Sundays With The Christianists: How Western Culture Got All Satanic
Welcome to part 2 of our exploration of Apostate: The Men Who Destroyed the Christian West, by Colorado radio preacher Kevin Swanson, whose goal in this book is to explain just how Western Civilization was destroyed by just about everything that we commonly think of as Western Civilization -- and which was, moreover, mostly inspired by Satan. As we said last week, in Swanson's view, the pinnacle of Western culture begins and more or less ends with the Bible, and literary works that are 100% in keeping with Biblical precepts -- for instance, he thinks that Augustine's Confessions and Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress are a pretty good basis for all the literature classes you'd ever need.
Mr. Swanson, you'll recall, is the wingnut radio guy who believes that the Pill leaves women's wombs studded with tiny dead babies, that Disney's Frozen will make your kids gay witches, and that college will turn your daughters into ugly feminist hoors. Apostate is a bit less overtly insane than Swanson's radio pronuciati, but every bit as earnest about doing Culture War. He warns that "If we have learned anything from the last two hundred years, it is that ideas can be extremely dangerous" and that
The source of much of Western apostasy is found in the liberal arts classroom. An uncritical consideration of the “Great” Literature programs is perilous and corrupting. I place the word “great” between quotations for a reason. Aristotle was not great, and Thomas Aquinas was not great. Karl Marx and Mark Twain were not great thinkers or writers. They may have been skilled at wielding the pen as a sword, but they used it for the wrong ends. These men openly opposed a biblical theory of truth and ethics. For some reason, even Christian academics are very reticent to criticize the major humanist thinkers who destroyed the Christian West.
The first part of Apostate aims at taking down the philosophers and other thinkers who ruined the West, from Thomas Aquinas to Jean-Paul Sartre. Not only does Swanson want to show that these writers' deviations from fundamentalist orthodoxy were responsible for spreading deadly humanist thinking, he also needs to show that they were bad people because they lived out their terrible ideas. Also, some of them may have literally consorted with demons. For this reason, Swanson reminds us that
Jesus Christ provided a useful test for identifying false teachers, one that may be employed by even the more obtuse of His followers: “By their fruits ye shall know them,” He said. This is helpful, because most people reading the “great” philosophers find it hard to follow the thread of their ideas. Sometimes they will say one thing, and then contradict themselves more or less in the next paragraph [...]
This is why it is important to know that Marx’s daughters committed suicide, that Rousseau abandoned his five children on the steps of an orphanage, and that Ernest Hemingway wished to kill his father and then took his own life. For those who may not have the time to study the confusing labyrinth of these men’s twisted minds, it is sometimes more helpful to examine the “fruits” in order to accurately determine the true nature of the “tree.” Even if the student fails to pick up on the trajectory of the ideas laid out in the writings of this book, at the very least he should know something about the lives of the men who served as the intellectual leaders of the fall of the Western world.
This approach doesn't always work out so well; for instance, in the case of Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), Swanson seems almost apologetic that "we have very little information about Aquinas’ personal life, and for this reason I am hesitant to call him an 'apostate'” -- but then, he rallies and notes that Aquinas said near the end of his life that “All that I have written seems like straw to me," and since none of the apostles ever expressed such self-doubt, and neither did Martin Luther, John Calvin, or a host of other theologians, then that wasn't just modesty: Aquinas almost certainly recognized that in allowing a place for human reasoning in addition to God's Law, he had sinned, and "he felt it important to warn others about it."
In short, Aquinas blew it because he
proposed two systems of knowledge: the one sacred and the other secular (or philosophical). This broke away from the old Augustinian view of knowledge, summed up in the Latin phrase “Credo ut intelligam,” or, “Believe in order to understand” ... Aquinas broke from this view when he proposed a second form of knowledge “different in kind” from that obtained in Scripture. The secular universities were now free to build their systems of knowledge entirely without the divine revelation of Scripture.
As Swanson reminds us, once you allow human reason to determine the rightness of any idea, you have turned your back on the right path, because "There is only one source and one fountain of learning, and this is the Lord Jesus Christ."
After Aquinas, the whole Western world starts falling apart, albeit it takes a few centuries. From Aquinas, we jump forward 350 years to René Descartes, that drunken fart (1596-1650), who introduced more dangerous human-based reasoning, which Swanson summarizes by quoting Wikipedia. Yes, it's that kind of book. For what it's worth, it's at least an accurate summary of Descartes's influence:
In shifting the debate from "what is true" to "of what can I be certain?," Descartes shifted the authoritative guarantor of truth from God to Man. [emphasis added by Swanson]
At least Swanson has the decency to be a bit embarrassed by putting his book together like a high-school book report -- he introduces the blockquote by saying it's from a "populist, on-line source" -- you have to look at the endnotes to actually find the name "Wikipedia." But yes, Descartes spread apostasy by putting human reason over faith, and worse, he did sex to someone he wasn't married to!
In 1634, at 38 years of age, René Descartes committed fornication with a servant girl named Helena Jans van der Strom, while he lodged with his friend Thomas Sargeant in Amsterdam. He did not marry the girl, though he did take care of their illegitimate daughter who was born as a result. Descartes’ lifestyle of fornication was extremely unusual for the 17th century. Records obtained from parishes in Protestant countries from that period indicate that illegitimacy rates were only 0.69%. Incredible though it seems, these conditions could only exist before humanists destroyed both morality and the family in the Western world, which boosted illegitimacy rates above 60% in some nations. The Bible takes the sin of fornication very seriously, but it is not certain that Descartes took it seriously, as we can find no indication of remorse concerning his behavior in his writings.
We just love that cherry-picked ".069%" illegitimacy rate -- checking Swanson's footnotes, we see that it comes from a website's summary of a book on English genealogy, and reflects records from three parishes in 17th-Century England; there's no other information about how reliable that number is -- but hey, it's a statistic, right? And Descartes didn't just spawn a bastard daughter -- he had him a whole "lifestyle of fornication."
Moving right along, John Locke (1632-1704), sadly, doesn't appear to have fathered any bastard childrens, but he flirted with Unitarianism and other heresies:
Wherever there was a softening on biblical orthodoxy and the Reformed faith, John Locke was all for it. Over his lifetime he retreated from the long-standing orthodox principles that had constituted the Christian faith in the West for 1500 years. He rejected outright the doctrine of original sin. He strongly eschewed biblical Old Testament ethics, and advocated the abandonment of biblical epistemology. By 1685, he openly confessed doubts about the verbal inspiration of the Bible.
Locke's greatest heresy was to subject Biblical Truth itself to human reasoning: "Locke’s pride could not tolerate the mysteries and incomprehensibility of the Godhead. By this time, human reason was king, and any apparent paradoxes were made to fit with 'what seems right to us.'” As a result, he set the stage for wholesale apostacy, revolution, and all-around nastiness. And here we had always thought that, in comparison to Thomas Hobbes, Locke was the nice one. Among Locke's most truly pernicious legacies, Swanson says, is the terrible influence he had on the Framers of the Constitution:
Whereas previous state charters had self-consciously included references to God in their compacts, John Locke regarded compacts as civil contracts made between men ... It was this thinking that shifted America’s civil compacts from the words “In the Name of God, Amen” to “We the People of the United States.” The Mayflower Pilgrims had explicitly included God in the very first words of their compact laid down in 1620. But by 1788, the United States Constitution was carefully worded to avoid this important reference. It was John Locke who set the trajectory towards the secular democracies and republics.
We'll grant Swanson this much: while he insists that the Founders were very definitely Christian and that the USA is a Christian nation -- or at least was meant to be -- he at least stops short of the David Barton-style nonsense of claiming that the Constitution is a collection of ideas about governing taken straight from the Bible. It's also pretty remarkable to see a rightwing Christianist admit that the Constitution is such a secular document -- we wonder how often that anti-American heresy of Swanson's comes up when he talks to his rightwing pals. Our guess is that he smooths things over by insisting that the First Amendment only applies to the establishment of a state religion, but totally allows Bible readings in public schools -- which need to be abolished anyway.
Next Week: More fornicating philosophers, not one of whom is named Bruce.
[Image credit: DragoArt.com, "How to Draw an Anime Devil Girl"