Antithesis Magazine

November/December 1990 – Volume I, Number 6

ANTITHESIS (Back to Main Page)
November/December 1990 – Volume I, Number 6

If we must worship a power greater than ourselves, does it not make sense to revere the Sun and the stars? Hidden within every astronomical investigation, sometimes so deeply buried that the researcher himself is unaware of its presence, is a kernel of awe.
Carl Sagan

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to Him…. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator.
Romans 1:21, 25.


  • Douglas M. Jones III

Senior Editors

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

Feature Articles

    Beyond Creation vs. Evolution: Taking the Full Measure of the Materialist Challenge by T.M. Moore
    The popular materialist-science apologetic of Sagan, Gould, and Hawking falls prey to its own demands.

    The Second Reformation of Scotland: An Overview of Scottish Presbyterian History – Pt. 5 by L. Anthony Curto
    Charles I continued the state’s battle against the Presbyterian church, yet in the midst of these foreboding times there prevailed extraordinary spiritual refreshing.

    The International Monetary Fund: Throwing More Good Money After Bad by Doug Bandow
    The IMF’s attempt to fashion a global solution to the debt crisis primarily serves to fund regimes that are responsible for impovershing their people.

    G.K. Chesterton Reformed: A Protestant Intepretation by James Sauer
    What is it in G.K. Chesterton’s work that makes it so appealing even to Protestants? Perhaps it is his evident Protestant streaks.

    The Character of Inflation by Steve Samson
    Inflation is a reflection of the heart of modern society and begins with the desire to gain some undue advantage.

    Understanding Worldviews by Norlan DeGroot

    Issue and Interchange: Two authors exchange view on the permissiblity of gambling.
    Advocate 1: Gambling Per Se Is Permissible Within Certain Biblical Limits
    Advocate 2: Gambling Per Se is Inconsistent With the Biblical Ethic
    Advocate 1 Response
    Advocate 2 Response
    Advocate 1 Concluding Remarks


    Federal Shut-Down As the Key to Deficit Reduction
    After all the 1991 Federal Budget hugs and back-slapping subsided, Republican and Democratic leaders still left us with an expected 1991 deficit of $254 billion.

    The excitement over “deficit reduction” is simply focused on the fact that the Federal government reduced the initial deficit $40 billion, from $295 billion to $254 billion. Moreover, this “reduction” doesn’t include the final S & L bailout or the $1 billion a month we are spending in the Persian Gulf.

    Time magazine exclaimed that this was “a significant step toward controlling the deficit.” The former director of the Congressional Budget Office, Rudolph Penner, sighed that the “reduction” was “just noise.”

    The best moment in the budget charade occurred when President Bush shut down the Federal government. It was like an idealistic flash from a Randian novel. Though the shut-down was not an innovation in Bush Administration policy, both parties (so hard to tell apart these decades) should be able to see the simple beauty of the shut-down. Sure.

    For example, just as a start, we could erase the entire 1991 deficit by selling-off to productive hands the assets of the Postal Service, National Airports, TVA, Air traffic control, Utility administrations,federal lands, federal loan portfolio, and Amtrak.

    This is the sort of thing people outside of civil government mean by deficit reduction. DMJ

    Henry Miller: The Life and Literature of Obscenity

    Movie critics are delighting in a recent change in the movie industry’s self-imposed rating system. In the place of the old “X” category of movies we now have the NC-17 designation, indicating that no children under seventeen are permitted. The X-rating has now been dropped, recognizing that what it communicates is that a movie is pornographic, rather than it is “adult” in its theme or treatment. The movie moguls and critics are pleased because they argue that some films are too explicit to be assigned the R-rating, and yet — according to them — are not pornographic in character or intent. This is hopeless, if not hypocritical, moral vacillation.

    The movie which finally pushed the rating agency to change its code is a recent release entitled Henry & June, based upon the book of the same title by Anaïs Nin, who was the friend, literary colleague and sexual partner of Henry Miller, the controversial author of Tropic of Cancer and other obscene works. (June was Henry’s wife and another sex-interest of Nin’s, ever before her involvement with him.)

    Henry Miller was born in 1891 and grew up in Brooklyn. During a self-imposed “exile” to France and Greece (1930-40), his first book, Tropic of Cancer, was published in Paris in 1934 — due to the encouragement and financial backing of Anaïs Nin. It was immediately banned from publication in all English-speaking countries, and Miller himself was even denied entrance to England by port authorities. In 1953, the ACLU lost in its attempt to have the ban against the book lifted. However, after Grove Press published it in 1961, suits against it were lost in Chicago (1962) and before the U.S. Supreme Court (1964).

    Anaïs Nin is known for her own volumes of erotica (the polite word for pornography), books of “sophisticated naughtiness” according to Cosmopolitan and highly praised in Newsweek and the New York Times Book Review. The multivolume Diary of Anaïs Nin, in which she describes her relationship with Henry Miller, began to be published in 1966. It was a work that had been praised to the sky (or zodiac anyway) by Miller himself. Nevertheless, not until the 1985 death of Nin’s husband, Hugh Guiler, did she disclose the drawn-out love affair which she shared with Henry Miller, which she does in intimate detail in Henry & June — now showing at the movies (NC-17). Nin died in 1987. Miller eventually married five times, back in the U.S. experienced both poverty (needing to appeal for old clothes in The New Republic ) and luxury (living in the fashionable Pacific Palisades — thanks to the notoriety bestowed by the censorship controversy), suffered a stroke and eight years later died in 1980.

    The controversy which has recently stirred over the rating of the movie Henry & June proved to be an ironic case of “life imitating art” — or, at least, of reaction to a man’s life (the movie) imitating reaction to man’s art (his books). In Henry Miller we find the life and literature of obscenity. This correlation is no surprise. Miller boasted that his novels were exercises in autobiography and self-analysis. Proverbs tells us, “as a man thinks in his heart so is he” (23:7). Jesus pointedly taught that “out of the heart of men proceed evil thoughts, fornications…adulteries…lasciv-iousness…pride, foolishness; all these evil things proceed from within and defile the man” (Mark 7:21-23).

    Miller resisted this truth. In his strained apologetic essays for obscenity (“Obscenity and the Law of Reflection” and “Obscenity and Literature”), Miller repeatedly argued that obscenity is actually found in the world (“every department of life is…corroded with what is so unthinkingly labeled `obscene'”), and he was simply persecuted for telling the truth. “My concern has never been with morals but with life, my own life particularly.” In the distorted reasoning of unbelieving thought this meant that “Nothing would be regarded as obscene, I feel, if men were living out their inmost desires.” Everything is obscene so that nothing is obscene. Indeed, in his essay on immorality and morality, Miller ends with a quotation from Hindu scripture, declaring evil does not exist!

    Here is the self-refutation of every apologist for obscenity. If evil does not exist, then it cannot be evil for the author’s works to be banned! Henry Miller was a walking self-contradiction. He complained that “Instead of respect, toleration, kindness and consideration, to say nothing of love, we view one another with fear, suspicion, hatred, envy, rivalry and malevolence. Our world is grounded in falsity.” But given Miller’s worldview, it was meaningless to condemn a lack of love and toleration. One literary critic has written that Henry Miller struggled “to give expression to the romantic notion — underlying all his work — that there should exist something better than the loveless world in which he found himself enmeshed.” But Miller’s moral anarchy cannot logically sustain that “romantic notion” at all. His obscenity in life and literature, we should see, was the degrading and destruction of romance in more ways than one.


    Is Kuwait the Fifty-First State?
    At one point during Dan Rather’s garishly announced interview with Saddam Hussein, Hussein switched roles and questioned Rather about the propriety of U.S. intervention in the Gulf: “Is Kuwait the fifty-first state?” Rather sat glassy-eyed momentarily, as he is apt to do in such situations, and then insisted that he was the one who was supposed to ask the questions.

    Hussein is obviously no constitutional theorist or ethicist (though he plays one on TV), but his question was right on the mark. The question correctly assumed that the exercise of political authority is limited to the jurisdiction of that authority. Put in broader, Biblical terms, the exercise of authority, whether by oneself, family, church, voluntary associations, or the state, is limited to the social sphere of that authority as defined by Scripture. For example, the church may not usurp the jurisdiction of the state, the family may not usurp the jurisdiction of the church, a business may not usurp the jurisdiction of the individual, and the state, the most notable usurper, ought not usurp the jurisdictions of the self, family, church, or business.

    Hence, these Biblical jurisdictions place moral limits on various social authorities. So, if Scripture leads us to oppose one social sphere intervening in another, then we should also oppose our particular political authority intervening by military blockade in the non-political social spheres of other nations. Though our stated goal is to “hurt Hussein,” we are doing so by intervening in social spheres, like the family and business, which are not properly “him” anyway, unless we unbiblically assume that the political sphere is the supreme owner of all the other spheres.

    But Scripture does not just restrict one sphere from intervening in a different type of sphere, it also prohibits intra-sphere interventions. For example, a particular business may not fire another business’s employees; a particular church may not excommunicate members of another church; a particular family may not unilaterally require another family’s child to mow their lawn. Similarly, in foreign affairs, one state may not disrupt another state’s jurisdiction. It simply has no legitimate authority there. This lack of legitimate authority is especially evident for those of us committed to representative forms of government. For example, we elect presidents and thereby grant them some legitimacy to rule that we don’t grant to the heads of other nations. Thus, the leaders of other nations have no such jurisdiction over us since we didn’t grant it to them.

    In short, then, a political authority who intervenes in non-political or political spheres (inter and intra) of another nation stands in violation of the most elementary Biblical standards.

    If we alter some of the circumstances assumed above, we see other standards come into play. For example, if a state or political authority is attacked by a foreign nation then that nation being attacked is obligated to wield the sword in protection of its citizens and their property — this is one of the few legitimate functions of the civil government. Moreover, the nation being attacked may resort to a whole host of measures, along with defensive warfare, to undermine the enemy from within: espionage, propaganda, and sometimes assassination. The U.S. government, however, is not the model to imitate in any of these areas, but one can envision a Biblical use of such measures in a defensive manner. Defensive warfare is now the only legitimate form of warfare Scripture allows, since offensive warfare a lá the Old Covenant necessitated direct revelation, which is obviously no longer an option.

    The above sketch is not a popular view, especially in the midst of “Saddamania” where appeals to bipartisan endorsement (that should scare us) must go unquestioned. Still we should ask — what Biblical justification can someone offer for such an intervention? Let’s at least consider the reasons offered by the Administration.

    One of the reasons given for sending U.S. troops to the Gulf is to restore “Kuwait’s legitimate government.” Are we Biblically obligated to send our own people to die to accomplish this? — especially given the fact that the government we aim to restore is a hereditary monarchy, which, as Richard Ebeling notes, “is a form of government that some leading Americans found less than desirable about two hundred fifteen years ago.” The Kuwaiti monarchy recently closed down its already limited parliament and prohibited criticism of its corruption and abuse of power.

    A second reason given for intervening is that we must fight new forms of dictatorships. The media and U.S. government representatives constantly attempt to draw a parallel between Hussein and Hitler. But this is pathetic. First, this is the standard ploy of every nation that wants to drum up support for war. The “Hitlers” may vary from century to century but political rhetoric doesn’t change. Second, how are we supposed to believe that Hussein is a threat to all of the Mid-East, Africa, Europe, and the U.S. when he could not even beat Iran in an eight-year war? Third, there is simply no Biblical obligation to rescue every nation from domination by tyrants. To appeal to “loving one’s neighbor” mistakenly confuses personal and national ethics.

    What about the hostages? Protecting our citizens is a legitimate goal, but the Bush Administration created the hostage problem. Bush rushed troops to Saudi Arabia immediately following the Iraqi attack on Kuwait and gave no warning or time for U.S. citizens to leave. Moreover, other nations have had hundreds of hostages released without needing to send troops to the Gulf.

    The most troubling reason given for intervening is that the Persian Gulf is economically important to the United States. The President declared: “Our country now imports half the oil it consumes and could face a major threat to its economic independence.” This is tragic. We are ordering soldiers to prepare to sacrifice their lives so that we can maintain low oil prices. As Jacob Hornberger has argued, “To choose the death of our fellow citizens over a relatively small economic discomfort is an abomination.”

    George Weigel of the Ethics and Public Policy Center argues that the issue is not “cheap oil…but rather order vs. chaos.” And consequently, in order to avoid international “chaos” there is “no alternative to American leadership in maintaining a minimum of order in international public life.” What are the premises for such an ominous conclusion? How could one fill them out without invoking amorphous concepts of political duty? It’s just not possible.

    In all, then, we should turn from another instance of our twentieth century devotion to world social-engineering since Kuwait is not the fifty-first state.


    U.S. Post Office Needs to Look Down Under
    The U.S Postal Service, that innovative institution which gave us “Overnight” mail that most often takes two nights, may now look to New Zealand as a model. In mid-1987 that country’s government removed the monopolistic privileges of the New Zealand Post and surrendered all control of its actions and all stakes in its profits and losses.

    Though the New Zealand service is not completely privatized (the state still retains ownership of the corporation), its several years of operation demonstrate a much more pro-consumer approach than our own monopolistic postal system.

    For example, Consumer Research reports that the new New Zealand postal system has increased on-time delivery of first class mail from 84% to 99%. It has also increased the number of postal outlets by 17% by contracting out mail services to retail stores, and, by doing so, it has increased the number of hours and days postal service is available.

    The New Zealand Post also dropped its monopoly over mailboxes. Merchants, utility companies, etc. may deliver their own mail or advertising to individual boxes. This too has freed up competition and service. In contrast, the U.S. Postal Service still insists on maintaining monopolistic access to mailboxes. This is pure silliness and bureaucratic protection of the few against the many.

    Also very impressive is the New Zealand service known as Fast Post. Normal first-class service costs 23 U.S. cents, but if consumers want the guarantee of next-day delivery, they need only pay 80 cents per letter!

    As regards postal rates, while the New Zealand Post was under state control in its last two years before the change, postal rates rose 40%, but since demonopolization, rates have not increased.

    The New Zealand Post has been able to keep rates constant by cutting its costs. Among other changes, managers have cut paperwork by 90% and the workforce by 20%. In contrast, by having monopoly protection, U.S. postal workers, sincere as they are, have become the highest paid semi-skilled workers in the world! — at our expense.

    The virtues of privatizing postal services are evident in principle and in practice. So what keeps the U.S. Postal Service from following suit? As John Crutcher notes, the current Postmaster General, Anthony Frank, “knows he would have no support from his own management `unions'” and that such a change would lead unions to “generate hundreds of inquiries from Congress. So why should he try to make fundamental change?” Change will have to come from outside.

    Given the fact that Scripture limits the State to matters of justice and defense, Christians should be some of the first to want to jettison the U.S. postal monopoly. What a vision! I can see it now — a massive wave of Christians all-across the nation holding hands and chanting, “Separation of Post and State!.” Sure.


    “Rational Suicide” and the Dearth of Courageous Humanists
    Cornelius Van Til famously compared the non-Christian’s attitude toward God to a child who sits upon his father’s lap in order to slap his father’s face. This comparison highlights the unthankfulness of non-Christians, even while they openly demonstrate their dependence on the Christian God.

    Why do non-Christians persist in invoking assumptions which ultimately only Christians can justify? I know the simple epistemological answer — they can’t help it — but I am still surprised by the brazen use of Christian assumptions in anti-Christian contexts. Why don’t non-Christians have the courage of their own convictions? Where have all the Nietzsches gone?

    In a recent Free Inquiry editorial, Tim Madigan defends “rational” suicide in light of questions raised by Dr. Jack Kevorkian’s “suicide machine.”

    Madigan begins by invoking David Hume (another uncourageous anti-Christian) to refute traditional objections to suicide. But Hume’s rather sophomoric retorts either beg-the-question or assume principles which can in turn be used to justify even genocide.

    Moreover, Hume’s refutation of traditional arguments against suicide rests upon moral notions which he claims to derive from “objective” and “universal” moral sentiments (which in fact turn out to be very subjective and parochially English sentiments). Ironically, Hume can only transform these sentiments into norms by committing the naturalistic fallacy.

    Madigan himself argues that though there are cases of irrational suicides — e.g., jilted lovers — there is a positive case for “rational” suicide. Madigan claims that “in order for an action to be deemed rational, it must involve effective deliberation and a realistic assessment of possibilities.”

    Why, according to Madigan, ought we to opt for rational over irrational suicide? He answers: “life is precious, and should not be given up lightly.” There it is, sitting and slapping. Madigan can’t ultimately justify the “precious” nature of human life in terms of his anti-Christian worldview, but he invokes a remnant of the Christian “image-of-God-in-man” without flinching.

    Madigan not only invokes “precious” human life in his case, but he goes on to invoke the values of “compassion,” “understanding,” “autonomy,” “consequences…upon family and friends,” and a “right” to die.

    None of these moral notions makes any sense in a naturalistic outlook (notwithstanding Kai Nielsen types). How do “rights,” “compassion,” and “precious life” have any place in a cosmos of material processes? Why play games?

    This sort of leeching-off of the Christian worldview is common. I find it amusing that Free Inquiry publishes on its back cover “An Affirmation of Humanism” (offering a “parchment copy of this page, suitable for framing”) which is full of humanistic mysticisms and is obviously modeled after historic Christian creeds.

    If non-Christians are going to persist in being like the children in Van Til’s analogy (and they will), then they should be told to either play right, or go get their own worldview.





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