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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Lost in a Lost World

One good thing to come out of recent dialogue with the manager of the These Infinite Spaces blogspot was his frank admission that no matter what the Word of God says (via myself and another quoting the Word of God) he would not believe that the world is about 6,000 years old. Although he has since deleted all comments on the topic there are a few witnesses who can testify that he made the statement. What was helpful was that he was actually blurting out what a lot of Sydney Episcopalians hold close to their chest - their lack of faith in the Word of God.

Aside from other problems already addressed in comments and blogs here there is another potential problem in embryo. It was picked up in a review published in the British and Foreign Evangelical Review in January 1868. It is was unsigned but suspected as having been authored by George Smeaton. The review was headed Some Lessons From The History of Rationalism and an extract is provided herewith:

The simple assertion of the Bible alone as the religion of Protestants, might seem to afford a foundation for such a via media [between Rationalism and Roman Catholicism] as we are in quest of; but when brought to the test, it will prove as treacherous as that of the Tractarians. Its danger,however, comes from the opposite side. It is safe enough as against Rome, and far enough removed from that extreme, but it lacks any sufficiently strong barrier to secure us from gradually and insensibly sliding into scepticism. The Bible is accepted as authoritative; but as we have seen it must be both authenticated and interpreted, and for these ends, unless I am simply to acquiesce in some Protestant council or confession instead of that of Rome, I have only my own faculties to use; I set out indeed with the full purpose of using them always in subordination to Scripture, and not as the Rationalist does as its judges. But how do I fare as I proceed ? In examining the evidence for the books of the Bible, I may not be able to acquiesce in the received canon; I may like many learned critics have doubts about the Second Epistle of Peter, or like Luther reject that of James; and if the evidence in their favour does not convince me, I have no alternative but to use my own judgment and reject them. Then I come to the contents of Scripture. I have been led to recognise it as divine partly, perhaps mainly, by the heavenliness of its teaching. But I find some things which seem to be unworthy of God, and inconsistent with his character; I cannot receive them. I endeavour to evade the difficulty by modifying my view of inspiration, and supposing there may be errors or inaccuracies in some parts of the Bible, I have recourse to forced and unnatural interpretations, to avoid what I cannot receive; but presently I find that neither of these expedients will suffice, and I must admit, that the Scriptures do teach these obnoxious doctrines.

What am I to do now ? is the question. You ought to submit to the Bible, and accept these doctrines in spite of your difficulties, would be the answer given by the orthodox Protestant. Yes, I reply, I would do that willingly, if I was sure that the Bible is the word of God. But it was only my reason that assured me of that at first, and now my reason tells me equally plainly that what the Bible says is not true. I accepted it at first among other reasons because of the doctrine it contained, and now it is this very doctrine that stumbles me. I must go back upon my former admission, and at the very least exercise the right of judging of the character of the Bible and of all its parts, and rejecting any portion or statement of it, not merely on external but internal grounds; and if I hesitated about some books at first, because of a lack of evidence, I may now reject many others because of their contents. I began with a real reverence for the Bible; but having no other witness for it save my own reason, this is what I have come to, and wherein does my position differ from that of the extremest Rationalist?

The only real and lasting security for the continuance of sound doctrine in the Church, is the continual presence and working of the Spirit of truth. The Holy Ghost is the river of living water, the streams whereof make glad the city of God. Popery hardens and crystallizes the living stream into an icy mass, making it more definite and tangible indeed, and more bright and brilliant as it glitters in the sun, but withal hard, dead and motionless, incapable of really imparting life; the Spirit is supposed to testify through the outward organism of the Church, and to work only through its ordinances. On the other hand Rationalism, ignoring or denying the work of the Spirit altogether, dries up the stream entirely, and leaves only empty channels that mock the thirst of the beholders. The living water may be something less definite and tangible, not so easy to limit down or portray exactly, but it supplies the real want of the city, as neither her the frozen glacier nor the empty channel can do. So it is not so easy, in some respects, always to realise the testimony of the Spirit, as rely either on ecclesiastical authority or enlightened reason; it requires an eye directed to the unseen, and a heart attuned to the melodies of heaven; it is always an easier thing to acquiesce in the idea that the Spirit speaks through the good and godly whom we can see and hear, and who form the Church, or that the dictates of our own reason are all the voice of the Spirit we are to expect; hence the facility with which either Rationalistic or Romanising principles have insinuated themselves into the Church; but in either of these ways we would be substituting something dead and formal for the Living Spirit, whom the Saviour has sent as the guide and teacher of his Church. This, as we read it, is the great lesson taught us by the history of Rationalism.

Sadly, for the Episcopalian Diocese of Sydney, a generation has come through which is on a course toward the barren wasteland of Rationalism through their handling of the Word of God. Even sadder is that they are likely to take unwitting followers with them.

Sam Drucker


Critias said...

I see the Anglican blog has touched on a similar theme too:

sam drucker said...

Critias, the argument is compelling.

The author of the review I have published had also cited an example of the consequence of faith in human reason over the Word of God.

The example was Francis Newman, brother of John Henry Newman a leader of the Tractarians of the Oxford Movement seeking to take the Church of England back to the Church of Rome in the Nineteenth Century.

Francis Newman went only so far with his brother's thinking before rejecting the Thirty-Nine Articles, holding a succession of religious views and finally abandoning any form of Christianity.

There is a slope when you doubt God.

Sam Drucker