Liberalism’s downgrading of the Bible is stirring worldwide evangelical dissent

An issue that will not be submerged is the inspiration and authority of Scripture. Although liberalism would like to assume that the classical view of Scripture as the infallible Word of God shares the demise attributed by some to God himself, this view remains very much alive.

The progressive departure of liberalism from Scripture is an enlightening chapter in theology. Although the older forms of liberalism followed radical criticism in its undermining of biblical authority, they still appealed to Scripture in formulating their position. But the new theology of Bishop Robinson and others of the Cambridge school seeks its ground in the philosophical and extra-biblical thought of Tillich and the anti-supernaturalism of Bultmann, while the death-of-God vagary represents an about-face from Scripture in its complete repudiation of what the New Testament says of Jesus’ unique relationship to his God and Father. Moreover, unrest within the United Presbyterian Church, a denomination having deep roots in the Bible, has centered largely on the dissatisfaction of many thousands with what the proposed “Confession of 1967” stated about Scripture and its authority.

As all this goes on, evangelicalism is rallying to a high view of the Word of God and its inspiration. Thus the recent Wheaton Missionary Congress boldly stated in its Declaration, representing the consensus of missionary leaders and nationals from seventy countries behind whom stand some 13,000 missionaries: “In line with apostolic precedent, we appeal in the many issues that confront us to the Bible, the inspired, the only authoritative, inerrant Word of God.” Almost concurrently there came from the Antipodes a “Declaration and Plea” of the Queensland District of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Australia, adopted at a special convention of this district church on May 7, 1966. The larger part of this document, which also warns against the dangers of ecumenism, concerns the liberal view of the Bible. In a formal presentation of current errors and their refutation, the liberal view of inspiration is stated and then answered from the Scriptures. While not all evangelicals will agree with every point in this Lutheran defense of inerrancy, the document takes a significant place among the recent statements made by official church bodies in opposition to the liberal position regarding God’s Word. Thus it is another evidence of worldwide evangelical dissent from liberal downgrading of the Bible.

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That evangelical scholarship is not totally preoccupied with apologetics but is willing, within the context of its commitment, to restudy its biblical basis is clear from the Seminar on the Authority of Scripture now being held (June 2 0–29) at Gordon College and Divinity School, Wenham, Massachusetts. Here nearly sixty scholars from Great Britain, the Netherlands, Canada, Australia, Switzerland, France, Norway, Nigeria, and the United States, are discussing the implications of the evangelical view of the written Word in the light of history, archaeology, linguistics, textual and higher criticism, philosophy, theology, and the data of Scripture itself. At the heart of the discussions is the concept of inerrancy. The seminar is transdenominational, representing no church or organization, and brings together some of the best minds in evangelicalism.

The foregoing manifestations of continuing evangelical interest in biblical authority and infallibility should jolt liberalism out of its unrealistic assumption that the historic view of Scripture as the inspired and inerrant Word of God is a thing of the past. On the contrary, it remains for tens of millions of Protestants a live option, because it is the written Word of God and the basic source of Christian doctrine.


For all their insistence that God is dead, radical theologians can’t quite surrender the figure of Jesus. Thomas J. J. Altizer, for example, gives up the Christ of biblical Christianity who is God alive in the flesh, yet retains a wistful attachment to Jesus as the Word. Indeed, he even calls the atheism he is attempting to shape within a biblical perspective Christian atheism. One would think that, with the acceptance of the death of God, the Jesus who contends that he reveals God would also be abandoned. But like the more run-of-the-mill atheists who swear by the God they deny, radical theologians cannot quite cast off the spell of the Jesus whom Christianity calls the Christ. Thus despite all its negations, radical theology in spite of itself affirms that God is the inescapable fact of our lives. Like all atheism and all sin, radical theology is both an assault upon God and a flight from him. For not only does Deity relentlessly pursue us, but man in his very sin can never quite leave God alone.

A second aspect of radical theology is also clear. It is man himself who determines the conditions within which a revelation of God and a knowledge of him are possible. The radical theologian talks about the Word but he never listens to the Word. It is twentieth-century man and his culture that determine whether God actually came in Christ, whether God can hear and answer prayer—indeed, whether he exists at all. The movement is from man to God, not, as in classical Christianity, from God to man. If at the end of the movements and vitalities of life and history the radical theologian finds nothing, then he says that there is no God, or that if there was a God he died.

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Consequently, one must not, in reading radical theology expect to be led from classical Christianity into the new theology, for every distinctive feature of classical Christianity is rejected. There is no antecedent and transcendent God, no primordial Being, no past state of human innocence, no sovereign Lord who lives and rules over all. Radical theologians leap from the present into the void. Unable to remain there, they return to announce: God is dead. And then, for all their wistfulness for a past that is gone and a Jesus whose God they repudiate, the radical theologians say with Altizer: Our historical conscious has now, for the first time, reached the point where we know that beyond our time and history there is neither God nor anything else.

The Student Foreign Missions Fellowship

Thirty years ago the Student Foreign Missions Fellowship was founded after meetings at American Keswick in New Jersey and Ben Lippen Conference Center in North Carolina. In 1945 a merger was consummated with the Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship, and out of this have come the great triennial Urbana (University of Illinois) missionary conferences, the most recent of which (1964) was attended by more than seven thousand. Denominational and faith agencies of all kinds have sent their representatives to the Urbana conferences and have enlisted large numbers of missionary volunteers who are now serving Christ and his Church overseas.

At a time when unbelief is widespread on the college campuses, when student riots make headlines, and when the number of volunteers for missionary service has declined, it is heartening to see the spiritual vitality and missionary zeal of this agency. We congratulate the leaders and the students in the Student Foreign Missions Fellowship and look forward to their 1967 conference.

The Student Foreign Missions Fellowship follows in the tradition of the earlier Student Volunteer Movement, which was closely associated with John R. Mott, Robert E. Speer, and Dwight L. Moody. It attracts thousands of students on secular college campuses as well as those in Christian and Bible colleges.

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Orthodoxy And Anti-Semitism

In a recently completed five-year research study of the religious roots of anti-Semitism, Southern Baptists and Missouri Synod Lutherans ended up high on the bigotry scale. This of course hurts their public image. No one, least of all a Christian church, likes to be stigmatized with the label of anti-Semitic.

The research was financed by the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith and was conducted by Charles Y. dock and Rodney Stark, two sociologists of the University of California Research Center at Berkeley. Findings have been published in a new book, Christian Beliefs and Anti-Semitism (Harper & Row). The thesis of the book, substantiated by almost 3,000 responses to a questionnaire, was that a religion that holds itself to be the only true and saving religion fosters religious prejudice against people who hold other faiths and therefore, in relation to the Jews, fosters anti-Semitism. Since Christianity is a religion that regards itself alone as true and saving, Christians, to the degree they believe Christianity, rank high on this scale of anti-Semitism. Thus from a Christian perspective, Southern Baptists and Missouri Synod Lutherans were more honored than discredited, for they appear more committed to the unique truth and finality of Christianity than the many other church members who responded to the questionnaire. This method selected by Glock and Stark, when applied to Christians, establishes the degree of commitment to Christianity but leaves the existence and degree of real anti-Semitism undetermined.

At a recent conference in New York City where Protestants, Roman Catholics, and Jews met at the invitation of the Anti-Defamation League to discuss this book, it became even more apparent that method, definition, and the form of questions in questionnaires are decisive for what scientific research actually finds. In this case, responses could indicate either a high degree of anti-Semitism—which is highly unchristian—or a high degree of commitment to Christian truth.

It would have been more appropriate, for two reasons, had this conference been called and financed by Christian churches than by a Jewish organization. First, the staggering complexity of the nature of anti-Semitism can be properly discerned only within a Christian understanding of it. The Jews show a strong tendency to regard any belief that Jews are in any way under a divine displeasure—even where this belief is not translated into oppressive actions—as itself a form of anti-Semitism. Second, nowhere should the sin of anti-Semitism be more intolerable than within the Church of Christ.

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The findings of the Glock-Stark research and the New York conference are valuable contributions, even though they may be somewhat different from what the promoters envisaged. They may even shock the churches, or perhaps the National or World Council of Churches or the National Association of Evangelicals, into a serious study of the very serious phenomenon of anti-Semitism.

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