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The Decay of Humanism

Because more than a few have become aware of the growing decay of our world-wide humanistic culture, the concern for answers is extensive and intense.

R. J. Rushdoony
  • R. J. Rushdoony,
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Because more than a few have become aware of the growing decay of our world-wide humanistic culture, the concern for answers is extensive and intense. Some of the most anti-christian leaders have expressed strongly religious hopes and answers. As Theodore Roszak, in The Making of a Counter Culture (p. 126), says of one degenerate writer’s emphasis, “The cry is not for a revolution, but for an apocalypse: a descent of divine fire.” The humanists need miracles and demand them, they want a radical change in everything except themselves. Even here, however, some humanists see the problem also. The young leaders of the May, 1968 Paris insurrection, Daniel and Gabriel Cohn-Bendit, in Obsolete Communism: The Left-Wing Alternative, write that “The real meaning of revolution is not a change in management, but a change in man.” True enough, but who shall bring about that change in man? God is rejected, so this leaves man in control. Experiments using man as the test animal are already in progress. Is this what the Cohn-Bendits want? If man is to change man, some kind of coercion and inhumanity becomes inescapable. Man as he is becomes then only a raw material, a resource for the future, and is thus expendable.

Such an answer only enforces the call for more statism. Whether proposed by statists or anarchists, the insistence that man must change man is a requirement for statist coercion and control. Having abandoned God, the humanist has not thereby rid himself of his need for God. As a result, he makes the state into his new god. The state is a Moloch demanding the sacrifice of youth in every age, demanding that the priorities of the state become sacrosanct in the eyes of its citizens. The humanists may rail against the Establishment, but their only alternative is to become themselves the Establishment. In the new states of Asia and Africa, revolutions come and go. Each new set of leaders vow idealistically to institute a new order and soon reproduce the old evils. Nat Hentoff, who earlier wrote an idealizing campaign book about New York’s Mayor John V. Lindsay, now finds Lindsay practicing all the tricks of the “power brokers” whom he once fought against. Men have a habit of remaining sinners, and neither state office nor state coercion can usher men into a state of grace. The statist answer is a moral and social dead end.

When God changes man by His sovereign grace, He then commissions man to change society by means of God’s law. The rebirth or regeneration of man is God’s task; the application of God’s law-word to all of life is man’s task.

There are today many earnest champions of reconstruction, concerned humanists who recognize that civilization is in decay. Because their answers are humanistic and/or statist, they inescapably fail, because they simply reproduce the existing evils. The answer is well stated in the title of T. Robert Ingram’s excellent study, The World Under God’s Law.

The financing of godly reconstruction is by means of the tithe (see Report no. 43). Social financing is an inescapable necessity. It will not do to rail against the state, welfarism, public schools, and other forms of socialism if we do not have a legitimate alternative. In every era in Western civilization when tithing declined, social financing was instituted by coercive and statist means.

During much of the medieval era, health, education and much more were all financed by means of the tithe. Later, under Puritanism, all these things and newer institutions, such as work-houses for job training, were products of the tithe. When state financing returned with the decline of Puritanism, the evangelical re-awakening led, in the early part of the 19th century, to an abandonment again of statist answers. W. K. Jordan, Philanthropy in England, 1480-1660, (1959) has given us an account of the English scene in that era. In the U.S., in the first half of the 19th century, voluntary societies, products of tithe funds, were formed to deal with every kind of social problem, provide Christian schools for immigrants, care for orphans, seamen, servants, and others, and to work to further the “Moral Government of God” in every sphere.

Whatever its faults, America then was a very free society, and its people were truly upper and middle class because of their emphasis on certain principles. First, they were future oriented as Christians who saw history in terms of God and a glorious and manifest destiny in terms of Him. Second, this purpose was to be unfolded by means of the voluntary principle, and those who believed in that future gave their money and their efforts to furthering it.

Social financing cannot be avoided. The state is ready to assume it as a means of power (as is the church); the tithe places the power and decision in the hands of the believer. State financing cannot be “abolished” unless it is replaced. The answer is therefore not legislation but Christian reconstruction. We cannot wait for people to vote the abolition of welfarism and the public schools; we must construct our own schools and our own more godly welfare agencies. Quietly and steadily, these things are being done.

Many of the older agencies, schools, and colleges have been captured by the humanists and statists. The best way to honor the memory of their founders is to carry on in their spirit by establishing new agencies, churches, schools and colleges. The lower class concentrates on the present and blames “the world” or the “Establishment” for all its problems. An upper class is too busy with the problems of reconstruction and the duties of every-day life to have much time for tut-tutting over the world. Every man who builds has his eye on the future, and he is busy making it for when tomorrow comes, it is his work that stands in it, whereas all the whining and complaining of the bewailers is gone with the wind. The world was not empty when we came into it. Other men have labored, and we have entered into their labors. Now, in a time of cultural decay, the need to rebuild is especially urgent, and, as always, it takes time, money, and work. Those unwilling to pay the price, and those who discourage easily, have no future. Let them eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow they die. Of such men Solomon said, “Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be heavy of heart” (Prov. 31:6). Nowadays, those who are “ready to perish” want marijuana as well!

Meanwhile, the work of reconstruction goes on all around you. True, new foundations do not loom as large as old structures, but they are there. But where are you? In the old structures, or building on the new foundations?

Taken from Roots of Reconstruction, p. 757.

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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