When Infidelity Fashions Faith

By Wayne Jackson

Ideally one’s faith should grow out of a rich companionship with the Word of God. Genuine faith is forged by the instruction of the Scriptures (Rom. 10:17). Unfortunately, the “faith” of some is not so fashioned. Though most people want to “believe” in something sacred, they frequently want a religious system of their own creation — one which suits their fancy of the way things “ought” to be — in their judgment.

This has ever been the malignancy of religious modernism. The religious infidel cannot “believe” in the miracles of the Bible because miracles — genuine miracles — are alien to modern experiences. And so, on that basis, he extrapolates backwards and rejects the supernatural works of Christ.

Rudolf Bultmann sought to “demythologize” the Scriptures of their miraculous elements because he believed one’s thinking today must be “shaped” by “modern science,” so that a “blind acceptance of the New Testament” would involve denying the experiences of “our everyday life” (Kerygma and Myth, London: Billing & Sons, 1954, pp. 3-4).

More recently we have been treated to the fanatical ravings of the so-called “Jesus Seminar.” These pseudo-scholars have color-coded the Gospel accounts to reflect their subjective views relative to what Jesus did, or did not, actually say. In so doing, they have eliminated 82% of the Lord’s words, denying their credibility.

The rationale is clear. The supernatural must yield to modern objectivity. A telling statement was: “. . . [W]e have seen the heavens through Galileo’s telescope.” Hence they vowed not to return to what they called “the creed and dogma” of the Middle Ages (Funk, R.W., Hoover, R.W., The Five Gospels, New York: Macmillan, 1993, p. 2). For a further consideration of the “Seminar’s” heretical musings, see our essays: The Jesus Seminar, {glossSub (“The Jesus Seminar, Part 1”,“Parts 1”)} and {glossSub (“The Jesus Seminar, Part 2”,“2”)}, in “Archives”.

This approach to the Bible is absolutely reprehensible, but it is not unlike the pitfalls into which some Christians have fallen from time-to-time. It is sometimes the case that well-meaning believers have unwittingly allowed skeptics to “forge their faith” for them.

Occasionally, after an infidel has attacked the text of the Bible, a scholar, generally sympathetic to the Scriptures, will evaluate the criticism of his adversary. While he rejects it in large measure, he will, nonetheless, feel some pressure from the skeptic’s argument. At the very least, he feels inadequate to answer it fully. And so, he will take the antagonistic position, alter it somewhat, and pass it off as a “moderate” biblical viewpoint. The “moderate” position then may be subsequently “filtered” through a series “scholarly” presentations, each cloaked in a somewhat “conservative” format. Finally, over enough time, the view becomes adorned with the garments of exegetical respectability — at which point it is scarcely questioned at all.

Let me give you some examples.

The Virgin Birth

Modernists flatly reject the idea that Jesus Christ was born of a virgin mother. Virgin births just don’t happen, they allege. Accordingly, long ago those with a liberal mentality set about to emasculate the Bible of the evidence for the virgin birth of the Lord.

One of the compelling proofs for that event is found in Isaiah’s prophecy, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son [sigma]” (7:14). Liberal theologians suggested that the Hebrew term almah did not mean a sexually pure maiden; rather, it merely signified “a young woman.” A storm of controversy was generated when the Revised Standard Version (1952) rendered Isaiah 7:14 in that fashion, relegating “virgin” to a footnote. The situation had been reversed in the American Standard Version (1901) due to the fact that the liberal element on the translating committee was in the minority.

Over a period of time, more moderate writers, heavily influenced by those who preceded them, began to argue that Isaiah really did not have the mother of Jesus in view in his “young woman” prophecy. Rather, the prophet merely alluded to a maiden of his day, who, though perhaps a virgin at the time of the prophecy’s utterance, would subsequently marry, and bear a son.

It was then suggested that the apostle Matthew merely seized upon this occasion, and made a “typological” application to the situation with Mary (cf. Mt. 1:22-23). That view has become widespread. It is a position that was “forged” ultimately in the furnace of liberalism.

Compromising Genesis

A similar procedure has happened with reference to the creation account, as set forth in Genesis 1. The Mosaic record is a straight-forward, historical narrative that is unrivaled in both the ancient and modern worlds.

But with the advent of Darwin’s theory of evolution (1859), religionists began to view the Mosaic account in a radically different light. It was determined that a “harmony” must be sought between the “scientific” view of human beginnings, and the “religious” thrust of Genesis. Since the theory of evolution depends upon “billions of years” for the process to gradually unfold, men began to explore certain “interpretative” schemes which might allow for “long ages” to be somehow squeezed into the Mosaic narrative.

As a result, several theories were conceived.

  1. Some speculated that there was a vast “gap” between 1:1 and 1:2, during which many creatures (including dinosaurs) lived upon the earth (even a pre-Adam race of men). This ancient world was destroyed, leaving behind the bulk of the “fossil” record observed today. This view, known as “The Gap Theory,” is believed by many who profess a genuine devotion to the Bible.
  2. A second idea, commonly known as the “Day-Age Theory,” alleges that the “days” of the creation week were not literal days. Instead, they were “symbolic” days, each embracing millions of years. This view disrupts a sound exegetical approach to Exodus 20:11.
  3. Another idea is that whereas the “days” might well have been normal solar days, one need not assume they represented events in a chronologically sequential fashion. Too, it is argued, there may have been vast spans of time intervening between the days. These voids are supposed to accommodate the long ages of the so-called geologic record.
  4. Others suggest that the “days” were not “days” at all. Rather, the “day” motif was merely an ancient “literary device” for outlining the author’s plan of presenting his ideas.

Many unsuspecting, sincere people have absorbed these views, and carelessly echoed them. They scarcely recognize, in most instances probably, the origin of the modified views they now advocate.

The motive may be pure, but the result is pure compromise. The faithful Bible teacher must not allow his views of Scripture to be “forged” by skepticism.

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About the Author

Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.