Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 2, 1955
NUMBER 5, PAGE 1,15a

Modernism In Gospel Advocate Literature

Robert C. Welch, Louisville, Kentucky

This article is on a slightly different phase of modernism. Also it reviews a different selection of the Gospel Advocate Bible study literature. The former articles have dealt with modernism in the Adult Quarterly. This review will be on the Annual Lesson Commentary, for March 12, 1950. The identity of the author is not the concern of these articles. This may, or may not, be the same author who wrote the statements in the Adult Quarterly which have been reviewed. It makes no difference, however, the literature teaches modernism.

This has been pointed out. The company and its editor hold the responsibility for such teaching and should seek to make correction.

Christians Named By Enemies?

The writer of the Annual Lesson Commentary does not express any conviction as to the origin of the name, Christian. He gives the theories which have been presented about the origin of the name. The theory that it was given by the public is made prominent in his comment, without any kind of criticism of the theory. In fact, he seems to think it might be correct. Notice this paragraph:

"By whom the disciples were first called Christians is a very difficult problem to solve. But we may be sure the Jews did not give them this name, for they would never connect the name Anointed with a sect so despised by them . . . . Since the church was composed of both Jews and Gentiles, they could not be referred to by the public as either Jews or Gentiles. So there are some who think the public gave the church members this name simply for the sake of distinguishing them from other groups. They could not be called Jews, Greeks, or Romans; none of these names would fit, so since they honored Christ in preaching, worship, and everyday life and conversation, the public simply gave them the name Christian." (ibid p. 72.)

This is the kind of drivel which might be expected from some denominationalist who has no respect for the scriptural titles but would seek to justify his human titles in religion. It is not the kind of statement to be expected from literature which is supposed to respect the scriptures and their approved examples. The scriptures definitely do approve of this title. (1 Peter 4:16.) It is shameful for a Christian to propound the theory that the name is given by the public in derision, when the Lord has approved it. In reading the foregoing statement of the annual one cannot tell whether the last sentence is the position of the author or whether it is continuing to express the views of others. In either case very little difference can be seen, for the author nowhere denies that this is his position. To him, it is just as plausible as any other. It is the position of modernists. It is another case of taking from the Bible its inspiration and attributing the things contained therein to the work of human minds.

His Proof Text Misapplied

The annual next gives a dissertation on the "idea" that the word for "called" in the original meant a "divine calling" or meaning. Yet his inference is that this is not the case because he thinks he has another passage using the word where it does not have such a meaning.

"Then there is the idea suggested by the Greek word translated were called, which is that they were divinely called. The Greek word is defined as follows: to transact business, have dealings with; a divine warning, advise; a divine monition, communication. The word is translated warned of God in a number of passages. (Matt. 2:12; Acts 10:22; Rev. 8:5; 11:7.) This use of the word has led many to conclude that its meaning here is that the disciples were called of God, or divinely named, Christians. However the word is used when it does not have this meaning (Rom. 7:3) where Paul says, 'she shall be called an adulteress.' If the name is God-given we may conclude that it came through inspired men, of whom there were a number in the church at Antioch." (ibid, p. 72.)

Is just so happens that the passage he uses to prove that the verb does not mean a divine naming is exactly the passage which would prove that the naming is of divine origin. The argument of Romans 7 is that the law says who is an adulteress. If a woman marries a second man without the death of the first husband, she is not called an adulteress by the decision of men. The inspired writer is arguing that men know what she is because the LAW OF GOD HAS CALLED her an adulteress, and men are to accept that decree.

The verb used in Acts 11:26 is active voice in the Greek rather than the passive as in most English translations. The indication is that Barnabas and Saul (they) gathered with the church, taught the people and called the disciples Christians. One could as easily assume that the public taught the church as to assume that the passage teaches that the public named the disciples Christians. There is no reason for such an assumption. The only logical explanation is that the name was God-given through these inspired men. The whole quibble is but an attempt to destroy any significance to the name Christian. It is just another example of destructive modernism. Notice the doubt expressed in his concluding sentence concerning its origin, "If the name is God-given we may conclude that it came through inspired men ...." If this name which has God's approval does not come from him, can we safely say that anything has come from God? Could not the Annual author just as easily prove that the first day of the week assembling was a human arrangement as to say that this name was of human origin? Once such a breach is made in the wall of belief in the inspiration of the scripture precepts there is no strength left, the entire wall of faith is ready to topple.

What The Scholars Say

No necessity is seen of further exposing the Annual's doubting lack of position on the question. The destructive nature of its comment is plainly evident. But it is not amiss to notice what scholars have to say on the subject.

J. W. McGarvey has the following interesting note in his commentary on Acts:

"But the supposition adopted by many, that this name was given by the enemies of the faith in derision, is groundless, as is very clear from the consideration that there is nothing in it belittling or contemptuous. It is just such a case as a number of grave and dignified friends of the cause, had they been sitting in council on the subject, may have adopted. For its divine approval, we need no other assurance than that found in its acceptance by the apostles."

There is a lengthy article on this passage, Acts 11:26, in Lard's Quarterly, March, 1864. In the article the passage is analyzed carefully and, according to the analysis, the grammatical structure of the passage will not allow the meaning that the name was given by the public. The article does not attempt to prove that it came directly from God, but, according to the grammatical analysis, it proves that the name must have come through the inspired teachers and the apostle Paul. Study the entire article and see if it can be gainsaid. One quotation is given to show the conclusion reached by the article:

"As, then, inaugurating the work before us, we submit the following rendering of the passage, which we shall at once proceed to defend, namely:

"Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to seek Saul; and finding him, he brought him to Antioch. And it happened that for a whole year they were brought together in the church, and taught a large crowd, and called the disciples Christians first in Antioch."

Need For Fundamental Bible Study

Destructive modernism is eating at the very vitals of the church. Preachers are searching through the sermons and writings of popular denominational orators for their sermon material. As long as this is done there is but one inevitable result, the preaching will sound more and more denominational and modernistic, and less and less fundamental presentation of the scriptures will be given. This same practice is developing in gospel papers and Bible study literature. When writers must go to denominational interpretational sources for their material instead of depending upon a basic understanding of the inspired text they are bound to let the denominational theories slip into their writings. If they happen to be getting their material from modernists their writings will inevitably contain modernism.

This is what we have tried to show in this series of articles. The Gospel Advocate series of literature has been dipping into the wrong source material. The writers have partaken of the fruit of modernism, and are now passing it on to the churches in their literature. In our Bible study literature we need to get back to a closer study of the scriptures themselves. If this teaching of modernism continues it will destroy the faith of those who use it. No personal reflection or impugning of character is intended in the series. The intention has been, however, to impress the fact as strongly as possible that the modernism being published by the Gospel Advocate is of a most serious nature. Perhaps the series will cause some to take notice of its serious destructiveness.