The Advantage of Biblical Fundamentalism
It is always pleasing to discover writings of a time where truth was still held high, where the banner of Christ was lifted above the misinformation and dissembling of the “wise men” of society. Here is one of the most thought provoking articles I have seen for a long time. Every one who is even remotely interested in the conflict between the “Progressive” Christian movement or “Modernism”, and true Biblical Fundamentalism, as apposed to any false fabricated hybrid, should study this contribution earnestly and prayerfully. I have adapted it for 21st century readers, from the original found in “Signs of the Times,” December 24, 1929 .—Editor
In the early 1900’s the Modernists began proclaiming a message which they confidently assured the Christian world was the bread of life for the twentieth century. The old faiths, the old attitudes and traditions, they declared to be mildewed and unpalatable; their own was fresh and pleasing to the sophisticated taste of our age. But of late there has come a dissatisfaction, a growing conviction that the alleged loaf is turning out to be a stone.
It is all very well to free from authority a generation that is habituated to the restraints and sanctions of the old order. Their momentum will carry them on in the same general direction as before. It is quite another thing when a new generation reaches maturity, a generation that is unacquainted with the old foundations of authority and the old moral attitudes. Then anarchy and chaos take the place of order and serenity, and men wander, lacking guides. The old needs remain, which authoritative religion once satisfied, restrained, or directed; but in this age, lacking that authority, men are cast upon their own resources, and they are confused and appalled in direct proportion to their distance from the security that previous generations enjoyed.
Confessions of a Philosopher—A Growing Disillusionment
More than that, men are finding that the “new” Christianity does not satisfy their soul hunger. There is evidence of a growing disillusionment as a result. In a remarkable book, “A Preface to Morals,” Walter Lippmann1 confesses:
“It is possible for multitudes in time of peace and security to exist agreeably—somewhat incoherently, perhaps, but without convulsions. . . . It is possible to drift along not too discontentedly, somewhat nervously, somewhat anxiously, somewhat confusedly, hoping for the best and believing in nothing very much. It is possible to be a passable citizen. But it is not possible to be wholly at peace. For serenity of soul requires some better organization of life than a man can attain by pursuing his casual ambitions, satisfying his hungers, and for the rest accepting destiny as an idiot’s tale in which one sensation succeeds another to no known end. And it is not possible for him to be wholly alive. For that depends upon his sense of living completely engaged with the world, with all his passions and all his faculties in rich harmonies with each other, and in deep rhythm with the nature of things.
“These are the gifts of vital religion which can bring the whole of man into adjustment with the whole of his relevant experience. Our forefathers had such a religion. They quarreled a good deal about the details, but they had no doubt that there was an order in the universe which justified their lives because they were a part of it. The acids of modernity have dissolved that order for many of us, and there are some in consequence who think that the needs which religion fulfilled have also been dissolved. But . . . our present experience is that the needs remain. In failing to meet them, it is plain that we have succeeded only in substituting trivial illusions for majestic faiths.”
Mr. Lippmann goes on to observe that the impulse of the thoughtful modern is to turn back from his freedom, and to find someone who claims to know the truth, and can tell him what to do. The inference is that the present state of drifting uncertainty is intolerable. Men must either return to God or make gods of their own. But authority they must have.
Authority They Must Have…but, from where comes this supremacy?
Author Ellen G. White explains succinctly about a type of “authority” carnal man seeks :
“Satan accomplished the fall of man, and since that time it has been his work to efface in man the image of God, and to stamp upon human hearts his own image. Possessing supremacy in guilt, he claims supremacy for himself, and exercises over his subjects the power of royalty. He cannot expel God from his own throne, but through the system of idolatry, he plants his own throne between the heaven and the earth, between God and the human worshiper.” — Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, Oct., 22, 1895.
Mr. Lippmann’s bold and fearless confession is very timely, now that the superficial observer thinks the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy ended, with the latter holding the field. It shows that some, though minuscule in number, at least recognize the fact that the advantage still rests with the side that accepts divine authority and guidance and relies upon divine wisdom. The presentation of the elements of that Biblical advantage, the True Fundamentalist advantage, is the purpose of the rest of this article.
The Five-fold Advantage of Fundamentalism
In the first place, the Fundamentalist knows that his beliefs have a divine origin, for he knows that they are based upon inspired writings, and behind these writings God stands. “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”—2 Peter 1:21. He can therefore say: “I believe this on the authority of the all-knowing God, the author and finisher of my faith.” He goes back directly to the Absolute. For “God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.” Acts 3:21.
Every Man His Own God—Finding God In Everything ? 2
The devotee of the newer “faith” can have no such experience. He is in effect compelled to say: “I have examined the alleged pronouncements of an all-knowing God; some of them I cannot believe because they are outside of my experience, some I find to be repulsive, others, if I can get them properly restated, will doubtless be quite good.” Recognizing no authority in the old primitive Christianity, nor the law of God, he has recourse to his own synthetic creed. Not satisfied with the Protestant plank which makes every man his own priest3, he would make every man his own god. This is nothing less than Protestantism gone mad. It is base Jesuitism2. And it does not truly satisfy hungry, groping souls, who’s lives will eventually end without hope and reconciliation to the one true God of their salvation.
Again Ellen G. White, a Biblical “fundamentalist” in the truer sense of the word, lays it out very plain according to God’s Word:—
“Idolaters are condemned by the Word of God. Their folly consists in trusting in self for salvation, in bowing down to the works of their own hands. God classes as idolaters as those who trust in their own wisdom, their own devising, depending for success on their riches and power, striving to strengthen themselves by alliance with men whom the world calls great, but who fail to discern the binding claims of His law.” Review & Herald, March 15, 1906.
She later asks her readers:
“Are we worshipers of Jehovah, or of Baal? of the living God, or of idols? No outward shrines may be visible; there may be no image for the eye to rest upon; yet we may be practicing idolatry. It is as easy to make an idol of cherished ideas or objects as to fashion gods of wood or stone. Thousands have a false conception of God and His attributes. They are as verily serving a false god as were the servants of Baal.” Review & Herald, Dec. 3, 1908.
In the second place, taking his direction from God, and knowing that God takes an active part in human affairs, the true Fundamentalist Christian feels himself to be a worker together with God. Like his Master, the Christ, he is able to say, “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.” — John 5:17. The twice-born man is a partner with God. He feels that his partner’s objectives have become his, and he is inspired and exalted accordingly.
So fundamental is this concept that the Modernist, lacking it, and finding nothing better to support than the blind evolutionary forces in which he believes, must do without this most ennobling and sanctifying of all the elements of religion.
Thirdly, the true Protestant Fundamentalist believes in the guidance of the individual conscience, educated to divine standards and directed by God. He opens his mind to the revealed will of God and the standards of Divinity, and then, having tapped by his conversion the wisdom and powers of Divinity, he sets his life course accordingly. And he knows that he is right every step of the way, because he is doing as God has commanded. Of this Representative, the Holy Spirit, Jesus says: “He shall teach you all things.” “He will guide you into all truth.”— John 14:26; 16:13. The Holy Spirit, being the author of the Bible (2 Peter 1:21), certainly should be the proper interpreter of it.
When the other searches his conscience, he discovers that it is of no value as a compass, because he finds no fixed point outside of it by which he can take his bearings. And he is at a loss as to how to educate it, because, rejecting the absolute standard, he can find no generally recognized human standard that is in any way adequate.
Of the fourth advantage, the old-time Protestant believes that the events of his life are directed by a loving and all-wise Father, that whatever appearances may seem to indicate, there are always present His “tender mercies . . . over all His works.”— Psalm 145:9. He knows that “all things work together for good,”— Romans 8:28, and he is therefore anxious to discover what is that “good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”— Romans 12:2. To such sublime heights can his faith carry him that he is able to say, like Job, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.”— Job 13:15. Often the compulsions of life are painful, but he is resigned because he is convinced that behind them lies the will of a loving Father.
But when men believe that events are determined by public opinion, majority votes, the tyranny of selfish religious and civil leaders, or the laws of supply and demand, they may be conquered but they are unconvinced, because the compulsions appear to be accidental, and therefore mocking and sardonic. There is no possible comfort in adversity nor deep and abiding joy in success, because both seem to be accidents.
Finally, of the fifth advantage, the Biblical Fundamentalist sees a benign, inevitable purpose in the universe. As God directs the life of a man, so He directs the stream of history to serve His ends. And in the prophetic Word of God man finds the key to history. “In the annals of human history the growth of nations, the rise and fall of empires, appear as dependent on the will and prowess of man. The shaping of events seems, to a great degree, to be determined by his power, ambition, or caprice. But in the Word of God the curtain is drawn aside, and we behold behind, above, and through all the play and counter-play of human interests and power and passions, the agencies of the all merciful One, silently, patiently working out the councils of His own will.”4 And His will and objective are the building of the city of God, for which all history is a preparation, and the plan of redemption a part. Like Abraham of old, the believer looks for a city with foundations, “whose builder and maker is God.”— Hebrews 11:10. He knows that Jehovah is the Lord of lords and the King of kings, and that He rules in the kingdom of men. And in that knowledge he finds happiness and hope, a philosophy of life, and the assurance that the setbacks caused by the powers of evil are only temporary, that ahead lies the city of God.
What has Progressive/Modernism to offer in place of these?
Nothing but ropes of sand.
In Summary: The Fundamentalist’s Advantages Are:
- His beliefs and convictions are based upon divinely inspired writings back of which God stands like an immovable Rock.
- He takes his guidance in life from a very personal God. He is a partnership with God, working in harmony with Him.
- His conscience, educated to divine standards, is directed by God. He knows the right from the wrong because God points out the difference, through His true Vicar, the Holy Spirit.
- No matter the reverses and disappointments of life, the Fundamentalist is assured that “all things work together for good.” He trusts in divine Providence.
- The Biblical Fundamentalist sees a benign purpose in the universe. The stream of history, though temporarily diverted and polluted, will serve divine ends and eventually harmonize with divine purpose.
The poor Progressive/ Modernist, too, must accept events as they come. But for him they have little meaning outside of themselves. Around them he has been unable to weave a philosophy that is either satisfactory or satisfying. There is for him no inevitable purpose in the universe. He sees before him a blank void, a dark curtain that his anxious, probing eye cannot pierce. And because he cannot see the future, he does not know how to evaluate the present; nor is he sure in which direction he should set his course, for he does not know his port. He is not even sure that there is a port. For all he knows his noblest efforts may be Utopian tilting at windmills, while the real demons that beset him go unchallenged because they are unrecognized. His greatest opportunities to cooperate with the forces of Divinity may escape him for the same reason.
The Religious Cycle
When we ask what is to come of all this, history answers. It seems that through the ages a sort of cycle has been established in the movement of religion and morals.
- The earliest and the most natural loyalty of man is to a personal God. Or it may be that his worship is corrupted into that of many gods, but if so, they are personal.
- Then a priesthood is built up, and under their instruction the allegiance of the layman tends to be transferred to an institution, the visible church. Just how far this transfer is carried depends upon the priesthood.
- But under this situation the church will contain philosophers, and in the end they will try to draw the allegiance of men to an ethic, that is to say, a pattern of conduct. Because only a few outside of the philosophers themselves find satisfaction in this third phase of the cycle, which may really border on the pagan, the rest revolt and turn again to a personal god, either returning to the true God, or setting up a new one, and the cycle is completed.
Those who call themselves our religious leaders seem at present to be drawing us into the third phase of the cycle. Their message today is humanistic, social and philosophical–and strikingly, spiritually weak. In the turn of the cycle we are due to see a revolt, a return to authority. Some will no doubt set up gods of their own making. They are already at it. Others, not wishing to solve the problem for themselves, will blindly accept the concept of God and the creed of the most ancient or the most powerful religious institution of which they have knowledge. And some will join that small company which throughout all the ages have been bound together by a common allegiance to the true God, their Creator and their Redeemer. Of these it is written that they have kept the commandments of God, and have the faith of Jesus. They have seen God’s plan, and have fitted themselves into it. They will be the citizens of the city of God when it is finally established in the heavenly kingdom. “These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the first fruits unto God and to the Lamb.”— Revelation 14:4
“But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
“But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.
“For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.
“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.
“Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
“But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
“But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.
“For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.
1 Corinthians 2:9-16
1 Editor’s Note: Some of Lippmann’s rationales are quoted below. I believe Lippmann is dead wrong on some of his philosophical assumptions as seen below, but his observations in the above quote, I believe, are somewhat valid. He is off-based in his assumption here, that: “human experience rather than divine revelation must provide the criteria of good and evil.” Here is where many of the world’s philosophers and thinkers stray off. (See Psalm 19:7; 1 Corinthians 1:25; 2:12-16.) The Encyclopedia.com describes Lippmann as such: “Lippmann’s own basic intellectual position is extremely difficult to describe, especially since, until his more advanced years, his political outlook rarely remained the same for long. The key to his successive political shifts may lie in Lippmann’s statement that “every truly civilized and enlightened man is conservative and liberal and progressive” (1962, p. 11). The best we can do is to examine Lippmann’s major works and to distinguish the different stages in his intellectual development…Skeptic moralist though he had come to be, Lippmann could not accept a morality based on naked desires. Desires must be subjected to the moral test; and in the case of a humanistic morality appropriate to modern conditions, human experience rather than divine revelation must provide the criteria of good and evil. In his next major work, A Preface to Morals (1929), Lippmann sought to formulate a new public morality. The moral test that Lippmann proposed for action was rationality and disinterestedness. Yet, having stated this moral imperative, he continued to doubt the multitude’s ability to accept it. Statesmen and leaders would first have to reeducate the wants and desires of the many, and pending this outcome, these leaders must act on the basis of what the people will in the end consider good, rather than on the basis of their present desires. A Preface to Morals in a sense reasserted Lippmann’s faith in the rationality of man, tempered by psychological insight into man’s volatility; it stated a belief in the possibility of responsible leadership but made the leaders subject to an ideal; and it excoriated current conditions as much as it expressed a new hope for the good society.” — http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Walter_Lippmann.aspx
2 Fr. Jim Connor, SJ, wrote that “no matter what ministry Jesuits are engaged in, they’re basically giving the Spiritual Exercises…I began talking about what that might mean in a high school setting, citing themes from the Exercises such as the Call to the Kingdom, Finding God in All Things, Contemplatives in Action and Carrying the Cross with Christ. I spoke off the top of my head about how to translate the Exercises into the curriculum and pedagogy of a Jesuit school and thereby to recapture the Jesuit identity of our work.”
3 Rev 1:6 — “And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 2:5 —”Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.”
4 Ellen G. White, Education, p 173.
Note: The featured photograph is “The Thinker in the Gates of Hell at the Musée Rodin—one of many false ideas of God’s character.