Christian Evidences Series: The Menace of Modernism

28 Aug

Studies in Christian Evidences by Waymon D. Miller

(This little booklet was developed in 1961 but is now out of print. For that reason, it is provided here for your use and edification in hopes that one more soul will come to believe today)


1. Modernism is perhaps as vicious and dangerous an enemy as has ever confronted Christianity.
(a) This is so because it is a subversive element found inside of Christianity, and seeks to discredit and undermine the Christian religion from within.
(b) Another reason for its great danger is its deceptive nature. Being found inside Christianity, it is viewed under the disguise of Christianity..
(c) While found inside Christianity, it is definitely unchristian, and seeks to destroy the fundamental doctrines of the Christian religion.

2. A clear and concise definition of modernism is virtually impossible, though it has its distinctive marks by which it is readily identified.
(a) A definition of modernism is difficult because it offers no distinct, clearly-defined platform, and is not found in any one
particular religious group, but in many.
(b) Modernism is, however, a rationalistic philosophy, negative in nature, that seeks a denial of every fundamental premise of Christianity.
(c) In effect, modernism is a philosophic system of theistic infidelity, or religious rationalism.

3. Modernism is a misnomer, for religious infidelity and rationalism is not at all new.
(a) During the apostolic era there were those of the modernistic persuasion of our time: those who preached another gospel (Gal. 1:6-9),
those who elevated human wisdom above the wisdom of God (I Cor. 1:18-29), those who denied the resurrection (I Cor. 15:12-19), those who denied the incarnation (I John 4:2-3; 2 John 7); those who denied the Lord (Jude 3-4; 2 Peter 2:1)
(b) Groups which denied the fundamentals of Christianity were also found in the post-apostolic age: the Gnostics of the first century, the
Marcionites of the second century, the Neo-Platonics and Manicheans of the third century, and the Pelagians of the fourth century.
(c) This summary of the Gnostics of the first centruy bears a remarkable resemblance to modernists of our time: (1) They claimed to have a deeper and truer view of Christianity. (2) They rejected the of  the scriptures. (3) They maintained that belief in one’s self is belief
in God. (4) They contended that Christ will deliver men by his coming, not by his atonement. (5) They rejected the virgin birth of Christ. (6)
They ridiculed orthodoxy. (7) They professed that salvation is by illumination, or intellectual achievement.

4. The nature of modernism may be summarized by the following quotations:
(a) James M. Gray, in his book modernism describes this great evil in this manner: “Modernism is a revolt against the God of Christianity. 
Modernism is a revolt against the Bible of Christianity. It is a revolt against the Christ of Christianity.”
(b) T.T. Shields stated: “Modernism, when it is finished, is sheer lawlessness; it rejects all authority except the authority that resides
in the individual himself. . . .Modernism is a naturalistic religion. It grows out of the pride of the human mind that magnifies men and
minimizes God; it holds that authority in religion is in man’s own consciousness, rather than objectively in the Book as the revelation of
God himself.”
(c) Frank Pack defined modernism in this manner: “Modernism masquerades as Christianity, but denies everything distinctively Christian. It
rejects the divinity of Christ, man’s need of salvation, the authority of the Bible as the revealed will of God, the reality of miracles, the
resurrection of the dead, the divine origin of the church, the hope of the second coming and judgement, confidence in any supernatural interest
in prayer.”
(d) Defining modernism positively, Pack continues: “It is a system of religious ethics finding its basis in the concept of the universal
fatherhood of an immanent God and the universal brotherhood of man-a system exalting human authority and reason, and rejecting all that does not come within the approval of naturalistically guided human thinking.  While infesting churches, its faith is utterly different from New
Testament Christianity.” (Article, Gospel Advocate, July 26, 1951, p. 470)


1. The Christian who has made no study of these matters would be utterly amazed at how extensively modernism has been spread in many churches.
(a) Modernistic preachers fill the pulpits of some of the largest churches of America, many religious journals are edited by modernists,
and many so-called “Christian” universities and colleges are thoroughly modernistic.

2. Professor George H. Betts, professor of education, Northwestern University, sent a questionnaire to 1309 ministers in the Chicago area
and to students of five religious seminaries. The churches represented twenty of the largest denominations in America. Some of the questions
and answers from ministers and students were:

                                                                                                          Ministers         Students
(a) Do you believe in the existenceof an actual devil?                        40% No         82% No

(b) Do you believe in the Genesis account of creation?                     47% Yes        5% Yes
c. Do you believe the Bible as a  final revelation?                              66% Yes        18% Yes
(d) Do you believe in the virgin birth of Christ?                                  71% Yes        25% Yes
(e) Do you believe that Christ diedfor our sins?                                 70% Yes        29% Yes
(f) Do you believe in the existence of heaven?                                   57% Yes        1% Yes
(g) Do you believe in the existence     of hell?                                    53% Yes        1% Yes
(h) Do you believe in a bodily resurrection for man?                         62% Yes        18% Yes
(i) Do you believe in a final judgment for man?                                 60% Yes        17% Yes
(j) Do you believe in the second coming of Christ?                          40% Yes        8% Yes

3. This survey by Professor Betts has also been analyzed in the following manner, with reference to the great fundamental doctrines of
the Bible:
(a) God. Only 87% of the ministers queried believed that God is omnipotent; only 79% believed that He is unchangeable, only 84% believed
that God assumes any direct part in the running of the universe. It was disclosed also that 64% of Congregationalist ministers, 28% of
Methodists, 14% of Evangelicals, and 12% of Baptists rejected the doctrine of the Trinity.
(b) Christ. Among these ministers, only 71% accepted the doctrine of the virgin birth of Christ, 76% believed Christ of equal power,
authority, and knowledge with God, 58% believed that when Christ was upon the earth He was limited in knowledge about the earth and scientific facts in general, 70% believed the death of Christ obtained the forgiveness of sins, 84% believed He actually arose from the dead, and 82% believed that He is now interceding for us with the Father.
(c) The Bible. Only 55% believed the Bible was uniquely inspired and is God’s message for us, 66% believed that the New Testament is God’s final revelation, only 38% believed the Bible is wholly free from legend or myth, only 34% believed every part of the Bible of divine authority, 70% believed the inspiration of the Bible different from any other religious literature, and 77% believed that the New Testament is an infallible
(d) Sin. Only 60% of these ministers believed in a personal devil, 53% believed men are born with a sinful, depraved nature, and 60% denied that the fall of Adam brought sin, death, and suffering to the human race. 

(e) Creation and Evolution. Only 47% accepted the Genesis account of creation, 61% believed the idea of evolution to be consistent with the
idea of God as Creator, and only 33% believed the theory of evolution to be a denial that man was created in the image of God.

4. Dan Gilbert, author and evangelist, in the “World Wide Christian Conservation,” related the following information obtained in his
experience with modernists:
(a) One minister commented: “The machinery of protestantism is securely in the grip of the liberal element. That’s what really counts. So long
as the great seminaries, publishing houses, the denominational organizations, are controlled by liberalism, there is no chance for the
orthodox to make a comeback.”
(b) After addressing a group of ministers in Washington, D.C. on the subject of “The Faith or Our Fathers,” a well known minister remarked: 
“We liberal clergymen are no longer interested in the fundamentalist-modernist controversy. We do not believe we should waste
our time engaging in it. So far as we are concerned, it makes no difference whether Christ was born of virgin or not. We don’t even
bother to formulate and opinion on the subject.”
(c) After speaking in Arlington, Virginia, a minister remarked: “We have closed our minds to such trivial considerations as the questions of
the resurrection of Christ. If you fundamentalists wish to believe that nonsense we have no objection, but we have more important things to
preach about than the presence of an empty tomb 20 centuries ago.” 

(d) A Virginia minister summarized the modernistic philosophy by saying: “We are interested in human life and human destiny on earth. We
don’t know or care whether there is life beyond the grave. We presume that there is a God, but we know that he will ever be a mystery to us. 
We do not know or care whether God possesses personality or not. He may be just an impersonal force. Religion means very little, if anything. 
In the modern world of religion has no vital place. The function of the modern minister is to guide the thinking people along social and economic
lines. Morals, like religion, are out of date. The world today requires a new social order. The younger generation won’t need either morals or
religions if we create a social order in which ignorance and poverty have no place. We are moving in the direction of the elimination of prayer
from our services entirely. We still include it, occasionally, to please those who are accustomed to it. Prayers is a sort of habit with folks. 
It takes time to educate them to a realization that it is a hangover from the superstitious past. We do not teach the Bible to our young people. 
Our youth program is centered around recreation.”

1. It is not possible to establish a definite date as the point of the origin of modernism, but it had its beginning in the 18th century.
(a) Modernism is not a concrete and dogmatic system of ideas, but is composed of numerous divergent philosophies of religion developed during the 18th and 19th centuries.
(b) So gradually was this philosophic system developed that no date can be pointed to as its birthday, and no person can be identified as its
sole author.

2. How modernism developed.
(a) Following the wake of the Protestant Reformation in Germany there arose a revolt among the intellectuals of Europe to conservation
(b) The scholars in Germany in particular, and later in other European countries, turned from religion to philosophy.
(c) These scholars regarded human reason as the supreme authority in life, and rejected everything that could not be rationally explained.
(d) Philosophers who exerted tremendous influence during this period were: Baruch Spinoza, Albrecht Richl, David Hume, Immanuel Kant, Georg W. F. Hegel, Jean Astrue, John Locke, Julius Wellhausen, William James, and John Dewey.
(e) Leading theologians who contributed much to the development of modernistic thought were: Wilhelm M. L. deWette, Johann Semler, Karl
Barth, Emil Brunner, Albert Schweitzer, Soren A. Kierkegaard, Rudolf Bultman, David F. Strauss, Reinhold Niebuhr, and Friedrich Schleiermacher.
(f) Spinoza is credited with having initiated the movement of higher criticism (destructive criticism of the Bible).
(g) Albrecht Ritschl has been styled by some as the “father of modernism.”

1. The modernistic view of the Bible.
(a) Modernists reject the Bible as an inspired, infallible Book that is final authority in religion.
(b) “The Higher Criticism at once degraded into what it is today-a skeptical crusade against the Bible, tending to lower it to the level of
a purely human book.” (The Bible and Modern Criticism, Sir Robert Anderson, p. 43)
(c) Dr. Lyman Abbott expressed the typical modernistic view: “An infallible book is an impossible conception, and today no one really
believes our Bible is such a book.”
(d) Bishop Barnes stated: “The Old Testament is Jewish literature. In it are to be found folklore, defective history, half-savage morality,
obsolete forms of worship based on primitive and erroneous ideas of the nature of God, and crude science.” (From Heresies Exposed, William C. Irvine, p. 117)

2. Religion.
(a) Modernism views religion in the light of philosophy, and the religion of modernists is a mixture of pantheism, natural religion,
deism, and rational philosophy.
(b) Without the true Bible meaning, modernists use such terms as “incarnation,” “resurrection,” “atonement,” “redemption,” “salvation,”
and the like. But a highly metaphorical meaning is intended for these.
(c) To the modernist, “salvation” is solely a matter of personal experience, or one’s consciousness of God.
(d) The doctrines of the New Testament are meaningless to a modernist, for he holds no formal, dogmatic faith.
(e) In preaching the doctrine of “the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man,” modernists believe all religions to be valid and
equally “inspired.” Schopenhaur, for instance, believed Buddhism to be superior in purity and wisdom to Christianity.

3. The modernistic view of Christ.
(a) The modernists hold Christ to be a mere man, deny that He is the Son of God, deny his virgin birth, deny that He performed actual miracles,
and deny that He is Savior.
(b) They believe Christ was a superb teacher, and extoll His teachings as containing excellent ethical values.
(c) “The sole factor in the redemptive work of Christ, in the opinion of Schleiermacher, was his person, his supernatural birth, resurrection,
ascension, and his second advent were regarded as of little moment.”
(d) When asked by letter of December 8, 1952 from W.W. Otey if it is essential for one to believe in the virgin birth and atonement of Christ,
Edgar J. Goodspeed relied: “No, not at all. The Virgin Birth is simply an oft repeat ancient Greek way of describing the moral sonship to God.” 
(Christ or Modernism, Otey, p. 38)
(e) In replying to the same questions, Millar Burrows wrote: “I never have believed that the virgin birth of Jesus was an essential article of
Christian faith. As for the doctrine of blood atonement, I feel that in the form in which it has usually been presented it is foreign to the
teaching of the Bible.” (Ibid., p. 39)
(f) In his book, “The Quest of the Historical Jesus,” Albert Schweitzer asserts Christ is not discovered through the Scriptures, but rather He is “the spirit of Jesus revealed in one’s own religious experience.”

Here is another link for further thoughts on this subject:

The Menace of Modernism



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Posted by on August 28, 2017 in God


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