The centuries between the fall of Rome and the Renaissance were named "the medieval era" or the "Dark Ages" by the historians of the later Middle Ages because they were seen as a lapse in the culture of Greco-Roman humanism. Earlier, that era was also called "the Dark Ages," but the witness of the cathedrals and the church's scholarship made that term ridiculous, and it was in the main dropped. What was retained was the view of the modern age as a resumption of true civilization, i.e., humanistic statism.
This statism early revealed itself in the high role given to kings, who supposedly had "divine rights." A portrait of Louis XIV depicts him as a god. Palaces such as Versailles were the cathedrals of the new culture.
In the early years of humanistic statism, the powers of the state did not extend into such spheres as education and economics as was later the case but, from the beginning, the over ruling power of the state was apparent.
As against all of this, the American War of Independence was a conservative counter-revolution. The people retained for some time a Christian character, but the leaders, after c. 1825, were increasingly lawyers and very much in the Enlightenment tradition. After the two Roosevelts, political thought was increasingly humanistic.
As a result, while the Left in politics steadily pursued its quest for the ancient pagan state as portrayed in Plato's Republic, the Right lost its roots in Christianity and became a conservative version of the Left's agenda. The Bible and the name of God could be used by the Right, but with less and less meaning. John Locke, very much a humanist, was cited oftener than John Calvin. American culture was being remade in terms of humanism, and the "public" school became the holy house of many.
The results favored the Left, which was faithful to its humanistic presupposition, whereas the Right was either rootless or grounded in the premises of the opposition. As a result, America faces the twenty-first century with a philosophy alien to its origins.
Salvation in the twentieth century has been by political action or military force. Any reading of the Bible makes clear that war is never seen as the way of salvation, but the American Presidents of the twentieth century have acted as military saviors. Since World War II, American troops have been in action all over the world, as though ancient wrongs can be righted with more killing. Political assassinations all over the world reflect this humanistic faith in salvation by killings. Not atonement, but murder, is seen as the saving force.
Now because military action and revolution have become so popular a means of social salvation does not alter the fact that it usually compounds existing evils.
In the beginning of the twentieth century, America's major world role was as a Christian missionary power. All over the world, Americans built missions, orphanages, Christian schools and colleges. All over the world also, Christian charity met crises with redeeming grace and action. American intervention then meant godly help and relief. Now, while the missionary action is still important, some of it is modernistic, and our political and military intervention has been hated and resented. The nineteenth century plan of a world commission to bring salvation through Christ to all men and nations has been replaced by humanism and its plan to save the world with interference, military action, and a rejection of the Christian Faith. No wonder these United States, once seen as the land of faith and freedom, is now hated and resented.
The American Right has little to offer the people except a slower-paced leftism.
"The Land of the Free" has become the home of would-be tyrants with ever-expanding dreams of control.
What is required is the recognition that salvation is not the work of the states, or a super-state, but of Jesus Christ, that the only valid law is God's law, and that God does not bless men and nations who invoke His name but neglect or despise His Word. Such actions are pharisaical and hypocritical. It is time to leave such a stance to the Left.
- 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.