Anglican Commission's Compromise
Sobering evidence of the further tragic moral fall of one of the various sections of Protestant Babylon is found in the recently published report of the [Anglican] Commission on Christian Doctrine in the Church of England. Appointed sixteen years ago, in 1922, by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, this 242-page document has been variously received—with thankfulness by the Modernist wing of her communion, and with distress over its "confusion and compromise" by the conservative, or Fundamentalist, element. The former, speaking through the British Modern Churchman (February) states that it represents "the maximum of agreement, which the commission is able to achieve —it shows itself sensitive to the influence of modern research in the spheres of science, history, and Bible criticism." Its "concessions to Modernism" are marked and fundamental. Note this, for instance, on the incarnation:
"Some among us . . . hold that a full belief in the historical incarnation is more consistent with the supposition that our Lord's birth took place under the normal conditions of human generation. In their minds the notion of a virgin birth tends to mar the completeness of the belief that in the incarnation, God revealed Himself at every point in and through human nature. . . . We recognize that the work of scholars upon the New Testament has created a new setting of which theologians in their treatment of this article are obliged to take account."
Then observe this on the resurrection:
"This consideration, combined with others of a more general sort, inclines some of us to the belief that the connection made in the New Testament between the emptiness of a tomb and the appearances of the risen Lord belongs rather to the sphere of religious symbolism than to that of historical fact. . . . In the judgment of the commission, we ought to reject quite frankly the literalistic belief in a future resuscitation of the actual physical frame which is laid in the tomb."
Then as to angels and demons:
The commission desires to record its conviction that it is legitimate for a Christian either to suspend judgment on the point, or alternatively to interpret the language, whether of Scripture or of the church's liturgy, with regard to angels and demons in a purely symbolical sense."
And finally as to miracles:
"On the other hand, it is to be recognized that many others feel it to be more congruous with the wisdom and majesty of God that the regularities, such as men of science observe in nature and call laws of nature, should serve His purpose without any need for exceptions on the physical plane."
The complacency of the Modernist Anglican over the report is revealed in the closing paragraph:
"Traditionalism is being overwhelmed by secularism, and the only effective defense of the Christian religion today in the modern world is the Modernist presentation of Christian faith and Christian duty. There can be no more fatal error for Modernists than to relax their efforts and ride off the field before complete victory is achieved. The interests of all mankind demand that Christian Modernism should become universal, and when that is realized it is evident how enormous is the task which lies ahead. Nevertheless, we may thank God, and take courage."
But the Christian (February 3), leading conservative paper of that communion in Britain, uses such expressions as, "It is a sign of the times," and stresses the "impression of confusion" that it leaves, declaring:
"It is a serious matter for simple believers everywhere, and for the indifferent and all-too-suspicious world outside, to be confronted with a pronouncement of this kind, to which they are certain to ascribe a kind of official character. Many, within other churches besides the one primarily affected, will be asking a still more serious question than the above; namely, 'What are we to believe?' And many with no allegiance to any church will say, 'They don't themselves know what they believe : why should we bother about it all?' "
Near the close, the pitiful drift of Anglicanism is again disclosed:
"The section on eschatology, while containing some good things, is in parts as vague as are modern notions on the subject; and no clear place is found for the literal personal return of our Lord."
No wonder a Roman Catholic writer in the American Jesuit weekly, America (February 19), observes:
"A partial printing in America of the 242-page report, 'Doctrine in the Church of England,' issued by the commission headed by the Archbishop of York, would help to remove any doubt as to the uncertainty which permeates Protestant belief. Christianity would be in precarious hands were the Church of England its sole champion. The commission's reports should make Catholics thank God that they have a guide in the see of Peter, whose word leaves no room for doubt."
New Modernism Emerging
The Christian Century, spokesman supreme for liberalism, in its issue of February 2 tells of the gladsome affirmation of the Oxford conference that "our Christianity is true," affirmed as with the joy of "a new discovery." Then follows a paragraph that at first seems somewhat auspicious:
"Christians themselves had been doubting it. Or if they had not doubted, they had allowed it to be buried so deep as a presupposition that they had forgotten it. Or they had been whittling away its significance by interpretation. Or they had been substituting doctrinal explanation of the historic facts for the facts themselves. But now there is running through the whole church of Christ an affirmative contagion, an exultant sense of relief from the obfuscations which have characterized our Christanity for more than a hundred years."
But the explanation that follows puts matters in a different light. The essence of both the "new" and the contrasting "old" Modernism are thus set forth:
"A new theological conception of Christianity has emerged in Christian thought. We are at the beginning of a new Modernism. For a generation the term 'Modernism' has been applied to something called liberalism. This was a way of thinking about Christianity, which tried to reconcile it with science and with the results of historical criticism of the Bible. Christianity became ashamed of its own categories and nomenclature, and tried to displace them with the language of science, and especially of psychology and ethics. This effort issued in a conception of Christianity as sheer moralistic idealism. The Christian life was defined as the 'good life,' and the Christian church was conceived as an agency of the good life. Jesus was significant because He Himself lived the good life, and by Ritschl's forced rationalization, His moral preeminence entitled Him to have the 'value' of God for all who came under the influence of His life and teachings."
The significant breakdown and abandonment of the old Modernism must not be missed by us, nor must the specific direction of the new. Note it:
"This 'Modernism' is no longer modern. It is being abandoned for a conception of Christianity as an objective historical phenomenon. Under the new Modernism, Christianity is not a humanistic quest for the good life. It is not even man in search of God. It is God's search for man—a search which He has undertaken by revealing Himself in history. It is not alone a revelation of what man ought to be and do ; it is also the baring of God's mighty arm to save man from the tragedy, the frustration, the guilt, the helplessness which belong to his empirical existence."
Then follows immediately a disavowal of any reactionism or capitulation to Fundamentalism. Its intensified, continuing rationalism is stressed. This should be particularly observed:
"There are those who think of this newer theology as a reactionary movement, a capitulation to Fundamentalism. No greater error can be made. It has less in common with Fundamentalism than with the old-school liberalism. It makes no converts among Fundamentalists—they do not grasp it. Its converts and interpreters have come to it by way of liberalism. It accepts the higher criticism of the Bible and, indeed, carries its criticism of the four Gospels so far that it leaves little basis in the Gospels for the moralistic idealism of Ritschl and Harnack. It recognizes no conflict between religion and science; it stands for the fullest freedom in science, and accepts the findings of science in complete confidence. But it denies that the knowledge which science gives is the knowledge by which mankind may be saved. The truth which makes men free is not the truth which science discovers or can discover. This truth may enslave man, may indeed destroy him. The truth which makes men free is the knowledge of God as He has revealed Himself, and continues to reveal Himself, superhumanly, in the historical community of the faith, which is the Christian church."
Candidly declaring that there is no more pathetic spectacle than that afforded by those liberals of the old school who still defend it, criticism of the old Modernism is unsparing:
"The old liberalism was the victim of an arrested development. It drew its conclusions prematurely. Its conclusions were thin and sterile. It made its judgment before all the evidence was in. It had taken its stand within 'experience,' and it tried desperately to explain reality in terms of experience."
Man's quest for an understanding of the mystery of the universe in its relation to man, and the new modernistic satisfaction over its new-found solution, brings a new trust to the heart. But alas, it is a trust as futile as before, for it is founded on an emasculated Bible, a one-sided outlook, and an ultimate disillusionment.
"Christianity is God's answer. God gives His answer in history, in the person of Jesus Christ, and in the continuing life of Christ as head of the Christian church. It is this change in the whole landscape and outlook of the modern mind that explains the new faith in the truth of Christianity. The inhibitions of the older liberalism have vanished. The Christian faith has broken out of its empirical prison, out of the subjectivity within which both Protestantism and empiricist philosophy have held it. It is beginning to anchor itself in the objectivity of history, in what God has actually done and continues to do for us men and our salvation. The soul of faith breathes again the free air, and it is not strange that it sings a new song of hope and trust."
And here are the closing words of this remarkable editorial—frankly admitting the fallacy and inadequacy of the positions once so stoutly defended :
"It is a creative moment in history. It is both a creative and a re-creative moment in the history of the Christian faith. Gone now is the foolish feeling that our faith depends upon the findings of science. Gone the fear that the Bible may be taken away from us by criticism. Gone the stifling philosophy which imprisoned faith within the narrow walls of subjective experience. Gone, too, the illusion that the world was becoming Christian, that it was already almost Christian!"