The Antithesis

The Rev. H.J. Kuiper, managing editor of Torch and Trumpet, writes in the July-August, 1960 issue on “The Antithesis as a Cornerstone of Christian Life and Action.” This article we read not only rather carefully but also critically. The subject has always been intriguing to us as we believe it should be to anyone who loves the Reformed truth.

Writing under the subdivision “The Antithesis In Theology,” Rev. Kuiper tells us: “We do not speak of the antithesis as the cornerstone but as a cornerstone of Christian life and action.” We have always associated the cornerstone with that dedicated and ceremoniously laid stone which declares the purpose of the whole building which rests upon it. It must mean then that in Rev. Kuiper’s conception there are several more such stones in the building of the truth. But of these he does not speak.

Nor does Rev. Kuiper tell us what moved him to write on this subject. We can only guess, and our guess may be wrong. Was it because he sees so much synthesis in the church he serves that has no place for this doctrine in theory or practice? Was it perhaps the recent controversy in the Christian Reformed Church on the Nigerian question in which a large element favored a synthetical theological sem­inary? Or, was it perhaps the fact that a group of erstwhile Protestant Reformed people now seeking entrance into the Chr. Ref. Church, people who once were grounded in the doctrine of the antithesis, and who perhaps evinced some antipathy to the doctrine of common grace and the Three Points because it destroys the antithesis? We wonder.

Though the editor gave his readers a long article on the subject, attempting to show how the antithesis is brought or should be brought to manifestation in every department of life, there is much wanting in his article and also some with which we entirely disagree.

Through the years we have come into conversation with people who are supposed to be of Reformed background, also people in the Christian Reformed Church, who prate about their peculiar doctrine of the antithesis. But our conversa­tions revealed that their conception of antithesis was nothing more than a dualistic conception. Some years ago we heard of an old Arminianistic-Methodist preacher who spoke to an audience of ministers of a certain rural community gathered for the purpose of affecting some kind of legislation that would keep out of the community certain forces for evil. He spoke rather enthusiastically of a great tug of war that was going on. He said, God was on one side, at one end of the rope, and the devil on the other end. And with all the oratory he could muster, he urged his audience to hurry up and get on God’s side, lest the tug of war end in victory for the devil. We say there are many also in Reformed circles who have this same conception. We do not accuse Rev. Kuiper of presenting this dualistic conception, yet we are not so sure that those of his readers who hold to this dualistic view of antithesis will not be strengthened in their view by the reading of his article.

Here are two examples of what we mean. Writing under the subdivision: “Division for Christ’s sake in the home,” Kuiper says: “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 saving 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” (Italics mine). Again, writing under the subdivision: “The Antithesis in the Church,” he says: “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.”

Now, we do not believe that Kuiper wants this dualistic conception himself. But it certainly behooved him to make clear both in his definition of antithesis and in the rest of his writing that there is day and night difference between dual­ism and antithesis.

Rev. Kuiper’s definition and understanding of the doc­trine of the antithesis is expressed in the following two paragraphs:

“By 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 hatred on the part of believers against their fellow men, 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.”

Now no one who understands the word and the doctrine of the antithesis will deny that it implies “the fundamental contrast, division, and antagonism between the people of God and those who are of the world,” etc. But if you say no more, this definition can very easily be understood to imply the dualistic conception of God versus the devil, light versus darkness, truth versus the lie, etc., and each of these con­trasts vying for supremacy.

Nor could any deny that “this enmity or hostility is produced by God, not by man.” If Rev. Kuiper had developed this thought we might have had a much better article. Fact is, in our explanation of this doctrine, this truth must receive the emphasis.

Moreover, it should not pass our notice that Rev. Kuiper has his dates mixed up a bit. He tells us that “the antithesis dates from the day after Adam’s fall,” etc. But is it not true that God introduced the antithesis already before the fall when he placed man before the trees of life and of the knowledge of good and evil? Is it not true that historically man did not know anything but the word “yes” until God showed him the word “no” by the tree of knowledge of good and evil? The answer to both of these questions is un­doubtedly affirmative. The point we are making is that antith­esis is not something accidental, something that is brought on by the fact of sin, historically speaking, but antithesis is the working out of the divine plan that God would reach his highest glory through the way of sin and grace. God not only “produced” the antithesis, but he willed it. For a correct conception of antithesis, we shall therefore have to begin and end with God.

It should be clearly understood that in God himself there is no antithesis. Though the antithesis is of Him, it is not in Him. God is pure thesis. The word “antithesis,” as any good dictionary will tell you, is composed of two words: anti and thesis. Anti means, against. Thesis comes from a Greek word meaning: to place or set. Thesis, therefore, is that which is put, or set; while antithesis is that which opposes that which is set. Now, God is, as we said, the thesis. He is light, and there is no darkness in him. He is the truth, and there is no lie in him. He is righteousness, and there is no unrighteousness in him. God never, from this point of view, suffers opposition, experiences contrary winds, has any antithesis in himself. If there is any antithesis, and there is, he creates it. Of this he speaks in Isaiah 45:7: “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil; I the Lord do all these things.” See also Amos 3:6. God willed and created the darkness that he might forever hate it; and on the other hand, he willed to reveal all the glory of his thetical being on the dark background of sin and evil and so creates the darkness to be a servant.

And the truth is that God also put the thesis in his people by his grace. And so he commands them to live thetically in every department of life as lights in the world of darkness. Just because the thesis is put in his people they shine as lights in the world, are a savory salt that is pleasing to him. And just because they are of God, the antithesis, the devil, the world, and their own sinful flesh, always opposes them. O, it is true that, as Rev. Kuiper writes, “If God had not caused his grace to enter the hearts of some, all of man’s thoughts and actions would be antagonistic to God.” The reason is that God’s people by nature, like the wicked world out of which they are born, stand in open rebellion against God and all that is holy. But there is much more to be said.

In the final sense of the word, the antithesis is planned by God to serve not only his own glory, but also the glory of his redeemed people. Is it not true that according to Scrip­ture all things work together for good to them that love God, the called according to his purpose? Is it not true that ultimately the devil, the world, the darkness, death and all that seems to oppose God’s people, become servants divinely purposed to bring us to glory? And if that is true ultimately, is it not also true right now while they experience the op­position? The answer must be: Yes, of course.

Let no one conclude from what we have just written, that the antithesis is not real, that darkness, lie, devil, wicked world, etc., do not really exist, do not really oppose. Nor should anyone conclude that the opposition the powers of darkness exert against the Lord and His Anointed, and which is also raised against His people in the world, is of no con­sequence. Indeed, the devil, the world, and my own sinful flesh are formidable opponents, and of them all the latter is undoubtedly the most formidable and the most treacherous to withstand.

Was it not the warfare of the flesh against the Spirit in the apostle Paul that made him cry out in Romans 7, “O, wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me out of the body of this death?” As the English preacher once said: “My greatest enemy I carry under my own waistcoat.” O, indeed, the antithesis is real. But let it be emphasized: “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. Thanks be unto God who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

We said in the beginning that there were some things which Rev. Kuiper wrote with which we cannot agree. Let me mention one or two things.

In the first place, as we have indicated above, we do not agree with the apparent tenor of his article, as though it is up to the believing Christian to realize the antithesis. Ac­cording to Kuiper the Christian is to realize the antithesis in the home, school, church, science, theology, society, politics and art. We believe the Christian is to live thetically as a child of light in all these spheres. When he so lives, he will of necessity experience the antithesis, the opposition of the forces of darkness.

In the second place, when Rev. Kuiper writes under “The Antithesis in the Social Sphere,” he appears to be in conflict with himself when he tells us on the one hand, “com­mon grace makes some cooperation of a limited nature with non-Christians possible;” and on the other, “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.”

We believe that consistency demands that if the former is true, the latter must also follow; i.e., if there is some co­operation, be it of a limited nature, with the powers of dark­ness on the basis of common grace, then it follows not only that I may but also must seek that cooperation in the un­godly labor unions. We do not believe, of course, either in common grace or in affiliation of Reformed Christians in ungodly labor unions. It appears that Rev. Kuiper does not believe there is much common grace operative in the labor unions for he says, “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.”                                    

M.S.