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History on the Chopping Block: Who Gets to Command?

Explore the intricate relationship between state power, individual rights, and the concept of “disposable man.” Martin Selbrede delves into how prioritizing state interests undermines human freedom and individuality. He contrasts this with a Christian worldview that harmonizes change and permanence, offering a path to lasting meaning and value. He also sheds light on the dangers of erasing history and how transient doctrines can have devastating impacts on society.

Martin G. Selbrede
  • Martin G. Selbrede,
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Man has to be disposable, because otherwise, when we try to remake men, we will suddenly find ourselves having to be respectful of individual rights. For example, for each individual human, and at that point, we’re saying, “Well, no.” Human freedom, which would involve respect for man, has to be off the table because the state’s prerogatives take priority. And because they take priority, men must be disposable.

The intent is to command history, which was part of your first question to Mark. Man wants to command history, but that means a lot of things have to end up on the dustbin of history. Why? Because man is at war with himself as to how to command history and who gets to do that. Who commands history? Who decides? Is it Alexander the Great who is going to decide what the world is going to be shaped like? Is it the Roman Caesars? Is it some future antichrist that some Christians believe in? Or is it God who determines history?

Now, when man determines history, man becomes disposable in the process. Every time he tries to create a legacy, that legacy can be destroyed. We even see it today, when legacies are being tossed and statues are being pulled down, because now they are politically incorrect. Those people who were revered back in the day are not revered now. They are going to melt those statues down and do something else with them. But unwittingly, they’re kind of proving God’s point: God’s going to melt down a lot of things and do something else with them too. He’s going to convert everything to His Kingdom. The Kingdom of God absorbs all the other alien kingdoms, consumes them, and makes them part of itself. So their meaning is restored.

Disposable man has this fundamental problem: man loses himself. Once you talk about the notion of disposable man, we’ve already said that we’ve actually demoted man. We’ve depersonalized him; we’ve made him useless. In fact, we are going to be measured by how useful we are to the state. For example, they’re now talking about social credit points. It used to be part of comedy science fiction just five years ago, and now it’s a reality. “Oh, my bank account got closed because they didn’t like my Facebook posts.”

The doctrine is going to start taking control. What Dr. Rushdoony brought to the table is the antithesis between two directions to take: preserving the permanence of the existing system, or changing it. Both of these approaches say we’re interested in preserving it, perhaps because our power is preserved as a result, or we want to change it because we don’t like it; we want to make it something else. Change is important, he says. These two different dynamics that are pushed into history by different sectors of humanity are dead ends. Both of them, when they’re put together as the only goal—to change things or only to preserve things—are dead ends. And both of those end up in the dustbin of history.

He says only the Christian actually knows that change and permanence have a unity, just like the “one in the many” problem that Dr. Rushdoony talks about. There is a harmony between those two things that pushes the Kingdom of God forward. Because the Kingdom of God is not yet realized, but it is to be realized, there will be change. But whatever things are erected on the Kingdom of God, on God’s Word, will remain. Their works will follow them, as Revelation 14 informs us. There will not be a disposable man if your works follow you all the way into eternity. That has staying power, and only the Christian can affirm that.

All of humanistic doctrines and models—their works do not follow them. They are always subject to being crushed underfoot by the next dictator who says, "Okay, I’m going to wipe everything out and actually remove people’s images from photographs, like Stalin did." All of a sudden, you become disposable at that point in time, and maybe your podcast will be removed and obliterated even from the Wayback Machine, so that nobody can find it anymore.

Because man wants to shape things and command history, Orwell made this point: dictatorial thinking requires that people not know their past. If they have a past that has meaning, then they’re going to want to adopt that and perhaps pursue it into the future, as Christendom does. So the big enemy of humanism is always going to be Christianity, because we bring meaning to the table. They try to evacuate the world of meaning and simply make the state the be-all and end-all, the apex of value and authority. Whereas we put God there instead, as He rightfully belongs and should be, in our hearts and our minds and our actions.

And that’s what the big difference is going to be. One of these positions is going to have staying power, and that’s "dominion man" when he walks in terms of what God requires. God honors that because there’s a covenant there that God will keep. When man operates in terms of what he wishes to do on his own volition, there is no covenant relationship; he’s outside the covenant and therefore acting outside the realm of blessing and acting outside of the realm of permanence. Because “whatsoever things the Lord hath not planted shall be rooted up,” as the Lord informs us. And that’s the problem with being a disposable man. You can inflict that upon yourself, simply because you’re selfish. In other words, “He who tries to gain his life loses it.” He who tries to gain permanence will lose that. He who tries to make change ultimate will lose even that because the next level of change is going to suddenly come back and bite you.

Here’s an example: radical feminists make all this tremendous traction for themselves in our culture. “Aha, we have the change we want,” until the more rapidly developing transgender people come back and say, “Oh, you’re a bunch of TERFs; you’re trans-exclusionary radical feminists, and now we’re going to attack you.” So the beast consumes itself as a result. When change moves that quickly, today’s good change becomes tomorrow’s bad change. And you don’t have any of the solidity that Christianity gives you with an unchanging eternal Word, moral imperatives of God that are fixed and therefore not subject to human whims and whimsy. And that’s a big difference, because you can trust God; you cannot trust man.

Martin G. Selbrede
  • Martin G. Selbrede

Martin is the senior researcher for Chalcedon’s ongoing work of Christian scholarship, along with being the senior editor for Chalcedon’s publications, Arise & Build and The Chalcedon Report. He is considered a foremost expert in the thinking of R.J. Rushdoony. A sought-after speaker, Martin travels extensively and lectures on behalf of Christian Reconstruction and the Chalcedon Foundation. He is also an accomplished musician and composer.

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