Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 25, 1962
NUMBER 37, PAGE 2,10

Modern Liberalism

Donald R. Givens, Tampa, Florida

The Bible is not in danger. In these modern times the Bible is not in danger, but our faith is. An inspired book that has survived the attacks of its enemies and the abuses of its friends for almost 2,000 years is immortal. But false views and human interpretations of the Bible, which tend to destroy our faith in it as the revealed Word of God, must be exposed as doctrines of the devil.

One such false view is the doctrine of Modernism. This false doctrine is very prevalent in various forms not only in the denominational world today, but even is creeping into the Lord's body. It is a threat to belief in the deity of Christ; it is "another gospel." Paul states in Galatians 1:8, 9 that those who teach it should be anathema. Our duty as Christians is to expose it and to drive it away.

God's Word and Modern Liberalism are in direct conflict and opposition to each other in many points. Modern Liberalism involves a narrow ignoring of many relevant facts. It is rooted in Naturalism, that is the denial of any supernatural power in connection with the miracles of our Lord. It presents to us a serious problem; and the answers are not always simple.

The so-called problem which Modern Liberalism attempts to solve is the relation between Christianity and our "modern culture." Or, "Can we maintain Christianity in a modern, scientific age?"

Mr. Harry Emerson Fosdick, who is a well-known liberal, says in his book Adventurous Religion that "Liberals differ about many details: Some believe in the virgin birth and some do not; some would state the atonement in one way and some in another." Well, we may ask: Why do they differ? why cannot they be united? It is because they do not have the truth, that is why Paul states in 1 Corinthians 1:10, "that ye all speak the same thing and that there be no divisions among you." Evidently, these Modernists have not read this verse or else they do not believe it. They certainly do not follow it.

Again Mr. Fosdick says, "Modernism is a campaign to maintain vital religion in the face of materialistic and paganizing influences of our time.... We must make Christianity intelligible to people of the twentieth century....It seems to me alike absurd and perilous to insist that religion alone, among vital human interests cannot rephrase itself in new ways of thought." Again, we may ask: Was Christianity "intelligible to the people of the first century? Was it "phrased right" to them? Then it is to us today! Christ gave us the gospel in its purest form. We cannot make it any purer or more "intelligent,' and neither may we "rephrase" it. His Word does not change.

Again quoting Mr. Fosdick, "At the very center of Modernism, as I see it, is the conviction that nothing fundamentally matters in religion except those things which create private and public goodness....The chief aim of Christian liberals is to think the great faiths of the gospel through in contemporary tasks." So, he says NOTHING FUNDAMENTALLY MATTERS in religion except those things which create "private and public goodness." Then why convert Cornelius? Why convert the Eunuch? Why convert any morally good person? No, we cannot go to heaven on our moral "goodness" alone.

Perhaps you have heard the term "higher criticism" before. It is the "historical study" of the books of the Bible as human books full of myths. It has torn the Bible to pieces; made Moses a myth, Genesis a mythology, Isaiah a patchwork of traditions, Daniel a fairy-tale, and Jesus a liar and fake. Its consequences to a Christian's faith can be disastrous. This "higher criticism" is what the Modern Liberals ascribe to.

The denial of the supernatural is through-out the whole "modern" theory of the Bible. They attempt to explain the doctrines of Christ on naturalistic, human principles. Miracles are discarded by the claim that the account of them was not written till centuries after the supposed events. They are simply legends and interpolations. Prophecies were either written after the event prophesied had happened or just happened to be fulfilled by accident. When the scriptures are thus robbed of their supernatural — then their destruction is complete.

For my part, I see nothing "high" about "higher criticism." 'It certainly has given us some very "low" ideas about the Bible. The modern theory of higher criticism is a skyscraper built on sand.

The basis of the modern theory of the Bible is rationalism, or the principle that everything is to be understood in the light of human reasoning. This, when put into use, reduces the Bible to the level of the tales of Homer and the stories of Hercules and the legends of the Argonauts.

Again quoting from another modern liberal, Mr. J. A. Rice, from his book The Old Testament in the Life of Today, he says.

There can be no doubt that the first chapter of Genesis undertakes to answer with naive simplicity the questions which primitive peoples had to face — how the universe, including man and animals, came into existence; why women are subject to men; why they bear children in pain; how sin came into the world; how people came to wear clothes; why people suffer and die; why thorns and thistles make farming difficult — indeed, why hard work is at all; what was the origin of the races and languages. The answers given to these and many like questions, in Genesis, conflict directly with our modern scientific conceptions. We have now abandoned the effort to harmonize the two, for to do so is to juggle with plain facts.

According to this theory, the book of Genesis is a compilation of mythological tales like the legends and fables of pre-historic ages of the cavemen. The stories of Genesis are folk-lore, the "Br'er Rabbit" tales told around the camp fires of the cavemen, the venerable apes. In other words, God told these stories with naive-simplicity to satisfy the curiosity of the little intellectual, developing monkeys around him. At some later period these tales were collected and put under the fictitious authorship of a mythological hero named Moses, a Hebrew Hercules. And the wonders that Moses did before Pharaoh were not actual miracles, but tricks of skill, sleight-of-hand performances, feats of deceiving magic. He was a mystic giant in a fairy land.

We can easily see how destructive this is to our faith if we believe this nonsense. I tremble at the thought of what God will say to these people in the day of judgment.

Christianity, according to the radicals in this theory, is only one of our "little systems" that "have their day and cease to be." I venture to affirm that there is not a person today, who holds this modern theory of the Bible, who believes positively and definitely in the personality of God, the reality of sin, the divinity of Jesus, the certainty of future punishment, and the immortality of the soul. All of these are clearly taught in the Bible, but the advance of Liberalism has unsettled belief in them. The sermons of all Liberals are just "tame essays on ethics" instead of declaring the salvation found in Jesus Christ the Saviour.

Modern Liberalism is not based on the authority of Jesus, but on the reasoning of men. Reject the miracles of Jesus and you have in Him the world's biggest liar and fake, who made such an impression on His followers that after His death they could not believe that He had died but experienced hallucinations in which they thought they saw Him risen from the dead. But accept the miracles of Jesus and you have in Him the world's Saviour, who suffered and died on the cross for our sins, was buried and raised the third day and ever lives to make intercession for us.

The Liberal has very little to say about the after-life. This world is really the center of all his thoughts. Religion itself and even God, are made merely a means for the betterment of the conditions on this earth. The Liberal says the conditions on the earth can be improved by simply applying the "principles of Jesus" to our lives.

Why are these Modern Liberals wrong? First of all, the "evidences" on which this theory rests is vague, uncertain, and for the most part pure conjecture. They are just mere assumptions. Secondly, their theory denies inspiration to the Bible which it most assuredly claims for itself. They call God and Jesus Christ liars. It is impossible to harmonize the theory of Modernism with 2 Peter 1:21 which states "men spake from God being moved by the Holy Spirit."

Which shall we accept? This theory of man or the Bible? Our interest is not merely in "ethical principles" of Jesus; or in general principles of religion or ethics. On the contrary, our interest is in the redeeming work of the Son of God and its effects on each one of us.

Christ died for our sins and was buried and raised the third day according to the scriptures. From the beginning, the facts of the gospel are an account of things that actually happened. "Christ died" — that is history; "Christ died for our sins" — that is a fact of our salvation. His miracles were actual, true, historical events. If they were not, as the Modernists say, then the Bible is a liar.

It is perfectly clear that the first Christians did not simply go forth with an exhortation saying: "Jesus of Nazareth lived a wonderful life full of piety, and we call on you to yield yourselves, as we have done, to the spell of that life." They said nothing of the kind. The news with which the disciples set out to preach to the world was not a mere comprehension of ethical principles but a historical message, an account of something that actually had happened, the true message "He is risen."

The very root of the Christian's faith is the belief of the resurrection of Jesus. As Paul states in 1 Corinthians 15:14, "and if Christ hath not been raised, then is our preaching vain, and your faith also is vain.

It is no wonder then, as we now so clearly see, that Modern Liberalism is so totally different from Christianity, for their very foundations are different. Christianity is founded on God's truthfulness and reliableness, while Liberalism on the other hand, is founded on the modern ideas of fallible intellectuals.

May we always remember this: Jesus Christ did not give himself on the cross to simply guide us into a better social life — but to save us from our sins. Liberalism regards Jesus as only an example and ethical guide, but we must regard Him as the divine Saviour of mankind. The New Testament shows forth Christ as being full of supernatural power. His deity is expressed by every writer, may it also be expressed by the words of our mouth.