Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 24, 1956
NUMBER 4, PAGE 9-10a

What Destructive Criticism Destroys

Hall Laurie Calhoun

Biblical criticism is the scientific study of the Bible. Constructive criticism maintains the divine authority and the infallible truth of the Bible as originally written. Destructive criticism denies the divine authority of the Bible, and also its infallible truth as originally written.

The aim of this paper is not to condemn, but rather commend, the scientific study of the Bible. There is not only no harm, but great good, to be derived from such a study of the Word. Neither is it my aim to indulge in any harsh or unkind language concerning those who are the devotees of what I characterize as destructive criticism. I shall maintain throughout this paper the strictest Christian courtesy, giving to others the same kindly treatment which I desire for myself. I am well aware that there is a widespread opinion that destructive criticism is practically harmless, and that those who lend themselves to its advocacy should be let alone, and that they should be subjected to no censure or diminution of privileges, but that they should be allowed the largest liberty to advocate their views; and it is stoutly maintained by some that to pursue any other course than this is to prove one's self narrow or grouchy or both. I believe that the publicly announced views of any public servant as a teacher or a preacher may be discussed and criticized in the most searching manner, and that the dangers of such views may be most plainly pointed out without transgressing the bounds of Christian courtesy, provided the criticism in such cases shall be governed by the principles of truth and charity. Believing, as I do, that destructive criticism is very dangerous because of its power to destroy both Christian faith and character, I shall feel at perfect liberty to point out its dangers. Please let it be distinctly understood that, in this paper, I speak for no other person than myself, and that no one else is to be held responsible for the sentiments herein contained any further than he may choose to assume personally such responsibility. In the following statements

I shall set forth what I conceive to be some of the most prominent teachings of those whom I call destructive critics. Of course no one considers himself to be a destructive critic. Should any particular person see fit to disclaim his acceptance of any view or views herein attributed to destructive critics, I shall not feel aggrieved, for I know only too well that each destructive critic is a law unto himself, and that no two of them feel called upon to agree further than their inner consciousness may chance to coincide. I know also that the various colors of the rainbow would have to be multiplied many times over in order to represent the many-hued teachings of these self-styled "forward-looking" men, whose views are never static. What, then, are some of the so-called "assured results" of the labors of these disciples of modernism?

1. The Bible possesses no inherent divine authority.

2. The Bible is not infallibly true.

3. Those who wrote the Bible wrote simply out of their own experiences.

4. The Holy Spirit did no more for them than He does for men today.

5. The Bible story of creation is a Hebrew myth.

6. The Bible account of the flood is an adapted myth.

7. The story of the giving of the Ten Commandments and the law is untrue.

8. The statements in the Bible about heaven and hell are simply Jewish notions.

9. Its statements about angels and demons are merely Jewish conceptions.

10. Its statements about God and the devil are only Jewish ideas.

11. The home, state and church are without divine origin or basis.

12. There is no fixed standard of virtue or vice.

13. There is no such thing as Christian faith, as Paul defines it.

14. There is no certain basis for the hope of a life beyond death.

15. There is nothing static in religion.

16. The only effects of prayer are subjective or reflex.

17. Christianity is only one of the religions of the world, and not the only true religion.

I. The ground upon which destructive critics reject the divine authority and the infallible truthfulness of the Bible is that the men who wrote it were not guided by any power but their own; they wrote just as men do to-day — the best they knew — but on many subjects it was impossible for them to do more than give an opinion. No man, by his own unaided powers, could know just how the creation proceeded; hence they deny the truthfulness of the creation story. They claim that there is no proof of the truth of the flood story, and that there are unreasonable statements in this story, so they reject it. They claim that it is unreasonable and absurd to say that all the different races of men on earth today descended from Noah's three sons. They also deny the truth of the account of the origin of the Ten Commandments and the law, and they claim that these grew up at a much later time and in a very different manner from that which they claim for themselves. They say it is untrue that God told the Israelites to destroy the Midianites and Canaanites, as the Books of Numbers and Joshua say He did. One of them, a man teaching in one of our colleges, said to me that a God who would command such a thing would be a monster and unfit to worship.

So they go through the entire Bible, throwing out anything which does not approve itself to their inner consciousness, which is only another name for their reason, judgment or opinion. Some of them claim to accept many of the statements in the Bible, not because such statements are in the Bible, but because these statements are approved by their inner consciousness. One of them, a man who recently resigned a chair in a school for the education of young preachers, said to me: "I would not do anything just because the Bible said to do it; if it did not approve itself to my inner consciousness independently of what the Bible says, I would not do it." It can be seen from this that even what they claim to believe is accepted simply on the ground of their own thoughts, and there is no certainty in anything they believe, for their thoughts may change at any time. Truly there is nothing static in such religion. One has but to consult his own thoughts to see how absolutely uncertain such conclusions are.

On the other hand, the conservative critic claims that the Bible is the inspired word of God, possessed of divine authority, and that it is infallible since it is impossible for God to lie. The conservative critic believes God told Abraham to offer his son Isaac upon the altar because the Bible says so; destructive critics say that their inner consciousness refuses to believe that God would give any such command. Conservative critics believe that God commanded the Israelites to destroy the Midianites because the Bible says He did; and they believe that the Bible is God's word, therefore it can not lie. Conservative critics believe that the gospel of Christ is static and dynamic, and that it is the same now as when Paul preached it, and yet "it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth."

From what has been said, it is manifest that the great difference in principle between the destructive and conservative schools of thought is that the destructive critic claims nothing but the authority of his inner consciousness as his guide in religion, while the constructive critic believes that in the Bible we have revealed the infallible will and word of God, and that it is clothed with divine authority in all its requirements, and that it is infallibly true in all its statements. The ever-varying opinion of man is held upon the one hand the unchanging word of God on the other.

The destructive critic, seeking to escape from the fallibility and uncertainty of his own opinion, is inclined to claim for such as approve themselves to him as true a kind of divine sanction, saying that it is in this way only that God speaks to and through men. An assumption pure and simple. A mere glance at the ever-varying current of public opinion is sufficient to show the absurdity of such a claim. It leaves the soul like a ship without a rudder, drifting without chart or compass on a sea of ever-increasing doubt. It is a gross misrepresentation of that God who is the same yesterday, today and forever, to ascribe to Him the absurd conclusions, the contradictory opinions and the ever-changing views of fallible man. And yet there is no possible escape from this absurdity if God is expressing Himself all the time through all men everywhere. The effort to bolster up the claim of authority for personal inner consciousness by saying it must be checked up by the inner consciousness of the race or by that of the people best informed along religious lines is equally absurd, for it always turns out that the pleader for inner consciousness thinks his own inner consciousness is correct and that his is the one that is supported by the inner consciousness of the people best informed along religious lines; for, according to his judgment, the best-informed people are the ones who agree with him. The fallacy of such reasoning is too apparent to need pointing out, even to the dullest.

(To be continued.)