a transfer of it from Scripture to man. And God declares; "I am the Lord, that is My name, and My glory will I not give to another." Therefore we are in a state of war; war between heaven and humanism, war between Almighty God and the totalitarian state, war between God and these scientific predictors and planners and controllers, war between God and all who deny His infallibility. It's a very uneven war, there is no doubt as to the outcome. God will not share His glory nor give it to another.

And even as the Tower of Babel builders, who are confounded and scattered, even as Pharaoh and his hosts were destroyed and swallowed up in the Red Sea, even as God declared His judgment on Amalek and brought it to pass, even as Babylon and Assyria and all the empires of old were brought down to dust, so, those today, who deny His infallible Word and ascribe infallibility to the things of man, shall be brought low by the Lord of hosts.

“[T]his is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” 6

“If God be for us, who can be against us?” 7

For “...we are more than conquerors through him that loved us." 8

So let us rejoice! This is our God who declares;

I am the LORD: that is my name:

And my glory will I not give to another,

Neither my praise to graven images. 9

Behold, the former things are come to pass,

And new things do I declare:

Before they spring forth I tell you of them. 10

Let us rejoice, therefore, for our God is Lord of Lords, King of Kings, the Mighty Conqueror!

Let us pray.

* * *

Almighty God, our Heavenly Father, we give thanks unto thee that thy victory has been declared set forth in thy infallible Word. And we have been made members of thy triumphant army. We rejoice, our Father, that thou has called us to victory, and that thou has raised up under thyself standard bearers in The Association of Christian Reformed Laymen. Make them bold and brave in thy service, ever confident in their high calling, knowing that thou are He who shall prevail. Our God, how great thou art, and we thank thee. In Jesus name, amen.

* * *

[Announcer] Does anyone have a question?

[Audience Member] What do you mean by ‘propositional truth?’

[Rushdoony] I’ll explain what is meant by the term propositional truth. This term has been used as a term of abuse in recent years for those of us who hold to the old established orthodox doctrines concerning Scripture. And we are told that we cannot develop a systematic theology or that we cannot develop implications of what the meaning of, say, the doctrine of God is, and what predestination means because we are now turning Scripture into a book of propositional truths. That is, that something is said, it has certain implications so that you can logically take from this and follow through and make certain conclusions. Their thesis is that this is a kind of existential truth, not something that appeals to reason and has meaning to it, but something that is and you just take it. But it isn't rational, it doesn't have meaning, it isn't intelligible. In other words, it denies mind to God, it gives us a mindless God. But Scripture is propositional truth. That is why for example, systematic theology is possible, God is consistent to Himself, He declares something in His word, and we can make logical entrances from that declaration because there is an inner consistency to every word of Scripture; it is propositional.

Does that help?

1. Is 42:8–9.

2. Alexander Pope, Essay on Man

3. Mal 3:6.

4. Is 42:9.

5. Is 42:8–9.

6. 1 Jn 5:4.

7. Ro 8:31.

8. Ro 8:37.

9. Is 42:8.

10. Is 42:9.

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