Van Til Tool

Using the Van Til Perspective as the tool to discover what life means and how it ought to be lived.

Friday, June 24, 2005

A Tribute To Dr. Thomas Sowell

A Tribute To Dr. Thomas Sowell


A Review of his Black Rednecks and White Liberals (San Francisco: Encounter, 2005)


By Forrest W. Schultz


It is long overdue that I finally commit to print the high esteem I have for the thought of Dr. Thomas Sowell. His greatness lies in his ability to find the answers to tough social problems by an unflinching examination of the data, both contemporary and historical. Unfortunately, there has been a great unwillingness to accept his conclusions because they contradict the widely held notions of our times. And they usually end up confirming what common sense and our ancestors had told us. For about the last twenty years or so Sowell has been doing in education, sociology, and economics what William Glasser did in psychology and psychotherapy 40 years ago with his Reality Therapy.

From clinical studies Glasser showed that the key to overcoming psychological maladies was the patient taking responsibility for his actions and doing what is right and refraining from doing what is wrong. For this reason there were those who joshingly stated that this was “psychotherapy according to Grandma”! What Sowell has shown from his examination of sociological, economic, and educational data is that the key to success in school and in business is due to what our ancestors called hard work or what today is called “the work ethic”. This work ethic or value system or culture (or whatever you wish to call it) embodies such virtues as discipline, work, thrift, and integrity; and it eschews laziness, irresponsibility, and improvidence. In other words, any individual or group can achieve success educationally and economically by following the ideals of the work ethic. Therefore, to use education as the example, race and other factors have nothing to do with academic achievement. What matters is the teachers teaching properly and the students studying hard, not the race of the teachers and students or whether the school is racially segregated or integrated or the amount of money spent on the school.

From his study of the “redneck” (or “cracker”) culture today and down thru history, Sowell shows how its values are opposed to the work ethic and how these same or similar values have strongly influenced both the Southern aristocracy and contemporary blacks. These blacks who have adopted these bad values are what Sowell refers to as the “black rednecks”. He therefore exhorts today’s blacks to repudiate these false values and adopt the work ethic values. So, as with Glasser 40 years ago, Sowell’s study is confirming what anyone with even a little bit of common sense should know and what is explicitly taught in Scripture. However, since 40 years have now passed we cannot call Sowell’s conclusions “sociology according to Grandma” because many of today’s grandmas were hippie rednecks. So, we, I guess, could call it “sociology according to great-great-grandma”.

June 23, 2005

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Stacy L. Harp & Her Mind and Media Book Reviews

Stacy L. Harp
President
Mind & Media
PO Box 485Orange CA 92856

714-244-6890

http://www.writingright.typepad.com


Check this out if you are a blogger who would like to do book reviews of recently published christian books.

Forrest

Monday, June 06, 2005

Deconstructionist Theology and the Van Til Perspective (A Review of Mark Taylor's Erring)

Deconstructionist Theology And

The Van Til Perspective

By Forrest W. Schultz

Reviewing Mark Taylor’s Erring: A Post Modern A/Theology (U.ofChicago,1984)

Taylor’s book is very interesting because he interprets the philosophical significance of the deconstruction of theology (which the advocates) in virtually the same way as the late Professor Cornelius Van Til.

Like Van Til, Taylor recognizes the important principle that those who reject God are still dependent upon God and therefore operate as parasites, i.e. they cannot say anything without presupposing the framework of meaning which comes from Biblical Theology. Taylor nonetheless advocates this parasitic activity, this destroying from within, this deconstruction. Also, like Van Til, Taylor realizes that this “death of God” activity leads to the “death of man”, i.e. that if God is not presupposed, then there is no real truth, no real meaning, no real right and wrong. And, like Van Til, Taylor is aware of the fact that atheists have ascribed to man the attributes traditionally ascribed to God, e.g. autonomy.

In spite of this attainment of what Van Til calls “epistemological self-consciousness”, Taylor sticks to his anti-theistic position although he clearly recognizes that it will get him nowhere – that all he can do is wander around. The word “erring” in the title of his book means “wandering” and is derived from the Latin verb errare, to wander.

In spite of (or because of ??) all this, Taylor writes in a jocular, witty manner. His mood is always upbeat. You will never find him expressing rage or despair or anxiety or a sense of futility. I am not sure if this should be recognized as “gallows humor”or what. Read it and decide for yourself.

I believe that Mark Taylor is very important because he is one of the few thinkers outside of the Van Tillians who is aware of the philosophical implications of rebelling against God. Therefore his book deserves a far wider readership.


Forrest Wayne Schultz has a B.S. in Chemical Engineering degree from Drexel University and a Th.M. in Systematic Theology degree from Westminster Theological Seminary. He can be reached at 770-583-3258 or schultzf_2002@yahoo.com.

A Critique of Alvin Plantinga's "Possible Worlds" Version of the Ontological Argument

A Critique of Alvin Plantinga’s “Possible Worlds” Version

Of The Ontological Argument

By Forrest W. Schultz


Philosopher Alvin Plantinga has composed an intriguing version of the Ontological Argument which involves the conception of other possible worlds.* Before I set forth and critique Plantinga’s argument, let me first express my praise for what he says in his prolegomenon to the argument. He rightly says there that since God’s attributes are not accidental and adventitious, but intrinsic and necessary, that therefore He would have these same unsurpassably excellent qualities in all the possible worlds He could create, not just this one. This is a very important point, which is rarely mentioned in theology, and Plantinga deserves to be applauded for noting and stressing it. It means that the attributes of God which are revealed in His Word and displayed in His creation are truly His, which means they would be operative in any other possible world He has created, will create, or could create. For example, we must not suppose that God just happens to act righteously in our world but that He might act wickedly in some other world. In short, since God’s aseity means that His attributes are only dependent upon Himself (and are in no way dependent upon anything outside Himself), this means that God would be the same – i.e. unsurpassable great and perfect – with respect to any possible worlds. This can be referred to as the “trans-worlds unsurpassable greatness principle”.

However, it is logically fallacious to try to use this trans-worlds unsurpassable greatness principle to prove the existence of God, as Plantinga does, because this involves proceeding backwards, i.e. moving in thought from the principle to God instead of from God to the principle. The main premises in Plantinga’s argument is his assumption that there is a possible world having an unsurpassably great being. Then, using the principle noted, he says that for this being to be unsurpassable great it must be so in every possible world (including this one). Therefore, it exists.



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It is easy to refute this argument on Van Tillian grounds. First of all, the correct definition of a possible world is a world which would be possible for God to create. Therefore, in order to properly conceive of a possible world we must presuppose God, because it is God who defines what is possible, namely what it is possible for Him to do. Now we must either use this correct definition of possible or else make up our own definition. If we do the former, we need to presuppose God, which means we are begging the question, i.e. assuming what we claim to be proving. If we wish to avoid begging the question by ignoring God then our own definition of possibility would be false, and therefore not usable in any argument.

The way in which Plantinga phrases his main premises makes it clear that he is simply making an assumption, which he hopes the reader will regard as reasonable. But if we do not accept God’s definition of possibility, then each person is free to formulate his own conception of possibility, and according to some of these conceptions the idea of an unsurpassably great being might not be regarded as reasonable. To any such the argument will not be convincing. Plantinga himself recognizes this point and concedes that his argument will not convince everyone.

But the main thing that is wrong with Plantinga’s argument is that he does not treat God as God, i.e. as the Supreme Authority for defining what is possible. Although he wants to convince the reader of theism, in which God is autonomous, he argues on the basis of humanism, in which man is autonomous, and therefore free to judge what he regards as possible. If we claim to be believers in theism, then we should act and think like theists, not like humanists!

NOTE

*Alvin Plantinga, The Nature of Necessity (Oxford University Press, 1974), pp. 213-221



Forrest W. Schultz has a B.S. in Chemical Engineering degree from Drexel University and a Th.M. in Systematic Theology degree from Westminster Theological Seminary.



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A Review of Todd Hardage's Twin Oaks

A Southern history/mystery/ghost story


A Review of Todd Hardage’s debut novel Twin Oaks

(Baltimore, MD: Publish America, 2003)

ISBN 1-59286-515-1 $ 21.95 271 pp


By


Forrest W. Schultz


One of the most frequently quoted, though not so frequently heeded, maxims is the famous warning given by Edmund Burke: “Evil triumphs when good men do nothing.” Unless the writer or speaker who quotes this maxim is a cynic, he usually does so in order to prod good men into action based upon the related maxim which promised that “Evil can be defeated if good men do something.”.

The two maxims are aptly depicted in the newly published Southern novel Twin Oaks by first-time author Todd Hardage, a lifelong Georgian who lives in Troup County, which is north of and contiguous to Harris County, where most of the story takes place. From 1964 through 1998 the good men of Harris County did nothing to find the murderer of Twin Oaks plantation owner James Goodroe nor to bring to justice his nephew Sam who lynches the farmhand Zeb Wortham and then rapes the widow Willa Mae and then evicts her and her children from their cottage. Later the people of Harris County elect Sam Goodroe as their sheriff, which provides him with even more opportunity to indulge in evil with impunity.

The turning point, when good men start doing something, arrives in 1998 when the young Atlanta suburbanite couple Bill & Lia Patton buy the beautiful Twin Oaks house to fulfill their desire for rural living. Prompted, aided, and protected by the ghosts of James Goodroe and Zeb Wortham, the Pattons begin an investigation into the murders. Their quest for truth and justice encourages more and more good people to join in until finally the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (The Georgia version of the FBI) becomes involved. As Sheriff Goodroe sees his control unravel he becomes increasingly enraged and his wickedness becomes ever more overt and irrational, ending in the violent confrontation with the Pattons which forms a key element in the story’s denouement. After the Pattons have completed their ghost-assigned task of unmasking Same Goodroe, the ghosts themselves, in the anticlimactic final chapter, execute James Goodroe’s murderer, whose identity is not revealed to the reader until then.

Twin Oaks provides fast-paced action by well-developed characters realistically situated in their geographic, social, and historical context. It is a Southern novel which neither glamorizes nor vilifies the South, but depicts it as containing both heroes and villains. Although revolving around the Pattons, the story’s most heroic person is Willa Mae Wortham, not only because of her determination to triumph over her circumstances by getting a college education for herself and her three children, but also by her willingness to undergo the traumatic experience of telling the investigators what happened on that awful day in 1964 in order that justice can finally be rendered.

Twin Oaks has a well designed jacket and high quality paper and typography but it was poorly edited with respect to misspelled words. Other than that, I highly recommend the book.


Forrest W. Schultz is a member of The Coweta Writers Group, where he met Todd Hardage.

The 4th of July and Interesting Things

The 4th Of July And Interesting Things


By Forrest W. Schultz


What has rarely ever been mentioned in the zillions of articles, books, and speeches about the 4th of July is one of the most interesting and astonishing things which has ever happened in American history, namely that Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both died on July 4, 1826, exactly fifty years after the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776! Jefferson was 83; Adams was 91. This amazing fact is significant not only for the obvious reason that Jefferson was the author of the Declaration of Independence but also for these little known additional reasons: (1). John Adams was a member, along with Jefferson, of the five-man committee appointed by the Continental Congress to compose the Declaration; and (2). John Adams was the chief advocate for its adoption in speeches he delivered to the Continental Congress. Another interesting thing is that, surprisingly, the committee did not regard the composition of the Declaration as being that important, for which reason this responsibility was delegated to Jefferson, who, at 33 years of age, was the youngest member of the committee and therefore the low man on the totem pole

Although I have known these facts for many years, it was not until recently that I learned that many Americans in 1826 believed that there was a profound theological significance in the fact that Jefferson and Adams both died on July 4 of that year. I made this discovery in reading the excellent biography of John Adams written by David McCullough [John Adams (N.Y.: Simon & Schuster, 2001)]. McCullough quotes two prominent Americans of that time as illustrative examples: John Adams’ son, John Quincy Adams (who was President at the time) and the famous orator Daniel Webster.

“That John Adams and Thomas Jefferson had died on the same day, and that it was, of all days, the Fourth of July, could not be seen as mere coincidence: it was a ‘visible and palpable’ manifestation of ‘Divine favor’, wrote John Quincy in his diary…, expressing what was felt and would be said again and again everywhere the news spread.” [McCullough, op. cit., p. 647] “In the weeks and months that followed, eulogies to Adams and Jefferson were delivered in all parts of the country, and largely in the spirit that their departure should not be seen as a mournful event. They had lived ‘amid the hosannas and grateful benedictions of a numerous, happy, joyful people’ and on the nation’s fiftieth birthday, which, said Daniel Webster in a speech in Boston, was ‘proof’ from on high ‘that our country, and its benefactors, are objects of His care.’”
[ibid. p. 648] It would be an interesting research project for a historian to locate, document, and publish these theological interpretations.


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There are many other interesting things about Jefferson and Adams which I could mention as well as many interesting things about other matters of American history. I have them all collected in my head right now: some day I will write them all down. I am writing this paper not only to pass along the interesting 4th of July fact noted above but also to express my concern that so many history courses and history textbooks are boring because they omit interesting things. The next time July 4th rolls around I intend to set forth a Declaration of Independence from Banality and a Declaration of Freedom for Inclusion of Interesting Things in History !! The same principle applies to local history as to national history. You can take action on this locally by finding out something interesting about the history of your town or county and then making it known. We did just that in the little town of Grantville, Georgia where I live in 2002 when we conducted a 70th Anniversary re-enactment of the robbery of the Bank of Grantville in 1932, which became famous because of the many interesting things connected with it.

Let me now conclude this paper by delving into the foundation of the matter. The ultimate reason why there are so many interesting things in history (and in nature) is even less known that the interesting things themselves because it has been egregiously omitted from the doctrine of God in our systematic theologies. This ultimate reason for the abundance of interesting things is very simple, yet very profound, and can be easily stated in three words: “God is interesting”. Amen.




Forrest W. Schultz has a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Drexel University and a Th.M. in Systematic Theology from Westminster Theological Seminary. He has had an interest in the interesting things in science and in American history for a long time. He has also been concerned for a long time about the lack of attention to the attributes involved in the aesthetic aspect of God: His beauty, artistry, creativity, imagination, and “interestingness”, and has expressed that concern in his theological research.


Note: this paper is an abridged version of an article with the same title which was published on pages 2 & 3 of the July 2002 issue of the Chalcedon Special Report.


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Pascal's Wager Examined From The Van Til Perspective

PASCAL’S WAGER

EXAMINED FROM THE VAN TIL PERSPECTIVE

by Forrest W. Schultz

The question of life after death has always been one of the major bones of contention between Christianity and atheism. After we die do we remain dead, as the atheist claims, or will we, as the Christian claims, be resurrected from the dead to enter our final destinies – believers going to Heaven and unbelievers going to Hell? Blaise Pascal, a Catholic mathematician and philosopher, in Section III of his Pensees (a French word meaning “Thoughts”) took a unique approach to this question. Instead of setting forth arguments in favor of Christianity, he asks us to approach the matter as a gambler would in trying to determine where to place his bet This Wager of Pascal is simply stated. If, as the atheist supposes, after we die we stay dead, then our theological beliefs will have no effect upon our final destiny; but if, as the Christian supposes, after we die we are resurrected by God to face His judgment, then our theological beliefs do affect our final destiny. Therefore, Pascal concluded that a smart gambler will bet on God. If God doesn’t exist, he will not have lost anything. But if God does exist, he will have gained Heaven and avoided Hell. Because Pascal’s Wager sounds good, there have been Christians who have used it in their evangelistic and polemical forays, and there have been unbelievers who have claimed that their pondering of Pascal’s Wager has been instrumental in their conversion to Christ.

It is unfortunate that so much of the thought devoted to serious matters, such as Pascal’s Wager, has been superficial: it fails to go below the surface of the matter to get to the bottom of things, to find the foundation whence the various surface ideas are derived. In fact, there are even some thinkers today – called “anti-foundationalists” -- who are opposed to looking at foundational matters! Fortunately, though, we have available to us the very careful thinking done about these foundational matters by one of the most brilliant men of the twentieth century – Dr. Cornelius Van Til, who served as Professor of Apologetics at Westminster Theological Seminary for many years. His thinking involves a careful deduction of the ideas which logically follow from Biblical theology and how these contrast with the ideas which flow forth from the presuppositions of various philosophies which are antithetical to Biblical theology. This “Van Til Perspective” is the tool we need to carefully examine matters such as the theistic proofs and Pascal’s Wager. -1-
The Van Til Perspective lays great stress upon the principle that the ultimate foundation of all thought rests upon the cognitive validity of our knowledge-acquiring abilities, of which we can only be certain if these abilities were designed and created by God. Let me use my favorite example to demonstrate this point: green grass. If the Christian epistemology (doctrine of knowledge) is true, then it is easy to prove that grass is green. Since God is omniscient, He knows all truth, including the truth that the grass is green and the truth of how to make my eyes and optic nerve and the visual perception parts of the brain so that when I look at grass I will see it as green. Since God is omnicompetent He will be able to make these organs so that they will perform correctly so that I will see the grass as green. Since God is omnihonest and cannot lie, He will not deceive me by making my visual apparatus such that it would tell me something false about the grass. The Christian epistemology, therefore, is the only basis for real knowledge. It is the only basis upon which we can know that grass is green. (Perhaps it could be said, therefore, that only Christianity has a “green” epistemology!) If man got here by chance or if man was created by a finite god, i.e. one who is not omniscient, omnicompetent, and omnihonest, then we cannot be sure that our eyes are really telling us the truth about reality. The same principle, of course, holds for the other factors involved in the acquiring and verifying of knowledge: for instance, logic. We can only be sure that logic is epistemically valid because God gave it to us. Anyone whose starting point is an uncertainty as to the existence of God cannot, therefore, consistently set forth any kind of argument at all because he cannot be sure of knowing anything at all or of certainty as to the validity of his rational faculty. Anyone advancing Pascal’s Wager (or any kind of argument at all) as a reason for believing in God is therefore guilty of begging the question because he must perforce presuppose the existence of God in order to be able to advance it (or any argument at all). But Pascal’s Wager claims to be starting not with the presupposition of the existence of God but with an uncertainty as to God’s existence. The Christian says “Believe in God because He exists.” Pascal’s Wager says, “We don’t know if God exists, but, your best bet is to go with Him rather than atheism.” Therefore it is just as logically invalid as are the theistic proofs.



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Pascal’s Wager is also theologically objectionable, for two reasons. First, like the theistic proofs, it does not treat God as God in the way it structures its argument. Since God is the ultimate being, He ought to be treated as such in everything we do including the way we frame our arguments. This means that, as the ultimate being, God should, in all our arguments, be regarded as the starting point, the foundation, not as the conclusion. Both the proponents of the theistic proofs and the proponents of Pascal’s Wager claim to believe that God is the ultimate being, the ultimate foundation of all reality, the ultimate truth on which all other truth rests, etc. Yet, in their reasoning they treat God as though He were uncertain and they treat something else as certain and ultimate and then try to derive the existence of God or some truth about God from this other basis. That is, these inconsistent arguers want their hearers to believe in God but in the way they argue they don’t treat God as though He really were God. Whether the existence of God is considered to be proven or merely a good bet and the only safe bet, in both cases these apologetes, by the way they argue, undermine their cases because they are not treating God the way He must be treated if He really is what we say He is.


There is a second, closely related, theological flaw in Pascal’s Wager – this one of a more personal nature. Genuine Biblical conversion involves more than an intellectual belief in the existence of God. It also involves – in fact it centers in – a personal relationship with God, a relationship which, among other things, grants due honor unto God. If we have even a glimpse of what this must mean, then we will surely need to conclude that anyone who comes to God solely on a Pascal’s Wager type of reasoning is actually insulting God. In fact, it is rather dubious, to say the least, that such a person has really been converted at all. Biblical conversion is not a mere “betting” on the existence of God just to be on the safe side in case He exists. Nor, can the Covenant of Grace be reduced to a mere Hell insurance policy. Biblical conversion involves genuine repentance and faith, which involves a radical spiritual change, to say the least!



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This point should be so obvious that it is surprising that Pascal’s Wager could ever be taken as seriously as it has been by otherwise godly and astute men. Again, if we want people to come to God in repentance and faith then we must treat Him as God or else we are guilty of misrepresenting Him. Anyone with even a modicum of spiritual insight should be able to recognize this. In fact, there are even some atheists who appear to see it more clearly than some Christians! For instance, in his primer for atheist debaters, B.C. Johnson provides this assessment of Pascal’s Wager: “…God may damn anyone who “bets” on his existence merely for reasons of prudence. He may consider such a ‘bet’ to be an insult.” (The Atheist Debater’s Handbook, (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1981, page 97).

Thus, when examined from the Van Til Perspective, Pascal’s Wager is seen to be not only philosophically superficial but spiritually superficial as well. In fact, it is highly doubtful that the gambler even appreciates what the stakes really are. Does he know what makes Heaven be Heaven and what makes Hell be Hell? Probably not. Although it is appropriate that Heaven be a beautiful place because God cares about beauty, this is not what makes Heaven Heaven. It is Heaven because believers there will be in the fullest possible fellowship with God unimpeded by any depravity from within or by societal or Satanic opposition from without. In short, it is God and our love for God and His love for us that makes Heaven Heaven. C.S. Lewis in his novel The Great Divorce showed that if any of the unsaved were permitted to leave Hell and go to Heaven that they would not be comfortable there because they were not adapted to live there and that therefore they would choose to go back to Hell. In short, He showed that for the unsaved Heaven is not Heaven! But, you see, Pascal’s Wager only looks on the surface: it says bet on God because then, if He exists, you can go to a place with beautiful trees and streets of gold instead of to a place with burning sulfur. In this framework God is seen only as the means to an end, not as the End Himself. Until Pascal’s Wager indicates what Heaven is really like (being in vital relationship and vibrant fellowship with God with all that entails) and what Hell is really like (the horror of being cut off from God and, thus, never finding fulfillment), it cannot be taken seriously because it doesn’t tell us what the stakes really are. And if it does tell us what these stakes are, then it will refute itself, because it will see that it is not possible to get into right relationship with God by seeing Him as a prudent bet. It will see that genuine conversion – genuine repentance and faith – is not consistent with such a “bet”.
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Let me conclude by saying that if you are the kind of person who is not content with a surface look, but who wants to “get to the bottom of things”, then you need to get and to use the necessary tool for this – The Van Til Perspective. If you don’t have this tool, you need to get it. If you have this tool, you need to use it. If you want to learn about the Van Til Perspective, I recommend the following pairs of books. Two by Van Til himself which are very helpful are his The Defense of the Faith and A Christian Theory of Knowledge. The two about Van Til I recommend are R. J. Rushdoony’s By What Standard and Robert L. Reymond’s The Justification of Knowledge. Two essay collections I recommend are Foundations of Christian Scholarship: Essays in the Van Til Perspective edited by Gary North and the Festschrift for Van Til titled Jerusalem and Athens edited by E. R. Geehan. If you enjoy thinking, you will like these books!






Forrest W. Schultz has a B.S. in Chemical Engineering degree from Drexel University and a Th.M. in Systematic Theology degree from Westminster Theological Seminary. He can be reached at 770-583-3258 or schultzf_2002@yahoo.com.


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Irenaus, The Canon of Truth, and the Battle Against Gnosticism (Review of Elaine Pagel's Beyond Belief)

Irenaeus, The Canon of Truth, and the Battle Against Gnosticism


A review of Elaine Pagels’ newly published Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas (N.Y.: Random House, 2003) ISBN 0-375-50156-8 $24.95 241 pages

By Forrest W. Schultz


I am very excited about Dr. Elaine Pagels’ latest book, Beyond Belief. It provides by far the clearest understanding of gnosticism and its contrast with christianity I have ever seen. And it particularly deals with the crucial role which Irenaeus, my favorite church father, played in explaining and defending christian doctrine, and in explaining and attacking the gnostic perversions of Christianity, which were very widespread and influential in his time.

According to Pagels, Irenaeus’ prominence was due in large part to the fact that he was the one who defined and promulgated the original meanings of the terms “orthodox” and “canon”. Unfortunately, these terms are not usually defined correctly today. The term “orthodox” is now taken to mean conventional or customary or traditional. It also often connotes stodginess, obscurantism, and lack of creativity. The term “canon” is taken to mean to list of books which the Church officially decided to include in the Bible.

The original meaning of these terms coined by Irenaeus is readily understood by a brief etymological examination of the Greek words whence they were derived. Let us look first at “orthodox”, then at “canon”.

The prefix “ortho-“ comes from the Greek adjective orthos, one of whose meanings is “straight” or “properly aligned”. There are a number of technical terms in English derived from this meaning, e.g. the dental term “orthodontics”, which means correcting abnormally aligned teeth. The suffix “-dox” is derived from the Greek noun doxa, meaning “thinking”, which in turn comes from the Greek verb dokein, “to think”. Therefore the term “orthodox” literally means “straight thinking”, “thinking that is aligned with the truth” and therefore is “on target”; and it has the kind of good connotations surrounding such colloquialisms as “straight shooting”, “straight arrow”, “straight from the shoulder”, “give it to me straight”, as distinguished from crooked or devious. It was therefore an excellent and most appropriate term to use in combating the gnostics, who tried to hide their sneakiness and crookedness behind a veneer of sophistication.

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It is clear, then, that orthodoxy is an epistemological term, not a sociological (or ecclesiological) term and it must in no way be confused with custom or convention or tradition. In fact, the more clearly the early church came to understand the thought system of orthodoxy, the more obvious it became how radically antithetical is was to the customs, conventions, and traditions both of paganism and of Talmudic Judaism, the mileaux out of which the converts to Christianity came in the early church age. And, when the Reformers in the sixteenth century began to recover the thought-system of the canon of truth, it became clear how antithetical it was to many of the customs, conventions, and traditions of the Medieval Church. In short, “straight thinking” or orthodoxy is antithetical to all false thinking, whether that thinking is traditional or revolutionary.

Now let us examine the criterion for orthodoxy, which Irenaeus called “the canon of truth”. The term “canon” is derived from the Greek noun kanon (which in Latin is canon), which refers to the measuring instruments used to insure the proper construction of a building, e.g. rulers to insure that boards are cut to the proper length, plumblines to insure that the walls are perpendicular to the foundation, etc. Irenaeus’ choice of this term, “canon of truth” was very wise, because it makes it crystal clear that orthodoxy is an epistemological term and that it is an objective matter, not a subjective one. Just as rulers and plumblines provide objective measurements in a building, so the canon of truth will provide objective truth for the church, not subjective fancy.

It was especially important in Irenaeus’ day to have and to use this canon of truth in order to identify and combat the false teachings which the gnostics were spreading within the church under the guise of christianity. It was not easy to make the distinction between gnosticism and christianity because of the tactics the gnostics employed. The gnostics often succeeded in obfuscating this distinction because they clothed their teachings in christian garb in two different ways. First, they put their teachings into books which were similar in style to the apostolic writings and similarly entitled, and then falsely claimed that these books were authored by the apostles. The so-called Gospel of Thomas is but one of many of these gnostic pseudepigrapha. Secondly, the gnostics also presented their teachings in the form of an ostensibly more advanced interpretation of the apostolic writings, which supposedly contained a higher knowledge hidden from most readers but available to those with deeper spiritual insight.

Irenaeus showed that these gnostic teachings were false because they were out of accord with the canon of truth, which is the system of interlocking doctrines taught in the apostolic preaching and the apostolic writings. It was upon this canon of truth that the apostles founded the churches and it was into this canon of truth that the Christians were baptized and it is by adhering to this canon of truth that the church will prosper and be kept from error. To forsake this canon of truth by seeking out the supposedly higher knowledge of the gnostics is to depart from the truth into apostasy (from the Greek words apo, away from + stasis, stance; thus “an away from [God] stance”).

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To summarize, the canon of truth is the thought-system of interconnected truths which comes from God through Christ, Who commissioned His apostles to proclaim it in their preaching and in their writings. These apostolic writings, when read as intended, teach the canon of truth. But this canon of truth, this divinely revealed truth system, will not be accepted as the truth by the unregenerate man, who will repudiate it in one of two ways: either he will claim that the Bible is wrong (as most of the unsaved do) or he will claim, by means of a false interpretation, that the Bible actually teaches something different (as the gnostics did). Because Irenaeus recognized this point, he never used the term “canon” to refer to the Bible, but only to the truth system taught in it, which can only be rightly understood and accepted by the humble reader who wishes to know the truth. Here once again we can see how much wiser Irenaeus was than those who came after him in church history. By perceiving this all important point, Irenaeus grasped one of the most fundamental principles of what is now called “The Van Til Perspective”. Indeed, I would go so far as to say he was the Van Til of his day, and it is for that reason that he was able to successfully battle against the gnostics.

Irenaeus not only coined the excellent term “canon of truth”, he also was one of the first to set forth some of the fundamental doctrines included in it. When looked at in retrospect, these doctrines can be considered as a prototype or nucleus of what later were, unfortunately, called “creeds” or “confessions”, beginning with the Nicene Creed in 325 A.D. I say “unfortunately” for this reason. Although the Nicene Creed and its immediate successors such as the Creed of Chalcedon, taught true doctrines, it was an egregious mistake to use the term “creed” (from the Latin, credo, meaning “ I believe”) instead of “canon of truth” as Irenaeus did, because in so doing the emphasis was shifted away from truth and onto the church’s subjective act of belief. Further, to those who have studied the church history of the time, The Nicene Creed can readily be associated with the power politics involved both in the Roman Empire and in what was unfortunately becoming an increasingly bureaucratized church. All of this tends to muddy the waters and to divert attention away from the matter of real importance, namely the truth. I suggest that we go back to Irenaeus’ conception of orthodoxy and canon and that we repudiate the perverted meanings of those terms which are accepted today. We need it to fight the battles we face in our own day.

Now let us look at precisely what it was that the gnostics taught and how it differed from straight thinking. Pagels book is very helpful here because it is based on further and better research into the real meaning of gnosticism than was available when she wrote her book The Gnostic Gospels in 1979, which was actually only a preliminary report on the gnostic writings that had been found in Nag Hammadi. One of the matters which I found confusing in her 1979 book and others I read on the subject around that time was the bewildering array of different versions of gnosticism. The diversity is so great that some even suggested abandoning the very idea of there being a category such as gnosticism. Beyond Belief, by explaining the real meaning of gnosticism, not only clears up this confusion but shows why all these different versions are inherent in its very essence.

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Unlike Christianity, which says that we need to look to Jesus Christ for light and salvation because He (alone) is The Light and The Saviour, gnosticism teaches that each of us has divine light and a divinely given capacity to save ourselves so that we should look within and discover our light (which they called a “luminous epinoia”) and our soteric ability. Since individuals differ, they will have different understandings and different ways of saving themselves. This, then, explains the diversity of thinking among the gnostics. This is the heart of the matter. The emanationist ontology with all its weird names and terms, which is what most people associate with gnosticism, was simply a theological justification for human autonomy and human autosoterism for the second century as existentialism was for the twentieth century. It is also clear that anyone who thinks that he in himself has the light and can save himself and who thinks that his interpretation of the apostolic writings constitutes a higher interpretation which he accepts due to his superior insight will tend to be arrogant and to have a “know-it-all” attitude and to regard himself as one who is “in the know”. The sarcasm involved in the phrase “know-it-all” was similar to the sarcasm involved when the term “gnostic” was used for derogation. The term “gnostic” is derived from the Greek noun gnosis, meaning “knowledge”. There is a good possibility that the New Testament term “knowledge falsely so called” may refer to gnosticism’s false claim to knowledge.

Therefore, to anyone with even this rudimentary understanding of christianity and of gnosticism, it is crystal clear that they are antithetical to each other. Therefore Irenaeus was clearly justified in his position. Surprisingly, Pagels is unwilling to grant this point. She wants to regard orthodoxy and gnosticism as variant species of Christianity. Her desire is in flagrant contradiction to the excellent research in her book which provides such a clear understanding of both christianity and gnosticism and the radical antithesis
between them. Because gnosticism is a false religion, not a variety of christianity, it must be repudiated. This means rejecting both its fallacious interpretation of the apostolic writings and its pseudepigrapha, which claim to be apostolically authored.






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Because christianity is based upon the canon of truth taught by the apostles, Irenaeus came to the obvious conclusion that it was necessary to identify and to carefully study the writings of the apostles. He began with the Gospels. Since there were four (and only four) Gospels which were apostolically authored, he drew the obvious conclusion that all four of these Gospels must be used and that only these four must be used. This conclusion is so simple and so obvious that it is amazing that no one else had done this before. Most churches at the time were using only one or two of the Gospels, and some of them were using false Gospels and some of them thought that the Gospel of John was not a true Gospel, and Tatian decided that the four Gospels should be merged into one composite Gospel. Here again Irenaeus was the pioneer in seeing what needed to be done: he insisted that all four (and only these four) Gospels be used and that they should both be maintained as separate Gospels (not conflated as Tatian did), and also that they be studied together in such a way as to contribute toward our fuller understanding of the one Gospel of Jesus Christ. He called this the “four-formed” Gospel. Pagels shows how Irenaeus places a great stress upon the Gospel of John, since it is the Gospel which emphasizes the Deity of Christ. I do not agree with Pagels when she says that only the Gospel of John teaches Christ’s Deity and that the Synoptics teach only His humanity. I agree with Arthur Pink, who says in his book Why Four Gospels (which, by the way, deserves a far wider readership) that all four of the Gospels teach Christ’s Deity, and that the Gospel of John is unique in emphasizing His Deity. Pagels, however, has an excellent discussion of how powerfully Irenaeus used the Gospel of John in his polemics against the Gnostics, which is understandable because John’s creationist prologue refutes the gnostic emanationism and Christ’s Deity is the reason for His uniqueness.

Pagels book is well written in crisp fresh language which is a pleasure to read. Her discussions of gnosticism, orthodoxy, the canon of truth, and the important role of Irenaeus is immensely helpful. As I noted, I reject her conclusion, which is clearly emotional and not rational, and which does not follow from her research, namely that gnosticism and orthodoxy are variant versions of Christianity. I also do not accept the historical-critical method which she, like all liberals, uses. I also do not accept her notion that John tried to attack The Gospel of Thomas by attacking the Apostle Thomas: this is preposterous because that book wasn’t written by Thomas. With these exceptions, I highly recommend Pagels’ book for the reasons noted. I also recommend further study on how Irenaeus can be regarded as an incipient Van Tillian and how we can re-establish the original meaning and connotation of orthodoxy and how we can use the word “canon of truth” today as Irenaeus did in his day.


Forrest W. Schultz is a graduate of Drexel University (B.S. in Chemical Engineering, 1963) and Westminster Theological Seminary (Th.M. in Systematic Theology, 1971). He can be reached at 770-583-3258 or at schultzf_2002@yahoo.com.

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Important New Book on Islam Published (A Review of Scholar Bat Yeor's magnum opus)

Important New Book on Islam Published

A review by Forrest W. Schultz of:

Bat Ye’or, Islam and Dhimmitude: Where Civilizations Collide, translated from the French by Miriam Kochan and David Littman, Madison.Teaneck, Fairleigh-Dickenson University Press, Lancaster, UK: Gazelle Book Services, Ltd., 2002

In this scholarly work the author presents a wealth of carefully documented, but little-known, information, both historical and current, about the multitudinous sufferings inflicted upon the Christian peoples (and Jews) who were conquered by Islamic invaders and subjected to the oppressions and humiliations of their consequent dhimmi status. Ye’or also shows that it was orthodox Islamic theological doctrine which provided the purpose for and the modus operandi employed both in these jihad wars and in the dhimmi-tude foisted upon the peoples conquered by them.

As bad as the orthodox Muslims appear in light of these horrendous facts, in some ways the Christians (supposed? Christians) appear even worse, because it was their division into mutually hostile ecclesiastical camps which so weakened them that it was relatively easy for the Muslims to conquer them, and then to keep them in submission. It is horrifying to read what the Muslims have done and are still doing in their jihadic and dhimmitude operations, but it is disgusting (as well as horrifying in a deeper sense) to read about the acrimonious power struggles among these churches, which so egregiously violate the most elementary principles of the Biblical Faith. One thing can be said in favor of the (orthodox) Muslims: at least they were and are doing what their religion tells them to do, which cannot be said of the Christians. The difference can be aptly summarized: the Muslims proved themselves to be true to a false faith, while the Christians proved themselves to be false to the true faith! (Of course, the Christians to whom I am referring here are those who existed before the rise of Islam. I am not referring to the recently converted Christians in Islamic lands such as Indonesia, Pakistan, and Sudan: these are very exemplary Christians.)

This book is must reading for anyone who wants to be knowledgeable about this subject, but I do not recommend it unless you are spiritually and mentally strong enough to endure reading of all the horrifying and disgusting events it presents.

There is also useful information here for anyone doing research on the subject of how Islam is a perversion of Christian Reconstruction, i.e. that jihad and dhimmitude are perversions of the Dominion Mandate, that the sharia is a perversion of Biblical Law, etc.

Adumbrations of the Van Til Perspective in the Thought of Descartes

Adumbrations Of The Van Til Perspective

In The Thought Of Descartes


Based Upon The Research Of The Noted Cartesian Scholar

Martial Guerroult Set Forth In The Second Edition Of His Descartes’

Philosophy Interpreted According To The Order of Reasons,

Volume I – The Soul And God (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota

Press, 1968), Translated By Roger Ariew in 1984


By

Forrest Wayne Schultz


Grantville, Georgia

October 12, 1994


This Paper Is Dedicated To

Cornelius Van Til

Whom God Mightily Used To Open Our Eyes To The
All-Important Truth That God Is The Only Valid Starting Point For All Predication

Introduction

To put matters into perspective here, let me begin by saying that I have long regarded the thought of Rene’ Descartes as a very “mixed bag”. On the one hand, he deserves great praise for developing the Cartesian co-ordinate system of Analytic Geometry, an indispensable mathematical tool and visual aid. On the other hand, his body/soul dichotomy has wrought enormous harm from which we have yet to recover. His emphasis on the need for ideas to be clear and distinct needs to be heard loud and clear as a corrective to the current muddleheadedness, but his supposition that clarity and distinctness alone is sufficient to guarantee an idea’s veracity is preposterous in the extreme, though not to be unexpected from a rationalistic idealist. His desire to free gravitational theory from the embarrassment of action at a distance was laudable, but the alternate version he proposed – a continuous omnipresent matter – was a far-fetched purely rationalistic construct in flagrant violation of the facts. Even more far-fetched was his ludicrous, unscriptural notion of a continuous creation of the world complete with an infinitesimal mathematical conceptualization akin to cinematography, for which, I guess, therefore, he should be credited as inventor! But, I suppose, his greatest (albeit unintentional) contribution to humor was to be found in his notion that (I kid you not!) the soul was located in the pineal gland !!

I suppose, however, that the thing for which Descartes is best known and most ridiculed is his proof of his own existence enshrined in his famous formulation: cogito; ergo sum, i.e. “I think; therefore I am”. There probably have been more jokes and “take-offs” pertaining to this than to anything else in philosophy. The one I best remember from my college days was about the physicist who proved his own existence by observing that he displaced water when he got into the bath tub: “I displace water; therefore I am”. My own contribution to the stock of “cogito” humor is this: “Rene’ put de’ cart before de’ horse”.

But, after having read the book by Martial Guerroult noted on the Title Page, I now see the need to take Descartes a bit more seriously concerning this “cogito” matter in light of his epistemological purpose. As Guerroult guides us through Descartes’ epistemology, we learn something very interesting: (1). Descartes had discovered the basic principle of the Van Til Perspective, but (2). His “order of reasons” is inconsistent with it. Guerroult does not put much stress upon this nor does he mention Van Til, but he does supply ample evidence to indicate that the gist of the Van Til Perspective was clearly recognized by Descartes, although he violated it in the logical sequence of his architectonic.



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Guerroult’s research is regarded by contemporary French Cartesian scholars as a masterpiece that has profoundly affected their work, chiefly by directing it into an architectonic methodology (the one Descartes insisted was needed to understand his thought) and away from the in vacuo topic-by-topic approach which had previously dominated Cartesian studies. (See the rear jacket of the book and its translator’s introduction.) For this reason the book is an excellent source for the study I am undertaking in this paper. All of my page references will be to this book, which, by the way, I highly recommend to anyone interested in matters Cartesian.

In this paper I shall first set forth the Van Tillian adumbrations in Descartes’ thought which were brought to light by Guerroult. Then I shall note how Descartes’ order of reasons is logically inconsistent with these Van Tillian principles. Finally, I shall demonstrate the futility of any attempted escape from this inconsistency by means of an appeal to the distinction between the “order of being” (ratio essendi) and the “order of knowing” (ratio cognoscendi).

The Van Tillian Adumbrations

According to Guerroult, Descartes recognized that his knowledge of himself as imperfect presupposed the existence of perfection, i.e. God [p. 158], so that, strictly speaking, our knowledge of God is logically prior to our knowledge of our mind [p. 162]. Man is dependent upon God, and God put the certainty of His existence into the human mind. [p. 160] The truth and certainty of all science depends upon the knowledge of God: before I know God I cannot know anything else. [p. 162] God is the first principle of valid science. [p. 165] If my mind were not prejudiced, there would be nothing I would recognize sooner and more easily than Him. [p. 163] “The intrinsic evidence of God, which is the greatest evidence of all, imposes the greatest absolute certainty , and serves as ultimate foundation for the certainty of the cogito.” [p. 168] All truth depends upon God. [p. 241]

It is within this presupposed theistic framework that the significance of the Cartesian “hyperbolic doubt” must be seen. That is, Descartes, in a manner similar to Van Til, says that if God did not exist, then maybe the world was created by an evil genius who is trying to deceive us, and, if so, then we can’t be sure of knowing anything with certainty. However, this hyperbolically doubting cogito – this cogito detached from God – is a hypothetical denatured inauthentic cogito (the real cogito is bound to God) which is introduced to show that universal skepticism would be the result of atheism, and that only on the basis of God’s existence is any certainty possible. [p. 172] {Descates did not originate this idea of a deceiving evil genius creator; it was a notion discussed by certain medieval theologians. [p. 23] Van Til, though, usually sets the creation of the world by God into antithetic contrast to the notion of its origination by chance, because this is the predominant world view in modern Western culture. Chance, of course, like a malevolent deity, provides no basis for certitude.}


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The Inconsistency

Now if Descates had constructed his order of reasons in accord with the abovementioned insights, then he would have had the honor of originating what we now call the Van Til Perspective. Unfortunately these Van Tillian insights lie buried within Descartes’ writing rather than being the basis for the construction of his architectonic. What is truly amazing about this is that Descartes clearly recognized that God needs to be presupposed in order to construct proofs for the existence of God, and yet he goes right ahead and constructs them anyway! The principles upon which Descartes, beginning with the cogito, erects his theistic proofs all “emanate directly from the true light of God”; indeed “If beginning with the cogito, we can rise to the level of God, upon which the cogito is in fact founded, that is possible only with the help of the true light”: “The demonstration of the true God must necessarily rest on principles actually established in Him.” [p. 172] “But the demonstration requires us to pretend to deny it…a demonstration that, implying the true light coming from God, claims not to presuppose it.” [p. 173]

This is an astounding admission! For, if God needs to be presupposed to prove God, then the so-called proof is fallacious because it begs the question. Descartes, fully recognizing this, nonetheless proceeds to construct his theistic proofs – an astonishing inconsistency in a thinker who places such stress upon clarity and logical rigor!

It also needs to be said that even Descartes’ supposed proof of his own existence is fallacious, because if the existence of God is doubted, then we have no grounds upon which to be certain that logic itself is cognitively trustworthy, thus rendering doubtful the conclusions of all arguments, including, “I think; therefore I am”. Thus, in his auto-existence proof, as well as in his theo-existence proof, Descartes has to pretend to deny or claim not to presuppose that which he, in his Van Tillian moments, recognized the need to presuppose, namely the existence of God as the only basis for knowledge. In his Van Tillian moments he rightly sees that the cart is behind the horse. But in his auto- & theo- existence proofs he puts the cart before the horse. The horse must pull the cart. The cart cannot pull the horse.

What is perhaps most surprising about Descartes’ question-begging in his theistic proofs is that he emphatically opposes the practice of question-begging when he sets forth the principle purportedly underlying his order of reasons. In a statement directly quoted by Guerroult, Descartes says, “The order consists solely in that the propositions laid down first must be known without the aid of those that follow, and that those that follow must be so arranged that they are shown to be true solely by the propositions that precede.” [p. 6] Now if the truth of the existence of God is necessarily the very first proposition whence all others ultimately emanate, which Descartes in his Van Tillian moments rightly affirms, then his attempt to prove the existence of God constitutes a flagrant violation of the rule for the order of reasons which Descartes rightly says must be followed. And Guerroult clearly sees this and yet fails to reprove Descartes for his egregiously illogical reasoning, a glaring omission in a book specifically devoted to an analysis of Descartes based on the order of reasons! -3-
The Order of Being and The Order of Knowing

The justification given by Descartes and Guerroult for this inconsistency is an appeal to the distinction between the order of being (ratio essendi) and the order of knowing (ratio cognoscendi). In reference to the relationship between God and the human mind, Descartes draws the distinction between these two orders in this way: although God (as His own foundation and as the foundation for all creaturely beings) is first in the order of being, the human mind is first in the order of knowing because it is what I know first and is that from which I derive the knowledge of the existence of God. [pp. 8 – 10] This same ploy is used by contemporary rationalistic apologetes, such as R. C. Sproul, who attempt to justify having an epistemological starting point (something other than God) different from the ontological starting point (God), and on that basis seek to justify the construction of theistic proofs. There are two reasons why this argument will not remove the logical inconcistency in Descartes’ thought.

First, and most obviously, in the references provided above, Descartes recognizes that God is first in the order of knowing as well as in the order of being. {Please go back and re-read them if you are not sure this is the case.}

Secondly, it is fallacious to place the knowledge of God at any other place than first in the order of knowing, because without knowing that God exists, nothing else whatever can be known with certitude. As I already mentioned, without presupposing the existence of God, I cannot be certain of the epistemic utility of logic itself, which means I cannot be sure of framing any argument, including “I think, therefore I am”. If I deny or am uncertain of the existence of God, then doubt becomes not just hyperbolic, but absolutely universal with no exceptions at all! There is no protected island of certainty within the cogito, as Descartes assumes, because maybe the evil genius created it with inbuilt deceptions.

One more thing needs to be said in closing and that is that God is not just No. 1 on the epistemic order list but that He also is the One who arranges the list itself and is the very basis of the ordering of the list. As such, He is in a class by Himself.

Coda

Ratio Cognoscendi: Deus est; ergo sum; ergo cogito.

Deo Sola Gloria. Finis.

Forrest W. Schultz holds a B.S in Chemical Engineering degree from Drexel University and a Th.M. in Systematic Theology degree from Westminster Theological Seminary. He can be reached by email at schultzf_2002@yahoo.com or by phone at 770-583-3258.

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Christian Identity: its Beliefs Are Bizarre But Its People Are Normal

“Christian Identity”: Its Beliefs Are Bizarre But Its People are Normal

A review of Soldiers of God: White Supremacists and Their Holy War for America by Howard Bushart, John Craig, and Myra Barnes (N.Y.: Kensington Books, 1998)

By Forrest W. Schultz

If you want an accurate portrayal of the “Christian Identity” adherents and their beliefs I highly recommend the book under review here. In order to insure this accuracy the authors spent many hours interviewing – and even living with – the Christian Identity adherents (and similar white supremacist groups) and reading their literature. Their report is based almost entirely upon these direct observations and direct quotations from these interviews and these writings.

When I first heard of Christian Identity I thought it was merely a new name for “British Israelism”. Such is not the case. Christian Identity is much worse!! It has concocted a bizarre theological infrastructure to support a militant anti-semitic white supremacism. Although the Christian Identity people claim to believe in the inspiration, authority, and inerrancy of the Bible, their theological distinctives are not only radically unscriptural, but also constitute one of the looniest and most ludicrous thought-systems I have ever come across! (And I do a lot of reading!)

The unscriptural elements of Christian Identity are focused in its anthropology (doctrine of man). According to the Christian Identity anthropology, Adam was the progenitor only of the white race; only members of the white race have a spirit: members of the lower non-white races are the “beasts of the field” of Gen 1:24 and they only have a body & soul but no spirit; and the Jews are descended from Cain, who was produced by sexual intercourse between Satan and Eve, and thus are “Satan’s seed”: devilish and incorrigible workers of iniquity. In short, the Christian identity theologians have done for white racism what Elijah Mohammed did for black racism, namely provide a theological anthropology to justify it and motivate it.

There is also a similarity between the theology of these two racisms which might escape the notice of most people but which is readily discernable by anyone who is familiar with and appreciative of the science fiction and fantasy genres, and who realizes how powerful these genres can be in communicating ideas and world-views. Although, of course, they were not intending to write fiction, it is clear that the anthropology of Elijah Mohammed (the white race produced by an evil scientist) is science fiction, and that the anthropology of Christian Identity is fantasy. Additional fantasy elements in Christian Identity are found in the mythology incorporated into its historiography: e.g. the supposed exploits of the Tribe of Dan in ancient Europe and the notion that the Stone of Scone is Jacob’s Beth El pillar brought to the British Isles by the Prophet Jeremiah. As an aside, and to give another example of this, it is interesting to note that Mormonism is based both on fantasy (the Angel Moroni and the Golden Tablets) and science fiction (Mormons in the afterlife will be astronauts colonizing outer space and populating it with their descendants). –1-
It is very unfortunate that, despite its clearly unbiblical teachings, that Christian Identity might possibly be confused with Christian Reconstruction because it too believes in the contemporary applicability of Biblical Law! Christian Identity is also appealing to some of the same people as Christian Reconstruction is, namely those who are concerned about the current decadence and who see the solution lying in a return to God and His laws and principles. This points up the need for a rigorous definition of Christian Reconstruction as a belief in the application of all of Scripture, not just the Law. If, of course, as is usually the case, the contrast is being made with mainstream Protestant conservatism, then the distinguishing feature of Christian Reconstruction is belief in Biblical Law. However, since the total American religious scene includes groups such as Christian Identity, which believes in Biblical Law but is heterodox in its doctrine of man, then it behooves us, for the sake of avoiding confusion, to emphasize that Christian Reconstructionists are adherents to the principle of the applicability of all of Scripture, not just the Law. The table below depicts this state of affairs: unlike mainstream Protestant conservatism, which is orthodox in anthropology (man) but heterodox in nomology (law), and Christian Identity, which is heterodox in anthropology but orthodox in nomology; Christian Reconstruction is orthodox in both.

_______________________________________________________________________

Christian Identity Mainstream Conservatism Christian Reconstruction

heterodox anthropology orthodox anthropology orthodox anthropology

orthodox nomology heterodox nomology orthodox nomology



Before I conclude I would like to issue a warning: do not be deceived into supposing that we can take the Christian Identity movement lightly because of its preposterous theology. It is not only growing, but it also now has some well-educated theologians and scholars and pastors in its ranks. Also, unlike so many of these studies, which attempt to explain the origination and acceptance of these bizarre beliefs as due to an aberrant psychology, the Soldiers of God report indicates that these people are surprisingly normal! And that is scary!

Research into Christian Identity is not easy because most of the written materials needed are not available in libraries and book stores: in most cases they need to be obtained directly from Christian Identity groups. The Soldiers if God book is helpful because it provides a list of these materials and where they may be obtained.


Forrest W. Schultz has degrees from Drexel University (B.S. in Chemical Engineering, 1963) and Westminster Theological Seminary (Th.M. in Systematic Theology, 1971). He can be reached at 770-583-3258 or schultzf_2002@yahoo.com.
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Review of John Grisham's The Testament

A Holistic Missionary and Her Holographic Will


Introducing John Grisham’s The Testament (N.Y.: Doubleday, 1999)


By Forrest W. Schultz


I have been an avid fan of John Grisham’s legal thrillers for a long time. One of my favorites is The Testament , which I recently re-read. Perhaps its most outstanding feature is its refreshingly realistic and edifying portrayal of a lively devout missionary – a portrayal which avoids both the “plaster saint” hagiography often found in Christian writing and the derogatory depictions frequently penned by mainstream authors.

Missionary Rachel Lane is the illegitimate daughter of eccentric super-rich businessman Troy Phelan – a fact kept secret by both him and her until it is dramatically revealed when he leaves the bulk of his eleven billion dollar estate to her in his will, thereby astonishing everyone and enraging his eight legitimate (but super-degenerate) children, who hired crooked attorneys to contest the will. Phelan’s legal firm then dispatches one of its lawyers – the avid outdoorsman Nate O’Reilly – to find Miss Lane, which he finally does after a series of adventures in a Brazilian jungle.

Lane is clearly the heroine throughout the story but O’Reilly does not fully become the hero until he responds favorably to the Gospel she presents to him while seated on a log outside her missionary hut near the Indian tribe to which she is ministering. After returning to America, O’Reilly begins the process of trying to remedy the ravages wrought by his sins in his own life and in the lives of his children and his two divorced wives, following the guidance and upheld by the prayers of an elderly godly Episcopalian pastor. O’Reilly’s response to Lane stands in sharp contrast to that of Phelan, who only saw her as a worthy recipient of his estate – he did not try to discover what it was that made her such an admirable person and how he could become one himself.

After wrestling with the question for a while, Lane finally decides to deal with the estate by putting it into a trust fund to be disbursed for missionary, evangelistic, and eleemosynary causes and also for efforts to protect the rights of the indigenous tribes of South America; and she names O’Reilly as Executor. Lane is very concerned about the horrendous mistreatment suffered by the South American Indians and their consequent mistrust of “civilized” people, which makes missionary work among them so difficult. From Grisham’s portrait of Lane as a person and as a missionary, she could perhaps be most succinctly described as a “holistic” missionary and person.



As in all his novels, Grisham draws upon his experiences as a lawyer, and he presents us with interesting vividly depicted characters and actions and powerful (often witty) indictments of the deplorable features of modern life. In The Testament he also draws upon the missiological knowledge he acquired from his friend Carl King, a Baptist missionary, and from the ecological knowledge gained from the tour King gave him of the Pantanel region of Brazil, where he locates Lane’s mission field.

Grisham’s novels provide a legal education of sorts. In The Testament Grisham uses a legal term I had never heard before, and may be confusing to anyone like me who comes from a scientific background. Both Phelan’s will and Lane’s will are said by Grisham to be “holographic”. Since Grisham does not define the term for the reader I looked it up in Tormont Webster’s dictionary, which says that it pertains to “a document written wholly in the handwriting of the person whose signature it bears”. So, a “holographic” will is one written not by the testator’s lawyer but by the testator himself. Because a will is such a highly personal matter and because both Phelan and Lane were such strong personalities, it is perhaps fitting that their testaments were written by themselves in their own handwriting.

Since Lane and Phelan are such strong personalities, Grisham is able to use them to dramatically portray a contemporary exemplification of the contrast between godliness and wickedness. Lane exemplified godliness through her dedicated humble service to a remote people far from the comforts of civilization, subsisting on a salary far below what she could earn as a medical doctor in America. Phelan exemplified wickedness through his nastiness, his greed, and his neglect of his wives and children. Phelan provides an apt depiction of the worship of Mammon because he uses almost all the money he earns to make more money and to build an ever-larger business empire, i.e. money for him is an end in itself (and thus an idol) rather than a means toward other ends. In contrast, Lane puts the money she inherits into a fund to be used to help others in a God-honoring way.

Further indications of Lane’s godliness are seen in her humble willingness to accede to O’Reilly’s counsel to accept the inheritance, so it could be used for godly purposes. At first Lane told O’Reilly that she did not want the money. O’Reilly responds by arguing that if she does not accept the money (and use it wisely), that it will probably end up in the hands of the degenerate children, who will use it foolishly. After O’Reilly leaves, Lane devotes time to thought and prayer about it and finally concludes that O’Reilly was right. Lane’s thinking moved away from a pietistic aversion to money (and power) and toward the dominion mandate outlook in which one takes dominion over money by using it to serve God. Her concluding position was, of course, also in line with her maturing, ever more consistent holistic outlook, in which she becomes concerned about all the aspects of life because God Himself is concerned about all of them. In short, the first indication that Lane’s final decision was godly was that she chose the godly path. The second indication of Lane’s godliness here is the humility involved in her willingness to accept (finally) the counsel of O’Reilly, who was a mere babe in Christ (and her convert, no less!), while she had been a Christian for many years and a recipient of much Christian education and training.




It appears that Grisham may also be providing a contemporary example of the Biblical principle that (either in the long or short run, in this case the short run) the wealth of the wicked ends up passing into the hands of the righteous. Here again Grisham is dramatic in his portrayal: suddenly eleven billion dollars goes from a wicked person to a righteous person! So, not only is the wicked person exceedingly wicked and the righteous person exceedingly righteous, but the amount of money passing from the wicked to the righteous one is exceedingly large! Almost all churches and other Christian organizations today complain about insufficient funds. But suppose we were suddenly to have at our disposal a windfall like Phelan’s eleven billion dollars. How many are there among us who would have enough wisdom to know what to do with it? Perhaps this is why Grisham ends his story shortly after the creation of the fund with only hints of how it would specifically be used. The specifics in the fund’s disbursement and the reasons behind them would be so complex as to warrant an entirely separate book or series of books.