Pages from the Past . . .

Current Threats of Digression in Doctrine (2)

L. R. Wilson

(EDITOR'S NOTE: The following article is taken from the July 7, 1955 issue of the Gospel Advocate.)

The Threat of Modernism

Some of our young preachers who studied quite a bit of psychology-perhaps more than they did the Bible, ventured too far from shore, and have been carried far out to sea by the under currents. In the maze of humanity in the two largest cities of our nation, some have lost complete sight of the divine criterion. They began speculating on how the Lord regards the intentions and attitudes of those who honestly think they are doing his will, even though they miss the true mark. In their finite reasoning they concluded that the infinite and merciful God per chance will accept their good intentions for faithful obedience. This defective reasoning caused them to regard the rest of us as too "legalistic," and void of the true spirit of Christianity.

Modernism accepts no standard of authority above that of human reason. Any system that does not lend itself to the peculiar needs and circumstances of the time--as the modernists conceive - -cannot be regarded as genuine. With them, the final authority in all matters is the good intentions of the individual toward that which he conceives to be right and good. They do not realize that fallible man is incapable of setting up a standard of his own. More than five hundred years before our Lord came into the world, God, through the prophet Jeremiah, said, "It is not in man that walketh to direct his steps." (Jer. 10:23.) Man can no more determine his own way than he can lift himself by his own bootstraps. Man has neither the wisdom nor the strength to save himself. We must look to God for help.

The fact that a man intends to plant a crop, but never gets around to doing so, will not put feed in his barns. The fact that man intends to keep the spirit of the law, while violating what it says, will not save him from the clutches of the law. The modernists overlook the fact that the infinite and omniscient God knows what man needs much better than man knows. Furthermore, it seems never to occur to the critics that a Bible can be bought at every ten-cent counter in New York and Chicago, and that the man with average intelligence can-if he wants to do so-learn what God would have him do to become a Christian, and how to live an acceptable life. God did not give us ears and eyes for no purpose. Neither did he endow us with an intellect and reveal to us his will without expecting us to recognize and obey him. Man is not only responsible for what he knows, but for what he ought to know.

When we lose sight of the verbal inspiration of the Bible, and its absolute authority, we lose our way. We no longer feel bound by its commands or restrained by its law. This is what has happened to some of our young preachers in the big cities. While they continue to preach baptism "for the remission of sins," they no longer teach that it is essential to salvation. Now, they think of all of us who plead for a strict adherence to the word of God as "legalists," and void of the true spirit of Christ. This, of course, was the logical conclusion of their falacy. It is the age-old blunder of thinking one may possess the true spirit of Christ while ignoring what he taught. For many years we have been treated to this absurd bit of philosophy. Its proponents argue that as long as a man's heart is right, God is pleased, no matter about his conduct. The whole trouble with this sort of thinking is that the heart can never be right as long as one ignores what God says. Such reasoning sets aside everything the Bible says about the matter that does not conform to the thinking of these modernists. This is why modernism, as we know it today, rejects the virgin birth of our Lord, it rejects all the miracles of the Bible, it rejects the atonement of Christ's blood, it rejects the resurrection of Christ from the dead, it rejects the final rewards of the righteous and the final punishment of the wicked. The young men who have embarked upon this modernistic trend will -- most likely -- join ranks with the digression, but they will not likely stop short of absolute modernism -- which, in the end, is a system of infidelity.

As our educational standards are raised we must be prepared for more softening on all fronts. I am not indicting our Christian schools. They are all far superior to the state schools -and deserving of our support. But what I am saying is, that as our educational system grows, more and more of our people are launching out into the fields of science, philosophy, and other branches of learning, where they often lose sight of what the Bible says, through their infatuation for speculative thinking. We cannot prevent this growing danger by shouts and sneers. We must effectively, rationally, and thoughtfully expose the consequences of such tendencies, while holding firm our respect for God's word. Here is a real challenge to all of us.

The Threat of a "Social Gospel."

In time past we preached that all who reject the gospel of Christ would be lost in eternal hell. Our preaching was for the purpose of saving people, not merely from the consequences of their sins while they live on the earth, but from eternal punishment. It is true that Christianity pays far greater dividends in this life than does a life of sin. But if salvation means no more than the salvation from the consequences of sin in this life, then the moralist has some grounds for being only what he is. Salvation, in its true sense, means salvation from everlasting damnation, and from all the horrors of an endless hell. It means salvation in heaven, salvation with God, salvation with the Lord Jesus Christ and all the redeemed in glory.

Our preaching should never degenerate into a mere "social gospel." Christianity is not just another philosophy. It is not a system of ethics. It was not intended primarily to improve man's intellect, to give him a better social standing among his fellows, to create higher standards of living, or a better mental state. While all of these blessings obviously accrue to the Christian, they are by no means the end in view. They are but by-products. Let us never lose sight of the true purpose of Christianity, while emphasizing the incidentals. When once we do, our plea will degenerate to the plane of every other modernistic sectarian body in our land. The aim of Christianity is to prepare us for heaven. Our only guide is the word of the Lord. Our only authority is the authority of Christ. We should never allow business, pleasure, philosophy, nor the allurements of the world to obscure our plea, or eclipse our goal.

Truth Magazine I:11, pp. 18-20
August 1957