The most frequent subject of the discourses of Jesus was the Kingdom of Heaven. He would often begin with, “The kingdom of heaven is like…” or “…is likened unto…” Most of these analogies are specifically tied to the responsibilities of individuals and several describe the context of that duty as being when the master, or lord, was away. The emphasis was clearly on the responsibility of each individual citizen in the kingdom to further the lord’s interests as faithfully as if he was present and personally supervising. Such were “faithful” servants. The message is clear enough. Only those who act in terms of obedience to the commands of Jesus, the Lord of the Kingdom of Heaven, are truly faithful to their calling.
My father, Chalcedon founder Rousas John Rushdoony, often used extraordinarily strong words, many of which were easy targets for those who chose to construe him and his ideas in the worst possible light. For instance, an unusual term he used to characterize the actions of faithless Christians was “Moloch worship.” He was not suggesting anyone offered sacrifices to an idol. Bowing before a graven image is only one form of idolatry. Even when this was common, men knew that human hands had formed the image. Idols always represented a power that was considered real. The heart of Moloch worship (a form of Baalism) was its ascription of power or lordship. Temples and priests were typically subsidized with public funds. It was in the interest of the state to sponsor Baal worship because it then shared in the power ascribed to the deity. Those modern Christians whose first loyalty or ascription of jurisdiction is to the state or its self-serving institutions (like government schools) were, my father said, effectively worshipping Moloch, the statist cult. He was referring to their failure to assume the Kingdom and lordship of Jesus Christ in their life as effective apostasy.
Another use of strong language that my father used was his reference to the need for Christians to be what he called a “governing class.” Many are quick to assume this was a desire for Christians to, minimally, assume a status by right or even to surreptitiously infiltrate avenues of power to command as taskmasters. What did he mean by a “governing class”?
My father frequently noted our tendency to understand language in terms of modern modes of thought. Government to modern man is the administration of civil power. He frequently emphasized the Biblical view of government as self-government under God’s law. This self-government the believer seeks to extend to his every act and thought. He is most attuned to the power not in any statist, civil realm but in the sovereign triune God. The believer governs himself in a strict self-discipline in obedience to God. He sees himself as having his primary citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven.
The “governing class” my father envisioned was a body of Christians self-disciplined in terms of God’s law into a resource of character and vision. He was asking Christians to be ethical leaders in their homes, vocations, and communities.
Worldview is our “big picture” understanding about how our lives and history fit into the larger context. Worldview is our view of reality so it is necessarily religious because religion is our understanding of what is ultimate. Our theology is therefore necessarily linked with our worldview. If we assume the authority of a sovereign God, we do not exclude history from His Providence, and in fact look to its resolution in terms of an accountability to His eternal decree. If we hold to a dualistic view, one that sees the material world and history as the source of evil and an ethereal spiritual realm as the seat of God’s Kingdom, our view of earthly history may envision a very dark, pessimistic view of the progressive victory of evil. Such a view voluntarily surrenders all of history to evil to focus on an extremely limited concept of what is God’s. Man is a religious being and his theology of what is ultimate will control his worldview, which in turn drives his view of life and moral responsibility. I personally prefer the term “world and life view” to worldview because it references the necessary outworking of our basic faith.
Knowledge and Ethics
There are many skills and facts to learn in life, but they can seem disjointed and random unless we can put them in a context that makes them seem relevant. Do you remember “story problems” from math lessons? Students rarely enjoy them because they required a broader spectrum of understanding and thought rather than just a mechanical tabulation. Some panicked at them. When I taught school I told my students that real-life math was a series of story problems. Seldom, I said, would they be presented with a series of arithmetic problems to tabulate; they would have to surmise the correct math problem or algebraic formula to solve a real-world problem. Ignore “Bill,” or “Susan,” or the “farmer,” or “store owner” of the story problem, I said. “This is you and your problem. What arithmetic problem or formula will enable you to solve it?” Similarly, our world and life view enables us to see real-world problems for what they are and approach them with a calm sense of moral certainty, even if their resolution is not as simple as a math calculation.
Because a world and life view is necessarily religious, it will very quickly lead us to ethical judgments. Man was created in the image of God, so he cannot avoid the idea of morality. It is in this area that conflict with others arises because your ethics reveals the nature and hence the direction of your thinking. If we are going to have a confrontation about our worldview, it might just as well be over the basis of our ethics. As a college sophomore, I took an Ancient History course at a California State University campus near my home. The professor’s opening words were a question for class discussion, “Do you believe man is basically good or evil?” When no one volunteered an opinion, he quickly pointed at me and asked my opinion. I gave it, and the rest of the course (an intensive summer session that met for three hours a day for several weeks) pitted my opinion against the rest of the class. No one wanted to agree with any statement I made. They knew we had differing worldviews. Mine (coming from a Christian education) seemed as detached from reality to them as theirs did to me.
Making All Things New
The Christian can believe in a resolution to evil because he believes in the power of God. How we see that happening may differ, but eschatology plays a pivotal role in our world and life view. Christians disagree on the timing of that resolution (such as the extent that it will happen within history) but they do believe it will come from the hand of God.
When men do not look to God for the definition of evil or implementation of justice, they assume both as their prerogative. Man is a creature of God so even in rebellion he must borrow God’s categories of thought and action. Man cannot be free of God so he imitates Him. Man in rebellion tries to “be as gods knowing good and evil,” right and wrong, for himself (Gen. 3:5). The problem is that ethics involves more than a definition. Sin needs atonement so men must also define the penalty for his self-defined evil. Someone, or some group, must pay for the evil defined by man. On the individual level, self-atonement leads to a self-loathing, self-destructive, and suicidal behavior. It’s a form of self-punishment, a will to “pay” for their sins (by any name). We do not have to look too hard to see examples of people who lead self-destructive lives. “All they that hate me love death” (Prov. 8:36).
Not all are willing to see evil in themselves, however. A more dangerous social tendency is to define evil in others, whether a race, a class, or a political party. Then, the self-righteous direct their indignation at others who, it is insisted, must pay for the supposed sins identified. Much of politics is now assigning sin and guilt to others. False definitions of evil necessarily lead to false ascriptions of guilt and a recommended penalty as well as preventative measures. Conflict ensues and locks a society into a self-destructive path.
Charles Darwin wrote after Karl Marx but was important in the development of Marxist thought because he gave an ostensible historical basis for the importance Marx placed on revolution. Darwin claimed that biological evolution came through random chaotic change and struggle. Violence enabled the stronger, more assertive to survive. This was the fundamental struggle of history, Darwin said, and it allowed biological evolution to proceed, so despite being ugly at times, it ultimately made man what he is. Karl Marx could then point to Darwin to show revolution was not just inevitable, it was both necessary and benign because it was cathartic. If chaos and violence was the impetus behind biological development it was logical to see it as an essential means of social justice. Following Darwin, the modern liberal has embraced revolutionary tactics. These do not necessarily involve barricades in the street or Molotov cocktails, but the modern mind believes that the destruction of what they hold in contempt will lead to progress. The process of revolution is seen as removing that which seeks to maintain a status quo and retard advance. In this perspective, what is old is not worth conserving. It is defined as regressive and so needs to be removed for the march of progress to proceed. The belief is in the inevitability of evolution, progress as the magical outcome of repudiation and destruction. This theory of Darwin is now controlling our culture.
The Christian sees culture as the outgrowth of the moral and physical capitalization of individuals directly and society indirectly. They see that which is of value as worthy of being conserved, but value involves a moral component, so it is dictated by worldview. The humanist with a faith in Darwin’s mythology will believe in progress as an inevitable process that can be accelerated by anarchy. As Darwin’s biology ultimately was a faith in magic, so too the modern revolutionary believes that their destructiveness removes the old stagnation and allows for social progress. They see the revolutionary destruction as a cultural housecleaning. For the Christian, man’s moral change by the Spirit is the means of his regeneration. For modern man following Darwin, regeneration is the destruction of all that is perceived as counter-revolutionary. To “conserve” the past is seen as impeding necessary progress, hence the modern contempt for “conservatives” whose use of that term is taken by “liberals” as an advocacy of a regressive ideology and resistance to the supposed forward-thinking of the “progressives.”
Where Are Things Going?
Our vision of the future is not merely ideological; it dictates every aspect of our lives. The vision Jesus presented us is of His Kingdom as Lord of heaven and earth. It was a world and life view that gives us a transcendent perspective on this world and our lives and on that part of His eternal providence we call time and history. His instruction was to think of our lives as the redeemed in terms of our citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Man in sin is headed into a downward spiral; his life and civilization, without the grace of God, will reflect that death spiral. Cornelius Van Til’s expression for man’s direction in sin was “integration into the void.” After Darwin, men seem to have fully embraced the looming void. A Christian eschatology of redemption and restoration has been replaced with a faith in Darwin’s mythology of certain advance.
Our redemption is our recall to the faithful obedience abandoned by Adam and Eve. Jesus said He came that men “might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Perhaps the most crippling theology in the history of the Christian faith is that which relegates it primarily to the personal realm. The Christian gospel and faith is very personal, but it is also purposeful; it enables the redeemed of God to find themselves in the far larger context of God’s eternal purpose. The faith is also one in the restorative work of God. The larger context of our personal walk of faith is our citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus has overcome the world, not just our personal death sentence (John 16:33). He rules and calls us to live in terms of that reality. History moves in terms of the eternal will of God, not Darwin’s substitute, evolution.
My father initiated the modern theonomy movement in the 1960s. The word theonomy refers to God’s law-word. The only way we can be faithful citizens of the Kingdom is to self-consciously obey God’s Word. Europe was a mess after the Renaissance. It was a culture in crisis. Homosexuality was common as were sexually transmitted diseases. The Reformation saved Europe from self-destruction; it was transformative because it emphasized the authority of the Word of God.
Twenty-first century man also seems bent on self-destruction because he is living in terms of a worldview that offers no ultimate meaning or hope. The hope of modern man is in the inevitability of evolution (he rarely speaks of the potential for devolution). He assumes a better future and assumes it will come through the process of violence and chaos. He believes in Darwinism so he believes in the destruction of all that impedes radical change as ethically not only necessary but noble.
Christianity must eventually return to a view of the faith beyond the personal. Essential to this is to understand our life and responsibilities in terms of the Kingdom of Heaven and its Lord Jesus Christ. We are not in a holding pattern until our death. We are to see ourselves as made in the image of God and recalled by His power to a newness of life. We must know ourselves in that light and then see our duties as citizens of His Kingdom, commissioned for service by His authority (Matt. 28:18-20). That is a world and life view that transcends us and gives our lives meaning because they can serve God’s purpose of restoring all things to Himself.
In the world Darwin described, there could be no meaning or purpose so man’s life could never find fulfillment. Darwin’s was a false worldview, however, and one that will crumble to the dustbin of history, though it is now destroying much of the world around us.
Our worldview must be one of faith in the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the advance of His Kingdom, power and glory until every tongue confesses and every knee bows before Him.