THEOLOGY OF PRESUMPTION
One has but to glance through theological literature today to realize that much of it is based on human speculation which is at variance with revealed truth. Denying the validity and authority of the divine revelation, and at the same time denying the finality of both the Living and Written Word, such theological speculation is limited only by the imagination of those who have lost, or never had, faith in that which God makes plain to men willing to believe.
It is out of this speculative approach that the theology of presumption emerges. Out of presuppositions against the reality of simple truth, men’s imaginations run riot in a field which ought to be directed and controlled by the Holy Spirit if right conclusions are to be reached.
The assumption that modern scholarship demands these deviations from historic Christian beliefs is unwarranted, for there have been no discoveries of recent years which have invalidated one basic doctrine of the Christian faith. Furthermore, the discoveries of science, while dazzling in their effect on every phase of life today and seemingly unlimited in their potentials for tomorrow, have in no way changed man’s sinful nature nor his need for God’s love and redemption in Jesus Christ.
What then is the theology of presumption? Basically, it is the substitution of human reason for divine revelation. It is man’s presuming to deny the clear teachings of Holy Scripture because they do not fit in with his concept of what God is and what he has done and will do.
Nowhere is this more evident than in a distortion of the personality of God. The theology of presumption teaches that the love of God overrides his justice, holiness, and righteousness. None of us now can ever fully understand or appreciate the ineffable love of our Heavenly Father. It was love which sent his Son into the world to die for our sins. But God’s love surely does not offend His holiness.
The theology of presumption affirms that God’s love negates his holy anger and the necessary punishment of evil. It looks on God as incapable of anger, although the Bible affirms that he is angry with the wicked every day. Substituting human emotion for divine revulsion against sin, man presumes to assess sin through sinful eyes rather than through God’s estimate of what really separates man from God.
It is the same human philosophy that leads to the growing school of universalism. Affirming that because He is the “perfect pedagogue,” universalism declares that all mankind will somehow, sometime come to repentance and faith.
The theology of presumption denies the reality of hell and the eternity of separation of the unrepented sinner from God. It is this same presumption that inveighs against the fear of eternal punishment as one motive for fleeing from the wrath to come.
The theology of presumption denies that Satan is a person, malignant, active, and aggressive, as referred to again and again from Genesis to Revelation; and it declares that sin, manifest on every hand, may be attributed to psychological, environmental, and other causes amenable to human correction rather than requiring divine intervention.
There are many variations in this theology of presumption. Some affirm the redeeming work of Christ but make it apply to all men, whether they accept it or not. For such persons, affirmations like our Lord’s in John 3:16 have to be modified to suit their theory. Man is not a lost creature. He is a saved individual who needs to be told of his salvation, not of his lost condition without a Saviour. “Whosoever believeth in him” is very inconvenient to such a thesis, as are the multiplied New Testament affirmations that faith is necessary to salvation.
In this theology man’s perilous position as a sinner is questioned. Instead of a recognition of the consequences of sin, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die,” there is heard the soul-destroying assurance, “Ye shall not surely die,” and in that assurance the nerve of evangelism and missions is cut.
It is this same theology which accords to man’s philosophical presuppositions precedence over the clear statements of the inspired prophets and apostles.
Let it be clearly understood that the theology of presumption is not the “statement of old truths in a new and different way.” Rather, it is the denial of the validity of Holy Scripture and the substitution of human philosophy for revealed doctrine.
It is insufficient to affirm, as some do, that Christianity is not a set of doctrines but a Person. Pious as this may sound, the question must be asked—What Person? For the Christian there is but one Christ, the Christ of Holy Scriptures. For the Christian there is but one Cross, the Cross of Calvary with all that is implied in the death of the Son of God for the sins of mankind.
No one man is capable of producing a theology which does full justice to all the implications of Christian truth. At the same time, it is dangerously presumptuous to formulate a theology which does violence to that which God has revealed through his inspired prophets and apostles.
The Apostle Paul warns of a day “when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.”
The writer to the Hebrews warns: “He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
Our Lord uttered some of the most solemn of all warnings: “Then shall he say unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: … And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal” (Matt. 25:41, 46).
Is it not presumption, yes, and folly, to deny these truths repeated so clearly and frequently in Scriptures? Who of us can understand all that is implied? Who of us can assume to have all of the truth? But God has made many things so plain that wayfaring men may not err. How much better it is to be a “fool” in the eyes of the unregenerate world, if our foolishness leads us to faith in the Holy Scriptures.
L. NELSON BELL
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