"Be patient toward all men. See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves and to all men." 1 Thess. v.14, 15.
"He that believeth shall not make haste." Isa. xxviii.16.
"The works of his hands are verity and judgment; all his commandments are sure. They stand fast forever and ever, and are done in truth and uprightness." Psa. cxi.7, 8.
"My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure." Isa, xlvi.10.
The attitude which God's people should assume toward destructive criticism has been questioned. It should certainly be a position of calm patience, that can deliberately weigh valid testimony, and abide by the decision of intelligent judgment. The history and life of the Church for nearly two thousand years should go for something. They are not to be swept away by the bluff, the egoism of what claims to be the only "Expert Scholarship."
There is no occasion for a panic. Truth that has been, and has builded noble, goodly life, is truth still, and ever will be. It is not a time for denunciation. The assumptions of the destructive critics are so enormous, so radically revolutionary, so directly aimed at vital truth, that one's heart is stirred. There is danger of yielding to the heat of a righteous indignation. It is not well to lose one's intellectual and moral poise, even in a contest involving the honor of God and the welfare of immortal souls. But "he that believeth shall not make haste."
The lovers of the Book that has safely passed through every storm of antagonism that the Prince of Darkness could evoke, need not now be moved to hasty utterance. The eternal foundations of truth, like him who laid them, are "the same, yesterday, to-day and forever." The Book, with all its precious doctrines, is here to stay. It can not be destroyed. Fire has not burned it, water has not quenched it, the edicts of tyrants and popes have not been able to break its power. The Church of God can calmly rest on "the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever." (1 Peter i.23.) Hence we may calmly move on undisturbed in our work.
Further, our attitude should be marked by an intelligent understanding of the question involved. It is not a question of fair, honest criticism, for the purpose of a deeper knowledge of God and his truth. All reverent and helpful study of the Word of God is critical, and is the kind of criticism that the Book challenges. Our Lord invites it, and urges us to "search the Scriptures," which testify of him.
It is assumed by the rationalistic critics that we have entered a new era, that the Bible has never been studied until within recent years. This is an assumption unworthy of scientific scholarship. Critics who have not sought to destroy the Word of God, but, by thorough investigation, to determine its claims, have been at work on the Scriptures in all the past, seeking to know the mind of the Spirit. There is, and ever has been a legitimate study of the Bible. Hence, there are absolutely no grounds for the assumption of the rationalists. The Church of Christ is not opposed to the application of the best methods and best scholarship in the investigation of revealed truth. Indeed, the Protestant Church has ever been the mother of the highest education, and has had an open ear to the call of God -- "Come, let us reason together."
It is well to understand that the poorly-concealed purpose of the school of higher critics is not to press the just and holy claims of God's Word on the human conscience, but to eliminate the supernatural from it. The Christian Church should understand this. If atheistic scientists can construct a universe without God, by evolutionary processes, and the critics can construct a Bible without the supernatural, "the wisdom of this world" will have pretty thoroughly disposed of God.
In the attitude of the Church toward destructive criticism, sometimes called historical, or constructive, we must not fail to discover its bearing on the character of Christ. For the final conflict of all skepticism of every grade and quality is in reference to the person and work of Christ. The elimination of the supernatural from the Bible would be an invalidation of Christ's claims and testimony. It would place him before the world as a false teacher, a fraud, a charlatan. Loyalty to the Word, and to the Incarnate Word, demands, therefore, that we should clearly understand the end to which this rationalism is drifting. For Christ's testimony concerning the Old Testament Scriptures, which will be presented later in this discussion, is so thoroughly in conflict with the modern critical assumptions that it must be disposed of by those claiming expert scholarship. In the attempt to accomplish that feat, they put our Lord under such limitations as would rob him of his character as Teacher and Redeemer.
The "experts" are logically driven to one of two conclusions: either that Christ did not know the facts of the Old Testament Scriptures, which he believed and was sent to teach, or, knowing the facts, he deemed it not important to teach them.
The first assumption puts our Savior on the basis of a fallible human teacher, and nothing more. The second assumption contradicts all the professions of the critics. For they affirm to-day that the professed discoveries of the mistaken views of the Bible are of the utmost importance, and as honest men they are in conscience obliged to make them known, while claiming that Christ did not make them known.
Shall we assume that these views, which they deem so important to-day, were of no importance when the Church of Christ first took form? We may ask, what estimate should we have of Christ, who, knowing his people were in error as to the authorship and origin of the Scriptures, would leave them in darkness for more than eighteen hundred years? Is it to be assumed that he would wait through the long centuries for the coming of critics to enlighten his people? That is what we are logically asked to accept at their hands. It is thus made clear that the issue of this conflict, as in all the past, is narrowed down to the person and character of our Savior. It is well to face the issue calmly, and with a clear understanding of what is pending. Did Christ know truth? Was he honest? Hence, the attitude of the Church should be taken in view of the trend of modern critical discussion.