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Sunday, August 29, 2010

History a Warning to Episcopal Diocese of Sydney (Part 6)

This is my sixth and final instalment of "History a Warning to Episcopalian Diocese of Sydney". All quotes (except for the Australian political quote) can be found in and referenced in the first five parts.

R. J. Sheehan provided a helpful analysis of the slide that occurred within the evangelical church in England in the Nineteenth Century. Sheehan drew encouragement from a steadying he saw in the 1980's but I doubt he would be content with the present situation.

Concerning the Episcopalian Diocese of Sydney I and many others observe distinct and troubling parallels destroying evangelicalism within what has been termed the largest evangelical Episcopalian Diocese in the world.

To parody the words of an Australian politician who recently and ruthlessly deposed her leader and attempted to justify the action - "A good government had lost its way."

An Episcopalian Diocese which, for approximately two centuries, had seemingly resisted Higher Criticism, Liberal Theology and Anglo-Catholicism proudly presents itself as a bastion of evangelical conservatism. Indeed it would declare itself to be one with evangelicals of early Nineteenth Century England of whom W.R Glover said "The inerrancy of the Bible was so intimate a part of their religious thought and life that a denial of it seemed to threaten the destruction of the faith itself. "

But as R. J. Sheehan observed in England after the attack of Higher Criticism, and objective observers note of the Episcopalian Diocese of Sydney, the rhetoric has failed to match the actions. Old Testament history has been stripped of much of its authority. Concepts and themes prevail over historical events and their timing in earth history. The latter are "questioned, contradicted and reconstructed."

It was too much for Higher Criticism to assault the New Testament first. That had to come later - once the Old Testament battle had been won. Anyone who "preached the Gospel" was a potential prisoner if only their foundation in the inerrancy of Old Testament Scripture was first undermined. The theology of the Old Testament without the "facts" had to be maintained and as Sheehan also observed - "Thus the history of the Bible could supposedly be understood in terms of the theory of evolution and the Book's basic central message remain unchanged."

Just as theological seminaries of Nineteenth Century England became off limits to any Old Testament scholar who didn't espouse the Higher Criticism method so has become the Episcopalian Diocese of Sydney's theological seminary, Moore Theological College, off limits to Biblical Creationist scholars. Indeed, students espousing the Biblical Creationist position have been cautioned with serious sanction. I am happy to be corrected on this. Would any reader confirm the presence on faculty of any Old Testament scholar in the past twenty years who has held to the Biblical Creationist position i.e. six twenty-four hour days of creation approximately six thousand years ago?

Just as Higher Criticism conquered evangelicalism in England in the late Nineteenth Century via submission of allegedly evangelical clergy it has likewise triumphed in the Episcopalian Diocese of Sydney. They all declare and "preach the Gospel" but they have already questioned, contradicted and reconstructed to the point of dismissing the foundation of Old Testament history in Creation. External influences opposed to biblical history are given authority to dictate the timing of subsequent Old Testament events and the consequence is a confused and destabilized reading of Scripture.

Not that you would think anything wrong if you read the statements emanating from leaders within the Diocese. "Peace", "Peace" for your evangelical conscience is what you are to receive with utterances such as "And yet this trustworthy, powerful word of God has been entrusted to us, with the responsibility to guard it, to hold firmly to it, to rightly handle it. I can think of no greater human responsibility than to hold firmly to the trustworthy and faithful word of God, taught as a good deposit entrusted to us by the Holy Spirit. Only then will we be able to exhort, to comfort with sound, healthy teaching." and "We are going to beware of intellectual fads." delivered by Dr John Woodhouse, Principal, Moore Theological College in his recent Eternity article.

One could imagine Dr Woodhouse is speaking only of the New Testament because, according to previous statements and actions, he, at best, entertains all views on the matter of the Creation account in Genesis. You see, Dr Woodhouse is firmly in the camp of the "mixed multitude who would not side with either the old evangelical view of Scripture or with the new view of Scripture, who held the key to the decline [in the Nineteenth Century]. They would not discipline error and so they were overwhelmed by it. The consequence of their indecision and cowardice was that whereas, 'The early nineteenth century saw a quickening of religious life all over Europe . . . when the nineteenth century closed Christianity was at a low ebb'."

With influences such as Karl Barth, the "wolf in sheep's clothing", so widely admired within the Diocese, the battleground is about to shift from the Old to the New Testament. The one thing readers can confidently take from Dr Woodhouse's Eternity article is "History suggests what is taken for granted by believers today may be forgotten by the next generation of believers, and denied by the one after that." The rot is well set within. Cowardice has brought the allegedly evangelical Episcopalian Diocese of Sydney to the point reached by the Evangelical Church in England in the late Nineteenth Century.

R.J. Sheehan observed that Calvinism had been something of a stay against the decline in evangelicalism in England in the Nineteenth Century. In the end it did not prevent the decline in England nor has it prevented the decline in the Episcopalian Diocese of Sydney. Unbelief is unbelief no matter what the doctrine.

The "death throws" of evangelicalism within the Episcopalian Diocese of Sydney are real. New life through the Holy Spirit is the only remedy. Let us pray for such an activity of God's Holy Spirit with urgency. Who knows, maybe some of the alleged evangelicals of the Diocese will stop, look back and see where their cowardice has taken them. Maybe they will repent, believe and be instruments in God's hands for good.

Sam Drucker

Sunday, August 22, 2010

History a Warning to Sydney Episcopalian Diocese (Part 5)

In my earlier blogs I cited the shift which occurred in traditional evangelicalism in England in the Nineteenth Century as observed by R. J. Sheehan in Banner of Truth journal, Issue 278, November 1986. I then, in my blog (Part 4), introduced extracts of an article found in the July 2010 issue of Eternity by Dr John Woodhouse, Principal, Moore Theological College, Sydney, to show a comparison between the compromising evangelicals of England in the Nineteenth Century and the evangelicals of the Episcopalian Diocese of Sydney today.

There is a very real similarity and, sadly, it is rife in the Episcopalian Diocese of Sydney. How did it get here? Who was the host who slipped upon our shores unnoticed as the carrier of a theological 'virus' destined to destroy traditional evangelicalism or almost all of it within the Diocese. To achieve this outcome so quietly yet effectively the carrier had to present as healthy and the resort to shape evangelical thinking from the Twentieth Century to the present.

It was Karl Barth, a revered critic of Liberal Theology but within his 'baggage' of thought there lay the seeds of destruction for traditional evangelicalism. It is notable to hear and read of theological influences within the Episcopal Diocese of Sydney who declare their admiration for the work of Karl Barth. One current Bishop within the Diocese puts the works of Karl Barth at the top of his favoured reading. Indeed, this same Bishop unwittingly disclosed his Barthian condition by declaring on this blogspot and elsewhere his doubts about the supernatural miracle of the parting of the Red Sea and, in a less public discussion, questions about the Virgin Birth of Christ Jesus.

Well, what is it that Barth has put upon evangelicalism? I shall defer to Terry A. Chrisope's March 1991 review (Banner of Truth journal) of a paper written by J. Gresham Machen in April 1928. It is repeated here:

Among the papers of J. Gresham Machen (housed at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia) there is a manuscript of unusual interest for the student of Machen's life and work. Running to nineteen pages of typescript, the manuscript bears the title, Karl Barth and 'the Theology of Crisis' A note at the foot of the first page indicates that the paper was 'read to a small group of ministers in Philadelphia, April 23, 1928'

What is so intriguing about the above paper is that J. Gresham Machen is commonly known as the leading evangelical critic not of Barthianism but of theological liberalism during the 1920s in America. Machen had thrown himself into an intense struggle on behalf of biblical Christianity and against the dilution of biblical teaching which he believed was inherent in theological liberalism. He was embroiled in this struggle, both within his own Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. and on a broader front as well, throughout the entire decade of the 1920s. As the manuscript under consideration makes clear, however, Machen was keeping abreast of theological developments in Europe and had become aware of a relatively recent protest against liberalism led by the Swiss theologian Karl Barth. That Machen, as an American evangelical, should take cognisance of this movement and publicly comment on it as early as 1928 bears testimony not only to his awareness of the European theological scene but also to his concern for the health and well-being of historic Christianity. Machen at that time was engaged in a severe personal struggle, both academic and ecclesiastical in nature, yet his range of vision was not limited to any narrow personal concerns; he addressed broader issues as he saw the need. In the light of attempts in our own day to promote the theology of Karl Barth among evangelicals, Machen's analysis of Barthianism (even in the latter's incomplete form of 1928) may be something to which contemporary evangelicals would to well to give he heed.

Machen began his treatment of Barthianism with a description of the man and the teaching behind the movement. A near contemporary of Machen, Karl Barth, was born in 1886 (Machen was born in 1881) and was educated in German universities before serving in pastorates in Switzerland. Barth eventually revolted against the socialism and liberalism to which he had formerly adhered, and he formed a school of thought which included such men as Eduard Thurneyson, Freidrich Gogarten, and Emil Brunner (though, Machen notes, there were some differences among the views of these men). The literary organ of the school was the journal Zwischen den Zeiten (Between the Times), from which Machen must have derived a good deal of his knowledge of its teaching and direction. With characteristic modesty, Machen in inserted a disclaimer at this point in his treatment, taking note of the difficulty of understanding Barthian teaching, alleging his own incompetence as a critic, and professing the incompleteness of his knowledge of the school. He then proceeded with a description of the Barthian teaching as he understood it.

Several elements of Barthianism emerge from Machen's treatment. First, at the root of the Barthian view was a conviction of 'the awful transcendence of God' (p. 2). This conviction demanded rejection of all forms of liberal theology with its nearly exclusive emphasis on the immanence of God. A second component of this theology was a new found stress on sin and the cosmic effects which sin had wrought, particularly the moral estrangement of the world from God. This estrangement resulted in a gulf between man and God, a gulf that man himself could not bridge; it was merely sinful pride that led man to imagine that he could do so. Thirdly, in the darkness and helplessness of this situation, God himself has bridged the chasm. God has come to man in the revelation of his Word, a word both of wrath and of grace. Fourthly, that Word of the grace of God has come supremely in the person of Jesus Christ. The incarnation, the coming of God in the flesh, must be received by faith; and only God by his Spirit produces faith in the human heart as the proper response to the incarnation (Machen observed at this point that Barth taught the doctrine of the Trinity, but one that is 'hardly the doctrine that has been held by the historic Church', p. 7). In the fifth place, the coming of the Word of God places man at the point of decision: How will he respond to God and his Word? With obedience or with rebellion? For God or for the world? It is this crisis of decision that gives the 'theology of crisis' its distinctive character and name. Sixthly, the Christian life continues as a life of faith. Christians do not yet live by sight, so Christian theology must be expressed in a series of questions, antinomies or paradoxes. This is what Machen called 'the strange "dialect" of Karl Barth' (p. 7); he confessed his inability to understand it. And yet, according to Barth, the church does have a positive message, a message derived from the Old and New Testament scriptures (which contain the Word of God) and centring on Jesus Christ, the only Mediator between God and man.

What, Machen asked, are we to make of all this? It all sounds so orthodox, so like the evangelical Christianity of Calvin or Bunyan or the Shorter Catechism. Indeed, Barth claimed to be a follower of Calvin and of Paul, and, Machen noted, the Barthians had been attacked with the ignominious accusation that their teaching was nothing other than 'orthodoxy' after all. This charge the Barthians had indignantly denied. How then did they differ from historic Christianity? Machen found the difference in two central questions (ignoring for the moment other details of disagreement): 'they differ in the epistemology, and they differ in their attitude toward the plain historical information that the Bible contains' (p. 9).

With regard to the first point, the question of epistemology, Machen expressed uncertainty respecting the true nature of the Barthian position. He suspected that there was 'a large measure of agreement between the orthodox and the Barthians regarding the knowledge that is at the basis of Christianity' (p. 9). In particular, he appreciated their restoration of theology to a place of importance and dignity (in contrast to the centrality of religious experience in liberal thought). He also applauded Brunner's and Barth's serious attitude toward doctrinal differences among professing Christians, especially in the light of liberalism's theological tolerance.

And yet, despite Machen's appreciation of the Barthian reaction against modern theological anti-intellectualism, he questioned whether the knowledge of God contained in 'this new teaching' was 'real knowledge at all' (p. 11). Machen was particularly concerned about the claim that faith must be held distinct from all reasoning, that argumentation and apologetics are unnecessary. While he was more than willing to agree that 'argument alone never made a man a Christian' (p. 11), he was unwilling to concede that argument was therefore superfluous. The Spirit of God operates precisely upon human reason in order to overcome the effects of sin and enable men to grasp the truth. Machen's central concern here was with the objectivity of truth and he confessed to having an 'uneasy feeling' (p. 12) regarding the Barthian epistemology on this score. He was not quite certain that Barth's position did not incorporate a subjectivism which undermined the objectivity of truth by making Christian doctrines true only to the person who accepted them by faith. This, Machen believed, would constitute an 'epistemological abyss' (p. 12), and served to mask, behind Barth's seemingly traditional terminololgy, a profound difference with historic Christianity.

The second of Machen's reservations regarding Barthian teaching was related to the attitude entertained by that school toward the historical information contained in the Bible. In particular, he saw the Barthians as attempting 'to make the Christian faith quite independent of the findings of scientific history with regard to the life of Christ' (p. 13). (As witness to this tendency, Machen drew attention to the inclusion in Zwischen den Zeiten of the work of Rudolf Bultmann, who believed that it was impossible to know with certainty anything about the person of Jesus.) This position, Machen feared, did not mean merely that historical science, conducted on naturalistic principles, could not establish the essential facts upon which Christianity is founded, but rather meant that 'we can hear the Word of God in the New Testament, as addressed to our own soul, no matter what the facts about Jesus of Nazareth were' (p. 14). He thus understood the Barthian position (Brunner excepted, to some extent) as tending toward a sharp division between faith and the facts of history. This, of course, allowed the Barthians to accept the findings of negative historical criticism of the Bible while at the same time maintaining faith intact. But a biblical Christian faith, Machen held, cannot be indifferent to history or to the findings of historical criticism, for the New Testament bears witness to events that purportedly occurred in history.

The problem with the position of Barth and Brunner was not that it was too radical, but that it was not radical enough. Machen applauded their rejection of the 'immanence philosophy' (p. 15) which was at the root of theological liberalism, but he believed that they must go further. They also must attack the immanence philosophy as it was applied to historical criticism of the New Testament, and the particular point of attack must be the presuppositions that underlay modern criticism. 'Modern skepticism is, indeed, imposing, as it is applied to the New Testament field. But it may fall away like a house of cards if once its presuppositions are attacked' (p. 15). Machen was presumably referring to the naturalistic assumptions undergirding much negative criticism of the New Testament. Correct presuppositions, those of biblical supernaturalism, must replace false ones, thus allowing the message of the New Testament to be received at face value. But it was just at this point that the Barthians were silent. Here, then, in 'the attitude of Barth and his associates toward historical criticism', was 'a deadly weakness of the school' (p. 16).

Intimately related to this question was the attitude of the Barthians toward the deeds and words of Jesus as contained in the Gospel accounts. Machen thought he perceived (he expressed himself very carefully here) a tendency in the direction of indifference toward the historical acts and teachings of Jesus. While he again praised the renewed emphasis on the redeeming work of Christ, his death and resurrection, which he observed among the Barthians (though, significantly, he confessed uncertainty as to exactly what they meant by resurrection'), Machen was nevertheless uneasy about how little remained of a positive portrait of Jesus in Barthian hands. 'One has the disturbing feeling that Barth and his associates are depriving the church of one of its most precious possessions, the concrete picture of Jesus of Nazareth as he walked and talked upon this earth' (p. 17. The logic of their position, it seemed to Machen, fostered indifference regarding the question of the kind of person Jesus was during his earthly life. This was something in which he perceived danger. 'In their effort to avoid a clash with naturalistic criticism, these teachers must not be allowed to deprive us of the Jesus whom we love, the Jesus of the Gospels, the Jesus who spake words such as never man spake, the Jesus who went about doing good' (p. 18). For Machen, it was by just such a Jesus that modern people are confronted with terrible immediacy through the message of the Gospel and thus are brought to the crisis of decision. For all Machen's hesitation regarding the teaching of Karl Barth, he was thankful for Barth's reminder of that crisis. He was simply concerned that it be the full biblical Jesus with which modern people are confronted.

Much could be made of Machen's perceptiveness in treating Karl Barth as a major theological figure in 1928, his acuteness of judgment in suggesting that the Barthian movement may have inaugurated 'a new era in the history of the Church' (p. 15), and his initiative in offering an evangelical critique of Barthianism at a time when few other American evangelicals had taken note of the movement. Machen's response to Barth was timely indeed. And yet it may prove just as timely and relevant in our own day. Observers of contemporary evangelicalism have recently noted a slide away from former stoutly-held positions (see, e.g., 'Evangelical Megashift', Christianity Today, Feb. 19, 1990, pp. 12-17). And calls have issued from some quarters for evangelicals to use Barth's methodology as a paradigm for evangelical theology in the present (see Bernard Ramm's After Fundamentalism, 1983). In the face of such trends, evangelicals may do well to listen once again to the voice of J. Gresham Machen.

Another long post so I must end here without further comment, except to say I will pull it all together in my next and, hopefully, my final blog on the decline of evangelicalism within the Episcopal Diocese of Sydney.

Sam Drucker

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

History a Warning to Sydney Episcopalian Church (Part 4)

"The word of God is lively and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit; joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Heb. 4:12)

Having followed R.J. Sheehan's overview of "The Decline of Evangelicalism in Nineteenth-Century England" by R. J. Sheehan in Issue 278, November 1986, of "The Banner of Truth" in Parts 1-3 even a casual observer would have noted that those in the nineteenth century England who claimed to be evangelical, who would have avowed unity with their more illustrious evangelical forebears, limply relinquished their blessing without realising what they had done.

Does what Sheehan observed in England have any application in Australia? Is the 'bastion' of evangelical conservatism, the Episcopalian Diocese of Sydney, going the same way as ninteetenth century evangelicalism in England? Does its staunch Calvinism shield it from decline? So, how goes it?

Let me provide extracts of a statement made by Rev Dr John Woodhouse, Principal, Moore Theological in an article titled "So what are we doing At Bible College?" in the July 2010 edition of Eternity, a Diocesan based newspaper.

Under the heading of "We are a community of scholars" Dr Woodhouse said

"But since the knowledge of God involves the use of our mind; we [Moore College] also gather as a community of scholars. When Paul instructed Titus to appoint elders as overseers in the towns of Crete, he said of such persons that 'he must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it' (Titus 1: 9).

Again we find a paradox. God works by his word. God's word is trustworthy. This word, which is folly to those who are perishing, is the power of God to us who are being saved (1 Cor. l:18). And yet this trustworthy, powerful word of God has been entrusted to us, with the responsibility to guard it, to hold firmly to it, to rightly handle it. I can think of no greater human responsibility than to hold firmly to the trustworthy and faithful word of God, taught as a good deposit entrusted to us by the Holy Spirit. Only then will we be able to exhort, to comfort with sound, healthy teaching.

The distortion and perversion of the word of God, the teaching of error as though it were truth, is what the human mind tends to do naturally And what the New Testament sometimes calls 'false teaching' is not neutral. It is a disease, it destroys, and it causes harm. And mere 'scholarship' is no guarantee against it. Humble learning before God, which is faithful to the good deposit entrusted to us by the Holy Spirit (2 Tim.1:14), is the antidote. History suggests what is taken for granted by believers today may be forgotten by the next generation of believers, and denied by the one after that.

We are going to beware of intellectual fads. You encounter authors who are stimulating and challenging, open up fresh [an]d new ways of seeing all kinds of things. You should read them; you should understand what they are saying; you should not close your mind down. Yet your task will be to discern when stimulating writers are not holding firm to the trustworthy word—just as it is to discern when some well-known or well-liked author is failing in the same way. So we are an unusual community of scholars. There is not a lot of scholarship for its own sake here

Fine words! However, I sincerely believe evangelicals in England during the nineteenth century who were surrendering their evangelical birthright would have responded in like manner if questioned on where they stood on Scripture.

It is remarkably telling that Dr Woodhouse quotes Titus 1:9 but can't see the contrast between what Apostle Paul is urging upon Titus and what Moore Theological College practices today. Apostle Paul requires of elders that they hold to the trustworthy word as taught - and this, I conclude is that trustworthy word originally taught by the Church. Moore Theological College differs from Apostle Paul's mandate inasmuch as, in regard to Genesis Ch 1, Exodus 20:11 and Exodus 31:17, Moore Theological College has departed from the evangelical Church of earlier years.

The word which Moore Theological College has lost confidence in is folly to those who are perishing but is the power of God to us who are being saved. (1 Cor. 1:18) Again, Dr Woodhouse misses the obvious here. For fear of ridicule from the world, Moore Theological College has compromised on the word of God on Origins. To do this backpedaling yet achieve some means of respectability within the Church the "scholars" at Moore Theological College have had to introduce a cloud of opinions and devices which dilute the conviction of the word of God, that same conviction which compelled early evangelicals to believe and teach a six days, 'young' earth creation.

In this parlous state the "scholars" at Moore Theological College "teach error as though it were truth."

More will be said on the contradictions inherent in Dr Woodhouse's assessment and what is actually being done at Moore Theological College. Before that I must address a significant influence which has opened the door to the error on Origins and which, like a cancer, will run through the body of believers we call the Church assembling as the Episcopalian Church of Sydney.

That influence will be the subject of my next blog.

Sam Drucker

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Leupold Genesis part 38 verse 8

8. And God called the firmament heavens; and came evening, and came morning--second day.

Again, the giving of the name to the object just created is more than an outward thing. What the term "heavens" implies, that is what the new arrangement will serve to be for man. All this, especially the term "heavens," gives us warrant for describing this creative work as we did in connection with v. 6.

Our rendering, as in v. 5, "then came evening" is not as exact from one point of view as it might be. Wayhi is not the verb "come," but is from hayah, "to be," or even better "to become." This latter idea to show the progression of time we felt could well be marked by the English idiom, "then came evening," etc. The word for "evening," 'erebh, is commonly derived from the corresponding Hebrew root whose Arabic parallel means "to enter," "to go in." So, apparently, a poetic thought is involved in that the sun is thought of as going into its chamber, a thought found also in Ps. 19:5.

After "one" the ordinals are used, "day the second" (K. S. 315 n).

There follows in v. 9-13 the double work of the third day.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

History a Warning to the Episcopalian Diocese of Sydney (Part 3)

Herewith, the final instalment of the article "The Decline of Evangelicalism in Nineteenth-Century England" by R. J. Sheehan in Issue 278, November 1986, of "The Banner of Truth". Reference notations continue in sequence from the previous blogs:


With hindsight, it is possible to see that the conservative evangelicals made two major mistakes in their opposition to the higher critical movement. Firstly, they paid so much attention to declaring their opposition to it, especially in the earlier part of the nineteenth century, that, 'the orthodox attacks on the critics. . . were one of the chief means by which a knowledge of higher criticism was disseminated in England'.20

Closely related was the second mistake. The conservatives did not take the higher critics seriously enough. 'In 1880 it was still possible for orthodox Bible scholars in England to consider higher criticism as the temporary form taken by infidelity and Germany and confidently to predict the scholarly victory of tradition'.21 C. H. Spurgeon dismissed the teachings of Julius Wellhausen as, 'calculated only to befool those who are ignorant',22 as late as 1887!

The consequence of this under-estimation of the higher critical movement, until it was too late to reverse the trends, was that some of the opposition to the higher critics rose little above anti-German rhetoric and little real attempt was made to answer the critics at a theological level. W. B. Glover recognized the lack amongst the English conservatives of an equivalent to the Princeton theologians to defend their cause.23 The conservative attack was led by comparatively untrained pastors and in the eyes of many, as in the eighteenth-century Deist controversy, 'more attention was paid to learning, scholarship and oratory than to godliness, orthodoxy and evangelical zeal'.24 So the higher critics won the day.


The less conservative evangelical leaders must bear the weight of the blame for the victory of higher criticism. It is clear that many of them put more value on maintaining unity and harmony than on the truth. They sold their heritage for a reputation of big-heartedness. C. H. Spurgeon warned them to no avail. 'On all hands we hear cries for unity in this and unity in that... It is easy to cry, "A confederacy" but that union which is not based on the truth of God is rather a conspiracy than a communion'.25

Many of the evangelicals showed a sad lack of discernment. They saw an acceptance of higher criticism as a means to further their scholarly reputations. In this way the Baptist John Clifford won an accolade for his, 'broad interpretation of Evangelicalism, his appreciation of the work of Biblical scholarship, his resolute opposition to blind conservatism, his repudiation of the antagonism between Religion and Science so often proclaimed by some in our church'.26 However, he was also responsible for opposing the stand of C. H. Spurgeon and enabling the higher critical takeover of the Baptist Denomination. Men praised him for his modernity but history condemns it as compromise.

In fact, while full weight must be given to the failure of many to see the real danger of higher criticism and its detrimental effects on evangelicalism, it must sadly be said that a charge of cowardice has to be levelled against many of the evangelicals of the nineteenth century. The nineteenth century saw three groups within the evangelical churches: the conservative evangelicals: the higher critics, and 'a great mixed multitude who from various causes decline to be ranked with either of them'.27 It was this 'mixed multitude' who would not side with either the old
evangelical view of Scripture or with the new view of Scripture, who held the key to the decline. They would not discipline error and so they were overwhelmed by it. The consequence of their indecision and cowardice was that whereas, 'The early nineteenth century saw a quickening of religious life all over Europe . . . when the nineteenth century closed Christianity was at a low ebb'.28

Most nineteenth-century evangelicals had a view of love to others that meant the abandonment of or compromise on truth. But as C. H. Spurgeon correctly observed, 'To part with truth to show charity is to betray our Lord with a kiss'.29


1. That 'The first step astray is a want of adequate faith in the divine inspiration of the sacred Scriptures . . . Where ministers and Christian churches have held fast to the truth that the Holy Scriptures have been given by God as an authoritative and infallible rule of faith and practice, they have never wandered seriously out of the way. But when, on the other hand, reason has been exalted above revelation, and made the exponent of revelation, all kinds of errors and mischiefs have been the result'.30 Our doctrine of scripture is, therefore, not a matter of minor importance.

2. That Calvinists have historically left the doctrine of Scripture le[a]st of all of those who have departed from it. Therefore, Calvinism is an important safeguard against heresy.

3. That the basis of unity cannot be merely a shared spiritual experience or shared evangelistic zeal. A man who is converted and is a means of conversion to others can be more dangerous to the health of the churches than an outright heretic if he mixes his zeal for the gospel with defective views of Scripture and half-heartedness about other major doctrines.

4. That a false sense of Christian love can lead people to a total lack of discernment in which they treat wolves like sheep and maintain alliances with those who are enemies of the gospel. This is to the inevitable detriment of the churches.

5. That worldliness and looseness are inevitably companions of theological disinterest and looseness

6. That evangelicals have to take their opposition seriously at a theological level and not merely respond by abuse. The absence of a theological answer to the higher critics gave the evangelicals the appearance of theological ignorance.

7. That the ministers often become corrupt before the people. 'As a general rule laymen were slower in accepting higher criticism than the ministers'.31 Even as late as the 1890's, 'there remained large numbers of laymen and some ministers who never accepted the new criticism even in principle'. 32 But, with the pulpits of their churches hijacked, the people were left to rot, with blind guides leading them to nowhere worth going.

8. That the dismal history of English evangelicals from 1900 to 1950 cannot be understood apart from this background of nineteenth-century compromise and failure. The present, comparatively healthier state of evangelicalism is closely connected to the 'revival' of Calvinism. All the present gains, however, could be rapidly lost if the lessons of the past are not remembered

Thus ends R.J. Sheehan's helpful insight of the decline of evangelicalism in England in the nineteenth century. In the next instalment of "History a Warning to the Episcopalian Church of Sydney" I will attempt to observe the state of things today.

Sam Drucker

20. Glover op. cit. p4L
21. ibid p. 36. 22.
22. Spurgeon, C. H. The Sword and Trowel, August 1887, p 430.
23. Glover op. cit. pp 219-221.
24. Summary of Shindler, R. The Sword and Trowel, March 1887, p 122.
25. Spurgeon, C. H. The Sword and Trowel, April 1887, pp 195-196.
26. Blomfeld, W. E. cited in Underwood, A. C. A History of English Baptists, 1947, Kingsgate Press, p 226.
27. Spurgeon, C. H. The Sword and Trowel, December 1888, p 619.
28. Glover op. cit. .p 11.
29. Spurgeon, C. H. The Sword and Trowel, February 1887, p 91.
30. Shindler, R. The Sword and Trowel, April 1887, p 170.
31. Glover op. cit. p 199.
32. ibid. p 217.

Friday, August 6, 2010

History a Warning to the Episcopalian Diocese of Sydney (Part 2)

Herewith instalment 2 of the article by R. J. Sheehan in Issue 278, November 1986, of 'The Banner of Truth". Reference notations continue in sequence from the previous blog.


One of the effects of the eighteenth-century revivals was to turn men from mere head-knowledge of Scripture and the creeds to a heart-knowledge of the God revealed therein. The preaching of the utter necessity of rebirth focused attention on religious experience. In the years following the revivals the tendency was to put emphasis upon a person's religious experience rather than his belief.

Experience-conscious evangelicals had little time for creeds. Their emphasis had not originated in a conscious desire for a creedless Christianity but this was its tendency. It was precisely that danger which had opened the door to Deism in the early eighteenth century and had enabled it to gain victories. At the end of the last century Robert Shindler warned evangelicals of the lessons from history,7 and C. H. Spurgeon pleaded for a creed distinctive enough to exclude the rationalists from non-conformist denominations, but failed to get a hearing in the anticipated creedal atmosphere of his day. 'The pietistic quality of the revival put primary emphasis on individual Christian experience and valued correct doctrine only as a means to the creation of such experience. As a result evangelicals would tolerate almost any divergence in doctrine provided the individual concerned was known to have a fervent evangelical experience, and above all if his ministry awakened the same experience in others'. Evangelicals had a 'general lack of interest... in theology'.8

C. H. spurgeon noted the tendency to accept any doctrinal statement as long as the person who made it was, 'a clever man and a good-natured brother'.9

The nineteenth-century evangelicals argued against creeds and for a 'freer' view of Scripture on the grounds of freedom of conscience and the Protestant rule of the right of private interpretation. By rejecting creeds altogether - or accepting only such creeds as were sufficiently vague to mean little - the advocates of the higher-critical view of the Bible ousted the evangelicals from their dominant position in the denominations with hardly a fight.


One of the consequences of the eighteenth-century revivals was to unite evangelicals in a common faith and in a mutual desire to work together in missionary and evangelistic activity as well as in theological education. The desire for unity had not always been able to be realized during the revivals because of the contentions between the evangelists over the doctrines of grace. The eighteenth-century preachers had not been able to resolve this question. The nineteenth-century evangelicals generally gained unity by abandoning or modifying their Calvinism.

A study of the eighteenth-century advance of Deism makes it clear that it made least advance where Calvinism was strongly maintained.10 C. H. Spurgeon stated, 'We believe that Calvinism has in it a conservative force which holds men to vital truth'.11 In reviewing the nineteenth century, the neo-orthodox writer W. B. Glover acknowledged, 'Where Calvinism had been supreme, its decline left a theological vacuum'.12

Not only did the decline of Calvinism with its high view of scriptural authority make the higher critical view more easily accepted, but other doctrines began to be debased also. 'The awful sternness of the Calvinistic God gave place to milder ideas which may be summed up in the popular phrase 'the Fatherhood of God'. The emphasis on God's love and mercy went so far as to call in question the time honoured doctrine of eternal punishment'.13

The friends of higher criticism soon understood the antipathy towards Calvinism amongst many nineteenth-century evangelicals. Consequently when conservative evangelicals attacked the higher critics, they retorted by accusing them of Calvinism, and the general evangelical public accepted the charge. Constantly C. H. Spurgeon had to protest against this diverting ploy. 'The present struggle is not a debate upon the question of Calvinism or Arminianism but of the truth of God versus the inventions of men'.14

It is, however, undoubtedly true that if the Calvinists had maintained their strength within evangelicalism in the nineteenth century the higher critics would have had a more difficult task capturing evangelicalism. As it was, 'the theological uncertainty that accompanied the dissolution of Calvinism made the non-conformists less able and less anxious to defend traditional views from new views'.15


The Christian church has often been able to defend itself much more easily from attacks from outside its ranks than from within its own number. Attacks from apparent friends are always less expected and more difficult both to detect and oppose. We have already noted that many of the leading advocates and friends of higher criticism had a reputation for gospel preaching.

The friends of higher criticism were often very cunning. They described their theology as, 'broad and full'16 rather than 'narrow and limited' like that of the Calvinists. James Dann attacked ministers who were unorthodox in doctrine but stayed in the churches to undermine the faith.17 That this happened is beyond dispute. W. B. Glover approved of this subversion. He wrote of, 'the tendency of some who were in advance of the general movement of opinion to hide their more unorthodox views from the public. This was unquestionably an instance of sound political sense.18 This ethically questionable procedure undoubtedly was successful in fooling the evangelicals in general.

The cunning of the higher critics was also seen in their concentration on the Old Testament. It was far easier to question the historicity and accuracy of Jonah than of our Lord. (Evangelicals still sometimes put the words of Jesus in red and the rest in black!). A full frontal attack on the gospels had to follow the undermining of the Old Testament, not precede it.

The decline of Calvinism also led to the promotion of worldliness. C. H. Spurgeon commented, 'The fact is that many would like to unite church and stage, cards and prayer, dancing and sacraments'.'' In this atmosphere of 'freer' life-style, conservatism in theology was not likely to prosper. Loose living and loose theology were not unconnected. To accept higher criticism was to be in fashion. To maintain the old evangelical doctrine of Scripture was to be an anachronism.

Instalment 3 to follow in a few days. Bear with me, this is all going somewhere.

Sam Drucker

7. Shindler, R. The Sword and Trowel, March 1887, p/) 122-126.
8. Glover op. cit. pp 93-4.
9. Spurgeon, C. H. The Sword and Trowel, August 1887, p 400.
10. Shindler, R. The Sword and Trowel, April 1887, pp 170-171.
11. Spurgeon, C. H. The Sword and Trowel, April 1887, pp 195-196.
12. Glover op. cit .p93.
13. ibid.p92.
14. Spurgeon, C. H. The Sword and Trowel, April 1887, pp 195-196.
15. Glover op. cit. p 205.
16. J. B. Brown cited in Spurgeon, The Early Years, 1962, Banner of Truth, p 494.
17. Dann, J. The Sword and Trowel, April 1887, pp 172-174.
18. Glover op. cit. p 41.
19. Spurgeon, C. H. The Sword and Trowel, August 1887, p 398.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

History a Warning to the Episcopalian Diocese of Sydney (Part 1)

There are numerous papers on the the erosion of faith in the Word of God within the Evangelical Church in the past 150 years. Today I have chosen one by R. J. Sheehan in Issue 278, November 1986, of 'The Banner of Truth". What will be provided will be sufficient to give readers insight into a sorry movement within the Evangelical Church universal and resident in the Episcopalian Church of Sydney, Australia.

"The winds of rationalism swept through Europe in the eighteenth century's 'age of enlightenment' chilling the souls of men and giving birth to atheism, scepticism and Deism. But in England and Wales, through the mercy of God, light and warmth returned to the hearts of many in the Spirit-empowered 'Methodist' revivals, and faith seemed again to be 'on the march'.

The prospects for religious growth and progress as the nineteenth century dawned seemed very encouraging. The revivals of the eighteenth century had given evangelicals a sense of the reality and power of God. Most of the denominations were dominated by evangelicals. These evangelicals were largely, although not entirely, inclined away from hyper-Calvinism and desirous of making great advances in missionary work overseas and gospel ministry at home. Evangelicalism seemed strong and its future looked glorious.

Whatever divisions there were among the evangelicals over Calvinism, baptism, eschatology, etc., the evangelicals were easily distinguished by their common religious experience and their view of Scripture. 'Bound up inextricably with every phase of the religious experience of evangelicals, an experience that touched their lives at every significant point, was the Bible - a Bible that was not merely a source book for the early history of their religion, but a Bible that was the authoritative and infallible Word of God. Faith in the Bible was to the early evangelicals as fundamental as faith in God, and they made little distinction between the two. The inerrancy of the Bible was so intimate a part of their religious thought and life that a denial of it seemed to threaten the destruction of the faith itself.'

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, therefore, English evangelicalism looked to be an inevitable enemy for the theological rationalism of the Higher Critical movement that was beginning to sweep through the German universities and churches.

It did not seem possible that the rationalistic view of the Scriptures as an ordinary book that could be questioned, contradicted and reconstructed could ever find acceptance with those who identified Scripture as the infallible, inerrant, inspired Word of the living God. Yet by the mid-1890's, 'all of the major non-conformist bodies had survived the shock of higher criticism without schism. The new approach to the Bible had been accepted by the overwhelming majority of non-conformist leaders'.

Not only had the non-conformist leaders capitulated but virtually all the theological institutions. By 1891, 'a close if unofficial surveillance was imposed upon potential candidates for positions in the Old Testament field in British Universities, and only those who displayed proper respect for the canons of critical orthodoxy were appointed to academic posts'.3

Outside of the universities, 'the new approach to the Bible . . . was taught in all the leading non-conformist colleges. Any Old Testament teacher who repudiated the new criticism was nothing more than an anachronism by 1895'.4 This process continued in the twentieth century, so that by 1932 a modernist 'gloried in the fact that there were no colleges left adhering to the position of the old evangelical confessions'.5

The question that we must ask is: how did the Higher Critical view of the Bible manage to overcome the evangelical view in such a short time and in such a powerful way?"

Sheehan goes on to provide six contributory factors to that outcome.

i) The Legacy of the 'Age of Enlightenment'
ii) The Revival Emphasis on Experience
iii) The Revival Emphasis on Unity
iv) The Subtlety of the Attack
v) The Blunders of the Conservative Evangelicals
vi) The Blunders of the Evangelicals in General

i) The Legacy of the 'Age of Enlightenment'

"Whereas it might have seemed to the evangelical world that the eighteenth-century revivals had swept away the infidelity of the rationalism of the earlier part of the eighteenth century, the rationalistic principle had simply been suppressed and not destroyed.

Rationalism had sought to remove mystery, miracle and antinomy from religion and to set fact and reason over against feeling and faith. It was accepted that the Bible contained some facts but that much of it had to be accepted only by faith. Pure rationalism accepted 'the facts' only and rejected 'the beliefs'. In its religious form this rationalistic approach meant the making of a distinction between the beliefs of the Bible which a person might desire to believe without proof and the statements of the Bible which had to be supported by evidence or else be rejected. The seeds of the dichotomy between 'the Christ of faith' and 'the Jesus of history' were beginning to enter religious consciousness based on the claim that the Bible contains two differing kinds of materials, namely, the historical record and the theological interpretations.

Some of the evangelicals of the nineteenth century began to maintain 'the theology of the Bible' with great tenacity whilst accepting that the history, geography and science of the Bible could be mistaken. The Bible, they believed, was infallible in theology but errant in fact. The higher critical method could, therefore, be applied to the Scriptures and a reconstruction of 'the facts' could be legitimately attempted. Thus the history of the Bible could supposedly be understood in terms of the theory of evolution and the Book's basic central message remain unchanged.

The evangelical public learned higher criticism not from atheists and sceptics but from men who upheld the basic theology of the Bible but not its factual inerrancy. 'The men who led England into a critical view of the Bible were men known for their theological orthodoxy'.
6 As long as a man preached the 'gospel' he could find acceptance in evangelicalism. Many people found relief in being able to keep the great truths of the gospel whilst having to make no defence of the passages in the Bible that are difficult to harmonize or explain."

Some attempt must be made to keep blogs shorter so I will close this instalment here. There will likely be at least two more instalments in coming days.

Sam Drucker


1. Glover, W, R. Evangelical Non-conformity and Higher Criticism in the nineteenth century, 1954, Independent Press Ltd,/) 16.
2. ibid.p 213.
3. Harrison, R. K. Introduction to the Old Testament, 1970, Tyndale Press, p 28.
4. Glover op. cit.p 213.
5. Murray, I. The Forgotten Spurgeon, 1966, Banner of Truth, p 163.
6. Glover op. cit. p213.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Leupold Genesis part 37 verse 7

7. And God made the firmament and He caused a division between the waters under the firmament and the waters above the firmament: and it was so.

With a certain measure of circumstantiality the author reports in detail that God actually made those things-that He had bidden come into being. This now does not imply that the initial word (v. 6), "Let there be a firmament," was inadequate to cause it to come into being, and so God actually had to "make" ('asah) it. This mode of statement of v. 7 merely unfolds in greater detail that the initial command to come into being involved, the full exercise of God's creative power, which continued operative after the word had been spoken until the work was brought to completion. For "he made" ('asah) dare not be construed, as involving a mode of operation radically different from creating (bara'), for a comparison of the use of the two verbs in v. 21 and in v. 25 shows that they may be used interchangeably. From one point of view one and the same task is created, i. e. is one of those marvellous, epoch-making achievements characteristic of God; from another point of view this task is made, i. e. God-employs His almighty power and energy to carry it through till it is completed.

A textual problem needs to be considered here. Kit. in the margin suggests removing the "and it was so" (wayhi khen) from the end of v. 7 and appending it to the end of v. 6 after the example of the Septuagint translators and after the analogy of v. 9, 11, 15, 24, 30, where it is inserted before the actual carrying out of the thing ordained is reported. However, though a certain quite stereotyped pattern is followed by the author throughout the account in recounting the work of the individual days, the adherence to fixed forms need not be so rigid as to preclude the slightest departure from them. The situation at the close of v. 26 is the same as that of our verse. There the Greek translators did not insert the wayhi khen, proving themselves inconsistent in their corrective endeavours. The text here needs no improvement.

No effort should be made to render literally the compound preposition mittsschath le, "from under to." Mittsschat alone means only "under." Compound prepositions are wont to be followed by le (K. S. 281 p, and G. K. 119 c2).