ONE of the very evident signs of this closing generation is that "knowledge shall be increased" (Dan. 12:4). Men of the twentieth century are not content merely with the knowledge of their forefathers. This is a time of investigation and specialized research. Scientists are seeking to penetrate the secrets of the universe. They are probing farther and farther into outer space, as well as deeper and deeper into the earth and sea. The inquisitive mind of man wants rational answers to questions that former generations have been content to leave within the realm of mystery.
Investigation is a good thing, for without it there would be no scientific progress. It is good as long as conclusions are based upon actual discovery and not on speculative deductions. The danger of higher learning, with its program of research, is that man will become so confident in the inerrancy of his own reasoning powers that he will be led to believe in something that is not factual.
The realm of Christian theology has also been invaded by the spirit of the times. The lover of the Holy Scriptures may thrill with the added light shed upon the Bible story by the recent finds of archeological scientists, yet he can justifiably be wary of the strictly intellectual approach of not a few contemporary theologians in their interpretation of the Sacred Word. Much as we are indebted to many Bible scholars for helping us better to understand obscure passages in Holy Writ, yet their "critical" or "objective" investigation of Bible truth carries with it the same danger as a program of research in any scientific field—the danger of fallible human reasoning.
Today the power of the Christian gospel is being nullified by modernist theologians who through philosophical analysis and argumentative dialog have explained away such mysteries as the virgin birth and the deity of Christ, and put in their place a secular Christianity that is little more than humanism dressed in sophisticated terminology. To such men as Cecil Northcott of the Christian Century, evangelical Christianity such as Billy Graham espouses is "a simple one for simple people in simple times." (See Christianity Today, June 24, 1966, p. 25.) The inference is that the literal Biblical account of salvation is too naive for the learned of this enlightened age. The innocent recording of miracles, such theologians aver, might be appropriate for the ignorant and superstitious of former ages, but today all this is out of date and does not meet the approval of a scientific generation.
What has been the result of this trend? Let L. Nelson Bell in his article, "Cause and Effect" (Christianity Today, June 24, 1966, p. 20), give the answer: "As ministers have lost their faith in the full authority and integrity of the Scriptures, the vacuum in their preaching has been filled by social concerns. Once our pulpits were filled with men who preached the Word of God with power and conviction, men whose consuming passion was to make Christ known to a lost world. But preaching has changed, and many people go away from the services—if they bother to attend—unfed and frustrated." He goes on to say, "Contributing to the lost spiritual power of the church are those theological seminaries that have trained men not so much to know and preach the Word of God as to become experts in the concerns of the world." Then he concludes:
"When the church . . . shifts its emphasis to social reform rather than personal regeneration, it abdicates its high calling and becomes but one of many secular agencies dedicated to the good of society. 'What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?' This is not a rhetorical question but the expression of a truth we must heed."
In our day there is much speculative talk about the Scriptures but little searching of the Scriptures. Students pore over weighty tomes on Christian dogmatics but leave the Book of books almost unopened. They become well versed on what contemporary theologians mean by such expressions as "divine encounter," "the ground of our being," et cetera, yet they are strangers to the meaning of Christ's words, "Ye must be born again." Should they use the Bible, it is either to point out a discrepancy or to support a preconceived idea. Little wonder, then, that graduates from current divinity schools leave those halls not with the authoritative "It is -written" upon their lips, but the indecisive "So-and-so explains it thus. . . . Maybe he is right; maybe he is wrong. That's up to you to determine."
It will always be so when carnal minds attempt to discern the things of the Spirit. Intellect is no substitute for holiness. The Bible says in no uncertain terms, "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Cor. 2:14). Therefore, only men of faith, who in deep reverence humbly approach the Word of God, asking for the Spirit of truth to guide into all truth, will be able to "rightly" divide "the word of truth."
Only men who go to the Scriptures to be fed will be able in turn to effectively feed the flock. Only men who are born of the Spirit will be kept from wresting the Scriptures to their own destruction and to the destruction of many who hear them. It is the unction of the Spirit that qualifies men and women to expound the things of the Spirit.
Intellectual Giants and Spiritual Dwarfs
Intellectuality and spirituality should go hand in hand, but too often they do not. Intellectual giants are frequently spiritual dwarfs. How often intellectuality elevates the man of letters above the Man of Sorrows. Intellectuality worships learning itself and turns away from God, who is the beginning of wisdom. Well put are the words of Samuel Chadwick in his book, The Way to Pentecost, pages 82-85: "When religion turns to humanity for its inspiration and to the world for its power, God is dethroned and the sanctuary becomes a secularized fellowship. . . . The pure flame of holy enthusiasm is a safer guide than the dry light of cold reason. The soul's safety is in its heat."
Solomon is the prime example in, the Scriptures of the folly of worldly wisdom. It was while he regarded himself as but a little child in intellectual attainments that God was able to make him a wise and understanding sovereign. But he proved unable to endure the spiritual stress that comes with fame and wealth. He became a recognized authority on natural phenomena, and the scholars of earth came to sit at his feet. Glorying in his own wisdom, this once model ruler became a profligate, tyrannical monarch. Not until his declining years did his spiritual nature reawaken. Only then could he say of mere human understanding, "All was vanity and vexation of spirit."
How much more inspiring it is to read of Moses who though "learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians" chose "rather to suffer affliction with the people of God" (Acts 7:22; Heb. 11:25). With regard to this wise choice the Spirit of Prophecy writings make this comment: "Moses was fitted to take pre-eminence among the great of the earth, to shine in the courts of its most glorious kingdom, and to sway the scepter of its power. His intellectual greatness distinguishes him above the great men of all ages. As historian, poet, philosopher, general of armies, and legislator, he stands without a peer. Yet with the world before him, he had the moral strength to refuse the flattering prospects of wealth and greatness and fame."—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 246.
Moses was not without human frailty. Becoming a favorite military leader in the armies of Egypt, the sins of pride and self-sufficiency crept into his character. It was necessary for him to get away from a life of ease and luxury, beyond the plaudits of men, in order to develop the virtues of patience and humility. The last forty years of Moses' life demonstrate the effectiveness of a leader who is possessed of sanctified wisdom. And what greater tribute could be given to this mighty intellectual than the parenthetical inscription of Numbers 12:3: "Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth." Moses can rightly be said to possess the spirit of the One who came to earth nearly fifteen centuries later and admonished His hearers, "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls" (Matt. 11:29).
We cannot but admire the great intellectuals whom God has given to this denomination. Not a few, such as J. N. Andrews, Uriah Smith, and F. D. Nichol, have been laid to rest. But their works do follow them. These were men who knew what they believed and spoke their convictions with unwavering faith. These were men who were deeply spiritual and preached the Word with power. They were ever ready to champion the truth delivered to the saints. Such dedicated ministers gave the trumpet a "certain sound," and because of their dedication to truth as it is recorded in the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy writings, this denomination has been kept from the pitfalls of fanaticism on the one hand and liberalism on the other.
One of the great dangers to the people of this denomination is that worldly learning will blunt the sword of truth and rob us of our sense of mission. Our great need is for educators who are not only scholastically qualified to teach but spiritually qualified to lead. Our greatest concern should not be our scholastic standing before accreditation boards but our spiritual standing before the Judge of the universe. Then let our institutions be filled with professors who are not only convicted of the truth but are themselves sanctified by the truth. Only then can this denomination continue to give the trumpet that "certain sound," which will warn the nations of earth and gather out a people prepared for the imminent coming of the Lord.
To all who would contemplate going to outside universities for their academic degrees I would warn you in the words of a dedicated man mighty both in intellectual discernment and spiritual prowess: "Be careful that nobody spoils your faith through intellectualism or high-sounding nonsense" (Col. 2:8, Phillips).* If a professor has permitted exposure to worldly philosophies in outside institutions to rob him of his faith in a "Thus saith the Scriptures," or to rob him of intimate communion with his Maker, or of his vision of the gospel to the world in this generation, or of his burden to train youth dedicated to the unfinished task, he is doing a disservice to the cause to accept employment in this denomination, which has been divinely appointed to preach the last warning message to a dying world. The men who shook the world after Pentecost were unlettered fishermen. The men who will shake today's vastly wider world just before the Lord's return may or may not be college trained but they certainly will be Spirit-filled "fishers of men."
Thank God there are still men of God with academic degrees in this denomination who can speak in a language that all can understand. They have by their influence and sanctified example given the lie to the theory that intellectuality and spirituality are mutually exclusive. Let every pastor, every teacher, every worker in our ranks, seek first a deep spiritual experience in Christ and then let him ask humbly for heavenly wisdom to explain heavenly truths in accord with Heaven's wishes.