From the book, "Faces Toward God," Excerpt from Chapter, "Toward Tomorrow's Church," by N.M. Ylvisaker
What of today? Is all well with us? Has not the Christian church and ours with it, reached a place in the sun, and is not the church exerting an influence on the affairs of men such as formerly would never have been deemed possible? True enough! And still, if we willb e honest enough to face the issue fairly and squarely, it is also true that much of the effort at present put forth by the church does not belong tot he true function of the church. It is busy with many things, and as with the work of Martha, much of it is un-essential. The church has entered into realms where it does not belong. It is speaking, but not always with the voice of the Master. And round about us we are discovering more and more a spirit of disloyalty to the things that give a church life and vitality, a spirit that is shocking indeed and which presages disaster, if the church does not in time get back to its safe moorings.
On all sides there is a tragic abundance of doctrinal laxity and creedal disloyalty [witness the "Emerging Church" that holds to being Christian yet "nonconfrontational" even in the late Thomas Road Baptist Church of Falwell the "Moral Majority" founder, which they say means we do not have to engage the world's secularist humanist, even atheistic government and philosophical systems that deny traditional marriage, deny righteousness and morality, deny absolutes such as right and wrong, deny the existence of God and attempt to abrogate all the rights and privileges of Deity while denying any higher power over society than themselves, as well as the apostate church movement even in formerly Bible based denominations such as Baptist which deny the deity of Christ, his Virgin birth, his atonement for the sins of the world; then too there is the strong movement within the church to institute homosexuality as an acceptable human behavior and life choice, even making it the basis of "marriage" of two of the same sex, which is not supported by scripture, but which is demanded increasingly by a godless, secular humanist society and government--Ed.]. On all sides there is a nervous attempt to obliterate all lines of demarcation between the church and the world. The supernatural in Scriptural Christianity is doscounted. The basis authority of the Bible is discredited. Christianity is rapidly eing reduced to a level with other religions [this is a position in the Emerging Church movement, which abandons the truth that Jesus Christ is the only way, truth, and life, the only Savior there is for mankind, a position held by Joel Osteen, a mega-church leader and televangelist, and many others nearly as influential as he has become], and men are busily engaged in their debates as to which of these religions, if any, is superior to the other. The position of modern philosophy and psychology of religion prevails, that all religion, even Christianity, are progressive or evolutionistic in character, that the one as well as the other must yield to the principles of p;rogress in discovery, in experience, in knowledge of God, and in the human approach to Him and His heaven, if indeed there be a God and a heaven at all."
Instead of the secure foundation of authority in matters religious and spiritual of a past generation, the religious world today is full of uncertainties and speculation, due almost entirely to the refusal on the part of religious thinkers to acccept any norm at all as a final authority, in fact to their almost unanimous refusal even to consider the possibility of any finality in religion. This is the very premise of modern religious philosophy. This philosophy permits only of speculation and discovelry. It discounts the element of finality in anything. Buy religion cannot be bound by the fetters of human speculation. It must insist on the absolute, and its conclusions must be clothed in terms of finality...*[see the author's comment about Soren Kierkegaard]... There may be injected here the query if finality in religion is not after all a dangerous principle to accept. It conflicts naturally with the idea of freedom in religious thought and concept. But what is freedom? Is not all freedom relative? It would be difficult to imagine a field in which this is not true. There are laws and inhibitions and restrictions that govern in every sphere of action.
In the field of morals, there are codes and customs and standards and consequences which circumscribe our every action. In politics, there are party platforms and policies, constitutional laws and international agreements which effectually bar any semblance of anything but a relative freedom. In business, we have codes of ethics, restrictions between employer and employee, and the good will of prospective patrons continually checking any real demand for freedom. In science, there are axioms and rules an laws which must be constantly employed and followed before one's findings can claim any degree of authority. And even in the realm of the intellect, in the sphere of lpure thought, even there the rules of logic and the restrictions of accepted methods must govern, else the result were pure fancy or wild speculation. In all these fields, freedom is relative.
And still even while tacitly accepting the relativity of the concept freedom in our conduct as between man and man, or even between man and God, we have todayt he great revolution against the idea of finality in religion sponsored by the modernistic and atheistic schools of religion.
The religious view of the day is modernistic in thought and in principle. Modernism is the prtesent religious fad or vogue,a nd great preachers and teachers are spreading its message as a remarkable discovery which will eventually solve our relgious problems and bring about the so-much-to-be-desired union of Christendom. Is it to be accepted as a safe, sure guide?
What is modernism? To formulate in words a satisfactory answer is difficult, indeed, because it is a first postulate of the modernist that he denies the validity of creedal statements, and it is manifestly impossible to describe modernism without making use of the dogmatic method of expression. Then, too, no modernist will be willing to agree with a fellow modernist; for that would involve the acceptance of finality in matters religious, and finality is an unknown expression in the terminology of these new religionists. And still their writings and their statements make it possible for those who will to discern what it is that characterize their religious concept, and what it is that makes their characterization the diametrical opposite of the religion of Jesus Christ.
Modernism is not modern at all. It had it first preacher and its first congregation in the Garden of Eden (cfr. Gen. 3). Its gospel has ever since been a gospel of doubt. Its basic premise rests on the validity of philosophic thought and speculation. Its perogative, on which it always insists, is the right to rationalize everything, even God. It shrugs an unbelieving shoulder at the idea of authority, especially the authority of Scripture. It rejects the supernatural and miraculous. It humanizes wherever it can, especially in the realm of religion. It brings all religions under the scrutiny of human reason. It finds that all are of human origin--no either-or, only a better and a best.
Its basic philosopy is the philosophy of evolution, which it accepts with avidity, in spite of all its insistence on a creedless faith. Having settled to its apparent statisfaction the origin of things, though its faith here must needs be as great or greater than the faith of the Christian in Scripture's mighty "In the beginning God," modernism proceeds with it scritical examination and rejection of those things which are b asic and vital and significant in the Christian's Bible: the idea of a divine authority; a supernatural creative act; a fall, sin, punishment, death; an atonement, justification, regeneratiion through the redemptive significance of the cross; a new lifre and a final salvation with a reconciled God in a new Jerusalem whose doors are opened to repentant and believing sinners by the sacrificial act of the God-man Christ Jesus. It substitutes for all this an evolutionistic idea of the origin of things and of self, a pantheistic idea of God, a philsophic concept of divine immanence, a pagan philosophy of inherent goodness, and a religious concept of salvation by character, with the man Jesus as the human ideal of more-or-less perfection [does this not typify or define "liberalism" today, not to mention "secularism" and "humanism"?].
Modernism results from the great "offense of the cross" and brings with it the same spirit of rebellion and intellectual opposition which 1900 years ago crushed the Prince of L:ight. Its fury is directed especially at the Gospel of the cross. To its adherents and exponents the Christian Gospel is still an abomination and a foolishness. And the cleavage between those who accept and those who reject this Gospel of the cross remains deep and wide [in the United Nations in 2009 there is a bill pending, a "religious defamation act," which will criminalize all faiths, particularly Christian faith, that says that only Christ is the Savior and Lord over mankind, and that other religions are false ways to heaven can cannot save their adherents.].
On the one side is Christianity, which accepts and believes. On the other, modernism, which rejects and denies. "On the one side salvation is a redemption. On the other, it is simply an illumination. On the one side the prime necessity is the new birth, the new creation in Christ. On the other an evolution only is required. On the one side men speak of a fall and a condemnation, and the master word is grace. On the other side they speak of the soul's natural goodness, its aspiration, its good will for righteousness, its thirst for God, and the master word is light. On the one side Christ is the object of faith. On the other He is only the first great believer. On the one side men call others to believe in Christ. Ont he other to believe like Christ. On the one side God is transcendent in the world, and His incarnation is His unique tabernacling int he flesh. On the other God is immanent, not only in the believing soul, but in all men, and every man is, in his measure, an incarnate son of God [we already had Unitarianism as early as colonial America, and then Transcendentalism, with Ralph Waldo Emerson's partly eastern religion-influenced philosophy founded on human goodness, trusting oneself and ones powers to progress and rise to higher levels and finally to achieve ones own final destiny before returning to the great Brahma-like, oceanic "Oversoul" of Hinduism and Buddhism; then we went on to witness the rise of a "New Age" religion ala TV's Oprah Winfrey, which says that we all have deity or god within ourselves]. On the one side there is a need of a Mediator and a cross. On the other side the need is only of a captain of the host" (Clow).
Christianity and modernism are not the same, nor is the latter simply a modern, up-to-date interpretation of the former. They are two vitally, radically, eternally oppositional religions, as different from one another as day is from night [nor can you be humanist and secular and "liberal" and be a Christian in the Biblical sense of the term, as a biblical faith is founded on absolutes, on God the supreme Source and Arbiter of life and faith and human beings, and humanism and secularism and liberalism cannot accept such a God and such a belief founded on absolutes]. The one takes God at His Word and believes with a child-like faith that Jesus, the Son of God, came in the fulness of time to save men from their sins. The other accepts the efficacy of human reason and human character in the realm of religion and builds its hope for a future life, if indeed there is one, on the inherent goodness and acquired righteousness of human character to stand the test of eternity [contrast Christian faith with the second option, and then put Joel Osteen or any Positivity Preacher in the category you think he best fits--Ed.].
The issue is clear, in spite of all the befogged thinking that is going on [still in 2009, and this was written back in the 1930s, and we have gotten worse, not better!]. It is not a both-and. It is still and ever will be an either-or. It is faith against reason. It is Scripture's God aghainst a man-made religion. It is Christ and His cross against human reason and good works.
And so modernism with its teaching of the "Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man" without the foundation of the divine Sonship of Jesus Christ and His sacrificial death, is a religion; but it is not the Christian religion. It may be widely accepted even by entire denominations as a satisfactory explanation of "the Jesus way of life," as someone has put it; but it is not the religion of Jesus Christ. And its consequences are already becoming apparent to those who will see. Intellectually, it resolves itself into a religion of skepticism and despair. Psychologically, it fosters and promotes the mechanistic and the behavioristic schools of thought. Philosophically, its tenets are evolutionistic and rationalistic. Poltically, it results in internationalism and communism. Morally, it presages the breakdown of individual moral responsibility, because of its insistence on the right of rebellion against authority, human and divine. Spiritually, its results are indifference and unbelief, and spiritual pride and arrogance become the vogue [clearly, this has spread from the churches to the government sphere, were our chief officers in Congress and in the Oval Office now strut and parade and speak with pride and arrogance, with no apologies for their vulgar and conceited behavior and outright deceit.].
And religiously, its accompanying fruits are first, unitarianism; second, unionism and internationalism with the insistence on equality of all religious beliefs ([yet it is always a qualified "equality" they champion, for always some group is put down, usually the Christian group, so that other groups may be promoted higher by government decree and favor, hardly a fair and equitable treatment of all, which calls to mind the erroneous, and notoriously racist Affirmative Action program of government, education, and business, that promoted people of black color above and at the expense of light skinned people, which were discriminated against, according to a Supreme Court ruling on a case involving a white student with high qualifications submitting to a university for entrance and being denied and a less qualified black applicant being chosen instead due to Affirmative Action.--Ed.]; and finally, atheism, which rejects not only the authority of all religious belief, but which rejects and denies Gopd and the life in Him.
Modernism, and the gospel it proclaims, which is no gospel at all, represents in its final analysis the cataclysmic reuination of all that Christianity stands for. Crumbling towers and broken walls and burned-out altars and pews, heatsick and comfortless and despairing souls, a world without God and without hope--such would be the cathedral of Christianity, should the gospel of modernism be all; for modernism burns out the very heart and substance of Christianity. It leaves it a heap of ruins. (RELIGION IN A CHANGING WORLD, by Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver, while defending liberalism and expounding it, presents at the same time a crushing indictment of modernism and claims that modernism as a religious system is defunct and bankrupt.)
And yet this is the religion that is sweeping like a pandemic scourge [a spiritual kind of swine or Avian flu] over the churches of Christendom at this very moment. Preachers and teachers, as stated, are falling victims to its poisonous virus and the members of its thousands of churches are acclaiming it as the religion of this twentieth century, because alrealdy the way has been prepared for its inroads by the drowsiness of indifference to all things religious and spiritual which has settled down upon us all, and which is one of the pecular signs of the times which marks our age peculiarly.
"By their fruits ye shall know them," our Savior has said. Recent church statistics released by the U.S. Census Bureau and compiled by Dr. G. L. Kieffer for the CHRISTIAN HERALD brings us a message in this connection which we cannot afford to ignore. The fruits of modernism and liberalism are described by way of figures that all can understand. The tragedy of the liberal churches on the basis of these statistics cries to heaven for a remedy. We shall tell the story here, as it was prepared by C. P. Sloan for CHRISTIAN FAITH AND LIFE (June, 1931), and reprinted in THE LUTHERAN. These statistics he interprets as proving a divine blessing on the conservative positivism of the Lutheran Church [which I believe, coming from the Lutheran Church as a one-time confirmed member, it has since largely lost, due to the inroads of Modernism and now the politically-correct religion of secular humanism--Ed].
The article follows:
"The Baptist Church reports 9,216,562 members, which is a gain of 74,706. The Lutheran Church reports 2,806,797 members, a gain of 56,180. The Protestant Episcopal Church shows it has gained 16,532 and has a total membership of 1,254,227. These three churches made definite gains; two of them are definitely liturgical; one of them is superlatively free.
"The Presbyterians report 2,677,369 members, and a loss of 22,763. The Methodists report a membership of 9,119,069, and a loss of 43,211. (The Methodist Episcopal Church itself lost 29,820.)
"This difference between gains and losses is steriking and the more so now that it is a repeated fact. Methodism has shown a painful loss two years in succession; the Lutheran Church has led Protestant denominations in America in its increase, not only this year but it has been showing a steady increase across the span of years. Something must explain this situation."
GAINS AND CONVICTIONS
"Having read these returns, the thught came to this writer to compare the percentages of gains and losses with the percentages of denominatinal belief and disbelief as presented by Professor George H. Betts of Northwestern University in his revealing volume, "The Beliefs of 700 Ministers." The comparison will take only an instant, and the striking fact is that the relative position of the denominations in point of degree of faith in almost their identical position in the scale of gains and losses. If Professor Betts' figures mean anything, they reveal that it makesa a vast difference in their efficiency whether the churches preach the historic Christian faith or liberalism.
The order of the denominations in respect of their liberalism or unbelief as stated by professor Betts is as follows: Congregational, Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Baptist, Lutheran. Congregationalists are most liberal. Methodists are second. Baptists and Lutherans stand at the other end of the line as least liberal or more orthodox. Professor Betts' percentages in detail will be interesting.
"On the doctrine of the Trinity of God: Congregational ministers show 36 per cent, Methodist 72 per cent, Presbyterian 78 per cent, Baptists 86 per cent, Episcopalian 96 per cent, Lutherans 99 per cent.
"On the Virgin Birth of Jesus: Congregational 25 per cent, Methodist 54 per cent, Presbyterian 66 per cent, Episcopalian 75 per cent, Baptist 80 per cent, Lutheran 90 per cent.
"On our Lord's Resurrection: Congregation 36 per cent, Methodist 74 per cent, Baptist 82 per cent, Presbyterian 86 per cent, Episcopalian 100 per cent, Lutheran 100 per cent.
"On miracles the percentages are: Congregational 43 per cent, Methodist 53 per cent, Presbyterian 57 per cent, Baptist 64 per cent, Episcopalian 67 per cent, Lutheran 98 per cent.
"On the atonement of sin on the cross: Congregational 20 per cent, Methodist 60 per cent, P:resbyterian 67 per cent, Episcopalian 68 per cent, Baptist 75 per cent, Lutheran 99 per cent.
"These percentages as added up show the total percentages of faith is: Congregational 30 per cent, Methodist 61 per cent, Presbyterian 70 per cent, Episcopalian 75+ per cent, Lutheran 96 per cent.
"Turning now from these figures as presented by Professor Betts to the fruition of the toil of these churches during the year 1930 their relative positions are almost identically the same.
"The Congregational Church is defective, being either wanting or combined with the Christian church. Methodism stands next with a loss of 43,211. Presbyterians hold the third place with a loss of 22,763. Then comes the Episcopalians with a gain of 16,532, the Baptists with a gain of 74,706 on 9,216,562, and the Lutherans with a gain of 56,108 on 2,806,769."
FAITH AND PROGRESS JOINED
"In other words, the Lutherans show the highest percentage of faith, and their church made the greatest gain, namely 2 per cent on its membership. Baptists and Episcopalians stand exceeding close in percentage of faith, namely 76 per cent and 75 per cent, and they stand exceeding close in their percentage of gains, namely, .8 per cent and 1.3 per cent. Presbyterians and Methodists fall lower in their percentages of faith and lower also in their m,embership returns, both denominations losing.
"Here is a scientific demonstration that liberalism from the point of view of actual effectiveness in the work of the church is a serious handicap [mark this conclusion!--Ed.] The more liberal the church, the less is its spiritual fruitage; the less liberal (more orthodox) the church, the greater its spiritual fruitage.
"The most liberal denomination of all is of course the Unitarian body. In a hundred years it has shrunk from about the 100,000 figure down to 57,931 and shows a loss during the current year of about 8 per cent [This is no real loss to Christian faith. Good riddance to this apostate church, which has deceived many and led many straight to hell--Ed.]. Methodism, which according to Professor Betts would stand third, with only the Congregational Church in between, shows a loss of .4 per cent. (The loss of the Methodist Episcopal Church is .73 per cent.)"
AMONG THE YOUNG
"One final circumstance which enforces the explanation of the relative decline among the churches given above: The writer was recently in touch with a group of theological students identified with one of the great liberal schools. The students were frankly in confusion. They did not know definitely what they did believe, and several of them admitted that they had no enthusiasm for the message they were preaching. They said 'Our professors have no enthusiasm for what they are teaching us, and we have no enthusiasm for what we are preaching. Everything is flat, colorless, dead.' This is what the young men themselves feel. What prospect is there that their preaching of ideas which leave their own hearts cold can inflame the hearts of their fellowmen?
"It is time to turn back to faith. The Holy Spirit is in the church; but He cannot bless the uncertainty and unbelief we are now preaching. We must once again have the full-orbed Gospel."
For instance, Mormons are more likely to embrace a Biblical perspective on a number of fundamental Scriptural factors than are the typical Episcopalians, Catholics, Lutherans and Presbyterians [!]. This includes elements such as their belief that the bible is totally accurate in all that it teaches; possessing a personal responsibility to evangelize; contending that their religious faith is very important in their life; believing that Satan is real; rejecting the notion that Jesus committed sins on Earth; and holding an orthodox, biblical view of God.
Mormons are also more likely than Baptists to possess a biblical perspective on matters such as the reality of Satan, personal responsibility to evangelize, and the notion that Jesus was a sinner.
Focusing upon the Protestant groups, it is also incredible to find that less than half of all Episcopalians, Methodists, Lutherans and Presbyterians say they are "absolutely committed" to the Christian faith. Minorities of people from each of those denominations also firmly contend that the Bible is totally accurate in all its teaches. Fewer than three of ten adherents from each of those denominations contend that they have a responsibility to share their religious views with non-Christians. And a majority of the people from each of those groups believe that Jesus Christ sinned, and that a good person can earn salvation [this includes the Lutherans spoken above in the preceeding chapter on Modernism, so you see that their descendants quickly fell out of their obedience to Scripture and the Lord to embrace unbelief!--Ed].
Perhaps the time has come for a new Reformation. Or, perhaps, that new Reformation is already taking place, but what is being reformed is people's commitment to the authority of Scripture and the necessity of life transformation in line with biblical principles.
Some have questioned if it is even possible for a church to participate in the positive transformation of people's lives in this culture. Perhaps the best answer is to show what has happened among those associated with the Assemblies of God. While Assemblies churches have their own unique challenges and crises, one thing is indisputable; those who attend their churches are likely to possess a relatively healthy view on many of the fundamental matters of the faith. Their example suggests that, yes, it is possible to influence people's lives in such a way that they "get it" and that a church can stand firm and build up people for the daily battles they will encounter.
RELIGIOUS PERSPECTIVES BY DENOMINATION
The Barna Report
A--47, B--35, C--45, D--43, E--n/a, F--56, G--54, H--48, I--44, J--70
2. Bible is totally accurate in all it teaches
A--42, B--27, C--19, D--38, E--31, F--65, G--68, H--42, I--34, J--85
3. Personal responsibility to evangelize
A--30, B--17, C--18, D--28, E--62, F--48, G--50, H--26, I--23, J--57
4. Religious faith is very important to them
A--68, B--64, C--71, D--69, E--86, F--80, G--83, H--67, I--23, J--93
5. Satan is symbolic, not a real entity
A--58, B--69, C--70, D--63, E--29, F--39, G--50, H--60, I--65, J--27
6. Good person can earn salvation
A--55, B--82, C--58, D--59, E--76, F--30, G--38, H--54, I--52, J--22
7. Jesus Christ committed sins on earth
A--48, B--53, C--55, D--53, E--27, F--39, G--38, H--58, I--54, J--30
Number of Respondents Polled in Barna Report:
A--6242, B--1204, C--120, D--571, E--85, F--193, G--1067, H--326, I--227, J--94
In the first category, "Absolutely committed to the Christian faith," the Assemblies of God score the highest, far beyond the other scores in fact, and Catholics score the lowest.
The Assemblies score highest in the second category, "Bible is totally accurate in all it teaches," and Episcopalians score the lowest. What then do the Episcopalians say about secular books, that they are more accurate than the Bible of the Church? Apparently!
In the third category, "Personal responsibility to evangelize," Mormons score the highest, and Catholics and Episcopalians score the lowest, with a point difference between them. This indicates that evangelism is at a low ebb among the Christian churches.
In the fourth category, "Religious faith is very important to them," Assemblies of God score the highest, and Catholics score the lowest.
The fifth category, "Satan is symbolic, not a real entity," sees Episcopalians scoring the highest and Assemblies of God the lowest. In other words, Assemblies of God members believe Satan is a real entity, not a symbol of evil, whereas most all Episcopalians believe Satan is fictitious, not a real spirit.
The sixth, "Good person can earn salvation," Catholics score the highest and Assemblies of God the lowest. In other words, much fewer Assemblies of God members believe a person can work his way to heaven than the Catholics, of whom a majority believe they can work their way to heaven by their own good deeds.
The seventh, "Jesus Christ committed sins on earth," Lutherans score the highest and Mormons the lowest. In other words, many more Lutherans believe Jesus was a sinner than the Mormons. Why then do they go to church, if the Lord was a sinner and his death on the cross could not possibly pay for their sins, since he was not an innocent, sacrificial Lamb of God the scriptures proclaim him to be?
We refer you not to Soren Kierkegaard's works but instead to Dr. Francis Schaeffer's book and his comments on Soren Kierkegaard the existentialist theologian, which we believe place more thoroughly or precisely Kierkegaard's philosophical thoughts about the absolute in a Christian context in defining the Christian world-view versus the secular humanist world-view. We prefer Dr. Schaeffer's view of Kierkegaard, for he is a trustworthy commentator and evaluator of Kierkegaard's theology in terms of where we stand as a church and as individual believers in Christ holding to the doctrine of his salvation by grace and faith in Him, not by righteous works of our own or by virtue of our own human goodness. An iconoclast, Soren Kierkegaard sought with a crusader's passion to pull down the established state church system of the Lutheran state churches--which he sarcastically called "Christendom--whose main features were its ecclesiastical orders and deadening formal orthodoxy and extreme ritualism of worship that had emptied the churches of true spirituality. It seemed to him a noble task and justified in aim, but what did he put in its place?
As a one-time follower of Soren Kierkegaard years ago in my twenties, I was intoxicated with Kierkegaard's marvelous way with words and concepts and especially valued his non-conformity, but I found there had to be something more than that to sustain my life; it was all intellectual and aesthetic, but that did not help me to stand the real tests of life when they came against me, and I soon found they were props that crumbled when I leaned on them.--Ed.