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Death of an Age

The Death of an Age and Its Faith

ByRev. R.J. Rushdoony – bio

 The death of an age is abloody business. Men, disillusioned with the promises of their faith, yetunwilling to surrender them, strike out at everything in rage and infrustration. Like a rudderless ship, the civilization loses its direction andis driven by events instead of driving through them. Today, in the last days ofhumanism, as men steadily destroy their world, it is important for us tounderstand the meaning of the times and act in terms of that knowledge. Thehumanists in their blindness celebrate "the death of God" when it isin fact the death of humanism and their own funeral; they are racing to intheir heedless course.

Humanism is dying because itsfaith is false, and its promises bankrupt. Let us examine that faith in orderto understand more clearly its failure. 


First of all, humanism presupposes afaith in man, even to insisting on the basic goodness of man. Thisidealistic affirmation comes with it the assumption that evil is not in man butrather in his environment. Change the environment, and you thereby change man,it is held. As a result, humanistic sociology and politics are rigorouslyenvironmental: every effort is made to provide better housing, bettereducation, every kind of environmental control, but, in all of this, man's evilonly seems to proliferate.

As a result, many humanists have themselves abandoned theirfaith in man. Nietzsche, ahead of most, proclaimed the need of superman toreplace man, and evolutionists and socialists have dedicated themselves toworking towards the creation of a new man. Man as he now is, in terms of thishope, is expendable: he is merely the ape who shall produce the man of thefuture. Lenin who held this view, could therefore treat with ruthless contemptthe apes beneath him as he worked to bring the new man out of them. In everyversion, this belief is a break with the humanistic faith in man.


A second basic concept of the humanisticfaith is its affirmation that man is his own god. As Ihave pointed out, in several of my books (e.g., This Independent Republic,p. 140.), basic to every sound theology is the doctrine of the unity of thegodhead. A schizophrenic god is no god at all. Mankind, humanity, being made upof gods, must be united to avoid a division in this new godhead, man. Thismeans world unity, a one-world order; it means world peace, for the godheadmust not be at war with itself.

Ironically, this faith has led to what has been called "perpetualwar for perpetual peace." To demand the unity of all men is theessence of total imperialism. The result is total warfare. The peace lovers arehistory's greatest warmongers. Worldwide interventionism to effect world peacehas characterized the policies of late of the U.S.S.R., the U.S., the U.N., andothers. Granted their presuppositions, all are "sincere", butsincerity does not mean either truth or justice.

Moreover, man without God ends up as man without man, unable andunwilling to live at peace with anyone, and unable to live at peace withhimself. The existentialist Sartre has stated the modern mood bluntly: "Hellis other people." If every man is his own god, knowing or determiningfor himself what constitutes good and evil, then every man is at war with anylimitation upon himself imposed by other men or by a state. Hell then islogically "other people", and the humanistic faith in man as his owngod becomes history's major impulse towards suicide. The Satanic temptation(Genesis 3:5) thus becomes the counsel of death to men and nations.


The third basic doctrine of the religionof humanism is the belief in equality (see again This Independent Republic,p. 140). Equality is a concept of the age of humanism, with its respect for theauthority of science, transferred from the realm of mathematics and applied toman. The results have been devastating. Two plus two equals four is a validconcept, and a necessary abstraction. Such abstractions are important tools. Indealing with board feet of lumber, all cut to size, and graded, suchabstractions work. But the richness and variety of man cannot be expressed byabstractions. Two Africans and two Englishmen do not equal four Americans, orvice versa: the equation mark now becomes an absurdity. Who are these eightmen, and what are their talents? Are they saints of God or are they apostates,criminals or good citizens? One may be a plumber, and the other a concertviolinist; the plumber may be more important to you today, and the violinisttonight. Each have their place, their function, and the term equality isirrelevant to it: it imposes an abstract mathematical judgment in an area wherea vast variety of considerations must govern.

But we are governed today by the politics of equality. Tochallenge the doctrine is in bad form, although everyone is troubled, andsociety in an uproar, over the unrealistic attempts to enforce an abstractiononto the concrete facts of life.

The doctrine is honored inprinciple and denied in practice. The Marxist world affirms, "From eachaccording to his abilities, to each according to his needs", but this isnot an equality of work but of wealth. In practice, even this is abandonedby the Marxists in favor of a variety of rewards and a radically unequalsociety, one with greater variations of social status than the old Russia had.Both Fabian and Marxist socialisms now favor Meritocracy, rigid examinations,state control of all jobs, and positions being assigned (and power) in terms ofexaminations. The result is the rise of a new privileged class. InBritain, the House of Lords is steadily packed with Labor politicians, who havebeen made peers, and there are signs that its power may be revived under theleadership of this new elite. The equalitarians end up by asserting, as inOrwell's Animal Farm, that some animals are more"equal", than others! Whether it is the peasants of Russia, orthe Negroes of America, the most rebellious and angry people, the mostdisillusioned members of equalitarian society, are those who have been"made equal" by acts of state. They know that they have beendefrauded, and their impulse becomes revolutionary.


The fourth basic concept of the religionof humanism is its belief in the inevitability of progress. Thisis a secularized version of the belief in Providence. Humanism, by denying God,has depersonalized history. The world and its events are no longer the plan andhandiwork of a personal, sovereign God; they are the product of anonymous,impersonal social forces. These impersonal forces, with planning man nowguiding his own evolution, are supposed to ensure, not only progress, but morerapid progress. The result is, as Robert L. Heilbroner, in TheFuture as History, has termed it, a "philosophy of expectations."In terms of humanism, mankind should now be moving rapidly into a paradise onearth. In the 1920s and 1930s, teachers and professors often waxed lyrical inportraying the golden age which scientific planning would usher in. Today, themost intelligent of humanism's children are most in revolt against its failureto deliver on its promises. According to Kenneth Keniston, in the November,1969, Yale Alumni Magazine, the Students involved incampus protests are usually the most intelligent on the campus. "Onestudy finds that the best way to predict whether a college will have anti-warprotests is to count the number of National Merit Scholars in the freshmanclass... Furthermore, protesting students have been shown again and againto be an elite within each college and university more privileged inbackground, more academically successful, more socially concerned than theirless active classmates... It is partly for this reason that student unrestconcerns us profoundly. To be sure, if we consider white students (and I willnot discuss black militants here), only a minority of America's almost7,000,000 college students are vocally disaffected. Yet if this minority isselectively drawn from the future leaders of our society, does this fact notthreaten the continuity of our culture?" It does indeed, and thecontinuity of humanistic culture is being destroyed by its own bitter anddisillusioned sons.


The destruction is also written into humanistic culture at everyturn. Because of this belief in the inevitability of progress, mencan believe that progress will come inevitably after destruction. Destroy thepast, clear the ground, and progress is inevitable. This is basic to therevolutionary mentality. This scientism is described by Ortega y Gasset in TheRevolt of the Masses, as a new form of barbarism. Such a barbarian "believesthat civilization is there in just the same way as the earth's crust and theforest primeval." As a result, this barbarian destroys in order toadvance, because the destruction supposedly speeds up progress. The morerevolutionary humanism becomes, the more it is suicidal.


Fifth, thebasic saving institutions of humanism, i.e., its church or temple, are stateand school. Both today are morally bankrupt. The implicit anarchismin all humanism makes man hostile to the state: it is always a hatedestablishment to him, a restraint on his freedom to be his own god. Whateverform the state takes, it displeases humanistic man. Very consistently, someleaders on the new left now call for perpetual revolution as the only answer.

The school is also bankrupt. The mathematical dream of equalityis especially absurd when applied to education, which is the process ofdifferentiation, analysis, and understanding, not a massive leveling, of ideasand facts. Education is thus in growing chaos, and it cannot improve onhumanistic terms. Nothing is more ridiculous than a "save our publicschools" movement. In its origin, the public school movement wassocialistic and humanistic, and it cannot be otherwise. It is a state agencyfor state purposes, and its basic premise is the state's right to control andeducate the child. The public school movement is bankrupt, and it is dying.

Humanism is dying, if not dead. Living with a corpse is nopleasant matter. It does not require documentation to tell us that a corpse isfar gone. The answer to our problem lies elsewhere, not in documentation ondeath, but in reconstruction for life.

Humanism is dead, but the triune God lives and rules, sovereignover all. There must be reconstruction, godly reconstruction. Let the dead burythe dead. The living have work to do. All things shall be made new; newschools, new social orders, new institutions, renewed family life, in everyarea the principle of godly reconstruction must be applied.

Defensive warfare is a mistake: it leaves the initiative to theenemy. Those who are content to protect the past die with it. Ourcalling is to offensive warfare to subdue the earth and to exercise dominionover it (Gen. 1:26-28). This is what it means to be a man, created in the imageof God. Remember: dominion does not belong to a mouse.

Some years ago, J. Allen Smith,by no means a conservative, wrote as follows in TheGrowth and Decadence of Constitutional Government (1939):"The basic conception of the old political order was not the divine rightof kings, but the sovereignty of God. The assumed divine right of the temporalruler was not an essential part of this doctrine. Divine sovereignty, asenvisaged in the Christian theory of the world, was simply a conception of Godas the ultimate source of authority. Direct human intermediaries, such as popeor king, were purely adventitious features of this belief." This belief inGod's sovereignty meant also the rule of law. As Smith continued, "Supremeunlimited power had no place in the political thought of the earlyconstitutionalists. All human authority was conceived to be limited." The"ultimate sovereignty of God precluded the idea that any human authoritycould be unlimited."

Precisely. And because today the sovereignty of God is denied,the sovereignty of man and the state is affirmed. It isuseless to rail against the present trend if we are a part of it, and unless weaffirm the sovereignty of God in its every aspect, we are to all practicalintent affirming man and his humanistic order. In other words, you have alreadytaken sides, and you had better know it. You are either working for the"Crown Rights of King Jesus" or for the crown claims of humanisticman. You cannot logically affirm "the rule of law", "moralprinciples", and "old-fashioned virtues" without affirming thesovereignty of God. The Marxists are right in recognizing God as the basic andultimate enemy. Unless you stand in terms of the sovereignty of God as yourstrength, your first and last line of defense, and the ground of all advance,move over and join the enemy: you are a humanist.

(Taken from Roots of Reconstruction,p. 697; Chalcedon Report No. 56)