Christianity has a very strong view of personal assurance of salvation. This is so because the Christian believes that the objective word of his sovereign Lord determines being, reality and destiny. He said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me: and I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish.” The Christian believes that Christ spoke these words, and believing them he has that eternal life through His name. He knows that Christ’s word was written and recorded in order that he might know that he has eternal life. The Christian has the blessed assurance of possessing eternal life more fundamentally because he believes a little theology, than merely because he can boast of “Christian experience.” His theology comes from the revelation of God, and begins with the doctrine of God. He stands on the word of Christ who said, “I am the Son of God” (Jn. 10:36), and “I and the Father are one” (v. 33). He much prefers the testimony of Satan’s cohorts to that of lying liberals. The former were as truthful on this point as elect angels, because they knew Him (Mk. 1:33) and confessed Him to be Jesus of Nazareth, not only, but also the Holy One of God (v. 24), and Jesus, Son of the Most High God (5:7). Before he will take the word of a modernist churchman, he prefers the testimony of more honest enemies of Christ who rightly charged Him, “Thou…makest thyself God” (Jn. 10:33). The modernist has no such doctrine of God. In fact, because he does not ascribe the honor of Godhood to the Son, he does not honor the Father (5:23). But he does not want any doctrine of God. He cannot stand theology. Nor can he tolerate any Christology. He prates about Christian experience and Christian conduct. He wants to interpret Christianity in terms of “the common consciousness.” The essence of Christianity, he will tell you, is moral integrity. What does this mean in relation to Christian assurance? According to modernism, the assurance of faith is the certainty that moral integrity is a good thing. One would suppose this rather obvious: no question about it. But how do they ever arrive at such a conclusion, when they have always considered all moral standards and religious truth as relative? They have never had a doctrine of God, have never believed that God is the God of truth, and is the absolute standard of all truth. To them, there is no absolute truth. What then makes a general prevailing morality so desirable? Certainly they cannot expect to keep their ethical sanity in balance with their own God-is-dead Frankenstein running around loose! How can they talk of moral integrity when their own illegitimate child, the New Morality, goes around screaming that evil is good, good is evil, black is white and white black!
There are some who still talk of morality as the one essential ethic of man, yet who do so without the least pretense to religion. The ethical culture societies, with their Hollywood and Broadway conceptions of morality, have advocated virtue while refusing to be known as religious, and actually repudiating all theology. But their moral standards, not as high as those of Ann Landers, are about as commendable as those of an American judge. The modernists and others of the liberal establishment, like the Unitarians, are great with their pious moral platitudes, and claim to have for their ethical philosophy a religious basis. The Unitarians still keep up this religious pretence. They have not yet openly taken a stand where in all honesty they belong, namely, to some such far left as the American Association for the Advancement of Atheism. For: they still claim to be religious, although their religion is a sort of ersatz “theology.” It is really not a, substitute for theology, for the simple reason that religion cannot be substituted and still be religion. When nothing is taken from nothing, the remainder is nothing.
The ethical culture societies do not speak of a theological hope or of a religious assurance. They have a boot-strap philosophy. They keep telling themselves, “Every day, in every way, I am getting better and better.” Now the jargon of the liberal churches is really no different from this purely secular ethicism, yet they hide behind the Christian name, while at the same time they try to renounce all Christian theology. They want to interpret the fundamentals of the faith Auburn-Affirmation style, that is, for example, they want to be free to say that the virgin birth may just as well mean, among other possible understandings of it, that Jesus was born of a virgin who became pregnant by a Roman soldier. One wonders why they, like the Unitarians, continue under the least semblance of church and moral theology. For they have no theology; the latter especially boast of having none, yet they maintain theological seminaries, church buildings, public worship services and want government recognition as religious organizations. When they do speak of any spiritual assurance, they do not mean that they can say, “I know that my Redeemer liveth, whom I shall see for myself.” (Job 19:25, 27) Their theme song is, “Nobody Lives Forever.”
Though the religious liberals deny the verbal inspiration and divine authority of Scripture, and so disown theology, they still appeal to a chameleon theology or a “front” theology of their own devising. They obtain it not from Scripture, for they are constantly rejecting the Scriptures, would do away with it entirely if they could, as is evident from their Goodspeed, Moffatt and Revised Standard Versions of the Bible. Yet they continually appeal to Scripture as an authority for their non-theology. A generation ago the religious liberals made religious experience, not Scripture truth, man’s guideline. This means that relative to all that beyond human experience they were agnostic. Now the reference of religious experience must advance to a higher level in the realization of Socialism.
It is possible to have Christian experience based on theology, but it is not possible to build a theology on the basis of religious experience. For the question is, Whose experience shall be the norm of religion? the man-centered liberal’s experience? or the antitheological agnostic’s? Modernists see that experience is not the best teacher, because it is not a sufficient ground for religion. There must be another foundation for a “new theology.” But apart from Holy Writ, no adequate foundation has been found, nor can be. So the liberal religionists have claimed that their religion needs no foundation. They say that the religion of Jesus would stand even if it could be proved that Jesus never existed. For modern liberalism is a method rather than a system of doctrine. Modernism does not concern itself with what to think; merely withhow to think. This will surely prove to be a waste of time, for why spend hours learning how to think when there is nothing to think about? There is no absolute truth. There is nothing true in itself, true always, under all circumstances and conditions. Truth is relative, that is, it is actually not true, but is to all practical purposes merely a quasi-truth. The best that man can do to arrive at the “truth” is by a gradual evolutionary process to proceed from the false to the less false. Religious experience may then be considered true, or at least we let it pass. We use it, rather than accept it as true. Then there is no need to think of assurance. The assurance of faith is superfluous. There is not one proposition in our entire religious scheme that is objectively true. How then can we honestly speak of assurance with reference to it? Take, for example, the proposition, I believe the resurrection of the body. Where is there place for assurance in reference to a statement not claimed to be true?
You see, with the religious liberals, truth has been dead from the beginning. From them, not from the academic atheists, came the god-is-dead “theology.” They all along have believed that truth has been dead. Then they have really believed that the God of truth is dead. Some will admit this flatly. One of the most representative of the religious liberals is Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick, known for his ministry at New York City’s Riverside Baptist Church. He pretends to disagree with the God-is-dead fad. This is like a Romney-Republican or a Scranton-Republican debating a Democrat. Democrats-in-disguise debating Democrats deceive only the sophomoric. When liberals debate liberals, there is no controversy, no contest. Fosdick pretends to disavow the God-is-dead philosophy, yet he claims “the God Who Will Take Care of Everything” is dead. “Certainly,” he explains, “the King of Glory ruling the universe from a golden throne is dead. The God That Walked in the Garden in the cool of the day… is dead, too.” He avers that in the age of The Bomb, “the God of Battles” must die, and thinks that the hardest God to bury is the one who makes things come out right. “It takes real maturity to get rid of him!” It is perhaps more difficult, however, to make the infallible God who defines right and wrong to die off. Fosdick wishes the, as he calls Him, anthropomorphic God of the Scriptures dead, while he dreams that his pantheistic god lives. His god who demands that we work for Socialism and world peace is not dead. Fosdick has a pious god reached through a conditional philosophy. “If we want physical results, we must fulfill physical conditions. If we want spiritual results, we must fulfill spiritual conditions…Modern religion says: Go out in God’s world and fulfill His conditions. If you want health, fulfill the conditions of health…Sow good will and reap a better world…” He gets close to his god wherever there is truth. Truth “does not come to man through magical handwriting on the wall, or spelled out on stone tables, but from the inner counsel of the heart” (Reader’s Digest, Oct. 1966, p. 67). This brings us back to the abandoned religious ground of human experience. “God” is nothing more than the mental projection of man’s two-by-zero brain.
Christian experience, genuine and valid, is based on the standard of infallible Scripture, the doctrine of the triune God, the person, work and teaching of Christ, the doctrine of the vicarious atonement, the particular redemption. For without this foundation one may speak of some fantastical, ethereal, mystical experience, but not Christian experience. Deny these fundamentals of the faith, and your vocabulary is not entitled to the concept God, nor to the wordassurance.