What general would attempt to lead his forces into battle without a specific battle plan? What military commander would be content with nothing more than verbal exhortations to his troops to “be victorious” or “win one for the folks back home”? Such noble exhortations, apart from a battle plan, equipment, and explicit instructions to subordinates, would be about as likely to produce victory as the endless repetition of “Have a nice day.”
When we sing “Onward, Christian Soldiers,” do we expect to lose on every battlefield? Do we expect constant defeat to be God’s, training ground for total victory? “Victory through defeat” may be the chosen strategy of those who organize American foreign policy, yet among the most vocal critics of America’s foreign policy “experts” are concerned conservative fundamentalists who simultaneously hold a theological version of this same “victory through endless defeats” strategy. What is seen as a disaster for American foreign policy is promoted as the very heart of God’s plan for the ages.
What we need, therefore, is a two-pronged program. First, we need a strategy of victory — a general plan, including confidence of ultimate success. Second, we need concrete tactics, including an integrated, well-understood program for every sphere of human life. In short, we need a positive eschatology and a developed program of biblical law. Confidence without distinctive and explicit programs is foolishness. A distinctive program, apart from confidence in the competence of one’s commander, is unlikely to defeat a dedicated, optimistic enemy who has h[i]s own integrated strategy of subversion.
An Excuse for No Program
The various eschatologies of shipwreck in this century became popular when it became clear that Christians had no alternatives to the secular programs of a steadily sinking humanism. Since the politics of humanism was leading to visible disaster, it became imperative for Christians to devise a biblical set of alternative programs. Failing this, they were culturally doomed, since they would go down on secularism’s sinking ship.
Secularism, however, had already eroded the epistemological foundations of Christian colleges, textbooks, and businesses Christians had adopted the secular “climate of opinion” through a dead-end mixture of Christian revelation and secular philosophy. Men had long since decided to defend Christian truths by means of an appeal to secular logic. The famous apologetic approach of the professors at Princeton Theological Seminary is a classic example of this kind of intellectual syncretism. When Cornelius Van Til’s apologetic reconstruction smashed the intellectual foundations of the old Princeton apologetics, bringing men back to sola scriptura as the only valid principle for constructing an intellectual defense of the faith, twentieth-century Christians were presented with a great cultural burden. They can no longer escape their responsibility for the creation of a de-secularized program of Christian alternatives. They can no longer be content to sink with the ship of secularism. They must rebuild Christian culture.
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