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BL 2775 .B52 1882
Blauvelt, Augustus, 1882-

The present religious crisi;








27 ANl> 29 WEST 230 SIKKKT

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After having perused this volume, the reader will per-
ceive that it is not designed to be complete in itself. On
the other hand, it is put forth merely as the first of a series
of volumes, the second of which will be entitled "The Reli-
gion of Jesus," and the third " Supernatural Religion."

Whether the author will or will not be able to develop
the entire scheme of religious thought, which he has pro-
jected in his own mind, within the compass of these three
volumes, without prolonging them to an undesirable length,
remains to be determined. If he can, he will. Otherwise
it will be abundant time to announce the specific titles of
the remaining works after it becomes manifest that they
must be written.

Like every other literary project or production, this one
in particular has had its own inner and individual history.
When the author says that he was graduated from Rutgers
College, at New Brunswick, N.J., and also from the Peter
Hertzog Theological Seminary, connected with the same
institution, he has given a sufficient guaranty that his origi-
nal instruction in divinity was of the most hyper-orthodox
description. Nor does he concede that any alumnus of
either Alma Mater ever went forth who was, to begin with,
a more devout and implicit believer than he was in both the
essentials and the non-essentials of the general orthodox
theology, and notably that of the Calvinistic order.

It is needless to assure the reader, that, while he was a
student at New Brunswick, the author wns most securely


guarded against all contamination from modern infidelity
He does not remember, for example, that in those days he
ever heard so much as the very mention of the name of
Strauss. At the same time he does have an indistinct recol-
lection, that, in a vague and general way, he was taught at
once to dread and to abhor that modern theological mon-
strosity, namely, German Rationalism. Just why he should
either dread or abhor it, he did not learn ; but that it was a
theological monstrosity of some sort or another, to be both
dreaded and abhorred, he took for granted on the ipse dixit
of those distinguished Doctors in Divinity whose special pre-
rogative he then conceived it to be to form his opinions on
all such subjects.

Thus matters continued even after the author's gradua-
tion, until some eighteen years ago. Then, for the first
time, he chanced one day to get a formal introduction to
Dr. David Friedrich Strauss, as that arch-heretic is repre-
sented in his first " Life of Jesus."

From that time onward the author has devoted himself,
with a constantly increasing degree of exclusiveness, as a
specialist, to investigations connected with the various de-
partments of modern biblical and rehgious research.

The specific purpose with which he originally took up
these investigations was to vindicate the traditional Protes-
tant conceptions about the Bible and religion against all
the assaults of the modern unbelievers. But from the very
outset he conceived the idea, that, to make this vindication
of any actual and permanent service to those conceptions,
it must itself be actual, it must itself be scientific, it must
itself be something decidedly more than merely theological.
In other words, whatever -nlierited conceptions about eithei


the Bible or religion he found he could not establish by
valid evidence and by legitimate reasoning, he resolutely
determined that he would never make the effort to establish
either by any such distortion of evidence or by any such ille-
gitimate reasoning as he had fortunately come to discover
to be only too characteristic of the mediaeval apologists.

The longer he has prosecuted his researches from this
standpoint and in this spirit, the more he has become
astounded at the aggregate results to which he found him-
self arriving. Contrary to all his original anticipations, he
has come more and more distinctly to perceive that the
traditional Protestant conceptions about both the Bible and
religion, instead of being scientifically defensible even down
to details, require a revision and re-statement of the most
revolutionary nature.

Some suggestions towards such a revision and re-statement
the reader will find attempted in this series of volumes ; the
first of which is herewith submitted to the consideration of
that portion of the public which feels an interest in current
biblical and religious discussions.

In the preface to his thoughtful and scholarly work on
"The Authorship and Historical Character of the Fourth
Gospel," Dr. William Sanday says : " In looking back over
this first attempt in the difficult and responsible field of
theology, I am forcibly reminded of its many faults and
shortcomings. And yet it seems to be necessary that these
subjects should be discussed, if only with some slight de-
gree of adequacy. I cannot think it has not been without
serious loss on both sides, that, in the great movement
that has been going on upon the Continent for the last
forty years, the scanty band of English theologians should


have stood almost entirely aloof, or should only have
touched the outskirts of the questions at issue, without
attempting to grapple with them at their centre. It is not
for me to presume to do this, but I wish to approach as
near to it as I can and dare ; and it has seemed to me that
by beginning upon the critical side, and taking a single
question in hand at a time, I might be not altogether unable
to contribute to that perhaps far-off result which will only be
obtained by the co-operation of many men and many minds."

In like manner the present writer feels that any sugges-
tions which he can personally make towards that funda-
mental revision of the traditional misconcepdons about the
Bible and religion which the present age and hour demand,
must of necessity be more distinguished for their many
faults and shortcomings than for any thing beside. But
here in America the average theological considerations of
these subjects have thus far been, in comparison with those
of Germany, even more superficial, even more unintelligent,
even more mediaeval, than have been those of England.
And it is high time that we began here in America to grap-
ple in earnest with these questions at their very centre ;
seeking to come to a thorough-going understanding with
them, in view of the most advanced developments of present
biblical and religious enlightenment, and even speculation.

If the author can only succeed in stimulating other
and far more able minds, other and far more accomplished
scholars, to contribute something towards a radical and sat-
isfactory adjustment of these issues, he will after that be
perfectly content to see his own crude conclusions discarded
and forgotten.



Chapter Page

I. The Crisis 7

II. Dogmatic Theology 12

III. The Validity of the Biblical Canon . . 23

IV. The Inspiration of the Bible ... 31
V. The Historical Character of the Gospels . s^

VI. The Religion of the Bible .... 79

VII. Religion 102

VIII. The Religion of Jesus iii

IX. Religious Repression 123

X. Religious Liberty 136

Index to Authors cited, Quotations, and Evi-
dences 185





Dr. Gerhard Uhlhorn, a leading evangelical
divine of Germany, affirms that ''since the first
days of the church, when she had to defend her
faith against heathen calumny and heathen science,
the attacks upon Christianity and the church have
never been so manifold and so powerful as at the
present time. The contest is no longer upon single
questions, such as whether this or that conception
of Christianity is the more correct, but the very
existence of Christianity is at stake." ^ Indeed, says
Professor Christlieb, likewise of Germany : " Whether
you visit the lecture-rooms of professors, or the
council-chambers of the municipality, or the work-
shop of the artisan, everywhere — in all places of
private or social gathering — you hear the same tale:
the old faith is now obsolete," ^

Canon Liddon thus speaks for England : " The
vast majority of our countrymen still shrink with



sincere dread from any thing like an explicit rejec-
tion of Christianity. Yet no one who hears what
goes on in daily conversation, and who is moderately
conversant with the tone of some of the leading
organs of public opinion, can doubt the existence of
a wide-spread unsettlement of religious belief. Peo-
ple have a notion that the present is, in the hack-
neyed phrase, 'a transition period,' and that they
ought to be keeping pace with the general move-
ment." 3

Professor Macpherson thus depicts the state of
things in Scotland: *'A11 religious questions seem
to be at present once more thrown into the crucible,
to undergo a fiery trial. Not merely the truths of
revealed religion, but those truths which constitute
what is termed natural religion, are subjected to this
trial." 4 "It is also a characteristic of our times,
that this contest respecting the foundation of reli-
gious belief is not confined, as it used generally to
be, within certain circles of speculative men. All
classes in society are taking part in it. The press,
now so powerful in its influence, has involved rich
and poor, learned and unlearned, in this great con-
flict." 5

Pressense, speaking for France, declares that a
formidable crisis has there commenced alike in the
history of Catholicism and of Protestantism, and
that nothing will check it. There is not a single


religious party, he says, which does not feel the
need either of confirmation or transformation. All
the churches are passing through a time of crisis.
Aspiration toward the church of the future is be-
coming more general and more ardent." ^

In a private letter to the author, Professor J. F.
Astie thus speaks for Switzerland : '* In America,
the theology of the past is still powerful. With us,
orthodoxy has lost the control. At the utmost the
old theology is here without hold, except upon such
minds as are at once narrow and fanatical. May you
never know in the United States the sad condition
in which we are here ; for we are here suspended
between a past which cannot be restored, and a
future which cannot be born. May you not have,
as we have had, a theological and ecclesiastical revo-
lution, but rather a religious evolution which is at
once calm and peaceful."

But that we are, at least in some initial way, be-
ginning to pass here in America, either through an
agitated theological revolution, or through a com-
paratively calm and peaceful religious evolution, is
patent on the surface. Modern unbelief, in one
form or another, constitutes to-day one of the up-
permost topics of our nation and our times. Our
pulpits, according to the modern or mediaeval attain-
ments of their respective occupants, make it one of
the most prominent subjects either of their discus-


sions, or their declamations, or their semi-impreca-
tory supplications. It pervades all departments of
our domestic literature, whether secular or religious.
It is being discussed by us, now in our private con-
versations, now in our social gatherings, now in our
lyceums or club-rooms. Special professorships and
lectureships are devoted to its demolition. Our
popular platform orators find it to their pecuniary
profit to promulge it.

Nor is the radical religious revolution which is
to-day sweeping, or beginning to sweep, over this, in
common with all other Christian countries, either a
mere matter of the moment, or due to any tempo-
rary or evanescent causes. Adam Storey Farrar, in
his Bampton Lectures for 1862, puts it down as the
fourth great historical crisis of the Christian faith,
and finds himself obliged to treat of it in connection
with the development of modern thought in three
nations for two centuries. These are, first, English
Deism in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries ;
secondly, French Infidelity in the eighteenth cen-
tury ; and, thirdly, German Rationalism in the eigh-
teenth and nineteenth centuries. 7

The present religious crisis, then, has already
been in progress for more than two hundred years,
and has gathered up into itself all the motion and
momentum imparted to great religious epochs by
international scholarship and thought. Nor can it


be doubtful that the underlying causes which have
thus far imparted to it this persistent vitality will
continue to increase in volume, and to push the
crisis forward until every one of its profoundest
problems, which is capable of a solution, has even-
tually been settled, and settled to the satisfaction of
every cultured mind.

In Germany, where its development has been the
most complete, its results have been the most disas-
trous to all the traditional conceptions of Chris-
tianity, whether Catholic or Protestant. And else-
where throughout Christendom, in proportion as its
influences extend, almost in that proportion do the
like results obtain, or threaten to obtain.

As for us who have become more or less inextrica-
bly involved in this onward religious movement, it
certainly cannot be premature for us, on the one
hand, to make the effort to discover, in so far as may
be possible, whither we are tending ; and, on the
other hand, to provide ourselves, in so far as we may
be able, with at least some provisional religious be-
liefs and hopes, to take the place of those beliefs and
hopes from which we have undoubtedly departed, and
departed never to return.



In his Cunningham Lectures for 1873, Dr. Rainy
confesses that he finds himself confronted in Scot-
land, not merely with heresy, but with heresy per-
sistently professed, and such heresy as is subversive
of what is fundamental in the current views of Chris-

Some specimens of this heresy may be found by
the reader in the volume entitled ** Scotch Sermons,"
issued in 1880. Thus, one of the contributors, the
Rev. W. L. M'Farlan, professes to speak for a class
which includes in it many of the religious teach-
ers in all the churches. This writer, among other
things, proceeds to exhibit some of the sections of
scholastic theology which these religious teachers
regard as specially untenable. These sections, he
affirms, comprehend the following dogmas : i. The
descent of man from the Adam of the Book of Gene-
sis ; 2. The fall of that Adam from a state of original
righteousness by eating the forbidden fruit ; 3. The
imputation of Adam's guilt to all his posterity ;


4. The consequent death of all men in sin ; 5. The
redemption in Christ of an election according to
grace ; 6. The quickening in the elect of a new life ;
7. The eternal punishment and perdition of those
who remain unregenerate.^

This single example suffices to illustrate, that,
within the bosom of all the Protestant denomina-
tions, there exist to-day representative persons who
have undergone a more or less radical revolution of
opinion concerning almost every dogmatic statement
of doctrine which has come down to us from the
dogma-making epochs. The creed cannot be named,
which is so brief that some more or less considera-
ble party in the Protestant churches does not to-day
contend for its abridgment. The dogma cannot be
instanced, which is so fundamental that some repre-
sentative minority in the Protestant ranks does not
to-day contend, either for its revision and restate-
ment, or for its absolute abandonment.

Let us who are on the extreme wing of this pro-
gressive movement within the Protestant ranks de-
clare our position, if possible, with even more dis-
tinctness. Our rupture with Protestantism does not
relate to those mere minor matters of belief which
divide Protestants into all their wearisome array of
theological sects and cliques. All these sects and
cliques combined could not to-day put forth any
mere abstract and consensus of their belief so short


that we would not cut it shorter, or so fundamental
that we would not either greatly modify it, or reject
it altogether.

To illustrate. We find in the Constitution of the
Evangelical Alliance a brief summary of the con-
sensus of the various evangelical or Protestant con-
fessions of faith. The opening article — which we
need alone to cite — is this : —

'' I. The divine inspiration, authority, and suffi-
ciency of the Holy Scriptures."

Do we, the representative minority of religious
revolutionists still classified with Protestants, and
presumably in question, — do we accept of even this
consensus }

If we do not, we may no longer deserve the name
of Protestants ; we may no longer deserve in any tra-
ditional sense the broader name of Christians ; but
do we accept of this consensus }

Before we give any decided and decisive answer
on this point, it will be well to come to such an un-
derstanding with ourselves as to render it certain
what sort of an answer we alone can give with
entire mental rectitude, not to say with entire moral

And, in the first place, let us direct our atten-
tion to a portion of Article VI. of the Church of
England. Here it is : *' Holy Scripture contains all
things necessary to salvation, so that whatsoever is


not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not
to be required of any man that it should be believed
as an article of the faith, or be thought requisite or
necessary to salvation. In the name of Holy Scrip-
ture we do understand those canonical books of the
Old and New Testament, of whose authority was
never any doubt in the Church."

With this, so far as our present purpose is con-
cerned, all the Protestant churches will substantially

Over against this the Dogmatic Decrees of the
late Vatican Council fulminate as follows: "All
those things are to be believed with divine and
Catholic faith, which are contained in the Word of
God, written or handed down, and which the Church,
either by a solemn judgment, or by her ordinary and
universal magisterium, proposes for belief as having
been divinely revealed." 3 "And these books of the
Old and New Testament are to be received as sacred
and canonical in their integrity, with all their parts,
as they are enumerated in the decree of the said
Council." 4

The semi-scholarly reader will perceive, therefore,
that Protestants, first of all, affirm that the Scriptures
alone can furnish the Christian church with a divinely
authoritative subject-matter for her dogmas. Catho-
lics, on the other hand, allege that the written books
of the Bible, and the unwritten traditions of the


Church, are equally of a divine authority in all
matters of Christian belief, so long as those tra-
ditions are only duly proposed and sanctioned by the
ruling powers of Rome. But, if the unwritten tra-
ditions of the Church be excluded from the problem,
we begin at once to approximate to something like
a consensus of opinion, even between the Catholics
and Protestants. They both concur, that is to say,
in the view that the Bible — the written Bible — is
divinely authoritative in matters of religious belief,
alike for Protestants and Catholics.

And yet they, of course, have their well-known
traditional dispute concerning what the written
Bible is. What sacred books together constitute
the written Bible } The Catholics say that this was
all settled by the sacred Synod of Trent, and that
the apocryphal books of the Old Testament must
be admitted in the canon. The Protestants contend
quite as stoutly that these apocryphal books must
not be admitted in the canon. But, if this further
bone of contention about the canonical character or
uncanonical character of the apocryphal books of
the Old Testament be cast aside, we find the high
contesting parties standing again almost peaceably
together. In other words, while the Catholics will
not concede that the Protestant Bible contains, in
the Old Testament division, all the canonical books
of the Holy Scriptures, they will not merely concede.


but insist, that all the books which the Protestant
Bible does contain are undoubtedly canonical.

Nor can any Protestant body, no matter how
supremely anti-Catholic, desire a more emphatic
statement of the divine and infallible inspiration
of the Scriptures than is presented in the Vatican
Detrees. For those decrees explicitly affirm that
both the Old and New Testaments contain revela-
tion with no admixture of error, for the reason that,
having been written by the inspiration of the Holy
Ghost, they have God for their author. 5

But not only do Protestants and Catholics to-day
concur in the view, first, that all the special books
which together constitute the Protestant Bible are
sacred and canonical, and, secondly, that these spe-
cial books, taken in their integrity and with all their
parts, present the traditional theological dogmatists
with a subject-matter for their dogmas which is at
once divinely inspired and therefore absolutely devoid
of every kind of error. Catholics and Protestants
have from the very outset held this view in common.
It is indeed true, that, on the former point, neither
the Protestant divines nor the Catholic divines would
to-day regard some of the leading reformers and bib-
lical scholars of the sixteenth century as supremely
orthodox. Thus Luther denied the canonicity of
the Book of Esther. He repudiated the apostolical
authorship of the Epistle to the Hebrews, of the


General Epistles of James and Jude, and also of the
Apocalypse. The Apocalypse in particular Luther
placed very much on a parity with the Fourth Book
of Esdras, — which latter book he talked of throwing
into the Elbe. And to him the Epistle of James
was but an epistle of straw.

Dr. Davidson, who is our authority for the above
statements concerning Luther, likewise affirms that
Bodenstein of Carlstadt divided the biblical books
into three classes, namely, those of the first, those of
the second, and those of the third rank, in point
of dignity and authority ; that Zwingli pronounced
the Apocalypse to be uncanonical ; and that CEco-
lampadius would not permit either the Apocalypse,
or James, or Jude, or Second Peter, or Second and
Third John, to be compared with the other portions
of the Scriptures.^

But all this is scarcely more than an individual
development — an almost accidental feature — con-
nected with the Reformation. The questioning of
the canonicity of the books to-day composing the
Protestant Bible did not then become general, and
did not, even so far as it progressed, meet with any
thing like an ultimate and general Protestant accept-
ance. For whether we consult the Helvetic Confes-
sion, the Gallic Confession, the Belgic Confession,
the Westminster Confession, the Confession revised
and accepted by the Synod of Dordrecht, or consult


the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England,
what do we discover ? We discover simply that the
Reformation of the sixteenth century decided, in
its aggregate and final outcome, as that outcome
found expression in the sub-Reformation theology,
that the Protestant churches would reject the apoc-
ryphal books contained in the Catholic canon of the
Old Testament Scriptures, but would retain all the
other books of the old Catholic Bible, as being truly
sacred and canonical, and making up together their
own Holy Scriptures.

As for the second point, we only need to cite by
way of proof the following remark by Adam Storey
Farrar : **The belief in a full inspiration was held
from the earliest times, with the few exceptions
observable in occasional remarks of Origen, Jerome,
Theodore of Mopsuestia, and Euthymius Zigabenus
in the twelfth centruy." 7

Looked at, therefore, only with reference to the
leading issues and controlling outcome, it was with
regard, neither to the canonicityof the various books

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Online LibraryAugustus BlauveltThe present religious crisis → online text (page 1 of 12)