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Random Notes, 65

By R. J. Rushdoony
February 01, 1997

1. It was in 1946, fifty years ago, that Cornelius Van Til’s first book. The New Modernism, was published. The reaction in many areas was one of outrage. Van Til demonstrated how neo-orthodoxy had reduced God to a facade for autonomous man. I heard the reaction of one prominent theologian: it was in unprintable language. Van Til’s critics, who were many, are now all but forgotten, but Van Til’s influence grows.

In one sentence, Van Til set forth the premise of Christian Reconstruction. “The choice,” he wrote “is between autonomy [self-law] and theonomy [God’s law].”

2. I was able, through Ken Higgins, to get a copy of Dorothy Selford, M.D., Instant Creation—Not Evolution (1978), an important work that deserves reprinting. She takes up various aspects of the human body to show that any of the stages of change imagined by evolution could only have meant instant death. The body can function only as it is presently constituted. Evolution assumes impossible changes and variations, but these are all untenable assumptions.

3. Carsten Peter Thiede and Matthew D’Incona, in Eyewitness to Jesus (1996), present telling evidence that Matthew’s Gospel was written very early by Matthew, an eyewitness to the evidence. While not orthodox, the authors present a strong case for the historic position of the church.

But don’t expect it to change the modernists. Only God can do that! In 1978, David Estrada and William White, Jr. wrote The First New Testament and presented equally important evidence concerning Mark’s Gospel and more.

The attitude of the ungodly in both cases is similar: Don’t confuse me with evidence! If I believe it is not true, it cannot be true!

4. To hear some people talk. Christians invented book burning. (But think of all the good books Leftists have banned from libraries, most especially in Marxist states!) In Rome, under Augustus Caesar, 20,000 volumes were destroyed. Diocletian burned Bibles. Yes, some churchmen have been book-burners, but, on the whole. Christians have done more than any other group to preserve books, including those they have not liked.

5. We tend to read modern motives into the past. The goal of ninetieth-century man was freedom, and this has lingered on in popular thinking but not in action. In the ninetieth century, Sir Richard Burton tried to tell his contemporaries that, in the non-Christian world, the goal of slaves was to be a slave-owner.

In the preliminary account in Burton’s translation of the Arabian Nights, a king says, “Only in utter solitude can man be safe from the doings of this vile world.” This statement expressed a sentiment common also to the Roman world which led to the pagan flight into the desert, away from civilization and other peoples to find peace and purity; this movement in time led to a like impulse in the early church, a false one. In terms of Scripture, our basic problem is ourselves, not other people, so the flight to avoid corruption was a foolish one. Men carry the basic premise of corruption in their hearts.

6. A twelfth-century Christian thinker who deserves more attention than he now receives was Hugh of St. Victor. He held, “It is not of ourselves to will, but it is rather God who works this in man. For the grace of God goes before and stirs our will to desire its healing, when of itself it could only make us more infirm. This then, is what is happening to God’s chosen ones in this present life as a preparation for their future happiness.”

Hugh of St. Victor spoke of the mind or reason as fallen also. He believed in election and reprobation. He held, “If we study the Scriptures, we shall find that God hardly ever speaks to a crowd of people.” He speaks, rather, to a chosen few.

7. There is a strange story about the conversion of Denmark to Christ c. 965 A.D. The Danes regarded Christ as one God among many, but a Danish priest, Poppo, held firmly to the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. King Harold Bluetooth asked the priest to prove the validity of his faith by an ordeal of red-hot iron. Poppo consented cheerfully and full of confident faith. He took the burning metal in his hand until the king, convinced, ordered him to drop it. King Harold at once ordered Christ to be worshipped in Denmark. (Eleanor Shipley Duckett: Death and Life in Tenth Century, p. 97., 1967)

Some of you might find this comforting, a statement by Huebald, monk of St. Amand in Flanders (c. 840-930): “To become bald, indeed, Huebald believes, is a sign of glory for him who thus wins a crown of dedication from the hand of Christ Himself. It is a baldheaded man who chants the liturgy, who inscribes canon law, who as monk builds his call, who as priest gives to Christ’s guests the Host at the altar, who as bishop blesses the holy oils” (p. 232).

In the late tenth and early eleventh centuries, the monk Berno was an appealing figure. When William, Duke of Aguitaine and Count of Auvergne, troubled by the poverty of the monks, asked Berno what to do, Berno said, “Give me your land of Cluny.” This William did not like to hear, Cluny being his favorite hunting lodge. But Berno said, “Monks are better than dogs; they can pray for your soul.” That settled the matter (p. 197).

Where are you, Duke William, when we need you!

8. The term “carpetbagger” was apparently first used of Philogathos (“this foul carpetbagger”) in the days of Pope Gregory V.

9. One of our serious problems today is the failure to teach geography properly in our schools. As a result, our students are ignorant of elementary facts. For example, as of c. 1975, in Africa one percent of the total area had 30 percent of the population. Despite a richness in natural resources, lands suitable for farming are not always available. This creates problems that both blacks and whites have not always faced up to. Another problem has been the disease factor; Africans are good workers, but their ability is seriously limited by disease and climate.

Environmentalists here and abroad are another problem because they are not concerned about the production of food but only preserving “Nature.” Much of our ignorance today about geography has fed the various environmental illusions.

Despite the great abundance of rain in some areas, three fifths of Africa is semi-arid, and almost half of the Republic of South Africa is. Its great productivity has been due to the religious concern of the early settlers, the Boers. When they settled South Africa, it was mostly unpopulated, although some areas had a few wandering Bushmen and Hottentots. The Kalahari Desert, home of the Bushmen, has an abundance of underground water which the Bushmen know is there but do not use.

Many parts of the world have untapped resources which men, for various reasons, do not use.


Topics: Gospels, The, Culture , Theology, Humanism

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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