Modernism: Jehoiakim’s Penknife

By Mike Willis

During the work of Jeremiah, God commanded Jeremiah to write his words on a scroll and send them to Jehoiakim. The message was to be read to the people upon the fasting day. When the message was heard, some of the people were terrified. Finally, the book was taken to Jehoiakim. “And it came to pass, that when Jehudi had read three or four leaves, he cut it with the penknife, and cast it into the fire that was on the hearth, until all the roll was consumed in the fire that was on the hearth” (Jer. 36:23). Jehoiakim was somewhat more brazen than many in eliminating from the word of God those parts with which he disagreed but, in principle, very similar to not a few religionists today.

Modernists follow the example of Jehoiakim. With the penknife of higher criticism, they go through the pages of God’s divine word and eliminate the things which they do not want to believe. The record of creation, a universal flood, Jonah and the whale, Daniel in the lion’s den, the miracles performed by Elijah, Joshua’s long day, etc. are all “cut out” of the Old Testament, being treated as Jewish folklore or myth. Form critics of the New Testament eliminate the miracles from its pages in the same way. In their quest for the historical Jesus, they completely eliminate anything supernatural or divine from Him.

The miracles are not the only thing removed by the penknife of modernists. Prophecy is re-interpreted and eliminated. Where re-interpretation is not possible, authors who lived after the prophesied event are imagined so that one has five or six men responsible for the writing of a book such as Isaiah. The result of all of this is an edited Bible-edited in the same fashion as Jehoiakim edited it. Modernists have simply chosen to eliminate everything in the Bible which they do not believe. They undermine the authority of God’s word by making it appear to be self-contradictory.

Modernism has generally been somewhat removed from the churches of Christ. Yet, in recent years, more and more modernists are raising their ugly heads among us. We can no longer pretend that modernism is not a threat to the church. Hence, we have planned and produced this special series on modernism. I think that you will want to lay these special issues aside and keep them for future reference. The material is excellent. But, you do not need me to tell you that; it speaks for itself.

Two Conflicting Religions

The religion of modernism and the religion of Christ are two conflicting religions. The God of Christianity is One who has revealed Himself to man through Jesus Christ and through the Bible. The God of modernism is either dead (cf. the God-Is-Dead Movement of Altizer) or silent, in that He does not reveal Himself. The Christ of Christianity is God manifest in the flesh who died for our sins. The Christ of modernism is a mere man with whom they disagree and correct on a number of occasions and who suffered a death on a cross but not for the sins of mankind. The Bible of Christianity is the revelation of God’s mind to man. The Bible of modernism is the human record of man’s religious experiences. We could continue to contrast the salvation, church, etc. of Christianity with that of modernism but enough has been written to show that modernism and New Testament Christianity are two conflicting religions.

These two religions cannot peaceably co-exist. “In the intellectual battle of the present day there can be no `peace without victory’; one side or the other must win” (J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism, p. 6). So, let the battle rage. Let the presuppositions, the doctrinal assertions, the moral consequences, etc. of the two systems come into conflict and let truth come forth victorious.

About These Issues

The materials presented in these special issues on “An Assault On Modernism” are somewhat more detailed and scholarly than our usual articles are. They become collector’s items and valuable for that very reason. Sometimes the materials presented in subscription papers such as Truth Magazine are excessively top-water. Hence, every so often I request that we give some more detailed study to some special topics of interest pertaining to problems surrounding us. Though these materials will not be of equal interest to all of our readers, we feel that the extensive study in these articles makes them extremely valuable to those more interested in coming to grips with some of the problems in dealing with religious infidels. With this in mind, we commend this material to you and thank our writers for their labors in putting it together.

Truth Magazine XXII: 40, p. 642
October 12, 1978