3. Rome Undermines the Protestant Foundations


THE second, and more effective, weapon Rome used against the Reformation was “higher criticism,” in an effort to undermine the very foundation of Protestantism.

The strongest appeal of the Roman Catholic Church lies in its claim to “apostolic succession,” that is, that its popes descended in direct line from the apostles. Protestants, originating in the sixteenth century, have no such appeal. Their strong argument lies in their exact conformity with the Bible in faith and morals. “The Bible, and the Bible only” is their battle cry. The Bible reveals man’s utter inability to attain justification by his own works, and offers it as a “free gift,” obtained by faith in the merits of Jesus Christ alone. The Bible presents good works only as the natural fruit of genuine faith. On this foundation was Protestantism built. Before going further we shall let Catholics and Protestants state their foundations.


Catholic Foundation


“Like two sacred rivers flowing from paradise, the Bible and divine Tradition contain the Word of God, the precious gems of revealed truths. Though these two divine streams are in themselves, on account of their divine origin, of equal sacredness, and are both full of revealed truths, still, of the two, Tradition is to us more clear and safe.” - “Catholic Belief,” Joseph Faa di Bruno, D.D., p. 88. New York: Benziger Brothers., 1912.


 “But since Divine revelation is contained in the written books and the unwritten traditions (Vatican Council, I, II), the Bible and Divine tradition must be the rule of our faith; since, however, these are only silent witnesses, ... we must look for some proximate rule which shall be animate or living . . . . The Bible could not be left to interpret itself.” Therefore Catholics declare the “Church to be its acknowledged interpreter.” And under the heading: “The Catholic Doctrine Touching the Church as the Rule of Faith,” we read: “Now the teaching Church is the Apostolic body continuing to the end of time.” But of the teachers of this body, they say: “Unless they be united with the Vicar of Christ [the Pope], it is futile to appeal to the episcopate in general as the rule of faith.”

They then sum up their rule of faith thus: “Hence we must stand rather by the decisions which the pope judicially pronounces than by the opinions of men, however learned they may be in Holy Scripture.” - “Catholic Encyclopedia,” Vol. V, pp. 766-768, art. “Faith, Rule of.” The teaching Church, with the pope at its head, is therefore the Catholic “rule of faith.” Thus we see that the Roman Catholic Church places tradition above the Bible as more safe, and substitutes the pope for the Holy Spirit as the guide. Christ promised His followers: “Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth.” “He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance.” John 16:13; 14:26. That these promises are not confined to the leaders of the church, is made plain by John, who applies them to all Christians: “But the anointing which ye have received of Him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, . . - ye shall abide in Him.” 1 John 2:27. In answer to these Scriptures the Catholic writers say:

“Nor can it be said that being a divinely inspired book, its prime Author, the Holy Ghost, will guide the reader to the right meaning.” - “Things Catholics Are Asked About,” M. J. Scott, S. J., p. 119. New York: 1927.


Protestant Foundation


Protestants have announced as their rule of faith: “The Bible, and the Bible only,” with the Holy Spirit as its sole Interpreter. William Chillingworth, M. A., says:

“The Bible, I say, the Bible only, is the religion of Protestants! I for my part, after a long and (as I verily believe and hope) impartial search of ‘the true way to eternal happiness,’ do profess plainly that I cannot find any rest for the sole of my foot but upon this rock only. I see plainly and with my own eyes, that there are popes against popes, councils against councils, some fathers against others, the same fathers against themselves, a consent of fathers of one age against a consent of fathers of another age, the church of one age against the church of another age. . . . In a word, there is no sufficient certainty but of Scripture only for any considering man to build upon.” - “The Religion of Protestants,” William Chillingworth, M. A., P. 463. London: 1866.

“The Bible, I say, the Bible only, is the religion of Protestants!’ Nor is it of any account in the estimation of the genuine Protestant, how early a doctrine originated, if it is not found in the Bible. . . .

“He who receives a single doctrine upon the mere authority of tradition, let him be called by what name he will, by so doing, steps down from the Protestant rock, passes over the line which separates Protestantism from Popery, and can give no valid reason why he should not receive all the earlier doctrines and ceremonies of Romanism, upon the same authority.” - “History of Romanism,” John Dowling, D. A, pp. 67,68. New York: 1871.

This childlike faith in the Bible as God’s infallible word carried the Reformers above all opposition, and swept over Europe with an irresistible force which threatened to engulf the old, decaying structure of the Roman church. This unabated force could be broken only by robbing Protestants. of their implicit faith in the Bible. They would then lose their power as surely as did Samson, when he was shorn of his locks. (Judges 16: 19, 20)


Rome Undermining Protestant Foundations


Richard Simon, a Roman Catholic priest, called the “Father of Higher Criticism,” in 1678 wrote “A Critical History of the Old Testament” in three books, laying down the rules for a more exact translation. He advanced the new theory that only the ordinances and commands of the books of Moses were written by him, while the historical parts were the product of various other writers. Simon’s declared purpose was to show that the Protestants had no assured principle for their religion. (See edition of 1782) “This work led to a very extended controversy and the first edition was suppressed (Catalogue of R. D. Dickinson. 1935. No. 462. p. 10, book No. 167). So vigorous was the opposition of the learned, that his theory lay dormant for seventy-five years. The Catholic Encyclopedia says:

“A French priest, Richard Simon (1638-1712), was the first who subjected the general questions concerning the Bible to a treatment which was at once comprehensive in scope and scientific in method. Simon is the forerunner of modern Biblical criticism. . . . A reaction against the rigid view of the Bible [was one of] the factors which produced Simon’s first great work, the ‘Histoire critique du Vieux Testament’ [‘Critical History of the Old Testament’] which was published in 1678. . . . It entitles him to be called the father of Biblical criticism.” - Vol. IV, P. 492

“In 1753 Jean Astruc, a French Catholic physician of considerable note, published a little book, ‘Conjectures sur les memoires originaux dont il parail que Moyse s’est servi pour composer le livre de la Genese (Conjectures on the original records from which it appears that Moses composed the book of Genesis).”‘ - Id., same page. (See also New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Vol. I, p. 336, art, “Jean Astruc”).

His book is rightly named, for in it he conjectured that the book of Genesis must have been written by two different authors, because the Creator is there called “God” (“Elohim.”) in some places, and “Lord “ (“Jehovah”) in other places. Such a line of reasoning would be as inconsistent as to claim that Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians, for instance, must have been written by two different apostles, because our Saviour is there called “Jesus” in some places, and “Christ” in others. But what about the places where He is called “Jesus Christ”? And so in Genesis. Who wrote the five passages where He is called “Lord God” (“Jehovah Elohim”)? In 1792, Dr. Alexander Geddes, a Roman Catholic priest of Scottish origin, carried this “fragmentary hypothesis” still further. Absurd as this theory was, the Protestants fell into the trap set for them, and Germany, the seat of the Reformation, became the seat of this destructive “higher criticism.” Today this inconsistent criticism of the Bible has invaded the seminaries, colleges, and universities of practically all Protestant denominations, and few ministers are free from its blighting influence. Edwin Cone Bissell, Professor in McCormick Theological Seminary, Chicago, carried out this “fragmentary” theory in his book, “Genesis Printed in Colors, Showing the Original Sources from Which It Is Supposed to Have Been Compiled “ (Hartford, 1892), displaying the seven colors of the rainbow in shorter or longer fragments, each representing a different author or editor.

Harold Bolce spent two years investigating American colleges from Maine to California, and wrote his astounding findings in the Cosmopolitan Magazine, May to August, 1909. Here are a few expressions culled from his report:

“In hundreds of classrooms it is being taught daily that the Decalogue is no more sacred than a syllabus; that the home as an institution is doomed; that there are no absolute evils; that immorality is simply an act in contravention of society’s accepted standards; . . . and that the daring who defy the code [the moral law] do not offend any Deity, but simply arouse the venom of the majority - the majority that has not yet grasped the new idea; . . . and that the highest ethical life consists at all times in the breaking of rules which have grown too narrow for the actual case. . . .

“There can be and are holier alliances without the marriage bond than within it. . . . Anything tolerated by the world in general is right. . . . The notion. . . . that there is anything fundamentally correct implies the existence of a standard outside and above usage, and no such standard exists.” - Pp. 665, 666, 674, 675, 676.

Can anyone wonder at what Dr. Charles Jefferson declares? He says:

“A theological student at the end of the first year of his seminary course is the most demoralized individual to be found on this earth. His early conception of the Bible has been torn down all the way to the cellar, and he is obliged to build up a new conception from the foundations.” - “Things Fundamental,” pp. 120, 121.

 In regard to the inevitable result of teaching the rising generation such revolutionary ideas, and of undermining completely their moral standards, and their belief in God, the editor of the Cosmopolitan Magazine says in a note to Mr. Bolce’s articles:

“These are some of the revolutionary and sensational teachings submitted with academic warrant to the minds of hundreds of thousands of students in the United States. It is time that the public realized what is being taught to the youth of this country. ‘The social question of to-day,’ said Disraeli. ‘is only a zephyr which rustles the leaves, but will soon become a hurricane.’ It is a dull ear that cannot hear the mutterings of the coming storm.” - “Cosmopolitan Magazine,” - May, 1909, p. 665.

The Bible declares: “They have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.” “There is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land. By swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery, they break out, and blood toucheth blood.” Hosea 8:7; 4: 1, 2. (Compare 2 Timothy 3: 1-5) Yes, the saying is true, that “whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” Galatians 6:7.

The Christian Register for June 18, 1891, page 389, commenting favorably on the work of higher criticism, says: “

Thomas Paine, though stigmatized and set aside as an infidel, finds reincarnation in the modern scientific Biblical critic. . . . He lived too far in advance of his age. The spirit of modern scientific criticism had not yet come. . . . And now it is interesting to find that, in a different spirit and with different tools, and bound by certain traditions. . . . the professors in our orthodox seminaries are doing again the work which Paine did.”

As long as these men domineered over the Old Testament, most of the Christian teachers remained silent. But the work did not stop there. The Lutheran Pastor Storjolian of Oslo, Norway, says of Wellhausen:

“After they have permitted him to domineer over the Old Testament for more than twenty-five years, it is not more than reasonable, and a just punishment, that he in his presumption has now undertaken his war on the Gospels.” - “Bibelen paa Pinebaenk [The Bible on the Inquisitorial Rack],” p. 7. Christiania, 1907.

In closing let us briefly point out the road which higher criticism had to travel, after it had taken the first step: When critics had denied the historicity of the books of Moses (the Pentateuch), they discovered that the Psalms referred to them as acknowledged history. (Psalms 33:6, 9, 29:10, 77:20, 103:7, 105:6-45, 106:7-33.) To be consistent, the Psalms had to be rejected. They also found that the books of Joshua, Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, and Nehemiah, and the prophets acknowledged the Pentateuch as the inspired work of Moses (Joshua 23:6; 1 Kings 2:3; 2 Chronicles 35:6, Nehemiah 8:1, 8; Daniel 9:11, 13; Malachi 4:4), so these books had to be rejected.

But then they found that the New Testament repeatedly referred to the Old Testament as inspired authority (about eight hundred twenty-four times), and to their consternation they discovered that Jesus declared the first five books in the Bible were written by Moses (Mark 12:26; Luke 24:25, 44, 45), and that He asked: “If ye believe not his [Moses’] writings, how shall ye believe My words?” John 5:46, 47. The critics had declared that the account of the Flood was only a myth, which no intelligent person could believe. But Jesus said: “Noe entered into the ark,” and “the Flood came, and took them all away.” Matthew 24:33, 39. He even believed the truthfulness of the account of Jonah’s being in the great fish for three days, and of his preaching in Nineveh afterwards - (Matthew 12:40, 41.) There was, therefore, no way of reconciling Jesus to higher criticism, so they rejected Him as the divine Son of God.

For if Jesus did not know that those Old Testament stories were only myths, He was deceived. If He knew this, and yet taught them, He was a deceiver. In either case He could not be divine, they reasoned.

“If in the dawning of the fortieth century, it shall be found that the law and the prophets are obsolete, the Gospels and Epistles discarded, Moses forgotten, and Paul and his writings set aside to make room for the inerrant productions of [higher critics]. . . . if it shall then appear that the hunted prophets who wandered in sheepskins and goatskins, and were destitute, afflicted, and tormented, ‘of whom the world was not worthy,’ have gone down before the onslaught of the learned and well salaried professors of modern universities; if it shall appear that the word of the Lord which they uttered at the loss of all things and at the peril of life itself has paled its ineffectual fires before the rising radiance of oracular higher criticism; if it shall then be learned that God hath chosen the rich in this world, poor in faith, and heirs of the kingdom - who can tell how welcome this information may prove to those who suppose that gain is godliness, and that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a poor man to enter the kingdom of heaven?” - “The Anti-Infidel Library,” H. L. Hastings, “More Bricks from the Babel of the Higher Critics,” pp. 172, 173. Boston: Scriptural Tract Repository, 1895.

Some might properly ask how Romanists dared to start higher criticism. Would not this menace be equally dangerous to their church? Absolutely not! The Roman church rests on an entirely different foundation. The Church, and not the Bible, is her authority. She flourishes best where the Bible is least circulated, as history amply shows. But Protestantism that rejects the inspiration of the Bible, has abandoned its foundation, and stands helpless. It is like a ship that has lost its mooring, thrown away its chart and compass, and is drifting toward - Rome.



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