Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 25, 1956
NUMBER 25, PAGE 10-11

Modernism And The Ancient Gospel

L. L. Weaver, Rogers, Arkansas

The term "modernism" is one we hear used much in our day. Almost everywhere you hear matters of a religious nature being discussed you hear the word modernism being used. It is a word vague in its meaning. What it means is generally determined by the person who uses it. To the Jew it means one thing, to the Catholic another and to me and you perhaps it means something else. Webster says that modernism is: "A modern practice, a modern usage, expression or characteristic." He further states that to the Protestant modernism is: "a current movement arising mainly from the application of modern critical methods to the study of the Bible and the history of dogma, and resulting in less emphasis on historic dogmas and creeds." To the Catholic, Mr. Webster says modernism is: "a body of methods and tendencies in the fields of scripture, apologetics, dogma, history, and ethics, seeking to adapt Catholic church teachings to the conclusions of modern scientific and critical research. Pius X condemned it as substituting purely subjective criteria in matters of faith and morals for the authority of the Catholic church." So, from all of this one can see that the concept expressed in the word "modernism" is certainly hazy at its best. And one can further see that until people gain a clearer concept of what modernism is and what it means we will fail to recognize it and, therefore, will fail to oppose it in its production of evil as we observe it in our day.

From the Bible we learn that modernism is the result of any effort that tends to lead us away from the teachings of the New Testament as given to us by Christ and His apostles. Two thousand years ago Christ came into this world. He came as a teacher sent from God. When He came on His mission of teaching He found the whole world lying in wickedness wherein none were righteous no not one. (1 John 5:19; Rom. 3:10.) All mankind was in sin, servants of sin, and sufferers under the burden of guilt that sin provides. It was not in man to direct his steps. To humanity in this condition Christ brought hope. He came to "save his people from their sins." (Matt 1:21.) This hope was made accessible to man in the teaching Christ presented. As stated in Ephesians 4:4, it was and is the only hope, the one hope, that man had and has. Concerning himself Christ declared: "I am the way, the truth, and the life: No man cometh unto the Father, but by me." (John 14:6.) To us this is exactly what Christ must be. He must be the way, the truth and the life. No man can enter into the presence of God by any other approach. To enter by Christ is to enter by means of Christ's teaching found in Christ's gospel. It is through the gospel that life and immortality have been brought to light. (2 Tim. 1:10.) And as Paul admonishes, we are not to be moved away from the hope of the gospel but continue therein. (Col. 1:23.)

The term "gospel" means good news. Therefore the "gospel of Christ" means the good news of Christ. Concerning this good news we are told that it is the power of God unto salvation. (Rom. 1:16.) It is to be preached to every creature under Heaven. (Mark 16:15.) He intends every creature to believe it and demonstrate the genuineness of his belief in obedience thereto. (2 Thess.1:8, 9.) In this passage He warns us that if we do not obey Him as he speaks to us through the gospel, we will continue in a lost condition and will eventually go into the torments of a devil's hell. So since Christ is the way and the only way, and since this way is presented to us in the gospel, maybe we can more deeply appreciate the gravity of Paul's statement, "If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed." (Gal. 1:6-10.) The ancient gospel, therefore, preached in its primitive purity and simplicity, is the only means through which man can come to possess the hope of eternal life.

So, we can see from this that "modernism," in one sense, is that which is opposed to "ancientism," or, briefly comprehended, modernism is as I have already stated, anything that tends to lead us astray from believing and obeying the teaching of Christ and the apostles in the exact manner in which they presented it to us.

The subtlety of modernism is glimpsed in 2 Corinthian's 11:3 wherein Paul says: ".... I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ."

Modernism is a many headed monster. From the bulls and edicts of the Pope of Rome, who substitutes papal authority for the authority of Christ, down through protestant denominationalism to the low level of Norman Vincent Peale's book "The Art of Real Happiness" wherein the power of modern psychology is substituted for the power of the ancient gospel of God's Son. This emphasizes the great need for caution on our part. It was Christ who said, "He that is not with me is against me." It was also Christ who said that if we encouraged the advancement of any concept not coming from His teaching we are partakers in an evil deed (2 John 9-11), and a worker of iniquity. (Matt. 7:21-23.)

It is possible for us to be an advocate of modernism today as a result of entertaining a modernistic attitude toward the word of God; or, if you please, maintaining an attitude that God never intended man to have toward His word. From the Bible we learn God intends His word be taken as an all-sufficient guide for all mankind throughout all ages. (Matt. 28:18-20.) We also learn that His word thoroughly furnishes us unto every good work. (2 Tim. 3:16, 17.) We learn that it is a perfect pattern in which is contained all things that pertain to life and godliness. (2 Peter 1:3; James 1:22-25.) We learn that we are to preach His word and only His word. (2 Tim. 4:1-4; 1 Peter 4:11.) His word is able to cleanse us, save us, provide light for us, and, among other things, His word is to be the standard by which we will be judged in that day. (John 15:3; James 1:21; Psalm 119:105; John 12:48.) So if we accept the teaching of Christ as He intends, we will manifest the attitude this scripture commands. Not only will we manifest this attitude but we will also maintain a practice consistent herewith.

When we look upon the word of God as being unable to cleanse us, unable to save us, unable to guide us, unable to provide light for us, and when we look upon it as being unable to thoroughly furnish us unto every good work, then we are one who has become a modernist and an advocate of modernism. If not, then how far must one go to depart from the truth and become an apostate? We should all therefore recognize the importance of preaching and practicing the word of God without addition, without subtraction and without modification. We should all be able to see the necessity of speaking where the Bible speaks, being silent where the Bible is silent, calling Bible things by Bible names and doing Bible things in Bible ways. What is more, we should be less ready to criticize them that recommend this to us as a course of action.

Modernistic attitudes lead to modernistic practices. Any concept other than God's concept will eventually produce a departure from God's word. A modification of God's concept is not to be tolerated. A departure may be drastic in its first presentation and subsequent advancement, but more times than not it is slow and gradual. Every snowball was once a single flake of snow. But just as a flake of snow begins to roll down the hill and finally develops into a great ball that wreaks havoc and destruction in landslide form, just so the introduction of the least modernistic attitude can snowball or develop into a great avalanche of apostasy and sweep thousands into destruction.

Catholicism today is an example of what I speak. As little as some people may realize it, Catholicism, in its present form, is nothing but an avalanche of destruction brought about as a result of modernistic attitudes introduced in the early days of Christianity. The attitude resulting in Catholicism began in what some called a "harmless expedient" but it has now snowballed down through some more than fifteen hundred years, having picked up as it came along such things as papal infallibility, the priestcraft, auricular confession, purgatory, sprinkling, and such human traditions and dogmas as the bodily assumption of Mary into Heaven, the veneration of relics, the intercession of saints and so on. These are but a few of the practices of Catholicism for which no better authority can be given than the tradition of the Catholic church.

Just as Catholicism is the result of modernistic attitudes so also is protestant denominationalism. It is nothing unusual today to find thousands of people submitting to the commandments of men in doing not what God commands men to do to be saved but what man says one must do. They conform to man-made plans; unite with man-made churches; engage in man-arranged worship, not in spirit and in truth or according to the word of God, but as directed by councils, conventions, synods and such like. They subscribe to human creeds, wear human names and contend for religious practices which are entirely without the pale of God's arrangement as expressed in His Word. Protestant denominationalism in its entirety is the result of modernistic attitudes and is in reality rank modernism.

Just as modernistic attitudes have succeeded in steering some from the ancient gospel into Catholicism and protestantism it is working to accomplish that same effect as it works in the minds of them who are members of the body of Christ. It works in beguiling us into believing and doing something for which we have no authority in the word of God. It works upon us chiefly through what appears at first to be harmless and even beneficial innovations or expedients, but which later prove to be ministers of Satan transformed into angels of light.

To become a Christian one must believe what he finds authority for believing in God's word. He must, upon believing, repent of his sins, confess the Christ as God's Son, and be buried with Christ in baptism for the remission of sins. In other words, to become a Christian, one must do what God says in the manner in which God says do it. When one does this God will save him; add him to His church. (Acts 2:47.) As a member of His church, which is the pillar and ground of the truth, one worships as God directs, and one works as God directs. As one is saved by doing what God says in the manner in which He says do it, just so one keeps saved by doing what God says in the manner He says to do it. We should walk only where God's word directs; therein, and therein alone, we have light. All else is darkness. In word, work and worship God's people must conform to God's will.

A modernistic attitude is a contagion. A contagion that will sweep through the rank and file until it reaches epidemic proportions. Unless responding to proper treatment it is certain to leave behind death and decay. Thus we have God's anathema upon all who would "devise" the new or "revise" the old. If the church of the Lord Jesus Christ permits modernistic attitudes to formulate our creed and direct our course of action, we are doomed! For as one battle-scarred veteran of the cross recently stated: "When once we have launched out upon the sea of human speculation, there is no port of call until we reach the harbor of denominationalism." Brethren think!!! Look carefully how you walk!