The Liberal and the Deity of Christ
March 21st, 1967 @ 12:00 PM
IN DEFENSE OF THE FAITH:
THE LIBERAL AND THE DEITY OF CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Timothy 4:3
3-21-67 12:00 p.m.
And thank you, Daniel “out-of-the-lion’s-den” Beam. He always does great. Now this is a busy lunch hour and some of you have just a few minutes to stay. And you leave anytime that you must. We all understand, and you will not bother me in the least. If you leave in the middle of a sentence or just before the benediction, it is all right.
In this forty-eighth consecutive year that our dear church has conducted pre-Easter services in a downtown theater, forty-six of those years ever since this theater was built, they have been conducted here. In this forty-eighth year the theme that I am following is this: “In Defense of the Faith.” The attacks against Christianity even by her so-called friends are so merciless and so ruthless that I have chosen to take advantage of these noonday services to speak a word in defense of the Christ, and the Bible, and the Lord God who made us and before whom someday we shall stand to be judged. Yesterday the sermon was The Atheist and the Reality of God. Tomorrow it will be The Communist and the Living Church. Thursday it will be The Materialist and the End of the World. Friday, because it is the day on which He was crucified, it will be The Sinner and the Sacrifice on the Cross. Today the subject is The Liberal––the liberal used to be called the “modernist”––The Liberal and the Deity of Christ.
In his last letter written just before his execution, written in the Mamertine dungeon in Rome, the apostle Paul wrote to his young son in the ministry who was pastor at the church at Ephesus. He said to Timothy, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine” [2 Timothy 4:3]. And that time has preeminently come in our day and in our generation. The liberal has done more to destroy the Christian faith than all other men who have attacked Christianity through all of the centuries. The liberal is the man who looks upon the Word of God as being filled with myths, and legends, and fables. The liberal is the man who looks upon Christ as being just one among many other teachers, and philosophers, and heroes, and martyrs. The liberal is the man who looks upon God as being some indefinable first cause and who is dead.
Why is it that the liberal has done more to destroy the Christian faith than all other men of all time? Because if you were to meet a blaspheming infidel and he were to say, “God is dead,” you wouldn’t be surprised. If you were to meet a filthy bum, getting off of a freight train in a railroad yard and he were to say to you, “God is dead,” you wouldn’t be upset. If you were to meet, on Skid Row a drunkard down in the gutter and he were to say, “God is dead,” you wouldn’t be disturbed. If you were to run into a dirty, bearded, communist revolutionary and he were to say, “God is dead,” you wouldn’t be upset or disturbed. But when you see a learned seminary professor teaching in a divinity school and representing the Lord God of his faith, and he says, “God does not exist,” you are amazed. You are overwhelmed, and most so because you stand in awe of his pseudoscholasticism.
This is not a new development. This is not a new departure. This has been going on and growing and growing through the years and the years back. Little by little, these infidel liberals, like a fungus, like a dry rot, have captured our schools, and our seminaries, and many of our denominations. For example, one of our great, far-famed divinity schools, the professor said, and I quote, “An intelligent man who now affirms his faith in miracles can hardly know what intellectual honesty means. The hypothesis of God has become superfluous in religion. Jesus did not transcend the limits of the purely human” [Professor George Burman Foster, University of Chicago].
From another divinity school, I quote from a famous professor, “We shall hardly bandy words about the finality of Christ. The field is open for anyone at any time to mean more to men than Jesus has meant. He was a mere human being. He was a child of His people and of His time” [Dr. J. W. Nixon, Colgate-Rochester Divinity School]. From another great Christian school, they have one. A famed professor wrote:
Whether Jesus ever lived is a historical question that is interesting but it is not fundamental to religion, and if it be suggested in criticism that you have a Christian religion without a historic Jesus, may I suggest that if Jesus was all … that is so generously claimed of Him, He ought not to be so sensitive about His own name or Himself.
[quoted in Leaven of the Sadducees, Ernest Gordon, 1926]
I quote from another professor in a far-famed theological seminary, quote, “I believe that the whole view of the Bible with its theory of a chosen people, special revelations, and prophecies is utterly unconvincingly and basically vicious” [Dr. Morton Scott Enslin, Crozer Theological Seminary]. I quote from another far-famed divinity school and one of their far-famed professors, quote, “I do not believe that the religion of tomorrow will have any more place for prayer than it will have for any other form of magic” [Professor Kirsopp Lake, Harvard University, in Atlantic Monthly, 1924]. And another professor there, “As far as I am concerned the idea of God plays no part in my religion.” And from another professor there, “Where the old religion made the supreme object God, the new religion makes it humanity. Sociology takes the place of theology, and an improved social order replaces the belief in immortality.”
Who has raised his voice against the inroads of this virus? Rarely do you hear it from the pulpit. Practically never will you hear it from a denominational leader or executive. This is from an editorial in a daily newspaper in the city of Chicago, I quote from the newspaper:
We are struck with the hypocrisy and treachery of these attacks on Christianity. This is a free country, and a free age, and men can say what they choose about religion. But this is not what we arraigned these divinity professors for. Is there no place to assail Christianity but in a divinity school? Is there no one to write infidel books except professors of Christian theology? Is a theological seminary an appropriate place for a general massacre of Christian doctrine? We are not championing either Christianity or infidelity, but only condemning infidels masquerading as men of God and Christian teachers.
[from “Our Agnostic University,” Chicago Chronicles, circa 1910]
One of my dear friends went to Chicago University to get his superior degree in pedagogy. And while he was there, he made the friendship of a young Presbyterian minister in the Chicago Divinity School. The time came for their graduation, and the young Presbyterian minister said to my friend, “I am in a terrible dilemma. I don’t know what to do. I have been called to be pastor of an old-time Presbyterian church in the Midwest and they believe the Bible. I do not believe the Bible and I don’t know what to do.” And my friend said to him, “I tell you what you ought to do.” And the young fellow said, “What should I do?” And my friend said, “I think you ought to quit the ministry.” Amen. What an amazing come to pass.
I quote from the American Association for the Advancement of Atheism, quote:
The liberals are saving the ship of Christianity by throwing her cargo overboard. With what zeal the whole crew of rescuers toss out the virgin birth, the atonement, and the resurrection. How long will men sail the seas in an empty ship? They will go ashore and enjoy life with us atheists. We welcome the aid of the liberals and pledge them our fullest cooperation in ridding the world of any serious acceptance of Christian theology.
Somebody asked infidel Bob Ingersoll, of the last generation—he went up and down this country giving famous lectures on infidelity, the mistakes of Moses, decrying, and deriding, and blaspheming all faith in God and in Christ. He quit, and somebody asked the infidel Bob Ingersoll, “Why don’t you any longer go up and down the land with your lectures on infidelity?” And Bob Ingersoll replied, “I’m not needed any more. The preachers in the pulpit and the professors in the divinity school do a far better job than I.” What a come-to-pass in the name of God!
Now let’s come down to us here in Dallas. I picked up a current magazine, a world famous one, on the newsstand. I turned to the department of religion, and this is an article on theology. You can read it now. “For contemporary theologians, God is a dimming concept. Protestant Christian atheists”—I can’t imagine such nomenclature—“Christian atheists stand ready to write His obituary. Catholics and Protestants alike admit that the proofs for God’s existence can be satisfactorily disproved.” This man in taunting, this theologian thinks that “atheists such as Freud”—Freud!—“have a point in viewing religion as something that in the past has hindered rather than helped self-development.”
In the future, Christianity might not conceive God as a being, which means literally that God does not exist, since existence is a property of beings only. And insofar as the word God has become a symbol of an outdated, outmoded supernatural idol, the church might well resign itself to silence as to the name of the being it affirms and preaches.
Today on the newsstands, and I tore off the front page of the Dallas Morning News—a few days ago, we had a confab here in our city, so I just tore off the front of the page. Quote:
For people to be completely honest they would have to be completely naked. “Why do I wear a clerical collar?” he asked the group, then proceeded with the answer, “Because I don’t have to wonder what I’m going to wear in the evenings. I don’t have to pick out neckties.”
What a noble commitment to his faith! That would inspire any man. His clerical garments have nothing to do with religion at all. Like that wag who said about us, “We go to church on Sunday. We’ll be all right on Monday. It’s just a little habit we have formed, has nothing to do with religion at all.” What astonishment!
I continue. About the sacraments he said, “You can baptize with spittle. People don’t understand the sacraments. I look at the eyes of fathers and uncles who say, ‘Let’s get the hell out of here. There’s a TV show I want to see.’” In the presence of the holy ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, “Let’s get the hell out of here, there’s a TV show I want to see”; a minister of God! Oh, being a Baptist, man am I amazed! “You can baptize with spittle.”
Jesus walked sixty miles from Nazareth down to the Jordan River where John the Baptist was baptizing in the Jordan River [Matthew 3:13-17]. “You can baptize with spittle.” I would submit that to any man or any infidel, “Brother, that lots of spit!” Oh, oh! Reminds me of a sign in Pennsylvania, “Don’t smoke, remember the Chicago fire.” And underneath a wag wrote, “Don’t spit, remember the Johnstown flood.”
Oh, these modern ministers are amazing critters! When one church youth worker said he is hung up on the concept of Jesus, the minister––this one that we’re talking about––he replied, “I can’t yet bring myself to say Jesus is the Lord Christ.” Then he can’t be saved! I did not avow that. I do not originate this message. I am a voice crying in the wilderness; I am an echo. I just parrot what I read. It is God who said he cannot be saved.
Listen to the Word of the Lord. Romans 10:9, “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus is Lord . . . thou shalt be saved.” Listen again to 1 Corinthians 12:3, “No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Spirit of God.” Listen again to [Romans 8:9], “If a man have not the Spirit of God, he is none of His.”
“I cannot bring myself to say Jesus is the Lord Christ.” But he is a minister in the church and a representative at a great national convocation in the city of Dallas.
I must close. Briefly, how much else would I like to say! Briefly, may I state five great facts affirming the deity of Christ?
One: His birth. Genesis 3:15: “And the Seed of the woman shall crush the serpent’s head.” But a woman doesn’t have seed. The man has seed. And the old rabbis pored over that passage for millenniums, “The Seed of the woman shall crush Satan’s head.” Isaiah 7:14: “A virgin shall conceive, and bring forth a Son, and they shall call His name God in the flesh, Immanuel, God is with us” [Matthew 1:23]. Isaiah 9:6: “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall rest upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.” “God was made flesh, and dwelt among us; (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only [begotten of the] Father in heaven)” [John 1:14].
Second great fact affirming the deity of Christ: His life, His life. He possessed the power of Almighty God. What He did, He did by fiat, He spake the word and it was done. The winds and the waves were quieted [Luke 8:23-25]; the sick and the crippled were healed [Mark 2:3-12], and the very dead were raised from the grave by a word [John 11:43-44]. As by fiat God spake, and the spheres were flung into orbit [Genesis 1:14-19], as God spake and the universe was filled with the light of the presence of God [Genesis 1:3], so He spake and death was obedient to His voice [1Corinthians 15:54-57].
Third great fact affirming His deity: His resurrection, His resurrection, His resurrection [Matthew 28:1-7]. O strong Son of God, immortal love, raised from the dead by the power of God [Ephesians 1:19-20]. And having “purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high” [Hebrews 1:3]. “Wherefore He is able to save to the uttermost them who come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them” [Hebrews 7:25]. Try it and see whether He lives or not. Bow down and pray to Jupiter, to Juno, to Janus; see how empty, ridiculous, sterile! Bow down and pray to Alexander, to Caesar, to Charlemagne, to Lincoln, to Washington; how foolish, how unimaginable! Bow down and pray to Jesus the Lord of glory and see if it does not fit, if it is not appropriate. “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” [Romans 10:13].
Fourth: His atonement for our sins. Were He a man He should have had to die for His own sins. Oh, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one into his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all. [Isaiah 53:6] “He was made sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” [2 Corinthians 5:21]. Friday, O God, help me to preach Friday, The Sinner and the Sacrifice on the Cross; able to wash the stain out of our souls.
Five: affirming the deity of Christ, His glorious coming again. “Behold, He cometh with ten thousands of His saints” [Jude 1:14]. The text of the Revelation, Revelation 1:7:
Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also who pierced Him: and the families of the world shall wail because of Him…
And the seventh angel sounded; and I heard the voices of heaven crying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He shall reign forever and ever—
King of Kings, and Lord of lords, forever and ever, hallelujah! No wonder Handel said, “I heard the angels sing,” as he wrote down his “Hallelujah Chorus.”
I cannot but close with the affirmation of Richard Gilder:
If Jesus Christ is a man,—
And only a man,— I say
That of all mankind I will cleave to him,
And to Him will I cleave alway.
If Jesus Christ is a God,—
And the only God,—I swear
I will follow Him through heaven
The earth, the sea, and the air!
[“The Song of a Heathen,” Richard Watson Gilder, 1908]
And our Master, in that avowal of faith and in that commitment of love and devotion, Lord, help us to stand as lights in this dark, dark generation. Oh, that our churches might shine with the glory of the knowledge of God in the face of Jesus Christ! [2 Corinthians 4:6]. In His Spirit, in His love and mercy, and in His precious name, amen.