By Editorial Staff
Published March 1, 1988
By Peter J. Leithart
All over the world, governments are busily engaged in various kinds and degrees of reform. South Africa has repealed many of the “petty apartheid” laws that once restricted black advancement and maintained white supremacy. Mikhail Gorbachev’s criticism of past Soviet abuses and his (thus far) meager reforms have made glasnost common parlance in Western countries.
Some Eastern European countries have begun to follow the Soviet lead. In China, land has been redistributed into small, quasi-private farms, with resulting increases in agricultural production.
South Africa has been accused of making only cosmetic changes, reforms that change the surface appearance of South African society but leave the fundamental structures of oppression and injustice in place. the same accusation has not been raised as readily against China and the Soviet Union, but such an argument could easily be made.
For example, writing in Commentary about the state of Soviet letters, Walter Laqueur commented recently that the USSR needs, above all, a “cultural revolution,” something that the current regime shows no sign of permitting. Moreover, Christians are still in Soviet jails. In fact, without a thorough abandonment of communism, any “reform” in the USSR is, in the last analysis, sheer propaganda. (It is interesting in this connection that the basic meaning of glasnost is not, as the American media claims,“openness,” but “publicity.”)
Similar criticisms can be leveled against the Chinese agricultural reforms. It must be admitted that Chinese agriculture has made remarkable progress since the reforms were begun in the late 1970s. Yet the State continues to fix prices for many goods. Prices for staples in cities are suppressed, keeping the urban middle class warm and well-fed, but effectively stifling the incentive of farmers.
Technically, Chinese farmers can sell crops either on the free market or to the government, but in reality it is often difficult to shift to more profitable goods because the government arranges coercive “contracts” for staples. Without these“contracts,” no sane farmer would sell his produce at the artificially low government prices. The State also continues to be the de jure owner of all the farmland.
In short, the fundamental realities of Chinese agriculture – in particular, price-fixing and State ownership of land – have not changed.
In the Philippines, the “people’s revolution” has had discernible effects on attitudes, politics, and the press. Yet, James Fallows reports in The Atlantic that Filipino society is “the only non-communist society in East Asia in which the average living standard is going down.” This is not, he argues, due entirely to the corruption of the Marcos regime. Instead, just as Japan and Korea demonstrate that culture can make a country rich even if it is poor in resources, the Philippines illustrates that “culture can make a naturally rich country poor.”
All this raises the question: What is fundamental reform? In South Africa, democracy – one man, one vote, or, as Kendall and Louw have proposed in After Apartheid, “one man, many votes” – would be widely hailed as a fundamental reform. In the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, and China, privatization of land and abandonment of socialist planning would be recognized as fundamental reforms.
But do such reforms really touch the heart of social problems? Do even these kinds of reforms go deep enough?
When Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980, American conservatives rejoiced. This was the beginning of fundamental reform. As time went on, however, many within and without the administration discovered that fundamental reform was easier to talk about then to implement. David Stockman saw his budget plans trashed to make political hay. Interior Secretary James Watts’ attempts to bring sanity to ecological issues were dashed to pieces on the reefs of media hype and distortion.
Spending increased, and the bureaucracy got bigger. Reagan is now reluctantly, hesitantly, and evasively talking about tax increases. We still have a Federal Department of Education. Few observers today would deny that whatever the Reagan revolution might have accomplished falls under the category of “cosmetic reform.”
In the face of widespread failure, many conservative activists have lost heart. They have concluded that fundamental reform is impossible. Their idealism has been shattered and they have become cynical, because they have learned “how the world really works.” As a result, they have become less activist.
The problem with such conservatives is that they were engaged in the wrong kind of activism to begin with. They were seeking to achieve fundamental social changes through political means. Their program was fundamentally statist, and thus conceded the presuppositions of the opposition. They were seeking to rebuild the walls of the city with sledge hammers.
Christian activism operates in an entirely different atmosphere than humanist activism, whether conservative or liberal. Christian reform is not basically political, though it has a political dimension. In fact, Christian reform is the only reform that is not cosmetic, because only the Christian gospel gets to the heart of social ills by getting to the sinful hearts of the men who make up the society.
Christians alone can avoid cynicism about the long-term chances of reform, because only the Christian can be sure that his work will be established if he faints not.
Reprinted with permission of Chalcedon Report, P.O. Box 158, Vallecito, CA 95251.
Forerunner - Home » The Forerunner Newspaper » Reformation
Your comments are welcome!
Foundations in Biblical Eschatology
By Jay Rogers, Larry Waugh, Rodney Stortz, Joseph Meiring. High quality paperback, 167 pages.
All Christians believe that their great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will one day return. Although we cannot know the exact time of His return, what exactly did Jesus mean when he spoke of the signs of His coming (Mat. 24)? How are we to interpret the prophecies in Isaiah regarding the time when “the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isa. 11:19)? Should we expect a time of great tribulation and apostasy or revival and reformation before the Lord returns? Is the devil bound now, and are the saints reigning with Christ? Did you know that there are four hermeneutical approaches to the book of Daniel and Revelation?
These and many more questions are dealt with by four authors as they present the four views on the millennium. Each view is then critiqued by the other three authors.
$12.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
Download the free Study Guide!
Is there a connection between pagan religion and the abortion industry?
This powerful presentation traces the biblical roots of child sacrifice and then delves into the social, political and cultural fall-out that this sin against God and crime against humanity has produced in our beleaguered society.
Conceived as a sequel and update to the 1988 classic, The Massacre of Innocence, the new title, The Abortion Matrix, is entirely fitting. It not only references abortion’s specific target – the sacred matrix where human beings are formed in the womb in the very image of God, but it also implies the existence of a conspiracy, a matrix of seemingly disparate forces that are driving this holocaust.
The occult activity surrounding the abortion industry is exposed with numerous examples. But are these just aberrations, bizarre yet anomalous examples of abortionists who just happen to have ties to modern day witchcraft? Or is this representative of something deeper, more sinister and even endemic to the entire abortion movement?
As the allusion to the film of over a decade ago suggests, the viewer may learn that things are not always as they appear to be. The Abortion Matrix reveals the reality of child-killing and strikes the proper moral chord to move hearts to fulfill the biblical responsibility to rescue those unjustly sentenced to death and to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves (Proverbs 24:11,12; 31:8,9).
Speakers include: George Grant, Peter Hammond, RC Sproul Jr., Paul Jehle, Lou Engle, Rusty Thomas, Flip Benham, Janet Porter and many more.
Ten parts, over three hours of instruction!
Running Time: 195 minutes
$19.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
“Give me liberty or give me death!”
Patrick Henry’s famous declaration not only helped launch the War for Independence, it also perfectly summarized the mindset that gave birth to, and sustained, the unprecedented experiment in Christian liberty that was America.
The freedom our Founders envisioned was not freedom from suffering, want, or hard work. Nor was it freedom to indulge every appetite or whim without restraint—that would merely be servitude to a different master. No, the Founders’ passion was to live free before God, unfettered by the chains of autocracy, shackles that slowly but inexorably bind men when the governments they fashion fail to recognize and uphold freedom’s singular, foundational truth: that all men are created in the image of God, and are thereby co-equally endowed with the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
This presentation is a similar call, not to one but many. By reintroducing the principles of freedom that gave birth to America, it is our prayer that Jesus, the true and only ruler over the nations, will once again be our acknowledged Sovereign, that we may again know and exult in the great truth that “where the Spirit of the LORD is, there is liberty” (2 Cor. 3:17).
Welcome to the Second American Revolution!
This DVD features “Liberty: The Model of Christian Liberty” along with “Dawn’s Early Light: A Brief History of America’s Christian Foundations.” Bonus features include a humorous but instructive collection of campaign ads and Eric Holmberg’s controversial YouTube challenge concerning Mitt Romney’s campaign for president.
$14.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
Who is the dreaded beast of Revelation?
Now at last, a plausible candidate for this personification of evil incarnate has been identified (or re-identified). Ken Gentry’s insightful analysis of scripture and history is likely to revolutionize your understanding of the book of Revelation — and even more importantly — amplify and energize your entire Christian worldview!
Historical footage and other graphics are used to illustrate the lecture Dr. Gentry presented at the 1999 Ligonier Conference in Orlando, Florida. It is followed by a one-hour question and answer session addressing the key concerns and objections typically raised in response to his position. This presentation also features an introduction that touches on not only the confusion and controversy surrounding this issue — but just why it may well be one of the most significant issues facing the Church today.
Ideal for group meetings, personal Bible study — for anyone who wants to understand the historical context of John’s famous letter “… to the seven churches which are in Asia.” (Revelation 1:4)
Running Time: 145 minutes
$17.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
Exposes the Dangers of Abortion to Women!
These shocking eyewitness accounts expose the dangers of abortion not only to unborn children, but to the health and lives women as well. An antidote to the smokescreens of the liberal media, these short clips show what really happens in and around abortion clinics.
Although the content is emotionally gut-wrenching, these videos have been used in church seminars and small groups to educate Christians on the abortion issue and to lead people toward a pro-life position. Contains 2 hours and 40 minutes of materials that can be shown separately.
Watch these pro-life videos on-line.
“These videos helped change my mind from pro-choice to pro-life. Your videos are what did it for me. I will be walking in next year’s March For Life in San Francisco.” — A. Jackson, California
“I was going to have an abortion until I saw your video. Praise Jesus!”
— M. Drew, YouTube Commenter
$4.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)