We are all acquainted with the term antithesis. Perhaps, most of us have used the term. Many of us frequently employ the word to denote the proper relation and attitude of the Christian to the world. In general it signifies that the Christian is not of the world, though he is in the world; that he is a child of light, and the world lieth in darkness; and that light can have no fellowship with the darkness. The words of II Cor. 6:14-18 express the antithesis: “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? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? and what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing and I will receive you. And will be a Father unto you; and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.
Recently the truth of the antithesis is become the object of a new interest and is receiving a new emphasis.
For a few decades the tendency was to synthesize. Synthesis and antithesis are two words that are derived, as far as the last part of their composition is concerned from the same Greek root. Thesis means that which is put, that which is set up, established, asserted to be the truth. It is the Positive, the Affirmation, and the Yes. The term antithesis is formed by prefixing the preposition anti-, which signifies against, opposed so as to exclude, to the word thesis and, therefore, means either the opposing thesis or that which is opposed to the thesis. It is the Negative, the Denial, the No. It is that which is put against, or the putting against. And the term synthesis is formed by prefixing the preposition syn-, which denotes a union and, means together with, to, the term thesis The word synthesis, therefore, denotes a putting together, or, that which is put together. It is an attempt at a union of the Yes and No. It represents the desire to obliterate all lines of demarcation, to merge righteousness into unrighteousness, the light into the darkness, the Church into the world and to call the result of the amalgamation righteousness, the light, the truth, the Church Christ. Now, since the early 1900’s there was a marked tendency in the church to accomplish the synthesis, to establish the Harmony between the truth and the lie, to let righteousness meet unrighteousness in a lasting embrace, to lead Christ into the arms of Belial, to obliterate the distinction between the Church and the world. Also in Reformed Churches this tendency was plainly evident, both in the Netherlands and in our country. Especially in these churches, with their firm belief in sovereign election and reprobation and in the total depravity of the natural, unregenerated man, it would not seem easy to introduce the synthesis with even a semblance of truth. But the theory of Common Grace was concocted and to very many it appeared that it would, indeed, serve to establish the synthesis. And on; the basis of this theoretical synthesis of common grace, the way was easily opened to the practical, application of it in a life in union with the world. In the “sphere” of “culture”, in art and science, in business and industry, in amusements and pleasures, the sons of God and the daughters of men had become friends. The line of demarcation was obliterated.
The Christian Reformed Churches in this country were so hopelessly caught in this synthesizing maelstrom, that they were officially swallowed up by it in 1924.
However, if we are to have a proper understanding of the antithesis and its significance, and a firm conviction of the impossibility of the synthesis, it is first of all and above all necessary that we understand the thesis.
We cannot have a true conception of the antithesis unless we begin with the thesis and consider the antithesis in its light. Unless we do this the danger is imminent that we call antithesis what is in deepest principle nothing else than dualism. This mistake was frequently made in the past. The antithesis was considered and presented as another thesis, opposed to the first thesis. Christ is the thesis and the devil is the antithesis according to this view; righteousness is the thesis and unrighteousness is the antithesis, God and Mammon are two opposing powers and Mammon is the antithesis. The Yes and the No are two independent principles in constant opposition. And though the Yes, the Thesis, the Truth, Righteousness, Christ, God, may ultimately have the victory, there is no conceivable reason for the certainty of this victory, and, in the meantime, until the day of victory arrives the power of darkness effectually opposes God and His Christ. All this, however, is, not the antithetical, but the dualistic conception of God and the world. It leads to the dualism of the nature and grace, rather than to the antithesis of sin and grace.
We must, therefore, endeavor to find the unity of thesis and antithesis.
And to discover this unity we must begin with the thesis.
And to obtain a proper view of the thesis we must begin with God. For, of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, even the thesis and the antithesis both.
The Word of God concerning Himself, that is the thesis.
The Holy Scriptures reveal that God is, that He is God, that He is good, and that Hespeaks concerning Himself.
He is. For His name is Jehovah, the eternal I Am. He is the Eternal, the Self being, the Immutable, with Whom there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. He is not the Ultimate, for the Ultimate after all belongs to the series; neither is He the Causa Causarum, the Cause of all causes, for the cause is one with the effect. But He is Jehovah, the I Am That I Am, GOD, the Wholly Other. He is One, there is no God beside Him, and in His Oneness He is perfectly self sufficient. He needeth not to be served of mans’ hands. And He is good, for He is a light. He is the implication of all perfection, Goodness essentially, truth, righteousness, holiness, life and blessedness. And thus “We all believe with the heart and confess with the mouth, that there is one only simple and spiritual Being, which we call God; and that He is eternal, incomprehensible, invisible, immutable, infinite, almighty, perfect, wise, good, and the overflowing fountain of all good”. (Belgic Confession 1):
But this latter, this belief with the heart and confession with the mouth; would be impossible if God did not speak; if there were no Word of God.
There would be no thesis if God were not; there could not be one thesis if God were not one; there would be no constant thesis if God were not immutable; there could be nopositive thesis, and, therefore, no thesis at all, if God were not good. But all this together does not postulate the thesis. For the thesis is that which is affirmed. It is that which God affirms concerning Himself. If God, then, did not speak, there could be no thesis.
But the Scriptures reveal, and are themselves the evidence of it, that God speaks.
He speaks eternally.
And eternally He speaks concerning Himself. For He is God. And, therefore there is none beside Himself concerning which or whom He could speak. Himself is the eternal content of His Word.
And eternally He speaks concerning himself to Himself. For in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. That is the eternal Word. For, God is One and He is also Three, Father, Son and Holy Ghost. There are three that witness in heaven, the Father, the Word and the Spirit, and these three are One. And their testimony does not consist of three separate testimonies, but it is one. The Father witnesses of Himself through the Son, in the Spirit, to Himself. Through the Son and in the Spirit, therefore, God speaks. He speaks an eternal and infinite Word concerning himself and to Himself. In that eternal Word lie declares the fullness of His divine glory. To Himself He speaks: I AM, I AM GOD, I AM GOOD.
Such is the Word that is eternally with God!
And this Word is the divine reality of the thesis!
And yet, there would be no thesis with us, and we could not believe with the heart and declare with the mouth that thesis, if God merely spoke concerning Himself to Himself.
But it has pleased Him, He willed to form a people for Himself, to whom He might speak concerning Himself, a people that could hear His Word, know Him and love Him with all their heart and mind and soul and strength; and that could declare, confess that Word of God concerning Himself to them and glorify His Name.
That is His covenant of friendship with His people in Christ Jesus His Son. Through Christ His Son, and in the Spirit as the Spirit of Christ, God speaks that Word, the infallible revelation of which we possess in the Holy Scriptures, to the very hearts of His people. And the contents of that Word in brief is again: I AM, I AM GOD, I AM GOOD. And that people hear. And they believe. And they speak: THOU ART JEHOVAH, THOU ART GOD, THOU ART GOOD SOLI DEO GLORIA!
That Word of God concerning Himself to His people and on the lips of. the people is the thesis.
And that thesis we must first of all, will to know, to believe with our Hearts and to confess with our mouths, to develop with relation to all things and to our whole life; and to apply it in a walk in harmony with it.
According as we really will this thesis, will it with all our heart, we are truly Protestant Reformed. Psychologically the theory of the primacy of the intellect may be tenable; spiritually the heart is first. “If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself”, John 7:17. In deepest sense our relation, our personal attitude to the thesis is a question of the will, of the heart. And that thesis we can only truly will when God Himself, through the Spirit of Christ speaks to us concerning Himself. “Why do ye not understand my speech? Even because ye cannot hear my word”, John 8:43.
Where the Word of God is heard and spoken, there is the Church. Outside of the Church in the world that Word is not heard and cannot be heard. And where that Word is not heard, there the Church is not.
And, therefore, we are truly Protestant Reformed according as we will the thesis. If we do not will it, a head full of knowledge about Protestant Reformed principles will be of no avail.
Secondly, we must realize the calling to develop this thesis with regard to life in all its phases in the midst of the world. This is a tremendous task, but also a glorious one. As I see it, this constitutes the peculiar task of our Protestant Reformed Churches. It is not a very significant question whether we shall ever grow big in a numerical sense; but it is of essential importance that we concentrate all our efforts toward a true understanding and proper development of the thesis.
And thirdly, it is our calling to confess with our mouths and to apply in our whole life, in all our walk. and conversation the thesis that Jehovah is God and that He alone is good.
We must think and speak and walk thetically, holding forth the Word of life.
Only then will we live antithetically in the midst of our world. The antithesis follows necessarily from the thesis.
For, you cannot serve God and Mammon. Neither can you merely serve God without determining your attitude toward Mammon. You will hate the one and love the other, or you will love the one and despise the other. This is inevitable. And the deepest reason for this necessary and inevitable antithesis lies again in God.
Let us not misunderstand the matter.
The antithesis is not that which is opposed to the thesis.
Thus the matter is often presented, and the result is a fundamentally dualistic conception of life. Christ is the thesis, the devil is the antithesis; the truth of God is the thesis, the lie of the devil is the antithesis; righteousness is the thesis, unrighteousness is the antithesis; the light is the thesis, the darkness is the antithesis. The thesis is the Yes; the antithesis is the No that opposes this Yes. But this is not the correct presentation and conception of the matter.
The antithesis is not another thesis opposing the thesis that is of God. The devil has no thesis. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. “When He speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own; for he is a liar and the father of it,” John 8:44. And where there is no truth there is no thesis; and where there is no thesis there is no antithesis. On the contrary, therefore, the antithesis is the No of the Yes. It is not the No against the Yes, It is not the opposition against the thesis that constitutes the antithesis, but it is the opposition of the thesis to all that is not of it. It is not that which denies the affirmation, but it is the denial by the affirmation that establishes the antithesis proper.
Thesis and antithesis are in deepest sense both of God. And the antithesis is the No of the Word of God concerning Himself to all that denies Him.
The darkness merely serves the purpose of an occasion for the No of the light, and it serves no other purpose. The devil is there only because God desired to say No to him. For the Scripture saith unto Pharaoh, “Even for this purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth,” Romans 9:17. All the powers of unrighteousness exist and work only in order that they might become the occasion for the No of righteousness. The light, the truth, righteousness, Christ, God, these are not going to be victorious in some future age; they are always more than conquerors. “For we can do nothing against the Truth but for the Truth,” II Corinthians 12:8.
Such is the glory of the antithesis, over against all dualistic as well as over against all synthetic conceptions.
And this must be understood in the strict supralapsarian sense of the word.
The devil and all the powers of darkness did not somehow become the occasion for the No of God; they were designed unto this purpose from before the foundation of the world. And never were they designed unto any other possible or real purpose. For thus it was the eternal good pleasure of the Most High. For, the Scripture teaches not only that God is a light, but also that there is no darkness in Him at all. And it is the eternal good pleasure to reveal also this that He hates the darkness. He willed to reveal Himself antithetically, so that His Yes is at the same time the No. And in this holy will of God the darkness, the “world” has its deepest cause. The antithesis, therefore, is the No of God’s Yes concerning Himself.
And for this reason it is inevitable that the covenant people of the Most High, to whom He speaks His Word concerning Himself and who hear His Word and are called to believe it with their heart and to confess it with their month and to realize it in their walk and conversation in the midst of the world, live antithetically.
They are purposely placed in a world that lieth in darkness, all whose thoughts are that God is not, that He is not God, and that He is not good. And in the midst of that world the Word of God concerning Himself to them and in them and through them becomes the No of the Yes. For this reason it is a very lamentable pretext to live a synthesizing life on the part of those that love it, when they allege that the antithesis in its absolute form will not and cannot come till after the day of Christ, in eternity. In eternity the antithesis and the occasion for it shall be eliminated. Here, in this world, where the children of God and the children of the devil have all things in common except grace to hear and to speak the Word of God concerning Himself, we are called and bound to live antithetically.
And, therefore, we must live thetically.
We must love and will, know and speak and live the thesis, in order to realize the antithesis.
For the antithesis is the No of the Yes.
And only according as we firmly and clearly say Yes will we say No to the world.
And such is our calling.
It will mean battle, tribulation, suffering, For the world will hate us because of our Yes with its inevitable No. In the world ye shall have tribulation. But be of good cheer. Even in the battle you have more than the victory. In your tribulation you may rejoice. For it is given you of grace, in the cause of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer with Him!
After all that has been said it would seem superfluous to state that all synthesizing is of the devil and must absolutely be condemned.
To synthesize is to put together.
And in this connection it represents the desire and the attempt, not to unite what God hath put together and which no man shall put asunder, but that which God has put asunder, light and darkness, God and Mammon. It is the attempt to combine into one the truth and the lie, righteousness and unrighteousness, the Word of God concerning Himself and the word of man concerning God and all things, and to establish concord between Christ and Belial.
And it is self evident, and history shows plainly, that the inevitable result of such synthesizing tendencies is the darkness, the lie, unrighteousness, the word of Man.
It is the silencing of God’s Yes through us and of its inevitable No.
And it is accursed of God!
And, therefore, let us believe with the heart and confess with the mouth that God is, that He is GOD, and that He is good, and that He alone is worthy to receive all praise and glory and adoration forever and ever. Let all the world be silent before Him.
Such is our God-given thesis!
And confessing and living this thesis we shall live antithetically and eschew all synthesis.
Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, with the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you; and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty!
And greater glory and blessedness can no man know than the blessedness of appropriating and applying this divine promise to himself!