Antithesis Magazine

May/June 1991 – Volume 2, Number 3

ANTITHESIS (Back to Main Page)
May/June 1991 – Volume 2, Number 3

Because what it is to be God is not evident to us, the proposition is not self-evident to us and needs to be made evident … Such truths about God have been proved demonstrably by the philosophers guided by the light of natural reason.
Thomas Aquinas

No long or toilsome proof is needed to elicit evidences that serve to illuminate and affirm the divine majesty, since whithersoever you turn, it is clear that they are manifest and obvious … Not that knowledge which, content with empty speculation, merely flits in the brain, but that which will be sound and fruiful.
John Calvin


  • Douglas M. Jones III

Senior Editors

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

Contributing Editors

  • Wesley J. Calliham
  • David W. Hall
  • Thomas Schirrmacher

Feature Articles

Restoring Sanity to Our Tort System by E. Calvin Beisner
The chaos of contemporary personal injury litigation stems from a neglect of Biblical standards of justice.

The Salt of the Earth: An Overview of Scottish Presbyterian History – Pt. 6 by L. Anthony Curto
Charles I aimed to crush the Scottish covenanters, but instead he moved them to produce a lasting theological, political and heroic heritage.

A Free Market Energy Policy by Doug Bandow
Enthusiasm for government “plans” seems eternal, but the U.S. does have an effective energy policy: reliance on the market.

The Resurrection of Thomism by Doug Erlandson
Though evangelicals race to embrace Thomistic arguments, the results are question-begging and Biblically misguided.

Selected Meditations on the Christian Life by Puritan great, Richard Sibbes

Worthy Participation in the Lord’s Supper by James Bordwine


Bush Aiming to Outdo FDR
Policy analyst Stephen Moore has recently noted that “Among the post-World War II presidents, Bush ranks as the highest spender on domestic programs, as the highest in average tax burden on workers, and as the highest in national debt accumulation.”

Moore argues that quite apart from the savings and loan bail-out, domestic expenditures have exploded under the initiative of the Bush administration. The President has not only endorsed spending increases in established programs (e.g. increases of $34 billion for the Dept. of Health and Human Services, $18 billion for housing programs, $5.5 billion for agricultural programs, etc.) but he has instigated new spending programs of his own (education, space exploration, transportation, drugs, etc.). In short, since Reagan left office, domestic spending, adjusted for inflation, has “grown by an enormous 10% per year.”

The President’s tax policies present a similar horror story. Though we are familiar with the President’s notorious violation of his promise not to raise taxes — “I will not raise your taxes, period” (Bush, Oct. 1988) — we have ignored the particularly flagrant manner of this breach. The President endorsed the tax package that will raise federal taxes to 19.5 percent of the GNP, which as Moore describes “represents a higher average tax burden than the people have shouldered under any previous post-World War II president.”

In 1980, after the legacy of the “big-spending” Carter years, Americans paid $600 billion in taxes. In 1992, after years “tax slashing” conservative Republicans, we will pay twice that amount — $1.2 trillion.

And Americans were afraid of Michael Dukakis? At least Dukakis might have been so fearful of fulfilling candidate Bush’s accusations of being a “tax and spend” Democrat that he would have moved more slowly. But “conservative Republican” presidents can and have done far more damage under the guise of restraint than their opponents could ever imagine.

Since the past few decades of experience should have bludgeoned us with the truth that self-professing “conservative, no tax, budget cutting Republicans” are never that, perhaps we could resolve this frustration by means of some fanciful Medieval witch-hunt practice.

If a candidate claims to be a “conservative, no tax, budget cutting Republican,” then we could test that claim by immersing (no sprinkling in this case) the candidate in water for, say, the time Republican presidents transform into Democratic presidents, plus an hour. If the candidate bloats and turns dark blue, then we know that he wasn’t a “conservative, no tax, budget cutting Republican” because elephants are never blue (unless you’re at a really cheap circus).

If, on the other hand, the candidate does not bloat or turn blue but merely gets pasty-faced, then he might have been telling the truth, but it doesn’t matter since he wouldn’t get into office anyway. Nevertheless, the whole process could serve to distract Democrats for quite a while.


Transition to Pax Americana
There are a number of things which ought to give Christians a serious case of the fantods. And right at the top of our pile of yellow-beribboned heebie-jeebies is the New World Order.

At the outset it is important to note that principled Biblical opposition to the NWO (and all resultant interventionist wars) is not related at all to the wooly-minded leftist pacifism we saw displayed in opposition to Desert Storm. This includes pacifism in all its forms; there is the pacifist extraordinaire, who feels guilty over his body’s militarism with regard to infectious bacteria, and then there is the pacifist militant, who wants to beat our heads into plowshares. It is not the use of military force we deplore, but the unbiblical use of military force. Such an abuse will always involve an idolatry of statist power. In brief:

* Interventionist wars simply increase the power of the state. At a time when the power of the state is already overweening, that is the last thing we need. This means that American victories abroad, instead of being a defense of our freedoms, can be a means of eroding them. Query: Is George Bush using his enormous popularity from all this to dismantle Leviathan? We thought not.

* This war has contributed to the ongoing erosion of constitutional government in the United States. For example, the authority to take this action was sought in the U.N., and not from the Congress. The fact that Congress did little more than whine about it illustrates how severe the problem is.

* The Gulf War has accelerated the transition from the American republic to the American empire. We can see it plainly enough: when our Ciceronian National Review is championing the pax Americana, it is time to start wondering who wants to be Caesar.

* This war also shows our continued implicit faith in the power of our government to solve any problem. But although our smart bombs can do a lot, they cannot transform Muslims into free men. Only the Spirit of God can do that.

In the light of all this, we are more than a little suspicious that American conservatives who supported the war are drunk on the dismay of the liberal Democrats. After all the incompetence shown in the Vietnam War, they are heady over the sensation of seeing American technological and military competence in successful action. But competence is a means, not an end. And the legitimate end of foreign policy can only be determined by returning to the law and the testimony.


Problems With German Reunification
Following the Second World War, Germany was rebuilt out of practically nothing into one of the richest countries of the world. This well-known transformation is known as the “Wirtschaftswunder” (wonder of economics). Yet in the recent reunification of West and East Germany, German leadership has ignored crucial lessons from this successful period of transformation. Three problems highlight this claim:

1. Reunification promised to quickly alleviate forty years of East German Socialism by means of tax money: Prior to and especially during the November 1990 reunification election, political parties and government leaders all agreed that East Germany could be raised to the West German standard of living within the time of one parliament (four years), largely by means of State funding, although much of the GDR remains in the same condition that Hitler left it in.

Reunification advocates ignored the post-War lesson that the western parts of Germany were not rebuilt by means of tax-money but by hard work in a relatively free economy. The people of the Federal Republic of Germany had to work hard for years and years to rebuild their economy. However, most of the people of the former GDR still cling to the old socialist dream that poverty can only be overcome by the State, and the German government is extremely weak in arguing against this mentality. For the most part, the German government instead sends billions of Deutschmarks to the former GDR and promises wealth without hard work, since hard work is so unpopular. This attitude is reflected in a common jest concerning a former GDR citizen who, after reunification, starts to work at the Mercedes assembly line but at 10:00 am complains to his co-worker: “I am tired. We are already over the time, and the material usually runs out.”

2. Reunification promised to bring “social freedom” by ignoring the crimes of former Socialist party leaders: In the “Entnazifizierung” following World War II, thousands of Nazi criminals were brought to American and, later, German law courts. Not all Nazi criminals were found or sentenced, but justice became a part of the common mentality, and former Nazis remained silently powerless for fear that common citizens could take them before the courts.

In contrast, the German government has not attempted to restore this sort of criminal justice in the former GDR. Thousands of the leading members of the SED (the East German Socialist party) are criminals even by old GDR standards, but, as of yet, German citizens are not bringing lawsuits against such criminals like they did following World War II. Most former GDR citizens fear to talk about known crimes, because SED leaders still control most of the factories, city administrations, universities, and even courts of law so that SED leaders are still able to work against “capitalistic” citizens. Freedom cannot prosper without justice.

3. Reunification advocates condemn the statism of the former GDR but ignore the statism of the FRG: The German government holds numerous state monopolies, some of them official (post, telephone, railway, local transportation, public education), some of them by way of ownership (airlines, electricity), and some by strict regulation (long-distance transportation — businesses need a government permit to transport goods further than fifty kilometers). Moreover, Germany has an extensive social welfare system in which citizens must contribute to state insurance for health, unemployment, and rent.

Thus, former West German politicians have a difficult time explaining the difference between statist socialism and statist “capitalism”. Of course, they refer to it as a “social market economy,” but this is simply a euphemism for the old promise that the State will subsidize citizens that are poor, ill, unemployed, old, or just not willing to work. The former GDR promised this to its citizens, and this is what they still expect.

The new government promised this to its citizens in order to win the election, but this promise and the others noted above will hinder a second “Wirtschaftswunder”.

Thomas Schirrmacher is a Contributing Editor of Antithesis, writing from Bonn, Germany, and editor-in-chief of the German theological journal Bibel und Gemeinde.

In Defense of Joyful Solemnity
In a recent review of a new translation of Homer’s Iliad, the reviewer makes the perceptive observation that the translation is readable because it is faithful to the way that we think, but for that reason not an accurate reflection of the way that Homer himself thought. This is instructive.

Instead of trying to understand those who have gone before by making a part of our minds momentarily like theirs, we make theirs like ours. Whereas Homer believed in dignity, magnanimity, majesty, sobriety, formality, and joyful solemnity, we moderns believe in informality, comfort, equality, and hilarity. We are embarrassed by the old attitudes and cannot conceive of anyone seriously having them. Whether we are simply incapable of holding such values, or believe that no one should, we mock them or pretend that no one else ever really held them either.

Some of us think that we ought to change. Some of us think that the principles of submission, respect, filial piety, friendship, leadership, and honor are meaningless without genuine behavioral expression. Some think that a man need not call his friend by his Christian name in order to show affection, that to call his elder by his (or worse, her) Christian name is dishonoring, that his children (while they are children) are not a man’s friends and do not wish to be treated as such, for they love him far too much. Some of us think that Paul meant more than “just an attitude” when he said to honor the emperor, and to obey one’s parents, and that Peter’s commendation of Sarah for calling Abraham “lord” was not intended to be fodder for jokes but rather to call attention to an example to be followed.

A few of us think that the welcoming phrase “make yourself at home–we don’t stand on formality around here!” is a pitiable, though innocent, admission of our lack of social grace and absence of understanding about what really makes a guest feel comfortable and welcome.

Fewer yet (though we exist, and though we may have a poor grasp of it ourselves) believe that the presence of certain patterns of life — traditions, customs, and rituals — is not only unavoidable, but a great benefit to our individual, family, and community existence. They introduce order where none tends naturally to exist or to survive, if it does exist. They counteract entropy. They give us parts to play on our stage, so that we may spend less time trying to discover what to do next and more time enjoying participating in the play.


The Capitulation of Cal Thomas
C-Span recently aired a roast that was given for Paul Weyrich, a noted conservative activist. I stopped my channel-jumping with some interest. What I got was a lesson in the spiritual rootlessness of generic evangelicalism in politics.

Cal Thomas, a noted evangelical author, was one of the speakers. His talk was one of the most wretched things I have ever seen. He made a joke about John Tower in a massage parlor, a joke about how it is taking Ted Kennedy longer these days to get his pants on after a sexual assault, a joke about how Paul Weyrich was a test-tube baby — sperm from Jabba the Hut and egg from Molly Yard, and so forth. He was in a self-destruct mode — he just went on and on. I sat in disbelief for a while. There, on the tube, was a national defender of traditional values, trampling all over those values to get a laugh.

Evangelicals should recognize that our minimalistic, generic, lowest-common- denominator Christianity is ill-equipped for the battle we face. We either keep our rootless piety and lose, or we lose our piety for the sake of winning. It is time for us to return to the older paths. We must return to a full-orbed classical Protestant worldview — we need a piety with dirt under the fingernails, not dirt under the tongue. The Reformation provides the historical example of a Christianity which is capable of overcoming without being compromised in the process.

The rootless piety of pietism has to be secluded in order to be safe — it must be monastic. In any conflict with the enemy, we may either retreat or capitulate. Cal Thomas has capitulated. In principle, he has shown to the world his spiritual rootlessness. Consequently, he is fighting the right people, but he fights fire with fire, dirt with dirt, malice with malice.

Others, in order to keep this from happening to them, have sounded retreat. After doing brief battle with pornographers and abortionists, they have gone back into their isolated evangelical ghettoes.

We desperately need controversialists who will challenge those who hate God, but we need men like Samuel Rutherford, men who combined a warm love for the Lord Jesus and uncompromising loyalty to the Lord Christ. In contrast, modern generic evangelicalism in politics cannot avoid compromise. It is time we stop going into battle without our armor.


Understanding Art
George Bernard Shaw once wrote a review of a play based on Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress. In it, he says that Shakespeare “wrote for the theatre because, with extraordinary artistic powers, he understood nothing and believed nothing.” That is truly an amazing statement for Shaw to have made! Shakespeare is on every list ever made of Western civilization’s greatest literary masterpieces precisely because of what is considered to be his great understanding of human nature. But Shaw lists the sorts of people that he thinks populate the Bard’s plays:

villains, fools, clowns, drunkards, cowards, intriguers, fighters, lovers, patriots,hypochondriacs who mistake themselves (and are mistaken by the author) for philosophers, princes without any sense of public duty, futile pessimists who imagine they are confronting a barren and unmeaning world when they are only contemplating their own worthlessness, . . .

Shaw says Shakespeare has no heroes, lacks energy and reality of imagination, and is silly and resourceless.

All this he contrasts with John Bunyan, to whom he attributes a sort of vigor and energy that comes from simple understanding based in experience, not in “paper.” Shaw argues convincingly, but he never fully carries through with the contrast as he began it. He says that Shakespeare “understood nothing and believed nothing” — the obvious implication is that Bunyan’s greatness springs, at least in part, from the fact that he does indeed understand and believe something.

This is not an insignificant bit of pedantic argument. Psalm 111 says that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments.” The understanding that results from obedience is understanding for the artist as well as for the theologian, civil magistrate, father, and truck driver. Shakespeare was, after all, great, and did observe and capture human nature. But there is a reason that an untrained author such as Bunyan was able to compete with Shakespeare on his own literary terms: Bunyan believed in a way that Shakespeare never did, and therefore understood in a way that Shakespeare didn’t. And the fact is, that however much we ought to disagree with G.B. Shaw in many other areas, he did recognize the literary power that comes from genuine belief.

Bunyan is as good an artist as Shakespeare in his use of language, depiction of moral conflict, and ability to appeal to the imagination, and Christians who read him ought to have no fear that for the sake of good content they are sacrificing artistic soundness. They are not.


On Defining “Peace” in the Middle East by J. Daryl Charles

Christians ought to be particularly discerning regarding popular non-Christian notions of “peace.” This discernment should affect the way we live, including the way we pray. There is a “peace” after which unregenerate humans clamor — the absence of conflict — and a biblical peace which is rooted in covenant relationship with God. To blur or neglect this distinction is fatal — if, that is, the Christian community is to be cooperating with and not unwittingly “working against” the purposes of God.

While “peace = the absence of conflict” is a foreshadow of heavenly, eternal peace, and therefore, something to be desired, it becomes an idol, a false god in essence, when divorced from its source. Modern man does not want the yoke of God’s (= Christ’s) lordship. But a Biblical peace has at its center the redemptive, atoning work of Christ which brings reconciliation to God. Therefore, it is possible for an “unjust” peace to arise. Both the prophet Jeremiah and the apostle Paul decry such an “unjust peace” in a context of divinely intended judgement: “`Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace.” (Jer 6:14 and 8:11). “While people are saying `Peace and safety,’ destruction will come on them suddenly…” (1 Thess. 5:3).

Similarly, Jesus Himself appeals to an “unjust peace” when He states, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matt. 10:34). The context of this statement is divided loyalties in light of the cost of Christian discipleship. And since the nations will hear none of Christ’s lordship, they are at war with God’s purposes and His people. The nations still rage, and the raging is fundamentally spiritual in nature. As the Psalmist declared:

Why do the nations rage and the people plot in vain?

The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his anointed.

The inherent danger, whether in our preaching or our praying, is to parrot and hence succumb to the popular notion of “peace” (i.e., the absence of conflict), a notion lacking in Biblical support. The prayer “Lord, send peace (i.e., an absence of conflict) to the nations in the Middle East,” however desirous this may be, should yield to the cry “Lord, work out your purposes in the Middle East, and cause the nations — all of them — to acknowledge your might and salvation, even if this means events which shake the earth.”

The mission of the church, which incarnates the presence of God in the earth, is to “speak the truth in love,” since it is a “pillar of the truth.” Implied in this calling is the fact that speaking the truth will provoke resistance. That is to say, the Church is armed with and advances the unchanging truth of God in a world which, whether pacifistically or militaristically, defiantly rejects the truth. This “prophetic” posture necessitates at times conflict with the consensus — a conflict which, historically, may mean gross unpopularity, even persecution.

The Church should highlight its prophetic role as the world’s attention is riveted anew to the fragility of the Middle East in the aftermath of the Gulf War. The complex scenario of the Mediterranean world, where hostilities between Arabs and Jews have simmered for several millennia, is not about to be resolved simply because of United Nations involvement or fragile “peace-keeping” missions by the diplomats of concerned nations.

The sacred Scriptures afford insight into the Middle East cauldron. Furthermore, they indicate a peculiar relationship between the Church and ethnic Israel which is not merely “theological.” Paul reminds the Christians in Rome that the Church is indebted to Israel. This “debt,” a matter of grace which precludes any notion of “repayment” in a strict or literal sense, does not arise because the Jews as a people are perfect, righteous or impeccable. Rather, it is because they are the divinely-chosen instrument through which the messianic seed was brought into the world.

Because of this correlation between the Church and ethnic Israel, the Church, though not oblivious to political error, is forever grateful for its spiritual heritage. This gratitude, not confined to the political sphere, is primarily spiritual in character. Moreover, it has at its core the desire for ethnic Israel to come into a realization of the eternal purposes of God — not the least of which are the full implications of divine atonement. Hence, we may pray, along with the Psalmist, for the “peace of Jerusalem.” Here it is important to bear in mind the full-orbed (and prophetic) character of shalom, at the heart of which is found covenantal faithfulness of God. Such an understanding of “peace,” regardless of differing convictions concerning the precise nature of the Church’s relationship to ethnic Israel, will aid the Church in conceptualizing — and praying for — a Biblically-founded notion of “peace.” This awareness will prevent the church from capitulating to prevailing notions of peace which are humanistic in nature.

The Church thus prays for the “peace” that is only a result of the revelation of God’s reconciling work. As antecedent action in history affirms, God will do something extraordinary among the nations (though not necessarily in conformity with desires of the status quo) so that His glory will be revealed in the Middle East — and the world.

The Christian community must come to grips with the critical importance of not buying into the seductive and unbiblical notion of “peace” so rampant around us. It is the Church which comprehends the true notion of peace — a notion not grounded in pragmatic thought but rather in a Biblical precedent.

J. Daryl Charles is Scholar-in-Residence at Prison Fellowship Ministries, Washington, D.C.


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