Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 12, 1955

Modernism In Gospel Advocate Literature

Robert C. Welch, Louisville, Kentucky

Attention has been called in this series to the fact that the writer of the Adult Gospel Quarterly, second quarter, 1951, of the Gospel Advocate has quoted freely from several modernist authors. The Gospel Advocate, i.e., its editor and anonymous author, has quoted from, Preaching From The Prophets, a book by Kyle M. Yates. In fact, it seems that he has had more quotations taken from his book than the quarterly has given him credit for. Yates was on the revision committee for the new modernistic translation of the Bible. He wrote the book while living in Louisville, Ky., teaching Old Testament in the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

This same book has been used as a class text in David Lipscomb College. The book is literally filled with modernistic teaching. Is there a connection between the college and its use of this modernist literature, and the copying of the modernism into the Gospel Advocate literature? Will the college and the paper become a combined agency for propaganda of modernism? It is commonly reported that they are connected in a business way.

An atheist, Charles Smith, had a debate on atheism with W. L. Oliphant in 1929, which debate was printed. In the course of the discussion, the atheist said; "The Fundamentalists of this country have lost control of almost every theological seminary. They will soon lose control of the Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Ky. They lost their last major school in the North this year when they lost Princeton Seminary." (p. 26).

It is readily admitted that that prediction about the Baptist Seminary has come to pass. Students in that seminary report that modernism has become a joke there. Yates is possibly among the first to lead the school away from fundamentalism. He is no longer there, but others are carrying on the trend with even greater vigor. This is one of the men from whom the Gospel Advocate so freely quotes.

Modernism Is Elusive In Nature

Some modernists go so far as to deny the miracles, the virgin birth, and the resurrection of Christ. But not all of them will go so far. Others reject any inspiration in the writing of the Bible above that of the natural abilities of secular authors of classical works. Others will admit a degree of special inspiration, but limit it to mere thought impulses, possibly arising from circumstances facing the author, or from emotions stirred from existing conditions. None of them will aver verbal inspiration of the Scriptures. Yet this is the claim made in the Scriptures themselves: "Which things also we speak, not in words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Spirit teacheth; combining spiritual things with spiritual words. (1 Cor. 2:13.)

The teacher of modernism may deny that he is a modernist. When he does so he is using the term in its more general sense. It is entirely possible for the modernist who denies verbal inspiration to believe in the virgin birth of Christ. This is the avenue of departure into modernism. The least step is taken first. There is really no difference in principle between the two seeming extremes of modernism. Both are denying the plain statements of the Scriptures. One degree of the theory is as easy to hold as the other. However, if any attempt at justification of the quarterly's modernist teaching is made, this writer predicts that it will be on the grounds just stated. Those responsible for the statements will persistently aver that they strongly believe in the inspiration of the Bible, in the virgin birth, and resurrection. Possibly they will quote statements of theirs to that effect. But the question of the degree of such inspiration will have very slight treatment from them.

Habakkuk, The Gospel Advocate, And Yates

The Advocate's lesson on Habakkuk has taken its modernism almost bodily from Yates' description of the prophet. But the author has not given Yates any credit for the statement. Notice the quotations from the two sources:

"He has been called the 'freethinker among the prophets,' and the 'father of Israel's religious doubt,' but these descriptions do not do him justice. He was a careful student of life and the experiences of men; and he had difficulty in harmonizing the rich promises and the dire threats of God with the actual happenings which came under his observation. When his doubts arose and he could not reconcile a bad world with a good God, he refused to dismiss his doubts without an answer. He was honest, fearless and dogged in his determination to solve the perplexing problems which faced him." (Advocate Quarterly)

"He has been called the 'freethinker among the prophets' and the 'father of Israel's religious Modernism doubt; but we must realize that he was a man of clear faith and powerful hold on God

"In addition he was a careful student of life and the experience of men. It was at this point that his most serious problems arose, for he had great difficulty in harmonizing the rich promises and the dire threats of God with the actual happenings of his daily observation.

"When his doubts arose and he could not reconcile a bad world with a good God and a righteous law, he refused utterly to dismiss his doubts without an answer. He was honest and fearless and dogged in his determination to find the solution to the perplexing and conflicting problems." (Yates, Preaching From the Prophets, pp. 152, 153.)

Only a casual perusal of the two quotations will show that the Advocate quarterly has quoted from Yates. The quarterly does not give Yates credit for the statement.

The phraseology makes the author sound scholarly. It seems that the word for such practice is PLAGIARISM. The Advocate EDITOR once severely criticized the practice of such "fraud" and "purloining.' The excuse cannot be given that the quarterly author only happened to use the same phrases and that he is even unacquainted with Yates' works. Such an excuse will not be adequate, he has shown his familiarity with Yates by having given him credit for some other quotations in the quarterly. An apology is now in order for this bit of malpractice.

Observe the modernism in the quotation. Was Habakkuk the "freethinker among the prophets," and the "father of Israel's religious doubts."? The author of the quarterly wanted to make a slight change in the wording, so, he says that the statements "do not do him justice."

Oh, where is faith! Is that the strongest term a Gospel Advocate writer can use in refuting this sample of the most rabid infidelity? That a prophet of God should be described as a "freethinker" is the darkest night of modernism and infidelity. Yet all the Advocate can say is that it does not do him justice. Actually the scholarly writer is halfheartedly agreeing to the description.

According to the quarterly and Yates, portions of his prophecy came from his "careful study of life and the experiences of men." That ascribes prophecy, not to inspiration but, to philosophical and psychological background, training, and observation. That is the kind of thing one must expect to come from those who seek their information on scriptural teaching from among the writings of modernists. Further: Habakkuk is supposed to have had "difficulty in harmonizing the rich promises and the dire threats of God with the actual happenings which came under his observation." Maybe he did have trouble in so doing, but that has nothing to do with the motivating power in producing the book of prophecy. The inspired men, of course, had their personal problems and observations. But to say that the prophecy springs from such a source is a denial of inspiration. The things Habakkuk wrote are there, not because of his inability to see God's purposes but, because it was revealed to and through him by the Spirit.

The Advocate quarterly also insists with Yates that the book was written because of Habakkuk's "determination to solve the perplexing problems which faced him."

Is Habakkuk explaining the process of his solving the problems, or is he writing, in dialogue form, the things which God revealed to him by the Holy Spirit? (2 Peter 1:20,21). These men are leaving the principle of inspiration and are emphasizing the human element as pre-eminent in the production of the Bible. Ward Is Their Mentor.

Both the Advocate quarterly author and Yates quote freely from Ward on Habakkuk as well as the other prophets. In this instance the quarterly author gives Ward credit for the statement. Does he do it because he has studied Ward's Portraits of the Prophets? or, does he use the name because he is still quoting from Yates? Yates quotes the statement with a similar introduction:

"Ward says of him, 'out of his doubts, the prophet forged a new belief in the character of the Infinite. Against the dark background of human hatred, greed, and aggression stood forth the presence of the All-Holy. Where before he had been on the brink of despair, like a traveler lost in the trackless desert, like a shipwrecked mariner dying of thirst, now the circumstances were subordinated to faith ....' "

This passage is quoted in the quarterly without any comment, hence it is to be taken as the position of the author. If you want to know how at least one part of the Bible came into existence, then let the Gospel Advocate tell you that Habakkuk "forged a new belief in the character of the Infinite." If you want to know why he "forged this new belief" then let the Gospel Advocate tell you that he "forged" it "out of his doubts." Belief forged out of doubts! Inspired prophecy born of religious doubt! Such DRIVEL may sound PRETTY and SCHOLARLY, but it does not come from a man who genuinely believes that "men spake from God, being moved by the Holy Spirit." A man who does believe in inspiration should be ashamed to pass on such modernism to his brethren. If the Gospel Advocate believes the Bible is inspired, she ought to be more careful about publishing such destructive teachings of modernism, and should do something to correct the false teaching of the past.

(Continued )