Antithesis Magazine

May/June 1990 - Volume I, Number 3

ANTITHESIS (Back to Main Page)
May/June 1990 – Volume I, Number 3

“The Christian God may exist; so may the Gods of Olympus, or of ancient Egypt….But no one of these hypotheses is more probable than any other; they lie outside the region of even probable knowledge, and therefore, there is no reason to consider any of them.”
Bertrand Russell

“Agnosticism is epistemologically self-contradictory on its own assumptions because its claim to make no assertion about ultimate reality rests upon a most comprehensive assertion about ultimate reality.”
Cornelius Van Til


  • Douglas M. Jones III

Senior Editors

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

Feature Articles

    Forgive Us Our Trespasses? A Biblical View of Civil Disobedience and Operation Rescue by David Hagopian
    Do Operation Rescue advocates heed God or Ghandi in pursuit of their goals? A Biblical theory of civil disobedience answers this question.

    John Knox: The Watchman of Scotland – An Overview of Scottish Presbyterian History – Pt. 3 by L. Anthony Curto
    John Knox returns to his homeland and faces his greatest victories and discouragements in his effort to serve Christ’s kingdom.

    False Antithesis: A Critique of the Notion of Antithesis in the Apologetic of Francis Schaeffer by Greg Bahnsen
    Though Schaeffer ministered mightily in molding a generation of thinkers, he failed to appreciate the radical challenge posed by Christianity.

    The Challenge and Beauty of Church Discipline by Timothy Harris
    Although Christ gave His church the glorious gift of church discipline, it is an oft neglected topic in contemporary Christianity.

    Is Christianity Unintelligible? by Douglas Jones
    George Smith’s Atheism: The Case Against God serves as a grand lesson in begging-the-question.

    Homelessness, the Poor, and Local Property Regulation by James Rogers
    Much of the blame for the tragedy of homelessness is to be laid at the feet of local governments, despite their rhetoric.

    Cross-Ex: An interaction on the appointment of church elders.

    Trading Places: The Priesthood of All Believers by David Hagopian

    Issue and Interchange: Are We Ever Morally Justified in Deceiving Others?
    Two authors exchange views on the permissiblity of lying.



    Observing the Current
    “Each Union Republic shall retain the right freely to secede from the U.S.S.R.” So reads Article 72 of the Soviet Constitution. Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia are three of the fifteen republics explicitly listed as retaining this right of secession. The Soviet constitution does not even require a Republic to seek the consent of the national Union in order to secede. Article 70 specifies that all Soviet Republics have entered the Union, “as a result of free self-determination of nations and the voluntary association of equal Soviet Socialist Republics.”

    Of course such claims are false and typical of modern mega-States. As we now see, a Soviet Republic may not “freely secede” unless this means free of a really big number of tanks. And we know that the Baltic states did not “voluntarily associate” with the Soviets but were taken in 1940 as a result of the pact between socialists Hitler and Stalin. At first, the Soviets only sought permission to set up military bases in the Baltic states, but once that was successful the camel was in the tent.

    So even though the Soviet constitution has an explicit constitutional sanction that would make Alexander Stephens’ head spin, Gorbachev has finally attempted to foist the veneer of unconstitutionality onto the Baltic Republics. Yes, everyone wants to take the moral high ground. But the recent Moscow May Day protests are more evidence of Gorbachev’s lack of credibility with the Soviet peoples. A Lithuanian joke making the rounds expresses this truth well: “What is the difference between the Soviet Union and the United States?” Answer: “In the U.S., Gorbachev would probably be elected president.” DMJ

    Obscenity and Absurdity
    “The public has been so bullied intellectually by the proponents of contemporary art that it has wearily resigned itself to just about any idiocy that is placed before it.” Those are the words of Frederick Hart in last fall’s issue of Arts Quarterly. And they are on the mark.

    But I believe that the idiocy of so many objects of contemporary “art” is far surpassed by that of their proponents who vehemently defend the financial subsidizing of such works by the civil government. The late twentieth century has here seen further confirmation of the words of the Apostle Paul that a culture which has been given over (abandoned) by God to idolatry and homosexuality is likewise a culture given over to absurdity in its reasoning (Romans 1:21-28).

    The artistic expressions of modern American culture are, for the most part, not simply indifferent to the Christian outlook on life and values, but positively hostile and hateful toward it. We witness this whether the subject is Martin Scorsese’s “The Last Temptation of Christ” or Madonna’s rock album “Like a Prayer.” One need not be sympathetic to the religious use of the crucifix (I am not) to recognize that submerging it in urine and displaying such as art — as did Andres Serrano — is an attempt to denigrate Christianity publicly.

    Doug Bandow reminds us in a syndicated column that “art has been used as an ideological weapon throughout history.” Today’s art functions as a powerful tool for the tearing down and wearing down of a Christian view of the world, of man, and of ethics. Chelsea’s Kitchen Theatre in New York features pornographic actress Annie Sprinkle masturbating and urinating on stage. The San Fransisco art gallery Southern Exposure plays sexually explicit videos. Robert Mapplethorpe gains wealth and notoriety by his exhibits of homosexual and sadomasochistic photographs. Such obscenities as these are clearly an affront — and intended as such — to Christian morality.

    What is even more outrageous, however, is that the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) — a government agency financed by the public treasury — is responsible, directly and indirectly, for the partial funding of the obscene exhibits mentioned above and the crucifix dipped in urine. The taunting of Christians is paid for by the taxes of Christians! We are expected to subsidize those who detest our values. It is perfectly understandable that a tremendous public outcry was raised against NEA’s audacity.

    But it is precisely at this point that the absurd reasoning of an unbelieving culture becomes evident. When certain U.S. senators attempted to restrict the NEA from funding obscene and indecent works and one congressman even suggested dismantling the NEA and removing art from the public tax-trough, the response of America’s cultured elite was as though the Nazis had come to arrest the Jews. Their tormented cry was that this amounted to censorship.

    We see here how artistic perversion can be matched by intellectual perversion. Censorship attempts to prevent an artist from producing or displaying his artistic efforts. But nobody in the recent controversy came anywhere close to advocating that the government remove or even curtail the freedom of a Serrano or Mapplethorpe from presenting to the public whatever they might deem “art.” Critics did not seek to force artists to stop their work. They simply argued that others should not be forced to pay for it. You are not guilty of “censorship” if you choose not to buy the Los Angeles Times. Nor if you protest tax subsidies for sacrilege.

    The unspoken but audacious assumption of those who champion the NEA is that artists (or at least some artists, chosen by the irreligious) have a right to be funded by others (even against their wills). Resisting such coercion is confused with censorship because there is no genuine commitment to freedom for all. Defenders of the current obscenities are the first to cry out for freedom, but the last to grant it. Their recent whimpering about censorship is as politically arrogant as it is intellectually absurd.

    But let us answer these fools according to their own folly (Proverbs 26:5). We should begin to advocate government tax-subsidies for Christian schools and churches — then wait around to hear the howls of our opponents. Only now they themselves will have handed us what to call them in return…. GLB

    Handmaid Hypocrisy
    “We just see it as a thriller…. We never had any thought of baiting anyone or any group.” So says the executive vice president of Cinecom Entertainment, describing Cinecom’s thriller, “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

    Like most “thrillers,” “The Handmaid’s Tale” has its villains who, of course, are bent on terrorizing and brutalizing others. These villains, however, aren’t part of an inner city gang. Nor are they the dregs of society. And they aren’t even foreign terrorists. Rather, these villains are domestic terrorists of sorts, fascists who promulgate an especially pernicious agenda. They also rape, brutalize, and forcibly impregnate women. And by killing nuns who refuse to recant their vows, they perpetrate mass murder (no pun intended).

    So exactly who are the despicable villains of this thriller which, mind you, was never intended to bait anyone or any group? Christians. That’s right, Christians, and in particular, fundamentalist Christians.

    With a straight face, Margaret Atwood claims that she wrote the novel upon which the screenplay was based to warn America about those who use the Bible as an excuse to suppress the majority (Between the Lines, March 12, 1990, p.7). According to Atwood, “The Handmaid’s Tale” is about “how religious fanatics would run the world if they got their druthers” (Ibid., March 26, 1990, p.3).

    Let’s get this straight. From Atwood’s perspective, Christians who participate in America’s “participatory” democracy by voting according to conscience have tendencies toward racism, misogynism, and murder. Only in Hollywood! And only when Christians serve as Hollywood’s convenient whipping-boys.

    After all, Hollywood is out of other whipping-boys. Atwood and Cinecom know all too well that they better not “bait” Muslims (just ask Salmon Rushdie!). And they know as well that they better not “bait” the Jewish community (and rightly so). So instead, they “bait” Christians without having the courage to admit it!

    The amazing irony, though, is that by baiting Christians, this film contradicts the very value it feigns to promote: open-minded tolerance. Atwood ends up venting the same hatred, bigotry and intolerance she fabricates and foists on her imaginary villains. Thus, Atwood’s mind remains open only until Christians wish to enter the political arena.

    But instead of maintaining an open mind and doing battle with Christians on the merits of their claims, Atwood viciously attacks a straw man. Of course, this sort of attack is not new. Not to worry, though. What Atwood’s feeble plot loses in originality, it more than gains in absurdity (since only Christianity provides a worldview which can consistently condemn racism, misogynism, and murder).

    So while Atwood and Cinecom take their potshots at a caricature of Christianity, they know that such potshots are pure fiction — which is more than anyone can say about the atrocities of non-Christian regimes. But everyone knows that there’s no money in documentaries! DGH

    Creationism to be Outlawed in California’s Private Schools?
    Teaching science in a Christian context in California’s private schools will soon be illegal if disturbing actions taken by California’s Department of Education are not overruled. This “Scopes in reverse” is alarming educators in California and throughout the United States who fear that there is little now to stop the state from going into private Christian schools to declare that their science classes, or possibly their degrees, are invalid in California if the schools espouse creation.

    The Education Department’s first target is the graduate school of the Institute for Creation Research, which had been offering (with state “approval”) masters’ degrees in four science fields since 1981. On March 16, 1990, the Department of Education denied ICR reapproval of its license to teach, effectively ordering the school to close. Earlier in the year, the Department issued a science framework document that declared evolution to be the only scientific theory to be taught in California’s public schools. Now, observers see the ICR situation as a test case in the Department’s additional crusade to remove creationism from all private schools that teach creation as a valid scientific alternative to evolution.

    “The Education Department’s actions toward ICR, whose school, by the way, receives no state or federal monies, are outrageous, unconscionable, and unconstitutional in our free society, and we will appeal,” declared Dr. Henry Morris, President of ICR. “We are a private school with a quality program and a distinguished science faculty, and we have the right to teach a creation model of origins to students who choose to come here.”

    A deeply concerned Dr. Paul Kienel, Executive Director of A.C.S.I. (Association of Christian Schools International), related to ICR the following exchange he had with Bill Honig, State Superintendent of Public Instruction: “I asked Mr. Honig if Christian high schools that teach creation could continue to grant science credits that could be transferred to public schools or accepted by state colleges. All he answered was that it hasn’t been a problem yet.'”

    Dr. Morris of ICR challenged the Department’s citing of the 1987 Supreme Court decision overturning Louisiana’s balanced treatment law — which mandated the teaching of creation in the state’s public classrooms — as justification for silencing creationism in California. First, said Dr. Morris, the Court case involved Louisiana’s public schools not private; second, the court did not rule on the scientific validity of creationism (as the Department contends) — it merely declared that the state could not mandate that creation be taught; third, the court ruled that “teaching a variety of scientific theories about the origins of humankind…might be validly done.”

    “The future of academic freedom, religious freedom, and free speech in California’s Christians schools is at stake and must be defended,” declared Dr. Morris, “and Christian education is in jeopardy everywhere if the Department succeeds in its heavy-handed maneuvers.” ICR

    On Predicting Sagan’s Orbits
    How is it that Carl Sagan, “America’s best-known space scientist,” is so predictable in his public policy commitments? How is it that a person who claims to be led by “scientific evidence” regularly ends up defending the latest collectivist fad? From the portent of a nuclear winter to myths of environmental disaster, Sagan consistently arrives on the scene like a high-priest of scientism.

    The high priest has recently spoken again. This time he has used his authority in astronomy to evaluate the scientific questions surrounding abortion — a nice leap.

    In “Is it Possible to be Pro-Life and Pro-Choice?,” Sagan and his co-author grieve that “minds are closed” on this issue. He claims to oppose the absolutism of both sides and offer a sane, open-minded, middle ground between all the “partisan flinging of accusations.”

    Now who could oppose sanity and the middle ground? Sagan and his co-author even confess their own humble open-mindedness on the issue: “We wrote this article to understand better what the contending views are and to see if we ourselves could find a position that would satisfy us both.” Persuasive stuff. Oh, despite the breast beating about compromise and open-mindedness, the authors conclude that “we find Roe. v. Wade to be a good and prudent decision.” Surprise, Surprise.

    Sagan has to devote a few paragraphs to critiquing Pro-abortionists, such as questioning whether they would really support abortion just prior to delivery. Sagan concludes that Pro-abortionists who would allow such late term abortions are simply dismissing an entire category of human beings, which is a move characteristic of the “injustice” of “sexism, racism, nationalism, and religious fanaticism” — a trendy slander of Christianity for good measure.

    Nevertheless, the bulk of the critique is predictably aimed at Pro-life arguments.

    First, Sagan suggests that no major group truly holds to a “right to life” since most people kill animals and plants daily. Pro-life advocates are primarily concerned with protecting human life. We are supposed to feel guilty for this, though, in fact, it is a Sagan-style collectivism which is responsible for most environmental damage.

    Second, Sagan informs us that life does not begin at conception since it is an “unbroken chain dating back” long ago. This would be a beautiful smokescreen if it didn’t impose his own religious outlook and equivocate between classes and individuals — minor difficulties for the open-minded.

    Third, Sagan enlightens us with the fact that sperm, eggs, and fertilized eggs are each “alive.” And since fertilized eggs require “certain circumstances” and often perish naturally, then “neither a sperm and egg separately, nor a fertile egg, is more than a potential baby.” So if we don’t grant special protection to sperm and eggs, then we shouldn’t grant special protection to fertilized eggs. But the ridiculous premise is that an individual sperm is a potential baby. Did Sagan miss health class? If an individual sperm is a potential adult, then is a hub cap a potential Porsche? No, of course not, and Sagan himself later concedes the difference between “genetic halves” and wholes.

    Sagan even takes time to dance around Old and New Testaments (tripping over a mistranslation of Ex. 21:22 in the process).

    The high priest continues his “open minded” case against the Pro-life position by labeling it an “outrageous posture.” He describes the unborn child at points as “a parasite” that “sucks blood,” a “worm,” a “tadpole,” as having a “reptilian face,” a “piglike” face, and a “primate.” Who else but someone drenched in the cultural myths of modern scientism could impose such a caricature?

    These sorts of religious outbursts in the midst of a supposedly dispassionate analysis at least provide an answer to my original question. Why is Sagan so predictable? He, like us all, has basic commitments which dictate his conclusions.

    The high priest of scientism is driven by a religious commitment, but he maintains the charade of “open- mindedness” since such an approach is much more culturally acceptable.

    The important question is: which religious commitments are defensible and true? The important lesson is that the abortion debate, like so many others, is not ultimately fought in the field of science but in the field of ethics. And this is where Sagan will fail so miserably and predictably. DMJ


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