{20}     Protestant & Catholic theologies

ERA 6 << Modern Church (2): Revival & Missions (AD 1700-1900) >> SESSION 3

Reference: Gonzalez, volume 2, chapters 28-29

        20.1.1  Challenges to the accuracy of the Bible

·         Darwinism: Darwin’s theory of evolution was proposed in his books Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection [1859] and The Descent of Man [1871]. It seemed to contradict the story of creation described in the Bible. The existence of a God is no longer needed to explain the existence of the universe. The theory contributes to the foundation of secularism and atheism which deny God. The principles of Darwinism can also be applied to the human society. In Social Darwinism, human beings are described as capable of continuous progress, therefore religion is not needed. God and the Bible were looked upon as the evolutionary products of man’s religious consciousness.

o        Problems ignored: Darwin ignored the uniqueness of man’s larger brain, his conscience, his concepts of God, and the soul. He admitted that the last 3 items were problems for his theory.

o        Against creationism: The influence of Darwinism increased when lawsuits were being fought in the courts about teaching evolution theory in schools. Gradually, evolution replaced creationism in schools. Now, the situation is completely reversed—the teaching of creationism is being suppressed by secularists. This conflict continues even today.

·         Protestant liberalism: Liberalism implied freedom to think as one saw fit. It was an attempt to express Christianity in the mold of secularist ideas. The original objective might be a response to the intellectual challenges of their time, in the hope of making Christianity credible for modern people.

o        Based on idealism: Liberalism is originated from Kantian idealism. In Kant’s system, God and the soul are both in the world of noumena which man cannot objectively know. In order to provide a refuge for religion from such attack, liberalism emphasized the “spark of the divine” within each man. We need to cultivate to achieve good moral conduct and eventual immortality.

o        Anti-supernaturalism: Liberal theology emphasized the ethical message of a humanized Christ and the immanence of God in the human heart. Therefore, experience was the normative, not the Scripture. Liberals relied greatly on the scientific method and natural law to explain miracles. They opposed to supernaturalism, original sin, and Christ’s vicarious atonement.

o        Influence in education: Horace Bushnell (1802–1876), a Congregationalist minister in Hartford, did not believe the experience of conversion and growth in grace. He believed that a child merely has to grow into grace in a religious environment. These ideas influenced Christian education in the church.

o        Influence in seminaries: It gained wide acceptance among the intellectual elites in the northeast US. Liberal teachers in seminaries trained ministers who then popularized these ideas from the pulpit. Some of them called “modernists” were more radical as they regarded Christianity just one of many religions.

o        Ecumenism: Liberal Christians later controlled the Federal Council of Churches [1908] and the International Council of Religious Education [1922].

·         Higher criticism of the Bible: The historical and critical studies in Europe in 19th-c raised doubts about the historical authenticity of many books of the Bible. The methodological presupposition was to reject everything extraordinary and miraculous. It tried to destroy the supernatural nature of the Bible so it is destructive in nature. The historico-critical approach became fashionable in Germany under the influence of idealism. It stressed that the Bible was a book written by ordinary human authors and the natural explanations of Biblical phenomena should replace supernatural explanations.

o        3 approaches to the Bible: [1] experiential: the Bible used for application of truth to daily life, [2] authoritative: the Bible as a source book of doctrine, [3] historical: the Bible as an ethical guidebook, based on the viewpoint of liberalism.

o        Old Testament: Higher criticism of the OT began with Jean Astruc who proposed different sources for Genesis [1753] and culminated in the Graf-Wellhausen theory (of JEDP). Later critics divided Isaiah into two parts and moved the date of Daniel to the Maccabean period.

o        New Testament: Higher criticism of the NT began with Hermann Reimarus who denied the possibility of Biblical miracles [1788]. Ferdinand Baur argued that the early church synthesized the different views of Peter, Paul, and John.

o        Gospels: Recent criticisms on the Gospels concentrate on: [1] source criticism (whether the Gospels depended on other sources), [2] form criticism (whether the Gospels were based on oral traditions), [3] redaction criticism (whether the writers made subjective changes to the story).

o        Textual criticism: This is also called lower criticism in contrast to the historico-critical approach of higher criticism. It is constructive as it tries to determine the original text of the Biblical writers by comparing various copies.

        20.1.2  Fundamentalist reaction

·         Reaction: As liberalism threatened the very core of Christian faith, conservative theologians started warning about the danger of this new trend. Strong opposition came from various groups; one was the Princeton theologians led by Archibald A. Hodge (1823–1886)—son of Calvinist theologian Charles Hodge (1797–1878) who wrote his famous 3-volume Systematic Theology [1871–1873]. Another Princeton theologian was Benjamin Warfield (1851–1921) who strongly defended the inspiration and infallibility of the Bible.

·         Bible colleges: Bible schools and colleges holding conservative theology were founded, including Wheaton College [1860], Nyack College, New York state [1882], Moody Bible Institute [1886], Toronto Bible College [1894], Biola University [1908], Columbia Bible College [1923], Dallas Seminary [1924], Bob Jones University [1926]. There were 400 such Bible schools in 1980.

·         Evangelical Alliance [1846]—It was formed to gather all those who saw liberalism as a denial of the faith. At a 1895 meeting in Niagara Falls, New York, the movement listed the 5 “fundamentals” that could not be denied without falling into the error of liberalism. These were: [1] the inerrancy of Scripture, [2] the divinity of Jesus, [3] the virgin birth, [4] Jesus’ death on the cross as a substitute for our sin, [5] Jesus’ physical resurrection and impending return.

·         The Fundamentals [1909–1915]—This was a 4-volume set of books published by Bible Institute of Los Angeles (B.I.O.L.A. now Biola University), edited by Reuben Torrey (1856–1928), a minister affiliated with the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. The collection was a clear defense of the orthodox Biblical beliefs and a rejection of liberalism. This was the beginning of fundamentalism.

o        Fundamentalism: The word “fundamentalism” has been corrupted by the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Iran during the hostage crisis in the late 1970s. As a result, the word has been linked to authoritarian and irrational religious beliefs and activities (such as terrorism). Today, conservative orthodox Christians no longer use the term “Christian fundamentalism” but replace it with “evangelicalism”.

o        Compared to evangelicalism: Both fundamentalism and evangelicalism hold the same orthodox Christian doctrines. Some perceive that fundamentalism is identified with separatism (separate from the society) and legalism (strict application of the Bible in judging human behaviour). However, these are not essential dogmas of fundamentalism. Therefore, the two are close to identical. Very few people now identify themselves with Christian fundamentalism.

·         Dispensationalism: This theological school developed schemes to explain God’s actions in history. The most popular scheme was the one developed by Cyrus Scofield (1843–1921) which has 7 dispensations (periods of time), the present time being the 6th dispensation. It was popularized by the Scofield Bible [1909].

        20.1.3  Social & intellectual challenges

·         Rise of individualism: With industrialization, there were mass movements of people leaving agricultural lands seeking employment in industrial centres. The traditional extended family—parents, uncles, aunts, cousins—was weakened by those movements, and the nuclear family had to take up the responsibility in the transmission of values and traditions. More people saw their lives as their private responsibility, and therefore individualism became a common theme in both philosophy and literature.

·         Technology & Darwinism: The industrial revolution also contributed to the idea of progress. People were no longer looking to the past or to tradition (like during the Renaissance) but to the future. They believed that applied technology would eventually solve all the problems. In Darwinism, progress is part of the structure of the universe; it involves a harsh struggle in which the fittest survives.

·         Karl Marx (1818–1883)—founder of communism and dialectical materialism—He was a Jewish Prussian economist, who published the Communist Manifesto [1848], co-authored with Friedrich Engels (1820–1895). It included an analysis of history and society using the method of “dialectical materialism”. He believed that the dominant class develops an ideology whose true function is to bolster the existing order. Religion is part of that structure of support for the powerful so religion is judged to be “the opiate of the people.” God, the Bible, or absolute standards had no place in his system. He predicted that the next step in history will be a vast revolution leading first to the “dictatorship of the proletariat” and eventually to a classless society—a communist society. His views would pose a serious challenge to Christians in 20th-c.

·         Sigmund Freud (1856–1939)—He was a Jewish psychologist who posed new challenges to Christianity. He concluded that human psyche is moved, not only by what it consciously knows, but also by factors in the level of the subconscious. His understanding of the human mind led to questions about how our mind functions in accepting religious beliefs.


        20.2.1  New Protestant denominations

·         Salvation Army [1865]—As the Methodist Church was moving towards the middle class, it paid less attention to the poor, especially the urban poor. Methodist preacher William Booth (1829–1912) and his wife Catherine Munford (1829–1890) started relief work among the poor, providing food, shelter, and work. The governance of the Salvation Army followed a hierarchy similar to the military.

·         Seventh Day Adventists [1868]—In early 19th-c, Baptist William Miller predicted that the second coming would happen in 1844 (October 22). Even though the prediction was not realized, a small group of followers continued to meet and wait and started worshipping on Saturdays, following the OT custom. Eventually, the church was led by Ellen Harmon White (1827–1915), whom they called a prophet.

·         Church of the Nazarene [1908]—This was the largest of the “holiness churches” that grew out of Wesley’s teaching. They emphasized a second work of grace for sanctification.

·         Pentecostalism—This is related to the holiness churches where the worship was sometimes marked by the outpouring of the spiritual gifts—speaking in tongues, miracles of healing, and prophetic utterances. When holiness churches eventually abandoned this practice, it appeared with great vigour in the 3-year revival meeting in Azusa Street Mission (Wesleyan) in Los Angeles [1906–1909]. It spread widely leading to the founding of the Assemblies of God [1914].

        20.2.2  Social Gospel

·         A liberal movement: Liberalism contributed to a new movement called the “Social Gospel”. It came from a group of liberals who devoted their efforts to exploring and showing the relationship between the demands of the gospel and the misery which the urban masses lived in.

·         Problems associated with urbanization: Rapid urbanization created many social problems. Between 1840 and 1870, a few million Catholics and Protestants immigrated from Ireland and Germany to the US. Later, massive immigration of Catholics from southern and eastern Europe after 1890 provided unskilled labour for industrialization, resulting in rapid growth of cities. In addition, youth from rural areas moved into cities to find jobs. These youth often neglected their religious life because the city provided them anonymity. Immigrants settled in congested areas not served by sufficient number of churches. Material success brought indifference to spiritual life, leading to gambling, drunkenness, and vice.

·         Applied to society: Faced with these social problems, some turned their attention from the salvation of the individual to the application of Christian teaching to the economic life of the society, in order to bring the kingdom of God to Earth. Charles Sheldon’s (1847–1946) popular book In His Steps [1896] showed in fictional form what the social outcome might be if everyone tried to act as Christ did in daily life.

·         Walter Rauschenbusch (1861–1918)—American, leader of the Social Gospel movement—He was a professor of church history at a Baptist seminary in Rochester, New York.

o        Economic liberalism: He insisted that the social and economic life of the nation should conform to the requirements of the gospel. He showed that economic liberalism—the theory that the law of supply and demand suffices to regulate the marketplace—results in great inequality and social injustice. The task of Christians is to seek to limit the power of capitalism, and to enact laws that will aid the poor and promote greater social justice.

o        Higher criticism: He accepted the position of higher criticism and commented that his own “inherited ideas about the inerrancy of the Bible became untenable.”

o        Sins of the society: He emphasized the society’s responsibility rather than the individual’s responsibility. He believed that Jesus bore “the weight of the public sins of organized society” and that baptism was “not a ritual act of individual salvation but an act of dedication to a religious and social movement.” The 6 public or social sins that killed Jesus were “religious bigotry, the combination of graft and political power, the corruption of justice, the mob spirit (being “the social group gone mad”) and mob action, militarism, and class contempt.”

o        De-emphasis of personal salvation: He discounted the importance of personal salvation and emphasized the salvation of the society. The gospel was not a message of personal salvation but rather the ethic of Jesus’ love that would transform society through resolving social evils.

o        Mild socialism: He supported labour unions, government intervention, and a mild socialism as means to help the society and to realize the kingdom of God on earth rather than aiming at a future millennial kingdom.

·         Optimism: Like other Christian liberals, proponents of the Social Gospel were optimistic about human capabilities and the progress of society. Unlike other liberals, they saw the danger that progress would take place at the expense of the poor.

·         Heretical: This position is very different from orthodox Christianity and is close to heresy (in some ways, it is). Its influence continued into 20th-c and caused two extremes:

o        In many mainline churches, one beneficial effect was the re-emphasis of the social responsibility of Christians and churches (like those in 19th-c). Yet, it also produced the extreme of regarding social work as the primary activity of churches.

o        In many evangelical churches, this unorthodox challenge produced one beneficial reaction of the emphasis of personal salvation, leading to the increase of evangelistic work. Yet, in order to avoid being accused of preaching a false “social gospel”, many churches avoid mentioning social responsibility. Fortunately, this trend was finally reversed in the Lausanne Covenant [1974].

        20.2.3  Appearance of Cults

·         Characteristics: Cults claimed to have final or absolute answers to the problems of health, sorrow, popularity, and success. They offered an authority that the hungry soul cannot find in liberal Protestant churches. They were often deceptive, exclusive, and negative toward culture. The following are common characteristics of cults.

o        Beliefs & Lifestyle: [1] A cult holds beliefs radically different from the mainstream of religious thought. [2] A cult has a goal that is physical or earthly in nature, relating to things that are near, visible, and tangible. [3] A cult enforces a radical alteration in lifestyle which may involve subordination of every aspect of the individual’s life to the control of the cult.

o        Authority: [4] A cult is centred around a specific authority figure and his teachings or interpretations. [5] A cult looks for guidance from some extra-Biblical source of authority, that it regards as equally authoritative and inspired as the Bible.

o        Antagonism: [6] A cult conceives of itself as being the one true faith and the exclusive possessor of the truth. [7] A cult is close-minded to the extent that it is uninterested in hearing what outsiders have to say. [8] A cult possesses a personal antagonism toward outsiders.

o        Zeal: [9] A cult is possessed with a missionary zeal to propagate its message.

·         Mormonism [1830]:

o        Joseph Smith (1805–1844)—founder of Mormonism—said that an angel named Moroni gave him a collection of golden tablets written in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, as well as 2 “seer’s stones” with which it was possible to read the tablets. The contents were published in the Book of Mormons [1830], although the tablets were never seen. The new religion was called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. They believed that it was to Christianity what Christianity was to Judaism: its culmination.

o        Ohio to Utah: A group practicing communal living in Ohio followed Smith who was then called “King of the Kingdom of God”. Smith sanctioned polygamy with the claim of revelation [1843] and was later killed by a mob. The leadership passed to Brigham Young (1801–1877). The group then moved to Utah [1847] and founded an autonomous state until the US took possession [1850].

o        Polygamy: Young instituted polygamy [1852], and war broke out between the Mormons and the US [1857]. Eventually and progressively, the Mormons allowed themselves to be shaped by the rest of society, leaving aside their emphasis on visions and community living. Polygamy was officially abandoned [1890]. However, some Mormons still secretly practiced polygamy even today.

o        Heretical teachings: Mormonism holds: denial of divinity of Jesus (born a mortal being, married at Cana), denial of Trinity (3 distinct personages and 3 Gods), creation by a council of gods, Satan as a spiritual brother of Jesus, universalism (everyone will be saved), almost-divine status for Joseph Smith (holding the keys to resurrection and to the kingdom of God).

·         Jehovah’s Witnesses [1879]:

o        Origin: The movement came out of the resentment of lower classes against the religious, political, and social establishment. The movement called “Bible Students” was founded by Charles Taze Russell (1852–1916) [1872], and published the Watch Tower magazine [1879]. They published their own translation of the Bible—New World Translation [1950]. Joseph Franklin Rutherford (1869–1942) was Russell’s successor who organized the Jehovah’s Witnesses [1931].

o        Teachings: Russell declared that the 3 great instruments of Satan were government, business, and the church. He rejected the divinity of Jesus (as the only-begotten son of God, separate and not equal, same as ancient Arianism) and the doctrine of Trinity (the Holy Spirit is not a person but God’s active force). He declared that the second coming had taken place in 1873, and that the end of the world would be in 1914, and that they would be witnesses to that event.

·         Christian Science [1879]:

o        Origin: The movement was originated from Gnosticism. It holds that the material world is either imaginary or of secondary importance; that the purpose of human life is to live in harmony with the Universal Spirit; and that Scripture is to be interpreted by means of a spiritual clue unknown to most Christians.

o        Mary Baker Eddy (1821–1910)—She founded the Church of Christ, Scientist [1879]. She wrote the fundamental doctrinal textbook of this movement, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, published 382 times during her lifetime. She used traditional terms of Christian orthodoxy (God, Christ, salvation, Trinity) in a spiritual sense similar to ancient Gnosticism. To her, illness is a mental error, a delusion of the senses; it can be healed with the spiritual science which produces happiness and prosperity. Eddy declared that her book was from divine inspiration. She banned preaching in their church and allowed only selected readings from the Bible and from her book, prescribed by her. A Metaphysical College was founded in Boston [1881] to train Christian Science “practitioners”.

        20.2.4  Relationship between faith & reason

·         Seeking ultimate reality: Kant’s work put an end to the simplistic rationalism. If “pure reason” reaches an impasse when applied to questions such as the existence of God or life after death, what route can theology follow in dealing with these questions? If it is true that the structures of thought are in the mind, and do not necessarily correspond to reality, how are we to speak of ultimate realities? There are 3 possible ways: [1] to seek a locus for religion other than pure or speculative reason (Schleiermacher), [2] to affirm that reason is reality itself (Hegel), [3] to accept that only faith, not reason, can penetrate ultimate truth (Kierkegaard).

·         Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768–1834)—father of liberalism, theology of feeling, German

o        Religion according to Kant: In his Critique of Practical Reason [1788], Kant argued that it is wrong to think that religion is basically an intellectual matter, for religion is in fact grounded, not on the intellect, but on the ethical sense. Human beings are by nature moral, and on that basis of that innate moral sense, one can prove the existence of God, the soul, human freedom, and life after death.

o        Romanticism: Schleiermacher was influenced by Romanticism which held that there was more to human beings than cold reason, and rationalism was dehumanizing. He argued that religion is not a form of knowledge, as both the rationalists and the orthodox believed. Nor is it a system of morality (action), as Kant implied. Religion is grounded neither in pure knowledge nor in practical or moral reason, but in Gefühl—close to “feeling”. This is the foundation for knowing (knowledge) and doing (action). Thus, religion is not objective knowledge but subjective feeling.

o        On feeling of dependence: In his The Christian Faith [1821], he shows that religion is not a sentimental feeling, nor a passing emotion or sudden experience, but is rather the profound awareness of the existence of the One on whom all existence depends. The function of theology is to explore and expound the implications of the feeling of absolute dependence at 3 levels: self, its relations with the world, and its relations with God. Anything that cannot be shown to be related to the feeling of dependence has no place in theology. The creation story as told in Genesis may or may not be historically accurate—Schleiermacher did not think it was—but in this case, this is not a proper matter of theological inquiry, for it has nothing to do with the feeling of dependence.

o        On Christianity: The central doctrines of Christianity could be interpreted in such a way that they did not contradict findings of science. Religion becomes a mere subjective apprehension of Christ, who serves as the Mediator to reconcile man to the Absolute One who is immanent in the universe. Jesus Christ did not come to atone for sin but came to be our teacher, to set an example and to arouse in us the consciousness of God. Sin is not a moral violation of God’s law, but occurs “when man tries to live by himself, isolated from the universe and his fellow men.”

o        Errors: His view of man’s sinfulness is inadequate. His view of the work of Christ is defective. As Reinhold Niebuhr described liberal theology as: “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministration of a Christ without a cross.” This is totally unorthodox.

·         Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770–1831)—father of dialectical idealism, founder of Hegelianism, German

o        Reason is reality: Hegel’s solution of the problem is to declare that reason is not something that exists in our minds, and which we then use in order to understand reality. Reason is reality, the only reality there is. “What is rational exists, and what exists is rational.”

o        Dialectic: He does not refer reason to mere understanding, nor to the conclusions of reasoning, but to the process of thinking. In thinking, we do not stand before a fixed idea, in order to study it. On the contrary, we pose an idea, examine it so as to surpass it or deny it in favour of another, and finally reach a third idea that includes whatever there was of value in the two previous ideas. This process of posing a “thesis”, questioning it by means of an “antithesis”, and finally reaching a “synthesis”, is what Hegel calls “reason”. This is, therefore, a dynamic reason, a movement that is constantly advancing.

          In classical philosophy, dialectic is controversy—the exchange of arguments and counter-arguments respectively advocating propositions (theses) and counter-propositions (antitheses). The outcome of the exercise might not simply be the refutation of one of the relevant points of view, but a combination of the opposing assertions (synthesis). The aim of the dialectical method, often known as dialectic or dialectics, is to try to resolve the disagreement through rational discussion, and ultimately, the search for truth.

o        Universal reason: The universal reason—the Spirit—is the whole of reality. All that exists is that dialectic and dynamic thought of the Spirit. The various religions, philosophical systems, and social and political orders are moments in the Spirit’s thought. In that thought, the past is never lost, but is always surpassed and included in a new synthesis.

o        Christianity: Hegel was convinced that Christianity was the “absolute religion”. This does not mean that Christianity denies other religions, but rather that it is their culmination—that it sums up the entire process of human religious development. The central theme of religion is the relationship between God and man. That relationship reaches its apex in the Christian doctrine of incarnation, in which the divine and the human are fully united.

o        Trinity: The dialectic of the Trinity includes 3 movements: [1] God is eternal idea, the “kingdom of the Father” being God apart from any other being. [2] The “kingdom of the Son” is the creation, the world as it exists in time and space, and its culmination is God’s incarnation. [3] The “kingdom of the Spirit” is the union of the divine and the human, manifesting in the presence of God in the community. All 3 taken together is the “kingdom of God”.

·         Søren Kierkegaard (1813–1855)—father of existentialism, Dane

o        Faith: Kant’s “pure reason” can neither prove or disprove the existence of God; but faith knows God directly. There is the infinite chasm between God and man, between the sinfulness of man and the holiness of God. God is “the absolutely Unknown”. The basis of Christianity is not its reasonableness, nor its place of honour in Hegel’s system, nor even a feeling of absolute dependence. Christianity is a matter of faith, of faith in God whose revelation comes to us in the Scriptures and in Jesus Christ. Truth lies in subjectivity.

o        Leap of faith: For Kierkegaard, faith is never an easy matter, nor is it a means to a tranquil life. On the contrary, faith is always a personal decision, a risk, an adventure that requires the denial of oneself and of all the joys of the faithless—the leap of faith into the dark, rather than by any rational process which is unable to relate to a transcendental God.

o        Organized religion: He attacked the superficiality of the nominal Christianity. He believed that the greatest enemy of Christianity was Christendom, the organized religion, whose purpose it is to simplify the matter of becoming Christian, turning Christianity into a form of morality of a doctrinal system. It is simply “playing at being Christians.”

o        Existence: In order to be truly Christian, one must become aware of the cost of faith and pay the price. True Christian has to do with a person’s very existence—an existence comprising of anguish, doubt, and despair—and not merely with the intellect (like Hegelianism). Existence is a constant struggle.

o        Problems: Kierkegaard’s ideas, if taken too far, will lead to errors. [1] Kierkegaard rightly stressed that mere historical knowledge of Jesus Christ does not equal faith. But it does not follow that historical knowledge is useless. [2] The stress on the infinite chasm between God and man is a helpful corrective. But we must never lose sight of the fact that man is made in God’s image and that this image is not totally obliterated. [3] It is true that faith involves personal involvement, and there is an element of risk. But faith must not be portrayed merely as a blind leap into the dark, as an arbitrary act in defiance of reason. It is a step into the unknown, made on the basis of things which is already known. Faith is neither totally rational nor totally irrational.

        20.2.5  Christianity & history

·         Investigating the Bible: The interest in the history of the Biblical times led to long and scholarly discussions on the date and authorship of each book of the Bible. Many looked upon these debates as harmful to faith but it also brought better understanding of the Bible and its times. The problem, however, was predominant method of historical criticism used in studying Biblical history; it presumed there are errors in the Bible.

·         F.C. Bauer (1792–1860)—He sought to expound the development of theology in the New Testament following Hegel’s scheme. He found conflict between Peter’s judaizing Christianity and the more universal perspective of Paul. The tension between the thesis and antithesis was then resolved in a synthesis in the Gospel of John.

·         Albrecht Ritschl (1822–1889)—He responded to Kant’s challenge by placing religion in a sphere distinct from pure or cognitive reason. However, he thought that Schleiermacher’s “feeling of absolute dependence” was too subjective. For him, religion was neither a matter of rational knowledge nor of subjective feeling, so he downplayed metaphysics, mysticism, and pietism. He based his theology on Christian experience. Historical study shows that the centre of Jesus’ teachings is the kingdom of God and its ethics—the practical moral life, “action based on love”. His idea of the kingdom of God is the moral unification of the human race through love. He believed that man was steadily evolving towards perfection. The task of the church is to transform society and to bring it into conformity with God’s kingdom. This would stimulate the rise of Rauschenbusch’s Social Gospel movement.

o        Social consciousness: Another interpretation is that religion was the social consciousness of dependence. The Bible is simply the record of community consciousness, and should be subjected to historical investigation as any other book.

o        Errors: Like Schleiermacher, Ritschl denied the doctrine of original sin. The death of Christ was not a substitutionary death, but a moral example of loyalty to His calling. The reconciliation brought by Jesus Christ is essentially a change in our attitude to God, not vice versa.

·         Adoph von Harnack (1851–1930)—He was a historian of dogma (his major work is the 3-volume History of Dogma [1886–1889]) and he accepted the popular historical criticism of his day and doubted the accuracy of the Bible. So he filtered out all the supernatural elements. He saw the development of dogma as the progressive abandonment of the faith of the early church, moving away from the teachings “of” Jesus to teachings “about” Jesus. Like Ritschl, he believed that the gospel had been corrupted by the alien influence of Greek philosophy. He thought that Jesus’ message was the fatherhood of God, universal brotherhood, the infinite value of the human soul, and the commandment of brotherly love.

·         Albert Schweitzer (1875–1965)—He attempted to find “the historical Jesus” in his book The Quest of the Historical Jesus [1906]. In order to know the true essence of Christianity, he tried to find the factual Jesus hidden behind the faith of the church and even behind the accounts of the gospel. Schweitzer challenged both the secular view of Jesus as depicted by historical-critical methodology current at his time (which found a Jesus in the image of today’s man, in fact a good liberal Christian), as well the traditional Christian view. He concluded that Jesus Christ was one who expected and predicted the imminent end of the world, which had been largely overlooked. However, his heretical teachings included the denial of Christ’s deity, and the denial of His vicarious substitutional atonement.


        20.3.1  Relationship with France

·         Protestantism vs Catholicism: The reaction to intellectual challenges was very different between Protestantism and Catholicism. While Protestants confronted the challenge directly and sought ways to interpret their ancient faith in terms of the new frame of mind, Catholic authorities and theologians usually condemned and rejected modern ideas. Both had shortcomings. While many Protestant theologians fell into the trap of liberalism, Catholic theologians tried to maintain the authority of the church and fell into the opposite extreme of advocating papal infallibility. Protestants looked upon the Catholic Church as a relic of bygone ages, while Catholics were convinced that Protestantism had confirmed its heretical character.

·         Pope Pius VI [1775–1799]—During the French Revolution, Pope Pius VI issued a bull attacking the ideas of philosophers who advocated a new social and political order. He tried very hard to impede the progress of the revolution. In retaliation, the French government established the “cult of Reason”. The French army took Rome [1798] and imprisoned the pope until his death [1799].

·         Pope Pius VII [1800–1823]—An agreement was signed [1801] between Napoleon and Pope Pius VII. In 1804, the pope travelled to Paris to consecrate Napoleon as emperor [1804]; Napoleon signalled his claim to absolute power by taking the crown from the pope’s hand and crowing himself. The French army took Rome again [1808] and imprisoned the pope who was released in 1815.

·         End of Papal States: Later popes repeatedly blocked attempts by Catholics to lend support to republican and democratic ideas. The Roman Republic was defeated by French intervention [1848] and the pope was then under the protection of France. Because of the Franco-Prussian War [1870], the French garrison was pulled from Rome. The army of the united Italy under King Victor Emmanuel II (1820–1878) finally took the Papal States, ending the political power of the papacy.

        20.3.2  Pius IX [1846–1878]

·         Overview: He was the longest reigning pope in history, 31 years. His pontificate was characterized by step-by-step expansion of religious authority, but at the same time by the loss of political power.

·         Road to supreme power: He proclaimed the dogma of Immaculate Conception of Mary [1854]. The dogma states that Mary, by virtue of her election to be the Mother of the Saviour, was kept pure from all taint of sin, including the original sin. (This dogma was later made infallible by invoking ex cathedra papal infallibility in 1870.) All the faithful were to accept this doctrine as part of the dogma of the RCC that one must believe in order to be saved. This was the first time ever that a pope defined a dogma on his own, without the support of a council. It was like a testing of the waters to see how the world would react. Since it did not meet much opposition, the stage was set for the promulgation of papal infallibility.

o        Not based on tradition: As the dogma of immaculate conception of Mary is not based on the Bible, the RCC argued that it is based on church tradition, appealing to the testimony of unchanging tradition. The quote is: “this doctrine has always existed in the church as a doctrine that has been received from our ancestors and that has been stamped with the character of revealed doctrine.” However, the fact is that major theologians such as Augustine and Aquinas expressedly denied it. As late as 1483, Pope Sixtus IV declared that the church had not decided on the matter. So the matter was actually decided by strong support from bishops at that time.

·         Restraining new ideas: He issued the encyclical Quanta cura [1846], accompanied by a Syllabus of Errors that listed 80 propositions that Catholics must reject. It represented a major effort in restraining the Catholic church by condemning new ideas such as the separation of church and state, freedom of worship, freedom of the press, socialism, Bible societies, civil marriage, and state-supervised public schools. In 1863, he upheld the idea of Unam Sanctum [1301] that salvation is only found in the RCC.

        20.3.3  Papal infallibility

·         Dogma: In 1870, the Council of Vatican I [1869–1870] issued Pastor Aeternus promulgated the dogma of papal infallibility: “…the Roman Pontiff, when he speaks ex cathedra, that is, when in discharge of the office of pastor and doctor of all Christians,…he defines a doctrine regarding faith or morals to be held by the universal Church,…is possessed of that divine infallibility…that therefore such definitions are irreformable of themselves, and not from the consent of the Church.”

·         Conditional: The specification of “ex cathedra” is added to exclude the case of Pope Honorius who was judged as a heretic in 680. But the dogma gave the pope the power to overrule the whole church, to overrule the Bible, or to interpret the Bible in whatever way he chooses. Even worse, in theory, the faithful must accept this dogma in order to be saved.

·         Without tradition: Some claimed that papal infallibility followed tradition but in fact, it was against tradition. For a long time during the Middle Ages, the pope’s judgment was not irreformable until it received the consent of the church, and the general council was the highest authority. However, in 19th-c, this idea was in decline and many believed that the pope was the absolute monarch in the church. Pope Pius IX’s attitude was caught in his response to a question at the council: “Tradition? I am the tradition.”

·         The vote: Before the final vote, a deputation from the minority opposition went to see the pope and begged for a more moderate statement but to no avail. In the council, 522 bishops voted in favour, 2 against, and over 100 abstained. Those who abstained wrote to the pope reaffirming their opposition, describing the “existing sad condition” and “consciences disturbed”. In Holland, Austria, and Germany, some withdrew from the RCC and founded the Old Catholic Church [1871]. In general, protests and criticisms were moderate.

·         Application: Since then, the authority has only been used once in 1950 when Pius XII promulgated the doctrine of the Assumption of Mary, stating that the end of Mary’s earthly life was bodily ascension into heaven so she was preserved from corruption of the body in death.

o        Extra-Biblical beliefs: The dogma about the assumption of Mary is the foundation of other beliefs about her, including: [1] She is the “Mother of God” [431] and the Queen of Heaven. [2] Mary was declared sinless in the Council of Trent [1547]. [3] Mary is the Mediatrix of grace, who mediates between us and God, and the co-redemptrix of Christ. Pope Leo XIII stated in an encyclical [1891]: “nothing is bestowed on us except through Mary, as God himself wills. Therefore as no one can draw near to the supreme Father except through the Son, so also one can scarcely draw near to the Son except through his mother.” [4] Adherents of the RCC were told to pray to Mary and receive help from her treasury of grace [1892]. Pope Leo XIII stated in another encyclical: “she stands high above all the orders of angels and men and she alone is next to Christ.” [5] In a spiritual and mystical way, Mary is “the Mother” of all Christians, according to Pope Pius X [1904]. [6] Mary was immune from all sins; she now reigns in heaven with Christ, according to Pope Pius XII [1943].

o        Neither Bible nor tradition: All the beliefs about Mary have no support from the Bible, nor from the earliest tradition. This latest dogma on the ascension of Mary demonstrated the dangerous tendency of the RCC’s ability to proclaim dogma on the basis of her own authority, without the support of Scripture or early tradition.

        20.3.4  Leo XIII [1878–1903]

·         Overview: Leo XIII was the third longest reigning pope in history (25 years, behind the 31 years of Pius IX and the 26 years of John Paul II). He was ambiguous in many areas.

·         Compromise: He still wanted to revive the political power of the papacy by re-establishing the Papal States. He issued the encyclical Immortale Dei [1885] declaring democracy incompatible with the authority of the church. However, he gradually compromised by reaching an agreement with Germany which rescinded the anti-Catholic policies of Bismarck. He advised the French clergy to abandon their opposition to the republic [1892], thus reversing his earlier opposition to democracy. He criticized and opposed socialism and communism.

·         Openness: He opened the archives of the Vatican to historians, believing that the outcome of historical studies would strengthen the authority of the church. Yet the encyclical Providentissimus Deus [1893] warned against their use to weaken the authority of either the Bible or the church.

        20.3.5  Pius X [1903–1914]

·         Condemning modernists: Pius X followed Pius IX in restraining the influence of modern thought, particularly liberalism. The Holy Office—the old Inquisition—issued a decree condemning those (so-called modernists) who had dared apply the new methods of research to Scripture or to theological matters. Many modernists left the church and those who remained behind paid little attention to pontifical directives. The pope condemned modernistic ideas [1907]. Because of this, liberalism was never the problem in Roman Catholicism that it became in Protestantism.



[1] treasure our heritage

The 5 fundamentals are still held by today’s evangelicals.

[2] appreciate God’s providence

Cultural challenges from outside and the rise of heresies and cults from inside have not succeeded in suppressing orthodoxy.

[3] avoid past errors

Pius IX dared to push for papal infallibility because of his earlier successes in the dogma of immaculate conception and the Syllabus of Errors. The lesson is to cut down errors at its budding stage.

[4] apply our knowledge

We can watch out for cultic tendencies based on dominant characteristics in past cults.

[5] follow past saints

Christians should model after the Salvation Army in looking after the poor and the weak, yet avoid the excesses of the Social Gospel.



        What were the intellectual challenges presented to Christianity in the 19th-c?

o        Marxism: analysis of society, leading to the conclusion that religion is the opiate of the masses and that religion supports the powerful

o        Freudianism: analysis of the human mind, religion is like superstition

o        Darwinism: denial of a Creator God

o        Social Darwinism: human beings are capable of continuous progress, religion not needed

        What were the differences between the fundamentalists and the liberals? Which one is more Biblical?

o        Liberals:

          freedom of thinking, response to intellectual challenges of evolution and higher criticism of the Bible (some by accepting them)

          Bible just another religious and great book

          optimistic about human capabilities and progress of society

o        Fundamentalists (5 fundamentals):

          inerrancy of Scripture

          divinity of Jesus

          virgin birth

          Jesus’ death as substitute for our sin

          Jesus’ resurrection and impending return

o        The fundamentalists were certainly more Biblical. There are even doubts whether the liberals were true Christians.

        Is “social gospel” Biblical?

o        [a] Social and economic life of the nation should conform to requirements of the gospel—Biblical but over-emphasis.

o        [b] Christians should be against inequality and social injustice—Biblical but over-emphasis.

o        [c] The improvement in society is equivalent to salvation in the gospel—unbiblical.

        What are the main errors of: [a] Mormonism, [b] Jehovah Witness, and [c] Christian Science?

o        [a] Mormonism: deny divinity of Christ

o        [b] Jehovah Witness: deny divinity of Christ

o        [c] Christian Science: Gnosticism

        What were the meanings of economic liberalism and political liberalism in the 19th-c? Do the same terms mean the same today?

o        Economic liberalism:

          The main idea was laissez faire, letting the law of supply and demand regulate the marketplace and economic order.

          Today, this is called economic conservatism.

          Today’s economic liberalism stresses the involvement of the big government into every aspect of the economic system, and big spending.

o        Political liberalism:

          The main idea was to promote changes to traditional order, including universal suffrage, constitutional monarchy, against absolute power.

          Today’s political liberalism stresses big government, socialist state, human rights above human responsibility.

        What were the different solutions explaining the relationship between faith and reason given by: [a] Schleiermacher, [b] Hegel, and [c] Kierkegaard?

o        [a] Schleiermacher: Religion is not a form of knowledge (rationalism of Locke), nor a system of morality (Kantianism), but a feeling of dependence.

o        [b] Hegel: Reason is reality and the only reality is reason. The universal reason is the Spirit. All religions are moments in the Spirit’s thoughts. Christianity is the culmination of religious thoughts.

o        [c] Kierkegaard: Reason is unable to penetrate ultimate truth; only faith can. Faith is always a risk, and adventure that requires the denial of oneself. In order to be truly Christian, one must become aware of the cost of faith and pay the price.

        In what way did the development of Catholic theology follow an opposite trend to Protestant theology? What examples can be used to illustrate this trend?

o        When faced with new political, economic, social, and intellectual circumstances, Protestantism sought to take those new realities into account, while Catholicism tried to reject those realities and develop theology opposite to those realities.

o        Examples:

          condemn those who applied new methods of research to Scripture or theological matters

          block attempts by Catholics to lend their support to republican and democratic ideas

          make a list of 80 propositions that Catholics must reject

          oppose such innovations as the separation of church and state, freedom of worship, freedom of the press, and public schools under state supervision

          declare democracy incompatible with the authority of the church

        How do we show that papal infallibility is unbiblical?

o        The popes invented unbiblical teachings such as the assumption of Mary.

o        Some popes were corrupt; one (Honorius) was declared a heretic. [Catholic argument is that he never declared his teachings “ex cathedra” (when in discharge of the office of pastor and doctor of all Christians) but he could have. But of course the term was invented historically after Honorius so there is no such possibility.]

o        No one is infallible because everyone is contaminated by sin.