The Deadly Virus of Liberalism Under the Microscope

by Ted Kyle

Beginning this month, and continuing through the October issue, Pulpit Helps is featuring an important series on historical criticism. The series is actually a serialization of a key chapter in an almost-forgotten book written by a German theologian and one-time disciple of Rudolph Bultmann, a leading figure and hero in the camp of theological liberalism.

Thus the author, Etta Linnemann, knows her subject from the inside out, and exposes its "givens" and its false conclusions with clarity and authority. She also tells in detail how liberalism, like a parasitic worm, devours its host, the church of Jesus Christ, from within. She also shows how the liberal establishment inducts earnest young Christian scholars and remolds them into destructive copies of the liberal pattern.

About the time this editor was born, the great scholar J. Gresham Machen sought to stem the tide of liberalism in his generation. Here is how he described the issue: "…the great redemptive religion which has always been known as Christianity is battling against a totally diverse type of religious belief, which is only t he more destructive of the Christian faith because it makes use of traditional Christian terminology" (from Christianity and Liberalism).

Machen and his fellow warriors for truth were unable to save the mainline churches and the great religious colleges and seminaries of his day. The latter became, and remain, bastions of essential unbelief in the authority of Scripture, the authenticity of our Lord's miracles, the accuracy of the prophets, and the details of Christ's life and even His deity.

Some say the battle has "moved on." And certainly we are faced with the tragic results of yesterday's defeats: the sagging morality within the church; its relative silence on the great issues of our day; its readiness to compromise with the world. But the battle for the truth of God's Word is still the heart of the conflict.

It is entirely possible that we, like Machen, are fighting a rear-guard action. It is also possible that a little light let into the devious corners of liberalism can help turn a corner-as the Southern Baptists have been turning a corner away from the taint of liberalism in several schools and institutions.

In any event, it is important to enter the fray. Whether or not God crowns one's efforts with success, it is vital to stand up and be counted. Every organization, every individual does make a difference…. "You in your small corner and I in mine."