Common sense says that without Christ, there is no Christianity, yet the liberal skeptics of the early 20th Century attempted to minimize the divinity of Christ and his miracles. They set out on a quest to uncover the real “historical” Jesus as simply a man with no supernatural abilities. The Messiah they tried to create could not have been Messiah at all because he was a mere man. It is interesting to see how sinful men seek to invent theories and then find the proof for them. If this method of research could be switched, the Gospel of John would be the place to start since it is a book that demonstrates the divinity and the sovereignty of Jesus Christ as God. This assault on the deity of Christ is the reason for one of the Five Pillars of Fundamentalism: The literal nature of Biblical accounts, especially regarding Christ’s miracles and the Creation account in Genesis.
Throughout history, there have been debates that are long forgotten so that the modern reader has no appreciation. Thus far in the posting of The Fundamentals on this blog, we have seen the errant approach and effects of higher criticism. Chapter 8 is no different, but the chapter addresses a topic from 100 years ago that not many modern Christians have never heard of. During my seminary career, I did not come across this topic outside of its reference in The Fundamentals.
The author, David Heagle, was addressing a doctrinal objection that was relevant in his culture, even though it may not be in ours. This is a necessary practice for two reasons. First, cultures change. Satan can use new forms and methods to combat Christianity. It is not wrong to biblically address these forms. Fundamentalism needs to be fluid in its addressing of culture. Some arguments of the 1970’s may not be relevant in 2014, yet some arguments of 2014 would have never been considered in 1970. I recently testified before the NH House Judiciary Committee stating my case to not amend the NH Constitution to promote homosexual marriage. Early Fundamentalists would have never dreamed that this is necessary.
Second, many of the arguments against orthodoxy are not really new. Those who ignore history are destined to repeat it. Many modern heretics and critics take their play books from the past and regurgitate the error. By being familiar with the past, we can guard against attacks on sound doctrine in the present and future.
Did you know that the Tabernacle in the Old Testament was real? Your reply most likely is, “Of course, why wouldn’t it be?” Skeptics and critics 100 years ago tried to disprove the tabernacle’s authenticity by claiming that priests who lived later in history added the story of the tabernacle into the Old Testament. They suppose the tabernacle was a creation and sketch of pure imagination while the Jews were in exile in Babylon. This is the basis for Chapter 8.
When I was growing up, I learned many Bible “stories” that I still hold dear to this day. The difficulty with using the term “story” is that it can insinuate that the account in question is not a historical event, but rather just a fairy tale. Modern Bible skeptics have tried to undermine the Bible’s authority by trying to make it into a fairy tale. And who can blame? If the Bible is the Word of God, the skeptic is forced to accept or rebel against God. It is much easier for the skeptic to run from reality and live for himself.
Were Abraham and Moses real people in history? Did a man named Noah really build an ark under the direction of God? Did God really mean that he created the world in six literal days, or is Genesis 1 a silly allegory with Genesis 2 as the real story (as if God made chapter divisions in the Bible)?
Friends, the Bible is the authoritative, accurate, and inspired Word of God. Everything it contains is an accurate account of historical record. That doesn’t mean that the Bible records every moment in history, but it does include everything man needs to know in order to glorify God. Chapter 7 of The Fundamentals addresses the skeptics who teach that the Bible is a fairy tale. It is unfortunate that many of these skeptics remain in modern Evangelicalism as deceivers.
Johann Gottfried Eichhorn was a German theologian and higher critic who set out to prove that the Bible was not of divine origin (inspiration) because he could not comprehend how God could write such a book. Instead of gathering the evidence and letting it speak for itself, Eichhorn and his cohorts believed their own theory first, and then sought evidence. This is a horrible method of scholarship because it is only limited to one’s imagination and skews the evidence unfairly.
In regards to the Pentateuch, also know as the Law of Moses or the first five books of the Bible, the higher critics set out to show that is was not divinely inspired through Moses, but rather a collection of stories compiled and edited over hundreds of year. To do this, the higher critics had to lie and distort dates and data. Chapter 6 of The Fundamentals shines light upon this type of deception and illustrates a massive conclusion. If the Pentateuch is only a human compilation, Christ and all his ministry is vain because it was built upon the Law of Moses. Jesus came to fulfill a divine law, not finish the compiled ramblings of the historic Hebrews. The supreme Christ upheld a divine Pentateuch.
Perhaps the greatest travesty of the American church today is the failure to accept the Bible as a divine book that is inspired by God. According to a recent Gallup poll taken in 2011, only 3 in 10 Americans actually believe that they can take the Bible literally. What worsens this statistic is that only 40% of the US actually attends church each Sunday. One would think that at least that 40% would take the Word of God as their authority, but even this is not the case. There are spots in the the US where church attendance and belief in the Bible are much lower than the national average. The State of New Hampshire, my home, ranks 49th out of all all 50 states in Sunday morning church attendance with only 23.7%. It has been estimated by recent surveys that only 2%-3% of those NH church attenders would identify themselves are either Fundamental or Evangelical Christians. Friends, this is horrific.
What seems to be the problem? There is no doubt that one major hurdle we face is that far too many people who identify themselves as “Christian” do not view the Bible as the authoritative, sufficient, and the life-changing Word of God. Any attempt to be a victorious Christian without the Bible is a vain and ridiculous religious ritual.
Chapter 5 of The Fundamentals proclaims the importance for all men to view the Bible as the only divinely written book that is worthy of honor, guidance, and sufficiency. Simply stated, the Bible is infallible. It is incapable of error or misleading. “Here, it was believed, is a volume which is an inspired record of the whole will of God for man’s salvation; accept as true and inspired the teaching of that book, follow its guidance, and you cannot stumble, you cannot err in attaining the supreme end of existence, in finding salvation, in grasping the prize of a glorious immortality.”
Whether the critics like it or not, the Bible is a supernatural book. “How does the Bible prove itself to be a divinely inspired, heaven-given book, a communication from a Father to His children, and thus a revelation?” It contains the message of God, the gospel, which is the power of God unto salvation. No other book in history has or ever can compare to the life-transforming nature of the Bible. Men have tried to destroy it and critics have tried to debunk it, yet the Bible stands. Chapter 4 of The Fundamentals addresses the critical assault on the authenticity and divine inspiration of the Bible. Some of the arguments may seem random or unfamiliar to a modern reader. That is because author was addressing specific criticisms and critics of his day that may not have contemporary relevance. Please do not cast this chapter aside if you cannot understand his point, or even think it is too simplistic. The author makes his final point by quoting the greatest commentary ever written on Scripture…Scripture. Enjoy!
I really enjoyed reading today’s essay from The Fundamentals because it is so relevant for today, even though it was written 100 years ago. We are fighting the same battles. Satan does not change his tactics because they still work. He was a liar in the Garden of Eden, and he is still the same liar today. Today’s essay combats the lies of liberal theology and “higher criticism.”
If you remember from Chapter 1, higher criticism calls into question the divine source of the Bible and attempts to piece together the human elements without attention the the inspiration of Scripture. This path is dangerous and heretical. Chapter 3 addresses the fallacies of higher criticism and shows the flaws of its liberal theology. For example, higher criticism calls into question the authorship of the first five books of the Bible. Some critics even cast doubt upon Moses’ very existence! Two other fallacies addressed are the entrance of the theory of evolution into Christianity and the discrediting of real miracles happening in the Bible. Before I give away the rest, please jump in and read!
What is a Fundamentalist? It seems like the term can mean anything to anyone ranging from Islamic terrorists to Christians who claim God inspired only one translation of the Bible for the whole world. In modern times, the term has lost much of its intended purpose and has been severely abused. On a number of occasions, I have been asked if I am a Fundamentalist. Prior to answering that question, I must ask the inquisitor’s definition. I certainly am not a Muslim, and I do not believe God forces all men to read one Bible translation. I do hold to certain doctrinal truths that are imperative and fundamental in orthodox Christianity.
To understand the definition of “Fundamentalist,” one must turn to the very source from which the term gained its identity. The Fundamentals is a twelve-volume set of ninety essays written from 1910 to 1915. The essays are on topics such as basic doctrines, the identity and inerrancy of the Bible, and cultural battles that downgraded American Christianity. In 1917, R.A Torrey edited the set into four volumes and it was reprinted by the Bible Institute of Los Angeles.
The reason The Fundamentals was written was to combat the doctrinal nosedive of Christianity at the turn of the 20th Century. Liberal theology started questioning the very core doctrines of the faith that stood for two millennia. Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution started to take hold, Sigmund Freud’s infatuation with perversion took center stage, and men like Friedrich Schleiermacher openly criticized the Bible’s origin. In response, sixty-four different authors composed ninety essays as an attempt to correct liberal theology. Those who agreed with and promoted these articles were labeled, “Fundamentalists.” In truth, they were simply orthodox Christians who refused to compromise or downgrade Biblical doctrine.
These early Fundamentalists, from many different denominations, banded together to stand against liberalism. Not only did they battle for the core doctrines of the historic Christian faith, they also battled cultural downgrades in the practice of these doctrines. Topics included such things as false religions, atheism, modern philosophy, archeology, an assault on the literal tabernacle in the wilderness, foreign missions, forms of preaching, finances, Sunday school evangelism, and even socialism. The first Fundamentalists were cultural Fundamentalists according to their own writings.
A confusion that also needs to be addressed is the assumption that Fundamentalism is based only upon just “Five Fundamentals.” This is far too simplistic. In 1898, the Niagara Bible Conference published a fourteen-point creed (https://truthisfundamental.wordpress.com/1878-nbcc/). In 1910, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church dismissed three men from its assembly for questioning the validity of the Virgin Birth. The assembly then passed a resolution of five points, or Five Fundamentals, that were essential to the Christian faith. From 1910 to 1915, the ninety essays, The Fundamentals, were published. Many other creeds or doctrinal statements were published that strengthened the identity of Fundamentalism. While the Five Fundamentals of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church give a short context to Fundamentalism, they do not and have never defined the movement as a whole.
The purpose of this brief article is not to review the entire history of Fundamentalism, but rather point to the inception of the early Fundamentalists. I desire to do this because of two basic thoughts. First, many people refer to themselves as “Fundamentalists”, yet they may not be aware of the movement’s foundations. We need to fix that, and will attempt to do so! Second, much of Fundamentalism has lost its identity from within and without. It is my belief that any Christian today can be encouraged and challenged to keep pure doctrine by examining the foundation of early Fundamentalists.
I would like to challenge you. Beginning today and continuing for the next forty-five weeks, I will be publishing two essays from The Fundamentals each week. I would encourage you to read them. Some of the scholarship may be lofty at times, but bear with it. I truly believe the spiritual warfare that we fight today is not all that different than the one from a hundred years ago. We can learn much from the past, as those who choose to ignore it are destined to make the same mistakes.
The essays will be published on this blog, and the Facebook page of New England Shores Baptist Church, where I shepherd (www.facebook.com/nesbcnh).
Here is the link to Essay #1 in PDF form: