Volume 7, Issue 4: Anvil
Oklahoma Before Nightfall
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
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
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
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
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
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 isnt 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
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
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,
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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