Volume 7, Issue 3: Ex Libris
See, I Told You So
Rush Limbaugh; New York:Simon & Schuster, 1993
Reviewed by Greg Dickison
One sad symptom of the church's abandonment of the gospel is that the more good
works someone does, the less subject he or she is to criticism. Mother Theresa,
for example, is doing wonderful work for the poor. Who would trifle over the
fact that she happens to be Catholic? Well, someone who is concerned for her
soul and the souls of her followers.
A similar aura surrounds Rush Limbaugh. We of this publication have mentioned
Mr. Limbaugh a couple of times in a somewhat critical manner. Judging by our
mail, we would have been better to criticize the apostle Paul. Rush is, after
Christians, being a politically conservative lot, find a natural affinity with
Rush. He often says what we think, and he says it well. He is often sharp, bright,
clever, witty, and a consummate communicator. He examines convoluted political
knots and unties them with, as he puts it, half his brain tied behind his back.
And, he is entertaining. His second best-selling book is a brilliant showcase
of all his wonderful talents. See, I Told You So is also an arsenal of factual
and rhetorical weaponry for anyone engaging in ideological combat. More focused
and polished than his first writing effort, this book exposes the deceit of liberal
ideology and provides ample evidence that the religion of the left is crumbling.
The secular conservative religion of Rush Limbaugh is no better than the secular
liberalism it seeks to replace. When it comes to first principles, Rush Limbaugh
and Karl Marx are both equally humanistic. Both believe that man is able to redeem
himself. The main difference between the two is the method by which man is
redeemed. In Marxist theology, men act collectively through government to impose
salvation on everyone; while the Limbaugh man acts independently of government
to save himself. Either way, man is the savior.
While Mr. Limbaugh talks about God, sometimes in very orthodox terms, his theology
is utilitarian and pragmatic. Judeo-Christian theism "works better" for achieving
his conservative ideal. Salvation is not through the redemptive work of Jesus
Christ, but through living a good life, on our own steam, as it is summarized
in the Ten Commandments. Christ is irrelevant.
Christians must exercise discretion to avoid choosing leaders who say true things
and then march us off cliffs. Christ is our head, and we must always heed His
voice. Rush is, on many things, right, to which we may say a hearty, "Amen." But
he worships man, and Christians who lack discernment will find themselves worshipping
at the same altar. Keep that in mind when you read his book.
J. McDowell & C. Klein; Dallas, TX: Word Publ., 1992.
Reviewed by Nathan Wilson
Under Siege is a story written for modern nominal Christian teens, in an unwitting
attempt to keep them that way. Will is a computer nerd who doesn't spend enough
time with his single mom and is in dire need of a rededication. Amber is the
High School Babe who has been "running" with the wrong crowd; her spiritual walk
also needs redecorating. At a youth group campout, Will sees Amber making out
with Tony Ortiz, football star and heathen. The next day, the youth pastor finds
out, and Tony gets sent home. Thinking about it, people start to convert. Amber,
also thinking, rededicates. Will is shocked into a rededication. Successful campout.
The only holdout is Tony Ortiz.
Well, all this spiritual activity gets Satan (a T-Rex dinosaur) pretty worried,
so he puts a veteran demon in charge of the temptation computers in Subsector
477 (Eisenhower High School) in case any others try to rededicate or convert.
These computers are really somethingeach has a cord running into someone through
which the demons run their temptations. At salvation, a brigadier (some kind
of angel) dances the "liberation dance" around and around until he has danced through
the cord, thus saving that particular someone.
Now these brigadiers have been busy in Subsector 477, because the rededicated
and converted have formed a "prayer team" which walks around the school every day
at lunch, ending with a prayer chain around the flagpole. This prayer chain is
a highly effective tool, saving pretty much everybody in the whole school with
the exception of good old Tony. Will, who in the space of a few short months
has grown from puny to big and buff, invites Tony to "open his heart." Two days
later, Tony knocks on Will's door to inform him that he has allowed Christ into
his heart. As Tony and Will embrace, somewhere beneath the earth's crust, the
temptation room of Subsector 477 blows up. The next campout is doubled in size,
and no one is off making out. Amber tells Will he's cute, and everyone sings happy
Christian songs around the campfire.
Needless to say, this book is not great literature. The story line is weak,
the message is modern evangelicalism at its worst, and the writing is incomparably
awful. The paper can be used for origami lessons.
Defending the Faith: J. Gresham Machen and the
Crisis of Conservative Protestantism in Modern America
D.G. Hart; Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Press, 1994.
Reviewed by Chris Schlect
This is a difficult review to write for two reasons: one, I am limited in space
to one column, and two, my two-year-old son, Gresham Machen Schlect, is currently
seated on my lap and supplying all sorts of distractions. My son's namesake is
the subject of Dr. Hart's book and one who has been mentioned frequently in the
pages of Credenda/Agenda . If you aren't already familiar with J. Gresham Machen,
you should become so.
Dr. D.G. Hart's treatment of J. Gresham Machen's career is a welcome addition
to a conversation that should be revived. Almost two generations have passed
since the theological controversies of the twenties and thirties, and already
the stories are nearly forgotten. J. Gresham Machen was one of the precious few
conservatives in that period, and he was the most capable and outspoken one,
who accurately perceived what was wrong with modernism and knew how to refute
it. Princeton Seminary, where Machen had taught, had been among the greatest
schools in theology the church had ever seen, and it fell to modernism in a decade.
And tragically, Old Princeton's mortal wound was dealt by the PCUSA, a church
that had once been this country's stalwart Reformed communion. The denomination
eventually defrocked Machen. These stories stand before us today as grim warnings.
Let us remember and learn, so that we don't face the charge of the prophet Amos:
"I made the stench of your camps come up to your nostrils; yet you have not returned
to me, says the Lord" (3:10).
The standard biography of Machen was written by his colleague, Ned Stonehouse,
and it is currently available from The Banner of Truth Trust (Carlisle, PA).
Hart offers a valuable supplement, but does not replace Stonehouse's work. Hart
interprets Machen in his broad sociological context: as the product of southern
Victorianism and rigorous classicism. And this product was something of an anomaly
in his time. Machen was a "fundamentalist," but he opposed prohibition, prayer
in public schools, and premillennialism; and he supported high academics, including
critical methods and biblical scholarship. Unlike most on his team, Machen knew
which guns to shoot and where to shoot them. And his aim was precise.
Hart's best contributions are his analysis of Machen's background as a classicist
and his overview of Machen's libertarian politics, though Hart falls short of
adequately connecting Machen's libertarianism to his theology. Hart's innovative
casting of Machen as an odd sociological phenomenon is worth consideration, but
his subject's genius should be given more attention than his breeding. Buy the
Stonehouse biography and learn what Machen thought and did. Then read Hart for
a theory on what made him tick.
The Necessity of Reforming the Church
John Calvin; Audubon, NJ: Old Paths Publ., 1994 .
Reviewed by Douglas Wilson
John Calvin wrote this book in 1544 at the request of Martin Bucer, the great
Strasbourg reform leader. The Emperor Charles V had called a Diet of the Holy
Roman Empire, and Calvin wrote this clear statement of the tenets of reformation
Christianity for that occasion. The clear tendency of the modern reader browsing
in a Christian bookstore, therefore, will be to dismiss this stuff as boring
musings of an old dead guy, and move on to consider a more edifying purchase
with Sex, Lust, and Armageddon Oil .
But the relevance of Calvin's book today is exceptional. Apart from the grace
of God, the human heart never changes. Men have always loved external religion,
and unless God saves them, they always will. But God demands heart religion.
Consider the force of Calvin's observation.
"For while it is incumbent on true worshipers to give the heart and mind, men
are always desirous to invent a mode of serving God of a totally different description,
their object being to perform to him certain bodily observances, and keep the
mind to themselves . . . Men will allow themselves to be astricted by numerous
severe laws, to be obliged to numerous laborious observances, to wear a severe
and heavy yoke; in short, there is no annoyance to which they will not submit,
provided there is no mention of the heart."
His writing is relevant because the church today is in dire need of a similar
reformation and revival. Like Calvin, some few believers today see "the present
condition of the Church . . . to be very miserable, and almost desperate." Our
context is different in one key respect, however. The church needing reformation
in Calvin's day was the tradition-encrusted church of Rome. Shortly after the
Reformation, for those leaving Rome behind, two streams became apparent. One
was the stream of classical Protestant orthodoxy, represented today by a handful
of Gideons in their desktop publishing winevats. The other was the left wing
of the Reformation the anabaptist movement. In the early years, the anabaptists
were suffering outsiders. But today the anabaptist church is the Establishmentan
establishment governed by a chaos of traditions instead of biblical worship.
Everywhere we look we see Christians approaching God with observances in worship
which Calvin calls "the random offspring of their own brai n."
This book is greatly needed in our day. Published by Old Paths Publications,
it represents a genuine and necessary call back to the old paths (Jer. 6:16).