by Nathan Busenitz
7 Lessons We Should Learn from the German Liberal Theologians and Higher Critics:
1. The way to reach skeptics with the gospel is not by watering down the gospel.
Many of the liberal theologians thought they could make Christianity more appealing to Enlightenment rationalists if they abandoned the historical authenticity of the text; and if they redefined the gospel as something other than salvation from sin through Christ (thereby making it less offensive to modern minds). But, in so doing, they actually undid the very gospel they thought they were helping to preserve.
2. True religion can be lost in just one generation.
Most of the German liberals were the sons of orthodox, Protestant ministers. The fact that they turned their backs on the faith of their fathers is tragic. As those training to be pastors, seminary students need to make sure they are shepherding their own families first and foremost.
3. German liberalism does not represent merely a divergent form of Christianity, but — in actuality — a completely new religion.
If historical fact is removed from the gospel it is no longer the gospel. The apostle Paul makes this point clear in 1 Corinthians 15, where he asserts that if Jesus did not really rise from the dead, then we are fools and our faith is worthless.
4. The liberals honored doubt as being noble and intellectually honest.
In reality, doubting God’s word is a heinous sin. It is a sin that Satan has been promoting ever since the Garden of Eden (in Genesis 3). To doubt God’s Word is to make God a liar. It is also to reject the true gospel for a gospel of one’s own imagination. As Augustine told the heretic Faustus, “You ought to say plainly that you do not believe the gospel of Christ. For to believe what you please, and not to believe what you please, is to believe yourselves, and not the gospel.” (Against Faustus, 17.3)
5. German liberalism teaches us that ideas have consequences, and that bad ideas have very bad consequences.
Millions of people in the last few centuries were tragically led astray through the influence of the liberal theologians and higher critics. The warning of James 3:1 certainly seems apt here: “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we shall incur a stricter judgment.”
6. The social gospel of the liberals is still alive and well in many mainline Protestant churches.
The skepticism of the higher critics is still very much part of biblical studies in the academic world. Future pastors need to be ready to confront these kinds of errors with biblical truth (Titus 1:9).
7. Higher criticism, in particular, is built on the notion that the wisdom of man trumps the revealed wisdom of God.
This is the height of arrogance. But it is not surprising, since Paul himself noted that the wisdom of God seems like foolishness to the world (1 Cor. 1:18). We must guard ourselves against the temptation to covet worldly praise and academic accolade. To be faithful to the gospel, we will necessarily be thought out-of-vogue with many of today’s leading philosophical thinkers. While we must avoid anti-intellectualism on the one hand, we must also guard ourselves against the allure of whatever is popular in the secular academic community.
-Nathan Busenitz, Read the full article here