Wednesday, January 20, 2016

"GREEK MYTHOLOGY: THE MYTH OF CLASSICAL POLITICS"

I came to an understanding of the dark side of the Greeks many years ago when I found that Dionysus was a fertility god, and like all fertility gods, believed in human sacrifice. Most people think he's a god of partying and drinking. That's not even close.

All pagan gods are animated by hate and envy of humans, and demanded sacrifices for people to keep them at bay. Modern "pagans" are clueless about these things.

The Greeks and Romans did influence the West, but not in the way most people think. What did influence it more than anything else was Christianity. Without Christianity, no West.

This has been on my hard drive for several years and I cannot find out who wrote it.


The great aim of the struggle for liberty has been equality before the law. - F. A. Hayek

"One law shall be to him that is homeborn, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among you" -(Ex. 12:49)

The heritage of the biblical covenantal ideal of equality before the civil law made possible Western civilization. This tradition entered the West through the church. It did not come from Classical Greece.

The argument that it did is part of the myth that Classical civilization is the foundation of Western liberty. It is one of the more successful myths of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. Rushdoony identifies the origin of the myth: "Greece: The Humanist's Homeland." He begins his chapter, "The Unity of the Polis," with this crucial observation: "The importance of Greek thought in Western history cannot be understood by a reading of the works of specialists in the field, because the prevailing approach is neither philosophical nor historical but religious. . . . The majority of scholars turn to Greek culture, not for its own sake, but to find a heritage and a homeland to buttress their anti-Christianity."

A college textbook by F. Roy Willis is typical in its laudatory assessment of the Greeks' legacy to the West: "Athens was an attitude of mind and an achievement of the mind, a unique combination of the physical and the intellectual. And Western civilization owes an important part of its character, perhaps the finest part, to its nourishment for centuries from the Greek achievement that reached its height in Athens."

What the introductory level textbooks invariably neglect to mention is that Athenian male society, like Greek society generally, was favorable toward homosexuality, especially between older men and young teenage boys.

Women were known to complain about this, but they had no legal standing. Classical civilization, Greek and Roman, also practiced human sacrifice, a fact known to Lord Acton a century ago.

This fact was systematically suppressed by the academic world in his day, just as it is today. Slavery was widespread. We must take seriously Otto Scott's suggestion: Christians should study Classical history and culture, not to exaggerate the virtues of Classical civilization, but to understand why it collapsed.

Our model should be Charles Norris Cochrane's Christianity and Classical Culture, not Edith Hamilton's The Greek Way.

The Dual Philosophical Legacy of Greece

This is not to say that there has been no legacy from Greece. There have been two important philosophical aspects of this legacy: rationalism and irrationalism. As with all forms of humanism, the two are in fact one: the inescapable dialecticism of all of autonomous man's speculations.

One side is the legacy recorded in the textbooks; the other has been recorded in obscure monographs. The textbooks downplay the religious side of the Greeks by discussing the myths of Olympus as if they were fairy tales that no influential Greek ever believed. This was in fact the case; there is little evidence that anyone in authority took seriously the Olympian myths except as political rituals. The Olympian gods were political creations: gods that the families of a city-state might formally worship. Without formal worship and collectively celebrated rites, there could be no civil law in Classical civilization.

Academic Blackout: Irrational Greece

What the textbooks ignore almost entirely is the other side of Greek religion, the dark, fearful, awesome side: the gods of the underworld. Both legacies were recovered by the Renaissance, but the occult side of the Renaissance is also the province of obscure monographs - though more of them today than existed in 1960. Since 1965, as the West has been invaded by Eastern mysticism and popular occultism, this neglected Greek legacy has begun to receive some academic attention, but the full story is still not found in the introductory textbooks, over three decades later.

The supreme primary source of the rational side of the legacy is Plato's version of Socrates. While few people ever read Plato's major work, The Republic, and fewer still his other dialogues -- which were not dialogues but were in fact monologues thinly disguised as dialogues -- the rationalist side of Socrates has become legendary. Not many people know that Athens convicted Socrates of false religion - his appeal to occult gods: "Socrates is guilty of crime, because he does not believe in the gods recognised by the city, but introduces strange supernatural beings; he is also guilty, because he corrupts the youth." He was convicted by a majority of 60 votes in a jury of 501 men. Bury, the great historian of Greece, offered this highly conventional assessment of Socrates' legacy:

"When the history of Greece was being directed by Pericles and Cleon, Nicias and Lysander, men little dreamed either at Athens or elsewhere that the interests of the world were far more deeply concerned in the doings of one eccentric Athenian who held aloof from public affairs. The work of Pericles and Lysander affected a few generations in a small portion of the globe; but the spirit of that eccentric Athenian was to lay an impress, indelible forever, upon the thought of mankind. The ideas which we owe to Socrates are now so organically a part of the mind of civilised men, so familiar and commonplace, that it is hard to appreciate the intellectual power which was required to originate them. Socrates was the first champion of the supremacy of the intellect as a court from which there is no appeal; he was the first to insist, without modification or compromise, that a man must order his life by the guidance of his own intellect, without any regard for mandates of external authority or for the impulses of emotion, unless his intellectual [sic] approves. Socrates was thus a rebel against authority as such; and he shrank from no consequences."

This assessment is conventional but ultimately erroneous. It neglects the irrationalist and mystical side of Socrates. He believed that a god (daimon) had spoken to him all of his adult life, telling him what to avoid. The conventional textbook assessment also places Socrates in the category of a rebel against authority as such. To the extent that Plato accurately reflected Socrates' viewpoint, Socrates was not a man at war against authority; he was a man in favor of displacing the existing authority with a new tyranny so powerful that it involved systematic lying, total State control over education, and communism for political leaders. When that remarkably literate philosopher Karl Popper devoted the first volume of The Open Society and Its Enemies to an analysis of Plato as a mystic and a totalitarian, he did the academic world a great service - one which gained him the lasting hostility of Plato's many modern disciples.

The textbooks are filled with the legacy of Greek rationalism. Greek irrationalism is seldom mentioned, let alone emphasized. Students are given the stories of the Olympian gods. They are not told that these gods were politically constructed composites of a darker realm: gods of the underworld, the chthonic gods of Greece. These animistic gods were believed to inhabit the fields of every household, threatening hauntings and revenge against any male head of household who failed to maintain the proper rituals and sacrifices. A wife was assigned the task of keeping the household hearth-altar burning, from which we derive the phrase, "keep the home fires burning." The study of these gods has been confined to academic specialists - one might call them eccentrics - in fields such as archeology and art history. The detailed researches of Cambridge University archeologist Jane Ellen Harrison and her disciples in the early decades of the twentieth century are known to very few historians.

Some of these books appeared in the United States only when University Books, a publishing house specializing in reprints of scholarly materials related to the occult and the paranormal, and its adjunct Mystic Arts Book Club, reprinted them in the early 1960's. References to these extraordinary materials rarely appear even in specialized monographs on classical civilization.

Has this blackout been deliberate? Yes. Those scholars who have known the truth have generally kept their mouths shut. Consider Werner Jaeger, author of the multi-volume masterpiece on Greek education, Paideia. Hugh Nibley, the remarkable Mormon scholar and linguist, studied under him at the University of California at Berkeley in the 1930's. In an autobiographical essay, Nibley tells of his studies in Hebrew and Arabic (he could learn a new language in a few weeks).

"The most illustrious visiting scholar of the time was Werner Jaeger, who favored me with long chats and frank revelations over the teacups (my refusal to drink the stuff made an indelible impression on him and his wife). Professor Jaeger knew very well, he told me, that the Greeks were part of a wider Oriental complex, but he had to bypass all that in his study of the Greek mind, because it tended to disturb the neatness and balance of his great work on Greek Education."

That "wider Oriental complex" was mystical and occult, as Jaeger well knew. It was a powerful underground stream in both Greek and Renaissance philosophy, and without which both would have dried up.

The two traditions were united on one presupposition: man is the creator in history.

Academic Blackout: The Renaissance

A similar academic blackout has operated with respect to the Renaissance's recovery of Greek culture. The rational side of the Renaissance is the textbook account. Only since the mid-1960's has the occult side been rediscovered, most prominently by Frances Yates and her disciples.

Stephen McKnight's 1989 monograph on Renaissance thought is to the point: recent studies of the Renaissance have made mandatory a reconsideration of the origins of modernity. Secularization, the main theme, must be complemented by its opposite, sacralization. It was not just the secular tradition of Classical civilization that Renaissance scholars revived; it was also the magical-mystical side. Professor McKnight writes:

"In addition to the humanist revival of the studia humanitatis, the Neoplatonists rediscovered the prisca theologia. These materials, which were regarded as the earliest and purist non-Christian revelations, led Ficino and his followers to a new understanding of human nature.

Sacralization is the term used to characterize this view of man as a terrestrial god capable of controlling the natural world and perfecting society."

None of this was taught in my undergraduate days in the early 1960's, and it is still not in the Western Civilization textbooks.

The Standard of Written Law

We come now to another representative example of conventional scholarship's assessment of the legacy of Greece. Bruno Leoni, a professor of both legal theory and political science at the University of Pavia, offered this bit of Greek mythology: "The ideal of a written law, generally conceived and knowable by every citizen of the small and glorious towns scattered all along the coasts of the Mediterranean Sea and inhabited by people of Greek descent, is one of the most precious gifts that the fathers of Western civilization have bequeathed to their posterity." He then cited Aristotle as one source of this legal tradition.

This is propaganda, not historical scholarship. First, there were comparatively few citizens in any of those Greek towns. Classical legal theory established separate legal orders for citizens, resident aliens, women, and slaves. Only citizens - males who could lawfully participate in the religious rites of the city - possessed legal rights.

At least one-third of the population was composed of slaves. This is a vastly higher percentage than anything in the ancient Near East. In all Greek and Roman establishments larger than the family, manual labor was done by slaves. The written law did not defend their liberty. The principle of written law may have helped citizens, but it gave little protection to the majority of residents.

From the point of view of the slaves, the Greeks' defeat of Darius' Persian army in 490 B.C. at the battle of Marathon was a disaster. So was the defeat of Xerxes' fleet at the battle of Salamis in 480. Liberation from slavery had been imminent. The textbooks never consider this possibility. The Greeks are viewed as defenders of liberty and culture; the Persians are seen as barbarian tyrants. But Persia allowed the Israelites to return to their land and worship God openly (Ezra, Nehemiah).

Christian students seldom connect the two accounts. It is as if the Persians were two different societies: one tolerant (the biblical account) and the other barbarian (the Greek version).

Second, the principle of a written body of law that is knowable to all residents of a commonwealth had been the gift of God to Israel over a millennium before Aristotle taught political philosophy to the world-class conqueror Alexander the Great. God inscribed His law on tablets of stone - a graphic way of communicating the principle of written law. The Mosaic law required that every seventh year the entire law be read to the assembled nation: men, women, children, and resident aliens (Deut. 31:10-13). To argue that Aristotle was the source of this tradition in the West is nothing short of ludicrous. It is, however, typical of humanist scholarship.

Written law in Greece, yes. Freedom? Not for many and not for long. Political success in Athens was based on a man's ability as a public speaker. This led to the rise of the sophists, who sold the skills of rhetoric to the highest bidders - the superlawyers of their day.

Historian Morton Smith writes that "Athenians were litigious, and any man might find himself compelled to argue for his fortune, if not his life, before a court of several hundred of his fellow citizens. It was necessary to speak for oneself, though a writer might be hired to prepare the speech. By their studies of rhetoric, argument (whence logic), and grammar, the sophists laid the basis of Greek higher education, from which was to come the mediaeval university program. By their immediate teaching, however, they - intentionally or unintentionally - obscured the traditional patterns of Greek morality and raised up a generation of skeptics prepared to argue for any action which seemed to their own interest."

Otto Scott is even more to the point: "These sophistae (teachers of wisdom) taught young adults, for the first time in history. They charged enormous sums: Protagoras demanded 10,000 drachmas ($100,000 -- or the equivalent of a modern university [education]) for the education of a single pupil. The Sophists introduced civilization's first `enlightenment' which questioned tradition, religion, morals and all values."

In short, they were the law school professors of their day: they undermined moral law.

The decline of traditional morality, accompanied by increasing Athenian wealth and political power, led the city into a series of military confrontations with Sparta, culminating in the Peloponnesian war, beginning in 431 B.C., a war that Athens lost. It was in this period of defeat and despair that Athens executed Socrates in 399 B.C. He had been perceived by many critics as a Sophist. They were essentially correct: he was, in fact, a sophisticated dialectician who defended the existence a hypothetical realm of absolute knowledge but also insisted that no one, including himself, had been able to enter it - a sophist's ploy if there ever was one. He was also a political authoritarian.

In terms of his philosophical undermining of Greek religion, the Athenians' perception of Socrates was correct. He was guilty as charged. (He was also a defender of pederasty with adolescents, but that did not bother Athenians any more than it bothers his apologists today.)

Demythologizing the Greeks

War characterized Greek life as much as democracy and written law. War was a way of life, especially among the smaller city-states. This includes civil wars, which were frequent outside of Athens and Sparta.

Then there was judicial and cultural inequality. The world-renowned Classical historian Moses Finley writes: "In this society of unequals, the elite who dominated all activities, political, military, athletic, and cultural, constituted a single group. . . . The acceptance by `the many' of this perpetual domination by `the few' is a significant fact in classical Greek history, even in Athens during its most democratic period, from the time of Pericles to the time of Alexander the Great."

Something else characterized Greek political life: the absolute power of the State. There was no appeal beyond it. Finley has accurately summarized the nature of Greek politics: "In political terms, the power possessed by the community was total. That is to say, within the limits imposed by `rule of law', however that was understood, and by certain taboos in the fields of cult and sexual relations, the sovereign body was unrestrictedly free in its decision-making. There were areas or facets of human behaviour in which it normally did not interfere, but that was only because it chose not to, or did not think to do so. There were no natural rights of the individual to inhibit action by the state, no inalienable rights granted or sanctioned by a higher authority. There was no higher authority."

The Legacy of Pericles

To prove his case for Greece as a major source of Western legal theory, Leoni cited Pericles' funeral oration of 430 B.C., which was eloquent in its defense of the political freedom of Athenian citizens. This oration was wartime rhetoric from Athens' senior politician, delivered in the first year of the war with Sparta. This speech is regarded as one of the classic documents in Western civilization. The textbooks laud both Pericles and his speech (as reconstructed by Thucydides).

Rarely are students told what followed. A year after Pericles gave his famous speech, a great plague hit maritime Athens, though hardly at all in Sparta and the inland cities of the Peloponnesian alliance, and this led to the destruction of Athenian civil religion and personal morality. Pericles' two sons died in the plague. Athens then sought peace with Sparta, which Sparta rejected. Pericles was suspended from his post and put on trial for a minor offense. He was subsequently re-elected to the post, having eloquently defended the necessity of empire, especially since the other city-states regarded it as immoral; it was too risky to quit now, he warned them. They responded to his call, and Athens' imperial war raged on. He died a year later. The war continued for the next 25 years. Sparta won. Some Periclean legacy!

The rule of written Athenian law may have applied within the city, but not beyond its borders. Whenever it was regarded as necessary to extend Athenian control, Athenians ruthlessly suppressed the liberties of the lesser cities of the Athenian empire (the Delian League), which lasted from 478 B.C., the year after the second Persian invasion was repulsed by the allied city-states, until 404 B.C., when Athens was defeated by Sparta. For example, under Pericles' political leadership in 454 B.C., Athens moved the League's treasury from Delos to the Athenian Acropolis. This was done in the name of a required religious payment to Athena, Athens' official goddess.

The records indicate that one-sixtieth of the funds collected were registered as payments to the goddess.) Some of these funds were then siphoned off to help finance Athens' gigantic public works construction programs: the famous statues and architectural glories of Periclean Athens. Bury admitted that it was bad imperial politics for Athens to extract these funds, however minimal, from the other cities in the league. When challenged by Thucydides regarding this policy, Athens voted to ostracize Thucydides, thus ending any significant political opposition to Pericles. The voters were swayed by Pericles' argument that the other cities had nothing to say about it, just so long as Athens defended them. The League's members supposedly had no right to interfere with the allocation of these funds, however large or small.

No accounting to the cities was necessary. In effect, this was a form of forced tribute to Athens.

Athens also forced the other cities to withdraw their coinage and substitute Athenian coins. Athens sent "inspectors," garrisons, and sent small colonies of Athenians to the subject cities. Yet Periclean Athens supposedly was the source of the ideal of written civil law in the West. So said Professor Leoni. He has not been alone in this opinion.

It was this growing Athenian empire that led Sparta into its own confederation. The city-states of Greece deeply resented Athens' violations of their religious and legal autonomy. Historian David Greene summarizes the fundamental issue raised by Athenian tyranny:

"By what right had Athens virtually obliterated the external autonomy of the various states which had originally joined her League of Delos against the menace of a recurrent Persian invasion? This was the outspoken question or indignant charge put by every state outside the Athenian sphere of influence. . . . There is no doubt that, in exercising control over the external affairs of her confederate allies, Athens was outraging the accepted code of international Greek morality as it had existed from before the Persian wars."

Thucydides explained the growth of the Athenian empire as a kind of natural or inevitable force rather than as one city's blatant grab for centralized power, but his words did not make it so. His explanation does, however, closely fit the presuppositions of modern historians and political theorists, who see the march of democracy and the rise of a secular one-world State as intertwined events. They love Thucydides. He seems so much like one of them.

So does Thucydides' version of Pericles, who has become a kind of precursor to U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the eyes of modern American scholars. Greene's description of Pericles deserves wider circulation:

"Yet the democracy whose dynamic was greed and fear and whose might was the offspring of that greed and fear was held in check by a single autocrat whose rule it accepted because he was not as other men were. In this voluntary acquiescence of the vulgar, in this submission to the statesman who neither flattered nor feared them but who put heart into them or made them tremble with the witchcraft of his own aloof certainty. Thucydides may have seen the transcendence of the materialism in which he believed. Here was power as it truthfully was, based on fear, pride, and greed, yet it touched something too magical for measurement."

(Now that I think of it, perhaps Pericles really was a kind of precursor to Franklin D. Roosevelt, another politician who seemed absolutely confident in his aloofness.)

In any case, the political reality undergirding Pericles' rhetorical flourish did not survive the fall of Athens to Sparta, and the fall of both to Macedonia over the next seventy-five years. Academic defenders of this classic Greek mythology need to demonstrate the connection between 1) what a handful of Greek philosophers, mostly followers of Socrates, believed about law in the fourth century B.C., as "Greece's" (Athens') relatively brief experiment with democracy was rapidly fading, and 2) the historical reality of Greek law in the city-states. The connection does exist, but it is publicly embarrassing for most defenders of Greek democracy - politically incorrect, we might say. One thing is certain: the Athenians of Socrates' day had very little in common with him and his students. Aristophanes' comedy, The Clouds, had Athenians howling derisively at the antics of Socrates and members of his academy. They condemned him to death in 399 B.C.

Yet there was a crucial connection between Athenian politics and Socratic political theory - something the textbooks always fail to mention. They shared a political opinion, as Finley has so accurately pointed out: political man, irrespective of the desires of the gods, can do whatever he can get away with. There was no infallible revelation, written or verbal, in Greek religion. Political man therefore had to fear other men, not the gods. Athens feared Socrates, whose commitment to Athenian citizenship was so strong that he preferred hemlock to exile. This presupposition of unbounded political authority is what connects the Athenian Greeks with today's disciples of human autonomy and political salvation.

Modern textbooks fail to mention the following two facts. First, it was not Socrates who persuaded the Greeks of this political worldview; he merely shifted its basis of authority from political tradition to political philosophy. Second, authors fail to admit openly that their textbooks are written in terms of this same philosophy of autonomous man, and usually also in terms of political salvation - the corporate healing power of politics. All the other supposed connections - judicial, analytical, or aesthetic - are either fanciful or else subordinate applications of the presuppositional one: political man is autonomous, and man is fundamentally political.

The Judicial Legacy

Leoni did not bother to show how this Greek legal tradition was passed along to the Christian West. Contrary to Leoni, the Greeks of Periclean Athens left no judicial legacy to the West. Historian Joseph R. Strayer writes: "But whatever their constitution, they did not develop a legal tradition that persisted in the West. The Greeks were deeply concerned with law, but since each small community had its own laws, tailored to fit the needs of that community, it was hard to develop general principles applicable to all of the Greek-ruled areas. By the time that the Greeks had developed such principles, they had been swallowed up by the Hellenistic monarchies, which, in turn, were swallowed up by Rome."

Bury wrote much the same thing: contrary to Pericles' funeral oration, Athens did not become the school of Greece until after the collapse of the empire. Athens became influential through its philosophers and through its new position as a clearing house of cosmopolitan influences - in short, through its Hellenism. In fact, he argued, Athens had more influence through its theater than through anything else. It was Hellenism, with its cosmopolitanism, that produced the famed Athenian individualism.

The Athenian's covenantal bond to his city - his polis -- had been broken. "The citizen of Athens has become a citizen of the world."

That is to say, he had become no citizen at all - no civil oath, no democratic sanctions, and no political or judicial legacy to pass on to posterity. Instead, he and his peers, to the extent that they left a judicial legacy to the future, did so by abandoning their inheritance from the past: the judicial ideal of the polis. The politically minded intellectuals among them - and there were fewer and fewer of them as the fourth century progressed - adopted a new ideal.

Stoic Natural Law Theory

This later Hellenistic intellectual development was Stoic natural law philosophy, which was the product of the collapse of the Greek city-states, not the foundation of Athenian democratic politics. Stoic natural law theory was used to justify the new world empires of Macedonia and Rome. The Stoic concept of the rule of universal law was exclusively philosophical, not judicial. The foundation of Stoic philosophy was a denial of the Creator-creature distinction. Its outlook was summed up by Epictetus:

"When a man has learnt to understand the government of the universe and has realized that there is nothing so great or sovereign or all-inclusive as this frame of things wherein man and God are united . . . why should he not call himself a citizen of the universe and a son of God?"

Stoicism offered no basis for political theory. Stoic man, as a citizen of the universe, did not regard participation in politics as the means of maintaining his universal citizenship. This citizenship was granted to him by natural law. Wolin has identified the elitism of such a view of citizenship, "a kind of invisible church of rational beings."

Wolin cites the Stoic emperor (and persecutor of the church), Marcus Aurelius, who defended the existence of common reason, common law, and common citizenship. This rational ideal became the foundation for empire, a one-world State and one-State world: "For of what other common political community will any one say that the whole human race are members?"

Citing the same passage, C. N. Cochrane is even more forthright regarding the pretensions of this absolute religion of reason: "In point of fact, it constitutes an audacious anthropomorphism, a kind of sky-writing which projects upon the cosmos a merely human rationality and translates it into an account of nature and of God." Stoic natural law theory was a pagan attempt to restructure the universe in terms of man's reason. It was the antithesis of biblical law, which places man under God's absolute sovereignty, mediated by His revealed law. Stoicism's command was "follow nature."

This means following autonomous reason. In contrast, the Bible's command is "follow God" by obeying His law. By following nature, Classical man found himself divided, for nature was seen as an unstable combination of chance and luck on the one hand and impersonal necessity and fate on the other. He was trapped either by the non-politics of anarchy or the submissive politics of passivity. In contrast, by following God by obeying His law, Christian man attaches himself judicially (covenantally) to the sovereign Creator of the universe in whom there is neither chance nor impersonal fate. The politics of justice becomes both a possibility and a moral imperative.

The Medieval Synthesis

The West derived its crucial judicial ideal of equality before the law from the Bible. Much later, in medieval legal theory, Roman jurisprudence (especially in the writings of the twelfth-century canon lawyers, the Decretists), Aristotelian philosophy (especially in Aquinas: d. 1274), and Stoic natural law theory were added to justify this biblical ideal. But Western legal theory today denies the original theological foundation which undergirded the explicitly biblical idea of equality before the law: specially revealed law. It was equality before God's specially revealed law that God required the State to honor.

Under the influence of Greek philosophy, especially Stoicism, and Roman law, a new guild of Western legal theorists appeared in the twelfth century. They moved from the acceptance of customary tribal laws (civil) and penitential law (ecclesiastical) to the ideal of universal natural law in the guise of a revival of Roman imperial law. This judicial transformation was accompanied by a parallel development among philosophers: an attempted fusion of Greek concepts of autonomous reason and the biblical ideal of God's revealed law. Scholasticism promised that Classical wisdom would be tamed by Christianity. But the conquest of Classicism by Christianity was not to be; the reverse was increasingly the case in intellectual affairs. Rationalist heresies invaded the universities, and they could not be removed. Bolgar is correct: "Men found that they could not simply sort out the good and the bad, to treasure the former and discard the latter."

Scholasticism's philosophical synthesis was inherently both epistemologically and ethically unstable, and from the fourteenth century onward, it steadily disintegrated. Scholasticism left the church vulnerable to William of Ockham's nominalist dualism between reason (with authority over the realm of civil affairs and science) and revelation (with authority confined to the soul and the cloister). Professor Eta Linnemann, a former defender of the higher criticism of the Bible and a new convert to the faith, described Scholasticism's attempted fusion of the Bible and Greek philosophy:

"Scholasticism undertook `to bring the new rational knowledge into agreement with the articles of faith' - an effort which set the tone for all the theological exertions of the High and Late Middle Ages. But it had made a weighty and fateful decision! Instead of bearing in mind that all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge lie hidden in Christ (Col. 2:3), it was assumed that man requires the worldly wisdom of paganism right alongside God's Word in order to make real intellectual progress. God's Word was reduced to just one of two focal points for determining wisdom and knowledge. The Bible came to be regarded as authoritative only in those areas touching on redemption and the Christian life. Aristotle, in contrast, became the source of all valid knowledge of the world, that is, for the realm of natural sciences, social analysis, and so on. From then on, in other words, God's Word was no longer regarded as reliable for these areas of knowledge. Later, Aristotelian philosophy would be replaced by newly developed sciences that hastily blamed the cosmological errors of Aristotle on God's Word."

The Modern Savior State

Natural law theory became secularized in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. From this secularized version of natural law theory in the late eighteenth century the West's constitutional theory moved to positive law: law as the voice of the sovereign People, as interpreted by officials of the State. But positive law has long been regarded as sovereign only within national boundaries. Traces of natural law theory have survived only in international law theory, which has few agreed-upon sanctions and is seldom honored by the more powerful nations when cases go against them. International law had no common agent of enforcement until the twentieth century. International order is today seen as an evolutionary development, not as the culmination of fixed principles of natural law. The moral and institutional demands of the internationalists are therefore unbounded and open-ended. President John F. Kennedy stated the following messianic premises forthrightly in 1961 at the memorial service of Dag Hammarskjold, the deceased Secretary General of the United Nations:

"Political sovereignty is but a mockery without the means of meeting poverty and illiteracy and disease. Self-determination is but a slogan if the future holds no hope."

The judicial link between political sovereignty and positive sanctions of physical and intellectual healing is explicit in Kennedy's statement; unless the State can heal, it has no legitimacy. The State must become a savior.

The issue is therefore final sovereignty. The international State becomes King of Kings. In the absence of a higher court, the final earthly court of appeal necessarily must claim divine sovereignty, i.e., divine right: the final word beyond which there is no meaningful earthly appeal in history. The world State becomes the voice of authority. Today, this means the divine sovereignty of politics. This has been the career of natural law theory in the West: from the divine sovereignty of natural law to the divine sovereignty of politics - the voice of the people. President

George Bush announced to the U.S. Congress in the fall of 1990:

"A new partnership of nations has begun. We stand today at a unique and extraordinary moment. The crisis in the Persian Gulf, as grave as it is, also offers a rare opportunity to move toward an historic period of cooperation. Out of these troubled times, our fifth objective - a new world order - can emerge: a new era, freer from the threat of terror, stronger in the pursuit of justice, and more secure in the quest for peace. An era in which the nations of the world, east and west, north and south, can prosper and live in harmony."

A hundred generations have searched for this elusive path to peace, while a thousand wars raged across the span of human endeavor. Today that new world is struggling to be born. A world quite different from the one we've known. A world where the rule of law supplants the rule of the jungle. A world in which nations recognize the shared responsibility for freedom and justice. A world where the strong respect the rights of the weak.

The messianic State becomes covenant-breaking man's hoped-for lord and savior. Whenever it appears in history, the biblical concept of freedom is put on the defensive. But the messianic State creates a series of problems that are unsolvable, given the presuppositions of autonomous man. Strayer has sketched some of the dilemmas of modern salvational politics, from the Renaissance to today. We are headed, he says, toward the breakdown in law, but in the name of law.

"As in the sixteenth century, the state is intervening in areas that it had not touched before, but this time it is doing so not because it seeks to increase its power but because it is trying to satisfy its citizens. As in the sixteenth century, the new liberties are not yet merged with the old liberties, and it is difficult to reconcile the two. Is it proper, for example, to interfere with the right of free speech in order to advance the rights of minorities? The rule of law is threatened by the burdens that we place upon the law. We expect the laws to solve our problems when we ourselves have not agreed on acceptable solutions. We expect the laws to impose patterns of common responsibility for the welfare of a society so complex that no one knows what those patterns should be. We expect the laws to make us good, when the most that the law can do is to make it possible for us to seek the good. The result is complication, confusion, uncertainty in understanding the law, and intolerable delays in the administration of justice. This situation invites, as it did in the sixteenth century, arbitrary administrative decisions that by-pass ordinary legal procedures. It would be ironic if the forces that led to the establishment of the rule of law should be forces that lead to the breakdown of the law. But history is full of such ironies, and no society can be sure that it will escape them."

One society can be sure of its ability to escape such destructive dilemmas: a biblical covenant society that remains faithful to the theological, moral, and judicial terms of the covenant. But modern man does not want to consider this option. He prefers the historical uncertainties and eternal certainties of a broken covenant.

Conclusion

Leoni argued that written civil law was the great legacy of Greece to the modern world. What he really meant was a particular kind of written civil law: written civil law in the absence of written revelation that is authoritative over civil law. He should have been more forthright. So should his humanist peers. The idea that law can and should be written down is quite ancient. The idea comes from a far more fundamental idea, namely, that God has revealed Himself to His people by means of law - first verbal, then written. God has spoken an authoritative primary word; man should therefore speak a secondary word that is in covenantal conformity to God's primary word. This assertion was the judicial foundation of ancient Israel. This was Israel's legacy to the Christian church, and this became the church's legacy to the West.

This legacy was challenged at the beginning of the church by the remnants of Classical Greece's essentially political legacy -- disguised as autonomous, philosophically neutral rationalism: the political autonomy of man and the primacy of politics. The Stoics abandoned this political faith, but only by seeking an escape from politics in an era of Roman tyranny. They capitulated intellectually.

The war in history between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of man is still being fought in terms of these rival creeds, these rival views of written civil law. It is a war over the correct way of salvation: through politics or grace. This war will continue until the final judgment.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm not certain, but the reference to Rushdoony leads me to think it was written by Gary North.

Bob Wallace said...

I know Gary so I'll write him and ask.

Mindstorm said...

No footnotes. No sources.

"All pagan gods are animated by hate and envy of humans". I disagree. It's humans that gave "life" to these pagan gods, not the other way. That makes your premise simply absurd: imaginary human creations that are hateful toward and envious of humans. Stick the blame where it belongs.

Mindstorm said...

Regarding Socrates, fabricated charges are also a possibility. You have to prove that occultist tendencies of Plato were inherited from Socratic teachings, and weren't his own invention. I see him as an early proponent of primacy of nature over nurture, among other things. Do you recall that he held the belief that virtue cannot be taught, as opposed to Sophists he despised? Now, don't leftist subscribe, like sophists before, that human mind is a blank slate capable to be taught anything possible? That is their basis for the claim that a utopian society is realizable.

Mindstorm said...

*subscribe to a belief

Mindstorm said...

Moreover, the classical Greek 'daimon' had more than one meaning. One of them was synonymous with fate/destiny/karma. I could believe that Socrates might be tired of his life with Xanthippe, but considered suicide to be a shameful act. He might be complicit in his own death, making it akin to a 'suicide by jury'.