The Church and the Sacraments, The Time of the Reformation, Views on the Church, Formal Principle (continued)

In our preceding article we were criticizing that form bf Rationalism which admits that the Scriptures do contain a supernatural revelation. This type of Rationalism, however, believes the things that are in the Word of God only if and when he is able to comprehend and understand them. In our appraisal of this form of Rationalism we observed, in the first place, that it is not speaking the truth when it declares to believe only that which it is able to understand. And our second observation concerned the written Word of God, the Scriptures. We may now continue with our appraisal of this form of Rationalism. 

Our fourth observation of this critical approach unto and treatment of the Holy Scriptures concerns our Lord Jesus Christ. Now we must remember that Rationalism rejects the Scriptural truth that Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God, coeternal and coessential with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Rationalism cannot accept the Scriptural doctrine of the Trinity because this teaching does not lie within the scope of man’s intellect and understanding. According to Rationalism Jesus of Nazareth is nothing more than a mere man. However, we must also bear in mind that the world loves to speak of this Jesus of Nazareth as one of the noblest men that ever lived. They love to point to him as a noble man, as a great reformer who would reform the world, as a wonderful teacher who would instruct all mankind particularly in his sermon on the mount, and as a wonderful example who would show the children of men how to walk and conduct themselves by his own wonderful and unselfish deportment and behavior. So, the world loves to point to him as a wonderful man whom we may well attempt to emulate in all we do and speak. But, let us presuppose that this Jesus of Nazareth were nothing more than a mere man and that He be not the Son of God, coeternal and coessential with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Is He, then, such a noble man? Did He not claim equality with God? Did He not assert that He and the Father are one? Did He not appropriate unto Himself the right to forgive sins and is this not a right that belongs exclusively to God? Were not the Jewish leaders, then, justified in their charge that this Jesus of Nazareth was guilty of blasphemy? Is there a sin more heinous in the sight of God than that a mere mortal man claims equality with the living God? And, yet, all this is surely understandable, is it not? I mean that the world speaks of this Jesus, who claimed to be God, as one of the noblest of all men. What does the rationalist care about God?! Of what concern is it to him that a mere mortal elevates himself to equality with the living God? Such a sin of blasphemy does not concern him in the very least. He does not bow before the Word of the Lord and certainly has no interest in the God Whose Word he does not recognize as a word before which he must bow with unquestioning obedience. Such a Jesus, exclusively human according to his conception, is not noble but the greatest blasphemer. And we must surely not follow his example in this sin of blasphemy. 

However, this is not all. In this connection I wish to call attention to the Scriptural narrative as recorded for us in Matthew 1:18-25. Because of the importance of this passage in this connection permit me to quote it in its entirety: “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband (this word “husband” here means that he was her promised husband, that they were engaged to be married—H.V.), being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily. But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save His people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.” Imagine, if you please, if Jesus were not the Son of God, conceived in the womb of the virgin Mary by the Holy Ghost! And imagine, if you please, if the Scriptures were not the inspired Word of the living God, but merely a word of fallible and mortal man! What rational, sane man, I ask you, would write such a story! Fact is, if Jesus be not the eternal Son of God, conceived by the Holy Spirit, then He was born of a harlot, out of wedlock, and Mary had been shamefully unfaithful to Joseph to whom she was engaged to be married. Mary was with child, was engaged to be married to Joseph, and Joseph was not this Child’s father! Joseph perceived his predicament and, being a just man, wished to break off his engagement to Mary. But, inasmuch as, according to Jewish law, he could have exposed Mary’s shame and brought her to justice, he, because of his love to Mary, decided to break this engagement privily. So, this means that, if the Holy Spirit had not conceived this child in the womb of Mary, this child’s father was another than Joseph. Is this what one would call a rationalistic, sane way of recording “history”? Does the world ever write concerning its heroes or heroines in this manner? Would any sane man write a book after this fashion? Is it not the policy of the world always to cover up the shortcomings and faults of its heroes? Do our American history books expose the faults and weaknesses of its heroes in this fashion? Yet, this characterizes the Word of God throughout. The Bible does not hesitate to uncover and expose the sins of the saints and people of the Lord. All we need do is to recall what the Scriptures tell us about such men as Noah and David, men who were guilty of the sins of drunkenness and even of murder. Let the world please stop talking about Jesus as a noble and wonderful man, and of his mother as one of the noblest women who ever lived! 

Finally, I would call attention to the Scriptural story of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. This narrative was not inspired by the living God!? How else can we possibly explain it? Is this narrative the product of the human mind? Did a mere man think up and concoct this narrative? If a mere man had conceived of this incident would there not have been some people at the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth to witness His departure out of and ascent out of the tomb? Would any mortal have been able to conceive of the resurrection of a man in such a way that this resurrected person could not be seen by earthly and mortal eyes? Besides, the writers write the narrative in such a way that nobody even expected this Jesus to rise from the dead. What credence must we place in the account of the resurrection by mortal men when these men did not even expect this resurrection? Can such a narrative be considered trustworthy? So, man first puts a watch around the tomb of this Jesus of Nazareth, and then we read nothing of His coming out of the sepulcher and that he destroys his wicked enemies at the tomb? How fantastic is this narrative if we do not have Divine inspiration here?! But this is not all. We challenge the world to explain the empty tomb. For one hundred and fifty years the world believed the absurd and ridiculous rumor that while the watchers slept at their post the disciples stole the body of their Lord. What nonsense is this! In the first place, the disciples were not even thinking of the possibility of the resurrection of their Lord. In fact, they did not believe it when it was told them that the tomb of Jesus was empty and that the risen Lord had been seen by some of the disciples! And, in the second place, what would the disciples have done with a dead body anyway? Could a corpse do them any good? Would their faith in such a dead Jesus avail them anything? Thirdly, the disciples stole the body of Jesus while the soldiers slept? Did these watchers at Jesus’ tomb sleep perhaps with one eye open? Did they see the disciples remove the body of Jesus while they were sleeping? Would any court or sane, rational judge believe such a story? Indeed, let the world explain the empty tomb! Fact is, the tomb was empty. This is an historical fact. It is simply a fact that Jesus was in the sepulcher, that Roman soldiers had been placed as a guard around that grave, that the disciples did not expect the resurrection of their Lord, and that, nevertheless, in spite of all this, the tomb was empty! Besides, the linen clothes were in that sepulcher as if Jesus were still in them. Also this is an historical fact. And to this we may add that the resurrected Christ was seen by witnesses, not once but several times, yea by five hundred at one time. It is simply a fact that there is no event in all of history which has been proved and established more than the resurrection of our Lord. God certainly saw to that. And, as far as the Scriptures are concerned, that they speak the truth concerning sin and evil is established by the living experience of every child of God. We know that what the Scriptures teach concerning sin and evil is true. We experience it fully and completely in our lives. We do not write this because we feel it our duty to prove, rationalistically, the truthfulness of the Word, but only because the Rationalist has no ground under his feet. The Rationalist rejects the Word of God because he hates the truth, the truth of God. He is not motivated by his reason in his rejection of the Scriptures, but only by his evil heart. 

Now we have one more question to answer: Is faith irrational? Does the rejection of the theory of the Rationalist imply that faith is unreasonable and irrational? The Rationalist claims to be motivated by reason. Is it then true that the believer in the Scriptures as the Word is not motivated by reason and clear thinking? The Reformers rejected Rationalism as well as Mysticism, the error which places feeling and emotion of the child of God above the Word of God. The Reformers insisted that the Bible is the only rule of faith and conduct, that that Word of God must govern all our thinking, and not that our reason must lord it over the Scriptures. The Rationalist maintains and insists that he may not be deprived of the use of his intellect and thinking with respect to matters which he must believe or refuse to believe. Did the Reformers set forth as their principle that faith and the act of believing rule out this use of the intellect and of the mind? Is it not according to and in harmony with the Word of God that, although the child of God is governed by a regenerated heart, this regenerated heart also controls and directs his will and his mind, so that the principle of the new man and rebirth of the Christian does not cancel or destroy his calling to use also his thinking with respect to the truth and the things of the Word of God? We will stop here for the time being. Let us, the Lord willing, face this question in our following article and attempt an answer to the question whether our faith must be viewed as irrational and unreasonable. 

—H.V.