Archive for the ‘Rousas John Rushdoony’ Category

Van Til and the Limit of Reason

Last month we reviewed a new book that came out on the apologetics of Cornelius Van Til.  Viewers who are interested or missed it can access it here: Review: Van Til and the Limits of Reason by R. J. Rushdoony.

I have discovered that Chalcedon Foundation, the group that publishes Rushdoony’s material (and founded by Rushdoony himself) have generously allowed people to view the book for free as research.

You can access the book online if you visit Van Til and the Limits of Reason by Rev. R. J. Rushdoony.

If you really have to get this book on Kindle, it is not free but it’s worth the cost of 2.99 HERE.



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Van Til and the Limit of Reason

This is a book that has been recently published towards the end of 2013 by Chalcedon Foundation. This work is a compilation of writings by R.J. Rushdoony by his son Mark Rushdoony on the insight of the Christian apologist Cornelius Van Til. When I first heard about this work I wanted to get it because Rushdoony was one of Van Til’s early expositor, having written several works expounding his ideas and also applying his apologetics towards other areas as well. Rushdoony’s The One and the Many is one such example in which Van Til’s argument that the Trinity is the solution to the philosophical problem of the one and the many gets some more pages of application especially in the area of critiquing political philosophy. In Van Til and the Limit of Reasons, the first part of the book (chapters 1-3) was originally a booklet on Van Til that Rushdoony wrote for the Modern Thinkers Series in 1960. I have seen this booklet once at a used Christian bookstore years ago and haven’t been able to find it since, so I am happy to see it being republished as three chapters in this present work. I’m also happy that this will also reach a newer audience in our modern world of kindle and the internet. According to the beginning of the book, chapters four through seven are published for the first time. Chapter three is the longest chapter of the book and what seems to me the meat of the book. Rushdoony has a good and memorable analogy from the children story of the Emperor having no clothes to illustrate the task of Christian apologetics: we are exposing the uniblical worldview and philosophy around us as intellectually bankrupt and empty. In this chapter Rushdoony quotes heavily from Van Til’s syllabus Metaphysic of Apologetics and Van Til’s essay titled “Nature and Scripture” in a compilation work by Westminster Theological Seminary titled The Infallible Word. Van Til’s Metaphysic of Apologetics is better known by it’s later publication title A Survey of Christian Epistemology. On page 45 Rushdoony has an excellent discussion distinguishing the difference between ultimate and immediate starting point. This is helpful for readers who might be struggling with the objection that some people have that as human beings we practically begin our starting point with ourselves and what we experience. Van Til’s point was to distinguish between our immediate starting point and the foundation for those starting point, what he calls the ultimate starting point. One of the things I like about reading Rushdoony is following the trail of endnotes of the fascinating documentation of what people think and say. The first half of the book quotes work heavily from the first half of the twentieth century but the second half of the book even quote a work as recent as the 1990s (remember, Rushdoony died in 2001). For the end notes, there is a mistake in which chapter six is titled “Rationalism and Sentimentalism” and chapter seven is titled “The Irrationalism of Rationalism.” It should be the other way around. Examining the end notes and the date of the publication of the works cited made me realized at how old some of these chapters have been written—not necessarily a bad thing but it made me appreciate just how early Rushdoony came around to Van Til’s apologetics and further examine his heavy reading load in light of a Van Tillian framework. The fact that it was written very early also made it valuable to me in terms of historical insight; there are several instances I was surprised to see references to Herman Dooyeweerd. For instance chapter two suggests the optimism of Reformed philosophy during the early days of Dooyeweerd, Van Til and other translators of Dutch Reformed philosophy. I realized Rushdoony’s son in law later published The Twilight of Western Civilization and I can’t help but to imagine Rushdoony had something to do with it but in the end Van Til and Dooyeweerd ended up disagreeing.
I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this as the first work for someone new to Presuppositional apologetics to read; it require some familiarity with Van Til’s theme and a knowledge of philosophers such as Kant, Hume, etc. But I would recommend this if you want to see how Van Til’s idea eventually shape Rushdoony, and in turn Rushdoony’s application of Van Til here and elsewhere.

Note: Available on Kindle.

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Rushdoony Freud

In this book Rushdoony discusses about the ideas of Freud from a Christian perspective. No doubt Christians would have concern with his ideas. The biggest thing I got out of this book is Rushdoony’s point that Freud’s biggest contribution was not explaining man in terms of unconscious forces or sex driven but rather his theme of explaining away guilt in such a way that man is no longer responsible for his or her sins before a God that he or she will have to give an account to one day. This is where Rushdoony’s strength comes in: his ability to cite people and their ideas comes into play when he documents people who was before Freud that proposed explaining man in terms of the unconscious and sex driven. While Rushdoony cites sources no later than the 1960s I think his analysis of Freud’s impact today still rings true. Rushdoony interact with some of the biographers who wants to paint Freud as a morally upright man, and also unmasks the real Freud. Rushdoony also points out that the followers of Freud has engage in a revision of his idea, in that while Freud did not think man can be changed (the goal is just observation and knowing man has a problem), present psychoanalysis is inconsistent with Freud’s original insight. Good critique. I love how Rushdoony’s critique is able to penetrate more deeper than just pointing out the nonscientific origin and status of Freud’s ideas. As always, Rushdoony is able to demonstrate that Freud’s attack on religion is not just anti-religious, but Freud is religious as well, of course in a Secular Humanistic fashion. Ever conscious of the dangers of Statism, Rushdoony also points out the ramification of Freud’s idea as undermining liberty and freedom as well: “If we think in terms of sin, we imply responsibility and hence restitution and punishment. If we think in terms of mental illness, we deny responsibility and make it a medical or psychiatric matter. As a poster widely circulated in the 1950’s stated it, ‘Mental sickness is no disgrace. It might happen to anyone.’ In other words, there is no responsibility. This means that man, not being responsible, has no true liberty, and hence not entitled to civil liberties either. He can be hospitalized indefinitely for crime and experimented on by psychiatrists. He has no rights” (43-44).

You can read this free online on Chalcedon’s Website HERE

Or if you want it on Kindle for a small fee click HERE

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I have previously reviewed this book by R.J. Rushdoony here.

Apparently it’s available online for free for people to read!  Click here.

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Purchase: Amazon

A short book about dualism (body versus mind/soul) that has crept in throughout the history of thought and Christian theology/philosophy, and it’s devastating consequences. Could have benefited from being longer in length in the defense of his thesis–but I did appreciate what he was saying and the examples of dualism at least should make the readers be conscious of looking for the wrong antithesis of body vs mind as the root of necessary problem, and the need for the Christian to see the main problem man has is ethical in nature (sin) rather than metaphysical.  A Van Tillian bent in this book.

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Purchase: Amazon

Chapter 1 was excellent! In that chapter, the author R.J. Rushdoony summarizes the biblical implication of a Christian worldview towards a philosophy of history. Rushdoony is not shy about applying His Christian belief towards the issue of the foundation of history, and bringing along his Calvinism to bear. He even discussed how God’s eternal decree is important in one’s philosophy of history and gave an important insight: “When man therefore denies the divine predestination, he denies God’s eternal decree only to replace it with another decree.” (45). This explains much about secular approach to history such as that of the Marxist who see history as determined by modes of production and offer that as an important motif in their outlook. The inevitable result of a non-personal determinism is an irrational Fatalism. Rushdoony’s critique of other worldview and religion were not limited to Western thought but Eastern thought as well. Readers should not miss his discussion of Indian’s doctrine of Maya in terms of it as monism which brings out the age old philosophical dilemma of the one and the many (22-23), karma and the desire to escape “cyclical history” by ceasing existence (40-41), Tibetan polyandry and the inability to maintain the “static” state of permanence that result in the sacrifice of the individual (58-59) and Ancestral worship idolizing and imprisoned by the past (59-60). Each of these beliefs carry devastating implications towards a philosophy of history. Rushdoony’s work is worth the time and he clearly expands beyond what Van Til’s snippets on a Christian view of philosophy of history. Readers should probably be aware that Rushdoony is Covenantal in his theology and Postmillennial in his eschatological outlook. I am aware that Rushdoony is a controversial figure (he has issue with the Holocaust, people are taken aback by his Theonomy) but so much of this has colored people’s preception of his larger corpus and contribution towards a Christian scholarship.

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In Rousas Rushdoony’s work, The Biblical Philosophy of History, he makes an interesting observation and argument that is a great application of Presuppositional Apologetics. I thought it was so good that I have to share it, and is a good example of the interplay between theology, philosophy, history and the doctrine of man, God and nature.

Rushdoony notes the predominate non-Christian position concerning man and nature:

If man is the creature of nature, then, however much you may hope to dominate and control nature, he still basically its creature, condition by nature and subordinate to it. It is significant that, despite the dreams of total control, the psychologies formulated by non-Christian man are passive psychologies. Man is made a product of his heredity and environment. His mind is passive and malleable. The mind of man has been compared to a blank sheet of white paper, and his net nature seen as neutral. This neutral, bland man receives sense impressions from the world and responds to them and is conditioned by them [Rushdoony, The Biblical Philosophy of History, (Nutley, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1969), 12-13].

Then Rushdoony contrast this with the Biblical perspective:

Man is not passive in his relationship to nature; rather, nature is passive in relationship to man. Nature was passive in receiving the consequences of man’s fall, and nature is passive today as man’s sin lays nature waste. Nature will be passive again in receiving her sabbath rests from man’s hands, and it will be finally shared passively in man’s glorification (Rom. 8:19-22). Man is passive in relationship to God, and man’s sin and ruin are due to his attempt to free himself from this passivity and to become independent and autonomously active and creative. The non-Christian doctrine places man under nature and seeks to place him over God; the Biblical doctrine places man under God, and over nature in Him. Thus, the consequences of every philosophy of history which denies the God of Scripture, HIs infllible word and His creative act, is to open the way for the terror of man under nature and under the divine and messianic state. [Rushdoony, The Biblical Philosophy of History, (Nutley, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1969), 14].

Rushdoony then takes the nonbeliever’s presuppositions to it’s logical conclusion:

The factuality of non-Christian philosophy is impersonal factuality at best and basically meaningless brute factuality. Thus, the best interpretation of reality which evolutionary philsophers of history can give man reduces history to sub-personal and sub-human forces. For the Darwinist, history is the product of impersonal biological forces; for the Marxist, the forcees are economic, for the Freudian, psychological and unconscious. Not only is the meaning of history de-personalized, but man is de-personalized as well. Man begins by asserting the supremacy of his autonomous mind and reason and ends in total irrationalism. As Van Til has often stated the fate of rationalism is total irrationalism, and irrationalism.

Every non-biblical philosophy of history ends by destorying both man and history. It begins by striving to give a better meaning to history than the one eternity provides, and it ends by robbing history of any human meaning and man of his manhood. In taking counsel against God and HIs decree, man effectually hurt only himself, not God. In rebelling against the kingship of Christ over history and in seeking to establish his own autonomous kingship, man reduces himself to the state of a slave. [Rushdoony, The Biblical Philosophy of History, (Nutley, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1969), 14-15].


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