The Antithesis as a Cornerstone of Christian Life and Action

By the antithesis is meant the fundamental contrast, division, and antagonism between the people of God and those who are of the world, between the thinking of those who are Christians and those who are not, between the activities of Kingdom workers and those outside the Kingdom of God.


The antithesis is the result of the existence of two diametrically opposed forces in the human race. The one is man’s sin, the other God’s grace. If either of these forces had not entered the world, there would have been no antithesis. If sin had not come, all of man’s thoughts and actions would be pleasing to God and mankind would be one under God. If after the entrance of sin God had not caused his grace to enter the hearts of some, all of man’s thoughts and actions would have been antagonistic to God.

The antithesis dates from the day, after Adam’s fall, when God said: “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: he shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.”

This enmity or hostility is produced by God, not by man. It does not justify or imply halTed on the part of believers against their fellowmen, but it does mean that there is a division, an ineradicable line of separation, between the party of God and the party of Satan. That division puts an unbridgeable gulf between the ideals and strivings of believers on the one hand and unbelievers on the other.


The proclamation of the law of God at Mt. Sinai made the contrast between right and wrong sharper than it was before. The coming of Christ made it still sharper. It deepened the line of cleavage between the church and the world. Jesus stressed this when he exclaimed: “I came not to send peace but a sword.” Again: “Think ye that I am come to give peace on the earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division: for there shall be from henceforth five in one house divided. three against two and two against three. They shall be divided, father against son, and son against father; mother against daughter and daughter against her mother; mother in law against her daughter in law, and daughter in law against her mother in law.”


We see that the antithesis will be found even in the home. the most intimate of all human institutions. It will not be seen in the home where everyone is a true Christian, nor in the home where everyone is an unregenerate person. However. it is bound to be seen in a home of the world where God enters with his grace into the heart of one or more in that home without snving all its members; and it is also seen in that Christian home where one or more have chosen the side of the evil one and live a life of sin.


Education is an area closely related to the home. The school is to an extent an elongation of the home. Here if anywhere Christians and nonChristians must part company. The Christian home needs the Christian school for the completion of its God-given task to train the child in the way he should go.

It is impossible for the state to provide for our children the kind of training which their covenant God demands for them. We do not belong to those who hold that no Christian should under any circumstances teach in a public school. Let us be concerned about the millions of pupils in these schools who wilt be our citizens tomorrow but who receive no worthwhile instruction in moral principles unless they have at least some close contact with teachers whose Christian example and occasional trustworthy references to religion and morality in classroom teaching and discussion may serve to intensify those “glimmerings of natural light” in the unsaved whereby they “retain some knowledge of God, of natural things, and of the difference between good and evil, and show some regard for virtue and for good outward behavior” (Canons of Dort, Ch. III–IV, Article 4).

At the same time it must be plain as day that no Christian can begin to give free expression to his or her Christian convictions in a public school. And it should be just as plain that the Christian school is an absolute necessity for the children of Christian parents. Some object to the Christian school on the ground that by separating our children from others we are dividing the nation. The Biblical answer is that this division is not only inevitable but willed by God.

Without Christian schools, good Christian schools, our Christian homes will crumble, our churches will not continue to flourish, and in time our people of Reformed persuasion will lose their distinctiveness and be absorbed by the sects or swallowed up by the world.


The antithesis is seen even in the visible-church. One of the most serious objections against modem ecumenism is that it refuses or fails to acknowledge that the church, and the various denominations which compose the church, have a perpetual conflict within their own bosom. There is a true church and a false church and that false church may not be merely a religious organization distinct from a true church; both may be wrapped up in one and the same denomination. One congregation may be on the side of the seed of the serpent while another congregation of the same communion, located perhaps in the same city, may be on the side of the Seed of the Woman, namely Christ. Therefore every movement for the union of all churches, or of all Protestant churches only, is based on a false premise, namely, that the church is essentially a visible institution and that every church which professes to believe in Christ is part of the true church of Christ.




In the field of science the antithesis between faith and unbelief should not be ignored. Even in Christian circles there is often no recognition of the fact that there is a gulf which cannot be bridged between a science which proceeds from basic Christian suppositions and a science which is motivated, consciously or unconsciously, by hostility to the truth of God as revealed in nature and in Scripture. How often it is said that “science” teaches this or that. Strictly speaking. there is no such thing as a neutral science. Science, both as a presentation of facts and as an interpretation of those facts, proceeds either from Christian or non-Christian attitudes and presuppositions.

If anyone has doubts on this score he should read what Dr. Abraham Kuyper writes in part two of his most scientific work: Encyclopaedia of Sacred Theology, particularly the chapter that deals with A Two-fold Science (Tweeerlei Wetenschap). Dr. Kuyper argues that as there are two kinds of people, regenerate and unregenerate, there are also two kinds of science: Christian and non-Christian. There are many things which Christian and non-Christian scientists have in common; nevertheless, “regeneration brings this about that the one group of persons is fundamentally different from the other, and every endeavor to understand one another, or to harmonize the difference of viewpoint in regard to any point of investigation in which this difference plays a part, will be found in vain” (p. 107–translation mine–X). Dr. Kuyper continues by stating that there was a time when the unregenerate, in their scientific endeavor, were controlled in their basic conceptions by the truths of special revelation, as for example the creation and the fall of man. But today evolution has been substituted for creation and therefore it is no longer possible for the two groups of scientists to cooperate in their scientific labors. We quote again: “He who builds on the foundation of Creation and thinks that he is still laying brick on the same wall as the one who proceeds from Evolution reminds one of Sisyphus. No matter how often the stone is rolled to the top of the hill it is bound to roll down again” (p. 111, 112).


Theology too is a science. In fact, it has often been called the queen of sciences. But here too we find the antithesis. There is a theology which is built on the foundation of the Bible as the inspired Word of God. But over against it and radically opposed to it are the many theologies which make human reason or experience the infallible test of all theories concerning God and man, Christ and the Church, the world and human life. We know of no area where the division between the two parties is as sharp as in the field of theology. For that reason we fail to see the consistency of conservative seminaries like our own belonging to associations which seek to be inclusive and which are usually controlled by the liberals. Here if anywhere the line of the antithesis should be drawn sharply and without hesitancy by those who hold to the Bible as the infallible Word of God over against those who deny it and do not fail to show their contempt for those whom they accuse of “bibliolatry.”

We do not speak of the antithesis as the cornerstone but as a cornerstone of Christian life and action. However, it is indispensable for effective Christian activity in all realms of life not only in those areas which are most closely identified with religion: the home, the church, and theology.


The antithesis exists also in that broad domain called Society. There are social organizations in which believers can cooperate with unbelievers without betraying their religious principles and convictions, as for example in a neighborhood improvement association—although even in such a restricted field Christians may create resentment by insisting on the avoidance of means and measures which conflict with sound religious and moral principles. Common grace makes some cooperation of a limited nature with non-Christians possible. Respect for religion, sense of decency, and “some regard for virtue and for good outward behavior” (Canons of Dort, Ch. III–IV, Article 4) on the part of the unregenerate make such limited cooperation a possibility.

However, in most social. organizations important issues will arise which reveal irreconcilability of viewpoint between Christians and non-Christians. That is particularly true of organizations which concern themselves with the most fundamental needs and relationships of men, as for example labor unions. As a rule cooperation in this and many other so-called neutral organizations is possible only at the cost of a surrender or denial of Christian principles and convictions.


In the political field the division, the antithesis, between believers and unbelievers is often ignored or forgotten. That is true especially in our country where the line between faith and unbelief is not so sharply drawn as in many other lands. Moreover, in the United States only the two leading political parties seem to have any chance of success at the polls, at least as far as federal and state issues are concerned. Nevertheless, there are great political issues in which consistent Christians and non-Christians are bound to differ, as for example the question whether the federal government should subsidize and ultimately control our public school system. One urgent need today is a first class Christian magazine, with nation-wide coverage, which is devoted exclusively to the discussion of fundamental political issues in the light of the Word of God. We may well pray for the realization of this ideal.

Meanwhile all Christians, especially those of Calvinistic convictions, should participate in matters pertaining to rural and municipal government. They should not be satisfied with merely casting their ballots on every election day but should endeavor to become a force to be reckoned with by politicians. But that requires organization. However, before we can ever have separate, successful Christian political organizations on a local level we shall have to engage in more general and persistent study of political problems as they affect local areas, especially our municipalities. It is tragic that in many of our smaller and medium-size cities Christians of orthodox convictions make their influence count for so little. Have we no zeal for civic righteousness, for clean politics, for the glorification of Christ our King in the life of the nation? Shame on us if we fail to be the salt of the earth, collectively as well as individually, and to let the light of God’s revelation shine on the problems of the day that can be understood and solved only in that light.


The antithesis must come to the fore also in the fields of literature. art, and music. While in former centuries the fine arts were dominated by the spirit of Christianity, they are today controlled by the spirit of secularism and revolt against Christian standards and Christian principles. Some modern writers grovel in the gutters of profanity, immorality, and mockery of religion and the church.

Much of modern art spurns the standards of real beauty and revels in the ugly splashes of paint that portray nothing, say nothing, and mean nothing except to the artist himself as the arbitrary, fitful expression of the feverish impulses of a mind at war with itself.

The same trend is noticeable in some of the music of our day. We shall not attempt to characterize the popular music which many people pretend to enjoy. We find it hard to believe that it really pleases them unless their taste for beauty and harmony is perverted to such an extent that they actually relish sounds that are discordant and harsh.


Is all this a sign that our civilization is decaying, that men are turning away from the refinements of a former age and reverting to standards that prevail among savages and primitive peoples?

Some students of literature take pride in imitating authors who spurn all rules whose observance is essential to good writing, and take delight in crudities that once were regarded as the earmarks of ignorance. Or they use language as a means to conceal their thoughts so that no one but themselves can understand what they say,

The same trend is found today in painting. The hideous distortions in color which are called art are no better than the crude pictures of children or the blotches of color made by the ape shown not too long ago on a well known television show. Recently a South American artist was featured on a popular television panel whose pictures shown to the audience were made by gobs of paint flung against a revolving wheel. A few weeks later on that same program a teacher of music in one of New York’s music schools entertained the viewers with an original “composition” performed on a bath-tub, a steaming kettle, a toy whistle, a water pitcher, a sprinkling can, and similar instruments. This teacher defined music as being simply sound. Perhaps he would denominate also the yelping of dogs and the clatter of breaking dishes as music.

We realize that such extreme examples of art and music are not fair samples of what is deemed modern in these fields. Nevertheless, they indicate a certain trend, a tendency to revert to the primitive and to imitate not the best but the worst of what is found in heathen society.

Such a reversion to the pattern of the primitive poses a threat to the church. Much of the religious music of our day is an offense to good taste and defiles the house of God. Many hymns express cheap sentiment and in some instances are bald imitations of the music of the dance hall and the night club.

What can we do to oppose this trend? We shall have to depend chiefly on our Christian teachers to instill in our children a love for true art and good music. Experience proves that children can learn to appreciate the best in music. Teachers, we depend on you to keep the musical standards of the church high! Our ministers too should have some instruction, while still in college, in music appreciation. Happily, many of them do take courses in music and will doubtless help to raise the musical standards of our people.