Resources

The Dark Ages Defined

By R. J. Rushdoony
March 01, 2001

The term "Dark Ages" or "Dark Age" is of recent usage. Not long after the French Revolution, it was used by historians to define the period after the fall of the Roman Empire to the Renaissance. They soon realized that the centuries that produced the cathedrals, the universities, scholasticism, and more could hardly be called "dark," and so the terms "middle ages" or "medieval era" were invented. "Middle" meant between the fall of Rome and the Renaissance. For these men any kind of Christian era was a lapse between Roman and modern humanistic statism. "Dark Ages" was used for a time to refer to the time immediately after the fall of Rome. Those times were "dark" because Christianity had succeeded.

For Christians, the term "Dark Ages" is wrong, and "medieval" not too much better. A dark age is an age without Christ, and we must say that we are drifting into such an era all over the world. Most revelatory of that have been public schools, films, television, and the impeachment trial of President Clinton in early 1999. In the trial, only one Senator referred to the Biblical law against adultery, and that citation was brief and cautious. Any examination of current events shows that we are drifting from a Christian culture to a humanistic, statist one.

Imposing structures are no evidence of faith or freedom. The pyramids of Egypt, the imposing buildings of Rome, and the same emphasis on power in other cultures gave more evidence of tyranny than light. The world of our day gives more evidence of the vainglory of the taxing state than anything else.

This means that the church cannot be the chaplain to an anti-Christian order. The United States has a chaplain for Congress, but its Supreme Court has virtually outlawed the influence and application of Christianity in national life. England has a state church, but the least percentage of Christians, and is the world's lowest in the percentage of practicing believers of any religion. Sweden, Germany, and other countries have state churches and no prevailing Christianity. And so it goes everywhere.

We are now moving into a dark age the world over, and few seem concerned. All too many churches that claim to believe the Bible reject its law, which constitutes much of the Bible. Sinning public officials have cited the belief that the law is dead as justification for adultery.

The heart of any culture is its law. The law defines what is right and wrong, and where ultimate authority rests. The modern state sees itself as the definer, not God. The church, in the process of its modernism and its antinomianism, has in effect conceded to the state the power to make law. In the U.S., the Ten Commandments have been barred from state schools, and moral and social authority have been reserved to the state. The church is too often better at teaching good citizenship than Biblical Faith. The marks of a dark age are appearing all around us.

Basic to any society is faith and obedience. The two are inseparable; we cannot speak of a consistently lawless man as a man of faith. His contempt for law is a mark of his contempt for the Lawgiver, God. Present day culture is marked by a contempt for law, and in the churches this contempt is called faith. Churches, as a result, increasingly see their youth imitating the world. The practical cathedrals of the modern era are not only its public schools and state buildings, but also its huge prisons.

Christians must live under God's law, and they must apply it to every area of life and thought. Some churches reject God's law until the millennium, which is to say that they reject Christ as King. In fact, in some "Bible believing" churches it is held to be wrong to see Christ as King. Is it any wonder that we are losing? To say that Jesus Christ is our Savior but not our King is to say that He and His law do not command us, which means that the state's plan of salvation does.

Perhaps you want to live in a Dark Age; you find God's law distasteful, and want Jesus Christ as your Savior, not your Lord. If so, be content with the world around you. But, if not, believe in and apply God's law. For to see the Lord as our Savior and Lawgiver is truly to believe in Him. It means that we are not a part of the realm of darkness, but the people of Light.


Topics: Statism, Philosophy, Biblical Law, World History

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.

More by R. J. Rushdoony