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Volume 7, Issue 4: Anvil

Oklahoma Before Nightfall

Douglas Wilson

Bombs destroy more than buildings. In this case, the bombing in Oklahoma City has destroyed the illusion that the City of Man is a safe place to raise kids. No human culture is permanent, and disobedience to the laws of Christ will always bring His judgment. And here it comes.

Consider the word indivisible . The word does not reflect a charitable desire"may the nation never be divided." Rather, the word means " incapable of being divided." This represents an ontological claim and goes far beyond a Scriptural desire for political stability. The same distinction can be observed between the vain pagan dream, "May the king live forever," and the Christian desire and hope, "Long live the king."
Our culture is tumbling down around our heads. The disaster is visible and moving in our direction. People are starting to stir themselves, and ask questions - over a century late, but they are asking them. The answers are not pleasant.
The problem which afflicts us is clear from Scripture. Because we do not want a clear Word from God in times of peace, we do not get a clear Word from God in times of turmoil. "'Yes, they make their hearts like flint, refusing to hear the law and the words which the Lord of hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets. Thus great wrath came from the Lord of hosts. Therefore it happened, that just as He proclaimed and they would not hear, so they called out and I would not listen,' says the Lord of hosts" (Zech. 7:12-13).
Startled out of our sleep in the back pew, we now want to know what the Bible teaches about the murder of abortionists, tyrannical government, the militia movement, miltant gays, and bombed out federal buildings.
We do not deserve any answers. We have not been paying attention in class all semester, and now, the day before the test, we want the instructor to supply us with a crib sheet. We did not want clear plain answers from the Word back when things were calm. We did not want to know about covenants and election and governments and law and sin and repentance. And the heart of our problem can be seen to this day when this is even mentioned - "Do you mean to say that this is the judgment of God on our nation because we didn't agree with you and your theology?"
No, the problem is that we refuse to agree with God. This said, our sin still rises to the surface. "That's just your interpretation." "Who's to say what that means." "Conscientious scholars differ about the meaning of . . ." But if clarity from God is impossible in serenity, how does it become necessary and needed in a cultural crisis? Which way do we want it? "If you have run with the footmen, and they have wearied you, then how can you contend with horses" (Jer. 12:5)? If we can't light our matches on a calm summer afternoon, how can we expect to light them in a typhoon?
Nightfall is coming, and it won't be the kind of night that can be danced away. Our only hope is reformation in the church, and repentance is the only road there.

Christian Coalition Takes the Easy Path

By Douglas Jones

Political savvy requires great artistry, but some art is vinegary. Few can now accuse the Christian Coalition of lacking political savvy. As much as some of us have very few praises to sing about the Christian Coalition, we have to admit that their "Contract With the American Family" had some keen political minds behind it. And something like this came from contemporary evangelicals? Maybe they subcontracted it.

The contract's chief political edge stems from its very polite requests for the federal government to cease-and-desist various actions. Mainstream journalists expecting a list of commandments to impose on a weak-kneed populace will find little of that. The contract doesn't make any demands, offers no deadlines, and claims correctly to be offering some "mainstream proposals." Opponents will have a hard time transforming these rather yawning-Republican proposals into a fire-spitting evangelical coup d'etat.
Now, of course, Christian purists won't like the content of the contract. The contract is all too in love with the micro-managerial Federal government. It calls for re-rigging the tax system to credit this and encourage that. The contract likes public schools, too, just wanting to transfer federal money to local civil authorities, allowing local educational control over taking God's name in vain. The contract also calls for regulating the Internet, a move popular even among some liberals, though much like restraining an elephant with a rubber band.
Better content, even if they believed it, would kill their political savvy. Yawning Republicans have had much more influence than truth.
But probably the most disturbing feature of the Christian Coalition is their trust in princes. Politics is always a short-term affair; the prince's "spirit departs, he returns to his earth; in that very day his plans perish" (Ps. 146:3,4). Evangelicals spend waterfalls of resources in time and money to gain political power, the most impotent and fleeting weapon of long-term cultural reformation. Political action is flashy, quick, and skin-deep. It's the easy path, followed by the countless, forgotten political activists that evangelicals now ape.
The harder path isn't instant or flashy, but it is far more powerful than politics. The harder path to cultural transformation focuses overwhelmingly on family nurture, church communities, and poetic care. Faithfulness to our children promises blessings to a thousand generations. Why not first pour our hearts and strengths and resources into that, and let politics follow easily in its wake?

Affirmative Pelagianism

By Douglas Jones

Imagine a federal "honesty-in-religious-assumption" law which required each piece of legislation to cite the creed it assumes. Many environmental laws would have to cite pantheistic creeds. Plenty of family and business policies would have to cite Rousseau and Mussolini. It would be a very revealing mess.

If we had to tie the recent Supreme Court decision on affirmative action to a creed, we should probably choose a Pelagian creed. Pelagianism is that rather rationalistic Christian heresy which assumes that the human heart is so rubbery and pliable that humans alone can mold it every which way for the good. For the Pelagian, inner righteousness isn't hard to come by; we can get it or retain it by simple toil. The Pelagian heart isn't a corpse needing resurrection but Playdo needing a mold.
The Court's decision (Adarand Constructors, Inc. v. Pena, Sec. of Transportation) raised the typical squawks. But as with the "Republican revolution," little was changed. The Court's decision dealt with mere details and assumed the essential justness of affirmative action.
Christians rightly chide affirmative action programs for confusing the biblical distinction between sins and crimes. Race-hatred is sinful, as are envy and lust. But none of these is a crime requiring civil action.
More Pelagian, though, is the affirmative action belief that the mauling axe of the State can effectively direct the human heart for the better. In the Court's decision, Justice O'Connor maintained the Pelagian assumption that affirmative action can not only punish but also change human hearts - "reduce racial prejudice" and move us toward the time "when race will become a truly irrelevant, or at least insignificant, factor."
The racial antagonism following affirmative action programs helps us see how false this social Pelagianism is. Unregenerate hearts have become more bitter, not more pliable. The unregenerate heart isn’t rubbery; it's a dead weight - "Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Then may you also do good who are accustomed to do evil" (Jer. 13:23). One anti-Pelagian partisan described the unregenerate human condition as being "dead in trespasses and sins." For that sort of condition, Pelagian social policies can only add to the nightmare of sin.

Gary North and Classical Education

By Douglas Wilson

In a recent newsletter to his subscribers, Dr. Gary North expressed more than a few reservations about the current movement of many Christian parents and educators back to a classical and Christian education. Many of the criticisms are not new to those in the movement, but this is the first public criticism of this classical Christian resurgence by anyone of North's influence. A response is therefore required.

The writing was pure North - well-written, entertaining, incisive, and seventy-five percent correct. Many of his comments were dead center. "The good old days produced the bad new days, step by step." "Classical education undermines Christian orthodoxy." "[T]he history of Christian philosophy has been one long compromise with the philosophy of autonomous man. From Plato to Newton, from Newton to Kant, from Kant to some cast-off liberal fad, Christian philosophers have sought to baptize humanism."
As regular readers of Credenda know, we have been strong advocates of this return to classical and Christian education. We have a regular column devoted to the subject, and the literature of this movement is stacked in piles around which we move daily. But, as mentioned above, many of North's jabs are on target - in the history of the church many have fallen into the traps North identifies.
The difficulty is not with North's generalizations, but rather with his applications. Take one example - the charge that classical education undermines Christian orthodoxy. It certainly has, as have many other good things - money, status, books, and seminaries. But of course, as with classical learning, such things only undermine orthodoxy when they are disobediently handled. Disobedience blurs the antithesis between white and off-white.
North presents us with something of a false dilemma when he argues that to "force a child to learn Latin is to encourage him to accept the premises either of medieval Catholicism or the Renaissance." But the literature advocating these classical and Christian schools has kept the antithesis, and has repeatedly and overtly rejected the neo-paganism of the Renaissance, as well as the Thomistic syncretism of the Roman church. While both these other movements may legitimately use the word classical, a third group does so as well. Historic Protestant orthodoxy is classically Protestant, and is also the natural home of antithetical thinking. We hold that the Protestant faith is the widest and deepest part of the cultural river we call the West - we must reject all attempts to treat it as a fundamentalist, slackwater pond.
We long for the day when believing conservative Christians no longer write letters to the editor with fisted crayons, when we no longer debate with wooly minds and brick tongues. We ache for believers who are capable of presenting the truths of the faith in the striking language, rightly admired by North, which is found in Shakespeare and the King James Bible. But longing by itself is inadequate - we must teach our children in accordance with our desires.

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