Ignoramus, Ignoramibus!

Dusting off an old Latin dictionary this morning I came across these terms. As you undoubtedly know, they mean: “We don’t know; we never will know.” If I may be permitted a bit of poetic license, let’s make it mean I am an ignoramus and am getting ignoramusser. Or, shedding all literary embellishments and descending to the level of kitchen prose, I could express it this way: Every day and in every way I am getting dumber and dumber.

What a strange intellectual climate in which we live! We used be concerned. With the old modernism, which directed its shafts against the biblical record. It had to in order to get rid of what we consider the redemptive facts. The effort failed. Today the liberals employ a new method. Whereas it used to be a question of either, or, it is now a question of both, and. Take the Virgin Birth, for instance. As Machen has it, Christ was either born of a virgin or he was not. Today there is a different slant. Joseph was his father, it is said, but that does not do violence to the doctrine of the virgin birth (no caps now!) It may not be historical fact, but it retains its meaning. Deny the fact if you win; you lose nothing at all. It has its value in myth. The same holds for the resurrection. Just as we speak of Christ’s being at the right hand of God; no one accepts that literally either. Mythological interpretation seems to be somewhat comparable to what the church used to regard as figurative language or anthropomorphism. This new modernism is, if anything, more subtle and more devastating than the old.

One wonders what would happen to a history teacher in one of our universities if he treated the facts in the life of, say, Julius Caesar, as some theologians treat the life of Christ. He would be heJd up to ridicule; no school board would retain his services for twenty-four hours. But it remains for “theologians” to devise ingenious ways to denude Scripture of the redemptive facts and still retain the respect of the intelligentsia of the world. Seeming to be wise, they have become fools.

Wc have on our hands the ecumenical movement. The General Assembly of the National Council of Churches met in San Francisco recently and made history. One of the prominent figures there was the Rt. Rev. James A. Pike. Pike is much in the news. He has shifted from the conservative to the liberal camp and joined the myth clan. He holds that “‘the biblical evidence and the theological implications seem to be in favor of assuming that Joseph was the human father of Jesus.” At the same time he does not “deny in the least the doctrine of the virgin birth.” He is the bishop who cannot recite the creeds, but he wants to sing them. Some of the folks in his church want to press heresy charges against him. He is not an isolated figure in the WCC. And the ecumenical movement intends that all of these, orthodox, mythologisers and demythologisers, shall find shelter under. one ecclesiastical roof, extend the hand of fellowship, and join in the breaking of bread. And imagine my astonishment when along comes J. D. in the Reformed Journal advocating that we join it. He is sure that we need not stand forever outside of “what the Lord has not yet abandoned.” And this is where my ignorance comes in. I don’t get it. Comes to mind the words of Scripture about a house divided against itself; that there is no concord between Christ and Belial; the apostolic injunction to separation, not union; and that whosoever denies that Jesus Christ is come into the flesh is the anti-christ. Christ and antichrist shaking hands across his own Table!

I do not wish to mb: in the infallibility discussion. In my student days the Documentary Hypothesis of the Pentateuch was refuted by conservative scholars and stood discredited. Oswald T. Allis devotes a volume to it. The consequences of the acceptance of the composite authorship of the Pentateuch are very serious in his opinion. It is presented in the interest of a theory which has never been proved; Moses becomes a kind of legal fiction; and it leads to a low view of the authority and credibility of the Bible as a whole. Now Dr. Harry Boer informs us that Noordtzij and Aalders, though verbally disowning this. hypothesiS, factually embrace it. And one cannot escape the impression that Boer himself would have little objection to it, or to a Deutero-Isaiah and related theories. He also records the views of N. Ridderbos on the creation narrative. Genesis one and two are of dual authorship. According to Ridderbos, there never were six days of creation, or periods that might loosely be called days. “We have not the slightest idea of how the world was created. All Genesis means to teach is that God is Creator, all else is creature. And to convey that idea the author chose the device now lying before us in Genesis 1.”

Now all of this places the Gerefonneerde Kerken of the· Netherlands before a most interesting dilemma. For here· too we are dealing with the question: either, or, both, and. The Synod of Assen in 1926 was confronted with this problem and deposed Geelkerken. Now either its doctrinal deliverance must be rescinded. or the views of Ridderbos and others should be repudiated. If Ridderbos is upheld, Geelkerken must be posthumously reinstated, honoriscausa. And it seems that Brillenburg Wurth is sending up a trial balloon in this matter in Gereformeerd Weekblad of February 3.

Now to all of these divergent views there is hardly a ripple of reaction in the Gereformeerde Kerken, says Boer. That is true, and the more the pity. At least Hcmlan Ridderbos is not happy about it. In another context he bemoans the weakening of doctrinal consciousness (leerfactor). This weakening he accepts as a fact, but he pays us a compliment anyway. At least I accept it as a compliment. Speaking of Berkouwer’s book on election, and his exegesis of Romans 7, he declares there is more discussion and fighting in America than in the Netherlands; that if forty or sixty years ago someone had written this, every church paper and the whole Reformed community would have been stirred up to debate and discussion. Now all they hear is complaints that it is too difficult to understand. We are sorry that Ridderbos uses the word “gevochten”; that word bears the connotation of a brawl. But in the Netherlands there is not a ripple of reaction.

What does it all add up to? A good hard look at our conception of infallibility. Will it be an improvement?· Must we abandon verbal inspiration? One is tempted to· question whether after a life time of preaching he must reverse many of his convictions. No, we are not skeptics. Not ignoramus, ignoramibus, but INTELLIGAMUS (WE DO KNOW).