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Vol. 4, No. 7
July, 1995

The Prodigal Son: Saint or Sinner?

by Glenn Conjurske

That the prodigal son represents a lost sinner has been the common belief of the church for centuries, and not without reason. But this is now denied by many, and the prodigal is held to represent a backsliding saint. The reason for this modern departure from the interpretation of the centuries is plain enough. There can be no manner of doubt that the theme of the parable is repentance, and to grant that this parable pictures the salvation of a lost sinner will of course involve us in the doctrine that repentance is a condition of salvation. But this is precisely what a great many modern evangelicals will not allow, and to escape this consequence, they deny that the prodigal son represents a lost sinner. But they have precious little with which to prove that the prodigal is a saint.

I am aware of but two arguments to that end. First, the parable begins with, “A certain man had two sons,” and if the prodigal was a son, he must of course be a saint. I reply, the parable says, “A certain man had two sons,” and if this statement proves that the prodigal was a saint, it equally proves that his elder brother was a saint. Unfortunately, this will give little difficulty to most Fundamentalists. Those who can contend that Simon Magus was a true saint (for he believed!) will have no trouble about the elder brother. Yet it is strange business to make a man out to be a true saint, who murmurs against his Father, and refuses to enter his house. But to make either of these sons out to be a saint renders the whole parable irrelevant to the occasion. The chapter which contains this parable begins with, “Then drew near unto him all the PUBLICANS AND SINNERS for to hear him. And the PHARISEES AND SCRIBES murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.” (Luke 15:1-2). The Lord immediately answered this murmuring of the Pharisees with a trilogy of parables----the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son. The first two of these parables end with rejoicing in heaven over one SINNER that repenteth. While the Pharisees on earth murmur, the angels in heaven rejoice. These two parables were spoken, of course, to answer the state of the hearts of these murmurers. So also was the third, which immediately follows the other two. And the two brothers in the parable of the prodigal son exactly represent the two classes of men before the Lord when he spoke it. The younger son is one of those SINNERS whom the Lord received----and the parable graphically and beautifully portrays how and upon what terms the holy God receives sinners. The elder son represents the murmuring Pharisees----murmuring at God because he receives sinners. This is all so plain and so obvious that it is really a wonder that anyone could miss it. But it is all thrown away by those who make the prodigal a saint rather than a lost sinner.

Moreover, elsewhere we see the same two characters under the same figure of two sons in another of Christ's parables, which begins with exactly the same words. “A certain man had TWO SONS, and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard. He answered and said, I will not. But afterward he repented and went. And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir, and went not. Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, that THE PUBLICANS AND THE HARLOTS go into the kingdom of God before YOU.” It is perfectly plain that the “two sons” here represent two classes of ungodly, lost sinners. The first son is the publicans and harlots, who openly repudiate the authority of God. The second son is “the chief priests and elders of the people,” to whom the parable was spoken, who professed submission to the authority of God, but rendered no obedience. These are the same two classes which we see in the parable of the prodigal son. And here, as there, the first son “repented,” and so entered into the kingdom of God. In the parable of the prodigal, the two classes are not explicitly defined in the parable itself, though it is perfectly obvious from the context. But here the “two sons” are defined as “the publicans and the harlots,” and “you”----that is, the elders of Israel, to whom the Lord was speaking. All of this proves beyond doubt that the “two sons” in the parable of the prodigal may both represent lost sinners, as in fact they do.

A second argument that the younger son represents a true saint is that at the beginning of the parable he is seen in the father's house, though he afterwards leaves it. This is really no more than a variation of the argument that he is a son. Of course a son belongs to the father's household. But the fact that he belonged originally to the father's house is really nothing to the purpose. This only sets the stage for the parable. It is equally true that the lost sheep, so far as the parable reads, belonged originally to the shepherd who lost it. So also the lost coin. The woman had ten pieces of money, and lost one. And yet we know certainly that both the lost sheep and the lost coin represent a sinner that repenteth. This is a good illustration of the soundness of the principle that no parable can be forced to go on all fours. Some things are necessary to the setting of the parable, in order for it to hang together and make good sense, and were never designed to have any significance in the interpretation. The point of all of these parables would be lost if this setting were dispensed with. A man does not bring home with rejoicing a lost sheep which is not his. A woman does not call her friends together to rejoice with her over a piece of silver which is not hers. This original ownership is an absolute necessity for the setting of the parables. And so also is the sonship of the prodigal. Let this lost son be anything but a son, and all that is tenderest and most telling in the parable is immediately lost. That he should be a son is a simple necessity for the setting of the parable, but was surely never meant to indicate that the lost son was not lost after all, any more than the original ownership of the lost sheep and the lost coin meant to teach that “one sinner that repenteth” means “one saint.”

But if folks are determined to press the fact that the prodigal appears originally in the father's house, they will not gain much by it. The fact is, he went out, and as John tells us, “They went out from us, but they were not of us, for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us. But they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.” (I Jn. 2:19). Though the prodigal's body was in the father's house, his heart was in the world. He was glad to take all that the father had to give him----even had the audacity to ask for it as though it were his right----but his heart was far from his father, longing only to break his bands asunder and cast away his cords from him. The prodigal in the father's house, receiving of his bounty, is nothing more than a picture of man as he is by nature. “He giveth to all life, and breath, and all things,” says Paul to the heathen at Athens, and to the same heathen he says, “We are the offspring of God.” Nothing more than this can be made of the original place of the prodigal.

Again, it must be remembered that the parable of the prodigal son does not stand alone. It is the third of a trilogy of parables, all of them spoken to answer the murmuring of the Pharisees over the fact the Christ received sinners. Those three parables are, the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son. Though we cannot escape at this time of day from the common designation of “the prodigal son,” the Bible does not call him prodigal, but lost. “This my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.” (Luke 15:24). And again at the end of the parable, “This thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.” (Luke 15:32).

We might just as well argue that the lost sheep must represent a true saint, because it was a sheep, as to argue that the son must be a saint because he is called a son. The parable itself will not allow this, and neither will the usage of Scripture elsewhere. Thus in Matthew 10:6, “Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” That these lost sheep are lost sinners is plain enough, for he says of those who will not receive their testimony, “It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment than for that city.” (Verse 15).

Again in Matthew 18:11-14, “For the Son of man is come to SAVE that which was LOST. How think ye? If a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven that one of these little ones should PERISH.”

So also in Luke 15. The lost sheep is lost----ungodly, unconverted, and unsaved----and so is the lost son.

But this brings us to the doctrine of the parable. It was spoken to answer the murmurings of the Pharisees against Christ, because he received sinners. The parable teaches that in receiving sinners he was doing the work of God the Father, who receives sinners indeed, and receives them with open arms----with kisses, and best robes, and fatted calves, and music and dancing. But the parable is just as clear that it is upon their repentance that they are so received. The joy of the shepherd over his sheep, and of the woman over her coin, are the joy which is in heaven over one sinner that repenteth. It is for those who insist that men are saved by faith alone, with or without repentance, to inform us why these parables are not concluded with “joy in heaven over one sinner that believeth.” This would suit their theology exactly, but as the parables now stand, they cut directly across the grain of that theology.

And really, no one whose heart and mind are formed by the Bible doctrine of salvation could doubt for a moment that the prodigal son is a lost sinner. What! a child of God wasting his substance with riotous living in the far country? What! a saint----a holy one, that is, for that is the only meaning of the word “saint”----a saint devouring his father's living with harlots? Those who can believe this have never taken seriously the plain declarations of the New Testament----such as:

“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.” (I Cor. 6:9-10).

Again, “For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with empty words, for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.” (Eph. 5:5-6).

Once more, “Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that doeth sin is of the devil.” (I Jn. 3:7-8).

But these solemn declarations of holy writ----these solemn warnings against deception----have been ignored by many. I know Christian parents who have ungodly children, living without God in the world, and without a spark of holiness, and yet those parents seem to have no concern whatever about them. They are just prodigal saints----children of God after all, and “safe in the fold,” though living a thousand miles from it. I was at a Saturday evening fellowship meeting in a Bible church in Milwaukee some years ago, and a young lady brought up the case of a friend of hers who had turned his back upon God, and not only upon God, but upon nature also, and was living openly in that sin which is against nature. For three fourths of an hour his case was discussed, and not one person ever hinted that the man might not be saved. On the contrary, the general substance of the remarks was that there was really nothing to worry about, for he was a true child of God, and God would surely bring him back, as he did the prodigal.

A few years later another case of the same nature occurred, this time in a Bible church in Springfield, Missouri. In a young adults' Bible class a young lady brought up the case of her sister, who was a professing atheist, and whose life, she affirmed, was “just like hell.” She wanted to know what she could do to restore her from her atheism and wickedness----meanwhile expressing her complete confidence that her sister was saved, for she had “accepted Christ” at the age of ten. To this belief there was not one dissenting voice----until I (an unknown stranger) ventured to speak. At length I said, “If you really want to help your sister, the first thing you need to recognize is that she is not saved.” But I quickly found they had no ears to hear such heresy. “Oh, I strongly disagree,” retorted a young Nazarite, with hair flowing down upon his shoulders. And yet the scripture which they were studying that morning was Galatians 5, wherein we read, “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, THAT THEY WHICH DO SUCH THINGS SHALL NOT INHERIT THE KINGDOM OF GOD.” (Gal. 5:19-21).

All such scriptures as this must be ignored or swept aside by those who will make the prodigal son a saint. There is no broad way which leadeth to destruction in all their theology. The broad way may lead to eternal life as well as to destruction, and it may lead to eternal life as well as the narrow way. Wasting my Father's substance with harlots is as good a way to heaven as taking up my cross and departing from iniquity, so long as I believe that Christ died for my sins. What I do has nothing to do with the question of my salvation----though the apostles Paul and John affirm in the most solemn manner that it does. “He that DOETH RIGHTEOUSNESS is righteous----he that DOETH SIN is of the devil.” So says John. “They which DO such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” So says Paul. Could anything be plainer than this?

Chats from my Library
By Glenn Conjurske

Billy Sunday

Billy Sunday is one of the few men who have ever risen to national renown as an evangelist. He was certainly weaker in doctrine and principle than any of those who went before him----I do not speak of those who have come after!----but he was also unquestionably a great power for God to turn men from the power of Satan to God, and for that reason alone we ought to know him. He wrote no books, but a number of them have been written about him. The earliest of these which I possess is also one of the best, entitled The Real Billy Sunday, by Elijah P. Brown. This was published in 1914, when Billy was in his prime, and before he manifested some of the declension which characterized his later ministry.

Another early work is Billy Sunday, His Tabernacles and Sawdust Trails, by Theodore Thomas Frankenberg, published in 1917. In spite of the rather misleading title, this is “A biographical sketch.”

The Autobiography of Billy Sunday was first published in the Ladies' Home Journal. It was republished as a saddle-stitched paperback by his wife, and also incorporated into Billy Sunday: The Man and His Message, by William T. Ellis. The latter is a large and good book, published in 1936, the year after Billy's death (and unfortunately still under copyright).

Also published in 1936 is Twenty Years with Billy Sunday, by Homer Rodeheaver. Rodeheaver was Sunday's song leader. He resigned after twenty years because of various weaknesses and abuses in Sunday's ministry, but his love for Billy remained, and this book is a glowing tribute, as well as a good source of information about Billy. Rodeheaver never mentions the weaknesses which led him to leave the evangelist. The modern biography of Sunday by Lyle Dorsett (to be described later) strangely refers to Rodeheaver's book as an autobiography, which it certainly is not. The book is about Billy Sunday. Rodeheaver also wrote (in 1917) Song Stories of the Sawdust Trail. This is not about Sunday, but contains some interesting sidelights on his work.

There is also a little book by Billy's wife entitled Ma Sunday Still Speaks, published in 1957. My wife had a good hard-cover copy of this when we were married, but I found so little spirituality in the book, and withal so much about clocks, paintings, carpets, vases, needle-work and the like, that I threw it away in disgust. The obvious materialism which pervades this book is no doubt an accurate picture of that which pervaded the Sundays' home, but I did not then value historical information as I now do. I have since bought another copy of the book, a little saddle-stitched paper-back, for which I paid too much.

Billy Sunday Speaks is one thousand of Billy's epigrams, published by Zondervan in 1937.

Billy was once offered a million dollars by a Hollywood producer to make a film, but he refused it, saying he would not sell the fame God had given him for preaching the gospel for all the money they had. He did do several short news reels, and these were afterwards incorporated into longer films. The cover of Billy Sunday, by D. Bruce Lockerbie, tells us that the book is “based on the motion picture by Sacred Cinema.” This book was published in 1965. It is a thin book of only 64 pages, but the pages are very large, and the book is full of excellent photographs. It also contains two of Billy's sermons, including that on “Booze.”

Another more recent biography is The Billy Sunday Story, by Lee Thomas, published by Zondervan in 1961. This is a full-length biography, which contains good information, much of it from Billy's wife, who was a friend of the author.

A very recent biography is Billy Sunday and the Redemption of Urban America, by Lyle W. Dorsett, published in 1991. This is objective and well researched, and contains information not to be found in the earlier works, on the ill life and sad end of Billy's sons, the resignation of Homer Rodeheaver, and other matters of historical importance.


Restraining Children

A Sermon by Glenn Conjurske

Recorded, Transcribed, and Largely Revised

Last Sunday morning we talked about disciplining children, and at the end of that sermon I rather cut things short, because I was running out of time, but we looked at two scriptures towards the end of that sermon, and I want to begin with those two this morning. The first one is in I Samuel 3:13. God is speaking of the house of Eli. Beginning at verse twelve he says, “In that day I will perform against Eli all things which I have spoken concerning his house: when I begin, I will also make an end. For I have told him that I will judge his house for ever for the iniquity which he knoweth; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not.” Eli's sons were bad, and the responsibility for it is laid upon Eli himself. It says, “for the iniquity which he knows.” He knew what his sons were, and he didn't restrain them. He likely reproved them, but that is not enough. Some parents reprove and nag their children all day long, and never restrain them at all. All of their reproving is worse than useless----does a great deal more harm than good----unless they restrain their children by the use of authority. That means requiring something of them, and enforcing it by discipline. Nothing else can be called restraining, and anything less is not worth a straw. The more you talk, without enforcing, the more damage you do to your children, and the less they respect your authority.

The responsibility for all of this falls upon Eli, but the judgement falls upon Eli's sons. This is a solemn thing when you are dealing with immortal souls----and every one of those little children is an immortal soul.

Now whatever your doctrinal persuasion is, whether you're Calvinist, or Arminian, or any shade between, or maybe any shade on either end, everybody believes in the depravity of the human race. You believe in the depravity of man. However you want to explain it, or however your doctrine exactly comes out, you do believe in the depravity of man. All you have to do is look around you, or read the newspaper, and if you don't believe in it, you will. Man is evil. But here a difficulty comes in. We have a conviction of the depravity of man, and yet when it comes to their own children, a lot of parents don't seem to be able to feel it. It seems that though the race is depraved, their own child can do no wrong. I've seen this even when the children were full grown. In the case of a divorce that I knew of, this fellow was really quite a scoundrel. He was a hard fellow to live with. He had a violent temper. And yet in his mother's eyes it was all the wife's fault. “My boy is all right.” Well, I told her, “When you take that kind of ground, and defend your boy, and excuse your boy, when he certainly is at least one half at fault, you're only hurting him. You're not helping him at all. You're not helping the situation at all, either.” But I believe that the human race is depraved, and that means your children are depraved, and that is the big reason why we need to restrain them.

There are two reasons why, by nature, they are not going to do what's right. In the first place, because they don't know what it is. When they're born they are absolutely ignorant. They know nothing. They have no idea what they ought to do, or what they ought not to do. They don't have any idea that they shouldn't play out in the middle of the road, or that they shouldn't touch the hot stove, or that they shouldn't play with your glass dishes. They know nothing. And the second reason is, because even when they do know what they ought to do, they are inclined to do the opposite, because of the inherent depravity of the human race. They are inclined to do what they know they ought not to do, and they're inclined not to do what they know they ought to do. And therefore it's the parents' responsibility and duty to restrain children. In other words, not to allow them to do what they want to do.

Now, it's a plain fact that a child who is not restrained will grow up to be without restraint. In plain English, he will be wicked.

Now, I want you to turn to the other scripture that we looked at last Sunday, which is in I Kings, chapter one. You see here the case of David, who was a man after God's own heart, and who failed miserably in raising his own children. I suppose that David had enough children that he probably had some good ones, but he also had several that we know of that were very bad. And it gives you the reason why some of David's children were very bad in this first chapter of I Kings, the sixth verse. We'll begin with verse five, “Then Adonijah the son of Haggith exalted himself, saying, I will be king: and he prepared him chariots and horsemen, and fifty men to run before him.” In other words, he prepared a rebellion against the king. And the reason for this is given in the next verse. It says, “His father had not displeased him at any time in saying, Why hast thou done so?” David evidently had a weakness. He was a man after God's own heart. He was a shepherd. He was a gentle and tender shepherd. And it may be that his weakness was a carrying too far of a strength, and that often happens. Some people are strong to the point of weakness in certain things. You know too much of a good thing is a bad thing. David may have been a very gentle shepherd, but he was evidently gentle to the point of softness. And softness is always destructive. David had one son who raped his sister, and another who murdered his brother. How did David's sons get to be that way? I suppose in the same way that this son, Adonijah, got to be where he was. David didn't restrain or displease him. Probably when the young fellow was two years old, when he wanted to pull the cat's tail, David let him pull the cat's tail. Why? Well, because he wanted to. And if he wanted to go out and pick the flowers, then David let him pick the flowers, because he wanted to do it. It says, “He had not displeased him at any time by saying why hast thou done so?” If his child wanted to sit in the meeting and take a hairbrush and beat on the chair, he let him do it. Or if he wanted to turn the light off and on, then his father just let him do it----no harm in it.

You see what I'm suggesting here are things that children should be restrained from doing. They ought to be restrained from whatever is improper, and from whatever does not pertain to them. I had a fellow in the congregation who let his two-year-old son hold a hymn book while we sang. I asked him why he did it, and he said, “I'm teaching him responsibility.” Said I, “No, you're teaching him irresponsibility. You're teaching him that he can have what does not pertain to him.” Children ought to be restrained merely for the sake of teaching them restraint. If they're allowed to have whatever they please, well, when the kid is two years old he may be pulling the cat's tail, and when he's five years old, maybe putting a clothes pin on the cat's tail. Maybe when he's twelve, drowning the cat. And when he's sixteen he'll be raping his sister. Whatever he wants he just takes it, because he has never been restrained. He's never learned to take “no” for an answer. He hasn't had his will crossed. He hasn't been displeased.

Now the only way in the world that you can restrain a child is to displease him. And this it says David had not done. He had not displeased his son at any time. David had another son, Absalom, who was a murderer and a rebel. And I suppose the same process took place. When he was a little kid, if he wanted to pull the shades up and down, or open and shut the curtains, or turn the light off and on, or play with the china tea pot, he wasn't restrained. Oh! you mothers would restrain him from that, for fear he would hurt the tea pot, but you don't worry about the lack of restraint hurting the child. Absalom was left to do what he wanted to do. If he wanted to sit in a meeting and play with a Bible or hymn book, he was allowed to do it. Just because he wanted to. And when he got bigger he was not in the habit of taking “no” for an answer. Whatever he wanted to do, he did it. If he wanted to kill his brother he did it. If he wanted to take the kingdom he did it. And the same thing with Adonijah. When he was a little boy, he wasn't restrained. It says specifically concerning him, “His father had not displeased him at any time, saying, Why hast thou done so?” In other words, if Adonijah did something, David just winked at it, and said, “That's all right. It's innocent. It doesn't hurt anything. Let him do it.” When he grew up, he said, “I think I'll take the kingdom.” Then it was too late, of course, to displease and restrain him. Charles Wesley wrote a very solemn poem on this scripture, “His father had not displeased him at any time.” It says,

“The parent indolently mild
May here his fatal dotage see:
Afraid to vex thy darling child,
Thy darling child shall trouble thee,
Make his indulgent father smart,
And break thy old, fond, foolish heart.

“What pity 'tis to cross his will,
His clamorous appetites deny,
Restrain the acts of childish ill,
And make the fretted infant cry,
Harshly his little faults reprove!
How can I grieve the son I love?

“Continue then thy son to please,
Leave him to nature's discipline,
Till ripe in full-grown wickedness
He claims the wages of his sin,
The wrath of heaven's impartial Lord,
The edge of the Avenger's sword.”

Now it may be difficult to see the connection between Adonijah's end and the fact that when he was two-years old his father didn't restrain him from little, apparently harmless or innocent things that he wanted to do. But it says, “His father didn't displease him.” It may be difficult to see the connection, but a child that isn't restrained does grow up to be without restraint. And by the way, if he isn't sufficiently restrained, he'll grow up without sufficient restraint----and there will be little difference in the end. As time goes on the little, innocent things won't satisfy him any more, and he's going to have to start taking bigger things, until when he comes to the final end of the thing he says, “I'll take the kingdom.”

I want you to see something about this man's character. In I Kings 1:5, he's determined that he's going to take the kingdom. He was miserably defeated, but it didn't cure him. It didn't change his character in the least. He didn't walk softly, and say, “I've learned my lesson.” No, just the reverse. You go to the second chapter of II Kings, and you find him going through Solomon's mother to ask for Abishag the Shunammite----the most beautiful young woman they could find in the kingdom. He had no sense of the fact that he didn't deserve anything, but just figured that if he wanted it, he could have it. You would think that after he had been such a rebel, and determined to take the kingdom for himself, and was defeated, you would think he would have gone home and walked softly, and said, “I'd better behave myself.” But no, he was used to getting whatever he wanted, and did not know how to take “No” for an answer. Solomon saw plainly enough what kind of character it manifested, that he would make such a request at such a time, and he said, “He's spoken this word against his own life.” And all of this was the result of his lack of restraint from the time that he was a little child. His father never displeased him, and said, “Son, you can't have that.”

The fact is this: You want to discipline and restrain your children as God restrains you, because you are in the place of God to your children. It is a simple fact that the Bible itself is essentially a book of restraint. It is filled with negative commandments----New Testament as well as Old Testament. The way to heaven is “the narrow way.” It is the way of self-denial and self-restraint. The way to hell is the broad way----the way which is without restraint.

Now, we ought to be dealing with our children exactly the same way. In other words, we should not leave them free to do what they choose to do. We should be telling them what they ought to do, and for several good reasons. For one, because you know better than your children what ought to be done. You know what's good for them. You know what's good for yourself, and that, by the way, should be a consideration. If you need quiet, your children should not be allowed to make noise. You know what's good for the household. If you let every child in the household do exactly what he pleases, you'll have a mighty sorry household. The Bible gives us prohibitions, numerous prohibitions. And on the other side, positive commandments, things that we must do. Why is this? Well, every one of those things that God tells us that we must do, or that we cannot do, is crossing our will. The things which he forbids us to do are the very things that we would naturally be inclined to do. The things which he commands are the very things that we would not be inclined to do.

Now, that's exactly the way we ought to be dealing with our children. And I will say this: the well-being of your child is absolutely dependent upon it. How is it that we have any security at all in God's dealings with us? How do we know that we're accepted with God? “Hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.” (I John 2:3). If we didn't have any commandments, we could not have any security. I was talking with a hyper-Calvinist one time----a Primitive Baptist----and you would think if anybody on earth should have assurance of salvation, it should be a Calvinist. But this fellow had none. You know why? Because in his doctrine nothing depended upon himself or upon anything that he did. He could not say, “Hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.” Keeping the commandments of God had nothing to do with the question. The sovereign will of God determines all----the secret and unrevealed decree of God. And he explicitly denied that he had any security of salvation. You can't know who's saved. You can't know by their life. But this nonsense only goes to prove to me and enforce more strongly to me that that is where our security is. We have our sense of security only in the fact that we know what God's will is, and we do it. And if it weren't for all the “bands and cords” that he laid upon us, we couldn't have any sense of security----and neither can your child.

The fact is, the children and young people of the world are crying out for authority. They want somebody to tell them what to do, and nobody will. Therefore they're insecure. There are two things that will make a child insecure. One is lack of love, and the other is lack of authority. Children must have both to be secure. I think David lost his sons because he was too soft. There's danger on both sides. You can be too soft with your children, and you can to be too hard on them. The two things that must come into play in raising children are love and authority. If you're all on the side of love, you're too soft. If you're all on the side of authority, you're too hard. Now I'll say this, I believe that if you're too hard with your children you may probably lose about half of them. If you're too soft, you'll lose them all. And generally what happens is that when parents are too hard----too much on the side of authority----the children will rebel, or at least go through a rebellious stage. But usually they'll come back. But when parents are too soft, they lose their children forever. David was too soft. He didn't restrain his children, and he didn't displease them.

And one thing that you have to understand about restraining children is that the only way that you can do it is by displeasing them. I've seen parents who try to restrain their children without displeasing them, and it doesn't work. It's a constant battle, and the child is almost always on top. Instead of displeasing the child, they try to bribe him. “Johnny, if you quit that, I'll give you a piece of candy.” Or try to pacify him----or sweet-talk him----or try to make a trade----or distract him. “Johnny, if you'll get down off of that top shelf, I'll let you play with the teddy bear.” Or try to coax him. I've been in houses where it was absolutely unpleasant just to be there. You could not carry on a conversation, because the mother had to spend half or three-quarters of her time trying to pacify, and bribe, and coax, and sweet-talk, and soft-talk this little toddler to get him to do her will. But she was determined she was going to do everything but displease him. No conversation possible because of the constant interruptions----mother constantly trying to restrain little Johnny, without displeasing him. And, of course, the child is running the house. He needs a mother who will lay down the law, and say, “This is what you will do, and this is what you will not do, and I will not hear one word of back-talk about it.”

Displease your child. In plain English, cross his will, and say, “Johnny, you can't do that, and the reason you can't is because your father says so.” If they don't have that restraint, that well-defined limit as to what they can do and can't do, they won't have any security. When a child doesn't know what's expected of him it will make him insecure, and it will make him bitter. And it will make him unrestrained and self-willed.

And by the way, you start when the kids are little. You start when they learn how to reach out for things, and learn how to crawl around and get into things that don't pertain to them. That's when you start restraining them. And at that time you'll find it easy to do. I have found it so. If you don't do it then, you'll find it much more difficult when they get older----when self-indulgence has become their habit and character.

And you know, every once in a while you'll have a family come to visit your home, and the kids can't stay out of anything. The kids are into everything that doesn't pertain to them----can't keep their hands off anything. Why is that? Because they're not restrained at home. They're allowed to do what they want to do at home. I've seen the same thing in the grocery store. The little kids go into the store, and their fingers are into everything they can reach. They grab the strawberries out of the bin, and start eating them. They grab the candy bars, and their mother's a wreck by the time she gets done shopping, because she spent the whole time running after little Johnny trying to keep him out of everything, without creating a scene, or having him throw a tantrum. Well, if she would simply restrain him at home, she wouldn't have any such trouble. I take my little children to the store, and I may remind them when we go in the door, and say, “You understand now you can't touch anything in the store”----and that's the end of it. But they know what it is to be restrained.

Now you see they have to learn to take “No” for an answer. They have to learn to be denied. And, the result of that when it is consistently done, is that they will learn how to deny themselves. And that is one of the first principles of Bible religion----“Deny yourself.” The child who has not been denied has an awfully hard time learning to deny himself. Amnon looked at his sister and fell violently in love with her. He didn't know how to deny himself. He didn't know how to say in his heart, “She is not for me, and desperately as I want her, I will not touch her.” No, he just went and took her and deceived her and raped her. He didn't know how to deny himself. He had never been taught to be denied. And of course that's the problem with the American society today. No self-denial. And this self-indulgence is nearly as rampant in the church as it is in the world. Indeed, there are many who preach it as the gospel.

But by restraining your child, you can actually bring him near to the kingdom of God. You can teach him to deny himself----which he absolutely must do to repent and follow Christ. But if he's allowed to do as he pleases, and to have his own way, oh! he'll have a hard time of it to learn to deny himself and take up his cross and follow Christ.

Now what is it that you should restrain your children from doing? First of all, from doing anything which is intrinsically naughty. In that category I put fussing, sassing, fighting with brothers and sisters, any kind of back-talk or making excuses. With some children, every time you require something of them, their first word is, “Why?” Why are they saying “why?” to you every time you tell them to do something? It's just a form of asserting their will against yours. And so I would say to my children, “If you really want to know why, I have no objection at all to your asking why. But you do the thing first, and then ask me why.” But I know my own children. They were not asking why because they wanted to know why. They were just resisting my will. For this they should be disciplined, and they ought to be taught that they cannot answer back when they are told to do something. This ought to be an axiom in their existence, as it was with one little boy I knew, who had it so ingrained in his mind that he could not say “why?” that he couldn't say the alphabet. Whenever his father got to “x, y, z,” he shook his head and said, “No say Y.”

Another thing that I've had difficulty with in some of my children is making excuses. Every time you tell a child to do something they make an excuse. In other words they give you a reason, or an excuse, why they shouldn't have to do it. “Son, I'd like you to go out and get some fire wood.” “Oh, it's not my turn.” “It's too cold out.” “I don't have any shoes on.” “I can't find my coat.” Usually the excuses that they give you aren't even true. It's just a way to resist your will, and it should not be allowed. They should be restrained from it, and be brought to the place of immediate, exact, and cheerful obedience.

Some have raised the question, “Should we discipline children for other things besides directly disobeying us?” And I believe, yes, we should. We should discipline them for anything that is intrinsically naughty----such as fussing, fighting, and sassing. You say, “Well, what if they didn't know any better?” If you're doing your job that could only apply to the first offense. If they've been fussing for a year and still don't know any better, you are desperately derelict in your duty. The first thing involved in restraining children is to let them know what they can and can't do, and they should be definitely restrained from anything that's intrinsically naughty, anything that's wrong or evil.

That part is obvious. But let's go farther than that. Anything which is a nuisance. Now at this point some of you may begin to disagree with me, but listen to me anyway. Anything which is unnecessary and a nuisance, they should be restrained from doing----from carelessly kicking up rugs or slamming doors, or leaving doors open which ought to be shut. You can say, “It's innocent. He doesn't know any better. He's just a child. You know you have to let children be children.” But what he's doing is a nuisance, and that carelessness which you wink at belongs to that child's character, and it is not innocent at all. It's depravity. It's selfish thoughtlessness, which will characterize your child for the rest of his days, if you don't get down to business and root it out of him. I know as a matter of fact that a great many parents will not restrain children from that kind of thing. Mothers will run themselves ragged running around the house picking up after their children, or closing doors after them----or stand by and allow them to ruin the door, or the landlord's door, by slamming it. They should be restrained from that kind of behavior. They should be taught that you don't take things down and leave them on the floor. You put them back up when you're done with them. They should be restrained from any kind of behavior which is unnecessary and any way a nuisance, or any way harmful----which makes work for other people, damages anything, or undoes anything that ought not to be undone.

Children should also be restrained from everything which is improper or unbecoming. Some little children will walk up to any adult and strike up a conversation----or join in the conversation of the adults as though they were one of them. This is unbecoming, and if you will observe such children, you will probably find that they are the same ones who can't keep their hands off what doesn't pertain to them. They're unrestrained. They don't know their place. I know foolish parents who deal with their children as though they were their equals, and of course the children return the compliment. I have often seen children who for every little whim will stand outside, or out in the other room, and call “Mommie, Mommie”----and Mommie dutifully puts down her work and goes to see what he wants. So the child treats his mother as an inferior. Such conduct is disrespectful. He ought to be taught to come to you when he wants something----and not to interrupt you, either, but to wait till he's recognized, and then speak. Of course it's a different matter if he has his fingers caught in the dresser drawer, but I'm not talking about emergencies.

Children of course ought to be restrained from everything that does not pertain to them. I have seen households where everything in the house was a toy. The kids could play with everything in the house. I've seen a little toddler walk up beside her mother, take a pen out of her purse, and go toddling around the building with it. Well, Mama says, “There's nothing wrong with it. They're not hurting anything.” I tell you, it will be a wonder if they don't hurt something, but meanwhile it's hurting the child. Children should be told “These things pertain to you. These you can have at any time or all the time. Nothing else in the house is yours, and if you want anything else, you ask for it.” And don't be afraid to say “No” when he asks. You know this may eliminate some dangerous situations as well as some embarrassing situations. When the kids go to the friend's house and start pulling their plants up, or taking their dishes out of the cupboard, it can be pretty embarrassing. It can also be dangerous. We had a friend when we lived in Michigan who was “embarrassed to death” because she was calling the poison center all the time. Well, the problem was, the child was not properly restrained. I always chuckle a little when I see all these little bottles that say, “Keep out of reach of children.” I don't have to keep everything out of the reach of my children. They know it doesn't pertain to them, and they leave it alone. This idea of keeping things out of their reach doesn't work anyway. Most of the children I've known are half monkey, and it's pretty hard to keep things out of the reach of a monkey----unless you keep it under lock and key, and lock the key in the cabinet with the poison. But if your children are restrained as they ought to be, you don't have any difficulty. You can trust your children. They don't hurt themselves. They don't hurt your things, and they don't embarrass you every time you take them out. The last is a small fringe benefit, but it's worth something. A properly restrained child is an honor to his parents. An unrestrained child is a reproach.

But the spiritual gain far outweighs any of this. If we just have these two words dwelling richly in our hearts, “RESTRAIN” and “DISPLEASE,” we will do well. This is God's prescription, and it does work. It brings about the peaceable fruit of righteousness. It teaches your child to take “No” for an answer----to be denied, and so to deny himself. Without self-denial there is no true religion. Eli did not restrain his sons, and David did not displease his, and the result was that those sons were lost.

Now let me say one more thing for your encouragement. If you've never been accustomed to properly restraining your children----for I suppose that almost all parents restrain their children to some extent----you may think this will be a pretty hard thing to do. You're going to have a battle as soon as you begin. Yes, you undoubtedly will, but let me tell you, it will be a whole lot easier if you restrain them than if you don't. It will be a whole lot easier when your children know what their limits are, and know that they have to stay within those limits, than to have to be running around after them trying to pacify them and sweet-talk them, or to have to keep everything out of their reach, or to be always embarrassed by their behavior. It's a whole lot easier to restrain your children than to take any other course. Easier even for the present. How much more for the eternal future, when that restraint bears the fruits of righteousness. It was not easy for David to weep his heart out over his lost son Absalom, saying, “Oh, Absalom, my son, my son, Absalom! Would God I had died for thee!” But it would have been more to the purpose if he had been saying, “Would God I had restrained thee.” And with that we will close.


The Resignation of
G. Campbell Morgan & John Murdoch MacInnis
from the Faculty of BIOLA

A Chapter in the History of Fundamentalism

by Glenn Conjurske

In 1927 both G. Campbell Morgan and John Murdoch MacInnis were on the faculty of The Bible Institute of Los Angeles (BIOLA). Morgan had begun teaching there in October of 1927. In November of that year MacInnis published his book entitled Peter, the Fisherman Philosopher. Morgan wrote a foreword to the book, in which he highly commended it. Concerning this book Morgan's daughter-in-law and biographer says, “There were some fine points, however, upon which the extreme fundamentalist group, some of whom sat upon the college board of directors, did not see eye to eye with the writer of the foreword [or the writer of the book], and chose so to interpret them as to make them a matter of altercation and debate. The breath of `heresy' was fanned into a storm, and when at last, in November, 1928, it became imperative to take sides, Campbell Morgan stood by the friend in whose integrity he believed, drawing the same criticism towards himself. The Board was not unanimous, but straws in the wind pointed to the fact that Dr. MacInnis would be forced to resign. Campbell Morgan had determined in his own mind that, in this eventuality, he also would resign in protest.”

On November 19, 1928, Morgan made the following statement:

“I have handed in my resignation from the Faculty of the Bible Institute of Los Angeles, to take effect on December 31st of this year.

“My action has been caused by the fact that my friend, the Rev. John Murdoch MacInnis, D.D., Dean of the Institute, has placed his resignation in the hands of the Board.

“The reason for his doing so is briefly as follows. Last year he published a book entitled, Peter, the Fisherman Philosopher. This book has been charged with infidelity to the Evangelical Doctrines of our Faith; and a tendency to what is called `Modernism'. Those appointed by the Board of the Institute to investigate this matter have declared that there is no trace of anything of the kind in the book, and have put on record their conviction that Dr. MacInnis is absolutely loyal to the fundamental things of the Faith.

“Notwithstanding this fact, by a majority vote they have taken the position that because the attack has cast suspicion upon the Institute, it would be in the interest thereof that Dr. MacInnis' resignation should be accepted.

“Those who know me will know that I could not continue to work in relation with a Board capable of such an unjust and cruel practice of expediency.

“I return, therefore, to my work on independent lines, as I did it before coming to Los Angeles.


“What is called `modernism”'! he says, as though it were not a recognized reality. No Fundamentalist could have penned such an expression, any more than an abolitionist could have tamely referred to “what is called `slavery.”' These accounts of the matter bear upon their face the marks of passion and prejudice, and it would be gratifying to see a statement of the case from those who are here accused of being extreme, unjust, and cruel. I am not aware, however, of the whereabouts of any such statement. But from the time that I read the above accounts I began to search for the book which was the cause of the commotion. At length I have found a copy, and given it a thorough and careful examination. The result of that examination is the conviction that MacInnis was certainly unsound in doctrine----certainly very much under the influence of modernism. I shall give the reader as complete a characterization of the book as I can, but first this from the author's foreword to the second edition:

“When this little book was first published it caused quite a commotion among a certain group, and no one could be more surprised at the outcome than the writer of the book. A few of the outstanding leaders of the group, self-appointed guardians of `the faith which was once for all delivered,' pronounced it untrue to `the Faith' and straightway demanded that the author should resign the Deanship of the institution of which, at the time, he was the chief executive, and that the book should be suppressed. A still greater surprise came when, under pressure brought to bear upon them by this coterie, the board of directors of the institution, by a bare majority, changed their previously expressed and published convictions, and accepted the Dean's resignation, and later officially ordered the original plates and remaining copies of the book to be destroyed.

“In the light of this unusual procedure in this day of Christian tolerance, the writer went over the book with great care and in the light of the open New Testament, with the result that he is sincerely convinced that, when read from the point of view clearly stated in the Preface, there is nothing in the book that is either disloyal to Christ, or that denies the evangelical faith.”

As to the book itself, the title is foreign to what we would expect of a Fundamentalist. But we do not condemn the book for the title. We only point out that the title is in keeping with the rest of the book, for the book itself is nothing but “philosophy and vain deceit, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.” The author is obviously thoroughly enamored with “our modern thinkers,” “the profoundest philosophers of this generation,” “a German thinker,” “the most profound thinkers of our day,” etc., etc., and he quotes them approvingly throughout the book. He defends this practice in the preface, by alluding to Paul's quoting a line of a pagan poet, but MacInnis quotes scores of lines everywhere from modernist theologians and philosophers, and quotes almost nothing else. He is constantly quoting from “Professor” this and “Professor” that----and who that understands the issues can fail to see the significance of that? Though the book professes to be concerned with Peter, he rarely quotes him, and in fact quotes ten times more from his godless “thinkers” than ever he does from Peter. He is thoroughly impressed with “modern thought,” and refers to it constanty, and often in glowing terms, as “the very best of our modern thinking,” “the truest and deepest conclusions of modern thinking,” “the very best philosophical thought of our day,” and “the most recent and deepest insights into life.” Such language alone, were there nothing else, convicts MacInnis of having departed entirely from the spirit of Christianity.

One of his purposes seems to be to demonstrate that Peter's philosophy can “stand the test of modern thinking” (pg. 21)----that it “is in line with the very best of our modern thinking” (pg. 42)----“not contrary to some of the truest and deepest inferences of recent thinking” (pg. 136). It seems never to have entered his mind to inquire whether modern thinking can stand the test of Peter's “philosophy,” or of the truth of God----but he seems to have little consciousness of the existence of that. All his talk is of Peter's conception of God, Peter's view of God, Peter's thought of God, Peter's idea of God----all of which terminology, and the way of thinking which it represents, came directly from the godless “thinkers” with whom he is so much enamored. He laments (pg. 10) the fact that “Philosophy...has been shamefully neglected” by the church, “with disastrous results.” He of course can bring Peter into line with “modern thinking” only by perverting him entirely, and this he does. Indeed, he rarely touches Scripture at all except he misuses and perverts it. In commenting upon committing our souls to God “as to a faithful Creator,” he says (pg. 108), “He is still creating in the activity in which the life is committed to Him. This gives us a most comprehensive conception both of God and of the trust in which men are to commit themselves to Him. He is still a faithful Creator, and still active in His creative work. His world is not done, but is in the process of construction.” Such interpretation has nothing to do with the meaning of the text. That God is a faithful Creator has nothing to do with continuing to create, but means simply that he is faithful to what he has created. A faithful mother is a mother who cares for her children, not one who continues to bear more children. But MacInnis extracts worldly philosophy from every scripture he touches.

The book was conceived at a conference of godless philosophers. The preface tells us, “The following studies had their origin in a philosophical seminar in which men representing some of the leading universities of the East, as well as some of the universities of Europe, discussed two questions: First, why the collapse of civilization represented by the World War; second, what is necessary to the building up of an effective and abiding society?” It there occurred to the author “to bring the Christian view of God and the world to the test of this consideration.” It would be well if MacInnis knew what the “Christian view” was, but he evidently does not. Like the modern Neo-evangelicals, who are also thoroughly influenced by “modern thought,” he continually speaks of “our world,” and also of God's world. He has not the slightest conception of the elementary fact that the world is the devil's kingdom, not God's.

As for actual modernism in the book, we must observe that it has very seldom been the way of modernism to deny outright any of the fundamentals of the faith. It rather works to set them aside by subtle insinuations. MacInnis informs us in his foreword that there is nothing in the book that “denies the evangelical faith,” but when have modernists ever done so? This is not their way. It is the author's way in this book to state the true and orthodox doctrine, and then brush it aside by saying that whether that is true or not, this is profoundly true and deeply significant, and thus without directly denying the truth of God, he practically displaces it with “modern thought,” and often with nonsense. “Who his own self bare our sins in his body on the tree” he alters to “carried up our sins,” and says, “In this death He carried up the sins of the people upon the tree. Here again we have a fact stated without any attempt at explanation.” This, by the way, is a shift he likes to use to cast doubt upon the usual and orthodox explanation. He then proceeds, “Whatever may be the final meaning of the fact there can be no question that it is literally true that Jesus carried the sins of the people to the cross. It was the sins of the people that put Him there. The empty formalism, greed, envy, class hatred, opportunism and injustice of His day struck upon Him and wounded Him unto death.” (pg. 76.) Thus he empties the doctrine of atonement of its content, not denying it, but merely brushing it aside. Christ's being smitten of God he replaces with being smitten of the people, and the fact that it was God who laid the sins of the people upon him is ignored altogether. He later adds, “The recognition of this fact does not deny the further fact that Christ on the cross and in the article of death did something once for all to make possible the forgiveness of sins which could only be done by God. The mystery of that act is a part of the agony of God which passeth all understanding, which we accept in childlike faith awaiting the light that may break from it and upon it in the eternal day.” (pp. 84-85). A real atonement, then, he allows, but will not commit himself to any orthodox (or scriptural) explanation of it. It is “something” which he will not define, something too “mysterious” to be understood at present. This may look like humility, but it is really only a subtle method of casting doubt upon the most elementary and fundamental facts of Christianity. He does not speak of guilt, but only of “a sense of guilt.” (pg. 37). His “conception” of sin and holiness is reduced to “man can choose the highest good or he can choose a lower good and in so doing come short of what he was intended to be.” (pg. 36). Sin is choosing “a lower good.” Peter preached repentance to the Jews, for “Evidently their attitude and sins stood in the way of development”!! (Pg. 130). Is that all? No wonder he cannot understand the atonement. “Development,” by the way, is the whole theology of this book, and this is modernism.

But this is not all. Some of his statements are direct and undeniable modernism in its full-grown form. On page 32 he speaks thus approvingly of “one of the scientific theologians who appreciates the need of a `growing creed' in order to bring our religious thought abreast of the progress of science and philosophy.” If this is not modernism, what is?

Again on page 71, speaking of the temptation of Christ, “This was one of the deepest and most significant conflicts in the whole life of Jesus. There more than in any other experience He had to press back all false ideals and conceptions and come to an adequate conception of life that would make it possible for Him to launch out on a true and adequate idea of His own mission.” Obviously, then, he had no “adequate conception of life” before, if he must come to it at his temptation. And of course he had no “true and adequate idea of His own mission”----surely not at the age of twelve, when he “must be about his Father's business,” nor ever till after his temptation. And whence these “false ideals and conceptions” which he must “press back”? We might suppose he refers to the temptations of Satan, but MacInnis presents the temptation as only one among many “experiences” in which the Lord must “press back” such “false ideals and conceptions.” The whole of this statement is blatant modernism, and it is really painful to have to stain my pages by quoting it. Yet this is a sample of the stuff which G. Campbell Morgan calls (Intro., pg. viii) “a real delight.”

No man who is loyal to Christ could approve of such language, and any “Fundamentalists” who cleared this book from the charge of modernism must have proceeded upon the most narrow and technical definition of “modernism,” and must have been napping besides----or wrong in their sympathies. It must be understood that modernism does not consist solely of denying the fundamentals of the faith. Only the most advanced form of modernism ever proceeds to that at all. Could anyone be so simple as to suppose that the only difference between modernism and fundamentalism consists in modernism's denial of a few fundamentals? No, modernism is a broad system of doctrine, which has its foundations in philosophy and “modern thought,” rather than in the word of God. It is a wide departure at almost every point from the Christianity of the Bible----even if it never denies the fundamentals at all. And with this understanding of the word “modernism,” I have not the slightest hesitation to affirm that MacInnis' book is modernism. There is almost nothing in it except modernism.

To begin with, the world is the center of all his thought----and not the world of the Bible, not the enemy of God and the kingdom of Satan, but “a Christocentric world----God's world made, governed and held together through Christ.” (pg. 144). And he is not speaking thus merely of the physical creation, but of the world proper, the world system, “civilization,” or “society.” Christ is “the well-head of the stream that vitalizes all advancing civilization.” (pg. 23). It is this world in which he centers all the purposes of God, and the activity of God. The coming golden age is but the perfection of the world which now exists. He aims at “social regeneration” (pg. 67) and “world redemption” (pg. 95) through “development” and “evolution.”

We might expect him to find the prophesied coming of Christ an insurmountable hurdle in the way of such doctrine, but no, for he so twists and perverts and empties the Bible doctrine of Christ's coming as to make it nothing more than one phase of the evolution and development of the world. To him the coming of Christ is but to put the finishing stroke upon the development of the world. Peter, he says, “speaks in a prophetic way of a special crisis which he associates with the coming or manifestation of Christ. This is not set over against a philosophy of development but is a step in development and the culminating of the processes of a certain period or age. In fact he pled with the people of his own day to do certain things that might make possible the unhindered activities of these processes so that God in turn might make possible the culmination of them in the sending of the Christ.” (pg. 135). The coming of Christ is not to arrest the course of this world, but to perfect it. God is at work in the present age to perfect the world by various “processes,” of which the coming of Christ is the consummation. This he asserts over and over in the most explicit terms. Continuing where I broke off the quotation, “Let me insist upon it that this [the coming of Christ] does not mean a break with the past in the sense that it is a rude and unnatural breaking in upon the essential order of things. On the contrary it is a crisis which conserves the essential things in the past

as the harvest crisis preserves the ripe grain which is the result of the processes which brought it to maturity. There is no contradiction between the process and the crisis. Therefore when we speak of `The Goal of History' in connection with Peter we have in mind the culmination of the processes of this present age in a crisis of adjustment which involves a special manifestation of God in Christ which issues in the triumph of righteousness, making possible a freer and eternal development.” (pp. 135-136, emphasis added.) No “break with the past,” of course, means no break at Christ's coming with the now present world.

This is modernism, and there is no other word for it. Again, “Peter insists that the culmination of the processes of this age is to be brought about by the direct act of God in a new manifestation of Himself in Christ which will mean a crisis that will issue in a new order. This means that the action of God is essential to the realization of the new order and this action means a very definite and important crisis. This is the greatest need of the present moment.” (pg. 137). In all of this man's “thinking”----that is, in all of his parroting of the godless “thinkers” of the world----he has not the slightest notion that Christ is coming to destroy the present evil world, but only to “readjust” it, only to add the finishing stroke to the processes by which God has been developing it throughout the age.

Once more (pg. 141), “Peter taught that righteousness was to prevail and be made the permanent law of life through a crisis in which all the processes of the present age are brought to a consummation through the coming of Christ in a new manifestation of glory and purpose.” The judgement of the world, then, the destruction of the Gentile powers, the smiting of the image and grinding it to powder, to be carried away by the wind, and no more place found for it, these must all be fictions. The image is only to be adjusted. The “processes” which are now at work in it are to be consummated. That is all.

Little wonder, then, that he calls Peter “intensely optimistic” (pg. 129) and “radiantly optimistic” (pg. 143)----optimistic, of course, with regard to the present world, and the “processes” now at work in it. Little wonder that he can refer to the second coming of Christ as “an action that unveils Him in a new movement of love, consummating the purposes of His grace.” (pg. 145). “The real progress of the world” (pg. 109) is all his thought. Of the coming judgement of the world he has no idea at all, and that judgement is at complete variance with his philosophy.

Such is the essence of this book. The apostle Paul says, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world,” (Gal. 6:14), but the theology of MacInnis absolutely excludes both the spirit and the substance of this apostolic declaration. MacInnis, of course, pleads for “Christian tolerance.” Every modernist pleads the same. Those who preach the truth need not ask for tolerance. But there is almost nothing which can be called TRUTH in the entire contents of this book, and, besides the positive error, plenty of nonsense. Thus (pg. 23), “This assumption that there are two worlds is one that is made in every act of thought, and without it we could not think at all.” This is a pipe-dream. He approvingly quotes (pg. 79) another “professor” as saying, “God is an act of eternal sacrifice, and Christ the reproduction of that act in time.” This is nonsense, to say nothing of heresy. Of the Old Testament prophets searching their own writings he says (pg. 53), “The outstanding impression made by this interesting passage is that of great throbbing personalities active in their desire to know the trend of things in such a relationship with their world as to make possible insights that made it clear to them that history was moving to a consummation which would mean salvation.” This statement may be about equally divided into imagination, nonsense, and falsehood.

There is much more of exactly the same sort in the book, but I have done. The reader may wonder what is the present relevance of a book published sixty-five years ago, by a man whose name no one has heard of today. Relevance enough, verily. This is the book which G. Campbell Morgan highly recommends, after reading it in manuscript. He says in the introduction, “Herein the author has demonstrated beyond the possibility of denial the clear and consistent philosophic thinking of Peter. . . . From the standpoint of intellectual interest, the book is a real delight; but its greatest value is that it will help many, who are bewildered by the conflict and controversies of the days in which we live, to clear thinking upon the really fundamental things of our faith and life.” Though the modern church has never heard of MacInnis, yet Morgan is read by Fundamentalists everywhere. I have long questioned Morgan's position. He was often accused of modernistic tendencies while he lived, which accusations (of course) he treated as slanderous. Though there is but little depth or profit in his expositions, yet there is little which we can call positively unsound. Modernistic tendencies may appear here and there, but not often. Yet I observe that what he omits to say often tells in that direction, and this was evidently studied and deliberate, as I shall shortly show. Further, the attitude and the relationships which he maintained when alive mark him as a man who did not take modernism seriously----who either failed altogether to perceive its evil character, or else to faithfully deal with it as it merited. His daughter-in-law says,

“Campbell Morgan never compromised for a moment with a philosophy which denied the tenets of his convictions. He regarded it for the most part with pity for the ignorance from which he felt it came, not untinged with amusement. `He is a good man with a lot of funny ideas,' he said of one.” Can anyone imagine Paul or John calling a Sadducee a good man with a lot of funny ideas? Modernists are not good men, and to refer to their pernicious doctrines as “funny ideas” is trifling with the truth. And amusement?----over “a philosophy which denied the tenets of his convictions”?----which denied, that is, the fundamentals of the faith? This is not the response of a man of God, and it is the very reverse of the response of the apostles of Christ. His daughter-in-law adds, concerning the Fundamentalist-modernist controversy, “His work as he saw it would be injured and hampered by the arguing of controversial issues. His policy was to carry on his own work in his own way, ignoring them as far as possible. Moreover he found it possible to execute this policy and yet compel the attention of both groups. What took place in one middle-western town in the United States is typical of similar experiences elsewhere. `We are having a good time here,' he wrote. . . . `It is a particularly difficult city for my work from the fact that for years it has been a storm center of theological controversy. The thing that is pleasing me is that both wings are attending my meetings. I hope, therefore, that there will be real value in them along the line of constructive Biblical teaching.”'

It hardly need be said that a man who can please both Fundamentalists and modernists is not a faithful teacher of the word of God. He must include enough of the truth to please the orthodox, but not so much as to displease the modernists. To have been successful at such a course must have involved a studied and deliberate determination to “ignore as far as possible” every issue in debate----that is, every tenet of truth which would offend the modernists. It is simply impossible to regard such a man as a prophet of God, a man of God, or a faithful servant of Christ. That Morgan ever denied any of the fundamentals of the faith we would not affirm. We do affirm, however, that there is a great deal of modernism proper which does not proceed to that length. That Morgan was under the influence of that modernism I have no question. That he could speak of the contents of Peter, the Fisherman Philosopher as “the really fundamental things of our faith and life,” and commend and defend such a heap of scarcely disguised liberalism, establishes beyond doubt that he was neither sound in his doctrine nor right in his sympathies.

Now there is one very solemn lesson for Fundamentalism in this affair. It may seem almost incredible that a man like MacInnis could have gained a seat on the faculty of a fundamental Bible institute in the first place. But the fact is, much of Fundamentalism has never been any more than half awake where modernism is concerned. They take no precautions against the disease until it breaks out upon the face. Until the fundamentals of the faith are explicitly denied, they see no modernism. But modernism does not consist solely of a denial of the fundamentals. That is only the final stage of its downward course----and many modernists who discard the fundamentals in their hearts will yet refrain from denying them in their public teaching. Until Fundamentalists learn to recognize and deal with the spirit of modernism, and with the worldliness, the world-pleasing spirit, and the worldly philosophies which form the staple of modernism, they can have little security against its inroads.

Ï Stray Notes on the English Bible Ï
by the Editor


Nearly twenty years ago I went to a Sword of the Lord Conference to hear John R. Rice. It was held in an Independent Baptist church, and during its course the host pastor preached a sermon on “They sought means to bring him in.” (Luke 5:18). Out of this word “means” he extracted kites and balloons and hamburgers and bubble gum, grand pianos, carpeted aisles, padded pews, and air conditioning----these being the means by which we are to bring the people in. I cannot recall whether he mentioned them all, but no doubt from the same word he could extract games and recreations, contests and prizes, plays and concerts, and skits and puppet shows. All of these things are substituted in many modern churches for the actual “means” which brought the people to the Lord in the text. “The power of the Lord was present” (verse 17), and therefore the place was so thronged with people that those who brought the sick man could not so much as get in the door. But the modern churches have substituted a fleshly show for this spiritual reality----a fleshly show which effectually blinds them to their true spiritual condition----and this they endeavor to justify by means of this word “means.”

But a glance at the text will reveal that “means” is in italics. It is not in the original at all, which says simply, “they sought to bring him in.” Can it be legitimate for churches to found almost their whole program upon one word of Scripture, and that word not actually belonging to Scripture at all? Those means in which they glory are in reality their reproach. Every one of those means is a voice crying, and saying, “The power of the Lord is not present with you, or you would have no need of the likes of us.” If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.

But it may interest the reader to know how this much-abused word came to stand in the English Bible. The responsibility for it lies with William Tyndale. He had a penchant for the word “means,” and added it often where it does not appear in the original, especially in connection with the verb (“seek”) which appears in Luke 5:18. The following from his 1526 New Testament will indicate how he employed it:

Mark 9:29----thys kynde can by no nother meanes come forth/ but by prayer and fastynge.

Luke 5:18----they sought meanes to brynge hym in.

Luke 19:3----And he made meanes to se Iesus.

John 5:16----And therfore the iewes did persecute Iesus/ and sought the meanes to slee hym.

John 8:37----I knowe that ye are Abrahams seed: butt ye seke meanes to kyll me.

John 11:8----His disciples sayde vnto hym: Master/ the iewes lately sought meanes to stone the.

John 19:12----And from theáce forthe sought Pilate meanes to loose hym.

Acts 5:33----When they herde that they clave asunder/ and sought meanes to slee them.

Rom. 7:11----For synne toke occasioá by the meanes of the coámaundement and so disceaved me.

Rom. 7:13----how thatt synne by the meanes of that which is good/ had wrought deeth in me.

Rom. 7:18----To will is present with me: butt I fynde no meanes to performe that which is good.

I Thes. 5:9----For god hath not apoynted vs vnto wrath/ but to obtayne health by the meanes off oure lorde Iesu Christ.

Rev. 13:14----And deceaved them that dwelt on the erth/ by the meanes of those signes which he had power to doo.

In none of these is there anything in the original answering to the word “means.” In some of these texts the word was dropped by Coverdale or the Great Bible. In most of them it was dropped by the Geneva Bible, and either dropped or bracketed by the Bishops' Bible. In Rom. 7:18 it was retained by both of them, but dropped by the King James translators. It was dropped in the Geneva Bible in Rev. 13:14, but retained in the Bishops', and there the King James Version retained it also, but in italics. It was retained by all of them in Luke 5:18, but it has no more authority there than in the other texts----that is, no authority at all. It is certainly unnecessary to the sense, and therefore should not have been added by the translators.

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Old articles are reprinted without alteration (except for corrections of printing errors), unless stated otherwise. The editor inserts such articles if they are judged to be profitable for scriptural instruction or historical information, without endorsing everything in them. The editor's own views are to be taken from his own writings.