Volume 10, Issue 1: Anvil
Okay, Okay Y2K
A lot of folks have been asking us what we think about Gary North's current crusade to make everyone aware of the looming Y2K problem. For a brief summary of what that problem is, see the Eschaton column, this issue.
But North is not interested in just making people aware—he wants us all to get hunkered down and ready. His vision for the next few years, starting in the latter half of 1999 is downright apocalyptic. At the same time, he sees himself as the lone voice in the wilderness. As he put it in a recent newsletter, "Christian leaders are now answering me in the traditional, time-tested way: by murmuring. They do not publish line-by-line criticisms of what I have written."
As with so many issues, it is not that simple. This is not the first time North has projected a very specific apocalyptic vision of the future. If someone had undertaken to refute his predictions about how AIDS would bring down the system, that effort would have been rendered obsolete and unnecessary when simple time refuted him. That dire prediction did not come to pass. And his "ten feet to survival" left a number of people, when all was said and done, with a hole in the ground.
In a strange sort of way, many hard money conservatives have an emotional need for a kind of secular dispensationalism. "The end of fractional reserve banking is nigh," quoth he. Hard money conservatives have been catching the last train out for as long as I can remember, and I suspect they were doing it before that when I was still in short pants.
That such predictions appeal to an emotional need, and not an intellectual one, can be seen by the response when the prediction does not come true. Hal Lindsey's terminal generation came and went, but he is still here making money. And hard money analysts continue to predict the terminal stock market crash. But when it doesn't happen, the folks who subscribe to their newsletters . . . forgive and forget.
However, comma . . . just because you are paranoid does not mean they are not out to get you. It is becoming increasingly clear that the Y2K problem does represent a significant problem. And it is also clear that huge problems could be created if enough people come to think Y2K is a problem even if it isn't a catastrophic programming problem.
This is one place where hard money end-of-the-agers differ from dispensational end-of-the-worlders. If someone believes dispensational predictions about the latest antichrist and rapture schedules, that belief leaves him unprepared for the world in which he must live when the Second Coming fails to make an appearance. Again.
But if someone really believes all that North is saying, then he is going to pay down his debts, buy a nice place in the country, and so forth. And if it all doesn't happen? He has a nice view and no debts.
Still, North ought to do more to prove he really believes what he is saying. He does believe his own predictions enough to relocate and restructure everything he is doing now. But here is a question. Does he believe his analysis enough to promise to go out of the economic forecasting business if the calendar over the next few years proves him wrong?
The Oddness of the "Gift of Salvation"
By Douglas Jones
Recently some evangelical and Roman Catholic leaders have produced a another "agreement" document—"The Gift of Salvation"—which aims to "express a common faith in Christ and so to acknowledge one another as brothers and sisters in Christ." Many of the same names that appeared on the previous document, "Evangelicals and Catholics Together," showed up again here. The signers declared that "for the first time in 450 years, evangelical Protestants and Roman Catholics have publicly agreed to a common understanding of salvation."
Good, nay-saying evangelicals have already spoken out, criticizing the content of the document. But there is a far greater oddness about this whole situation. Why should it even be news that a group of private individuals had a party like this? The whole thing is so typically modern and individualistic and evangelical. It's as if there were a big showy divorce between a couple, and then a troop of second cousins got together and claimed to resolve the couple's dispute. What would our response be if European ambassadors spent long, sweaty hours together and then proclaimed that they had resolved the differences that split apart the old Soviet Union? Wouldn't we see some arrogance in the whole process?
As well-motivated as the cousins and ambassadors might be, they lack a crucial element—authority. We recognize this oddness when it appears in the State or family, but we have such a low view of the Church, that we think that an agreement produced by self-appointed evangelical and Roman leaders is actually news. Without genuine ecclesiastical authority commissioned by the churches in question, such "agreements" are about as significant as "Hands Across America."
If these private individuals had just written a book on the same topic, minus all the pseudo-authority language ("public agreement," "accord," "historic"), then they would have lost their rhetorical punch.
And before any statement of agreement, we need a statement of repentance from the Vatican. Bloodshed isn't just semantic.
By Douglas Jones
Do Christians really have to join the call for a ban on human cloning? I think not. The issue seems so simple. Science wants to play God, and that's bad. Hence, ban cloning. The President appealed to the "deep concerns of faith and humanity" in his rebuke of Richard Seed's boast that he would soon begin work on human cloning. The President declared that "It's now clearer than ever that legislation is exactly what is needed."
But Dr. Seed hasn't flinched. His response was to recite the monotones of progress: "New things of any kind, mechanical, biological, intellectual, always tend to create fear. Then the subject becomes tolerated and ignored. And the third stage, which always happens, is the subject becomes enthusiastically endorsed, and I think the same thing will happen in human cloning." Insert yawn here.
Much of the cloning debate dances around conflicting theologies of progress. Dr. Seed and his co-religionists believe that technological improvements will rid the future of disease, catastrophe, and mean people. Chaos is the problem, and mathematical laboratories can straighten all the lines. And so anyone who opposes technological progress is a defender of the Bad.
Other social evolutionists, like the President and his intellectuals, agree that chaos is the problem and think that individualistic scientists are part of the whirl. They reject technological providence in favor of providence by civil dictate. They wouldn't mind cloning so much if the chaos could be predestined by federal ethics panels and an omniscient bureaucracy.
Christianity holds that moral faithfulness gives rise to cultural progress. God says He blesses individuals and cultures who love Him and keep His commandments. This means that societies can improve—getting rid of disease, catastrophes, and mean people—even without digital toys, genetic engineering, executive orders, or nuclear weaponry.
But banning cloning only encourages the rebels at this late stage. The lust for the forbidden won't be stopped by executive order. Dr. Seed claimed that "We are going to have almost as much knowledge and almost as much power as God. Cloning and the reprogramming of DNA is the first serious step in becoming one with God." We need to put this sort of arrogance on center stage and light it well. Let it topple in prime time. And if we really want the idols of modernity to fall quickly, let's encourage them. How about federal funding for cloning? That destroys just about everything it touches. How about media overexposure? That killed both Michael Jackson and disco.
What's the worst cloning could do? Create collosal human monsters that swallow the continents? No, God sets the limits of possibility and the end of the world, not the white lab coats. And sometimes He allows evil to grow before judgment—"the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete." So in the midst of the cloning debate, we should remember the wisdom of Gamaliel: "And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing."
High Crimes and Misdemeanors
By Douglas Wilson
Despite the mess our political system is in, periodically some measure of common sense will struggle into the light of day. This is certainly to be expected; no system is so distorted as to get everything wrong.
In such situations, the triumph of hope over experience is observed yet again. Such periodic manifestations of justice are routinely seized upon by many as triumphant evidence that, despite everything, the "system still works."
But the current corruption of our system of government is the necessary corruption which attends a corpse. And every new and suggested reform brought to Washington is nothing more than another kind of make-up applied by a different undertaker. We have two schools of thought among our undertakers—Republican and Democrat. They often have vigorous disputes between themselves.
This includes the "reform" of impeachment. Recently we have seen the open and serious discussion of the possible impeachment of our president. Now the fact that President William Jefferson Clinton, if he were governing in honest country, would be impeached is now beyond any informed contradiction. The Nixon White House was brought down by a bungled burglery, and the persistent and mendacious lying which followed it. But that affair, resulting in the resignation of a sitting president, pales in comparison to the spectacular achievments of this incumbent, Nixon's successor.
The media knows far more than it pragmatic tactic, Mr. Clinton is very good at this. Nixon was foolish enough to be ashamed of himself.
If Mr. Clinton is impeached, it will not necessarily be evidence that the "system works." But if he is not impeached, then we have incontrovertible evidence that the system is dead and gone.
This joke of a system is why we have words like laughingstock.