Following Van Til, we have sought repeatedly to make this point: he who defines wins. The fundamental question (emphasis on the, the definite article) is this: Who has the original and ultimate right to define? Does God, the Creator of heaven and earth, have the right and authority to pre-define and re-define for all creatures the what, why, and wherefore of all things, or do creatures have an independent right and authority to define things for themselves? This question is never innocently bypassed. Because God has revealed Himself to all, rebellion against God occurs first in the epistemological (knowledge) sphere, wherein sinners try to suppress or neutralize God's definitions and superimpose their own.
As is becoming increasingly self-evident, modern cultural "debates" over moral and ethical issues insure the outcome by eliminating the God of the Bible from the outset. When the terms of the debate terms which always exclude "religious opinions" are established, the debate is merely a show which buys the necessary time for the revolution "under discussion" to be imposed. The rest is a mere clean-up operation. But two examples should suffice to illustrate this point.
In public debate on abortion, God has been bypassed as having no legitimate public interest in the matter. Since His Creatorhood is denied, His Word certainly may not be invoked as a source for defining life. Thus, public "debate" occurs only after it is agreed that God has nothing to say, at least nothing definitive. Further, public debate has long forbidden serious consideration of whether the act being contended is the taking of the life of a judicially innocent human being. Indeed, the very humanity of the baby may not be presented to the conscience or senses of "the audience." This is why you will never see photos of aborted babies in any public debate. The obviousness of the humanity of the fetus would immediately alter the terms of the debate and would put the pro-aborts on the defensive. In setting the terms of debate, the role of prosecutor and defendant are also set.
The terms of debate are determinative of outcome. Control the terms and you control the result. Thus abortion is said not to be a controversy about a definition of life, it is only about a definition of rights, and about the rights of just one party. Abortion in America is not debated in terms of a baby's right to live without being executed by its mother, but only in terms of a woman's right to control her body. When pro-life advocates brought a large, bottled fetus to the streets years ago, one could have reasonably expected that the stunning evidentiary value of the display might alter the terms of debate. No. The terms formed the original battlefield and that field had long ago been taken by the enemy. To modify the terms of the debate would be to lose the debate. Therefore, the media did not treat the compelling evidence of the humanity of the baby (it sure looked like a baby!) as the issue, but rather defined the matter as a procedural violation by "anti-choice advocates." The bearers of the dead baby were demonized in the news and tried in the courts. The terms determine the outcome.
Similarly, in the matter of homosexuality. God defines it as a sin worthy of death. But from step one in the Public Square "debate," God's "opinion" may not be offered, except to be ridiculed. As in all other matters of public policy, the Living God is assumed, from the beginning of debate, to be either passé, dead, or simply and completely unable to communicate. With God's Word excluded by the terms of the debate, the outcome can never be reflective of His mind on a matter. (At most there will be only an accidental similarity between God's mind and public policy; in no case may God's mind be permitted to dictate public policy. Digest this fact: in the United States today, it is illegal to make a law based on God's will alone. It is illegal to display His law in government-owned buildings.) Of course, the mind of any generic god may be invoked, just as the mind of fallen man may be imposed upon Scripture. That is, it is permissible to quote the Bible so long as it is quoted in the service of sin, as homo "minister" Mel White does, for example.
Those holding atheistic views are put forth as normal; those opposed as deviant. This is reinforced by means subtle and gross, most particularly by reporting anti-Christian views without attached adjectives. The debate is reported as being between the radical Christian right on the one hand and those with the "normal" views on the other. The militant homosexual lobby is never never presented as anything but normal. Thus, the definition of that behavior supposedly being debated has very clearly already been settled. Homosexuality is normal, at least for those who choose it, and the burden lies upon those who say otherwise to prove it. But any proof offered is, from the beginning, a violation of the terms of the debate. The only substantive objection against homosexuality viz., God's revealed will is declared to be subjective religious opinion, quite unable to stand against what "everybody knows" to be a perfectly legitimate sexual expression. Not to accept homosexuality as normal means you are deviant. The definitions are in. You lose.
The Humanist Next Agenda Item
The next stop on this train is quite clear: pedophilia. Sex between adults and "consenting" children will be there is no room for doubt about this the next item on the agenda to be advanced. And accepted. It is a certainty that the perverts will win this debate, too. Why? There are many reasons for having confidence in this prediction; in this article we'll introduce the first reason. Bavinck identified it in 1901 when he pointed out that man had "undertaken the gigantic effort of interpreting the whole world, and all things that are therein, scientifically, that is, without reference to God, simply and alone from the pure data of matter and force." We have become polished experts at interpreting things (including the Bible!) without reference to God.
Alfred Kinsey was the man who has had the most profound impact, albeit through crime and fraud, in fulfilling Bavinck's prediction as it came to bear in the area of human sexuality. Kinsey (whose expertise as a scientist, before selling himself as Dr. Sex, concerned wasps) was an avowed atheist and his "staffers, by vigilant selection, were all self-professed godless men" (Kinsey: Crimes and Consequences, by Judith A. Reisman, Ph.D., p.15). Far from being the "neutral scientist," Kinsey was thoroughly perverted: he was a homosexual; he (successfully) pressured his wife, Clara, to have sex with his colleagues and put it on film; he boasted of having the world's largest collection of pornography; and, according to newspaper columnist Mona Charen, reporting on material by Kinsey biographer James H. Jones, Kinsey performed masochistic acts on his own pudendum. Very neutral man. Care to live next door to someone like him?
For Kinsey, talk about sex should only be descriptive, not prescriptive: we can only talk about what is done, not what ought to be done. This is quite an old sentiment, isn't it? A sinner's version of paradise. Whatever people do is simply what they do. The only problems arising from sexual behavior come from repressive mores (read: God's law), not from the acts themselves. Marquis de Sade gets a university job.
Under the pretense of describing, according to the title, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, Kinsey and his institute staff committed acts which were crimes in all of the United States. (He did not describe behavior in the human male, by the way, but only in a small number of American males living in a few East Coast states, a large percentage of whom were convicted criminals.) In his infamous "Table 34: Examples of multiple orgasm in pre-adolescent males," Kinsey describes the results of sexual "experiments" performed on children as young as 5 months of age. Kinsey associate Paul Gebhard, in an interview with Masters and Johnson, admitted that at least 1,888 boys from 5 months to 15 years had been "erotically stimulated" under observation, and their alleged "orgasms" timed with a stop watch. When asked if "pedophiles normally go around with stop watches," Gebhard replied, "Ah, they do if we tell them we're interested in it." Instead of dragging Kinsey and his associates into court and then executing them, America received the data with wild enthusiasm and an appalling lack of discernment. Charen comments: "Americans worship experts of every stripe even to the point of abandoning common sense. Kinsey donned a lab coat and told us that all sexual behavior was 'natural' and therefore beyond the reach of traditional morality. It was an absurd claim on its face theft and murder are natural, too and now we know that even the data he used were fraudulent."
My point in bringing this up is to help us see how Bavinck's prophecy unfolded in the area of sexual behavior. Sex could no longer be interpreted, much less regulated, by the law of an unseen God. It had to be interpreted scientifically, without reference to God. Only that may be regarded as evil which scientists tell us is harmful. The terms of the debate were set in stone from Kinsey on. Within a few decades, homosexuality was removed from the diagnostic manual as an illness (which it wasn't, of course; it was and is a sin, a categorization more helpful and hopeful, when God's grace is kept in view). Gene Edward Veith reported in the April 10, 1999 issue of World Magazine that the American Psychological Association in 1998 "ruled that psychologists should not try to treat homosexuality, even if the patient wanted help in changing his orientation" (emphasis added). In other words, these "scientists" now declare, "Do not call evil that which we have called good." He who defines wins.
Now no surprise we've heard the shot over the bow from "scientists" who wish to have us believe that pedophilia, too, is perfectly fine. In an APA publication, The Psychological Bulletin (Volume 124, No. 1, 1998), there appeared a 31-page article entitled A Meta-Analytic Examination of Assumed Properties of Child Sexual Abuse Using College Students. The article, by three men from prestigious universities, was an analysis of 59 studies of childhood sexual abuse. The authors argue that childhood sexual experiences are not necessarily harmful; they could even be quite positive. The idea that it "causes intense harm, regardless of gender," is not true. They allege that the "negative potential of CSA [childhood sexual abuse] for most individuals who have experienced it is overstated." The idea that sexual intercourse with a child is the most damaging form of CSA is a "well-ingrained prejudice unsupported by research" (See Eye On Bureaucracy, Volume X. Number 2, February, 1999; John Lofton, Editor). The study's three authors publicly lament: "Classifying a behavior as abuse simply because it is generally viewed as immoral or defined as illegal is problematic." Remember Bavinck.
The response of Americans to the appearance of this article has been fascinating and instructive. Dr. Laura Schlessinger was the most vigilant and visible opponent of the thesis. After a brutal battle, she managed to get the APA to hedge on the article. Interestingly to us, it was immediately after her crusade to discredit the report that the homosexual lobby intensified their efforts to get her off the air, pressuring Paramount and her show's advertisers to dump her. Their efforts have had a measure of success.
More interesting to me, however, is how the overall response to the article is a certification that the viewpoint presented in The Psychological Bulletin will be the triumphant one in our culture. Essentially, the response of Christians and traditionalists has been this: "Not harmful?! You're crazy! Childhood sexual abuse is harmful." By arguing in this way, the respondents have engaged the enemy on turf which belongs to the enemy, turf which will consume the traditionalists as the ground did Korah. You cannot win these arguments by employing the presuppositions or methodologies of unbelief. That is the reasoning of Eve and her Mentor. Was eating of the forbidden fruit going to be harmful? Well, that all depends on how you define "harm," doesn't it? Eve had only one reason not to eat: God said don't do it, under penalty of death. Not knowing what death was, she had to take it on faith alone. Against this one reason, on the one hand, she found three reasons to eat, on the other: 1) It looked good as food; 2) it looked good, period; 3) it would confer wisdom (wouldn't it?).
Opponents of the article on CSA have, with one voice, agreed to hold the debate on the terms established, not by God, but by the authors of the study. (The authors are true sons of Kinsey. Charen says, "Toward the end of his life, Kinsey came to believe that there was nothing inherently wrong with sexual encounters between adults and children. It was society's attitude toward such contact that caused trouble.") Opponents of the study have followed the methodology of Eve and will share her fate: the one who defines the terms and structure of the debate will win. We cannot "reason for God" on the premises of unbelief (except for argument's sake).
Until 1973, "mental health professionals" defined homosexuality as an illness. In providing another in the myriad of examples proving that "psychology" is no science at all, they now treat opposition to homosexuality as the aberration. Kinsey made it seem that "science" approves of all sexual behaviors. Thirty years later, the mental health culture acted on that premise in declaring sodomy normal. About twenty years after that, they alert us to the next item up for redefinition sex with children. "It's not necessarily harmful," they maintain. And the only opposition is offered on their terms. Now the "studies" will continue, and the most fraudulent of all "sciences" will begin to assure us that pederasty is not harmful. In fact, Veith reports that according "to the APA's latest diagnostic manual, a person should not be considered to have a psychological disorder simply because he molests children." I agree. He should be executed as an evil-doer, not as a sick person. Veith continues, "A diagnosis of disorder should only be made if the pedophile feels 'anxious' about his behavior, or if it interferes with his work or impairs his social relationships."
Please understand what I am about to say. You know it is not to be taken as an endorsement of evil. But if we continue to argue against sin only because of its temporal consequences we will simply hasten its certain triumph in this generation. The fact is that many victims of childhood sexual abuse do adjust very well to what happened to them. These things don't happen in vacuums. Many factors are at work. It will be very easy for psychologists to offer abundant anecdotal and statistical "proof" that pedophilia is fine. The media is more adroit than a devil at making much of little evidence, and it will. Once the societal supports for deviancy are in place, "psychological scars" will be our least concern. Canaanites did not suffer through the torment of a Lady Macbeth when they murdered their children as sacrifices. It was socially acceptable, expected, approved. Modern adulterers do not typically suffer from their betrayal of God, vow, and spouse. It, along with divorce, has become a thing accepted as part of life. Whatever stigma remained attached to adultery in 1992 has been removed during the presidency of William Clinton.
Start At The Very Beginning
No. We must begin our engagement with the world of sin by refusing to grant their premises. Christians must get over the insane notion that they can win the "Culture Wars" by wearing Saul's armor. God has not given scientists or anyone else the right, authority, or competence to sit in judgment on Him or His Word. Bavinck, with frightening clarity, saw that the issue of the twentieth century would be one of worldviews: one worldview which relied upon the word of man battling to death the one that relied on the Word of God. In the year 2001 we need to get that message through our heads. We need to cease arguing for God on man's terms. As Van Prinsterer so well said, "[T]he hour of peril is not the hour of preparation when the enemy's sword glitters on all sides one ought not to sharpen and polish his weapons but rather put them to use[O]ver against all the wisdom of men and in awareness of my own frailty, I have as the earnest of victory: It is written!" 1
It's not that we are unaware of the traumas and pain so commonly endured by victims of childhood sexual abuse that leads us to write as we did above. It's that apart from God's Word as the Definer of all things, it is bound to get much worse. Unsheathe the sword, O Christian!
[For more on this topic visit Messiah's website at www.messiahnyc.org]
1. Because of your faithful support, we are enabled to carry on Word-based ministries in NYC in a difficult generation. Among these ministries, you know, is Meantime¸ our outreach to women who were sexually abused as children. God in His providence moved us many years ago to adopt as the point of contact with all our clients, Lesson Number One: Without God's law, there is no such thing as abuse. Every client is told that we are dependent on God's law to define proper use and abuse. Without His law no person could justly complain to having been abused. What's the standard? It is precisely because God has graciously given us both a law and a Savior that we can offer effective help to hurting women.
- Steve M. Schlissel
Steve Schlissel has served as pastor of Messiah's Congregation in Brooklyn, New York, since 1979. Born and raised in New York City, Schlissel became a Christian by reading the Bible. He and Jeanne homeschooled their five children and also helped raise several foster children (mostly Vietnamese). In 2003, they adopted Anna (who was born in Hong Kong in 1988, but is now a U.S. citizen). They have eight foster grandchildren and fourteen "natural" grandchildren.