- ITS RELIGIOUS VIEWS (continued)
- Summary of Higher Criticism (April issue)
- Characteristic Principles
It is not at all easy to determine the principles of the Modernist movement, because, as we examine its material, we find very little that is definite enough to pass for a principle. In fact, it would seem that the basic principle of Modernism is not to have any principles. For Modernism is a tenuous, vague, elusive, nebulous, question mark type of “philosophy,” motivated by personal opinion, characterized by experiment, always in a state of flux, and never emerges with any permanent convictions. That is why we entitled this section “Its Religious Views,’ rather than “Its Doctrinal Beliefs,” for Modernism avoids doctrine like the plague; so that it would be more accurate to say that modernists think rather than believe. We even hesitate to state that Modernism is a religion, because, considering its over-all impact we get the impression that it hates all religion, especially Christianity, and highly favors the “American” right to be atheistic. Nevertheless, in almost any expression Modernism makes we may discern clearly, underlying all four principles. First, that of evolutionism, which may be illustrated in the progression from the cave-man’s animism to the university professor’s pantheism. Second, that of higher (?) criticism, or evolutionism applied to Holy Scripture, as we have demonstrated. Third, in keeping with this principle of evolution, the study of comparative religions (which in Modernist seminaries displaces the curriculum of systematic theology). And fourth, that of human experience which is gratuitously assumed to be the best teacher. Actually, and fundamentally, this amounts to but two basic principles: that of evolution and experience. This is the best in the way of the objective and the subjective that Modernism has to offer. Modernism therefore thinks that what is is what ought to be. Christianity teaches that “what is is what ought to be” only if it is the only thing that can be.
- Standard of Truth
Strictly speaking, Modernism has no real, objective standard, much less may it be said to hold truth, for it proceeds from the cynical cliché’, “What is truth!” and with a blasé’ yawn waves truth out of existence. Truth to the modernist is an intolerable mental and intellectual imposition. It is therefore worse than naïve to consider the Bible to be exclusively the infallible Word of God. God’s Word is not stamped, gilt-edged, thumb-indexed and morocco bound! Far freer and unhampered, it may be found also in the works of the bards, sages and masters. The Bible merely contains some of the fringes of the word of God. It is inspired only where it happens to strike the individual’s fancy. For the great wealth of the “divine” word is latent in man himself. Truth is that inherent and usable good in man. Man finds the truth when he searches for and listens to the god within. When man comes to the self-conscious and intelligent realization of himself, discovering this all-sufficient light within, he arrives at the peak of human aspirations, and becomes “as God”(Gen. 3:5, ASV), and his word becomes the word of “God.“ Properly conceived, then, according to this philosophy, the word of God is really the Word of Man.
This “standard” comes to its most popular expression in the so called democratic spirit of the day, where the voice of the people is the determining factor in life. The decision of the majority controls in all matters of human interest. For if anything, the will of the people is right (although who can be sure that even the people are right?) But to run counter to this will is to become a subverted of democracy, and an enemy of the state.
How the true God is conveniently pushed out of the picture! Yet it is He who has set eternity in man’s heart (Eccl. 3:11), so that man is a sort of microcosm, a tiny, self-contained universe filled with traces of the power and wisdom of God. So constituted is man by the Creator that in the depths of his conscience he knows that he is moved and inspired by the operation of God. He cannot escape some (natural) idea of God; for he only has to look within himself to realize that he is a mirror (though faded, soiled and broken) of the works of God. God’s name is so conspicuously and indelibly impressed upon man that it is evident that “He is not far from every one of us” (Acts 17:27). But blind man cannot see Him, does not want to see Him, and cannot want to see Him. In thought (proud, humanistic), man commits deicide, expels the omnipresent God, extinguished His name altogether, and sets himself up in the temple of conscience as God, and informs himself that he is ”God.”
- The Creation of the World
The god of Evolution has made everything, mineral, vegetable, and animal, exactly what they are today, and did so from a single, simple substance. The Scripture account of the origin of things contains legends and traditions, which in the light of the latest discoveries of science must be read as analogies of allegorical thought. The sacred text is “a highly symbolic and cryptic description of scientific truths.” That “man became a living soul” means that God gave him a conscience, and that means that He gave him freedom of choice, and this freedom of choice was more than the freedom to act according to his nature – it included the freedom to accept or reject God’s proposals. In giving man this “free will,” God had to abdicate a part of His omnipotence. In order for man to evolve, God had to somewhat devolve to less than what He was. Otherwise man could not be free and at liberty to progress. So they tell us! Modernism has felt it high time to depart from the idea that the triune Father created of nothing the heaven, earth and all creatures, giving to them their being, form and office in the kingdom of God. But we reject and abhor the error of these modern Manichees who deny the creation of the world, men and angels, and who assert that all these have their origin of themselves, or of pre-existent material.
- The Fall of Man
Modernism has absolutely no place for the Christian doctrine of the Fall of Man. Originally, man was the product of the creative power of God who formed him from the dust of the ground, made him good, able to will the will of God, and was clothed in the beautiful light of knowledge, righteousness and holiness. But man despised his honor and excellence by exchanging God’s truth for the devil’s lie. He departed from God his true life by breaking the commandment of life. He could do this because he had already corrupted his whole nature with pride and lust. He had become wicked: he denuded himself of the garment of light (his excellent gifts), and became darkness, except for some glimmerings of natural light, which “light” is a darkness, and if the light in him is darkness, how great is his darkness! Thus man fell into death and under the curse.
This orthodox interpretation of Genesis 3 is regarded as worse than useless for our illuminated age. In the interest of finding new values, we must think of the fall as the infinite coming down into the finite, the perfect coming to, suffusing and transforming the imperfect. Pantheistically, God is all and in all. He is the sum total of all things. The world is God and God is the world. He became personalized in the human race. God finally came down into the universe when the “all things” eventually evolved man. This is the fall. It is the fall of infinity into the bottomless, shoreless sea of humanity. Genesis may be correct when it relates a fall, but it was a fall of God, not the fall of man. Man is not a fallen being. The fall, for man, was not downward. For by it man fell upward, as one who trips himself up the stairs; so that ever since, man has been rising until he “arrives” and becomes “as God.” Hence this pantheism begins with nature worship and ends in worship of humanity. The truth is, man became as “a strange god” (Dn 11:39), as the “god of this age” (II Cor. 4:40, as his father the devil (Jn 8:44) and was turned into his image. Man since then continues in his first sin, boasting the abilities of the human mind, not believing that the carnal mind is enmity against God. He prefers his knowledge (which is a form of ignorance) unintentionally proving that the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God. He assumes there is nothing higher than his own reasoning, failing to understand that we are not sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves, but that our sufficiency is of God.
- The View of Man
Man at his best is an imperturbable being who fearlessly and unashamedly trusts solely in himself, or at least has a collective confidence in mankind. Why should it be otherwise? For other gods are too distant, too abstract, and too heavenly for any earthly good . Man alone had advanced us with his wisdom, accomplishment, genius. Man has by his own powers attained to enough divinity to be all the god there need be in the world. His insuppressible voice is the whole of prophecy, he the only christ, his progeny the only church. In man may be found all the good necessary to overcome the world’s evil. If a man becomes a wife-beater of a turn-coat, no one today is so behind-times as to hold him responsible for it. He evidently is the victim of Freudian or Communist brainwashing. He should be given a free tour of the UN building and made to observe the procedures in the various diplomatic council chambers.
Modern preaching no longer aims at producing a sense of sin in its hearers. It panders to men’s pride, and helps them to avoid any consciousness of sin by flattering their vanity. Missionaries and “evangelists” must know how to make the proper and psychological approach to the peoples of the world. When preaching to the American Indian, it is tactful to praise his reputation for keeping his word. Citizens of the U.S. are told how benevolent they are, responding to every appeal for community and world welfare. Europeans are inflated with the insinuation of how hungry for the truth they are. Of our collegians, as to that side of them we think we understand, it is said that they study more and harder than their parents did: as to that side of them we cannot understand, it is said that their parents forget they were young once. When finally the Bible is appealed to, it is done in the spirit that here in this Book is “something so good that it is good enough even for you good people!”
Modernism has always denied that man is a sinner, that his nature is so corrupt that he is conceived and born in sin, wholly incapable of doing any good, prone to hate God and his neighbor and inclined to all wickedness. But this is where true preaching must begin – with instilling the knowledge of sin. No man shall appreciate his need to be saved unless he may realize he is lost, and he shall never believe he is lost until he learns that he is by nature dead in sins. Why has modern preaching lost this beginning principle of the knowledge of man’s misery? Because it has long ago substituted the above delineated Pelagianism for Christianity. By Pelagianism we mean that popular, man-on the-street religion which assumes that the highest level of human intelligence, morality and faith can be attained by the autonomous development of the human faculties. The neo-orthodox are full of this religion, and the reason for its so enthusiastic and universal reception is that it ignores the annoying reality of sin. The best the modern church can do is to call the righteous to repentance, which means to appeal to men to recognize and admit the powers, the miracle of Man! How utterly different is Christianity! It proclaims the law of God; for through the law cometh the knowledge of sin (Rom 3:20, ASV); the law, the tutor which brings God’s beloved enemies to Christ; and Christ is the end of the law for righteousness. There at the end of the law, the repentant sinner comes to the Cross of Jesus where he is assured that his sins are forgiven and forgotten, cleansed and gone, atoned for, remembered again no more for ever, removed as far as the east is from the west, cast into the depths of the sea, blotted out as a thick cloud and cast behind God’s back!