Antithesis Magazine

March/April 1990 - Volume I, Number 2

ANTITHESIS (Back to Main Page)
March/April 1990 – Volume I, Number 2

I was in the process of covering up my crime when suddenly God saw me. I felt His gaze inside my head and on my hands. I whirled about in the bathroom, horribly visible, a live target…

…He doesn’t exist, I said with polite surprise; never have I had the temptation to bring Him back to life. But the Other One remained, the Holy Ghost, the one who guaranteed my mandate…

…I collared the Holy Ghost in the cellar and threw him out; atheism is a cruel affair… I’ve given up the office but not the frock: I still write. What else can I do?
Jean Paul Sartre

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them…they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God.” Romans 1:18,19, 21

Douglas M. Jones III

Senior Editors

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

Feature Articles

Environmentalism: A Modern Idolatry by Kevin L. Clauson
Utopian Environmentalism distorts science, economics, and theology in order to make its case.

John Knox: The Years of Preparation An Overview of Scottish Presbyterian History – Pt. 2 by L. Anthony Curto
From galleys to idols, Knox faces wilderness lessons in preparing for the Scottish Reformation.

Has Roman Catholicism Changed? An Examination of Recent Canon Law by Thomas Schirrmacher
The Canon Law of 1983 provides a needed benchmark by which to evaluate whether Roman Catholic reforms are a move toward Scripture.

Helping the Poor Without Feeding the Beast by Greg L. Bahnsen
Serious Biblical precriptions for poverty relief necessitate action, but not the coercive action of the State, contrary to the claims of some evangelicals.

Cancel the Postal Monopoly by Llwellyn H. Rockwell, Jr
Perennial rate hikes and a general anti-consumerism should move us to once and for all rethink the Postal monopoly.

Reformed Royalty: The Strength of Jeanne d’Albret by Marilyn B. Manze
The French Reformation reached its high-point with the faithfulness of this undaunted monarch.

The Basic Obligation to Attend Church by Greg Bahnsen


Observing the Current

Mandela’s Choice
Through the years, the unbelieving mind has been capable of many amazing feats, perhaps foremost of which is the agility with which it warmly embraces glaring contradictions and rhetorically lashes out against those who dare challenge such contradictions.

Dare to challenge the unbeliever’s contradictions regarding one of his many little “darlings” like homosexuality, pornography, or abortion, and you will quickly meet one of his secret weapons: argument by epithet. You know it well — appealing to labels in lieu of rational arguments in an attempt to entrap an opponent between lifesize parentheses. Dare to disagree with a homosexual, for instance, and you’re a “homophobe.” Dare to disagree with a pornographer and you’re a “bookburner.” Dare to disagree with an abortionist and you’re a “sexist.” That’s it. Period. End of argument.

Recent national and international events are case in point. The modern unbeliever, for example, hails Nelson Mandela, a self-avowed militant who was instrumental in forming the Umkhonto we Sizwe, the military wing of the African National Congress which, at Mandela’s command, was responsible for countless deaths and acts of sabotage. Yet, while the unbeliever generally hails Mandela and the African National Congress, he generally condemns non-militant pro-life leader, Randall Terry, and Operation Rescue.

One need not be an apologist for Operation Rescue to realize that the unbeliever can’t have it both ways. If violating trespass laws to defy an unjust law is morally offensive, then all the more is conspiring to overthrow a government by inspiring murder and other extreme acts of violence.

So why does the unbeliever condemn Terry but praise Mandela? The enlightened unbeliever (oxymoron?) admirably advocates bringing apartheid to an end. As a result, he is willing, along with Mandela, to endorse any means — even murder — in order to bring about that end. Thus, driven by his ends-oriented focus, the unbeliever lauds Mandela as an “example” while he lashes out at Terry as an “extremist.”

When you peer behind the unbeliever’s question-begging epithets, however, you can see that his worldview doesn’t provide him with the moral absolutes he needs in order to condemn apartheid. But instead of admitting the inadequacy and inconsistency of his own worldview, he picks and chooses the Christian moral absolutes he needs to condemn apartheid, while he arbitrarily rejects the Christian moral absolutes which condemn abortion.

The unbeliever basically takes a smorgasbord approach to ethics. And along with his smorgasbord approach to ethics comes the veiled threat that you better not challenge his relentless contradictions and his many little darlings. But why does the unbeliever want you to bow to his contradictory system? Why does he want you to put apartheid on your tray but leave abortion on the counter?

You wouldn’t want to be called a “racist” would you?



Earth Nausea
No one favors oil spills, air pollution, starvation, deforestation, cancer causing waste, animal extinctions, or toxic drinking water. But to have to state that fact is already evidence of the gripping power of popular environmentalist rhetoric.

April 22, 1990 is “Earth Day.” This date marks the twentieth anniversary of the original Earth Day of 1970 to which over 20 million people rallied. The original demonstration “was designed to make environmentalism a mass movement, and it worked brilliantly,” according to Sierra Club lawyer Daniel Becker (Rolling Stone, Feb. 1990). Organizers of Earth Day 1990 aim to make an international media event which will “baptize a new generation to work at making the 1990’s a decade of environmental action” (ibid.).

Environmentalist leaders have strategically set the terms of the current debate so that they characterize their opponents as those who support the destruction of the planet. Once the environmentalist establishes that false premise, the argument is easily won. But this is not a trivial debate.

The serious disagreements between environmentalists and their opponents do not center on ends but on means. Everyone wants a clean, safe, beautiful environment, but not necessarily by the means pushed by environmentalists. However, the fever pitch of popular environmentalism is not one constrained by cogent argumentation.

As Robert Formaini notes, “The hysteria is designed to put regulation in place regardless of whether it will work on the ground that at least, we are trying to do something.’ Also, it is designed to foster guilt in people so they will not resist further encroachments on their liberty, since encroaching is done for the good of all.'”(Liberty, Sept. 1989).

In U.S. history, civil leaders have repeatedly used “crises” of all varieties to expand their power. We see this most prominently in U.S. war history, but also in the more innocent crises. If the 1990’s to be an onslaught of environmental crises, then we should expect more suffocating collectivism.

Many university students flock to this movement largely out of the fear that they missed something truly important in the now romanticized 1960’s. At least that is what their instructors keep telling them. From a more Biblical perspective, however, a non-Christian culture must vent its passion and guilt in some manner, and environmentalism fits the bill conveniently.

The goal of the environmentalist movement is not simply to stop oil spills and air pollution. The explicit goal of many environmentalist leaders is to create a broad collectivist movement. Denis Hayes, an organizer of both Earth Days, claims that the movement will begin to push non-environmental issues of “social justice”: “We’ve got to start embracing some of those other issues, to build a coalition, broaden the agenda, and once again become the movement.”

As for April, I am preparing to be nauseated by media who can find self-interested motives in almost everyone except wide-eyed middle-class environmentalists who will staff the very regulatory agencies they call for. The 1990’s will be a tremendous battleground.


Defrocking Humanists
Pity the poor abortionist. He’s got a problem of Rodney Dangerfield proportions: he can’t get no respect.

Of course he encounters the outrage and cries of “Murderer!” from the gauntlet of picketers each day on the way into the clinic. But the harried abortionist can always seek solace in the company of his fellow doctors, right?

Wrong. According to a recent New York Times article by Gina Kolata, his peers don’t think he’s such a swell guy either. Apparently abortionists find themselves largely isolated from their colleagues and treated as pariahs by the medical community. This ostracism is acting as a powerful disincentive for doctors to become abortionists or continue as such.

According to Dr. Michael Policar, medical director of Planned Parenthood in San Francisco, the fact that so few physicians are now willing to perform abortions leaves “the impression that abortion is a dirty business and that it is somehow not an appropriate or legitimate medical procedure.” Lest he think this impression unfounded, Dr. Policar might peruse an unexpurgated copy of the Hippocratic Oath: “…I will not give to a woman an instrument to produce abortion.”

But there was another angle to Kolata’s report, at once more subtle and more profound, that was revealed in stories told by two abortionists, which demonstrate the ability of the human heart to suppress the truth in unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18) and the consequent inability of the heart to find peace and live consistently while suppressing that truth.

The first abortionist told of calling one of his best friends, a fellow abortionist, late one day. When the friend asked where he was calling from, he told him the clinic. “Still killing babies this late in the afternoon?” the friend quipped.

“It was like a knife in my gut,” the abortionist told Kolata. “It really upset me. What it conveys is that no matter how supportive people may be, there is still a horror at what I do.”

The second physician, who performed abortions out of strong conviction, told a story equally revealing. While admitting she had to prepare herself each time and often had sleepless nights prior to performing abortions, she claimed she only lost control once. After trying herself for seven years to become pregnant, only to have recently suffered a miscarriage, she found herself performing an abortion on another doctor. After the abortion, she said, “I just collapsed on the floor,” overcome by her emotions.

In Hamlet, Shakespeare wrote, “Murder, though it have no tongue, will speak with most miraculous organ.” So often we have approached the abortionist with the belief that, if we could just reason with him, we could convince him to stop his heinous work. But the abortionist’s problem isn’t syllogisms, it’s sin. And perhaps the only indication the abortionist has that there’s something wrong with his rationalizations, that makes a lie of his linguistic revisions, is the fact he is viscerally unable to live his life as if they really were true.

Knowing the high value we place upon reasoned debate it sounds strange to say this. But maybe we need to try a new tact with the abortionist: Get in touch with your feelings, doc.


Sad Abortionists
In recent years we’ve heard much about what dangerous places our nation’s public high schools are for today’s kids. Drugs, gang violence, and lethal weapons stashed in lockers are often the daily perils students must accept as the price of obtaining a public school education.

The problem has reached such proportions that administrators at many schools are resorting to frisking students as they arrive at school, banning gang clothing and insignia, and conducting random locker searches as ways to control these dangers. Predictably, these actions land school officials in hot water with civil libertarians of the press bent on protecting the constitutional rights of students.

A new danger to public school students has now appeared on the horizon. And like the perils mentioned above, controlling the spread of this activity on high school campuses likewise impinges upon the constitutional rights of students. However, the magnitude of this danger looks so ominous that even that great defender of civil liberties, the Washington Post, has recognized the need to sacrifice constitutional rights in order to protect the lives of children.

In a recent editorial, analyzing the issues involved, the Post concluded that “…the fact that these activities are undertaken in public schools, where general attendance is required by law, and the fact that the citizens involved could be as young as 7th-graders…” persuasively argues for curbing the constitutionally protected liberties of students.

And what, you ask, is this latest threat to the lives of our nation’s young? Campus Bible clubs. And what rankles the Post is that children are being needlessly exposed to this danger all because of Congress’s folly in passing the Equal Access Act of 1984, which, as the Post explains, “prohibits secondary schools that allow students to have clubs that are not related to the curriculum from singling out and discriminating against clubs meeting for religious purposes.”

Congress carefully crafted the Equal Access Act with the Supreme Court’s current absurd interpretive twist on the Establishment Clause. And the Post itself concedes “how intricately [the Act] attempts to balance the requirements of free speech and the exercise of religious freedom with those of separation of church and state.” But the Post still thinks the law a bad idea.

So what’s the Post‘s beef? “Public schools should not be an arena in which students are helped to divide into religious groups for purposes of religious practice” moralizes the Post. “Prayer meetings, worship services and religious instruction belong in churches and homes, not in public facilities.”

The Post‘s moral dictum is breathtaking in its audacity; one only wonders whether to lament more over the degree of stupidity or the manifest hypocrisy necessary for the Post to maintain such a position. This is the same Washington Post that castigates parents for wanting sex education taught “in churches and homes, not in public facilities.” The same paper that mocks parents who don’t view reading The Catcher in the Rye as an indispensable right of passage for teens. The same paper that only last year was ready to don sackcloth and ashes when the Supreme Court ruled that school administrators could exercise editorial oversight on a high school newspaper.

If it could be demonstrated that Bible study greatly reduced the likelihood of teen pregnancy, would the Post object to campus Bible clubs or school-based clinics handing out free Bibles?


Everyone knows that the Buckeys are nothing more than guilty child-abusers, right?

Of course, everyone travailed through the eighteen-month preliminary hearing during which charges against five of the seven original defendants were dismissed for lack of evidence. Everyone sat in court for two and a half years carefully evaluating the testimony and credibility of all one-hundred and twenty-four witnesses. Everyone carefully weighed and evaluated the more than one thousand pieces of evidence introduced at trial. And everyone spent nine weeks with the jury carefully deliberating each of the fifty-two criminal counts against the accused.

No. The American press and public have improved upon the Biblical concept the accused is innocent until proven guilty. Led on a leash by the American press, the American public chose to take the easy road, the road of prejudice. Everyone knows the Buckeys are guilty because everyone pre-judged the Buckeys before all the evidence was in — indeed, before any evidence was in. And why not? They were easy targets. After all, they just looked guilty!

The aftermath of the McMartin case proves an important truth which has very little to do with the Buckeys, and has everything to do with us. Instead of reacting emotionally and irrationally to issues of concern like the McMartin trial, we need to cultivate and nurture a sound Biblical approach to such issues. And the Bible has a lot to say about the way the American press and public reacted to the McMartin trial.

Believe it or not, the Bible itself teaches that the accused is innocent until proven guilty. This presumption of innocence is not an artifice of liberal twentieth century jurisprudence. It is biblical. According to biblical justice, if only one witness could testify to the guilt of the accused, the accused walked free. Biblical justice, then, contemplates the chance that a truly guilty criminal might go unpunished. Why? Better that one or more truly guilty men go unpunished than that one innocent man be punished for a crime he didn’t commit. To safeguard against punishing the innocent, the Bible instructs us that the accused is innocent until proven guilty.

In order to prove that the accused is guilty, the Bible imposes a heavy burden upon prosecutors: the evidence against the accused must be confirmed by the mouth of two or three witnesses. And for good reason: you don’t send someone up the river because he might have committed the alleged crime. Rather, the evidence the prosecution presents must be so compelling that there is no reasonable doubt that the accused committed the alleged crime. And to be compelling, the testimony must only come from multiple witnesses, it must also be confirmed, by the credible and consistent testimony of another source.

But even if the evidence confirms the fact that a crime was committed, the Bible also teaches that the evidence must link the accused to the crime. It is one thing to prove that children have been molested. It is quite another to prove that the accused is the one who molested them. The accused must never be punished when the evidence does not prove that he is the one who committed the alleged crime, no matter how vehement the public outcry. After all, to punish the accused to salve the public is not biblical. It is utilitarian.

To prevent innocent criminal defendants from being punished for crimes they didn’t commit, biblical justice also demands that false witnesses are to be prosecuted for perjury, and if found guilty, are to be punished with the same punishment they sought to impose upon the accused. According to the Bible, perjury is not a minor annoyance. It is both a heinous sin and crime.

Aside from teaching us about due process, the Bible also teaches us that if we are to learn to think God’s thoughts after Him, we need to stop jumping to conclusions and pandering to mass hysteria. How did this case arise in the first place? The first charge was planted in the mind of a two-year-old child by an alcoholic mother (now dead) who had a history of mental “illness.” This same mother, apparently to bolster the credibility of her accusations, also claimed that an AWOL Marine had sodomized her dog. Thereafter, the Manhattan Beach Police Department sent a question-begging letter to over two-hundred families asking children if they ever saw Raymond Buckey leave class alone with a child or tie a child up. A few months later, over twelve hundred alleged victims answered the call, claiming to have been victimized by Raymond Buckey, his mother, grandmother, sister and three female teachers.

It’s time to realize that rage and hysteria are not substitutes for evidence. We cannot spit in the face of due process without incurring tremendous costs to our own freedom in the long run.

The sad truth in this whole episode is that the Buckeys do not stand alone. In the wake of the pandemonium surrounding the McMartin case, hundreds of innocent teachers and day care workers have fallen prey to false accusations occasioned by overactive imaginations and bureaucrats out to solve another “crisis.”

Indeed, it’s time for the real criminals in the McMartin case to stand trial: the American press and public. Both are guilty of prejudice in the first degree. Face it: acquittal on all fifty-two counts is no fluke of justice. No legal loophole. No procedural technicality. And it certainly takes more than a city-slick defense attorney.

Far from being a failure of justice, the McMartin case is a vindication of justice, for it teaches us that criminal defendants can still receive a fair trial inside the courtroom even when those with their microphones, cameras, and television sets outside the courtroom have already pronounced their verdicts.

Maybe it’s time we all learned the difference between a witness and a talebearer.


Why do people tolerate and forgive the hypocrisies of non-Christians but not those of Christians? Why don’t we publicly condemn an avowed humanist who acts religiously as we do a religious person who acts “irreligiously”?

Case in point: Paul Kurtz, prominent atheist and editor of Free Inquiry has called on humanists to express their humanism in very religious ways. Of course he makes great efforts to deny that what he advocates is religious, but then hypocritical religionists make similar rationalizations.

In recent promotional literature for his magazine, Kurtz emphatically states that “Secular humanism needs no clergy, no house of worship….It’s not a religion but a way of living.”

Such defensiveness aside, Kurtz explains in the most recent issue of Free Inquiry, how humanists must adopt, if they are to be successful, a host of ostensibly religious qualities and establish secular humanist “centers” [read “churches”]:

Fellowship: Humanists should provide “counseling services for all age groups,” be “concerned with alleviating…suffering,” and offer groups which provide “fraternal bonds of solidarity…a setting for shared experiences between like-minded friends.”

But remember humanists are not religious.

Rituals: Humanists should not miss out on rites of passage — humanist centers should “make note of these joyous moments by some kind of ceremony: a wine and cheese party, a birthday cake, the giving of presents, singing, and poetry.” At sorrowful times, “Commemorative ceremonies may soothe the aching heart and provide some solace in truly naturalistic terms.”

But remember humanists are not religious.

Clergy: These centers need leaders who “can help crystallize beliefs and values and provide some direction…Morally decent persons with integrity.”

But remember humanists are not religious.

Moral Values: “[H]uman rights must be respected by everyone;” “common moral decencies’…are part of our heritage of humankind; they have their roots in our nature;” “all human beings should be considered equal in dignity and value.”

But remember humanists are not religious.

Evangelism & Salvation: “We need to develop thoroughly humanistic centers of learning, focusing on educating the full person, liberating him or her from ancient dogmas and fears.”

But remember humanists are not religious.

Faith: Humanists express their religious faith in terms of commitments — “committed to the good life here and now;” “presupposing that the examined life is worth living;” “commitment to separation of church and state…and civil liberties;” “committed to a naturalistic worldview.” Such centers would “reject religious interpretations of reality.” But of course humanists are not in any sense close-minded.

Absolute Authority: Every worldview has its absolute authority. Kurtz bows before the god Reason. The god Reason enables one to appraise all “truth claims in religion, morality, and politics.” Since, Christians oppose such distortions of reason, they can justly challenge the humanist’s Authority: What is the basis for trusting your Authority? How did your Authority originate? What kind of thing is your Authority? How do you know that what your Authority teaches is accurate? Why should I trust something I cannot see? And so on.

Hypocrisy reigns in the humanistic arena. Such half-hearted humanists should resign from their ministries and be publicly humiliated on Nightline. Nevertheless, their sheep will continue to follow them wherever they lead. But whatever you do, please remember humanists are not religious.


Foreign Policy Arguments
During the Reagan era, Jeanne Kirkpatrick and other foreign policy analysts popularized an argument which attempted to justify U.S. support for authoritarian regimes but not totalitarian regimes. The now familiar argument maintained that the U.S. ought to aid the former often brutal criminal regimes but not the latter often brutal criminal regimes since authoritarian governments had an historical tendency to develop into democracies. Kirkpatrick and others grabbed the high ground by challenging their opponents to offer a single instance of such a democratic transformation in a totalitarian regime.

The actual debate focused on U.S. support of Central American states, especially El Salvador and Nicaragua. In this context, these analysts argued that the U.S. was justified in supporting authoritarian El Salvador but not totalitarian Nicaragua, since Nicaragua was not the sort of government which would one day turn into a democratic country.

This argument has now failed. And we should be glad at this failure. The failure of this influential argument is evident not only in Nicaragua but even more so in Eastern Europe. The speed with which such arguments become obsolete is one fascinating aspect of our current political landscape.

However, millions of dollars were administered to foreign nations on the basis of such arguments. Now as we have a historical moment of intellectual reorganization regarding foreign policy, we have the opportunity to voice arguments which challenge the entire practice of U.S. support for foreign nations. One simple question we should press at this time is: why should we offer foreign aid at all? Why should authoritarian or totalitarian regimes have access to U.S. funds?

The Constitution does not provide any sort of justification for using tax money in this manner. Moreover, such funds tend to politicize the societies we choose to subsidize, thus discouraging private, non-political production. We do great damage by “aiding” such countries in this manner. We not only redistribute our own citizens’ funds against their wishes, but we suggest to the recepients that wealth is given not created. Such a precedent is the death knell of a culture.

Sadly, the current administration shows no sign of moving in this direction. The damage awaiting these countries is predictable.




Dear Editors,

I do not doubt that there is much to concern the Christian jurisprude in the modern judicial administrations of U.S. private law. Nevertheless, I seriously doubt that John McClendon’s Tarzanesque refrain of “contract, good; tort; bad” in his review of Peter Huber’s books provides the key to the Christian alternative.

The interesting choice isn’t between the market system and “utopian pretensions”: we all reject the secular eschatology of the administrative state. After that’s said, however, there still remains a profoundly important question: What type of market system should we choose? That the understanding of markets and contracts predominant during the 19th century is the biblical understanding, although widely assumed in conservative Christian circles, has yet to be demonstrated biblically.

Let’s take a couple of policies McClendon commends to us and compare them with biblical laws. First, McClendon laments that strict liability has been imposed in some tort cases; he thinks it bad that “a showing of negligence” is no longer necessary. The defense in cases of negligence is that the defendant used “due care” in attempting to avoid the injury. If due care was used, then even if the defendant’s actions caused the injury, the defendant isn’t held liable.

Some biblical laws apparently impose strict liability. For example, the provision in Exodus 22:6, “If a fire breaks out and spreads to thorn bushes, so that stacked grain or the standing grain or the grain itself is consumed, he who started the fire shall surely make restitution.” Note that even if the person who started the fire employed due care in controlling the fire, he is still held liable if an accident occurs.

Strict liability appears to be imposed in other cases (e.g., Ex. 12:35), although the remedy changes as a result of negligence or recklessness (cf., Ex. 21:35 with v. 36, see also vv. 33-34).

Secondly, McClendon asserts that today’s system “destroyed a centuries-old liability system predicated upon the freedom of individuals to allocate risks by private contract.” This thought is repeated later, and McClendon laments, as presumably unbiblical, that courts have struck down contract provisions because they were “unconscionable” and “contrary to public policy.”

Although we can easily see that a judge imbued with the spirit of biblical wisdom and one surveying his own conscience for standards will come to different conclusions as to what is unconscionable and contrary to public policy, it seems pretty clear to me that a biblically-minded judge would refuse to enforce some contract provisions under these rubrics.

For example, McClendon’s celebration fo the “freedom of individuals to allocate risks by private contract” is contrary to the liability imposed in the biblical trust, rental, and employment laws (Ex. 22:10-15). Note that McClendon’s principle would permit the private law of the contract to control divine law: In the case of Exodus 22:12, the parties could contract that no restitution be made even in the case of theft. Also, contract could nullify Exodus 22:15 if the agreement allocated the risk to the neighbor or the employer.

Thirdly, McClendon would apparently enforce service contracts that a biblical judge would strike down as unconscionable. For example, you meet a starving man in the wilderness and, knowing a good deal when you see one, your condition for providing sustenance is that this man agree that his life is yours do do with whatever you will. That is, you have a despotic right over this man. Later, you strike the man and he loses a tooth, he leaves your service. Can you sue this man on the contract and force his return? Not if the judge applies scripture (Ex. 21:26-27): the law would void the contract as unconscionable.

Other cases exist, such as the imposition of usury (Ex. 22:25-27) and intentional assaults (Ex. 21:18-19). Complete contractual freedom in all of these cases would have the law of the contract entirely swallow up the provisions of biblical law.

This may smack of an apology for the present system, but it’s not. I think the system needs to be changed, perhaps very significantly. But when we analyze policies and systems we ought to do it in an informed, balanced manner. McClendon seems long on polemical assertion but a little short on biblical proof and independent assessment of Huber’s arguments.

This aside, however, what bothers me most about McClendon’s review is that his celebration of contract seems more in accord with the spirit of the Enlightenment autonomy, and with its religious manifestation in the guise of baptistic volunteerism, than it breathes of the spirit of Reformed covenantalism.

All of this is not to say that contract would not have an important role in a biblical market economy. The point is that the word of God rules the market, not the word of contract.

Jim Rogers
Lincoln, Nebraska

McClendon Replies:

Mr. Rogers’ main confusion lies in mistaking my explanation of Huber’s thesis for a blanket endorsement of Huber’s views. If I created Mr. Roger’s confusion by not beginning each paragraph with the locution, “Mr. Huber says…” or “According to Huber…,” I apologize. (I find repetitive use of such constructions inimical to good writing.) I suggest that he go back and reread the piece, mentally inserting one of these phrases at the start of all but the last two paragraphs. He will see that my review was not meant to be a critical acclamation of Huber’s thesis but only a non-technical presentation of Huber’s critique of modern liability laws, presented in its strongest form (something I believe Christians ethically owe those we interact with), from which Mr. Rogers and other Christians are free to find (and certainly will find!) areas of formal agreement and foundation disagreement.

Roger’s criticisms regarding strict liability reveal a lack of careful reading and analysis. He claims I lament “that strict liability has been imposed in some tort cases.” This is an unwarranted extension of what I said. In my only reference to strict liability, I briefly mentioned one specific situation: the recent extension of strict liability to all parties involved in the distribution chain of an injury- causing product. Mr. Rogers should note that I offered this as an example of how modern judges discard “venerable Common Law principles tracing their pedigree back to the Bible,” not as a lamentation for the fact that strict liability is occasionally imposed. Applying this new expansion of strict liability to the Biblical model (Ex. 21:36) produces absurdities, for instance, we would have not merely held the owner of the ox that gored the other ox liable for the damage, but also the owner of the cow that bore the ox, as well as the drover who put the ox into the “stream of commerce” by delivering it to the owner!

The Common Law generally mirrors Scripture in imposing strict liability for damage caused by trespassing animals, known dangerous/wild animals (but note Ex. 21:35 is not strict liability, but a loss-spreading formula between two innocent parties) and, after Rylands v. Fletcher (1868), for abnormally dangerous conditions (Ex. 21:33-34) and activities (Ex. 22:6). What should concern Mr. Rogers, as it does me, are the modern courts extending strict liability far beyond Biblical warrant.

Mr. Rogers argues that a judge “imbued with the spirit of biblical wisdom” will strike down many contracts because they are “unconscionable” and/or “contrary to public policy.” I hope this would never be the case! Most legal scholars concede such rubrics are legal fig leaves, mere “empty bottles” waiting to be filled with whatever value judgments a particular judge desires. Biblical law unquestionably sets boundaries to the freedom to contract. However, the judge loyal to Biblical law will void a contract because it trespasses those boundaries, not because he finds such a contract unconscionable or socially deleterious.

Finally, I am mystified why Mr. Rogers concluded that my review of Huber’s narrowly focused discussion of the eclipse of contract and tort law is in fact a full-blown defense of absolute contractual freedom in every aspect of life. Mr. Rogers certainly raises some valid objections to permitting contract freedom to trump Biblical law in several areas of law. But his critique of contract as it applies to the law of bailments (Ex. 22:10-15), bond slavery (Ex. 21:20, et seqq.) and usury (Ex. 22:25-27) is simply not on point, as we lawyers say, with the topic, which was, after all, tort liability.


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