Returning for a moment to the pages of THE PRESBYTERIAN in 1924, there is this brief article by the Rev. Albert Dale Gantz, who was at that time pastor of a church in New York City. Here Gantz accurately diagnoses the root problem of modernism as one of epistemology. With such diagnosis then, little wonder that rising seminarians like Clark and Van Til chose to focus on epistemology as that place where the battle was fiercest.
A Diagnosis of Modernism
by Rev. Albert Dale Gantz
An analysis of symptoms is necessary to a diagnosis of the pathological condition. From a careful observance of the symptoms of so-called “modernism,” the conclusion has been borne in more and more upon my mind that the difficulty—the real source of infection is not so much in theology—our God-given knowledge of the Supreme Being, as with epistemology—or man-made philosophy of religious experience.
Modernists are cramped by a theory of knowledge which limits all religious knowledge to experience. They cannot admit any fact into their mind except through the single, narrow door of experience. They talk loudly about “the open mind,” when, as a matter of close observation, I find that their minds are closed to all truths which cannot enter in through the one narrow door of experiment. In other words, all knowledge is reduced to the terms of experience, and must be tested, so to speak, by the laboratory method, applicable only to certain branches of physical science ; and so by limiting themselves to one method of obtaining knowledge all truth not capable of treatment under laboratory methods is rejected. It is very easy to see, therefore, that the trouble with the modernists is with his epistemology. He has not yet perfected an apparatus for knowing truths in the vast realm where the test-tube and the Bunsen burner are inadequate.
To illustrate the inadequacy of knowledge that is confined only to what is discoverable by experience is not difficult. Take, for example, knowledge of God. The modernist cannot affirm the eternity of God or the pre-existence of Christ, because forsooth these great truths are beyond his experience. He is unable to affirm the creative act of the Almighty in bringing the cosmos into existence, because he cannot bring the mighty cosmic acts of omnipotence into the small door of his own personal experience. Likewise, because he has no personal experience of the mode by which the Supreme Being operates to create life, the modernist feels that he cannot accept any revelation on that matter. In other words, the modernist has set for himself such artificial and prescribed boundaries to the acquisition of knowledge that he has closed the avenues of his mind to those great realms of truth which are spiritual discerned, and has reduced all knowledge to that which is physically discerned. His limitations, therefore, are not in the realm of theology, but primarily in the realm of epistemology. He is cramped by a theory of knowledge. Continue reading “The Theory of Knowledge Again”