Total Meaning

By R. J. Rushdoony
March 01, 1997

Because all things were made by God, "and without Him was not any thing made that was made" (Jn. 1:3), we live in a world of total meaning. As Cornelius Van Til stated it, there is no brute factuality, there are no meaningless facts in creation. All facts are God-created, God-ordained facts. We find them meaningless because we choose to ignore the fact of sin and its distorting nature. Facts do not derive their meaning from man but from God. If we insist on being the judge of their meaning, they will indeed be inexplicable and meaningless to us.

Original sin is our desire to be our own god, to determine or know good and evil, law and morality, in terms of our will rather than God's word (Gen. 3:5). Men want to know and determine all things by themselves, without reference to God. Their epistemologies, or theories of knowledge, are man-centered, not God-centered. They will not have life on God's terms. I recall one man who insisted that no meaning could be acceptable to man unless it were a man-centered one, which is another way of saying that no answer is valid unless man gives it. We must begin by recognizing that our man-centered answers are corrupt and fallen ones and that our Lord's "not my will, but thine, be done" (Lk. 22:42) must be our answer also.

History is a struggle to establish meaning: whose shall prevail, God's or man's? Some humanists, like Camus, were ready to deny any and all meaning in the universe in order to establish man's purely personal and existential meaning. In existentialism, the Death of God school of thought, and like currents of modern thinking, we see the extent to which humanism has gone. To escape from God, a cosmic meaning is denied in favor of a purely personal one. This is, of course, the logic of Genesis 3:5, every man as his own god and his own private world of meaning. In such a literary interpretation as deconstructionism, we see this retreat into a purely personal world of meaning played out to its insane end.

Because we are created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-28), we cannot rest content with a purely biological view of life, i.e., as simply physical and no more. In Augustine's words, "Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee." An existential meaning is an implicit form of suicide.

The first Adam sought the wrong meaning: "to be as god" came to be the death of man, the entrance of sin and death into the world. The fallen sons of Adam, then and now, love preaching that is anthropology, i.e., the word about man, or psychology, i.e., the word about man's psyche, but not theology, the word about God. When did you last hear a sermon about the doctrine of God, of Christ, of atonement, and so on? For a people most interested in themselves, theological sermons are offensive. Is it any wonder the churches are weak?

A world of total meaning, God's meaning, calls for total dedication and total service. There is no past-time Christian service or living. God's world of total meaning surrounds us. We are called to an unequivocal faith and service. Our Lord tells us that the essential requirement of us is this: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind: and thy neighbor as thyself" (Lk. 20:27). The word "all" seems to be replaced in current thinking! Where there is total faith and service, total meaning follows.

Topics: Apologetics, 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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