In my last post I attempted to give you a glimpse of the early founding of the Modernist movement (many refer to it as the reformed church today) and the effects it has had on the church for over a century. I sought to show how their challenge of traditional Christian views and orthodox values created fractures within the church and gained popularity among many denominations. We also saw how almost prophetically, Reverend Harry Fosdick (one of Modernism’s greatest proponents) knew that the inherent danger of his movement was a concern over how culture would influence and grow in it’s appeal to shape theology in the future.
Sadly, we need to look no further than the headlines of our newspapers and the leads of our favorite news channels on TV to see the profound effect this movement has made toward granting culture the influence it holds on the church today. But how is it possible that this movement gained any traction over a century ago?
Modernism was born out of a move toward intellectualism and an application of knowledge used to challenge traditional/orthodox religious authority. Remember, at the turn of the century pastors were facing the spread of Darwinism. From this movement, a questioning of all religious authority and all truth became the subject of intellectual scrutiny.
Instead of seeking ways to reaffirm the Bible scientifically, these theologians sought to find ways in which they could disprove what we know is infallible. It opened up a process of reasoning that rejected the absolutes established in the Bible and opened up the door to interpretation that is malleable to the culture and a progression of logical thinking inherent with the times. By an application of logical “feelings” or “instincts”, people sought to establish themselves as the ultimate arbiters over religious authority and cast doubt or a sense of irrelevance to the Bible and its blood purchased truth.
But wasn’t it God who said,
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways”, says the Lord.”‘ – Isaiah 55:8
It should be said, that the pursuit of knowledge and man’s intellect regarding an understanding of God is nothing new to us. We have sought to know and understand God since the beginning. We even bought the lie that to pursue such intellect would make us equivalent with God. Just look at the pursuit of knowledge and wisdom that was at the root of Adam and Eve’s folly. This gravitation toward intellectualism in the church shares the echo of that subtle lie:
“For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God…” – Genesis 3:5 (NKJV)
Since Modernism was born out of a shift toward intellectualism, its influence was most persuasive on the seminaries and the institutions of higher learning. As institutions such as Princeton Theological Seminary began graduating students, who would gain ordination within their chosen denominations, the impact of Modernism became more palpable there as well.
As an example of how perverse this school of thinking and its acceptance of compromise for its doctrines had become within denominations and the seminaries, in 1923 two ministers were ordained by a mainline denomination in spite of their unwillingness to accept the divine nature and virgin birth of Jesus Christ (wikipedia). Prior to that event, the Seminary at Drew University, represented by Robert W. Rogers, spoke at the 80th anniversary of Mc Cormick Seminary in 1909:
“There is too much sensitiveness and dread of heresy. Somebody is turned out, or fails of re-election or receives properly accredited hints to resign, or is simply pounded because he is reputed to have said or thought something inconsistent with the interpretation of the Bible or creed which someone else holds… These creeds of ours must be a poor company if they cannot stand a bit of a shake now and then. Every first class institution is entitled to a little heresy here and there to keep it from stagnation.” – Robert Rogers, 1909. (William K. Selden, 1992).
But isn’t this exactly what Paul told us to do? Confront sin when we see it in our midst and cast it out of the church when those participating willfully refuse to recognize their sin and repent. This couldn’t be stated any clearer than it was in 1 Corinthians 5, a passage which advises us to judge the church and those who refer to themselves as our “brothers” and “sisters” when we find them in unashamed disobedience.
For over 100 years, the appeal of Modernism to the human intellect has been usurping power from the traditional messages of faith that have been taught. Pastors and churches embracing reform have been distancing themselves from any absolutesand truth with trusting their own intellect and placing faith in their own understanding of God. Which has allowed them to create their own understanding of God, to make God malleable and use this understanding as the driving force which allows them to bring the church into conformity with culture.
But God says otherwise:
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. – Hebrews 13:8 (NKJV)
The Truth is uncompromising, it is absolute and unyielding. The Bible is truth. Jesus is the Truth. We know who God is by the testimony of His truth through His word. Today, many are being assuaged by the false belief that Gods’ word says one thing but He cannot be that same person we know in His text. That He is somehow malleable and has changed with time and the challenges of time. But the truth is this: You can only trust in the word of God to be a source of knowledge on who He is or what He believes.
Knowing this, many pastors have risen to the challenges presented by the Modernist movement. As a result, we have the Fundamentalist movement that was born in response to their challenge. Like Paul, the pastors and denominations involved have been preaching and admonishing the church regarding its need to protect and become judicious in our protection of the truth.
Christian Helplines, Inc. sees these times of crisis going on in the world as a reflection of the promise of those events we would see prior to His glorious return for His church. We want to help prepare laborers for entry in to the field, to help them gather together and reap the bounty of a harvest that will bring honor and glory to the Lord. With every second left in Gods’ plan, we want to save the souls of those lost in the confusion of these troubling times.
“How Can I Help?” is a training series dedicated to creating disciples for Christ and sharing God’s message of hope in leading others to His plan of salvation. With over 30 years of experience and success in this field, we hope you will choose our materials as a tool to prepare yourself and those in your church for the commission of Christ: “Go and make disciples” – Matthew 28:19.
Please remember us in your prayers. As always, we ask you to remember to give faithfully to your local church. Yet, out of the generosity of the Lord, if you feel blessed and led to give to our ministry we would be honored by your gifts. If you cannot give monetarily we would ask you to bless this ministry by sharing it with your pastor or others who may wish to join you in creating a small group study. Together we can make a difference for Christ!
Until next time, may God abundantly bless and keep you and yours…