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Reality

By R. J. Rushdoony
May 01, 1998

Man's lust for autonomy is insatiable. He wants no God who can make a claim on him. In fact, Marcel Duchamp, having redefined art, sought in retirement to create a new language without reference to God, propositional truth, or meaning. The newer dictionaries have weakened definitions by rejecting established and historic meaning and grammar in favor of anti-order urges.

Certainly, redefining reality is high among autonomous man's priorities, at least on the intellectual and philosophical levels. The Death of God school of thought re-defined the Biblical God as dead because he did not fit into their world, i.e., the physical universe. By doing this, they committed suicide as thinkers. After all, scholastic or academic chairs in religion are commonly funded in universities (where they exist at all), in colleges, and seminaries by the ecclesiastical community; and the thinking of this school of thought would have put such academic areas out of business. Now the Death of God school did not say "God is dead," but, "God is dead for us because he is outside reality as we know it." Their position was clearly Kantian.

Klaas Runia well described the current view of reality:

For modern man, who knows only one reality, namely this universe, there is only one way of thinking and speaking of God; not in terms of height but of depth. God is the ground of our being and of all that is; yes, he is being itself. (Klaas Runia: The Present-day Christological Debate, 26. Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter-Varsity Press, 1984).

With such a definition of God, theologians and philosophers can, to the end of time, say what they please about God in the self-assurance that he can never contradict them because he cannot speak! Their own speaking, in their view, is as much God's as man's, or more so.

The real world is this world. Most important in this real world is rationality. Reason incarnates itself, as it were, in experience, and that which does not so realize itself is nothing. The rational experience and reality are coextensive, and this is what God's is: God is real because he is a part of any and all reality, but it is the whole that is real. The incarnation of God and man was for Hegel very important in terms of his perspective, but it was better realized in the Prussian state of his day with its union of state, religion, reason, and more. In a very important sense, for the Hegelian, the death of the Christian God was the birth of reason.

For Auguste Comte, God had to go, for otherwise man would not attain a fully rational society. With God, religious concerns would govern man, whereas without God, rational and political concerns would control him. Without God, man would devote himself to humanistic goals and tasks.

How we define reality is thus very important. Unless the Triune God of Scripture is the source of our definition, we will logically gravitate to a definition that in time will eliminate God because it begins with man. According to Etienne Borne, basic to atheism is the premise, "There is no God, therefore I am" (Etienne Borne: Atheism, 35. New York, NY.: Hawthorn Books, 1961).

The definition of reality in philosophy from Descartes to the present has been in terms of this world, and, more specifically, the mind of man. "I think; therefore, I am" means that reality is in essence man and man's mind, in particular man's rationality. Reality for modern man does not stray far from his rationality.

Van Til has pointed out that "The non-Christian idea of faith is faith in reality which is partly incomprehensible to him. The Christian idea of faith is the acceptance by the creature (and now, since the Fall, the sinner) of God's plan set forth in Scripture" (Cornelius Van Til: A Christian Theory of Knowledge, 57. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Westminster Theological Seminary, 1954).

For fallen man, he is himself the basic reality because he is his own god (Gen. 3:5). As a result, he radically warps his perception of what reality is because to do otherwise means to acknowledge that he is a sinner in need of judgment. He is ready to raise metaphysical questions in order to obscure the moral ones. But all such attempts are failures. Because man is a creature, he can never sever the law-tie to his Creator.


Topics: Philosophy, R. J. Rushdoony

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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