Modernism — Not So Modern

(Detroit, Michigan).
via The Christian Leader, 1956

by Harmon Black

          Many persons who talk about Modernism in religion would be hard put to define the term.  They know it is the antithesis of Fundamentalism and that it represents a threat to Christianity as it has been practiced down through the years.  But to define it -- to point out its recognizable features -- to put the finger on its underlying motives and the like, is not so easily done.

          It shall be our purpose in this article to show what Modernism is -- how it can be identified -- but above all to prove that it is not a modern thing.  The underlying spirit of so-called Modernism can be traced back to the very morning of time.  But let’s not get ahead of the story.

          Modernism, as we know it today, is the embodiment of skepticism and disbelief.  It consists not of what one believes, but of what he refuses to believe.  All the basic tenets of Christianity are attacked.  The virgin birth, the miraculous power, the bodily resurrection of Jesus are all denied.  The spirit of Modernism has found a ready reception in many pulpits.  Colleges and Seminaries help the work along, turning out many preachers who are rank infidels before they reach the pulpit where their influence can be passed on to others.

          Let me give you two or three good clues, whereby you may spot a Modernistic preacher in short order.  First, if you hear him play up the humanity of Jesus or if he implies that he was just a man, be on your guard.  I heard one put it this way.  He said, “Jesus, the man, aspired to walk with God.  He ‘hitched his wagon to a star’.  The thing which made him great was his determination to attain the perfection of God while in human flesh.”  Now Jesus was either the Son of God as he claimed, or he was not.  No matter how good a man he was, if he wasn’t God’s Son, he remains the greatest fraud in history.

          Second, if you hear a preacher placing the doctrine of Christ and the Apostles on a level with the various religions of the world, beware.  Modernists like to compare various points all religions have in common.  They speak of man’s universal search for God, and of the “Mohammedan point of view” and the “Christian point of view.”  Thus, Jesus is relegated to the level of all other religious leaders.  Those who wear the name Christian should deeply resent such sacrilege.

          Third, the Modernists slyly suggest the possibility of worshipping God without going through a third party.  I heard one say, “Let the Jew forget his Moses, and let the Mohammedan forget his Mohammed, and (implying, let the Christian forget his Christ).  Let them all worship God, and this will bring them together.”  Sounds good on the surface, doesn’t it?  But one thing is wrong.  Jesus said, “No man cometh unto the Father but by me.”  That settle that.

          These, then, are some of the landmarks of Modernism.  The purpose of the whole thing, of course, is to undermine the faith of men in the Bible and in things fundamental.  But the spirit of denial is not new.  It is not exclusively modern.

          John tells us that the anti-Christ, or the spirit of denial, was in the world ruing the days of the Apostles.  But it is far more ancient than that.  Back in the Garden of Eden, when Eve listened to Satan as he called the word of God in question, modernism was born.  God’s way is the way of faith.  Every command he ever gave to man involved faith.  By faith he knows the attitude of every member of the human family.  Those who do what he tells them to do are the children of faith.  Those who deny his power and right to command obedience are the servants of Satan.

          Down through the centuries there have always been some who have insisted that God doesn’t mean what he says.  Their human reason and judgment argue for rationalism rather than faith.  No doubt their kind will continue to disturb and try to wreck the faith of others until the end of time.

          Let us not be deceived by Modernism or any other faith-destroying theories of men.  Let us remain true to the “faith which was once delivered unto the saints.”

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