Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 1, 1982
NUMBER 26, PAGE 4,11b

Isaiah Promised No False Security


Robert C. Welch

Reinhold Niebuhur is considered by general religious circles to be one of the great theologians of today. But he, as the majority of theologians are doing, denies the inspiration of the Bible, at least parts of it. The quotation is from his book published in 1949, Faith and History, p. 127:

"Sometimes the predictions rest on erroneous estimates of historical probabilities. Thus the first Isaiah predicted the doom of Israel if it placed its reliance upon ordinary diplomatic and military strategies of security. He wanted no alliance with Egypt but a defenseless reliance upon God (Isaiah 31). He falsely promised the nation security upon that basis and thereby laid the foundation for a new, more spiritualized, version of the inviolability of Jerusalem. Jeremiah found this spiritualized version as fecund a source of moral complacency as Amos had found grosser forms of it in his day."

A casual reading of the Old Testament, instead of picking out a statement and making it fit his theological theory, would have shown him that Isaiah was not wrong, that it was not a mere prediction or an erroneous estimate of probability. If he had read 2 Kings 17:4, he would have known that Israel did trust in the ordinary diplomatic and military strategies of security. Under king Hoshea they made an alliance with Egypt, that which Isaiah warned against. When they did it, Assyria destroyed the nation, as Isaiah warned would happen.

Isaiah was not teaching them a system of moral complacency, as Niebuhr erroneously contends. Isaiah was trying to get them to rely upon God as they fought instead of relying upon Egypt.

Niebuhr further reasons that this same supposed mistake on the part of Isaiah is made by many today; namely, that they think that righteous living will serve as the military protection of a nation from her enemies. If they hold that theory, they are doing so without any specific promise of God. But that is not true in the case of Israel and Judah. They were nations of God's people, and had some specific instructions concerning their national security, the conditions upon which such security was guaranteed. Isaiah and the Israelites knew those conditions, and had the examples in their history to prove it. Besides that, Isaiah was inspired, moved by the Holy Spirit, and not by his own will or estimate of affairs (2 Pet. 1:21); and that makes it a certainty. God was not dealing in probabilities and mere predictions, he was giving facts, with as much verity as that there is God. This demonstrates the unreliability, faithlessness, and destructiveness of Niebuhr and his theology. His works can be popular only with those who delight in doubting and denying the inspiration of the Bible.

Notice the conditions of God's giving them victory. When they were about to enter the promised land to possess it, God said to them concerning the nations which held it: "Thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor show mercy unto them; neither shalt thou make marriages with them." (Deut. 7:2, 3) Hence, Isaiah was only reasserting this principle which was given at the beginning of their existence as a nation, as he warned against such a covenant or alliance with Egypt.

Furthermore, Isaiah and the Israelites had God's promise to give them victory when they depended upon him. (Deut. 7:18, 24) In addition to that they had the history of a great number of victories which God had definitely given them when they fought, trusting in God rather than in their own might or aid from other nations. God had given them victory over Jericho at the very time when they set foot in the land. There was no way it could be explained by natural force (Josh. 8) God had given Gideon and his remaining three hundred victory over the mighty host of the Midianites. He had specifically told Gideon that it was to be this way lest they should say that the victory was the result of their own power. (Judges 7)

On the other hand, just as God had warned them, there is instance after instance in the history of Israel of their defeat and resulting servitude to the surrounding nations when they forsook God's commandments and made covenants and marriages with those nations, taking up their idol worship. (Joshua 7; Judges 3:4-8)

The man who can declare that what Isaiah said is mere prediction, can be expected to ignore all this evidence, however, for to him it is not inspired history of actual occurrence; to him it is no more than myth. The whole theological system is that of modernism. It will destroy conviction as to the inspiration of the Bible.

Young men in all these theological seminaries and schools of religion are being referred to such writings as this one of Niebuhr. As they wade through the reams of ambiguous, abstruse meanderings of these modernists, they are likely to have their perception dulled by the time they get to these overt attacks upon the Bible, and will accept the whole ungodly doctrine.

These direct attacks need to be exposed more and more. Instead of that, the tendency now is for our own brethren to pose as theologians themselves and go through some boresome explanation of the various philosophical theological systems. If J. W. McGarvey had done that in his column three quarters of a century ago it would have been unread and fruitless. Instead, he exposed their specific attacks upon the Bible; and had one of the most popular and effective means of eradicating skepticism and preventing its acceptance by brethren. The same procedure is even more sorely needed today; and will be just as effective.

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