Some forty years ago I heard Dr. Henry Dosker of the Louisville Presbyterian Seminary deliver a lecture on the question Is Modernism Modern? He painted out convincingly that the theological liberalism of that day was little else than a resurgence of heresies of long ago. The same can be said of present·day departure from the truths of historic Christianity. Instead of being ahead of the times, as its advocates usually claim to be, they are behind the times. Instead of leading the church forward they are steering it backward. They are apostles, not of progress, but of retrogression.

A few examples follow.

Let no one think that all who confess the infallibility of the Bible mean the same thing. Not even all who would be known as conservatives put the same meaning into that tenn. Believe it or not. many who would resent being classiS.ed as Modernists and speak of the Bible as the infallible rule for faith and life yet insist that it contains numerous errors of various kinds. Precisely that constitutes one of the most subtle current attacks on the Bible by the father of lies. But there is nothing new about that attack It is centuries old. A radical by-product of the Protestant Reformation was the antitrinitarian movement. Its organizer and foremost representative was Faustus Socinus, who was born in 1539 and died in 1604. According to him the human authors of Scripture were inspired in respect to the content of religious truth only and in other matters even the apostles might err in their writing. He posited two criteria for judging what in the Bible is divine and what is not. He insisted that only that which is according to reason and only that which has moral significance and utility is to be acknowledged as of God. Today these sentiments are by no means confined to Unitarians. Many Protestant denominations have deteriorated to the point of assigning leadership to exponents of just these or similar views. Karl Barth and his son Markus by no means stand alone.

Orthodox theology has always taught the reality of hell, where God in his justice punishes unbelievers with ever· lasting suffering. Today a great many churchmen condemn that teaching as completely out of date and reject it as utterly unworthy of serious consideration. But there is nothing new about that attitude either. Clement of Alexandria, who died between 211 and 216, and his pupil Origen, who was born about 182 and died not later than 251, carried from paganism into Christianity the notion of the ultimate salvation of all men. It follows that the universalism of Friedrich Schleiennacher (1768·1834). often called the father of present·day theological liberalism, was nothing new. Neither is the teaching of contemporary Nels F. S. Ferre in The Christian Understanding of God, that, if God is love, eternal hell cannot possibly be real. Contrariwise, the denial of hell spells retrogression of the worst kind. Not only is it a resurgence of ancient heresy; it flatly contradicts the plain teaching of numerous passages of Scripture, and it does irreparable damage to that doctrine which lies at the very heart of Christian theology—the doctrine of substitutionary atonement as embodied in the Saviour’s cry from the cross, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

There is progress in divine revelation. God has revealed himself more fully in the New Testament than in the Old. There ought to be progress in our understanding of divine revelation. As a matter of fact, the history of Christian doctrine shows that the Holy Spirit has led the church progressively into that understanding. But departure from divine revelation spells only retrogression, degeneration, decay—progress toward destruction.



Never has the word extremism been so prominent in the vocabulary of the American people as today. There are extremists to the right and extremists to the left. Those on the left are the communists and those on the right we scarcely know what to call.

Extremes are never good. It means too much or too little…not the right amount.

Who determines what is extreme? Surely, no one believes that he is an extremist! If a person has strong views regarding a certain matter he considers himself to be a man of conviction. Those who do not agree with these convictions brand such a person an extremist. Extremism is a judgment of someone else than the person accused of it.

The opposite of the extremist is the moderate. There are many reasons for commending moderation. We try to be moderate in most things, but, to practise moderation in all things, goes too far. You cannot serve your God moderately. He demands soul, heart, strength, and mind. He demands complete surrender. Moderation may be good in many areas but it may also betray a complete Jack of conviction.

Just a question: Is it a sign of moderation when we brand others as extremists?



An ancient strategy of subversion is in extensive use in our day, identified long ago as revolution within the form. By means of this strategy, the old form of the institution is retained but with a new content. The constitution of a republic is left basically unchanged, but new meanings are given to old laws to make them mean something alien. The old creeds and catechisms of a church are left unchanged so as not to alarm the faithful, but step by step their meanings are altered and destroyed. The form is retained but the content is changed.

A second aspect of this tactic of subversion is very important. Loyalty is given a new focus. What is demanded is a loyalty to the form, not to the faith; to the church, not to the Scriptures and the confession and catechism. It becomes a grave an even capital offense to criticize the form, but it becomes a routine matter to criticize the content. The Scriptures and creeds can be criticized, but never the church and its institutions! A man who denies a major aspect of the faith is called an honest and searching Christian thinker, while the man who calls attention to heresy in a church or college or seminary is called a disloyal, wild-eyed, unchristian fool. Wherever you have this demand for loyalty to the form, you have either subversives or fools who can be used by subversives.

Does this situation exist in the Christian Reformed Church? Unfortunately, it does. When this writer wrote By What Standard?, he was told in print and in person that he had “no right” to criticize James Daane because this writer is not a member of the Christian Reformed Church; yet nothing was said about Daane having “no right” to criticize Van Til as an outsider to the Orthodox Presbyterian Church! But, more than that, this writer has found that many members are equally vocal in telling him that specifically named persons have “no right” to criticize the church, that this constitutes “disloyalty”! Disloyalty to whom, to man or to God?

It is high time that as citizens and as churchmen we face the facts of subversion and ask ourselves, in every communion, to whom are we loyal? Is our loyalty to the form or to the faith? And are we obeying man or the Lord?