Continuing in our series on conservative Presbyterian responses to the Auburn Affirmation and events following, this editorial from The Presbyterian moves the discussion to the root of the matter, as seen by the editor. There are references to other developments, such as the Committee of Fifteen, and these will have to be explored later. Of particular note in this editorial is what might arguably be one of the first inklings of a general call for separation from unbelief. The editor states in his concluding paragraph, “The necessity for all true evangelicals uniting in one solid body against these united and determined attacks is most apparent and vital…evangelicals will be most effective if each company or denomination proceed under their respective organization.”
I should also mention that in one of the next issues [11 February], it is noted that the Rev. Samuel G. Craig took over the post of editor. It is possible therefore that he, rather than David S. Kennedy, may have been the author of this unsigned editorial.
The Present Attack Upon Historic Christianity [The Presbyterian 96-3 (21 January 1926): 2.]
No sincere, intelligent man, Christian or non-Christian, will deny that an open and avowedly destructive attack is being directed with violence against evangelical, historic Christianity. It is of the first importance that all true Christians be aroused and informed as to the nature and extent of this conflict and the consideration of the best means of resisting it.
This present conflict against evangelical Christianity is the first geographically universal conflict in the history of the Church. It appears in every continent, in every mission field, home and foreign, in the long-established churches, and in every denomination.
The purpose of this conflict is to destroy the very foundation of evangelical Christianity, including both doctrine and morals. The attack is not directed against mere interpretations of the facts, but against the facts themselves, including the divine authority and infallibility of the Scriptures, the deity of Christ and his divine salvation, and the Holy Spirit, his divine personality and supernatural regeneration. The attacking host against evangelical Christianity is divided into two chief companies, Rationalism and Romanism. Rationalism maintains that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are but human literature, and therefore subject to error, and without final authority. The only final authority is found in the individual reason and experience. Christ is but the highest ideal of manhood, and salvation comes only by cultivating his spirit and imitating his life and action. Redemption by his blood is worthless and revolting. There is no resurrection from the dead, and the second coming and the recreation of the heaven and the earth are but fictions. There is no regeneration of the individual by the Holy Spirit, evolution of the race is man’s only hope. Romanism holds to the infallibility of the Bible, but declares that it is not directly accessible to the individual. The infallible Church is the only interpreter and teacher. Man is therefore not to go directly to the Scriptures, but to the Church, and accept her interpretation as infallible and final. Romanism teaches salvation by penance, peace and good works. The prayers of the saints may be secured, and it is claimed that they are effective. When the Scriptures are not received and obeyed, nothing can save humanity from moral degeneration and decay. Neither Rationalism nor Romanism can flourish when the Bible is accepted and obeyed as the inerrant, inspired and finally authoritative Word of God for faith and practice. For this reason, Rationalism and Romanism seek to overthrow the Evangelical Faith. Sometimes they operate separately, sometimes in combination. While Romanism is at present moving quietly and Rationalism violently, there are indications that their combination against evangelical Christianity is approaching. Rationalism, strange as it may appear, is becoming a channel by which Protestants who have become starved on rationalism are being changed to Romanists. Recently, one of the Roman Catholic churches in Chicago received into its communion, on a given Sabbath, a goodly number of former Protestants who had been under the influence of rationalism. If the teachings of Rationalism and the activities of Romanism continue, such scenes may be often repeated. In one State of the Union, which had been settled chiefly by Evangelicals, the Bible was read in nearly every one of its schools, and used in all its public institutions. Later, through the united influences of Rationalism and Romanism, the use of the Bible was prohibited in all the schools and other public institutions. All this plainly reveals a purpose and determination to oppose the authority and use of the Bible, which is the corner-stone and authority of evangelical Christianity, and also of the civilization of Christendom. It is surely timely and necessary that the evangelical forces come to the point and resist these opposing and destructive adversaries. In the face of all this, one of the greatest discouragements lies in the apathy, indifference and pacifism of some professed evangelicals. This is a return of the evil of the ancient Laodiceans, who were neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm, and the Son of man spewed them out of his mouth. The same indifference to-day commits the same offense. Through this indifference and inactivity, rationalists have gained control of the administrative agencies of the Church, their influence and teachings pervade the greater part of the educational institutions maintained both by the State and the Church, and they have found their way into many evangelical pulpits. In all these connections, there is nothing personal, yet the liberals are persistently active and determined.
The necessity for all true evangelicals uniting in one solid body against these united and determined attacks is most apparent and vital. As in all well-planned undertakings, the evangelicals will be most effective if each company or denomination proceed under their respective organization. Let all Presbyterians determine to do their part. The fact that the Commission of Fifteen is so largely composed of men acceptable to the liberals, that the Synod of New York refuses to proceed with its judicial business and the Presbytery of New York refuses to receive any more candidates under its care until this commission reports to the General Assembly; that the Auburn Committee and the ninety-seven “young” ministers appeal to this commission for looser terms of subscription to the Standards, reveal and announce a perilous situation, and constitute a loud call for all true Presbyterians to be prepared for a serious time at the next General Assembly.