For hundreds of years, numerous critics have been sitting in judgment of the Bible. Now it's about time we saw the Bible's judgment of them.
WHY HAVE the majority of scholars — and even theologians — sought to discredit the authority and inspiration of the Bible? What is it about the Bible that has drawn this absolutely unparalleled opposition from so many critics? The answer might surprise you. Surely it would be remarkable PROOF OF THE BIBLE if it accurately foretold it's supposed critics two thousand five hundred years in advance. And that is exactly what many critics want to deny! The Bible describes their actions, defines their motives, and predicts the results of their criticism.
Hiding From the Facts — Or Hiding the Facts?
The opposers of Scripture must deny the validity of these prophecies, or be condemned by the very Book they study. The Prophet Jeremiah precisely characterized today's critics — with all their arguments, attitudes, conduct and bias. Listen to Jeremiah's cry! Jeremiah had received a prophecy directed at many in our day. Don't make the mistake of assuming that this prophecy applied only to his own time. In Jeremiah 23:20, we are told: "In the latter days you will understand it clearly" (RSV). What Jeremiah saw in this prophecy left him stunned and horrified. He saw a land full of adultery, cursing and violence. A land in which "both prophet and priest are profane" — that is, they treat sacred things with contempt (verse 11). God said of those religious leaders who mislead the people and are contemptuous of His authority:
Wherefore their way shall be unto them as slippery ways in the darkness: they shall be driven on, and fall therein: for I will bring evil upon them... (verse 12).
Ministers Troubled And something is very wrong with many of today's religious leaders. A glimpse through the veneer of a segment of today's "Christian" ministry was given in a recent book by Dr. Klaus Thomas, a psychotherapist. The book is entitled Handbook of Suicide Prevention. After being in practice for some years, Dr. Thomas had records of some ten thousand people who had come to him desiring advice. The shocking fact is that ministers, ministers' wives, teachers of religion, and theology students composed "the largest single professional group of desperate people who turned to medical care, sick of life." Can you grasp the significance of that? Out of such a large, statistically significant number, the largest single group that contemplated suicide was composed of religious workers. Why? Dr. Thomas went on to tell of the first two hundred religionists who came to him for help. Five of them were high-ranking ministers of a well-known denomination, one a professor of theology, and another one of the highest church dignitaries. Out of the two hundred, thirty-four suffered from sexual perversions of one sort or another: twenty-one were homosexuals, seven were sadistic perverts, one was an underclothing fetishist, another preferred to wear female dresses, and two were masochists. No wonder they had contemplated suicide! And no wonder Jeremiah said: "Wherefore their way shall be unto them as slippery ways in the darkness: they shall be driven on, and fall therein." Lest you think this is only one man's experience, the German news magazine, Der Spiegel, reported on a meeting of psychotherapists in November 1962 when the attending doctors discussed their experiences concerning a total of several hundred sexually perverted persons. They said that "nearly 90% of these patients were religious officers, predominantly ministers." God thunders through Jeremiah to these tragic individuals :
They commit adultery, and walk in lies: they strengthen also the hands of evildoers, that none doth return from his wickedness: they are all of them unto me as Sodom, and the inhabitants thereof as Gomorrah (Jer. 23:14).
Now who is the judge?
Law Cast Aside
But how could this happen? How can men who are the religious leaders — the spiritual guides — become candidates for suicide? Listen to Isaiah give us the answer:
Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!... Therefore as the fire devoureth the stubble, and the flame consumeth the chaff, so their root shall be as rottenness, and their blossom shall go up as dust: because they have cast away the law of the Lord of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel (Isa. 5:20-24).
More and more people who are going to ministers for advice concerning right and wrong are being told that the old moral guidelines (i.e., the Ten Commandments) no longer apply. One minister, for example, was consulted by a young girl who wanted advice about a boy she had been petting with. She felt guilty about it and asked the minister for help.
Contrary to her expectations, the minister did not rebuke her.... When she assured him that the relationship was serious — they hoped eventually to marry — the minister indicated that she need not feel such terrible guilt. In fact, he added, a total indifference to sex might suggest a denial of the human instinct, something he considered unwholesome (David Boroff, Coronet, August 1961).
Is it any wonder God inspired Jeremiah to say, "They strengthen also the hands of evildoers, that none doth return from his wickedness"? (Jer. 23:14.) Again, who is the judge? What ordinary mortal writing well over 2,000 years ago could have so precisely described the religious leaders of our own day? Remember, that Jeremiah directed these prophecies to the latter days — as well as to his own era.
Free From the Law
What has been the ultimate objective of the critics? No one expresses it any better than the theologian who submitted the Epistles of Paul to examination by computer — Dr. A. Q. Morton. (As we saw last month, his conclusions, unfortunately, were based on inadequate evidence, and his criteria broke down when applied to contemporary writings.) Nevertheless, having concluded from computer analysis that Paul only wrote five of his Epistles, Dr. Morton reveals what he and fellow critics are driving at:
By far the greatest consequences of the establishment of the authorship of Pauline Epistles is that it has cut the ground from under any notion of absolute religious authority — whether this is expressed as Church or Bible (The Observer Weekend Review, November 10, 1963, emphasis mine).
And there, in a nutshell, is the explicit, if perhaps unconscious, goal, of many Bible critics. They are perhaps unaware that the human mind, by nature, seeks to "cut the ground from under any notion of absolute religious authority." No wonder we hear the cry, "There are no absolutes." Of course, once individuals are rid of any authority — whether it is Church or Bible — they are free to do as they please — or so they reason. "Free from the law," is the cry that is actually sung in a well-known hymn. The only law that we need concern ourselves with, we are told, is the "law of love." So it matters little, we are assured by theologians who espouse situation ethics, whether we literally commit adultery or fornication, lie, cheat, and steal, as long as we have "love for our neighbor"! In a prophecy directed at our day, God wrote to our people Israel:
Behold, ye trust in lying words, that cannot profit. Will ye steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incense unto Baal, and walk after other gods whom ye know not; and come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, We are delivered to do all these abominations? (Jer. 7:8-10.)
This is precisely what is being done by many religious people today. They come and stand before God, falsely believing that their minister has shown the way to be liberated from God's Law! They claim they are delivered from the burden of the Law — to do pretty much as they please as long as they do it out of "love to neighbor." Love to God isn't mentioned. In this context, the following article appeared in a British paper recently:
A rector who believes the Ten Commandments are obsolete and negative was congratulated by his congregation after yesterday's services. ''We all support his opinion," said the church-warden of All Saints, Ascot, Berkshire. "It is a sensible modern approach to religion." The minister stated: "I have not referred to the Commandments in my services for years and no one has objected. I know many clergymen who do the same."
But should we expect these congregations to object? Not if we have read Isaiah. Listen to his indictment of the church-attending public of our day:
Now go, write it before them in a table, and note it in a book, that it may be for the time to come for ever and ever: That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the Lord: Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits: Get you out of the way, turn aside out of the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us (ha. 30:8-11).
Again, we ask, who is the judge? Heretofore, we have seen the critics' judgment of the Bible, and now we are seeing the Bible's judgment of the critics.
For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved (John 3:20).
When the Bible so thoroughly condemns everything that a man stands for, it is no wonder we encounter a thinly disguised, quite irrational rejection of the Bible's authority by that man. Yet, the Bible is the only authority man can turn to in this time of great religious confusion. Satan knows this. It is precisely for this reason that his organization has directed a deliberate and concerted effort to destroy that authority. Ezekiel describes it:
There is a conspiracy of her prophets in the midst thereof, like a roaring lion ravening the prey... they have taken the treasure and precious things:... Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned mine holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they shewed difference between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from my Sabbaths, and I am profaned among them (Ezek. 22:25-26).
More and more, in the months and years to come, we are going to see religion stripped of all authority. "Situation Ethics" will be preached with ever-increasing volume. And as this conspiracy continues, the result is going to be a plunge in morals that will defy imagination.
Where Is It All Leading?
No one living in this age can be unaware of the fact that we are living in a time of moral crisis. The rising tide of crime, vice, violence, venereal disease, abortion and drug addiction has just about reached our necks, and it is no longer possible to pretend that it isn't there! It isn't necessary to shock the reader with statistics of the millions of dollars lost in shoplifting, embezzlement, theft by employees, and fraudulent bankruptcies. The figures will be out-of-date by the time you read them, anyway. Nor does one need to enumerate the hundreds of thousands of illegitimate children born every year; the staggering number of legal and illegal abortions that take place; the hundreds of children whose lives are already ruined at birth by venereal disease and drug addiction; or the hundreds of thousands of premature marriages forced by pregnancy. You already know these things! But do you know why?
No Supreme Authority
The editors of Look magazine assigned Senior Editor Robert Moskin to talk with a broad selection of leaders who are concerned about where we are going. His most significant observation was that we live in a society without a supreme moral authority. He said: "The moral guidelines have been yanked from our hands." He asked Dean Samuel Miller of the Harvard Divinity School where we can get moral standards. "Not from the Church," was the answer. Dean Miller said:
The Church has become almost as monastic as the orders in the Middle Ages. There seems to be no connection between what happens in the Church and what happens in society, except that people living in a desperate age use it to tranquillize their disturbing experiences.... The Church simply does not have a cutting edge (Look, September 24, 1963, emphasis mine).
But what real "cutting edge" has The Church ever had? It has blunted or thrown away altogether the "two-edged sword" of the Bible (Heb. 4:12). Where is today's younger generation going to look for moral standards? Are they willing to accept the authority of the clergy as the norm by which they will regulate their lives? Why should a minister's opinions stand between them and what they want to do? Can tradition provide a standard for today's young people? There is an authority to which they could turn to provide the "cutting edge" that is needed, but that has been laid aside. The theologians have seen to that. That has been the underlying purpose of Bible criticism. Sir Robert Anderson, writing about the turn of the century, saw clearly where the criticism of his day was leading. He wrote:
And when these pestilent errors have fully penetrated to the unthinking multitude, they will lead to an agnosticism with no saving element whatever — an agnosticism which will soon develop into practical atheism. In this generation the pseudo-criticism is undermining the faith of the Church; in the next it may affect the fabric of society (Sir Robert Anderson, Pseudo-Criticism, p. 39).
We are that next generation, and the fabric of our society has nearly rotted away.
The Way of Rome
In the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Edward Gibbon tells us that one of the five main reasons for the collapse of that "Great Society" was the decay of religion into mere form, leaving the people without any guide. Religion is certainly losing its grip on the American way of life. A Gallup poll was taken in 1957 which asked the question: "At present time do you think religion as a whole is increasing its influence on American life, or losing its influence?" In 1957 only 14% of the population believed that religion was losing its influence. In 1967, the question was asked again. This time no less than 57% believed that religion was losing its influence. By 1970, the figure had risen to 75%. George Gallup pointed out: "Significantly, younger adults, 21-29, are more inclined to take a pessimistic view than older persons." We have been called "a society that cannot agree on standards of conduct, language and manners, on what can be seen and heard." A recent news magazine called us "the permissive society." More and more journalists are drawing parallels between our society and that of Rome just before its fall.
Just Another Cycle?
Some, however, believe that history shows a series of cycles of decay and resurgence, of crisis and recovery. They feel that we are simply in another of these cycles of crises which will be followed by recovery — that we are nearing the bottom, and there will be no way to go but up. This is certainly not the Biblical summation of history! Look at the world around you. Where are the great civilizations of the past? Have they survived to the present day? Take the earliest of the great world empires — Egypt. For centuries Egypt went through cycles of crisis and recovery. No doubt during those years there were many who said: "There will always be an Egypt." But Egypt fell. To this day it is not merely a second-rate power, but a diseased, poverty-ridden, largely uneducated nation. God prophesied that Egypt would never again rise up as a world power, and it is so! For another example, take the kingdoms of ancient Israel and Judah. Again, for centuries we have a historical record of cycles of decay and resurgence. We have the record of false prophets who predicted the kingdoms would continue and would not be destroyed by Assyria or Babylon. "There will always be an Israel." Israel fell! "There will always be a Judah." Judah fell. Is it necessary to continue to rehearse the collective histories of the Babylonian Empire, the Persian Empire, Alexander's Empire and the Roman Empire? Where are they today? There have been cycles all right, but each successive cycle reached lower and lower into the depths of human depravity and moral decay. In each case the nation either tore itself apart or was destroyed by another world power.
The Point of No Return
The lesson of history is clear, and we have seen more and more of the marked Parallels between our own present crises and those of the final plunge of the great empires of the past. There comes a time in a nation's history when they are beyond recovery, and it is becoming clear that we are approaching the point of no return. Journalists whose life work is keeping a finger on the pulse of our society recognize that we are not merely going through another phase. The editors of the now defunct New York World Telegram and Sun were moved some years back to prepare a special series on teen-age immorality. Their conclusion:
It is true that in every era since the dawn of man the elders of each community have accused. their young of going to hell in a hand-basket. But most of these indictments of the past were made on the basis of correlating a few bad cases here and there, and using them to stigmatize the whole. Now, however, the whole picture of juvenile behavior must be viewed from a different angle.... There was not a single sociologist, psychologist or youth expert whom we interviewed while preparing this series who did not agree that waywardness among today's juveniles has soared to the point of defying all precedent (New York World Telegram and Sun, July 29, 1963, emphasis mine).
Another witness writing in Look magazine of August 27, 1963, said: "Whatever the mechanism, something new and rougher than we have ever known has crept into misbehavior among the young." Remember that both of these articles were written years before the current explosion in the use of drugs and the frightening increase in the number of "social dropouts" epitomized by the "hippie" movement.
It is significant that Christ indicated that iniquity — lawlessness — would abound on the heels of the deception of false ministers (Matt. 24:11-12). Lawlessness is the natural result of the removal of law, and the removal of law is consistently the object of religious deception (see Deut. 13:1-5). No one seems to realize it, but when the law is laid aside, there are no protective barriers left for our society. If one law can be broken, why not another? Once God's Laws are laid aside by the ministry, the stage is set. Civil disobedience is the next step, followed by rioting and looting and eventually a total breakdown of society. The barriers are already down. The floodgates of lawlessness have been opened. It must be frightening to be a political leader these days. No matter what you decide, it seems bound to turn out wrong.
We have been warned. Through the Prophet Hosea, God told us what would happen when we rejected His authority:
My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hart rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children (Hos. 4:6).
Through the remainder of this prophecy, God warns of a coming national captivity upon our people because they have turned away from the only authority they can trust — His Word. We can be thankful, however, that the story doesn't end there. Through this time of captivity Israel — the English-speaking nations — is surely going to learn a lot of bitter lessons. But we have the promise that when those lessons are learned, God will bring Israel back to her own land. The prophecies tell of the return from captivity, and of the Wonderful World Tomorrow. To what authority are men going to look in that day?
And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem (Isa. 2:2-3).