By Jeffery Kingry
There is a movement in the religious community (notably on the college campuses) that the denominationalist finds hard to define. “This modern non-redemptive religion is called ‘modernism,’ or ‘liberalism.’ Both names are unsatisfactory . . . the movement is so various in its manifestations that one may almost despair of finding any common name which will apply to all its forms. But manifold as are the forms in which the movement appears, the root of the movement is one: . . . the denial of any miraculous demonstration by God in connection with the origin of Christianity” (Machen, J. G., Christianity and Liberalism, p. 2).
Actually, the word Mr. Machen is looking for is “unbelief.” Modern religious scholars simply do not believe in the New Testament testimony: of itself, or of its core and theme, Jesus the Christ. I do not believe that the unbelief of the scholar and clergy necessarily reflects the views held by the common man, even though these “religious skeptics” would like to think so. The fallacy of equating what goes on in the intellectual community-and only a segment of that-with the whole of society is one that has been so enshrined among academics, that he who questions it is viewed as just a little bit odd.
The modern unbeliever has his “faith” or system of beliefs. He believes in the evolution of man, or his non-miraculous beginning, humanism (that man is the sole determiner of his destiny and role in the world), and moral relativity. He is firmly convinced that before religion can be of any use to “modern man,” that religion must be reconciled to man’s new intellectual attainments. “During the middle decades of the 19th century, the western nations went ‘over the hump of transition’ towards a new ethos of industrial enterprise, urbanization, and rationalism, accompanied with locally varying programmes or creeds like liberalism, evolutionism, socialism, or historicism. These and other ‘isms’ helped to constitute the modern world and made pitiless and merciless rivals of the twentieth century church” (Many, M.E., The Modern Schism, p. 11).
This is the “problem” modern unbelief attempts to solve. Rejecting the person and message of Jesus (because of the miraculous nature of his birth, life, message, and resurrection), and dismissing the inspired record of the Apostles and Prophets (because the claim to plenary inspiration also conflicts with their faith), the modernist seeks to “rescue” a few of the general principles of religion to preserve the “essence of Christianity.” Actually, the modernistic apologist is a kind of “spiritual conservationist,” seeking to preserve a few of the “quaint” and naive gems of a dying religious culture, beaten back by the overpowering forces of man’s growing technology and superior intellect. The modernist view is reflected among (believe it or not) people who claim to be members of Christ’s Church.
Leaving the denominational world (but not going far) we can look to those who claim to have a relationship to Christ in His church, who declare heatedly that the “historical Jesus” is impossible to find because of the obscuring overlay of the “biblical Jesus.” In Mission Magazine, one brother, Warren Lewis writes, ” . . . at the verbal, literal, word-for-word level of the (Gospel) accounts-we are unable in many cases to say what Jesus in fact did or taught. Clashes and jars of this kind are to be found on every page of the gospels.” As to the resurrection, Brother Lewis believes there was one, but as to the record of that resurrection he says that the four-fold record is ” . . . a clashing, jarring jumble; many jangling tongues and contradictory stories.” (Lewis, Warren, “Let’s Look At The Text Again,” Mission, pp. 21-24). I seriously doubt that Lewis believes in the significance or import of the resurrection even though he would not debate the fact of it intellectually. John said that his record was written “that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (Jn. 20:31). One cannot reject the testimony of the Christ without rejecting the Christ. And one cannot reject the significance of the Christ without losing the “life through his name” that is extended.
One self-declared Christian even went so far as to array the Christ against His own word: “For all the importance of the Bible, it should not be the true focus of the Christian’s loyalty . . . those who would restore N.T. Christianity should not allow the Bible to compete with (Christ) for authority” (Hunter, “Restoration Theology, A Schoolmaster,” Mission, June, 1974). Obviously Brother Hunter has never read Matt. 7:24ff or Jn. 5 :24-39.
There can be no quarter given in opposing such an attitude towards God and His word. The scriptures are either what they claim to be, or they are nothing. Jesus must be what the word of God claims for him, or he is less than nothing-he is the arch-deceiver of mankind. In trying to remove from the Bible and the person of Jesus everything that could possibly be objected to in the name of man’s science, in trying to bribe off the enemy by those concessions which the enemy most desires, the modernist has abandoned what he set out to defend. Here, as in all of life, those things thought to be hardest to defend, are also the things most worth defending.
Jesus is the Sum
Who is this Jesus as described by God’s word? Jesus claimed himself to be Yahweh, the I AM, who spoke to Moses from the burning bush (cf. Jn. 8:56-58 and Ex. 3:2-6, 13, 14). Jesus was declared to be God, the Expression of Deity who came from eternity (Jn. 1:1-4, 14). The O.T. claimed the eternity and finality of Jesus. The scribes looked to Bethlehem of Judah for the Messiah “for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel . . .” (Matt. 2:5,6). But the Jews did not read the whole text, for the passage in Micah 5:2 goes on to say, “whose goings forth have been from old, from everlasting.” The “Biblical Jesus” not only accepted such honor, but demanded to be honored as God (Jn. 5:23). Jesus made no apology for claiming to be Jehovah, the Creator of the Universe, the Origin of all life, the Beginning and the End, with the power of life and death in his word.
To support his claim he raised people from the dead, fed multitudes with a few fragments of food from a child’s lunch, cured the incurable, made whole the helplessly cripple, stilled the wind and the sea, prophesied of the future and it came to pass, and made claims for himself that could only be made by God-or a totally deceived fool.
Man, in his strutting ignorance would lay aside plain evidence to satisfy his own appetite for self-justification. The modernist would have us leave off the scriptures when we consider Christ. But, what testimony is there of the Son of God apart from the record? It is asking the judge to hear a case with no witnesses, evidence, or defense, only the criticism and condemnation of the prosecutor. Our adversary would delight in such an arrangement. He does not wish to meet the Lord in combat, but would rather avoid him by defining him away into obscurity. He would make him a shadowy, unknowable figure who died somewhere in history and whose significance is as demonstrable as Santa Claus or the Tooth fairy.
Historically, Jesus is classed by the modernist alongside “other” religious “symbols” like Muhammed or Confucious, in a non-redemptive role as “great teacher.” But, Jesus was not a “great-teacher” unless he was “The Great Teacher.” Muhammed never claimed to be anything but a “prophet.” Hardly did he claim to be the Son of God, and certainly not the Messiah of all mankind, who alone had the power to forgive sin and grant mercy instead of judgment. The Oriental philosophers (then as well as today) had some unusual and novel views regarding the spirit of man, but none ever claimed to be the “way” of reconciling man to God in justification. The best philosophies that men have been able to compile as to man’s place in time, space, matter, and intellect have yet to find any substance or application for man when it comes to the ultimate question of Life: What happens after death? Only the Christ has given us the answer to that question, and sealed his promise with his own resurrection. “I am the resurrection and the life: He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die: Believest thou this ” (Jn. 11:25, 26).
This is the question facing all men-it is a question answered “no” by the Modernist. It is a question answered “no” by all who do not “continue in my word” (Jn. 8:31). Where does one go after he has rejected the Son of God and the testimony of the Son? “There remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries . . .It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:27, 31). Jesus is the last word, the “amen” to every promise God has given us. The devil knows this, and will combat that finality till the day he is cast into the pit with all those he has deceived. Beward brethren, “There is salvation in none other name under heaven.”
Truth Magazine XXI: 41, pp. 652-653
October 20, 1977