Some Results of Modernism

Leslie Diestelkamp
Brookfield, Ill.

The ravaging influence of modernism is now reaching into almost all religious groups. A few years ago only a comparatively small part of those who believe in Christ could have been truly classified as modernists. Today, many modernistic beliefs have found a place in both pulpit and pew in many, many religious 'groups We are told by some that America is in the midst of a great religious revival, and that greater interest is being shown in spiritual things than has been shown for generations. But let us not be deceived. In so many instances this greater demonstration of religious fervor is only a sociological or cultural emphasis. Because some people may be frightened by the threat of juvenile delinquency, they may turn to something that points them and their children to a church building; but that does not mean that they are being filled with a deep conviction of God, Christ and truth. There is a vast difference between a conviction that is concerned with pleasing God and that which is just interested in keeping out of jail.

Truth or Truce

Jesus said, "Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free", but people of today are more inclined to cry, "Truce, truce". This is not a dynamic urge to be made free from sin by truth, but rather a fervent desire to make peace with Satap? the world, and the conscience.

But modernism, in some of its many forms and devices, is finding a place, among members of the body of Christ, also. If not directly, then in its results, it is touching the very tap-root of Christianity. Many, many are departing from the faith. A dozen or more preachers have already left the church in the Chicago area, to go to denominations.

Still others hold the same views as those who left, or at least very similar views. From all over the nation come reports of others who have joined the liberal wing of the Christian Church, or the Congregational Church, or some other denomination. Before they leave, those preachers have left their mark upon the body of Christ. Many souls are deeply influenced by them.

No "Backbone"

Modernism has taken the "backbone" out of our religion. Deep conviction about salvation by faith when that faith includes obedience, and about the "one body" and pure worship, undefiled with devices and instruments of men, is being lost.

A result of modernism is to soften up supposed gospel preaching. Sweet, soothing messages, profound, pious speeches and philosophical sermonettes are too common today. Too many supposed gospel sermons would fit in any denominational pulpit. This preaching may contain no error except the grievous error of failing to declare the whole counsel of God. Modernism saps the strength out of religion like socialism saps the initiaive out of labor. To be much influenced by modernism is to lose zeal and courage to "fight the good fight of faith. "

A Social Gospel

Modernism has greatly influenced the development of the "social gospel". James P. Sanders (not to be confused with the J. P. Sanders of Nashville, Tenn.), who left the church nearly two years ago, said at the time he was so widely accepted by brethren throughout this area, that, "It was no accident, therefore, that one of the first practical results of the Modernistic movement was the rise of the 'Social Gospel' crusade. This was, of course, a part of the true gospel as we have seen, but a part that was being forgotten and neglected. Religion had lost sight of its goal of bringing mankind to a fuller life and had bogged down in the trivia and details of its own existence". Notice that this quotation says that the goal of religion is to bring man to a fuller life. (Personally, it has always been my conviction that the only real goal of religion should be to bring man to reconciliation with God, and every item in our religious experiences and activities should lead to a closer walk with God).

A survey made by the CATHOLIC DIGEST and quoted in the MINNEAPOLIS STAR states that a questionnaire was sent to people of all faiths. They were asked: "Which do you think is more important for the church to do to convert people to a spiritual belief so that they can earn a happy life after death, or to teach people how to live better every day with all other, people?"

Only 17% interviewed believed that conversion to a spiritual belief was more important. It is not my purpose to de-emphasize clean living and a life of service to our fellow-man, but it is my purpose to stress the fact that when we have done our very best in that way, we have not, by so doing, gained forgiveness of our sins. It is not a matter of choosing between acts of kindness, and belief and obedience to Christ, but rather it is a matter of reconciliation with God PLUS service to fellow-man! A real result of modernism is to deemphasize saving faith-faith that includes obedience to God's commands while emphasizing social, cultural and sometimes moral concepts.

Authority Minimized

A result of modernism is to minimize the authority of the written word of God. Even with some brethren, if a thing fits into the scheme of human reason, no other authority is needed. Brethren, shall we abandon the plea for a""revealed religion"? Was the demand for "chapter and verse" an unjust one.? Modernism recognizes no definite power in the word of God, to either authorize or limit either by command, example ov necessary inference. We see everywhere today the contaminating influence of modernism when we observe brethren who not only abandon the Bible as their authority, but who also deny that it is truly such a directing and limiting force.

Another effect of modernism is to reduce the church of our Lord to a denominational rating in the minds of those influenced by liberal concepts. Certainly it cannot be denied that many Christians have denominational conceptions and use sectarian language, but that does not make the blood-bought body into a sect. Likewise it must be remembered that simple gospel obedience never did make one a member of a denomination, nor did submission to the creeds of men ever make one a child of God. Shame and reproach are brought to the cause of Christ when gospel preachers contend that the church of which they are members is a denomination among the denominations. That such arguments have been made cannot be denied. So each faithful Christian should have the strength to repudiate them.

No Essentials

Those influenced by modernism usually dislike the word "essential" so much that they will hardly admit that anything is necessary to salvation. (But when Jesus said "Except ye repent ye shall. . . perish", He made repentance essential, and when he said, "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit he cannot enter the Kingdom", he made baptism in water necessary.) This same liberal attitude makes instrumental music in worship a matter of no concern, and it is becoming more and more common to find members of the church declaring that there is nothing wrong, with such music. To point out that instrumental music in worship is sinful (I Cor. 4:6-see R.V.; 2 John 9) is to bring down upon one's self certain and dreadful ire, and to refuse to fellowship those who use the instrument is to be branded a Pharisee.

Modernism has contributed to moral delinquency for liberalism minimizes immorality and recognizes no real and definite moral standard. Even where there is no suspicion of modernism, very little is said in opposition to such immoral practices as dancing, drinking and nudity. If it be said that this results from the age in which we live, let it be remembered that the morals of the age are largely determined by the religious convictions of the people. Furthermore immoral practices cannot be made right by the age in which we live, for the gospel must not be made to f it the people, but rather the people must be made to f it the Bible.

Over the nation today many think that those of us who attribute so many things to modernism are excited. But with the welfare of the cause of Christ in our hearts, let us awaken to realize that that cause is doomed to perilous times unless we recognize every modernistic trend and abandon it, at tho same time upholding with all our might the blood stained banner of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Truth Magazine I:2, pp. 10-11
November 1956