Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 15, 1968
NUMBER 40, PAGE 8b-9a

Ulp, Choke, Gasp, Gag, And Urp!

Dale Smelser

Pardon the onomatopoeia, but nausea may bring about my demise before I can get this on paper. A coterie of alleged theological intellectuals is offering the church a substitute for "nineteenth century religious pabulum" and my vain efforts to get it down are distressing.

The ubiquitous young bibliophiles of this new wave are having little difficulty in disseminating their ideas among brethren through various publications, old and new. Such types seem especially influential, for instance, at A.B. Sweet Co., Inc., a publishing house whose literature is widely used in Bible classes. To our eventual dismay we ordered, but sparingly used, their VBS literature, "Anywhere With Jesus," this past summer. David Steward, Ph.D., Rice University, wrote the book and teacher's guide to be used for teen agers. In the teacher's book he treats us to some advice about teens in what has become a new wave clich: "They want more from their faith than pat answers to questions they are not asking" (p. 4).

In the first place that, itself, is a pretty pat answer by now to the question of methodology in teaching youngsters and is therefore logically anomalous (It's stupid!). Secondly, anything that is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness is going to supply some pretty pat answers, whether we are asking the questions to them or not. Thirdly, to obligate ourselves to answer whatever questions people are asking is to assume that they will always be asking the right questions; having right interests. But realizing some generations may become vain in their reasonings and have their senseless hearts darkened (Rom. 1:21), such assumption does not appear too intellectual to me. In the benighted secularistic society we live in, our task is to persuade men that their principle concerns are not relevant to salvation from sin and life eternal.

Dr. Stewart also explains why there was sin without the law of Moses: "Because men have minds and can think, they are able to learn many principles of right conduct by the power of reason alone. Many of the Gentiles obeyed God's laws even though God had not given them a specific set of laws as he did the Jews...Romans 2:14" (Teenage Pupil Book, p.3). His fallacy is in his conclusion of learning right "by reason alone." The passage does not say this. It says Gentiles did "by nature" the things of the law. In doing this the gentile did not know he was doing right; he did not know he was doing what God wanted, and reason alone could never have assured him so. His ability to do right was because of a conscience and nature endowed by, and originally in the image of God. This ability to do right things made him liable to judgment for behaving contrarily. Furthermore, why would the Holy Spirit here exalt human reason when he had only a few words earlier demonstrated the ease with which human reason is deceived, and the resultant consequences therefrom? (Rom. 1:21-28). And had the Spirit forgotten an earlier revelation as Jeremiah declared, "0 Jehovah, I know that the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps." (Jer. 10:23)? In order to know God's will Paul, also, argued the necessity of revelation, saying, "Even so the things of God none knoweth, save the Spirit of God" (I Cor. 2.11). Pride in intellectual achievement may make a man think he can discover some truth "by the power of reason alone," but in this day of completed revelation, it still takes book, chapter, and verse.

This same Dr. Stewart is "Director of New Products" for the R.B. Sweet Co. and is an associate editor for The Living Word Commentary being published by them — in case you are interested.

Then consider Harold Straughn, S.T.B., from Harvard Divinity School, an initiator of the House of the Carpenter, and editor of adult materials for the R.B. Sweet Company. He counsels the Junior teacher in this same series: "If your own batteries need to be recharged, read some of the following for stimulation: Emil Brunner, Our Faith, Scribner," etc. Now I have not read Our Faith (at least not Brunner's version) but know who Brunner is. He is a "Crisis Theologian," a modified modernist, the studying of whom has certainly influenced our imperceptive young "man-without the plan", "extra-scripture-Spirit-guidance," and "it's-all-right-to-be-a-denomination", brethren. Cornelius Van Til explains Brunner's estimation of the church thus: "We must, therefore, not seek for the true church or the true creed or the true organization on earth. On the other hand, every church, every creed and every organization is a real and genuine approximation of the ideal" (The New Modernism, p. 296). This is not to indicate that Brunner has nothing worthwhile to say, but when one can grow rhapsodic, or get his spiritual battery charged, thereby, he is a prime candidate for delusion. One will be influenced by whom he is impressed.

And Straughn has been influenced. Of baptism he says: "When a young person is baptized, he is not simply responding to an arbitrary command of God. He is making a decision for himself' (Op. Cit. p. 19). What is wrong with obeying arbitrary commands of God and admitting it? Now I know that in some circles of mutually esteemed intellectuals a harsh god who would expect servile obedience is pass. Have we, also, forgotten the words, "Fear God and keep his commandments," and the companion verse enjoining, "Service well-pleasing to God with reverence and awe"? Are we so lacking in humility that God's desiring a thing is not alone reason enough to perform it, and to so teach?

Straughn also derides specific instruction about baptism. Among other things he says, "...if a person is convinced that he wants to follow Christ, baptism will not be an obstacle. You can make it an obstacle, however, by drawing attention to it and away from the new life in Christ" (Ibid., p.29) I hate to disillusion him, sheltered there behind those cloistered walls of literary professionalism, but millions of persons have been taught that they can follow Christ and enjoy new life in him without baptism. When I declare the whole counsel of God I cannot tell of one without the other; I cannot sneak baptism over on a person without blowing what it is all about, but I have the uneasy feeling that this is what Straughn is advocating. These schooled neophytes could be of greater service if they would scripturally mature a bit and then expend their considerable educational attainments in faithful exegesis rather than in adventurous conceptualism.

In a current ad for Sweet literature, Ralph Sweet has recorded this little verse: "From the cowardice that shrinks from new truth, From the laziness that is content with half truths, From the arrogance that thinks it knows all truth, 0 God of Truth, deliver us." There needs to be an added line: "From the pride that reflects old truth!"

There is more, but I grow faint. Pabulum certainly doesn't sound appetizing, but this new concoction is absolutely nauseating. For the moment I don't think my stomach can take any more. Maybe you had better just hook up the glucose. And hand me my Bible — Please!

— P.O. Box 95, Zion, Illinois 60099