Monday, June 27, 2011

Christian Fundamentals

Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner,
but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God,
who has saved us and called us with a holy calling,
not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace

which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity,
but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus,
who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,

Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me,
in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.
Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us,
the treasure which has been entrusted to you.
2 Timothy 1:8-14

Do you believe in the fundamentals of the Christian faith?

Christianity in America has gone through a transition during the past hundred years that for the most part has not furthered the cause of Christ in a positive way. I realize that this is my conclusion and you might have another view, but I will make my case and you be the judge.

The first real modern challenge to Biblical Christianity was delivered by Charles Briggs who had studied Higher Criticism also known as the Historical-Critical method which was a development of the German academy that he learned while studying in Germany. His first address was given in 1876. This led to a series of responses and counter-responses between Briggs and the Princeton theologians in the pages of The Presbyterian Review. They contended that Briggs was a heretic.

In his teaching Briggs contended that Higher Criticism had proven that much that was believed about the Bible was not true. Among the things that he stated were that the Scriptures as a whole are riddled with errors, and that the doctrine of scriptural inerrancy taught at Princeton Theological Seminary "is a ghost of modern evangelicalism to frighten children." Not only is the Westminster Confession wrong, but the very foundation of the Confession, the Bible, could not be used to create theological absolutes. This address led to widespread outrage which led to an overwhelming vote by the general assembly to veto Briggs appointment. The church then affirmed the belief that the bible is without error. Briggs was ruled a heretic and defrocked, although shortly thereafter, Briggs was ordained an Episcopal priest. Without question this teaching was a lie of the enemies of Christ then and it is a lie from those who promote these false statements today.

The dismissal by the Presbytery of Briggs led to a period of relative peace. Then in 1909 the same debate reappeared with the issue of whether or not to ordain three men who refused to agree with the doctrine of the virgin birth of Jesus. The men did not deny the virgin birth; they just said that they were not prepared to affirm it. The majority eventually ordained the men; but the minority challenged the decision which resulted in ongoing conflict. To resolve the conflict, church leaders reached a compromise with the three men but at the same time adopted a declaration that stated that five fundamental doctrines were “necessary and essential” to the Christian faith:

The inspiration of the Bible by the Holy Spirit and the inerrancy of Scripture as a result of this.
The virgin birth of Christ.
The belief that Christ's death was an atonement for sin.
The bodily resurrection of Christ.
The historical reality of Christ's miracles.

These five propositions would become known to history as the "Five Fundamentals" and by the late 1910s, theological conservatives rallying around the Five Fundamentals came to be known as "fundamentalists."
As we know over the years, the term fundamentalist has taken on a negative connotation and is often assigned to those considered imbalanced religious fanatics. There has been a relentless and ongoing attack on conservative Christians from the mainstream media and the elitist intellectual establishment. But in reality, Christian fundamentalists are at the heart of the founding of America and built many of the most influential and prestigious universities in America. I am proud to claim to be a fundamentalist in the tradition of these brave Christians who stood for Christ and His Word in the early days of America built upon the truths of Christianity.

In 1922 a liberal spokesman named Harry Fosdick delivered a sermon at the First Presbyterian Church, New York that set the stage for a battle over this issue within Christianity that continues to this day. This battle is best known as the “Fundamentalist-Modernist Controversy.” The sermon pointed out differences between liberal and conservative Christians, most of which remain today. In this sermon, Fosdick presented the liberals in both the Presbyterian and Baptist denominations as sincere evangelical Christians who were struggling to reconcile new discoveries in history, science, and religion with the Christian faith.

Fundamentalists, on the other hand, were cast as intolerant conservatives who refused to deal with these new discoveries and had arbitrarily drawn the line as to what was off limits in religious discussion. The end result is mainline liberal Christianity on one side and evangelical and fundamentalist Christianity on the other side. The primary battlefield was Princeton Theological University which had been founded by Christians who would become known as Fundamentalists. Many people, Fosdick argued; "simply found it impossible to accept the virgin birth of Christ, the doctrine of substitutionary atonement, or the literal second coming of Christ in the light of modern science. Given the different points of view within the church, only tolerance and liberty could allow for these different perspectives to co-exist in the church."

It is a given as Fosdick argued, that many people simply find it impossible to accept the teaching of God's Word in light of their feelings, lust, and pride; but "how dare they call their views Christian thought or Chrisatianity" and why would any Christian allow this babble, this rejection of Jesus Christ, His miracles, and the perversion of His Word to poison the truth, and be taught in seminaries and churches as the truth throughout America. These deniers of Christ and His Word are atheists, not Christians. That false belief is their right, but to twist it into Christian thought is an abortion of truth. They have grievously infected the gospel. This teaching is heresy and doctrines of the evil one.

John D. Rockefeller Jr. was strongly involved in the Social Gospel movement which is a Protestant Christian intellectual movement. The movement applied Christian ethics to social problems, especially social justice, inequality, liquor, crime, racial tensions, slums, bad hygiene, child labor, weak labor unions, poor schools, and the danger of war. Theologically, the Social Gospel leaders were overwhelmingly post-millennialist. That is because they believed the Second Coming could not happen until humankind rid itself of social evils by human effort. Social Gospel leaders were predominantly associated with the liberal wing of the Progressive Movement and most were theologically liberal. The views of the social gospel liberal intellectuals were closely aligned with the Fosdick Modernist movement. This left the fundamentalists with a strongly financed opposition to their stand on the Truth of God’s Word.

The problem was explained well by conservative Clarence E. Macartney, pastor of Arch Street Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, when he responded to Fosdick with a sermon of his own, entitled "Shall Unbelief Win?" which was quickly published in a pamphlet. He argued that liberalism had been progressively "secularizing" the church and, if left unchecked would lead to "a Christianity of opinions and principles and good purposes, but Christianity without worship, without God, and without Jesus Christ." This is the key point I wanted to make with this post.

The battle faced by those fundamentalists over a hundred years ago is the same battle every Biblically minded Christian faces today. A Christianity that denies the virgin birth, the substitutionary death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for our sins is just another man-made religion. I want none of that. A Christianity that denies the Creator, and the Truth of God’s Word is no Christianity at all. Will a social gospel that might help cure the ills of mankind be beneficial in a number of ways? … you bet. Is this social gospel leading people to Christ as Savior or helping people live more comfortably? Are the ideas that reach out to, and appeal to people with many varying beliefs going to be popular? … absolutely. But it is not the Good News that Jesus Christ brought for the salvation of mankind 2000 years ago on the cross at Calvary.

This is the question we must all ask ourselves. Where do you stand on these fundamentals? Do you believe in ...

The inspiration of the Bible by the Holy Spirit and the inerrancy of Scripture as a result of this.
The virgin birth of Christ.
The belief that Christ's death was an atonement for sin.
The bodily resurrection of Christ.
The historical reality of Christ's miracles.

Can we stand on God’s Word as the source of our healing, hope, strength, power, courage, strength, and eternal salvation? Is God omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent? Did God create all things? Will Jesus return in the clouds and rapture his followers to be with Him in Heaven for eternity? Is there anything we can ever do to separate ourselves from the love of Christ? Is our salvation certain and secure? Does Jesus wish for all to spend eternity with Him in heaven? Is there only one way to receive eternal Life? Can we stand on His promises?

Is God’s Word the Eternal Truth that we can stand upon regardless of feelings, human logic, and the teachings of men? Or is the Bible riddled with errors, and a ghost of the Truth used to frighten children? Did Jesus lie to us, or did He tell us the truth?

“Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. “And you know the way where I am going.” Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. John 14:1-6

God bless you my friends, Bob
Copyright: Robert West 2011


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