Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Christianity and the State, pt. 2

Chapter 3
Religion and the Church
In summarizing the contents of the previous two chapters, Rushdoony remarks that during the Christian Empire, the tendency was for the Empitre to identify God too closely with the Empire's world order, thereby making any enemy of the emperor/king an enemy of Christ. On the other side, the Church worked to separate God from the world as the emperors sought to unite God and the world. Further, the Church made the Pope in the image of the Emperor, such that an enemy of the Pope was an enemy of Christ. Thus the conflict between the divine right of kings and the divine right of popes was inaugurated in their long and historic conflict. Rushdoony also remarks that this tension was peculiar to the West, because the East was more Platonic in its thinking (i.e. other-worldly) and the West inherited the Roman tendencies toward centralization and simplification.

All of this summary and brief elaboration leads up to this paragraph:

The more immediate problem is thus not the ancient Church-State problem but rather the relationship of religion, and, more specifically, the Christian religion to the Church and to the State. Because both ecclesiastical and civil institutions have become humanistic, they have abandoned their historic Western roles under God for a new doctrine of social order. It is important therefore to examine the relationship of religion to the Church, having surveyed earlier the relationship of religion to the state. (10-11)

First, Rushdoony states that the Church is specifically a Christian institution. The non-Christian view of society is unitary: the social order of the state, of which religion is a department of state existing only as an aspect of the state. But because Christianity refused to have its Church according to the existence of the state, but rather as an institution in existence by God's divine Will, the Church was to inevitably come to war with the forces of state that sought to bring it under its dominion. Rushdoony puts it this way:

[The Church] shattered the humanistic unity of society by declaring itself to be the representative of a transcendental King and order, Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God. It held, moreover, that the State, and every aspect of society, is similarly duty bound to represent God's order, not man's. The Church therefore was more than new wine in an old wine skin; it was new wine demanding new wine skins, demanding that all things be made new in terms of Christ. (11)

Rushdoony marks Feudalism, in its decentralized aspects, to be a product of the relative freedom of the Western Church. When the Church centralized, the ability to administer the life of Christ locally and individually, and the ability to reform the Church regularly through new movements and orders was diminished. The great Reformation was a result of the centralization of the Western Church--rather than changing in small parts continually and throughout, the central order forced its detractors to break from its power and association.

In our contemporary context, the pagan notion of a unitary society has resurfaced and grown, constituting a radical denial of the nature of the Church. Rushdoony cites the thought and action of the Vatican and the World Council of Churches as an example of the trend. Decentralization is a by-product of the great commission in Matt. 28:18-20, which aims to reconstruct man and society in terms of the regenerating power of God in Christ.

Chapter 4
The Anthropology of the State
The concept of man is central to any doctrine of the state. Rushdoony lumps the diverse theories into general or major kinds. The first is the classical view of Greek thought, which believes that man is a union between two alien elements in dialectical tension:

1. Form, idea, reason, or spirit and
2. Matter, will, particularity, or flesh.

The first set is the higher element, whereas the second set is the lower. Whether one prized reason or will determined how one regard man. Socrates (through Plato) held that Virtue is Knowledge and that no man sins willingly. All virtue comes from knowing what is truly for our good, and all sin comes in mistaking what is harmful for what is good. Knowledge liberates reason from its bondage to the will (appetites) and leads to happiness by pursuing true knowledge and curbing bodily desires. But rather than being an optimistic view of man, this view made salvation from sin practically impossible, for pure knowledge and pure virtue could not end without ending the dialectical tension between the mind and body, i.e. only death could end the struggle. Only the philosophical life came close to the ideal, and only the State ruled by philosopher-kings could ensure an environment that encouraged such an ideal. Whereas the non-philosophical man garners too great a mistrust, the philosophical man garners too great a trust. Rushdoony identifies under this view Enlightenment philosophers up to Rousseau, Marxists, Fabian Socialists, Behaviorists, and others.

Aristotle represents a similar anthropology to Socrates and Plato. Rather than unifying everything in the State, Aristotle sought some emphasis upon the individual, or particular. Aristotle argued that the state was a creation of nature and thus man was a political animal by nature. Rushdoony remarks that if God created man, then man is defined by God and is a religious creature, but in Aristotle's conception, man is the creature of the state. So even in Aristotle's focus on particulars, he arrives at the same conclusion as Plato: man is the creature of the state. Like Plato, Aristotle saw a conflict between mind and body, saw "the good" as that to which all things aimed, and argued that both the good of man and the good of the state are what is good for man. However, the good of the state, being a greater and more perfect good, and thus holds prominence and preference over the individual good--once again we have the centrality of the state in the life of man, for the good of the state is what enables man to reach his highest good. This final good, like Plato, is happiness, defined as "self-sufficiency," which is supposed to seek itself in society as opposed to in its own individuality (i.e. anarchy).

Thus, classical anthropology shifts back and forth between anarchy and totalitarianism, or as Rushdoony puts it:

Classical anthropology thus had an ambivalent position, moving from totalitarianism to anarchism quite readily. The nature-freedom dialectic of modern philosophy gives it the same tendency, an emphasis on the totalitarian Savior-state, a world state, and an omnipotent state on the one hand, and, on the other, the protectionist, autonomous nation state and the anarchistic individual. Both man and the state claim to be universals and absolute particulars. Both man and the state see themselves as the final judge and arbiter of all things, and both decide issues in relationship to themselves.

This classical formulation also holds that man is a product of blind chaos and chance, an evolutionary accident, and an accidental product. His nature is not constant or God-given. Man is a product of his environment and is molded to whatever form the molder desires. Thus, education is necessary to mold the man and thereby control his future. Plato, Aristotle, Locke, Pavlov, Freud, Dewey, and many other statists have insisted upon the control of the child through education. The view of the "plastic man" as Rushdoony calls it, is a doctrine of totalitarianism, for it holds that total power can produce total change. The opposing side in the modern reformulation of the classical anthropology is the existentialist anarchists, who deny both the state and other men. Freedom, for these, is expressed by the unmotivated act and its demonstration of radical independence from God and man.

The second kind of anthropology is expressed in the democratic view of man. Behind it lies radical scientific elitism. Rousseau and his doctrine of man's goodness is a major figure of this view, which claims that only institutions and a bad environment lead to evil or sin on the part of man. Man has great dignity under this view, but what it grants ostensibly it cannot fulfill in reality. If man, in his great dignity, is so easily perverted by evil (as history shows), he must be very weak and his natural goodness very slight in relation to the operations of nature. The democratic view replaced God with Nature, making man the creature of Nature and the world of men. Like the classical view, but more so, man is malleable, and the result has been a heavy emphasis upon propaganda, education, and statist controls for reworking man. The overthrow of institutions that make man evil is the means of salvation, which is an anarchistic paradise where man and society operate in a stateless world. The notion that the voice of the people is the voice of God is also part and parcel with the democratic view. Ironically, the view has led to the proliferation of institutions and organizational control of man (despite its locating the cause of evil in institutions). If bad institutions will corrupt man, then good institutions will save him and keep him good. The democratic state is hostile to Christianity because of its view of man, and because it is not compatible with either totalitarianism or humanistic politics.

A Biblical anthropology views man as the creation of God. Created by God in goodness, and fallen into reprobation apart from Christ, man is not considered normal in his fallen state. Sin, a deformity in man, is destructive of man and society. Sin is suicidal. Thus, man must be considered in his original righteousness as well as in his total depravity apart from the work of Christ. Man is not plastic, he is not changed by the state or the environment; not by church or school, but by the eternal councsel, effectual calling, and regenerating grace of God FIRST, and then only secondarily by his own will. God acts and by that act, man responds.

Biblical anthropology makes personal responsibility primary, over and against modern psychologism and environmentalism as well as primitive notions of magic and the influence of evil spirits. Neither society, nor institutions are to blame for our condition or our actions as freely willing actors. Man is not anarchical, nor can he be totalitarian, for above all he must answer to God, who is the ultimate governor. The power granted to man is just that, granted, and therefore limited by God both actively and directly as well as secondarily through His law. Violations of the law invite God's just and inevitable judgment.

Against evolutionary theory the Bible advances the claim that God alone, by His sovereign purpose, moves all things toward the glory of His name. All of creation's purpose is to serve God's purpose of His own glorification. The effects of Christian presuppositions has even had an impact upon pagan thought in previous eras. Rushdoony cites laissez-faire philosophy and free trade thinkers, who adapted the Christian doctrines of providence (harmony in creation). Harmony is not a product of nature or of blind forces, but of God's eternal willing. The conflict inherent in evolutionary philosophy requires that power be amassed in order to accomplish the ends of either the individual or the state. Amidst such conflict only arbitrary limitations can be advanced, but under a Biblical anthropology conflict is not an inevitable and inescapable aspect of natural forces, but is the product of sin, which is governed (along with all other things) by the sovereign will of God, who has provided both a means for salvation, and a manner in which man is to walk in order to give Him glory in all things.

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