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Volume 9, Issue 4: Anvil

The Christianity Today Crowd

Douglas Wilson

Doonesbury used to have a character, the Rev. Scott Sloan, "a fighting young priest who could relate to the young." This character, hip and relevant, was, of course, hopelessly irrelevant. This dweeb condition is always obvious to everyone except the hapless liberal involved, and it is always thoroughly embarrassing to everyone within a fifty-foot radius. A recent sample of this is youth ministers who use arabic numerals to help them 2 relate.

World magazine recently did the evangelical community a great service by pointing out the nascent feminism in the evangelical Biblemonger world. The folks responsible for the NIV, not content with how bad that translation already is, were gearing up to bring some more coals to Newcastle. World exposed the whole farce, and then added glory to their honor by refusing to back down when all the inevitable "it grieves us deeply" stuff began.
Zondervan, of course, went non-linear, and filed a complaint against World. They were concerned that their Biblemongering might get a bad name. Still too early to say, but we hope so.
Christianity Today weighed with some ponderous tut-tutting, lamenting the divisions among us, and so forth. The "Sloaneseque" mind, now firmly ensconced at CT, always wants to "wrestle" with issues. They like "grappling" with them, and of course regularly urge us all to "come to grips" with the problems of our day. So when feminist issues come after the church, these people, right on cue, want us to wrestle with them. We would suggest something different. When heresies come our way, why wrestle? Why not beat them up?
If we are told that this attitude means that we will not be taken seriously in the respected evangelical world, our response is frankly that we don't care. The respected evangelical world is about as relevant as a lava lamp. The respected evangelical world has all the discernment of a bag of hammers.
But some of our friends may seek to protect us from ourselves. "You won't get invited to the really big evangelical banquets if you insist on heaving your dinner roll across the room. If you continue to carry on like this, you won't get the place of honor next to Tony Campolo." Our point exactly.
World is a fine magazine, and doing a fine job. It is respected in the evangelical world while remaining respectable in the biblical sense. That is quite a trick, and we stand back in admiration. But this means they are not in a position to say everything that could be said on this kind of issue.
What these debates need is someone in the nickel seats offering the delighted horse laugh, the exuberant raspberry, the merriment of the Bronx cheer. These melodramas put on by the evanliberals do need the insightful drama critic they have found in World. But they also need someone there to throw the popcorn.


Romantic Conspiricies

By Douglas Jones

Anyone who has ever worked on a committee should have a hard time believing in conspiracy theories. Obviously we hear of limited conspiracies all the time. A person or two agree to commit the perfect murder or pull off a confidence game. But what should make us scoff are the claims about those long-term, secret conspiracies involving tens and hundreds of persons and several agencies.

Lately, we've heard from those claiming that the whole Mars probe is a hoax. They say the close-ups of the Mars photos reveal water bottles and other items left around the sound stage by those careless NASA techies. And, of course, others argue that the Federal building in Oklahoma City was destroyed by the BATF itself. A jury there is now considering evidence that the officers knew beforehand to stay away, and others claim that it's simply impossible for a fertilizer bomb alone to do that sort of damage. The BATF just had to be involved. And a whole literature has grown up around all those coincidental deaths that follow President Clinton, and, of course, the FBI and the CIA worked together to assassinate John F. Kennedy.
I have little sympathy for these agencies and recognize they are all dangerous Behemoths, and I have little doubt about the deep wickedness of the human heart. But it is just that view of depravity which makes me doubt. Go back to the claim about committees. Remember how hard it is even for a small, like-minded, pleasant group of people to accomplish simple goals like a church picnic. Consider how hard it is just to make sure everyone can show up at the same time! The best committees are made up of good folks who have slightly different interests and loyalties; a wealth of perspectives can be a great plus at times. It's an especially good feature in the doctrinal development of the Church. That sort of thing should take centuries, and efficiency can be a great evil there.
But widespread conspiracies ask us to believe that hundreds of degenerates can work smoothly and selflessly for years. They ask us to believe that desperately wicked conspirators can keep the most painful secrets and deny personal glory for decades. To believe that, we would have to give up a biblical view of depravity. We would have to think of persons as pristine, selfless souls. That would be truly romantic in the worst sense of the word.


Baseball's Glorious Uniqueness

By Douglas Jones

I sincerely try to suppress my hyper-appreciation for baseball, but sometimes the good news just has to get out. Last year, with two student comrades, the noble editor of this magazine and I opposed each other in a public debate over the moral and aesthetic superiority of baseball over all other sports. The editor's side tried to argue the negative, but since he's out of town, you, dear reader, can finally learn about some of the winning side's long, suppressed truths.[*]

Our side, the good guys (for lack of a better title), had eight moral and aesthetic arguments, along with six counterarguments. One feature that still stands out is a distinction we discovered which highlights baseball's uniqueness. Set aside for the moment those more individualistic, anabaptistic sports such as bowling, golf, track, etc. If you consider the major team sports popular today such as football, basketball, hockey, soccer, rugby, polo, lacrosse, Oprah, etc., you can notice two features which unite all these games, making them merely variations on the same theme. First, they all play within a rectangle, and second, they all have the same basic "ping-pong" goal throughout the game. That is, within their neat little rectangles, the goal of all these games is to move the ball back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, goal to goal, goal to goal, goal to goal, until the little electric clock dictates when to stop.
Now, of course, this sort of monotony can be great fun at high speeds (and speed is the most important virtue of a happy life). But I find it shocking that fans of such pale simplicity would have the gall to suggest that watching baseball is like "watching paint dry," to quote our editor. Watching these other "Ping-Pong-Rectangle" games (henceforth, PPRs) clearly requires one to suppress all hope for depth, richness, and creativity, sort of like listening to someone play chopsticks for four quarters.
Apart from the PPRs' eternal chopsticks appeal, we couldn't help but note their enslavement to that icon of industrial modernity, the clock. Baseball, being more human and agrarian, has no tyrannical clocks, but it instead completes its course of play within a more naturally poetic meter. The PPRs by contrast, often procrastinate and pour all their energy into those last few electric seconds. And notice how the clock forces the PPRs into such unmanly conduct in those last few seconds, quarterbacks falling on balls, basketball players committing intentional fouls. What would a Henry V or a King Alfred have thought of such lack of moral spine?
vI've learned enough in the modern world to know that hatred is a bad thing. And our side went to lengths to explain that we are in no way guilty of hate crimes against these other sports. At times, we enjoy them very much. But that joy is the difference between listening to Vivaldi and listening to ZZ Top. Both have their places in this world . . . just not right next to each other.



By Douglas Wilson

Robert Van Kampen, author of The Sign, was kind enough to have a copy of his new book sent to me for review. It is entitled The Rapture Question Answered, Plain and Simple. My subject in this editorial is the first chapter of that book, in which Mr. Van Kampen outlines the hermeneutic put forward to support his particular brand of dispensationalism. Now the various intercine arguments of the dispen-sationalist community are not really an issue for us. For those of us outside the dispensational camp, all the "pre-trib, mid-trib, post-trib, pre-wrath" stuff seems to us somewhat arcane, and frankly makes our head hurt. So the objective is not to enter those particular intramural battles, but rather to point out something Mr. Van Kampen shares in common with all dispensationalists, and, having pointed it out, to inquire about it.

Mr. Van Kampen's hermeneutical approach is somewhat simplistic, but still very good as far as it goes. But in the course of this introduction to the subject, he makes a comment in passing which provides the Christian public with a test case through which we can see how "plain and simple" it all is. He says: "Actually, you may be surprised to know that the term Antichrist is used only once in the first epistle of John to describe this exceedingly powerful and evil man who will stand against Christ in the end times."
My point here is not to engage in exegetical gnat-strangling, but rather to ask the dispensationalist world a question. Given the hermeneutic outlined in this first chapter, and frequently set forth elsewhere in the dispensationalist literature, on what basis can we say that Antichrist has anything whatever to do with anything at the end of the world?
The question can take many forms. What basis do we have (other than the fact that we like to do it) for identifying the beast of Revelation with the Antichrist of the Johannine epistles?
If we take a "face value" hermeneutic, how much can we say about the Antichrist? The answer, plain and simple, is not very much. And so then we turn and ask how much the dispensational world talks about the Antichrist. The answer to this question is, a lot and all the time. The disparity means that a great deal is being smuggled into the text.
Mr. Van Kampen is obviously a sincere and dedicated Christian man. But if he means business when he says we must limit ourselves to what the Scriptures "clearly say," and if he cannot show the world where the Bible teaches that the Antichrist lives at the end of the world, I suggest he take all the proceeds from this book, and his previous one, and dedicate them to a conservative but non-dispensational missionary work.

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