Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 12, 1951

Adventures In Good Reading

The Protestant Dilemma,

Carl F. H. Henry, Wm. B. Eerdman Publishing Co., 1949, 239 pgs. — $3.00.

The Protestant Dilemma is one of the most capable refutations of modernism that has come from the press in the last few years. The book is very serious reading, filled with an abundance of technical phrases used by theologians, and so cannot be read with the ease with which one would read a modern novel. It is, however, a book that every serious Bible student should have in his library. Thoughtful reading of such a book will enable preachers to be better equipped to combat modernism today.

The thesis of the book is that the liberalism that has beset modern-day Protestantism is inadequate to meet man's needs. The question is, will Protestantism continue with its liberal viewpoints, or come back to a genuine belief in the Bible as the word of God, and follow its teachings?

At the turn of the twentieth century liberalism in the field of Biblical scholarship was having a field-day. The "scientific" approach was applied to the Bible, and it began to be read, in the words of the Liberalists, "just like any other book.' Wellhausen had devised his "documentary hypothesis" as an explanation of the origin of the Pentateuch, and the so-called "scholars" of the world very generally held to it. Books like Julian Huxley's, Religion Without Revelation and Shirley Jackson Case'. Origins of Christian Supernaturalism frankly denied the "old idea' that the Bible was a revelation from God. But, where has the "scientific approach" led man? The answer: right to the extent where it threatens the very existence of the human race as is exemplified in the atom bomb Man must abandon this approach, recognize the Bible as God's word, and follow it. This is the only hope for the race.

An important question that Liberal scholars have toyed with over the years is to explain the origin of the Hebrew-Christian religion. A closely related question is, How did the Jewish concept of monotheism arise?' Liberalists explained that the idea of a revelation, or a series of them from God to man was "unscientific," and so this was brushed aside. They looked upon the religion of the Bible as a "heightened development" from the lower pagan religions which evolved over a period of centuries. These theologians commonly magnify the similarities between the Bible and pagan religions, and slur over the differences. Harry Emerson's Fosdick's book, A Guide To Understanding the Bible is filled with this idea.

Within the circle of scholarship there emerged a revolt against the "excesses" of the liberalists. But the "revolt," to people who believe the Bible, is precious little better. This reaction was led by Karl Barth and his student Emil Brunner. Both men hold to an evolutionary view of the origin of things, and still adopt the higher critical view of the scriptures. They believed that God revealed himself, and that "the scriptures are a necessary and normative record' of God's disclosures of himself. Barth and Brunner, however, did not want the scriptures confused with Revelation itself. Revelation is a "dynamic" event (a pet phrase for all Barthians) which comes to the human heart. The preaching of the word admittedly has some relation to it but the dynamic is the thing. Brunner insisted that the scriptures were not to be confused with the word of God. As someone humorously put it, the Barthians "refuse to believe that God performed the miracle of giving us by inspiration an infallible Bible but are ready to believe that God daily performs the greater miracle of enabling men to find and see in the fallible word of man the infallible word of God.'

Karl Barth and Emil Brunner wanted to be distinguished from the "Liberalists," but they also just as fervently insisted that they did not want to be confused with the Fundamentalists. If it be admitted that Barth and Brunner overthrew the "excesses of Liberalism," as some affirm, they are still far from the truth. In effect the reasoning of Barth and Brunner denounce the authority of the Bible, and teach all men to accept only their personalistic mysticism. Brunner opposes "verbal inspiration" of the Bible bitterly, and writes against what he calls "idolatrous Biblolatry." He accuses Protestantism of being saddled with a "paper pope," the Bible, and insists the word of God is not reducible to the Bible, but is the personal, mystic experience, 'the dynamic," which occurs in every man's heart.

The Protestant Dilemma, although deep reading, is good. We wish every preacher would study it thoroughly.


(This book may be ordered from the Cogdill Publishing Company, Box 980, Lufkin, Texas)