How The Bible Estimates Modernists and How Christians Should Treat Them
By T. J. McCrossan, 1929
I.) They are "Intellectual Fools."
In 1st Timothy 6:3,4 Paul gives us God's estimate of every Modernist who denies any plain teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ... "If any man teach otherwise (than as Christ teaches) and consents not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . He is proud (tetuphtai), i.e., knowing nothing." Now this interesting word "proud" comes from "tuphos," meaning "smoke." Every good Greek dictionary will tell you that the Perfect passive here (tetuphtai) really means "to have the mind beclouded with the smoke of self-conceit" or "to be an intellectual fool."
Then Paul's declaration is: "If any man teach otherwise (than as Christ has taught), and consents not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . (4) He is an intellectual fool, knowing nothing." By these strong words the great apostle desired to impress upon all mankind that, in comparison with the Lord Jesus Christ, "The Only Wise God Our Saviour" (Jude 25), the greatest scholar who has ever lived, or ever will live, is "only as a farthing candle held before the blazing sun." Realizing this, let us again resolve with Paul (Rom. 3:4), "To let God (The Lord Jesus Christ) be true and every man (Modernist) a liar."
(a) A splendid illustration of the Intellectual Fools here spoken of by Paul is seen as we read that book conjointly edited by Gladden, Farrar, Horton, Peake, Adeney, Freemantle, Porter, and Lyman Abbott, and called, "The Bible and the Child." In this book, regarding teaching the Bible to children, we read these words: "The first thing to be done is to destroy their illusions. No word should be said about the Bible being infallible. Vaccinate them (the children) with doubt to save them from the small-pox of Skepticism." Men who can conscientiously give such damnable advice to parents are most assuredly going through a process of mental and spiritual devolution, not evolution.
(b) Another good illustration of what Paul means here by "intellectual fools" is seen in Gerald Birney Smith's writings, as quoted by Horsch (Modern Religious Liberalism, pp. 158, 159). Here Mr. Smith says: "An autocratic (i.e. evangelical) religion cannot prepare citizens for democracy. If submitting to the authority of Scripture, we are training men to think of Christianity as something unchangeably there by divine decree...we are training men in autocracy. We cannot maintain one kind of authority in our political life, and a totally different kind of authority in religious life unless we wish religion and democracy to be mutually distrustful. To insist on blind submission in religion is a preparation for blind submission to autocratic power in the State: it is fundamentally opposed to the ideals of democracy. A Church that holds to orthodox views belongs to the old regime rather than to the age of democracy."
According to this reasoning Peter and the other apostles were enemies of the human race when they said (Acts 5:29), "We ought to obey God rather than man." Mr. Smith here insinuates, that all persons who recognize the Sovereignty of God, and teach unquestioning obedience to His will as revealed in the Scriptures, are not and cannot be true democrats. This teaching is absolutely ridiculous, for the most democratic people in every nation, those who bury all selfish interest, and live for the benefit of their neighbors, are those who obey most sincerely the Word of God. On the other hand, wherever the people of any nation reject the sovereignty of God as in Russia today, democracy is a wretched failure.
Then when Mr. Smith argues, that to prevent autocracy on earth God must be shorn of His autocratic power by teaching men that the Bible is not His Word, he proves himself only worthy to be classed among Paul's "Intellectual fools"
(e) Another fine example of these "Intellectual Fools" condemned by Paul in 1 Tim. 6:3, 4 is Prof. Foster, of Chicago. He has said: "Man cannot live without science! . . . Gone are the old ideas of religion; gone is the old notion of the divinity of the sacrament, of the efficacy of prayer, of the authority of the Scriptures, of the divinity of Christ; gone even, is the former view of the immortality of the soul. And there is in its place only the modern idea of efficiency," etc. (Riley's Evolution of the Kingdom, p. 177.)
(d) Still another good example of "the Intellectual Fools" spoken of by Paul in 1 Tim. 6:3, 4 is Henry T. Hodgkin. In his book (Lay Religion, p. 182), he says: "Viewed from a standpoint of democracy, we may say that we need a leader who is one with the led, not one coming from above (meaning the Lord Jesus Christ), but one raised from the ranks, and he must be a servant of the community, not its boss." Again he declares, "The orthodox Jesus is not one of us. Such a leader cannot be in a real sense a part of our every day life, still less can he be the servant of the community."
These men, being Evolutionists, have evolved such an inordinate intellectual and moral conceit that they conscientiously believe the Lord Jesus Christ was very little wiser or better than they, and most assuredly ought not to be worshipped as God any longer.
(e) President A. C. McGiffert, of the Union Theological Seminary, brings himself under Paul's condemnation when he says: "Democracy demands a God with whom men may cooperate, not to whom they must submit." (Religious Education, June, 1919, p. 161.)
Remember, Paul's statement in 1 Tim. 6: 3, 4 is, that every person, who refuses to accept any clear teaching of Christ's, is "an intellectual fool." Reader, does that mean you?
II). Again the Bible declares that all Modernists, who refuse to believe the gospel of Christ, are blinded by Satan.
2 Cor. 4: 3, "But if our Gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: (4) In whom the god of this world (Satan) hath blinded the minds (noēmata-thoughts) of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them."
In Matt. 16: 21-23 Christ declares that all who accept the teaching of men, and reject His teaching are Satan's agents and stumbling blocks to others. Matt. 16:21, "From that time forth began Jesus to show unto His disciples, how that He must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders, and chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. (22) Then Peter took Him, and began to rebuke Him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. (23) But He turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind Me, Satan: thou art an offence (stumbling block) unto Me; for thou savourest not the things that be of God: but those that be of men." Reader, if Peter was an agent of Satan when he opposed the teachings of Christ, preferring the teaching of men, surely we must conclude that all today who are rejecting His teachings are also Satan's agents. See also 2 Tim. 2:24-26: "And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, (25) In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; (26) And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will." Then all Modernists, all who deny any plain teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ, have their thoughts controlled by Satan, and so are his captives.
III.) Again the Bible declares that all Modernists, all who deny the gospel of Christ as proclaimed by Paul, are cursed of God. Gal. 1:8, "But though we, or an angel from heaven; preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed… (9) As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed."
Again Paul declares (2 Cor. 11: 4): "For if he that cometh preacheh another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him...(13) For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.(14) And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. (15) Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works."
Now Paul preached: (1) that man was created by God directly out of the dust of the earth (1 Cor. 15:47). This verse reads literally, "The first man was made of dust (choikos) out of the earth (ek ges)." (2) That Christ was very God (Titus 2:10, 13). (3) That Christ's teaching must be our highest and final authority because he was God's own wisdom personified (1 Cor. 1:24; Col. 2:3). (4) That Christ died for man's sins (Gal. 1: 4; 1 Cor. 15: 3). (5) That He arose with a physical body which did not see corruption (Acts 13:35-37). (6) That we cannot save ourselves by our own good works, only by accepting Christ through faith (Gal. 2:16; Eph. 2: 8). (7) That Christ must come again in vengeance, accompanied by all His saints, to subdue a wicked world to Himself (2 Thess. 1:7-10; 1 Thess. 3:13).
Now Paul declares in Gal. 1:8, 9 and in 2 Cor. 11:4, 13-15, that all who preach any other gospel than this are not only accursed of God, but are also (in God's sight) false apostles, deceitful workers and ministers of Satan. Modernist, does this mean you?
IV.) But not only does the Bible declare that all persons who refuse to believe all the teachings of Christ are: (1) "Intellectual Fools," (2) Blinded by Satan, and (3) Accursed of God, but it also tells us that all such are lost souls.
2 Cor. 4:3 makes this statement: "But if our gospel be hid it is hid to them that are lost: (4) In whom the god of this world (Satan) hath blinded the minds (noēmata-thoughts) of them which believe not." Here we have the only rational explanation of the duplicity and rank deceit employed by Modernists in order to destroy the faith of an orthodox believer. Listen to Gerald B. Smith's words on this subject: "If now a theologian does actually depart from the authorized content of doctrine, he has to meet the traditional feeling that he is a traitor to the cause. So strong is this feeling that a religious man today is almost inevitably compelled to adopt an apologetic method of setting forth new doctrines. He is led to use the familiar terms and phrases, so far as possible, and to make what he holds to be true seem as much like orthodox doctrine as possible...New meanings are thus smuggled in under familiar labels with a resulting lack of clearness in thinking." (A Guide To the Study of the Christian Religion, p. 489.) Is advocating lying and deception to undermine faith in God's Word a guide to the study of Christ's religion? No! It is "A Guide To the Study of Satan's Religion," for Christ says (John 8:44): "Ye are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father ye will do...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." If Gerald B. Smith truly represents Modernism then Paul included all Modernists when He said (2 Cor. 4:4) "In whom the God of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not." No true follower of Christ will deliberately lie and deceive for any reason.
John makes this same statement, that all Modernists are lost souls, in 2 John 9: "Pas o proagon, kai and menon en to didachd tou Christou, theon ouk echei." Literally translated this reads, "Everyone, the one advancing beyond, and not abiding in the teaching of Christ, has not God." If these words are true, then no denier of Christ's teachings is saved.
HOW WOULD THE BIBLE HAVE US TREAT ALL MODERNISTS WHO DENY CHRIST'S TEACHINGS?
(1) Beware of them.
In Col. 2:8 Paul says: "Beware lest any man spoil you (make a prey of you) through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world (Modernism), and not after Christ, (9) For in Him (Christ) dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, (10) And ye are complete in Him." Now since "all the fulness of the Godhead" dwelt in Christ's human body, and since "in Him were all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col. 2: 3)," why should we not put Him above all human teachers?
(2) The Bible not only warns us to beware of all Modernists, but urges us to have no fellowship with them.
(a) Paul says (2 Thess. 3:6): "Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly (ataktōs-regardless of church discipline), and not after the tradition (teachings handed down) which he received of us." Here is a straight command from God, through His inspired apostle, that we have no fellowship with any person who does not believe and teach all that Paul believed and taught. All such are enemies of Christ and agents of the Evil One.
Paul emphasizes the same truth in Romans 16:17, "Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine (teaching) which ye have learned (from Paul himself) and avoid (ekklinate-turn away from) them. (18) For they that are such serve not the Lord Jesus Christ; but their own belly."
Here is a clear statement that we are to avoid, or turn away from, all who teach anything contrary to Paul's teachings, because no such persons are serving the Lord Jesus Christ (see verse 18 again), but are only actuated by selfish motives.
Now Paul most clearly taught: (1) That man was created directly by God out of the dust of the earth and was not evolved from any lower form of life. I Cor. 15:47, "The first man (O protos anthropos-the very first man) was made of dust (ckoikos) out of the earth (ek ges)." (2) That Christ was very God (Titus 2:10, 13). (3) That Christ's teachings must be our highest and final authority because He was God's own wisdom personified (1 Cor. 1:24; Col. 2:3, 9). (4) That Christ died for man's sins (Gal. 1:4; 1 Cor. 15:3 ; Rom. 3:23-26). (5) That God was the father of Christ's physical nature (Gal. 4:4; Col. 1: 17; Acts 13:33; Acts 20:28; Rom. 8:3). (6) That Christ arose with a physical body which did not see corruption (Acts 13:35-37), and that this body was actually seen by scores of persons other than himself (1 Cor. 15:1-9). (7) That man cannot save himself by his own morality or good works, but only by the washing of regeneration (Titus 3:5), and the applying of Christ's righteousness to our account (Rom. 4:5; Phil. 3:9; Gal. 2:16; Eph. 2:8).
Now Paul's clear teaching here in Rom. 16:17, 18 is, that we must avoid, or turn away from all who are teaching doctrines contrary to these which he himself taught. Why? Listen well to Paul's own reason, (Rom. 16:18) "For they (that are so teaching-all Modernists) serve not the Lord Jesus Christ; but their own belly." No wonder Paul is not a favorite with our Modernistic friends.
(b) Again listen to John as he tells us how to treat all Modernists. 2 John 9, "Whosoever transgresseth (goes beyond), and abideth not in the doctrine (teaching) of Christ, hath not God... (10) If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine (that all are lost who do not abide in Christ's teaching), receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: (11) For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds."
John desires here to teach us that all who refuse to accept the teachings of Christ as their highest and final authority, are enemies of God Almighty, and therefore agents of the Evil One. To invite such persons to our homes, and fellowship with them, John declares, will make our influence tell against God.
(3) But not only would the Bible have us beware of Modernists and have no fellowship with them, but it urges us to let the Bible alone control our thinking, and not men.
Rom. 3:3, "For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? (4) God forbid: yea, let God (as revealed in Christ) be true, but every man a liar."
No wonder Peter says (Acts 3:22): "Him (Christ) shall ye hear in all things whatsoever He shall say unto you. (23) And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet (Christ), shall be destroyed from among the people."
Sir Wm. Ramsay, a far greater all around scholar than any Modernist living or dead, has recently defined a Modernist as:
"One who knows all that I do not know, who fixes the limits of the possible, and knows exactly what is impossible. The world is not dark to him: he is born and cradled, and grown to manhood in the intensity of a great light. He knows all things, and he is content and happy in his utter ignorance."
Modernism has no message, for it denies the only hope of the world, a supernatural Bible and a supernatural Christ. It is rooted in evolution and therefore rotten at the source. It denies the depravity of the human heart and the need of a blood-bought redemption. It laughs at a "slaughter-house" theology and eliminates the "blood" songs from hymnals.
It takes the precious name of Lord "Emmanuel" and removes the "Em" from the beginning and the "uel" from the ending, leaving only "man". It gives to the congregation a set of blocks and lets the people spell "God" the best they can.
It calls weakness what God calls wickedness, recommends culture instead of Calvary, and polish instead of pardon. It has tried to revise the Bible, streamline the Gospel, remodel heaven, explain away the devil, and air-condition hell. It has no "hallelujah."
It never produces a revival. It never saved a soul. It never convicted a sinner. It never changed a dope fiend into a Christian. It never took away a drunkard’s love for booze or loosed a libertine from the shackles of lust.
It is a form without force, a religion without redemption. It defies the Book, denies the Blood and derides the Blessed Hope, and the wrath of God is upon it.
Modernism — Liberalism
Liberalism or sometimes called Modernism is a major shift in theological thinking which occurred in the late nineteenth century. Liberals insist that the world has changed since the time Christianity was founded so that biblical terminology and creeds are incomprehensible to people today. Although most would start from the orthodoxy of Jesus Christ as the revelation of a saviour God, they try to rethink and communicate the faith in terms which can be understood today.
It rejects religious belief based on authority alone, rather insists that beliefs must pass the tests of reason and experience. They point to the fact that the Bible is the work of writers who were limited by their times, it is neither supernatural nor an infallible record of divine revelation, and thus does not possess absolute authority. It sees God as present and dwelling within the world, not apart from or elevated above the world as a transcendent being.
Liberalism also manifests a humanistic optimism. Society is moving toward the realization of the kingdom of God, which will be an ethical state of human perfection.
Theological liberalism originated in Germany in the late nineteenth century where most of the major theologians had studied. Many of them had come to accept the principles of higher criticism and Darwinism. Kant's ethical idealism and rejection of all transcendental reasoning about religion had the effect of limiting knowledge and opening the way for faith. Schleiermacher introduced the idea of religion as a condition of the heart whose essence is feeling. This made Christian doctrine independent of philosophical systems and faith a matter of individual experience of dependence upon God. Hegel went off in another direction with his absolute idealism, as this emphasized the existence of a rational structure in the world apart from the individual minds of its inhabitants. The main contributions of Hegelian idealism were support for the idea of divine immanence and the fostering of historical and biblical criticism.
Higher criticism questioned the authorship and dating of much of the biblical literature and rejected the traditional understanding of the Scriptures as divinely revealed oracles. The life of Jesus was studied with the intent of striping off the dogmatic formulations of the church and getting back to the concrete, historical human personage.
Liberals welcomed the finding of science and readily accommodated to the challenge of Darwinism. Evolution vindicated divine immanence, since this explained how God had slowly built the universe through natural law. God revealed himself, they believe, through an evolutionary process, as the Israelites began with backward, bloodthirsty ideas and gradually came to understand that the righteous God could be served only by those who are just, merciful, and humble. Redemption is seen as the gradual transformation of man from a primitive state to that of obedient sonship to God. Just like the physical realm, culture and religion had evolved, and there was no fundamental antagonism between the kingdoms of faith and natural law.
Students of comparative religion have suggested that the religions of mankind evolved from lower stages to ever higher stages, the highest of all being monotheism. They propose that Israelite religion began as animism, the belief that every natural object is inhabited by a supernatural spirit. After animism the idea developed in Israel that some spirits were more powerful than others and deserved to be called 'gods.' Eventually the most powerful of all became preeminent above the others, and the people believed in his supreme authority and worshipped him alone.
Finally, Israel became willing to admit that the lesser gods had no existence whatever.
Walter A. Elwell