on the Sand?
by David O.
the modern revolt against God which masquerades as Christianity,
has gone through an astonishing number of changes since
it developed in the 1800s. Since it is governed by the whims
of human reason and is no longer restrained by the authority
of Scripture, Liberalism has produced numerous schools of
thought, most of which enjoyed only a brief popularity.
There are, however, three main movements which have dominated
the twentieth century; old-line Liberalism or Modernism,
Neo-liberalism, and Neo-orthodoxy. The older Liberalism
or Modernism has as its starting point that the Bible cannot
be the inerrant Word of God and the absolute authority in
matters of theology, because the advances man has made in
history, science, philosophy, and other disciplines prove
that it is a fallible human book. Characteristically, Modernism
tends to discount the supernatural elements of the Bible,
explaining away the miraculous wherever possible. The three
doctrines which the older Liberalism emphasized the most
were the universal fatherhood of God, the universal brotherhood
of man, and the social gospel as the answer to man's needs.
Some of the most influential liberal theologians were F.
D. E. Schleiermacher (1768-1834), Albrecht Ritschl (1822-1889),
and Adolf Harnack (1851-1930).
the best refutation ever written of the older Liberalism
was the book Christianity and Liberalism, written
by J. Gresham Machen in 1923. He points out that Liberalism
attempted to remove the "temporary symbols" of
Christianity, such as the creation, the fall of man, the
substitutionary atonement, heaven and hell, and, in short,
everything that is distinctive about Christianity. Their
purpose was to "rescue certain of the general principles
of religion," but the result was a totally non-Christian
religion posing as Christianity (Christianity and Liberalism,
rpt. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977, p. 6).
which emerged about 1935, is an attempt to preserve the
basic tenets of Liberalism while clothing them in conservative-sounding
terminology. World War I, the rise of totalitarian states
in Europe, and the Great Depression had raised serious questions
about the old Liberalism's optimistic outlook in man's abilities.
Archaeology and advances in textual research had done much
to discredit the historical-critical method while strengthening
the Fundamentalists' belief in the reliability of the Scriptures.
For instance, archaeology proved that, contrary to what
Liberals had asserted, the art of writing was commonly practiced
in the time of Moses and that there was a great Hittite
empire in ancient times, though it was previously known
to history only from the Bible. Observing that many of the
old liberal institutions were losing the support of orthodox-minded
constituents, Harry Emerson Fosdick (1878-1969) delivered
in 1935 the now famous sermon from his Riverside Church
in New York City-"The Church Must Go Beyond Modernism."
This was the historic beginning of Neo-liberalism, which
indeed was not new but rather the same old Liberalism clothed
in a more attractive garb, intended to be more palatable
to the average lay person.
whose founding father was Karl Barth (1896-1968), was ostensibly
a modern restatement of the theology of the Protestant Reformers,
but it simply preserves the basic tenets of the older Liberalism
using extremely nebulous terminology. The foundation for
its underlying philosophy, Existentialism, was laid by Soren
Kierkegaard (1813-1855), Danish philosopher and theologian.
Neo-orthodoxy and religious Existentialism (used interchangeably
for practical purposes) developed as a reaction to the cold,
dead rationalism of old-line Liberalism. Whereas Rene Descartes
(1596-1650) had begun his philosophy with pure reasoning-"I
think; therefore I am"-Existentialism begins with present
existence (living) as its first principle. The basic idea
is that existence is prior to reasoning. Therefore, it is
impossible to find ultimate truth and the real meaning of
life speculatively. The true meaning (or mystery) of existence
lies only in individual living. Human experience is the
starting point of all understanding. Life has no objective
or absolute meaning. A human being must create his own meaning,
and he does this by looking within himself. Truth is purely
subjective. This philosophy has permeated "evangelical"
churches today. Even Christian young people, who would not
commit certain acts themselves, often feel that if others
want to do such things, it may be all right for them.
the liberal view of the Scriptures, Karl Barth attacked
Fundamentalists for "worshipping a self-sufficient
paper pope." While claiming to preserve the "message"
of the Bible, neo-orthodox men deny many of the literal
facts of the Bible. Neo-orthodoxy's underlying principle
is Immanuel Kant's theory that there is another realm of
"things in themselves" which lies beyond the senses.
This purely subjective "world of things in themselves"
Neo-orthodoxy calls Geschichte. Opposed to Historie
(literal history), Geschichte is the category to
which the Neo-orthodox relegate any inconvenient biblical
miracle or doctrine, such as the creation account, the fall
of man, and the miracles of Christ. Such facts are "inconvenient"
because, like Modernism, Neo-orthodoxy is careful not to
contradict modern man's denial that God can act contrary
to natural "scientific" laws. To the Neo-orthodox,
the Bible is still only a human book and therefore a fallible
one. It may be the means whereby man can encounter or "experience"
God; but the Bible never actually becomes the absolute Word
of God, because all true religious knowledge lies only in
the "other world"-the Geschichte. Remember,
Neo-orthodoxy rejects many of the historical accounts in
is neither "new" nor "orthodox"; it
is the old Liberalism in a new and subtle guise of philosophical-sounding
terminology which has too often intimidated both pastors
Historical-Critical Approach to the Bible
sense, modern Liberalism is not different from any other
philosophy or religion that man has devised since his rebellion
in the Garden of Eden. It revives certain heresies that
are remarkably like what the early Church encountered. However,
part of Liberalism's success in capturing modern denominations
is due to the destruction of confidence in Scripture through
the historical-critical method, something relatively recent.
origin of the method may be traced to the eighteenth century.
A French physician, Jean Astruc, published a commentary
on Genesis in 1753 which asserted that the book was not
a single literary composition but rather a composite of
two primary documents that are distinguishable by their
use of different names for God-Jehovah and Elohim. Astruc
speculated that Moses simply used and edited these two basic
documents. During the same period, a German Protestant scholar,
J. S. Semler, translated into German a seventy-year-old
work by a Roman Catholic priest, Richard Simon, who on the
basis of his own source analysis, or "source criticism,"
denied the Mosaic authorship of the entire Pentateuch.
higher critics did not fully develop the classic four-source
(JEDP) hypothesis until the nineteenth century, the criteria
for future documentary criticism appeared even in the eighteenth
century. These included (1) the use of different names of
God; (2) stylistic differences; (3) alleged discrepancies;
(4) repetitions; and (5) alleged clues of a composite or
exaltation of human reason, especially in the nineteenth
century, led to further developments of source criticism.
Because the criteria for distinguishing sources were purely
subjective, it was inevitable that the number of the conjectured
sources would multiply. Men such as J. G. Eichhorn (1752-1827),
J. S. Vater (1771-1826), W. M. L. DeWette (1780-1849), and
Hermann Hupfeld (1796-1866) championed source criticism.
Evolutionary thought dominated the intellectual climate,
and by the middle of the nineteenth century the alleged
sources of the Pentateuch numbered four-JEDP. J represents
the use of the name Jehovah; E is for Elohim; D stands basically
for the book of Deuteronomy; and P is the priestly material
which allegedly constitutes the framework of the entire
greatest development of source criticism came from K. H.
Graf (1815-1869) and Julius Wellhausen (1844-1918). When
Graf began to date the four sources, source criticism became
"historical" criticism. The alleged dates are
these: J—ninth century B.C.; E—eighth century B.C.; D—the
time of Josiah (640-609 B.C.); and P—fifth century B.C.
The implications are obvious: Moses could not have written
the Pentateuch, even though Christ Himself ascribes it to
him; Deuteronomy was a pious fraud passed off on the people
of Josiah's day as an ancient work of Moses; and the historical
accuracy of the Bible is out of the question. Wellhausen
himself denied the historicity of Abraham, Noah, and other
Harrison, in his Introduction to the Old Testament
(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1969), concludes that Wellhausen
"occupied a position in the field of Old Testament
criticism analogous to that of Darwin in the area of biological
science." Before his death, Wellhausen "conceded
that the rationalism which he had embraced so avidly in
earlier years had made havoc of his own faith in the authority
and authenticity of the Old Testament" (pp. 21, 26).
Driver of Oxford University brought Wellhausen's destructive
views to England, while Francis Brown and Charles A. Briggs
of Union Theological Seminary in New York sowed the same
seeds in the soil of American religious thought. These same
three men later collaborated on a revision of the Hebrew
lexicon compiled by Semitic scholar F. H. W. Gesenius. Though
now a standard reference work, this massive dictionary is
saturated with the JEDP theory.
Jewish scholar and philologist, Umberto Cassuto, shattered
liberal assumptions in his Documentary Hypothesis,
published in 1934. It was then that many of the old-line
Liberals shifted some of their major emphases and attempted
to camouflage their old ideas into a "neo-liberal"
movement. They continue to employ the so-called historical-critical
ironic that while Liberals criticize conservatives for asserting
the inerrancy of original manuscripts which no longer exist,
they base their own claims upon alleged sources for which
not a thread of archaeological evidence has ever been verified.
The Bible teaches its own inerrancy, but the historical-critical
method is merely a forced hypothesis. Both internal and
external evidences teach the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch.
Internal claims include these: Exodus 17:14; 24:4; 34:27;
Numbers 33:1-2; Deuteronomy 31:9, 24. The phrase "Jehovah
spake to Moses" occurs again and again in Leviticus.
External evidences include these: Joshua 1:7f.; Judges 3:4;
II Chronicles 25:4; Ezra 6:18, 7:6; Malachi 4:4; Matthew
8:4; Mark 7:10, 10:4-5; Luke 20:37; John 5:45-47, 7:19.
(For further discussion of biblical inspiration and inerrancy
from a conservative standpoint, the reader should consult
Stewart Custer, Does Inspiration Demand Inerrancy?
(Nutley, N.J.: The Craig Press, 1968); Benjamin B. Warfield,
Inspiration and Authority of the Bible (Philadelphia:
Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1948); and
Edward J. Young, Thy Word Is Truth (Grand Rapids:
House on the Sand? ©1985. BJU Press. Reproduction prohibited.
This work is currently out of print and is not available
must be obtained from www.itib.org to link to this page.