A Course in Christian Evidences Needed

A Course in Christian Evidences Needed-1

A chapel talk to history and Bible teachers and seminarians in General Conference chapel, Thursday, August 15, 1940.

By F. D. NICHOL, Associate Editor, Review and Herald

There are five propositions which we wish to set forth as a basis for our remarks: 

1. The Seventh-day Adventist Church is not a static body. On the contrary, we are militant proselyters who seek to persuade men in every walk of life to accept our teachings.

2. These teachings are not mystical, but, in the right sense of the word, rational. We ap­peal to reason, history, and even arithmetic and astronomy at times in the exposition of our doctrines. And all these doctrines are anchored to the Bible, in the most conserva­tive, orthodox sense.

3. This present time is one of unparalleled. upheaval in social, religious, and political thought, and is as different from the placid age in which this movement began as night is from day. And nowhere has the upheaval been greater than in the religious realm, where we have witnessed a repudiation of the Bible as -the infallible source of spiritual truth.

4. A series of abstract theological tenets, no matter how Scripturally correct, cannot hope to stir the imagination or enthusiasm of men, or provoke from them loyal acceptance in an age of crisis, such as ours. The tenets of a religious movement must stand revealed as coming to grips with the issues of the day.

5. Our Adventist youth, to whom we look for the perpetuation of this movement through their personal living and through their prose­lyting, are, unconsciously, creatures of the era in which they live, and are affected, markedly, by the thought of the day. Furthermore, these Adventist youth are, to a remarkable degree, going into professional life, where, either dur­ing their training or after, they are challenged by the modern intellectual viewpoint.

These propositions may be briefly summar­ized thus: We are a militantly proselyting church which seeks to persuade men's minds concerning the Bible in an age of great up­heaval and crisis, and we must increasingly commit this task of proselyting to our youth, who are creatures of these times and who are entering professions in which they are challenged by the modern intellectual viewpoint.

From such propositions as these, certain conclusions naturally flow. These conclusions have a meaning for the leadership of the de­nomination in general and for every branch of the movement in particular. But most of all, these conclusions have an interest and a significance for the educational leadership of this cause.

We lack the most essential criterion for se­curing a proper orientation to this or any other educational problem unless we include in our reckoning that the youth in any generation are creatures of their age and their times—un­consciously, perhaps, but nevertheless certainly. We may preach the counsel of perfection, that we are to be in the world but not of the world. But we must all realistically admit that the world is too much with us, or at least with our children; and in an all-pervasive sense that the poet probably did not realize. The very axioms of thought that largely determine the whole viewpoint of living, and the sense of values in morals and religion on the part of any generation of men, are markedly affected by the cultural and intellectual environment in which that generation grows up.

Now, to the extent that we consider this en­vironment bad, to that extent we seek to isolate our youth from it. But at best, the period of isolation is short, and then follows a lifetime of exposure for most of our youth. But it may seriously be questioned whether it is wholly possible, even during school years, to isolate minds from an "atmosphere," any more than it is possible to isolate physical bodies against wind-borne maladies.

Might it not be well to give more attention to immunization in its varied forms. Isolation protects only during the period of separation, while immunization may often be effective for a lifetime. Mature persons have been known to come down with children's diseases, who had been parentally guarded against those dis­eases in their earlier years. And more than one adult in our ranks has broken out with a "rash" of skeptical ideas, even "going out of his head" as the feverish malady increased, who was carefully protected against exposure during his youthful years.

Modern medicine is now advocating the pro­gram of immunization in childhood and youth, to build up antibodies in the life-giving blood stream that can meet and destroy the particu­lar virus, no matter when or by what means it makes entry into the body. Should we allow the children of this world to be wiser in their generation than the children of light? Or should we give more definite attention to intel­lectual immunization?

We do not wish to venture into the thorny field of accreditation. But the simple fact that the denomination, after much misgiving, has finally committed itself to a policy that requires no small measure of contact with an alien in­tellectual atmosphere, makes this inquiry even more pertinent. Nor does the recommenda­tion that only those of mature years be advised to study in universities, reduce the pertinency., In the first place, protection against infection is not acquired simply by the passage of years; and secondly, the definition of "maturity" has been made exceedingly elastic. If we are com­pelled to send some of the best of our race down to Babylon, then let us make sure that, like certain worthies of old, they are prepared to meet the sophistry of Babylon.

However, accreditation is only one illustra­tion of the fact, albeit a significant one, that isolation from the world is not wholly possible. We mention it only in passing.

II

It is evident that we are approaching, first, the concluding proposition in our series. This is because we believe that the protection of the spiritual integrity of our own youth is even more primary and vital to our denominational existence than the compassing of land and sea to make proselytes. And, besides, it is our youth whom we send over the earth to carry on the work of proselyting.

We know of nothing more tragic than for a promising youth, in whom the denomination has invested much in giving him an education, to be later bewildered and led astray by the plausible agnosticism of our day. And what makes the tragedy more depressing is that sometimes such bewilderment and defection might have been prevented. But even though this youth's faith is sufficiently strong to with­stand the skeptical atmosphere he meets in his chosen profession—and, thank God, this is very often the case—he soon makes a disturb­ing discovery. He discovers that it is very hard to establish a point of intellectual agree­ment with his worldly acquaintances from which to begin a presentation of our advent message. He can hardly start in immediately to discuss our distinctive doctrines from the series of proof texts he has learned in school, because his acquaintances have little or no faith in the Bible.

For example, he finds it very difficult to im­press on the minds of his worldly-tutored friends the significance of our most distin­gushing doctrine, the Sabbath, for the Sabbath owes its meaning to creation, and creation has been displaced in their minds by evolution. In fact, our graduates discover that the thinking of today, whether it be religious, sociological, or what not, is largely built on the submerged premise that man is the product of evolution.

III

We are simply closing our eyes to a problem if we declare that our youth should be able to stand any assault on their personal faith simply because of the good training they have received in the doctrines of the Bible, and that if worldly-educated men refuse to accept our plain Bible truths, we should shake the dust off our feet and depart. Nor is it sufficient to say that, after all, our chief evangelizing en­deavor is in behalf of the common people. comforting ourselves with the Scriptural dec­laration that not many wise are called.

In the first place, we should remember that today a rapidly increasing percentage of the population, in this land at least, have received more than enough schooling to place them above the level of the common people, educa­tionally speaking, and that this education has largely been received in schools in which skep­tical views are dominant. Do we wish to leave an increasing per cent of the populace outside the orbit of our endeavor? In the second place, we ought not to excuse our failure to reach more of the educated classes by declaring that God has hid these things from the wise and revealed them unto babes. Without doubt, the truth is hid from multitudes who have received a befogging education, even though they might not have acquired wisdom. But God places no prohibition upon our seeking to pierce the fog that surrounds them. And who knows, we might even find a Nicodemus among them betimes.

The "Thus saith the Lord" that we quote to educated men, is challenged in their minds, not simply by a "Thus saith some skeptical phi­losopher," as was the case in former genera­tions, but by a "Thus saith the scientist." Here is something new in the history of human thought, and in the age-old attempt of men to find an answer to the question asked by Pilate, "What is truth?" The search has moved, at least in part, out of the realm of the subjective into that of the objective. The philosopher's cloak that Justin Martyr wore so ceremoni­ously in his endeavor to deal with the worldly-wise men of a bygone day, has given place to the research worker's apron. Skepticism, that ancient and chronic malady of sinful men, formerly entrenched itself behind the nebulous fog banks of subjective, philosophical specula­tions. The battle might be confused, but at least the ramparts were not hard to sur­mount.

But today skepticism is entrenched behind a fearsome array of scientific equipment, and the breastworks have been built from an awesome collection of ancient bones and rocks. Of course, some use is made of philosophical *speculations, but chiefly as a smoke screen be­hind which to carry on an attack. The propa­ganda broadcast from their parapets confi­dently declares that they have the weapons that will now destroy the fortress of Bible be­lievers. And to make their propaganda most demoralizing, they claim to have as their shock troops a motley array of grotesque creatures, half ape, half man, the very sight of which will put their enemies to rout. So effective has this propaganda become that many "neu­trals," whose background gave them some nat­ural leanings toward Bible believers, have been intellectually cowed, afraid to display such sympathetic leanings lest they become the ob­ject of attack. And even some Bible believers have abandoned their position without a fight, so overawed were they.

In the light of these facts, and other related ones that might be mentioned, we believe that no student should be graduated from one of 'our colleges without having received some spe­cial training that will acquaint him with the weapons and tactics of the enemy, and will enable him to meet them successfully. Our archenemy is the same as ever, but to have the best success in the fight today, with the least casualties, we should send forth our youth with some knowledge of the tactics of pres­ent-day fighting. Minimizing the enemy and his strategy never won a battle.

_______ To be concluded in November


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By F. D. NICHOL, Associate Editor, Review and Herald

October 1940

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