Antithesis Magazine

March/April 1991 – Volume 2, Number 2

ANTITHESIS (Back to Main Page)
March/April 1991 – Volume 2, Number 2

The immortals know no care, yet the lot they spin for man is full of sorrow; on the floor of Jove’s palace there stand two urns, the one filled with evil gifts, and the other with good ones…. He for whom Jove, the Lord of thunder, mixes the gifts he sends, will meet now with good and now with evil fortune.
Homer, Illiad

Yet doubt not but in Valley and Plain
God is here, and will be found alike
Present, and of His presence many a sign still following thee,
Still compassing thee round with goodness and paternal Love.

John Milton, Paradise Lost


  • Douglas M. Jones III

Senior Editors

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

Contributing Editors

  • Wesley J. Calliham
  • Thomas Schirrmacher

Feature Articles

A New Perspective on the Problem of Evil by Doug Erlandson
Though non-Christians cannot rightfully generate the objection from evil, Christian solutions usually compromise Biblical truth.

Milton’s Redemption of Epic Poetry by Wesley Calihan
Vergil’s Aeneid has a purposeful view of history that Milton’s Paradise Lost redeems for a much larger story.

Christianity in Nineteenth Century American Law by Steven Samson
While strenuously asserting the value of religious liberty, early American courts unhesitantly appealed to religious considerations.

Calvin’s Doctrine of the Spiritual Presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper by Brian Nicholson
While neither turning to Rome, Luther, not mere symbolism, Calvin’s viw of the Lord’s Supper shaped generations that followed him.

Issue and Interchange: Ken Gentry and Stephen Reynolds debate a Biblical understanding of beverage alcohol use.
Gentry: Scripture Endorses a Moderate Use of Beverage Alcohol
Reynolds: Scriptrue Prohibits the Drinking of Alcoholic Beverages
Gentry Responds
Reynolds Responds
Gentry’s Concluding Remarks


How to Resolve the Conflict Between the Media and the Military
Every once in a while we encounter an ethical dilemma that should lead us to rethink the assumptions that produced the dilemma in the first place. One such dilemma is prayer in public schools. On the one hand, we shouldn’t support such prayer because it would have to be idolatrously amorphous and State imposed; but, on the other hand, we should oppose anti-prayer advocates because we know that all of life, including education, is religious. The solution to the dilemma is to reject the assumption that the State should interfere in education at all. Once we reject that assumption, then the dilemma vanishes: all schools would be private and could pray faithfully, or not, as they choose.

We find another such dilemma arising out of current American war policy, namely, the now regular conflict between the military and the media.

The media, for whatever actual motive, aim to “get to the truth” behind Pentagon pronouncements. They want the people to know what is “really” going on. They complain about military censorship and the limitations of “pool” reporting.

The media believe that when government officials declare that the Gulf war will “not be another Vietnam,” they mean that the media will not have the access to subvert this war like they supposedly subverted the Vietnam war. So, we hear from Ed (not Ted) Turner, Executive Vice-President of CNN, that “the public wants us to be a Watchdog.”

Hence, the media claim to be skeptical of all government reports. After all, the government has a long history of lying to the people. As Virgil Jordon, President of the mainstream, pro-WWII, think tank, the National Industrial Conference Board, glibly noted in 1940, “In peace time it is the accepted custom and normal manners of modern government to conceal all important facts from the public, or to lie to them; in war it is a political vice which becomes a necessity.” It is no news that Roosevelt and others have lived up to this dictum well.

In direct opposition to this pervasive media skepticism, we have a military who wants to keep some element of tactical surprise. The military claims that to allow full and free coverage of the war would not only jeopardize tactical surprise but also American lives.

For the military, such media skepticism is dangerous to the war effort. Unbelievable media questions to Pentagon officials of the type, “When and where is the next military offensive,” are now regular material for late night comedians. Noted government defender, Reed Irvine, ironically head of Accuracy in Media, complains that the media “is not on the U.S. side.” He reminisces that “in World War II, they were for us.”

But beyond tactical considerations, the military also sees the need to play-down failures, like Iraqi civilian deaths, in order to maintain U.S. civilian morale for the war. Media pictures of maimed women and children (“collateral damage” in ugly war euphemism) do not bolster American morale.

The popular solutions to this conflict are clearly unacceptable. On the one hand, the media might desire fully unrestrained reporting, but this would jeopardize even a just war. On the other hand, the military might desire complete censorship of the media so as to “get the job done properly,” but this easily opens the door to tyranny. Neither of these options is acceptable.

However, like the dilemma of prayer in public schools, we can resolve or at least greatly minimize the media/military conflict by rethinking its assumptions.

In short, the practical solution to the conflict lies in aligning the self-interest of the military with the self-interest of the media. Impossible? No. We could do this by rejecting our humanistic penchant for modern “crusade” wars and only fight defensive wars.

The current media is skeptical because they doubt the propriety of interventionist goals: Oil? Defending tyrannical monarchies? A New World Order? However, if the military was used defensively, then the war aims would be clear, and the self-interest of both military and media would be largely aligned.

In a defensive war, media lives, property, and families would be at stake. Hence, they would, for the far greater part, defend military action for the sake of their own interests. They, like the military, would want to preserve tactical surprise and support morale.

The military leadership, too, wouldn’t have to resort to disinformation tactics to counter the people’s interests or sustain morale. Moreover, in a defensive war, we would not need to consider a military draft since individuals would gladly defend themselves.

Defensive wars would not resolve all the conflicts between the military and the media arising out of modern crusade warfare, but it certainly would be superior to the present situation

The Limits of National Prayer
This past February, President Bush called for a national day of prayer. So far, so good. But then he went on to talk about the god to whom he was praying. He mentioned those Americans who have given their lives in the conflict and told us that they were all safe with the Benign Benevolence in the Sky. There was no indication on his part that repentance and regeneration had anything to do with salvation. Americans are queer ducks; we think the Muslims are strange because they think that any Muslims who die in battle are saved; whereas we think that any Americans who die are saved. In short, President Bush was not asking us to pray to the God of the Bible.

All Christians should love their country, and they should gladly pray for her — and not just when the president asks us to. But the reason we pray at all is that we love the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, and He has told us to keep ourselves from idols.


“Hate Crimes” as Opposed to?
More good news! We’re cracking down on hate crimes! . . . and becoming Oh So Wise. Soon, no crimes will be committed out of hate; all crimes will be committed lovingly, by unbiased, unprejudiced criminals!

Good grief. How is a “hate crime” different from a normal crime? Is it one done with a bad attitude instead of a good one? How does one even begin to comprehend the mindbogglingly foolish “rationale” behind this movement?

The attack is on the attitude now, not just the crime itself. Those behind this idea know that the state — their only lord and savior — can’t change the bad attitudes of the world by punishing the outward actions, so now they wish to punish the inward motive. This is just one more example of the state trying to save us from our sins, this time by idiotically attempting to change the hearts of criminals, rather than by restricting itself to their actions.

But why should we confine ourselves to hate, if we’re so interested in changing the heart? Why not prosecute for “lust crimes” separately from rape, and “greed crimes” separately from theft. Why single out hatred, or crimes committed because of hatred, as specially heinous? Are crimes committed in sheer cold blood better because no feeling was involved? Or are crimes where the criminal went through a great deal of anguish, struggling with overwhelming moral ambivalence while beating the daylights out of his victim, that much more understandable and therefore less evil?

The state has a religious viewpoint; it always does.

Some of us remember the case a year and a half ago in Madison, Wisconsin, wherein a woman was charged with discrimination because, after she had advertised a vacancy in her apartment she, refused to let a lesbian room with her. The upshot? The state forced the woman to attend classes designed to raise her tolerance level for those of other sexual “orientations.” Brainwashing, that is.

Now can’t anyone with approximately half a head on his shoulders see what that means? The state is supporting a particular viewpoint — a religious viewpoint — that says homosexuality is morally neutral. That is a fundamentally religious judgment. And why that particular judgment? Why didn’t the court decide in favor of the poor woman and send the lesbian to counseling to help her overcome her intolerance for people who are repulsed by the idea of having a homosexual roommate? Why not send the state to classes for states who are intolerant of those with ethical standards?

One wonders why those who are behind movements like this one haven’t seen the absurd conclusion to which their logic leads. If they truly believe, without a standard, that it’s an awful thing for people to take action against those with whom they disagree, then why don’t they put themselves behind bars for taking action (instituting “hate crime” laws) against those with whom they disagree (people who take action, using crowbars, against people with whom they disagree).


Democracy is Not Enough
It appears that the Soviet Union is currently occupied with falling down the stairs. More reactionary military crackdowns are likely, but those crackdowns, when they occur, will not change the final result — it will merely make the fall down the stairs more painful. Militant socialistic statism has had it.

But this doesn’t imply that we may let down our guard against the socialist nightmare. Some very great dangers remain, and they do so quite a bit closer to home. The on-going collapse of Soviet-style socialism has been played in the press as a triumph for democracy. But there is no significant contrast to be made between democracy and socialism, any more than there is such a contrast between monarchy and private property. These are different things, to be sure, but they are not necessarily incompatible. A socialistic government is quite capable of getting and maintaining the support of 51 percent.

The real battle is between liberty and slavery, between the City of God and the city of man, between the rule of law and the law of rule; that is to say, it’s between Christianity and humanism. Just because the humanist slavemasters can get a majority of the freely-cast democratic votes (i.e. most of the people agree to be slaves), it does not change the fact of slavery. When the people of Israel were grumbling in the wilderness a free democratic election, with impartial international observers would have sent them all marching back to their taskmasters in Egypt.

In our Western democracies, the collapse of Eastern socialism has brought about no re-thinking of the oppressive statism we have here. Consequently, some of our ancient liberties still need to be recovered, and those which remain are still in grave danger.

Where will be the principal battleground? I think it is safe to say that the battle in the nineties will be over the control of education. Will young children of professing Christians be trained and educated by the government, or will that education be returned to the hands of parents?

Our statist schools are failing to educate; this does not mean that their power base has been seriously threatened. It has not been. This means government-certified teachers, government-approved curriculum, and government-issued truth continue as our nation’s central mechanism of education. Consequently, Christian parents who send their children to such schools are allowing their children to be catechized in the tenets of a rival faith. As more and more Christians pull out of our socialized system of education, we will see the conflict between the two faiths intensify.

The coming collision between faithful parents on the one hand, and the intrusive state on the other, will demonstrate quite clearly that statism in the United States is not dead. Quite the contrary.

How Many Polls Does it Take?
In modern political life, the position of the pollster is untouchable. Polls are taken and believed, on every conceivable subject. In the war against Iraq, pollsters have been taking the country’s temperature on a daily basis.

One of the most remarkable things about these polls is their ability to command trust. It doesn’t matter how often they are wrong, or how off the mark the predictions are. Polls continue to be taken, and people continue to believe them.

This entirely misplaced confidence is possible for two basic reasons: First, polling is perceived as a scientific endeavor, and we all know how reliable science is. Whenever a network conducts a phone-in random sample, they will generally fall all over themselves in explaining that this kind of poll is not “scientific.”

But consider for a moment what a “scientific” pollster is doing. Two hundred people are interviewed, and we are then told what two hundred million other people think. Because the sample size is so small, any conclusions are extremely dangerous. Now, it is not that induction can tell us nothing, but rather that induction is particularly susceptible to abuse. If one examines 10,000 crows on five continents, and all are black, it is reasonable to conclude that crows are black. But the same process of reasoning is more than a little suspect if it is based on the two crows you saw in the back yard.

If induction can be misused in the area of material facts which have relatively few variables, how much more is there a problem in the realm of changing human opinion, emotional response, convictions, etc.? Because there are so many variables, pollsters try hard to pick a representative sample. But when this is done, they have to anticipate their results. In other words, a representative sample is carefully chosen which tells the pollster that Americans believe the way the pollster thought they did when he selected the sample.

A second reason why pollsters are given credibility has to do with curiosity about the future. A man with a preoccupation or an obsession has very little sales resistance. In this case, it happens that many people are preoccupied with the future — say, the results of an election, or whether support for the war will continue. Consequently, such people are not discriminating when someone offers to sell them a glimpse of that future.

Fortune tellers gaze at palms and at crystal balls. Astrologers check out the sky and tell you about your day. Polling is simply a device which satisfies the same kind of curiosity. Because of the scientific veneer, someone can satisfy that curiosity without sacrificing intellectual respectability. But there is another consideration which Christians must not forget.

God controls history. As the hymn put it, we do not know what the future holds, but we know who holds the future.


Feminist Dilemmas
We lose many spiritual battles because, in our defense against some misbegotten charge of wrongdoing, an enemy traps us into committing the offense with which we are charged. This happens constantly in the war against feminism. Christians who do not think clearly find themselves attacking women or denying plain truths; the feminist then rounds on them, saying, “Ah ha! You see? Christianity is misogynistic!”

We forget that not all of feminism’s assumptions are true. Feminists believe that all women, at some level, agree with them, and the deceit by which feminism works has more women sympathizing than would claim the philosophy. Even the name feminism lends credibility to this assumption — it identifies itself as supporting the feminine gender. This is a falsehood which must be rejected, for if we agree, then our attack on feminism will be an attack on women.

But worse, we forget that not all of feminism’s assumptions are false! It has accurately located the source of much spurious oppression in male abuse of patriarchal power. Men abuse power because they are rebels against the God who gave it. They beat their wives, ignore them, cheat on them. Male bosses sexually harass female employees and unjustly prevent them from being rewarded for their work.

When feminists point out how badly men have treated women through the ages, we should agree. But because feminism identifies male leadership itself, rather than its abuse, as oppressive, we part company radically because of our radically antithetical viewpoints. The difference between us is not that we deny a problem which they affirm, but that we understand its nature and cure very differently. The Bible gives us a reason for upholding Biblical headship and a reason for condemning the abuse of women. If we give up one, we may not keep the other.

When we argue the Biblical case for headship, feminists hear us defending its abuses and conclude that patriarchy itself is evil. We ought indeed to argue the case, but we ought most of all to attack furiously the sins of the fathers and husbands against wives and children.

Men have selfishly perverted their positions to the injury of women. Through the gospel they must be called to repentance, and to sober humility in their careful leadership of the women over whom God has given them charge. Only through the Biblical exercise of headship will God be glorified and the error of feminism destroyed.


California’s Government-Produced Water Shortage
We regularly mock the Soviet bureaucracy for imagining it can organize means and ends in place of a market system — the perennial picture of bumper crops and empty bread shelves. But we tend to neglect the log in our own eye, as in the case of the California water “shortage.”

Behind all the bloated propaganda about California’s five year drought lies a rather interesting truism. Water has never been naturally plentiful in California, but neither has milk. In fact, milk is much more difficult to “naturally” acquire than water (you don’t have to squeeze an animal to get water), but California has never had to ration milk or send out “Milk Police.” Why the difference? We all use more water than milk, but this is irrelevant to the issue. The answer is that one product, milk, is provided by a relatively free market, but, the other product, water, is “managed” by a deeply entrenched, monopolistic, government bureaucracy. California doesn’t need government rationing, it needs to get rid of its Soviet-style water management system, and water would be as plentiful as milk.

Zealous Centralized Planning

The two major water projects in California, the Central Valley Project and the State Water Project, are both creatures of centralized government planning. They weren’t motivated by natural cost-benefit growth of market development but by tax money and government agencies which induced artificial expansion.

The CVP (1933) was part of Roosevelt’s entire New Deal centralized planning efforts. The SWP (1960) arose under California governor Pat Brown for similar goals. One of the commissioners of the federal department who oversaw much of the artificially motivated California water projects would boast in the late 1960’s that it was “fortunate that progress was not held in check while economists debated over the refinements of economic evaluations.” The goal of California centralized planning was “new farms, new jobs, and increased production,” apparently regardless of the consequences. Under these two programs, agricultural land increased from 4.9 to 8.6 million acres. But this sort of government produced expansion cannot last forever.

Central planning naturally creates distortions like the current water shortage by means of: subsidies, user fees, monopoly control, and a lack of property rights.

Water Subsidies

The centralized agencies would cause enough havoc if they charged a price for water, but influential agricultural interests and landowners have for decades notoriously sought and received direct water subsidies through the Californian legislature. Such “cheap water” was overused and wasted.

Under the Reagan admin-istration’s federal Payment In Kind program, some farmers received state subsidies to irrigate new lands and at the same time received federal subsidies not to produce crops on the new land. What a deal.

User Fees Vs. Prices

The California water problem has been further exasperated by agency imposed user fees as opposed to prices. A user fee is determined by bureaucratic legerdemain regardless of supply and demand, whereas prices reflect supply and demand. If the price of lemons rises, then consumers cut-back on lemon consumption until more lemons enter the market and reduce the price.

User fees attempt to override this crucial process and so never pass on the costs to consumers. In the case of water, when prices don’t rise, consumers continue to use water as if it were plentiful, thus further depleting the water supply.

Water Monopolies

California’s government controlled water system created the water crisis not only by government subsidies and user fees but also by monopolizing water distribution. Consumers have no choice between potentially competing water distributors since local and state agencies rule out any competition.

Competitive water distribution would force suppliers to serve consumers and provide cost-efficient water service or face bankruptcy. Water bureaucracies cannot go out of business, and so they have no incentive to protect the supply of their product. Analogously, imagine how bad milk distribution would be if it were controlled exclusively by the U.S. Postal Service.

Lack of Property Rights

California’s government also created the water crises by failing to define property rights for water. Without clearly defined and transferable property rights, the problem of “the commons” will always arise. If many people attempt to share some resource at little or no cost, then the incentive is to use up that resource as quickly as possible since none of the users has to bear responsibility for the loss.

California farmers sit over some of the largest groundwater deposits in the world. However, since the groundwater is commonly shared with others, farmers have an incentive to pump as much out on to their land as possible, thus creating the problem of “overdraft” — like a group of children with straws in the same milk shake. Both farmers and the children have every incentive to use the resource before their neighbor does, thus quickly depleting the supply.

California Governor, Pete Wilson, has messianically joked that, “If I’m to fulfill my place in history, I’m going to have to learn how to make wine into water.” Perhaps that’s the problem: the government should stop trying to play messiah with the water and stick to its Biblical role of administering justice and defense.

But instead of dissolving the centralized system, California Senator John Seymour is already planning to appeal to the federal government for more subsidies, unemployment benefits for farmers, and low-interest loans for new wells.

Jason Peltier, manager of the Central Valley Project Association, invoking another Biblical image, declared that the only way out of the current water shortage is “forty days and forty nights of rain.” Maybe he is saying more than he knows.


Reformed Theology and Apologetics
Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our ring of reformed sites.

Keep up to date on new articles, new reformed and puritan books, and coupons for purchasing some of the best reformed literature in print!

You have Successfully Subscribed!