Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
December 21, 1961

Existentialism --- The Latest Fad

Robert C. Welch, Nacogdoches, Texas

One of the latest fads of philosophy is existentialism. Those who make nothing more than philosophy out of religion can be expected to follow the general pattern. Hence, we have religious existentialism. Primarily it is a system of total absence of restraint. It is comparable to the system of politics and economics known as laissez faire. This, however, has to do with an unconcern for, non-interference in, unhibition, and lack of restraint in morals. In its religious phase there is a complete lack of faith. One can believe anything he wants to, even anything he wishes about the Bible, just so he does not take it for what it says and claims. If he accepts it for what it says, then he will believe that there is a necessary restraint to be exercised in human thought and conduct and he has thereby denied the philosophy of existentialism.

Agnosticism with reference to divine revelation of the Bible has gone through many phases and names, but it is still the same old disbelief. The world had its "age or reason" with its atheistic Paynes and Voltaires. Then it had its era of "higher criticism." Then came "modernism" which still is doddering around in old age. The mature, virile agnosticism today is "neo-orthodoxy." And now we have the strapping youngster who is about to steal the show, existentialism.

One of its newest pledges is Ralph G. Wilburn. He arrived by way of education in a modernist school of religion, the University of Chicago, then professor in George Pepperdine College, and now dean of religion in The College Of The Bible, Lexington, Kentucky, a modernist school of the Christian Church. If that is the course which a preacher of the gospel can take to his ruin, how much more the danger to the student who is less skilled in handling the word of truth.

Most philosophers and theologians have developed a style of wordy, learned, obscurantism. It is hard to get a clear cut definition or description from them. Doctor Wilburn, however, being a neophyte in the field, has not yet become so adept in ambiguity. He has written an article on existentialism in the quarterly, published by Abingdon Press, Religion In Life, Autumn, 1961, in which he gives a definition of the general philosophy which gets right down to the subject:

"The existentialist does not say to man, 'this is how you are to exist,' but rather, 'you are to exist'."

He has a bit more difficulty, however, in making a distinction between the general philosophy and that of the religionist. It is certain, though, that he thinks that there is no restraining law because there is no authority in the Bible. Hence, to him and his new found philosophy, the man who exercises no restraint morally, socially and spiritually is just as well off as the man who confines himself to the restrictions of the Bible. Here is his description of the philosophy as it relates to the religionist:

"Existentialism, then, has helped to liberate theology from the rationalistic distortion of authority in orthodoxy. Under the impact of the existential revolt against the old metaphysics, theology has abandoned the orthodox idea of revelation (which really presupposed the old metaphysics) as a set of infallible, eternal truths of Platonic sort, 'once for all delivered to the saints'."

In his agnosticism he has the unmitigated gall to quote from the Bible itself (Jude 3) as he declares that it is not so. He denies the book as revelation eternal, but at the same time he will teach in a school which calls itself a "college of the Bible." There is base hypocrisy in his philosophy and his work; but his philosophy says that such hypocrisy is right for it exists.

"Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools ....for that they exchanged the truth of God for a lie .... For this cause God gave them up unto vile passions.... And even as they refused to have God in their knowledge, God gave them up unto a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not fitting.... deceit.... hateful to God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil things." (Rom. 1:22-30) "For the word of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us who are saved it is the power of God." (1 Cor. 1:18) "0 Timothy, guard that which is committed unto thee, turning away from the profane babblings and oppositions of the knowledge which is falsely so called; which some professing have erred concerning the faith." (1 Timothy 6:20-21).