Antithesis Magazine

January/February 1991 – Volume 2, Number 1

ANTITHESIS (Back to Main Page)
January/February 1991 – Volume 2, Number 1

We need to make available the conclusion of all the world’s great religions concerning the unity of humanity … We need a synthesis between science and religious or esoteric traditions … This synthesis, this quasi-religion, could be called a new ecological ethic… The New World we envision involves a cycling back to an interdependence, not only with other people but with other organisms of the planet.
Paul Ehrlich

Though there are very many nations all over the earth, … there are no more than two kinds of human society, which we may justly call two cities, … one consisting of those who live according to man, the other of those who live according to God … To the City of Man belong the enemies of God, … so inflamed with hatred against the City of God.


  • Douglas M. Jones III

Senior Editors

  • L. Anthony Curto
  • David G. Hagopian
  • Timothy J. Harris
  • Ellery C. Stowell
  • Greg L. Bahnsen

Feature Articles

The Puritan Approach to Worship by J.I. Packer
The awe, depth, delight, and whole-heartedness of Puritan worship stands in stark contrast to contemporary Christian practice.

Contrasting Islamic Revelation by Derke Bergsma
Islamic revelation is grounded in an atomistic, ahistorical, and untimately arbitrary theological context.

The Case Against Education Vouchers by Jack Phelps
Though deceptively appealing, voucher programs pose a serious threat to the religious autonomy of Christian schools.

Purging a Problem by James Sauer
The curious aesthetic attraction of the heresy of purgatory rests on a spiritual truth.

Christianity Yesterday: A moving testimony of a Scottish Covenanter.

Meaning and Marks of the Church by David Hagopian


J. Grasham Machen Was Right About the Gulf Crisis
When evangelicals such as Dean Curry (A World Without Tyranny) encourage us simply to absorb a Reagan/Bush-style foreign policy as properly Biblical, the heroic defender of Protestant orthodoxy, J. Gresham Machen (1881-1937) highlights our sad captivity to the foreign policy status quo.

Machen is not only known for his passionate and principled defense of Biblical orthodoxy against Protestant apostasy but also for his intense concern for the public issues of his day.

Machen openly interacted with questions regarding state education, freedom of expression, and social progress. He spoke out against the “alarming bureaucratization of the United States” and Christianity’s opposition to “soul-killing collectivism.” He stridently opposed the proposed Child Labor Amendment — “a heartless cruelty masquerading under the guise of philanthropy” — and even testified before Congressional committees against the effort to establish a Federal Department of Education.

Given his strong commitment to individual rights (“Jeffersonian liberalism” as one biographer describes it), Machen also spoke incisively about the war which shook his time — World War I.

Though President Woodrow Wilson was a family friend of the Machens, J. Gresham disdained Wilson’s use of war for idealist aims — to make the world safe for democracy (or, as in the current crisis, for corrupt monarchies and cheap oil). In a letter to his mother, Machen declared that, “An alleged war in the interest of democracy…does not appeal to me….This talk about British democracy arouses my ire as much as anything.” After the war, he concluded that, “The war for humanity, so far as its result is concerned, looks distressingly like an old-fashioned land-grab.”

Contrary to the utopian political rhetoric of his time, Machen clearly understood the more realistic motivations for war: “I am opposed to all imperial ambitions, wherever they may be cherished and with whatever veneer of benevolent assimilation they may be disguised.” Machen lashed out at a popular book defending British internationalism:


It is a glorification of imperialism….A very immoral purpose indeed!…Imperialism, to my mind, is satanic, whether it is German or English. The author glorifies war and ridicules efforts at the production of mutual respect and confidence among equal nations….[The book] makes me feel anew the need for Christianity,…what a need for the gospel!


Machen also despised the militarism and idolatrous patriotism which permeated his era: “Princeton is a hot-bed of patriotic enthusiasm and military ardor, which makes me feel like a man without a country.”

He was horrified by the consequences of his nation’s militarism:


The country seems to be rushing into the two things to which I am more strongly opposed than anything else in the world — a permanent alliance with Britain,…and a permanent policy of compulsory military service with all the brutal interference of the state in individual and family life it entails.


Four days prior to the U.S. declaration of war, Machen wrote to the New Jersey Representatives in the U.S. Congress:


In urging the defeat of measures involving a permanent policy of compulsory military service, I am not writing in the interests of “pacifism”….Compulsory military service does not merely bring a danger of militarism; it is militarism.


Despite Machen’s outspoken opposition to the war and especially the draft, he ultimately volunteered for non-combat duties by serving as a Y.M.C.A. secretary — in his words, “a grocery clerk and nothing else.” (He was reluctant to serve with the Y.M.C.A. fearing that they might require of its workers duties entailing, “desecration of the Sabbath in the name of Christianity and the like.”)

While serving in this capacity he found, “opportunities of preaching the gospel when there are so few to do this work.” This appears to have been his overriding motivation for participating in the war effort. He even remained in Europe after the war ended and ministered vigorously in numerous camps.

Upon returning to the U.S., Machen like so many other observers saw that many of the provisions of, “the Treaty of Versailles constituted an attack upon international and interracial peace….[W]ar will follow upon war in a wearisome progression.”

As he had warned prior to the war, his own country faced, “the miserable prospect of the continuance of the evils of war even into peace times.” Like so many other “temporary” government agencies in U.S. history, the war bureaucracies continued to grow, centralize, and strangle American culture. The effects were far reaching. Machen even mourned that when he turned from this collectivism for refuge in Christ’s church,


I find there exactly the same evils that are rampant in the world — centralized education programs, the subservience of the church to the state, contempt for the rights of minorities, standardization of everything, suppression of intellectual adventure….I see more clearly than ever before that unless the gospel is true and there is another world, our souls are in prison. The gospel of Christ is a blessed relief from that sinful state of affairs commonly known as hundred per-cent Americanism.


Given his stated principles, Machen wouldn’t have had much patience for our intervention in the Gulf. Wilsonian internationalism still reigns. President Wilson promoted the New Freedom and President Bush promotes the New World Order. What would keep Machen from still feeling, “like a man without a country”?


The Bankruptcy of Conservatism
The collapse of the Iron Curtain has made at least one thing obvious — the bankruptcy of some forms of atheistic humanism — but it has not cleared up as many things as it should have. One of the disappointing features of all this has been the fact that it has not revealed the bankTptcy of modern American conservatism.

The conservatism we have afoot today simply tags along after the liberals, picking up the pieces of the latest boondoggle, trying to figure out a way to make it all work. Or, to change the metaphor, our car of state is driving toward an immense cliff. When liberals are behind the wheel they have the gas pedal to the floor; when conservatives wrest control of the wheel from them, they will occasionally tap on the brakes.

It is important for us to consider two features necessary to any successful movement among men — both of them lacking in the modern conservative movement. Its adherents have to be willing to lose, and they have to know where they are going.

With respect to the first, R. L. Dabney identified the reluctance of conservatives to be martyrs long ago: “American conservatism is merely the shadow that follows Radicalism as it moves forward towards perdition…It is worthless because it is the conservatism of expediency only, and not of sturdy principle.” And to the conservative pragmatist, we may echo the words of the Lord, “Worthless servant! With your own words I will condemn you…” By its own standard pragmatism stands condemned; pragmatism doesn’t work.

With regard to the second, American conservatism has no marching orders, no foundation, no central cohesion. In short, it has no telos. So long as communism was a credible threat, with its frightening telos of world conquest, conservatives here at least had something to bind them together. What will serve that purpose now? Opposition to adjustments of the minimum wage? We must always remember the Gadarene Swine Rule; just because the group is in formation doesn’t mean they know where they are going.

Conservatism has no telos because it has no God. To be sure, conservatives are generally theists, but their god is silent. And to have a god who does not speak is the same as having the god of the socialists — he didn’t know what was going on either. The explicitly secular humanism we have here in the United States shows no signs of following eastern Europe. They still control the government schools, the law schools, the medical schools, the seminaries, and so forth.

In opposing them, we do not need the God of the Lowest Common Denominator. We need the God of battles, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.


The Arrogance of Protectionism
1991 promises to bring us an explosion of anti-free trade actions. Conservative columnist Pat Buchanan has already acquiesced to the growing protectionist sentiment: “Worldwide, from Canada to Soweto nationalism is ascendant; men are putting tribe, culture, country, first.”

Buchanan argues that “if recession hits hard, amid a perception that Uncle Sam has thrown open markets to foreigners who are closing theirs, the argument for efficiency will not carry the house. The arguments of the head will lose to the arguments of the heart: Let’s take care of our own.”

The mistaken assumption in Buchanan’s scenario is that there is no moral case for free trade; apparently, the only justification for free trade is that it is more efficient than protectionism.

But advocates of free trade have always been quick with general moral arguments for free trade — all parties in the transaction benefit, jobs are created not lost, consumers benefit, trade cartels cannot last, and the historical motivations for war are removed. These sorts of arguments do well for the already converted, but none of them effectively takes the legitimate moral high ground. These arguments are all relatively defensive in nature.

Advocates of free trade need to make the moral case for free trade by seizing the legitimate moral high ground and offensively dismantling protectionist sentiment. We can accomplish this by focusing on the genuine and utter arrogance of protectionism.

Protectionist arrogance resides in the fact that trade barriers always involve prohibiting someone from doing what they want with their own property — or as Christ rhetorically asks: “Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own?” (Matt. 20:15 — an application of the prohibition of stealing — Ex. 20: 15).

Instead of defensively hoping for free trade to be accepted, we should point out protectionism’s gross immorality — it violates the most commonly accepted notions of property rights, those kind of simple notions regularly paraded through cartoons and adventure films.

We should challenge protectionists to justify their unearned claim to control another person’s property without that person’s consent. Why do we allow the state to control that for which it doesn’t compensate? Why do we approve of lobbyists encouraging the leaders to sin in this way?

A clear understanding of the right to “do what you want with you own” will cut through the typical nationalistic fallacies of protectionism. Of course, in our day, neither Republicans nor Democrats can risk invoking such a principle since its implications reach most of their cherished pork-barrels. We may not see serious free trade in our lifetime, but the the right to control one’s own property is built into the prohibition of stealing, and the prohibition of stealing is inherent in proclaiming the whole counsel of God. So, while we keep up the short term battle for free trade, long term success rests in discipling the nations.


A One Day Plan for the Soviet Union
The recent resignation of the Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze is only the latest step in the internal destabilization of the Soviet Union. Shevardnadze’s stated reason for leaving points to more ominous problems on the horizon: “In the end it became clear to me that if the destabilization of the country continues, and the process of democratization is halted, it will be impossible to follow the current course in foreign policy.” Shevardnadze maintains that the chaos spreading through the country may very likely lead to an internal military crackdown.

Gorbachev’s much touted “reforms” have so far produced no genuine economic improvements. Yuri Maltsev, former member of the Gorbachev reform team, summarizes the situation: “Now the West knows what we radical economists in the Soviet Union knew all along: perestroika was just another attempt to improve socialism.”

None of the official Soviet reform proposals sufficiently approach the needs of the Soviet economy. Such plans either fail to link private property with completely free prices or they establish monopolistic cartels. Whatever the case, the result of the Gorbachev agenda is not a free market economy but a destabilizing mixed economy which can only promise more unrest across the republics.

Yuri Maltsev, now a fellow of the U.S. Peace Institute and senior adjunct scholar at the Ludwig von Mises Institute has proposed the following “One-Day” plan to rescue the Soviet Union by genuine reform.


The Maltsev One-Day Plan

I. The economy shall be privatized

(A) This includes all industry, agriculture, housing, construction, communication, the social infrastructure used by the Nomenklatura, and all other sectors of the economy.

(B) The public shall be able to homestead state-owned resources, with preference given to workers and farmers closest to those resources. Where this isn’t possible, certificates can be distributed to the entire public which can in turn be exchanged for homesteading rights, as suggested by Czech finance minister Vaclav Klaus.

(C) In health care, education, and transportation, entrepreneurs shall be allowed to provide unregulated alternatives to the dilapidated state system.

(D) If the state needed revenue, it shall sell such remaining non-privatized assets as military and space equipment and buildings, as well as the private asses of the Nomenklatura (e.g. limos, summer residences).

(E) Publicly provided services, which will naturally be replaced over time by private provision, shall be the exclusive province of local government.

(F) All hospitals, clinics, and sanatoriums used by government officials shall immediately be given to the public.

(G) Revenues deemed necessary for funding remaining public services shall be collected and spent only at the local level. Their imposition shall be subject to local referendum.


II. The state budget shall be drastically cut.

(A) The cuts shall start with the elimination of such bloated an destructive bureaucracies as the committees on state security (KGB), planning, prices, foreign trade, wages, safety, science, and technology.

(B) Drastic cuts in military spending and foreign aid shall not be exempt from the process.


III. Prices shall be freed

(A) Free prices will govern the distribution of consumer and capital goods and services, so that prices reflect relative scarcities and consumer demand.

(B) There shall be no controls on wages or other prices.

(C) No official distinction shall be made between staple and luxury goods.

IV. The monetary system shall be drastically reformed

(A) All restrictions on the free exchange of currencies shall be eliminated, and currency speculation shall be legalized.

(B) Through the elimination of these restrictions, the ruble shall become freely convertible into other currencies.

(C) All currencies shall be legal for monetary purposes. The privatization of the capital stock, housing, land, etc., and the resulting growth in their value, will increase both domestic and foreign demand for rubles, helping to eliminate the ruble “overhand”.

(D) The State Bank of the U.S.S.R., and other government bodies, shall be constitutionally prohibited from expanding the supply of money and credit.

(E) A new financial sector should be allowed to develop according to the dictates of interested private parties.


V. To secure this program, a judicial system shall be established based on the rule of law, the security of private property, and the enforcement of contract.

(A) The judiciary shall be independent of the state’s legislative and administrative bodies, both of which shall be subject to judicial review.

(B) Private parties shall have the option to settle their disputes through private arbitration.



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