Modernism may be described as a modern way of looking at all the great facts and problems of Christianity. Modernists usually admit that there may be no real finality about their view of things; all they care for is that they shall be up to date and that their view accords with the latest teaching of science. In essence, Modernism seeks to account for the origin of the world and of the plants and animals upon it by purely naturalistic processes. This is sometimes termed the theory of uniformity, which says that the present is the measure of the past and of all the past. It is the denial of miracle, a denial of the supernatural; and in natural science it is opposed to the view that there ever was a great universal deluge by which the plants and animals of the world were destroyed and their remains buried in stratified deposits. Similarly it is opposed to the belief in an actual creation at the beginning, which must have been a supernatural event; for Modernism is naturalistic through and through, and thus it is thoroughly, evolutionary, for evolution means a naturalistic development of the plants and animals (including man), in accord with processes now going on.
In that wonderful prophecy of 2 Peter 3: 3-7, we have a true picture of Modernism. The scoffers, or " mockers," as one translation expresses it, are represented as saying, in the last days, " Where is the promise of His coming? " In other words, Where is there any sign or indication of the second coming of Christ? And the reason they give for this view is that " since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation." In other words, these men argue from the present uniformity of nature and the absence in modern times of anything like a miracle or the supernatural, that there never was any violent interruption of the present course of nature, not only from the close of creation, but " from the beginning of the creation." Thus we see that these last-day scoffers teach not only the present uniformity of nature without miracle or anything supernatural, but they extend this reign of present natural law clear back to the beginning of things. And they make this view a reason for denying any such event as that of the second coming of Christ in the future, because such a coming would be a supernatural event, and a violent interference with the present order of nature.
I wish to emphasize the vivid accuracy of the picture which Peter here gives of the evolutionists and Modernists of our own day. It will probably be admitted that during the past twenty-seven or twenty-eight years I have given considerable study to the subject of the evolution doctrine. And I can testify that I would not know how to put into a few brief words as good a description of what Modernists believe and how they argue regarding both the future and the past.
We as Adventists believe in the Sabbath as a memorial of a creation completed. Thus the Sabbath marks the boundary line between a supernatural origin of things and a present naturalistic order, by which the things which were created are still perpetuated and sustained. When Christ was being tried before the Sanhedrin for an alleged violation of the Sabbath, by healing a man on that day, He said, " My Father worketh hitherto, and I work." Thus it is evident that all that God does at present in preserving and perpetuating the things which He has made, is not in any way out of harmony with the idea of the Sabbath as the memorial of a finished or completed creation.
But, according to Peter, the scoffing Modernists of the last days illegitimately argue from the basis of the present quiet and orderly course of nature back into the past, denying that there ever was any such thing as an actual creation by which the present order of things had its beginning; for they say that the present order of things has continued " from the beginning of the creation."
But Peter tells us something even more significant. He explains how these Modernists came to. adopt this method of thinking and reasoning. He says that they entered into this condition of mind as the result of ignoring or disregarding the record of a universal deluge. He makes clear that "they are willingly ignorant of," or as another translation expresses it, they " willfully forget," the great fact of a universal deluge in the long ago by which the animals and plants were destroyed and their remains buried in deposits of clay, and sand, and gravel. Peter's argument is that since there was such a destruction of the world by water long ago, there may reasonably be a destruction of the world by fire in the future; for both events are under the control of God and His word.
But the scoffing uniformitarians of the last days argue with a degree of consistency, harmonizing with their premise, that there never will be any supernatural end of the world, or any second coming of Christ, because there never has been any violent interruption of the ordinary course of nature its the past.
Here again we see the marvelous accuracy of this divine record, for history shows that Darwinian evolution was based upon the evolutionary geol-. ogy of Lyell, who taught a theory of geological uniformity, and denied that there ever was a universal deluge in the long ago. Even now it is a fact that the whole scheme ofevolution can be maintained only by denying that a world cataclysm like that of the deluge ever took place, and that the fossil plants and animals were buried by any such event.
Other prophecies in the Bible outline political events, and some picture the conflict over strictly religious issues. This prophecy in Peter gives us the conflict of the last days regarding scientific and philosophical problems. It is a most accurate picture of present-day conditions In this respect, and it shows how important it is for us to understand these matters and to be able to explain them to the world. The Sabbath as a religious institution, and the universal deluge • as a scientific event, are the two great master keys with which to solve the perplexing problems of the last days. These divine truths are intimately related to each other. And happy is the minister who is able to see in them the needed solution to all the modernistic and evolutionary problems of our day.
Instead of seeking to have more of the Holy Spirit, we should yield ourselves to Him, that He might have more of us.— Hopkins.
* Professor Price's position as an authority in the religio-scientific field needs no reiteration here. Formerly professor of geology in Union College, and now president of Stanbarough College, England, he is also author of a dozen scientific treatises dealing with varied aspects of the anti-Christian evolution theory. We have promise of several articles from him for this section.— Ed.
Studies in Historical Theology
No. II — The Government of the Apostolic Christian Church
I have purposely used the term " apostolic Christian church," because there is a difference between that church and the ancient Catholic church, which later became the Roman Catholic Church.
The apostles of Christ organized the first local churches as they went about preaching the gospel. We must bear in mind that in those days there were no state, union, or divisional conferences; neither did there exist tract societies, home commissions, or educational or Missionary Volunteer departments, as we now have. Persecution was an ever-present foe, following closely on the trail of the apostles and believers as they went from place to place, and it was impossible for them to keep in touch with each other, as we now do. Printing presses, railroads, the telegraph, et cetera, were unknown. The conditions under which the church was organized and operated must be taken into account when we deal with the early church and its government.
Under four distinct headings, the organization of the church as set forth in the New Testament, is herewith presented: (1) The Legislative Power of the Local and General Church; (2) The Executive Power of the Local and General Church; (3) The Judicial Power of the Local and General Church; (4) The Ministry.
The Legislative Power of the Church
The inspired writings of the New Testament do not give in detail the principles of the government of the church, but what we have is sufficient guide to us in our study of church order and organization. In Acts 15 we have a brief history of the first general council, held in Jerusalem, for the purpose of deciding what should be done in regard to the division which had occurred over the matter of circumcision. This council was composed of the representatives or delegates chosen and sent by the churches to meet with the elders in Jerusalem for consideration and settlement of the questions. After much prayer and discussion, the recorded canon was drawn up, and received the signal approval of the Holy Spirit, (See Acts 15: 1-33.) It was commanded that the believers " abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication." This was pure legislation.
The Executive Power of the Church
Executive power was invested by the convened delegation in the committee which they chose to carry out the decision of the council. This committee was composed of Paul, Barnabas, Barsabas, and Silas. (See verse 22.) When these men reached Antioch and delivered the message of the decision of the council in Jerusalem, they represented the executive power of the whole council. (See verses 30-32.) This was no arbitrary command. They spoke as the highest authority in the church — the General Conference Council which had made a decree, under the approval of the spirit of prophecy, without doubt, for Barsabas and Silas were prophets also. (See verse 32.)
The Judicial Power of the Church
The apostle Paul gave the church instruction that under no consideration should brother go to law with brother. (See 1 Cor. 6: 1-8.) That is to say, they should not go to the civil courts of Rome for justice. Instead, each church should select its own tribunal, or court of justice, for settlement of the case under dispute. It must be remembered that the church had no right to inflict penalties that were contrary to Roman law, or even in harmony with Roman law, for that matter, as the judicial power of the church relates to its own church discipline, and not to Roman civil law. For example, in 1 Corinthians 5: 1-13 reference is made to a member of the church who was guilty of incest, and Paul admonishes, " Put away from among yourselves that wicked person." In another instance, Paul says, " A man that is a heretic after the first and second admonition reject." Titus 3: 10. This instruction is in harmony with that found in Matthew 18. Thus it can be seen that every church, as such, had local autonomy in its own sphere of work, in the legislative, executive, and judicial departments.
The gospel ministry, as a profession, in New Testament times and ever after, has nothing in common with the Levitical priesthood or the pagan sycophants. In the organization of the early church, deacons were appointed to the secular work in the church. Acts 6: 1-7. One of the deacons, Philip, was an evangelist. Acts 8. Elders were chosen for the ministry of the church in general, local elders being appointed for each church. From the tine of Paul's call to the ministry (as recorded in Acts 9) to the time he was ordained to the ministry (Acts 13), there is an interval of about ten years, during which time Paul worked as one we now term a " licentiate." Later in his work as an apostle and elder, he said, " Lay hands suddenly on no man." 1 Tim. 5: 22.
Paul called himself a " servant," " apostle," " prisoner," and yet he was an ordained elder of the church. Peter called himself an " apostle " (1 Peter 1; 1), and an " elder." 1 Peter 5: 1. We have the record, in Acts 20: 17, of where Paul called the elders (Greek, Presbuterous) together for a council, and told them that the. Holy Spirit had made them overseers (Gr., Episkopous) in the church. (See verse 28.) In the epistle to Titus, Paul instructs him to ordain elders (Presbuterous) in the churches in every city, and specifies the qualifications which must be found in individuals elected as bishops (Gr. Episkopous). (See Titus 1.)
In the New Testament the term: " elder " and " bishop " are synonymous. The local elder was also a local bishop. The general elder or apostle was also a general bishop. All elders were bishops, and all bishops were elders. The local elders had a limited sphere of influence, whereas the general elders had a larger field of operation, preaching in many churches. The early Christian church had no class distinction. They were all brethren. In their assemblies, all had a vote. Each local church had its own home government; it was a pure democracy. When occasion arose, they sent representatives from the churches to a general council, which then became a representative democracy.
(In the next article the aim will be to point out what the early church faced in the Roman world.)