Chapter Thirteen - Babylon the Great
THE history of "Modernism" is quite ancient. It is as old as speculative philosophy, as old as man's organized opposition to God's plan for saving men.
The Saducees were the Modernists, the skeptical religionists, of their time. The Neo-Platonists maintained the tradition during the first centuries of the church, and tried to blend and harmonize pagan philosophy with a denatured form of Christianity. The Humanism which preceded the Renaissance was of the same order, as was also the "Enlightenment" or Rationalism of France and Germany during the eighteenth century. Today we see an almost world-wide movement called "Modernism" posing before the world as the only form of religion which in our day is worthy of a moment's consideration by intelligent men and women.
Modernism is not a synonym for modern scholarship. I have met Modernists
— one could find many such — who could not tell the difference between
an angiosperm and a dinosaur, or tell a chromosome from an electron. Doubtless
similar instances could be given on the other side. It might be thought
that Modernists are chiefly educated along scientific lines, while Fundamentalists
have chiefly had a classical or a literary or a theological training. But
this is not always the case.
|Modernism is Unbelief
Modernism is an attitude of mind, just as a belief in the Bible as God's revelation is an attitude of mind. The Bible expresses this attitude of mind on the part of the Christian by the one word "faith." In contrast with this we may be permitted to designate Modernism by the one word "unbelief." But the Modernist also believes in something. Usually it is what he regards as the results of "modern scholarship,"— whatever that may be. Often it is a belief in his own scholarship. Whatever it may be, this object of the Modernist's belief or faith is something else than God's special revelation to mankind, the Bible.
One trouble with Modernism is that it is not modern enough. Most Modernists are reactionaries in science, just as they claim to be "progressives" in religion. They are helplessly tied to the science of two or three decades ago. Some seem to have heard of Mendelism, a few have an idea or two about radioactivity. But not one of them seems to realize that modern biology has been running up a blind alley, so far as evolution is concerned, for the past twenty years. And if any of them have ever heard of the recent discoveries in geology, they cast them aside with a sneer; for these discoveries are so palpably against every possible form of organic evolution.
No, Modernism is not progressive; it is not modern.
Christian Doctrine Important
But in this chapter we must study chiefly some moral and religious results of the evolution doctrine, to see how these doctrinal results stand with reference to Bible Christianity.
First, let me say that religious doctrine is not everything. I know some men whose doctrinal beliefs I think terribly wrong; but they are splendid men, and seem to be true Christians. These I consider wrong-headed men, though their hearts are on the right side. I hate to have to regard them as mere decoys of the devil, which he is using to put up a good front to an anti-Christian cause.
Then there are some men who are doctrinally sound; but their hearts are wrong, because their lives are crooked. These certainly are false signboards; for the Master said, "Ye shall know them by their fruits." These certainly are doing the enemy's work in a very effective way.
But true doctrinal beliefs regarding the great fundamentals of the gospel
are very important. As has been expressed by another:
"Christian life without Christian doctrine has never yet appeared. Those who claim to show it in Christian lands are simply cuckoos in nests of Christian doctrine which they built not, but whose warm environment makes them what they are."
From the point of view of Heaven, there are not a large number of classes of people in the world, just two: the righteous and the wicked. These two classes appear to grade off into each other; we recognize the types, the conspicuous examples, but thousands of our fellow men we cannot classify.
By Their Fruits
And it is a good thing we cannot. This job has not been given us to do. But we can all be ambassadors for the King, if we are on His. side. And one of the most effective ways in which, in these days of confusion, we can be true ambassadors of the King, is to keep ever prominent in our own minds and before the minds of others a clear line of demarkation between the true and the false, between the great essentials of the Christian faith and their opposites. Great Babylon of our day claims to be built upon the very site of ancient Zion; the Babylonians are almost all of them constantly parading around under the banners of the New Jerusalem; but there are certain hallmarks of the two parties that, if we can get at them, will always tell to which side a person belongs. These are not mere passwords, mere shibboleths; they are great essential truths (or falsehoods) branded into the very mind and soul of the individual. And whenever we can get a peep into the secrets of the individual's life, we can always be sure of the side to which he belongs.
These great essential truths (or falsehoods) all focus around the idea
of sin,— its cause, its nature, and its remedy.
||1. The Cause. So far as we
are here and now concerned, the cause of sin is in man himself. Sin started
long ago as a deliberate rebellion against God, and man is now born with
this rebellious nature. He is out of harmony with his Creator and with
the ethical order of the universe. This is what theology calls the natural
depravity of man. It is due to what is called the fall of man; and as Wesley
says, "The fall of man is the very foundation of revealed religion," as
distinguished from natural religion.
Evolutionary philosophy also says that sin is a great primal fact; but it makes sin about equivalent to errors or mistakes. All men sin, because all make blunders or mistakes. Modernists, that is, evolutionists, seldom carry the idea further than that. Education will save us from all kinds of mistakes; therefore, says the Modernist, moral and religious education will save the race from sin.
Not so, says Christianity. Man is depraved, his nature is sinful and, worst of all, he cannot hope to make himself one whit better.
As we have already seen in a previous chapter, back of the present condition of things, evolution either lays the blame for sin directly upon God, if He really made the entire universe and all the stuff of which the universe is composed; or it shifts the blame for sin to matter, and in this way seeks to relieve God of any blame, by saying that matter is eternal with some unmanageable properties about it which God (and man) must try to counteract. We have already discussed this heathenish philosophy in Chapter X of the present work and elsewhere.
The Bible and historic Christianity teach that sin is due to the deliberate
wrong choice of morally free and accountable beings. This has infected
the race, and we have all inherited this sinful or morally infected nature.
To quote John Wesley once more:
"All who deny this, call it original sin or by any other title, are but heathens still in the fundamental point which differentiates heathenism from Christianity. . . . Or, to come back to the text, is 'every imagination of the thoughts of his heart evil continually'? Allow this, and you are so far a Christian. Deny it, and you are but a heathen still."—"Works," Vol. V, p. 195.
Contrastedly, the evolutionary teaching is that sin in all its phases is merely our inheritance from our animal ancestors. Says John Fiske:
"Theology has much to say about original sin. This original sin is neither more nor less than the brute-inheritance which every man carries with him."—"The Destiny of Man," p. 103.
The direct opposition between the Bible and Evolution is very forcefully expressed by Robert Blatchford, the English atheist:
"But — no Adam, no fall; no fall, no atonement; no atonement, no Saviour. Accepting evolution, how can we believe in a fall? When did man fall? Was it before he ceased to be a monkey, or after? Was it when he was a tree man, or later? Was it in the Stone Age, or the Bronze Age, or in the Age of Iron? . . . And if there never was a fall, why should there be any atonement?"—"God and My Neighbor," p. 159.
Here we have the first direct issue. Christianity says that man is a fallen being, though made originally in the likeness of God.
Evolution says that man is a rising being, slowly becoming more and more like God.
Between these two ideas there is no similarity, they are antagonistic
and mutually exclusive.
|2. The Nature of Sin. All
acknowledge that sin is a bad thing, a very bad thing. But, as already
remarked, evolution makes it little more than the natural tendency toward
mistakes or errors on the part of beings who do not have all knowledge.
The theory seems to be that if men could always see far enough ahead, could
see all the facts involved, they would in every crisis or temptation not
sin but choose the better way. As honesty is the best policy, so sin is
always a blunder; and education will save men from being so shortsighted
as to choose the wrong when the right is always infinitely better.
Christianity, however, says that man not only sins, but he is sin incarnated, a living, breathing, active sin. It is not doing that is the sin, but the being. Of course, a wicked act is sinful, is blameworthy; but by keeping a man from wrong acts we do not take the sin out of his nature. Solitary confinement is no cure for sin.
Christianity says that man in his natural state is at enmity with his Creator. He is not subject to the Creator's laws and rules, indeed he cannot be without a change of nature. This change of nature the Bible calls being born again. And Christ on a memorable occasion said, "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." That is, he cannot enjoy eternal life with God's people who have had their natures changed and have been brought back into harmony with God and His government.
This being born again, the new birth, or regeneration, is thus the absolute, preliminary process of becoming a Christian. One who has been thus born again is a Christian; one who has not yet been born again is not a Christian. The Bible recognizes no half-and-half condition. We are not Christ's unless we are His entirely. I know this may sound extreme; but stern logic tells us that this must be so; and the Bible confirms it.
Thus we reach our second fundamental difference between evolution (or Modernism) and Christianity. The latter says that man is hopelessly evil, utterly lost to God's claims upon him and to the claims of his fellow men, except so far as God's Spirit works upon his heart to help counteract this depraved tendency.
It also says that the entire change in man's nature must come from God
himself. Modernism says that man's nature is not hopelessly bad, that no
supernatural change is necessary, but that education and enlightenment
will do all that is necessary or all that is possible to be done.
||3. The Remedy. Christianity
says that the remedy for man's sin does not come through his acceptance
of a formula, his belief in a creed, but by a definite moral transaction
between himself and his Creator, by which the sinner owns his lost condition
and accepts God's terms fully and entirely. There is no other way.
Modernists also talk about a change of heart, about a new birth, and all the rest of it. They seem to have taken over all the old terms common to Christianity, and are now using these terms with changed meanings. This makes the whole matter very confusing. Furthermore, there is a pseudo-Christian substitute for conversion, the devil's counterfeit of the new birth, which many persons have experienced, notably Ignatius Loyola, Thomas Carlyle, Mary Baker Eddy, and many others.
The genuineness of a notable religious experience can be tested only by God's Word. "Ye shall know them by their fruits," said the Master. We are also told that, "If any man willeth to do His will, he shall know of the teaching." It is the privilege of every one to know exactly where he himself stands. We may or may not know about some one else. But in a matter of such prime importance, surely it is essential that we make no mistakes. "To the law and to the testimony! if they speak not according to this word, surely there is no morning for them." Isa. 8:20, A. R. V.
"Come Out of Her, My People"
We have now been considering the characteristics of the great modern Apostasy, which is called in the book of Revelation, Great Babylon. But in this same book of Revelation, God speaks of sending a special message to His people, "Come out of her, My people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues." Rev. 18:4.
What is it to be in Babylon? What is it to come out of her?
Let it be noted, that it is God's true people to whom this warning is addressed. They are in Babylon; and they are warned to come out.
To be in Babylon is to be doing as the Babylonish people do. It is to continue believing what the Babylonish people believe. It is to be associated with them, to be confederated with them in all that Babylon stands for, in contrast with what true Christianity stands for.
To come out of Babylon is not primarily to leave some church. It may involve that; but that is not the prime essential. To come out of Babylon is to quit the ways of Babylon, to quit believing what Babylon is teaching, to stop doing what Babylon is doing.
If any reader of this work finds himself in a "Modernist" church, let
him simply be sure that he himself is living every day and every moment
as a real child of God. If he does this, the Modernists may soon make it
so uncomfortable for him that he cannot stay in this organization any longer.
No one else can tell such a person what to do. He should seek wisdom and
guidance direct from God. "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God,
. . . and it shall be given him." James 1:5.
It is not absolutely essential that such a person already know of a better, a more Scriptural church to join. A church home is a good thing, a very pleasant thing; and such a home of brothers and sisters has been ordained of God for the good of His people. But a man is not cast off from God because he is an orphan; and a man who is an ecclesiastical orphan is not at all cut off from his direct communion with God. The great thing is for each one to be sure that he is right with God himself. This is an individual matter between the soul and his God; no outward circumstances can separate the soul from knowing God's will, if by humble dependence upon Him and His Spirit the soul is determined to do only what God requires.
But we are living in the days of the Great Apostasy. And to His people in these last days God is giving a special warning against Great Babylon: "Come out of her, My people,'that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues" Rev. 18:4.
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