The Modernistic Interpretation of Scripture

  1. Its View of Science and Scripture

Another favorite attack upon the Word of God is to argue that the Book is not a scientific treatise, but an expression of certain tribal beliefs and religious aspirations of past ages.  The implication is that the Bible is not in harmony with science.  It is filled with errors which contradict the findings of science, so that the best we can do with the biblical material is to “interpret it in a new way” and consider it “as the highly symbolical expression of a truth which was intuitively perceived by its redactor or by the sages who communicated it to him.”  (9)  The Flood, as related in Genesis, according to such reasoning, is not an inspired record of a universal deluge, but an allegory meant to reveal a natural aversion on the part of God toward violence and injustice.

But it is not the Genesis record which conflicts with true science; it is philosophy (of one brand or other) which does.  Facts do not conflict with Scripture, but unwarranted interpretations of the facts do.

Science has never been able to controvert the biblical account of the universal Flood, (10) nor has it made such an attempt.  Only certain philosophers have done so, or certain anti-Christian scientists who allowed themselves to depart from the field of true science for the dead-end alleys of speculation.  Not the Scripture, but the confident critic is in the wrong.


  1. Its Program in Romanism

It is said that a new attempt is being made to revive the stale idea of the post-exilic origin of most of the Old Testament, not from the side of the destructive critics school referred to above, but from some Romanist writers. (11)  This trend to Modernism in Romanism has been thought recent because it has been supposed that Modernism originated from a Protestant background, and that Romanism held more rigidly than Protestantism to the basic principles of Christianity.  But Romanism from before the Dark Ages has been the ecclesiastical grist-mill of Pelagianism and Arminianism, the two most vicious errors and deep-rooted heresies the church has ever had to contend with, the very seed and heart of Modernism.  It should not then be surprising that the Romanist church has had within its body for the past 100 years its own rationalistic movement which avows itself to be of the critical school, and plainly adopts the term Modernism as descriptive of its character.  “Concerning the origin of the Old Testament they say: – “The children of Israel were on the same religious level as the other nations.”  Of the destructive critics school they say, “Criticism has reconstructed the whole story of the evolution of Christianity.” (12)  Members of this movement admit that it had its origin “in biblical and historical criticism,” that is, in that movement the ambition of which is “to eliminate God from all social life.”

This Modernist movement within the Romanist church is no more dead than it is in the so-called Protestant world.  It fosters what they call “The Program of Modernism,” the preamble of which is declared thus:  “Our religious attitude is ruled by the single wish to be one with the Christians and Catholics who live in harmony with the spirit of the age.”  What this movement considers “the spirit of the age” to be may be found very graphically and very capably described in The Catholic Encyclopedia.  It is a spirit having four different aspects:

1)  A spirit of complete liberation, a freedom from ecclesiastical authority:  the liberation of science, which must investigate every field of knowledge without hindrance or opposition from the church; the liberation of the state, which must not be encumbered with religious authority; the liberation of the individual conscience, which must be untrammeled by hierarchical decrees and anathemas;

2)  a spirit of change and progress, motivated by the resident forces of evolution in the world, which advances over anything permanent and stationary:

3)  a spirit of unification among all men through the sense of brotherliness inherent in the human heart;

4)  a spirit of civilization and united inspiration calculated to produce the foundations of destiny – science and democracy. (13)

Dr. Newman Smythe, of New England’s “new theology” school, says in The Number of Man (P. Mauro), pl. 176, “The present Pope is a parenthesis.  Some parentheses of history have been long drawn out: but always God’s sentence goes on to its full period.  The reaction of Pius X is an interruption.  Modernism runs in the main line of the thought and intent of Christian civilization.”  The idea is that the pope can and ought to bring himself into line with contemporary progress, liberalism and modern civilization.  The day will come when priests and popes will be as rationalistic and modernistic in thought and life as any of the radical forms of Modernism we have ever known in nominal Protestantism.


  2. The Trend of Romanism

That which has been expressed in the previous paragraph indicates the direction of this trend.  We may see things unfolding and developing in this direction very speedily before our very eyes today.  Already the Archbishop of Canterbury, Geoffrey Fisher, claims for his Church of England a spirit of unity with the present pope and the Roman Catholic Church.  Union does not yet exist, as that depends upon the decisions of authorities; but something far deeper already does exist, and that is oneness of spirit socially, ethically, and religiously.  In our country, modern liberals like this archbishiop have been largely responsible for the recent election of a Roman Catholic president.  We may now expect to find Romanists bolder than ever, and “Protestants” more timid than ever.  Something of this boldness we see in the toy and novelty shops which sell dolls outfitted as nuns.  Do not be surprised to see little priest-dolls, and little pope-dolls (perhaps wearing miniature triennium).  South American markets have for years been flooded with such trivia.

Although the Modernist movement in the Church of Rome was condemned by the pope in 1861, it spread, from where it began in Italy, to France, then spreading its ravages among Romanists to Germany, England, Austria, Hungary, Spain, Belgium, Russia, Romania and America.  The tone of Modernism under Pius IX was politico-liberal, and under Leo XIII and Pius X, socialistic.  Today, Romanism is showing an increasing interest in the ecumenical movement, and flirts with the devotees of amalgamation of church and world.  The purpose of this movement is not exclusively religious.  Its aim is to secure a religious and political monopoly which will control the industrial, commercial and educational powers of mankind.  It will therefore willingly bear the censure of superiors, the displeasure of the pope, and every disagreeable circumstance short of outright excommunication to advance the platform of humanism, and the merger of the church with the world.  The movement has its eyes set on the rule of the world’s irresistible treasure of titanic industrialism.  To accomplish such a stupendous task, a genius equivalent to that of the world-system must be put into operation.  That means that there must be such a liberal outlook on the part of the church, such a repenting of its former strife (Reformations and Counter-Reformations), that it may be wedded to and made completely harmonious with the modern world.  All this points to the Man of Sin.  He will be the world’s greatest Modernist, and will see to it that the principles of Modernism shall fully be put into execution.


  1. The Trend of Modernistic “Protestantism”

The modernist church labors to bring all Protestantism into line with the latest scientific, psychological, psychiatrically, philosophical, and industrial developments.  Not only the Anglican, but also the huge denominations of America, such as the Protestant Episcopal and the Presbyterian, have been radically modernistic for years, and are now winning over to their most alluring cause the influential of the Reformed churches.  True Christian theism, no longer popular, is on the way out.  The churches are too busy making a religion, or a god of democracy.  The Reformed principle of the absolute authority of the sovereign God will be pushed even more to the obscure background.  The trend being to individualism, there will be more sabotaging of family life, less recognition of authority in the home, and the relaxing of the demands of obedience from children and young people.  Modern Protestantism has no higher authority than the autonomy of man.  No wonder the Protestant denominations are losing members to the cults!  Many other “members” simply drop the church, being perfectly content with a vague religious feeling and no settled beliefs.  Dad churches have no way of holding their people, and the ministers find it extremely difficult not only in reaching the consciences of men, but also of so much as securing their attention.  But with all this crumbling decay increasing all around, it is not Christianity, but Christendom which is spiritually defunct.

Next time, the trend of religious America.


9)   Human Destiny, Leconte du Nouy, 112, Longmans, N.Y. 1947

10)  Studies in the Book of Genesis, R.C. Harbach, 60, 65, 68

11)  Revelation and the Bible, 341

12)  The Number of Man, P. Mauro, 136ff, 143, Rev, 1909

13)  The Catholic Encyclopedia, “Modernism,” Imprimatur – – John M. Farley, Archbishop of N.Y., Appleton. 1911