Modernism in Grace

Larry Ray Hafley
Plano, Illinois

Classical modernism, the denial of the inspiration and authority of the Scriptures and all that that denial includes, has been thought to lie outside of grace, outside of remission, redemption, and regeneration in Christ. One cannot, it is assumed, be a defender of the grace of God and at the same time be a modernist. That idea, if untrue, would allow a modernist to lurk in grace without fear of exposure. Since it is thought impossible to be a modernist and be in grace, a modernist in the grace of God would go unexposed. The truth is, as we purpose and propose to show, that tenents of liberal, antisupernatural modernism may indeed be espoused by "conservative" defenders of the system of grace.

Modernism rejects and repudiates the inspiration of the Scriptures. It is needless to speak, as we did in our opening sentence, of the inspiration and authority of the Scriptures, for when one denies Scripture as the very word of God, he necessarily destroys its authority. Likewise, when one affirms the inspiration of Scripture, he affirms its authority.

The second consequence of doubting or denying the inspiration of the Bible is to deny absolute truth. Says the modernist, there are no doctrines about which we may be dogmatic; everything is relative. "The modern aversion to Christian dogma is due to the rejection of the authority of Scripture . . . One of the characteristics of modernism is that no doctrine is held to he essential" (John Horsch, Modern Religious Liberalism, p. 45).

Certain men despise the idea that specific, clear-cut doctrines can be shown concerning the work, worship, and organization of the church. These despisers are not all antagonists of grace. They most eloquently defend the existence of God, the Deity of Christ, and the inspiration of Scripture, but they most vehemently deny absolutes. Who are these men? They are the ones who, while claiming to believe the truth regarding the New Testament mold or pattern of the church, deny that such teaching matters with respect to Gods grace and fellowship. This is classical modernism in grace. It is generally undetected as modernism because it avows the inspiration of Scripture, but when it seizes the major plank and platform of anti-supernatural liberalism, i.e., there are no absolute, binding standards of doctrine, it is modernism. "Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them" (Matt. 7:20).

The wisdom that declares spiritual fellowship with those whose doctrines and practices pervert and pollute the pattern of the New Testament church is the wisdom of modernism. Not all such men live, move, and have their being in infidel schools. Some of them are professors of Gods gospel of grace. To affirm that doctrine is relative or have no significance is to "gut" and take the teeth out of inspiration. A man who preaches the inspiration of the Scriptures must preach (l) their authority and (2) their traditions or teachings. But some attempt to stand by inspiration and authority but deny the traditions as being of any spiritual moment. This cannot be done. It is the seed of unbelief, the root of infidelity, and the fruit of apostasy.

The only thing about which these relativists and non-absolutists are certain is that doctrine is basically irrelevant or insignificant. If, though, it is true that doctrine is unimportant, then the doctrine that says doctrine is unimportant is unimportant. From this circle or cloverleaf there is no exit ramp.

"Grace In Christ"

"Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim. 2:1). Grace is in Christ, but some abide not in Christ-"If a man abide not in me" (Jn. 15:6). Hence, those who depart from Christ, depart from grace, for grace is in Christ Jesus. But how does one depart from Christ? By not abiding or remaining in His word, that is how. "If a man keep my sayings (my word, my doctrine), he shall never see death" (Jn. 8:51). "If a man love me, he will keep my words (my doctrine)" (Jn. 14:21). If he does not love Christ, he will not keep His words. "If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son and in the Father" (1 Jn. 2:24). If the doctrine does not abide in you, you do not abide in the Son and the Father, thus, you do not abide in grace. "See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven" (Heb. 12:25).


To accept in grace and in fellowship those who keep not Christs sayings, those who "refuse him that speaketh," is to receive those who do not truly love the Lord. That is what the above passages teach. Those who tolerate every wind of doctrine under an umbrella of grace understand "not what they say, nor whereof they affirm." They take the rudiments of old line modernism and parade them under the elements of grace. Their pious toleration is a Divine abomination. They have a form of grace and godliness but deny the power thereof. From such turn away.

TRUTH MAGAZINE XVII: 15, pp. 12-13
February 15, 1973