The question which we discuss tonight is beyond any doubt important and serious. The fact that so many are gathered. here tonight is an indication of deep concern for the problem of entertainment in the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The problem may be considered from more than one point of view. It is, for example, in some denominations, and particularly in the Christian Reformed church, an ecclesiastical problem. By that I refer to the fact that it is a problem which has been officially considered and upon which decisions have been made by ecclesiastical assemblies. As all of you know, in 1928 the Synod of the Christian Reformed Church passed some decisions in which various types of entertainment were condemned as being incompatible with the life of the child of God in the midst of the world. But in recent years the Synod of the Christian Reformed Church has overturned those decisions and has officially put its stamp of approval on dancing and movie-attendance.
But even though the problem may be an ecclesiastical one in some circles, it may very really be a personal and practical one in any circle of believers. It is not my intention tonight to dwell at length upon what I consider to be the error of the decisions of the Synod of the Christian Reformed Church when it condoned dancing and movie-attendance. The danger is very real that a lengthy analysis of those decisions would leave us at ease in Zion and would be conducive to our failing to recognize that the problem is very real in our own fellowship. It may not be an ecclesiastical problem with us as Protestant Reformed Churches, and as a matter of fact, we know that it is not. It is not even a problem with the preaching because, insofar as I know the preaching, the preaching is constantly warning against the dangers of worldly entertainment as it has made its inroads into the lives of the people of God. But the problem is, nevertheless, very real. And the problem is very real because no one here would deny the fact that, although as far as the doctrinal principles are involved, we stand foursquare upon the Word of God there is nevertheless a very troubling discrepancy between our confession which we make with our mouths and the confession which we make with our lives. The problem is very real for all of us: for you and for me, for our children, and for our young people.
If we analyze the problem, then at its deepest root the problem is one of an understanding of the truth of the antithesis. If the problem of worldly entertainment in the church arises out of doctrinal aberration, this is because of the fact that the doctrines of the antithesis have been compromised. But, if on the other hand, the doctrine is sound but practice is wrong and the world has made inroads into the church, then it is because the doctrine which we confess with our mouths no longer is a doctrine which is expressed in the lives we walk in the world. The antithesis may be maintained as far as the principle is concerned, but it is in fact denied in our lives.
Therefore, two things are required of us. First of all, it is required of us that we understand clearly and concisely what the doctrine of the antithesis is. And, secondly, we must know and will to put it into practice. Already back in 1936 Rev. Hoeksema, in an article in the Standard Bearer on the subject of the antithesis, made what I would almost call a prophetic comment:
“And, therefore, we are truly Protestant Reformed according as we will the antithesis. If we do not will it, a head full of knowledge about Protestant Reformed principles will be of no avail.”
It is, therefore, by means of a discussion of the truth of the antithesis that I want to analyze the entertainment problem. Our doctrine must be right, first of all. If our doctrine is right, then we know on what basis we stand. But, we must also will the antithesis, and all the doctrine in the world means nothing unless the will to live antithetically is present with us. It is only then, by means of a sharp defense of the truth of the antithesis and by a will to live it, that the tidal waves of worldly corruption are stemmed. If we deny the antithesis, either in doctrine or in life, then worldliness, carnality, and the evils of men about us, sweep over the church to engulf hers and to destroy her.
THE IDEA OF THE ANTITHESIS
Our first question is, therefore: What precisely does Scripture mean when it speaks of the antithesis?
The word antithesis comes from two other words: the preposition “anti,” which means, “against”; and the noun “thesis,” which means, “that which is set forth.” If, for example, one is writing a paper or an essay on a particular subject, then any good English composition teacher will say that it is important, first of all, to have a thesis which will be a positive, concise statement of the main idea to be developed. But if that subject is to be developed properly, then it will be necessary also to propose what would be called the antithesis, that is, that which takes the opposite position from the thesis, that which is against the thesis. That is always important because it is by means of the negative that the positive can be truly developed.
However, when we speak of the antithesis, we apply that term to the moral, ethical life of man in the world. Man is created to live in a moral and ethical relation to God. That means that there is, about his life and his calling in the world, something positive and something negative. God wills it that way. God wills that man’s calling in the world have a positive and a negative aspect to it.
This was already true of Adam in Paradise. God planted, in the middle of the garden of Paradise, the tree of life. And God commanded Adam to eat of that tree of life. To eat of that tree of life constituted for Adam the heart and core of his positive calling in relation to God. He was to obey God as God’s representative in the midst of God’s creation; he was to keep the garden in which God had placed him; he was to subdue the earth; he was to live in all the relationships of life out of the principle of obedience to God. But that in itself was not sufficient for Adam to express obedience to God. And so God placed in the midst of the garden, in addition to the tree of life, the tree of the knowledge of the good and the evil. And concerning that tree, God said to Adam, “That tree is off bounds for you. That tree you are forbidden to eat. That tree must. represent to you this aspect of your calling, that there is always a negative side to it. There is always a certain No that you must say.” Adam’s obedience to, God in this respect, therefore, required of Adam that he always, in saying “Yes” to God, say “No” to that which is disobedient, “No.” to that which is opposed to God. He must say “No” to sin, “No” to the devil, who had fallen from heaven and who was already plotting the overthrow of man.
It is an interesting and important question why this is true, why God wanted man’s obedience to consist of this negative side as well as the positive side. Why is it that God was not content, so to speak, simply to give a positive command to Adam? Why is it that God insisted that there had to be, along with that positive command, a negative prohibition, so that Adam’s life of obedience was positive as well as negative?
The answer to that question is important because it really leads us to the heart of what the idea of the antithesis is.
We must proceed, at this point, from God Himself and from God’s own purpose. When God determined to reveal Himself, God determined to reveal Himself, of course, as the God of light, the God of infinite perfection, the God of holiness—pure unblemished holiness. And God determined that the revelation of the light of His infinite perfections could best be shown against the background of darkness. I would almost say that this is a fundamental principle of all of God’s work. Even in the creation itself, when God determined to reveal Himself through all the things which His hands had formed, He created the day and the night so that the glories and splendors of the day could be seen and understood and appreciated only against the background, and in contrast with, the night. In Paradise, as God created man as the highest revelation of His glory, God ordained that the same fundamental principle ought to hold, that the glory of God’s holiness and righteousness with which God had endowed man, would shine forth in man’s life of obedience against the dark background of the disobedience which God forbade. The clarity, the sharpness of a. life of obedience could be seen only when it stood, so to speak, against the background of disobedience. It stands to reason that that was not very clear in the garden of Eden; and it was not very clear simply because of the fact that until Satan tempted man to fall, there was still no real disobedience in Paradise. There was the possibility in the tree of the knowledge of the good and the evil, but disobedience itself was not yet present in the garden. It is for that reason that also the fall of man is, after all, under God’s sovereign control. I do not want to argue that point tonight because that would carry us too far away from our subject. But, nevertheless, the Scriptures are clear on that, and anyone who firmly believes in the truth of the absolute sovereignty of God will not make the mistake of saying that the fall of man was a sad mistake which God had not anticipated and over which He had no control; and therefore was, in effect, the introduction into this present creation of a principle of evil which is outside the eternal control and direction and determination of the sovereign God. This results in a dualism which is contrary to the whole of Scripture.
Although that does not, by any means, minimize man’s responsibility for the fall, it is important, nevertheless, to understand that God ordained finally that the light of His glory and the light of His infinite perfections would shine the brightest and purest against the background of sin. You can understand that if you only think, for example, of the attribute of grace. It is true, of course, that, even in Paradise Adam stood by the grace of God. All that Adam received, even in Paradise, was pure, unmerited favor. But the grace of God is much more clearly, much. more sharply, much more beautifully manifested when that grace of God is evident in this: that God saves sinners, rescues them from the corruption of sin and death into which they willfully subjected themselves, and makes of them saints.
The point is, and this is the point which has to be made, God creates the antithesis. That is very clear already from that fundamental principle statement of the antithesis in Genesis 3:15: “I will put enmity betweenthee and the woman; between thy seed and herseed.” God creates the antithesis. The devil does not create it. Wicked man does not create it. God’s people do not create it. God does. God puts the antithesis in the world. And God puts the antithesis in the world fundamentally through Christ, the seed of the woman. He sets that antithesis in the world through Christ in this way, that on the cross, as God had said already, the head of Satan is crushed and the power of. Satan is destroyed. It is because of the perfect work of Christ on the cross that God also exalted Christ to a position of universal rule in heaven where Christ at the right hand of God rules literally over all God’s creation, and rules literally over all rational, moral creatures whether they be saints or sinners, elect or reprobate, righteous or unrighteous, believers or unbelievers. And the principle of antithesis in the world is realized, therefore, through the rule of Christ because of the fact that the rule of Christ takes on a different form in relationship to the ungodly than it takes on in relationship to God’s people. Christ rules over the ungodly in such a way that though they in their wickedness rebel against Him and hate Him, and do all in their power to destroy His cause, nevertheless, they still serve His purpose. That is the teaching, for example, of Psalm 2. “Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh.” God laughs mockingly. Why? Does He laugh merely because the opposition of the ungodly is so feeble in comparison with His own omnipotence that the ungodly cannot get anywhere? Oh no, He laughs, if I may put it that way, because of the irony of the whole situation, the terrible divine irony that the wicked who oppose God and His Christ nevertheless, in all their opposition and in everything they do, serve the purpose which God has determined from before the foundations of the world. Christ is King. He is King of kings and Lord of lords.
But He rules over His people not that way, but by setting His throne within their hearts so that they become, by a marvelous work of grace, citizens of the kingdom of heaven who bow in obedience before their King; who worship Him, and serve Him, and represent in the midst of the world His cause. God puts the antithesis, therefore, in the world so that the principle of disobedience, rebellion and opposition on the part of the ungodly stands over against the principle of the life of regeneration and faith which the people of God live, by which they show forth in all their life the glories of the grace and mercy and love of God.
So the antithesis is present in the world. God shines through Christ in the lives of His people, but shines in all His holiness in the midst of the darkness of sin in a fallen world under the control of Satan and hell’s hordes. God shines through the lives of His people when they say “No” to sin and “Yes” to Him. There are two different kinds of people therefore: the elect and the reprobate, the godly and the ungodly, the believers and the unbelievers, the friends of the world and the friends of God. Both live out of entirely different principles which govern the whole of their life; both serve different masters; both seek different goals; both march to the beat of different drummers; both live in spiritual isolation from each other; and both arrive at different destinations when life’s journey is finished.
HOW THE ANTITHESIS IS DESTROYED
Now, it is possible to destroy that antithesis. There are various ways to do it. It is possible to destroy that antithesis by means of false doctrine. The Roman Catholic Church did that already prior to the time of the Reformation. And the Roman Catholic Church did that by means of its doctrine of what we can probably call “two-level morality.” The Roman Catholic Church, as you know, taught that generally speaking and on the whole it was all right for a man to live in the world and to make use of God’s gifts in the world; but nevertheless that was a lower level of morality, a lower level of consecration to God. There was another level, a higher level, a more sanctified level. And that level of morality was a level on which only some could stand, a level in which men would turn their backs on the world and flee the, world. They would renounce marriage; they would sell all their possessions and take upon themselves the vow of poverty; they would become part of a monastic order, and physically and geographically separate themselves from the world to find isolation in some dark, dank, damp cell. They lived on a much higher level of morality than the common folk. And they, by means of this higher morality, stood very, very close to God. Those who succeeded in this kind of life were destined for sainthood and for a special and particular place in glory.
That was a denial of the antithesis because it was the denial of this one fundamental truth of the Scriptures that this creation is God’s world, God’s creation. To use the words of the Apostle Paul when he writes to Timothy: “For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.” I Timothy 4:4, 5.
The denial of the truth of the antithesis of another sort is to be found in the doctrine of common grace. This view teaches that in the world of ungodly and unregenerate men there is a certain operation of the Holy Spirit which results in the ability of the unregenerated man to do good in the sight of God. In certain areas of life he is capable of doing that which is pleasing in God’s sight. And because of this there is a certain area in which God’s people and the wicked stand on common ground and in which, from a spiritual point of view, they share one another’s life. Already in 1928, when the Synod of the Christian Reformed Church took its stand against worldly amusements, this idea was incorporated into the decision.
The question arises, what basis of fellowship there can be between the child of God and the man of this world. What have they in common which makes a degree of communion possible and legitimate? . . . The solution is found in the doctrine of common grace. . . . The basis of our fellowship with unbelievers should be . . . the grace, common, which they have in common with us.
How does that sound in comparison with what the Scriptures say in II Corinthians 6? “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial?”
In a recent issue of the Outlook, Rev. Vander Ploeg denied the fact that the doctrine of common grace was the source and root of recent decisions regarding movie-attendance and dancing. He said, “We may not say,” (addressing those words to us as Protestant Reformed people), “that the Pandora’s box of common grace when opened leaves out all these troubles which have afflicted the church in the area of worldly entertainment.” Nevertheless, in spite of that assertion, to the embarrassment of conservatives in the Christian Reformed Church, those who support movie-attendance and dancing appeal repeatedly to the doctrine of common grace as the principle justification for their position.
It is rather striking that there are certain proponents of common grace who feared this danger. Dr. Van Til, in his book, “The Calvinist Concept of Culture,” himself a proponent of common grace, writes of those who use the doctrine of common grace amiss and who speak of a certain level of existence at which the army of the Lord is immobilized, where it does not function as an army, but suddenly takes on the appearance of crowds of vacationers, or the motley multitude at a fair, pushing one another for a better position to see. Thus there is established between the church and the world a grey, colorless area, a kind of no-man’s land where an armistice obtains, and one can hobnob with the enemy with impunity in a relaxed Christian spirit, smoking the common weed.
This is what has happened. If the antithesis may be compared with a chasm, a spiritual chasm, the doctrine of common grace is a bridge built across that chasm, on which bridge there is two-way traffic: the church running across that bridge to infiltrate the world.
But it is also possible that the antithesis is not denied doctrinally but, while the doctrine is sound, the practice is faulty.
Who will deny that the pleasures of Babylon are found within our own circles? There is, I say, a troubling discrepancy between what we profess on the basis of Protestant Reformed principles and the kind of lives we live in the world.
It is not always necessary to deny the doctrine in order to engage in wrong practices. It is entirely possible that the attack against the church on this question of the antithesis comes from a different source. Any enemy, fighting against another country, knows that there are two ways to capture the country. One is by means of open warfare; the other is by means of insidious propaganda. If the opposing country can be persuaded to adopt the principles of the enemy, no warfare is necessary. The Russians have boasted that this is what they will do with our civilization and our western culture. Khrushchev was quoted as saying that it would not be necessary ever to tight a war against capitalistic countries because by means of incessant and insidious propaganda the apple of capitalism would fall rotten from the trees to be caught by the Russians. And it looks as if he might have been right. But the same thing is true in the spiritual realm. The devil does not necessarily have to wage open warfare against the church to destroy her. If war becomes necessary he is not at all hesitant to fight. But it is far more congenial to his thinking to conquer the bastions of Zion and to overcome the city of God by means of insidious propaganda and by means of persuading the inhabitants of Jerusalem to adopt his principles in doctrine or in practice. That is the easy road for him. And that is the easy road because, just as in any open conflict, the attacking army suffers far smaller losses by conquering the enemy through propaganda than by pitched battle; so does Satan know that he suffers far less severe losses if he can insidiously implant his ideas within the hearts of those who inhabit Jerusalem.
The trouble is that, when that sort of situation is present in the church, then the church at last comes to view the enemy as being, after all, not such a grave threat. We look about us today in our country: we endure no overt persecution; we live at peace with the world; we share in the affluence of our prosperous times. And as we look at the world about us and see the world in its present attitude towards the church, we say to ourselves, almost unconsciously first of all, but then later more consciously, “The world does not constitute such a grave threat to the church. They are content to tolerate us; they are content with our presence in the world; they are content to leave us alone. They seem even to be saying, ‘We are glad to have you along; feel at home among us; enjoy yourselves with us; we will get along fine.'”
And if the world is content to take such an attitude towards the church, who are we to question that? Who are we to raise a big fuss about it? Who are we to stir up trouble when the world wants none? Let well enough alone. But in the meantime we have forgotten the true spiritual character of the world regardless of what her attitude may be at any given moment.
HOW THE ANTITHESIS IS MANIFESTED
The world of ungodly men is a world which is totally depraved. You cannot maintain the antithesis without sharply maintaining that fundamental truth of Calvinism which is called total depravity. This doctrine, let me remind you, means not simply that the world is evil, that wicked men are evil, that unregenerated men are evil in what they do. This doctrine means that unregenerate men possess a depraved nature which is wholly under the dominion of sin. With the whole of their nature, heart and mind and soul and strength, they are under the dominion of sin. And so complete is that sin which has an unbreakable grip upon them that their entire life is lived out of the one fundamental principle of hatred of God, hatred of Christ, and hatred of the Church which represents God’s cause in the world.
The world is of darkness, the darkness of sin. The darkness hates the light, always. There is always in the world of ungodly men the fundamental principle of hatred of God which motivates everything they do. It is the deepest, the most fundamental principle governing the whole of their life. Everything they think, everything they desire, all the emotions they experience and manifest, all they are, all they produce, all their undertakings, all their culture, is fundamentally the product of opposition to God.
There are only two possibilities after all. You love God or you hate Him. No man can serve two masters, Jesus says. Either he will love the one and hate the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. That is always the way it is. If the ungodly do not love God, they hate Him. There is no such thing as neutrality so that the ungodly live in a certain area of life under the influence of a kind of grace of God in which they take a neutral attitude towards God while leaving the whole question of their relationship to God an open question to be decided at some future date. Nor do their lives and attitudes towards the church reflect that neutrality. You love God or you hate Him. You do one or the other. There is no middle ground. And because apart from the work of regeneration it is impossible to love God, man, who is totally depraved, lives out of that deepest principle of hatred of God which governs him in all that he does. Everything is motivated in its entirety by that most fundamental principle.
But the child of God lives out of the principle of regeneration by grace. Because of the work of grace which God has performed in Jesus Christ and through Jesus Christ in the hearts of His people, God has caused the light of His own holiness and of His own infinite perfections to shine in the lives of the people of God. They are the light. “Ye are the light of the world,” Jesus says. You are the light shining in a dark place. And you are the light because the light of God’s glory and of God’s perfections through the work of grace shines in you so that whenever anyone sees you they see God in you!
There is that striking passage in the book of Acts, which speaks of unlettered, uneducated, ignorant fishermen from Galilee who had been Jesus’ disciples and were brought before the Sanhedrin to give an account of their preaching. The book of Acts says this about that Sanhedrin, as they watched these disciples: They took knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13) Just imagine that. Do you think that the world can see that in you? that wherever you go, and whatever you do, and wherever you are, in all your conversation and in all your deeds, that this is the comment which the world makes as you pass by them down the pathway of life: we can see that they have been with Jesus? That is the antithesis.
That is possible because the light of the infinite perfections of God through Christ shine as light in the darkness of this world of sin and death. And it is for that reason that, when that antithesis comes to expression in the lives of the people of God, then that life is characterized by this, that God’s people are always required in obedience to God to say “No” to all that is of the world of sin, and to say “Yes” to God. Those two are mutually exclusive. You cannot say “No” and “Yes” at the same time, to the same thing. You cannot say “No” and “Yes” to Satan, and “No” and “Yes” to God. You cannot do that. Nor can you say “Yes” to God without first saying “No” to Satan, “No” to that which is of this corrupt world; it is impossible, spiritually, morally, ethically impossible, ‘to say “Yes” to God without saying “No” to sin. The yes implies the no, the yes cannot be said without the no!
“Know ye not,” James writes in his epistle, “that the friendship of the world is enmity with God?” (James 4:4) Do you not know that? And the opposite is true, too. Those who are the friends of God are always the enemies of the world.
That antithesis is, therefore, a spiritual antithesis. The chasm which separates the people of God from the world is a spiritual chasm. We must not make the error of Rome or the error of Anabaptism, and engage in world-flight. That is not only disobedience to the command of God, but that is impossible too. You cannot flee the world. And you cannot flee the world no matter how hard you try, simply because of the fact that the world is carried about wherever you go in your own sinful flesh. But you may not flee the world. This is God’s world; God’s creation, God’s house. He does not relinquish claim to it. He does not turn it over to the devil. He does not say, “Well, if the devil wants it so bad, let him have it.” This is God’s world. It remains so completely God’s world that there is coming a day when God will cleanse from this creation all that is of ungodliness and will restore it and redeem it in the new heavens and in the new earth. And, therefore, the antithesis does not mean that the child of God turns his back on the world. The antithesis is spiritual. .And the child of God who is called to live in this world as representative of God’s cause says in this present world: “This is God’s house!” Whatever the wicked may say, he says loudly, he says so that all the wicked hear it: “Whatever you may say, however you may seem to have control of the world, whatever you may do to it, this is God’s creation!” He says that not only with his mouth, but he says that in his life. His life is a living testimony of that fundamental truth.
The wicked world is the Babylon of Revelation 18 which shall presently be destroyed. The antithesis is in the world because Babylon lives out of the principle of sin in her attitude towards everything. I cannot possibly go into detail on this whole question tonight and spell it out for you point by point. But all the attitudes which the world takes towards this creation and towards the things in it are attitudes governed by the principle of rebellion against God. That principle governs their attitudes towards all of life’s institutions. It governs their attitudes, for example, towards the institution of marriage, towards the institution of the family; towards the institution of education, towards the institution of government in society, towards the institution of the shop. Always, in all of these relationships of life and over against these institutions which God has created they live out of the principle of rebellion. Their marriage is an act of rebellion. They beget children as an act of rebellion. They refuse to beget children as an act of rebellion. They approve abortion as an act of rebellion. ‘They educate their children as an act of rebellion that the generation following may be thoroughly imbued with their own wicked and godless principles and so that the generation following them may continue on the evil course that they have chosen to walk. They set up the institution of government out of opposition to God so that the heathen rage and the kings imagine a vain thing and .the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against His anointed. And they use the institution of government to establish if possible, the kingdom of Satan here in the midst of the world. They express that attitude of rebellion against God in relationship to all the things of life and to all of God’s gifts. All of the things of this creation they eagerly seize with blood-smeared hands and with covetous hearts. They use all the powers of the creation to pursue as urgently as they can their desires, deep-seated and deep-rooted, to cast God out of his world and to establish here the throne of Satan. That is why they rape the creation. That is why we have a problem of ecology today. They do not live as king in God’s world, as benevolent king ruling in God’s Name to God’s glory. Oh, no! They are rapists who must make this creation serve their own purposes and satisfy their own carnal lusts and carnal desires in their mad pursuit of pleasure and gain.
Their attitudes come to expression in all their art which they produce. It comes to expression in their painting—perhaps especially there, because art is after all something which very intimately expresses what lives in man’s heart. You can tell, it has been said, all about civilizations of by-gone years, all about the life of that civilization, about all their attitudes towards everything conceivable in life if only you study the arts of that civilization. Read the novels they produce; study the literature they produce; listen to the music they produce; look at the architecture which they engaged in; and all of this will reflect their basic fundamental attitudes towards all the things in life.
And so it is in the whole of their life. That is the principle of total depravity. The principle is enmity against God. God has set enmity between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent through Jesus Christ.
But this also means that God has, by a marvelous marvel of grace, transformed His people so that the light of His holiness and glory shines through them. And that life of His holiness and glory shines through them when they say “No” to the world, and “Yes” to God. When they say to the world, “We do not serve Satan; we do not live in opposition to God; we do not belong to your kingdom; we serve Christ. We bow before His throne! We say ‘Yes’ to God.”
That positive expression of the antithesis also must be present in every aspect of life. It begins with the believer’s attitude. This is true because the principle of regeneration by grace is not some outward, superficial character reformation. But the principle of regeneration by grace is a fundamental change in the very depth of the believer’s being. And, therefore, it is a principle which transforms, by the wonder of grace, his attitude towards everything: his attitude towards this world and towards the things of this world. He knows, for example, that although this world, this present creation is God’s house, nevertheless, as God’s house it is destined presently to be destroyed because it must make way for a new heavens and a new earth. And that fundamental truth which he confesses governs his attitude towards all the things of this present creation. They are God’s good gifts; they must be received with thanksgiving; they must be sanctified by prayer; but at the same time they must be used in such a way that they are the means in his hand whereby he pursues the goals of the kingdom of heaven and awaits the day of the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
If I may use a rather expressive, but somewhat slang expression: for that very reason he sits loose to the things that belong to this creation. His home is in heaven. He seeks the city which hath foundations whose builder and maker is God. His attitudes towards everything are determined by that fundamental principle: towards marriage, towards the family, towards his home, towards the education of his children, towards society’s institutions.
That attitude comes to expression in his use of this world’s goods. I cannot go into that tonight, but let me use just one illustration. There is a very interesting book out, written by a man by the name of Malcolm Muggeridge. (I do not know how many of you have heard of him. He is a man from England who spent in excess of forty years in the broadcasting industry or in the field of journalism. He was a newspaper reporter; he worked in radio and in television for over forty years. Seven or eight years ago he was converted to Christianity. He spoke to a group of broadcasters about television.) He made the remarkable and astonishing statement in this speech, that although it is true that television is in itself a good gift of God, television programming as it is presently constructed and as it is presently used is impossible to use in the cause of the kingdom of Jesus Christ, He is speaking from the inside. He knows. He says that television creates a world of illusion which is directly antithetical to the reality of the kingdom of Jesus Christ. He is not talking about good and bad programs; he is talking about the whole of television programming, including news broadcasts. He says it is his personal experience, and he knows of which he speaks, that even in news broadcasts the propaganda, the insidious propaganda of Satan is so everywhere present that it is in every part directly antithetical to the kingdom of Jesus Christ; that it is impossible (that is his statement, not mine) for a Christian to use television. That is an example. That is an example of what I am saying. Although television in itself is a good gift of God, nevertheless, when the wicked get their hands on this instrument you can expect nothing but evil from it. When he was asked by some startled radio commentators and television broadcasters, “Do not you think that if television had been present in the days when the Lord Jesus was on earth that He would surely have used television in the cause of the spread of the gospel” Muggeridge’s answer was, “That would have constituted the fourth temptation.” The believer lives out of the principle of regeneration by grace. That governs his attitude also towards entertainment, whatever form it may take. He says “No” when the world expresses herself in movies, in the dance, in music, and in whatever form of entertainment there may be. He says, “No, No, I must say No because I say Yes to God.”
THE ANTITHETICAL CALLING
The calling to live the antithesis in the concrete problems of life sometimes seems to be difficult. I have talked with genuinely concerned people of God over the years who have said that it seems extraordinarily difficult to put the antithesis into practice. And they often talked about the fact, (and I feel that, I feel that because I know my own life and I know my own heart so well,) that we seem to get trapped in a way of life, and seem to get trapped in patterns of life from which it is impossible to break out. And we ask ourselves seriously the question, even though we may firmly resolve to live Godly lives: How does one get out of this pattern of life which has become all but second nature to us? And there loom on the horizon all kinds of problems of putting the antithesis specifically and concretely into practice with regard to a host of things. It seems to me, and I speak from my experience, speak from the knowledge of my own heart, that the difficulty really arises out of our own making. After all, it seems so true of me, and so true of us, that. we are more concerned about how close we can come to the world without staining our garments than we are about our positive calling to live lives of obedience to God. We are always asking the questions like this: Is this wrong? and, Is this wrong? and, Why is this wrong? and, Why may not we do this? and, How can you show the wrong of this? and, Point to me why this is something which I may not do and, Give me a reason for condemning this kind of action. It could be, you know, that we are asking the wrong questions. It could be that those questions themselves arise out of the deep desire to pursue world-conformity, and that we create our problems because we try to justify our fundamental deep-seated desire to conform to the world as much as we possibly can. There are, after all, positive principles; and if we were guided by these positive principles in our life of the antithesis it could be that our problems would also disappear. I am sure they would.
What are some of those principles? One of them is certainly this, that we remember always, every moment of our life, wherever we are and whatever we do, that God has called us to represent the cause of the kingdom of heaven here in the world. We are His representatives, representing His cause as His friend servants.
Another principle is that as His friend-servants it is our calling in life always and only to seek His glory. The child of God asks, and that is not abstract, in every situation in life: Can I in this way and by doing this glorify God? Can I show in this world of sin and death the powers of the light of God’s grace in my life? Can I? If I cannot, if there is any question about whether I can, do I want then to risk doing it after all?
Another principle, a clear principle in the Scriptures, but one that we really do not know anything about anymore, is the principle of self-denial. From childhood on we are given everything our hearts desire. And at last we begin to think that anything we want we can have. And if we do not get it, we are dissatisfied and unhappy. Self-denial? Temperance? Moderation? We do not know what these are. And yet, we must not forget what Jesus says: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24)
Another principle is that we ought not to be afraid of the narrow and cramped position which we occupy in the world. If we live the life of the antithesis we will find that indeed our place becomes ever more narrow. Our position is broad and easy now, but that is only because we have forgotten what it means to live the life of the antithesis. If we express that antithesis sharply then we will find that the way in which the believer walks is, after all, very narrow. The position he occupies in the world is very, very small. Does that surprise you? The Lord Jesus says, “Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Matthew 7:14)
Another principle is that we seem to have lost our fright of giving aid and comfort to the enemy. I am reminded of Jehoshaphat the righteous king of Judah. He went to the northern kingdom to help Ahab in battle against the Syrians at Ramoth-Gilead. He said to Ahab, “I am as thou art, my people as thy people.” (I Kings 22:4) But the prophet came to Jehoshaphat and said to him: “Shouldst thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the Lord? therefore is wrath upon thee from before the Lord.” (II Chronicles 19:2) That is what we do when we violate the principles of the antithesis, when we make friends of the world, when we become like them. We aid the enemy and give comfort to them. Are not we frightened by that? Is there anything more detestable in life than to be a traitor to one’s own cause and one’s own army and one’s own country? Is there anything more detestable in life than to give aid and comfort to the enemies of the cross and of the cause of our Lord Jesus Christ?
If nevertheless, we persist in world-conformity, then we aid the enemy to our own destruction. That is always the principle. We aid the enemy in his unrelenting determination to destroy the church. We give comfort to him. We assist him. And the result of it is that we bring untold grief upon the cause of our Lord Jesus Christ. We bring untold grief upon ourselves first of all. When Peter compromised with the enemies of Christ he tore his own life to pieces. When David compromised with the enemies of Christ he brought ruin and havoc upon himself and upon his own family. And when we compromise with the enemies of the world we bring havoc upon ourselves and upon the church of which we are a part so that the church, is laid waste, spiritually sapped of her energy, and at last becomes a part of the godless world in which we live. Besides, we destroy our own family. We go lost in our generations. Our children are cut out of the lines of the covenant, branches pruned out of the vine.
We must learn to express that antithesis in all our life. We must learn, first of ah, to express that antithesis in our own lives; to say “No” to the sin which is within us and in our own flesh. And we must learn to express that antithesis by saying “No” even in the circle of our own friends and acquaintances. In the circle of our own church, sad to say, we must say “No” to those who are one with us in the household of faith. We must teach our children to say “No,” sometimes even in school with their classmates on the playground so that our children know not only to say “No” to the world of wicked men about them, but to say “No” to those with whom they go to school and with whom they sit in class. We must learn to say “No” in all the relationships of life because when we say “No,” then, and then only, can we say “Yes.”
The Babylon of the world is destined for destruction. That is the teaching of Revelation 18. You could call that chapter, the gospel of Babylon’s fall. The Angel calls from heaven: “Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen.” And what does the seer of Patmos write? “And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.”
May God give us the grace.