Stand fast for authentic evangelicalism: 4
By F.J. Harris
Continuing with the ways in which New Evangelicalism has done such terrible damage to the Cause of Christ …
3. Thirdly, the quest for intellectual acceptance leading to spiritual pride.
Another characteristic of New Evangelicalism is its desire to gain intellectual acceptance, particularly from non-evangelical scholars. From its inception New Evangelicalism was determined to impress the world with its intellect. It craved the respect of the academic world and was determined to earn the respect of secular scholarship.
Why should this be a goal for the Christian? Paul spelled out for the believer the vanity of this world’s wisdom in 1 Corinthians 1:20,21: “Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.”
Inevitably, such an attitude led to concessions. Indeed the New Evangelicalism claimed that it differed from Fundamentalism in its willingness to face intellectual problems and meet them in the framework of modern learning. The New Evangelical believes that Christianity is intellectually defensible, and also says the Christian cannot be obscurantist in scientific questions.
Do you see what he is implying? The Old Evangelical is unable to face intellectual problems, does not possess modern learning and is unenlightened in scientific matters. Dr. Ockenga said that New Evangelicalism is prepared to re-examine theological problems such as “the antiquity of man, the universality of the Flood, God’s method of creation and others.”
This is nothing more than intellectual pride. As though he were saying, “How can we earn the respect of the intellectuals if we say we believe in creation in six 24-hour days, in the special creation of ma an, and in a universal flood?” To the New Evangelicals these truths are “theological problems.”
In England, John Stott was saying, “For 50 years and more, I have urged that authentic evangelical Christians are not Fundamentalists. Fundamentalists tend to be anti-intellectual and naïve with an almost superstitious reverence for the King James Version of the Bible; a cultural imprisonment; racial prejudice; extreme right wing political concerns.”
Similarly J.I. Packer criticised the old-time Evangelicals within the Church of England, who sought in a Puritan sense to bring the entire denomination up to the biblical standard of doctrinal purity, He charged them with “an unlovely intellectual perfectionism and self-sufficiency.” You will notice that soft words are spoken to the heretics and the harshest words reserved for the believer who desires to adhere to biblical Truth.
Another respected scholar, and supposed Evangelical, F.F. Bruce wrote in his autobiography that when he came to expound a biblical text he did not come to it with a doctrine of inspiration which would place limits on its meaning.
Oh, dear friends, how thankful we should be that when the Spirit of God works in us the unassailable conviction that the Bible is inerrant in all its parts we are delivered from such theological complexities. There are difficulties in the Bible that we have to wrestle with, but where there are such clear statements as we find in the opening chapters of the book of Genesis, we have no theological problems at all.
We do not in any sense despise scholarship and learning, but there are dangers inherent in human scholarship because of man’s fallen nature and of course we are opposed to humanistic scholarship that is divorced from and antagonistic to God’s written Word. True scholarship and learning are great tools for good in the hands of humble and godly Christians as we have seen in every age from Paul the Apostle through to Wycliffe, Tyndale, the Reformers, the Puritans and men like Jonathan Edwards, men of massive intellectual ability, but men who have brought all their learning to the bar of Holy Scripture.
God warns against intellectual pride and with good reason for apostasy usually begins among the intellectuals. Sadly, it has to be said that the New Evangelical approach to scholarship has corrupted those who have pursued it (1 Cor. 15:33).
4. Fourthly, an undermining of the doctrine of the inspiration of the Scriptures.
Whereas the Old Evangelicalism regarded scripture as the written Word of God and therefore wholly true, the New Evangelicalism has made concessions concerning the authorship of various biblical books such as Deuteronomy and Isaiah. Other aspects of their faulty view of Scripture
are as follows:
(1) Inspiration is undermined by distinguishing between its divine and human aspects.
But this is a distinction that Jesus and the apostles did not make. Jesus used “the law of Moses” and “the law of God” as synonyms. Paul said the Scriptures were written by inspiration of God (2 Tim. 3:16). He did not focus on the human element in Scripture, only on the divine. Peter said it was the Holy Spirit who spake through the prophets (1 Peter 1:10-11), who moved them as they spoke (2 Pet. 1:21).
(2) Inspiration is undermined by dividing the cultural, historical and scientific aspects of Scripture from the theological. Those who speak thus mean that although Scripture speaks truthfully on matters concerning redemption, it may not be accurate in scientific, historical or cultural statements. But “If the Bible is only partly inspired and partly trustworthy, who is to determine which part is the authentic Word of God? … No-one has ever shown where a line can be safely drawn … The only alternatives are an acceptance of the truthfulness of all Scripture or a questioning of the whole.” (Iain Murray, Evangelicalism Divided, pages 200, 201).
(3) Inspiration is undermined by claiming that God’s thoughts are too great to be contained infallibly in a book written in human words.
Human language, however, was created by God and the individual words of Scripture were chosen by Him; the Scripture therefore contains the deep things of God and the very mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:9-16).
(4) Inspiration is undermined by claiming that to be bound by the letter of the Scripture is legalism and bibliolatry.
The Lord Jesus taught us to revere the very words and letters of the Scripture (Matthew 4:4; 5:18). The Bible believer does not worship the Scripture; he worships the God of the Scriptures: but he understands that God has revealed Himself infallibly in the Scripture.
It is God who has exalted the Holy Scriptures, having magnified His Word above his Name (Psalm 138:2). It is the devil who has always questioned God’s Word (Genesis 3:1), and those who question the inerrancy of the Bible today are of the devil.
(5) Inspiration is undermined by claiming that the doctrine of verbal inspiration was a product of 19th century Presbyterians, especially Charles Hodge and B.B. Warfield.
This claim is, of course, utter nonsense. The great 17th century Confessions could not be clearer: The Westminster Confession of Faith stated: “The Old Testament in Hebrew . . . and the New Testament in Greek . . . being immediately inspired by God, and by his singular care and providence kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentical; so as in all controversies of religion, the Church is finally to appeal unto them.”
John Owen, English Puritan leader, stated in about 1670: “But yet we affirm, that the whole Word of God, in every letter and tittle, as given from him by inspiration, is preserved without corruption” (Works, XVI, page 301).
Francis Turretin, professor of theology at Geneva and prominent Reformed Protestant leader, stated in 1674: “Nor can we readily believe that God, who inspired each and every word to these inspired men, would not take care of their entire preservation” (Francis Turretin, Institutio Theologicae Elencticae).
(6) Inspiration is undermined by that form of evangelicalism which makes concessions to science regarding the creation of the universe, the creation of the man, the flood and other supernatural events.
To be continued.