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Knowledge

By R. J. Rushdoony
June 01, 1998

The Stoics believed in the natural life; the natural was for them equivalent to the good. For them, the end of life was life in agreement with nature. Nature, instead of being fallen, was for them normative. This premise, nature as normative, marked in varying degrees ancient philosophy. Implicit, therefore, in ancient and modern philosophy was the premise of the Marquis de Sade, that whatever occurs in nature is normal and good, unless it is a contra-nature position such as Christianity. The homosexuality of men like Socrates and Plato therefore should not surprise us. In fact, the homosexual vein in modern philosophy, and much related scholarship, has been extensive, although barely mentioned by scholars. Few conservatives are aware of the fact that Adam Smith and David Hume were homosexual lovers (Jay I. Obneck: The Invisible Hand, Riverdale, New York: North Stonington Press, 1984).

Failure to recognize this fact has been very critical. The very real hatred of Christianity by such men as Smith and Hume has been avoided. The great war of the centuries is between God, Biblical Faith and morality on the one hand, and, on the other, the humanistic forces of the tempter, i.e., man's will to be his own god. In Genesis 3:5 we see the creature's premise, his demand for equality with God. Credible scholarship, the humanists tell us, must begin on their premises, with their certification and accreditation, as it were. Those who agree to such a compromise, men like E. J. Carnell, still gain no place in the humanistic hall of fame. They quickly fall from view.

For the humanist, thinking which begins with God and his inscripturated revelation is untenable because for them in effect man is ultimate, not God. But is knowledge possible in independence from God? Is not then all factuality simply meaningless or brute factuality? Without God, there can be nothing, and instead of knowledge, we have a surd. In a meaningless world of being, no fact has any meaning, and man's mind and reason are simply irrelevant because no meaning is tenable. Albert Camus faced this impasse honestly, writing, "The world itself, whose single meaning I do not understand, is but a vast irrational. If one could only say just once, 'This is clear,' all would be saved"(Albert Camus: The Rebel, New York, NY: Vintage Books, 1956, 27).

What is the court of appeal with respect to knowledge? The opinions are these: first, God is the final court of appeal: he and his word establish the presuppositions of all knowledge. Second, man is the final court of appeal; in some manner by reason, or by his reason and his evaluation of his sense perceptions, man can attain valid knowledge. The fall of man, and the invalidity of his rationalism, are not considered. Third, all knowledge can be denied, because in a totally meaningless world, meaning and knowledge thereof cannot exist. Few hold to this view. For the Christian, the second and third views are both invalid. The God-ordaining meaning in all factuality negates man's efforts to deny it, or to deny the noetic effect of sin. By his sin, man denies his dependence upon God and asserts his independence. Man's sin does not end his moral dependence on God, nor his metaphysical dependence. Sin is man's attempt to sever his dependence on God, but it does not affect his metaphysical status; he remains a created being. His moral or ethical revolt against God has moral consequences because, as God's creature, he is forever under God's law. God is he in whom we live, and move, and have our being (Ac. 17:28), so that we can never step outside his law and government.


Topics: Philosophy, Reformed Thought

R. J. Rushdoony

Rev. R.J. Rushdoony (1916–2001), was a leading theologian, church/state expert, and author of numerous works on the application of Biblical law to society. He started the Chalcedon Foundation in 1965. His Institutes of Biblical Law (1973) began the contemporary theonomy movement which posits the validity of Biblical law as God’s standard of obedience for all. He therefore saw God’s law as the basis of the modern Christian response to the cultural decline, one he attributed to the church’s false view of God’s law being opposed to His grace. This broad Christian response he described as “Christian Reconstruction.” He is credited with igniting the modern Christian school and homeschooling movements in the mid to late 20th century. He also traveled extensively lecturing and serving as an expert witness in numerous court cases regarding religious liberty. Many ministry and educational efforts that continue today, took their philosophical and Biblical roots from his lectures and books.

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