Chapter 5 The Modern Use of the Bible

We are now to consider a use of the Bible35 based upon the modern approach to it already examined. This approach, as we have seen, is made along sociological lines, and the Bible’s religious development thus studied is supposed to present an evolution from ideas and conditions of a pagan, nomadic, tribal, and provincial order to the exalted morality and world-perspective of the writing prophets. With them, we are told, the social-redemptive program became one of universal application, so that Jehovah who at the first was only the tribal god of an insignificant and nomadic people became the God of the whole earth, the one true and only living God. This revelatory movement reached its consummation in the New Testament in which we have God made known as “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Here seemingly the evolution stopped, and nearly two thousand years have brought nothing new to us. No further advance has been made during all this period, and yet this religious evolution of the Bible, quite unique in the world’s history, did not cover much more than one thousand years according to critical estimates. It is admitted by them to be superior to all other religious movements whether of previous, contemporary, or subsequent development.

Further, the Bible manner of treating those things which are common to all such movements is beyond question unequaled. The Bible gives us the highest form of religious development known to man. It contains a richness of content unsurpassed by any other body of literature. It makes known what is of ever abiding significance to the moral and spiritual welfare of the human race. The Bible in its splendid isolation is one of the strongest arguments against the widely accepted evolutionary hypothesis of world development. It smashes through, and leaves a wide open breach in the line of supposed uniformitarianism in either the physical or spiritual history of the world and maintains its commanding position against all attacks.

The Bible, however, so it is said, is a hard and difficult book for the modern man to understand; hence the great effort to make a use of it which will appeal to his highly developed scientific and historic sense.36 The difficulty arises from the fact that those Biblical ideals and experiences which are admitted to possess intrinsic merit and abiding importance are presented in categories of the time in which the writers lived. For example, the New Testament is written in the category of the first century world-view, much of which the “well-instructed man of today” considers it impossible to accept.37 Consequently the modern demand is for a rephrasing in categories suited to the present world-view of those ever abiding and reproducible experiences of vital religion which are found in the Bible. Just what this involves we shall see later. If we take the road of approach to the Bible which Modern Criticism has built, the chronological arrangement of the strata which make up our Bible38 forms one of the most important guides to Biblical study and interpretation. By pursuing this road the student, it is supposed, will learn how to trace the growth of faiths and ideas regarding, for example, God, man, duty, sin, worship, from primitive and childlike origins as found in the Old Testament up to the highly developed ethical teaching of the New.39 Even so, “the nub of difficulty” remains that so much of all this material is expressed in categories now outgrown by the world. Throughout the Bible, its writers think and speak in the terms of the outworn Semite cosmology, whereas today the universe must be studied in the light that modern science has shed upon it. This makes it necessary to think in the category of evolution as to the whole order of creation, earthly and heavenly. Then there are the categories of demonology, angelology, miracles, apocalyptic hopes, the latter two entailing in some degree divine invasion of world-affairs, a catastrophic class of ideas quite unacceptable to modern minds which dwell in the realm of evolution. These things are considered as vital hindrances to the modern man’s use of the Bible. Of course, raising the question as to whether he is right in rejecting such categories is practically ruled out of order. His present vantage ground of advancement is accepted as being sufficiently patent to put the matter of his being right beyond question.

The conclusion of the whole matter then is this: since this Book is (1) the one Christians must continue to use as a sufficient guide in all moral, spiritual, and religious relations because it records the most wonderful religious development of all time, admitting by common consent, to contain all that is essential to the moral and spiritual growth of mankind, and yet (2) it must be considered “an old Book in a new world,”40 because its language, style of ideas, and in fact the entire framework in which its teaching is set, have all become outgrown by the world, the necessity for its abiding use (3) raises the problem of making its study and interpretation consist chiefly in the process of extracting from it those ideas, ideals and spiritual experiences which are judged to be abiding and reproducible, leaving behind that mass of outgrown categories to which we have referred and to which, we are told, no well-instructed man of today could possibly subscribe. What is thus extracted must then be rephrased;41 in this, it is confessed, “the most difficult task of all remains: building up constructive statements of what we positively do believe in new formulas endowed with the same persuasiveness and penetrating power which the older mental categories once possessed.”42 For this nothing could suffice or avail short of inspiration such as the Bible writers assert for themselves. This claim has not been advanced since the close of the first century by any one worthy of serious consideration. Even Modernists hitherto have prudently refrained from any such pretense. Yet that alone could accomplish the above task, for the admissions are made “that the Spirit of God was behind that process and in it,” of which the Bible is the result, and “that God was speaking.”43

Let us consider what it means to use the Bible in the manner thus proposed. There is hardly need for further remark as to the Old Testament since the modern view and use of it have been considered in earlier parts of this book. As to the New Testament, plainly its writers believed in demons, angels, miracles, bodily resurrection, and apocalyptic hopes. We are told they used these “mental frameworks and categories of explanation” because they knew of no other way to express what was real and vital to them in the matter of religious experience. Likewise when it became a question of interpreting the person and work of Jesus, they could do no better than make use of current and accepted categories, such as that of “Messiah,” with its framework of apocalyptic ideas, and “Logos,” with its framework of Hellenistic philosophy.44 But all of these categories are declared to be inadequate for the present day.

Our author holds that the light of modern knowledge has dissipated the ignorance in which demonology flourished. As to angels, nothing is known of them today— who ever saw one? Miracles simply do not happen, certainly not of the kind so often found in Scripture. The modern man comes to Scripture and says, “These are mental frameworks and categories which I cannot use; they mean nothing to me since they are not verified by my experience,” and he is tempted to go further and say, “This book is of no use to me.” That such a conclusion would result in irreparable loss to him, we are assured from nearly every quarter. This then raises the problem of how to find what is useful today in the Bible. We are told that the reader must be brought to see that there are abiding meanings and reproducible experiences wrapped up in the outgrown phraseology of Scripture, and that deep within its settings of thought and speech there are experiences and convictions for which the book essentially stands, spiritual truths which are in themselves permanently valid, timeless and unchanging messages. The deeps of the Book call to the deeps of the human heart.45

But how, then, shall we explain what those categories which the modern man discards because of his superior intelligence meant to those who could and did use them?

What is meant by the category of demonology as Scripture presents it? It is nothing more nor less than “a transient phrasing of abiding experiences … nothing that the devils ever stood for has yet gone out of human life. Personal temptation; various aspects, allurements, and results of sin; disease, … human suffering and death—all this is with us still.” “Everything the devil and his hosts ever meant is with us yet.”46 It is not, then, the fact that the devil and demons actually exist, are separate spiritual beings, as the Bible writers seemed to think. It is rather that there always have been and still are certain very real experiences which to these writers were most intelligibly explained by the use of the current demonology. That category seemed to them the most available explanation of these particular abiding experiences. We are asked to keep the truth of the experiences, but utterly reject any idea of the reality of such agency as that of the devil and his hosts.

What about angels? Angelology, too, is only a phrasing of experiences, real enough in themselves, in another category of those ancient times since outgrown. “Angels represent our fathers’ profound and practical consciousness of the reality, friendliness, and availability of the spiritual world,” whether that be in strengthening the spirit in temptation, opening prison doors, giving peace and power in time of stress, or appearing in other ways to accomplish God’s ministry to man.47 It is not, then, that they saw angels (and we have no personal knowledge of their actual existence, or non-existence, for that matter), but the angel-idea was found suited by them for use as a vehicle to express their spiritual experiences.

The modern man may be quite humble and “refuse to claim omniscience by denying” that such beings as angels exist. Evidently, that does not prevent him, however, from virtually denying that the Biblical writers meant what they said when they describe angelic visitation, ministry, and communication as being commerce with actual spiritual beings. Did the Lord mean that the Father would send Him twelve legions of “spiritual experiences,” and what can He mean when He speaks of joy in the presence of the angels over a repentant sinner? (Matt. 26:53; Luke 15:10.)

What about miracles? Again, they are simply the outworn “phrasing” of real enough experience. We must seek “to discover what, if any, was the vital experience that our forefathers were trying to express by their category of miracle.”48 This, we are told, was simply the “saying that superhuman power is here, available for use, and that when men are open to its inrush and control, it is not easy to set limits to the results that may ensue. Granting all the associated aberrations and credulities of the miracle-idea, it was nevertheless our forefathers’ way of saying that they believed in the living God, whose ways of working are not bound within the narrow limits of man’s little knowledge… The crucial question for modern Christianity to face is not first the credibility of this or that narrative nearly two thousand years old, but the possibility of retaining in our modern scientific thought such a vital and vivid expectancy of divine action as our fathers often phrased in terms of miracles.”49

Little wonder that Dr. Fosdick must say that, “approaching the Bible so, there are some narratives of miracles there which I do not believe… Certainly, I find some of the miracle-narratives of Scripture historically incredible. Others puzzle me… and about many an ancient miracle-narrative a man may well suspend judgment, awaiting light.”50 The miracle-narratives which he “cannot help believing” are those which describe “experience in terms of miracle so that we recognize that the same kind of experience is open to us, or would be open, if we were receptive of God’s incoming power.” Such narratives are “fundamentally credible and useful.” This class of miracles consists for him of the guidance God gives as much now as ever to men and nations, of divine calls and commissions received today as much as ever, of spiritual endowments, answered prayers, and transformed lives from which the power of God is transmitted to others—“all through the Scripture such activity in divine power is presented in terms of miracle.” Examples are found in Israel’s release from Egypt, God speaking to Samuel, Paul’s conversion, the Church’s enduement with power, as on the day of Pentecost. These are in fact experiences being reduplicated today, only in describing them we do not robe them “with the marvelous drapery which ages when miracles were part and parcel of men’s common thought habitually employed in their imagination of events, but, for all that, the abiding experience involved in them is clear, and it is as true and as possible for our day as for theirs.”51

After all, they are not miracles in the way we use that term, but simply ordinary experiences which have been draped by the Oriental mind in terms of the marvelous and figurative, which it would never occur to anyone to use today in telling about them. Are not the miracles of Scripture by this treatment either looked upon as incredible, or frittered away?

The reasoning is of the same order in regard to the second coming of Jesus—His return in bodily form. The New Testament writers felt fully assured of the complete and final world triumph of the Master. Their experience with Him made them conscious that that conquest must be accomplished in the end by such a “towering personality.” They knew no better way of expressing this confidence in Him than by using the current category of apocalypticism, and they boldly taught that Jesus would return in person to accomplish His final victory, coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. Of all the books of the New Testament, the Fourth Gospel alone is said to “spiritualize the event,” and the reason given is that its writer was trying to reach Hellenistic readers to whom the dramatics, catastrophic features, and physical resurrections of the Jewish apocalyptists, were very distasteful. But it is admitted that just the latter view prevails elsewhere in the New Testament. “The book of Revelation is built upon it. When Paul lets his imagination dwell on God’s coming victory, he draws the familiar picture with which his Jewish training had acquainted him long before he had known Jesus: the sudden, physical coming of the Messiah upon the clouds, the ascension of the living saints to meet him in the air, the resurrection of the righteous dead, the day of judgment, and the final destinies.”52

What is the kernel that can alone be considered of abiding value in these apocalyptic thought-forms which are entirely repugnant to the modern man? Simply the hope which lies embedded in them, the hope of “the victory of righteousness upon this earth in the coming kingdom of God, whereon Christ, looking, shall see of the travail of his soul and be satisfied.” This is to be achieved through human instruments like ourselves, of “such a spirit that God can work his victory in and through us; to persuade others to be transformed by the renewing of their minds; to strive for the better organization of society that the divine purpose may be furthered, not hindered, by our economic and political life; and then to await the event in his way and time.” The modern preacher takes up the hope, but drops as useless the ancient category, in which it is expressed in the New Testament, and says, “I do not believe in the physical return of Jesus.”53

The same disposition may be made of the miracle of the Lord’s Resurrection. Why not consider it, also, to be the phrasing in a category in common use in the first century of the disciples’ intense feeling—in fact overwhelming conviction—that their Master must live on, that life and death such as His must be of ever abiding significance? The most natural way they knew of how to pass this experience on to posterity was to express it in the category of bodily resurrection. Not that this actual resurrection took place, but that the Jesus they knew, was so singularly great that the result of His presence in this world even for such a brief span must be an ever abiding influence of tremendous consequence to mankind. Thus He was once dead, but now alive again forevermore, He ever liveth! But, I suppose, that “alive again forevermore” must be in the experience of those men who “rediscover” Him by working through Scripture’s outworn phraseology.

This principle of reducing everything to the status of subjective experience in men will dissipate all personality apart from man himself, if consistently applied. Devils, demons, and angels are gone. Why not God too, so that the creature, man, may be left in full possession of the field with his ever abiding and reproducible experiences? Why may we not say that the category of God, as presented in the Bible, simply constitutes the way in which its writers at different stages of development expressed spiritual experiences which were found higher, more noble, and satisfying to their yearnings than any others known by them? If we are to consider Scripture teaching concerning demons, angels, and miracles, for example, as simply the phrasing used to explain certain experiences, which phraseology the world has outgrown, it does certainly seem that there is no reason why we should not understand the same to be true of its teaching as to God, both in the Old and New Testaments. Why should we suppose their personal God exists any more than their personal devil, and such beings as demons or angels? Would we not be able, then, to go on and say that “ nothing that God ever stood for has gone out of human life” for “ everything that God ever meant is with us yet,”—love, purity, holiness, sacrifice, kindness, hope, righteousness? All is reduced to a matter of ethics.

The logical conclusion seems inevitable that experience, and nothing but experience, according to one aspect and another of its character, is either God or the devil, angels or demons, and also, I suppose, either the heaven or hell of Scripture.

Guided by this principle, how shall Jesus be interpreted? As far as we know He committed nothing to writing. Let us simply consider what we may extract from the Gospels as a record of His teaching. We thus get a vivid conception of both His experience and character. It is of superlative worth, for “He is the best we know, and we will not interpret God in terms less than that.”54 No one ever spake such words of spirit and life as He did. But does this mean anything more than that He had the deepest, broadest, and highest of all abiding and reproducible experiences which a man could have, and that He phrased them for us in the most exalted form of the category of God ever known, so that in His teaching we have the climax to that God-idea which had its dim beginning in Israel’s wilderness history? Am I to consider all this as anything more than simply the phrasing of His experience which is now reproducible in all who rediscover Him beneath the outgrown Messiah and Logos categories of the New Testament?

Such are some of the results derived from the application of this principle of interpretation by which the Bible is to be made modernly useful. It is really a weapon of destruction, striking down sacred things, and leaving us alone—off by ourselves with the idea of experience for company which we are to suppose the Bible writers have explained by the use of such terms as God, devil, demons, angels, and miracle-working. It reduces to this same level the New Testament teaching concerning the Deity of Jesus, His atoning sacrifice, the Virgin Birth, and His sinless humanity.

The Gospels speak of Jesus being tempted by the devil. But this must have been the phrasing of His experience in the current category of demonology. We are not to think of an external, personal, and known enemy, for the devil and his hosts, we are told, simply stood for experiences still common to man—temptation, sin, suffering. How does this work out in relation to the Lord? Experience is made up of feelings and effects resulting from a combination of inward state and outward circumstances. The outward circumstance in our Lord’s case was the wilderness, its barrenness, isolation, and privation. What was the inward state in His case? Bearing in mind the modern view of the devil, it could only have been an awful strife against evil desires to manifest power to satisfy self-need, to act presumptuously to gain a place of national recognition, and to sacrifice the consciousness of right to evil for the purpose of securing world-power.55 Plainly this means that in Him was sin, even as in you and me. This must have been the devil that tempted Him! To just such blasphemous conclusions does this principle of interpretation lead. Yet, as reported, He spoke of Satan as a distinct personality having a kingdom, and on one occasion of coming to Him, but having nothing in Him. This, however, we must explain away as simply the “phrasing” of experience in a current “category.” The Gospels tell us the angels ministered unto Him. This again was simply a phrasing of His experience. Such use of the Bible forces us to the awful conclusion that the Lord Jesus possessed a nature which manufactured the poison of temptation, and seemingly also could produce the elixir of comfort— an instance of sweet and bitter waters from the same fount.

This principle of interpretation tends to the annihilation of all personality outside of man himself. Human experiences have been personified in Scripture by the use of categories which now appear outgrown. As we have been told that the devil and his hosts stand for certain abiding experiences of human life, and the angels too, why not follow this lead, and consider the category of God as given in Scripture to be simply the phrasing of the highest spiritual experiences of the human spirit in that class of ideas which seem revelatory of a supreme Being, distinct and personal, immanent within man yet having a transcendency which leads him to strive after better things. Why not consider God and his hosts the category in which goodness and its blessings in varying degrees have been interpreted by the Biblical writers just as the devil and his hosts was the category in which wickedness and the misery incident to it has been explained? Thus, too, in their ignorance of scientific thought they used the idea of place as to final destinies and spoke of heaven and hell; but these can only be ultimate states of experience to which men make either ascent or descent according to whether good (God) or evil (the devil) gains ascendency. A principle which may lead to such conclusions when consistently applied to all parts of Scripture must be utterly false and extremely dangerous to use. It is a stepping-stone to infidelity. Its consistent application leads us into difficulties far greater than those it is supposed to dispel for “the well-instructed man” of today.

Many, however, who advocate this principle would recoil from such conclusions, and stoutly proclaim faith in a God, living and real, whom they consider has wrought for self-disclosure through the Biblical process.56 Taking them at their word, what happens to Scripture when this principle of theirs is applied to it?

It is no longer a question of God having acted to give by direct personal intervention, and through the use of divinely commissioned instruments a written revelation— complete, final, and perfect—any more than He, by a special creative act brought man upon the scene. It is all a matter of evolving experience through which He has struggled to get Himself disclosed to men. At first He had to accomodate Himself to very much that was primitive, childlike, even pagan, so that the revelation appears today clothed in many outgrown categories, even in the New Testament, with the result that men must now struggle back through them to find God in the Person who stands highest on the ladder of experience—Jesus.

We are not to think anything final has taken the form of a written revelation. What alone abides is the realm of man’s basic experiences, which are constantly being set forth in changing categories. Of all such attempts the Bible is the best and highest in spiritual content. On this basis, the modern preacher’s task is said to be that of decoding abiding meanings from its outgrown phraseology. But there is no prospect that finality will be reached, for though “we retreat from old categories into the experiences behind them,” and “enshrine those experiences in positive formulations even though that means building up a new orthodoxy,” our own phrasings will “in time be dissolved by a new liberalism.”57

If the principle that we are now discussing be sound is it not incredible that this Book should remain unequaled by any other literary work produced during all the centuries, notwithstanding its so-called outgrown mental framework and categories? Why is it abidingly superior, without a peer? If out of the first century came such a collection of potent writings as those of the New Testament,58 how is it that the same “experience” process has produced no set of books during the succeeding centuries, especially the last two in which men have made such wonderful strides in knowledge and wisdom, which even in a small way approach the New Testament, or are destined to like results in the world? If inspiration of God is the only permissible alternative explanation, and it is one which the New Testament plainly predicates concerning the whole Bible, then inspiration is a revelatory process which has ceased. It is evident that nothing has been produced in all the years since, with even a shadow of right to be considered on an equality with the New Testament. God, then, having inspired these men to write for all time, did He permit them to use categories which less than twenty centuries have rendered unreal, untruthful, or which must be considered without meaning today? Is it not more reasonable to presume that He directed the expression of truth throughout to be clothed in “timeless and universal terms”? That the foreshadowing of good things may precede the good things themselves, and on their arrival that we should leave the shadow and cleave to the substance, is quite true. This finds exemplification in many ways upon a comparative study of the New Testament and the Old. But that is something clearly different from what we have been considering—a complete rejection of “the cosmology, demonology, angelology, apocalyptic, and miracle-idea,” which are woven into every part of the Biblical fabric.

We are assured that “wide areas of Scripture deal with abiding experiences set in timeless and universal terms. The elemental needs of man’s spirit for peace, stability, comfort, and divine saviorhood; the meaning of temptation, sin, remorse, penitence, pardon, and reconciliation with God; the basic virtues of honesty, sincerity, courage, charity, magnanimity, love; the great hopes of a kingdom of righteousness here on earth and of life hereafter—these are the fundamental matters in Scripture.”59 But the very outgrown categories, of which we have been speaking, so contaminate all these things too, that they must stand or fall with the rest as far as being considered trustworthy and authoritative is concerned. The fact is that the foundations in general are destroyed by the Fosdick method.

Let us look a little further. Because demonology outside of Scripture presents many crude and exaggerated features, we cannot justly make this a reason for rejecting demonology as presented in Scripture. Nor is the lack of modern scientific knowledge or experience concerning such beings sufficient reason for denying their existence. Any open-minded study of demonology, as described in the Bible, shows that it radically differs from all the popular conceptions of demonology which prevailed in the time of the writers of the Bible. Why this marked difference? If we allow inspiration to enter as a factor in the way claimed for it in Scripture, who can say its writers did not have knowledge imparted to them by it denied to others not so inspired? This simple principle applies to and accounts for all those categories which appear so objectionable to the modern man. He needs to humble himself to the fact that what he is using is God’s word, something immeasurably beyond contemporary thought, knowledge, or experience.

It is not different as to angelology. Both Old and New Testaments are free from” the absurdly puerile teachings of Rabbinism.” In fact, the truth about demons and angels must finally be sought in the words of our Lord. This settlement of the question will be satisfactory to most Christians. The modern standpoint is distinctly Sadducean as to both demonology and angelology.

There is little wonder that the interpretation of Scripture presents great difficulties to the modern man who insists upon raising many of them and solving all according to contemporaneous thought. It is quite true that he is living in a world greatly changed from that of the times in which the Bible was written, and it may greatly help that we can once more visualize through various avenues of knowledge the world-conditions amid which its writers lived and wrote. This provides us explanations of many things peculiar to Oriental life and its circumstances. But in the choice of ways of approaching the Bible, neither a barren literalism, nor fanciful and often absolutely absurd allegorism can be considered safe and sound. And the modern approach, which may be called historic and scientific, also fails since it presumes to reject what is not a matter of present knowledge and experience, knowledge and experience which another decade may entirely revise. Yet we are asked to take it as our summa summarum, and make contemporary thought the boundary wall beyond which we dare not pass, though it be recognized as partial in most things and defective in not a few.

Not one of these three methods, taken by itself, is a sufficient guide in the work of interpreting Scripture, Each of them contains something good, and such elements in combination may greatly help us in making a sound, reverent exegesis. One general principle, however, must bind these elements together for our use. It is this: Scripture must be its own interpreter. It is sufficient unto itself. This we might expect if it is what we claim it to be—God-breathed.

There are allegories in Scripture which we must study and interpret. But that is quite different from adopting the allegorical interpretation for the great mass of Scripture, as occurs, for example, in the work of Philo and Origen. There are types, symbols, parables scattered thickly throughout the Book, but we are not by any means left to our own imagination to interpret them. We have examples of their use and interpretation within Scripture. These ought to help us. “Wide areas of Scripture” are so largely filled with basic and essential truths, interwoven with its types, symbols, parables, and allegories, that there is always abundant material at hand by which to check and restrain all that is fanciful and contrary to sound, sober exegesis. The great need today is that all Scripture be taken into the reckoning.

Not allegorical, but rather analogical interpretation is the basic principle to govern our procedure. Not analogy worked out according to our own unregulated thoughts, but analogy operating through careful and patient comparison of text, context, and the general teaching of Scripture. Analogy specifically means a similarity of relations. “A prince is analogically styled a pilot, being to the state as a pilot is to a vessel.”60 Things which are analogous bear some resemblance or proportion to each other, they correspond in some particular or particulars while differing in others. Analogy, therefore, strictly denotes only a partial similarity, as in some special circumstances or effects predicable of two or more things in other respects essentially different: thus when we say that learning enlightens the mind, we recognize an analogy between learning and light, the former being in the mind what the latter is to the eye, enabling it to discover things before hidden. Once this analogy between learning and light has been accepted as sound in principle we may proceed, for the sake of further illustration and instruction concerning it, to compare light and learning in certain other respects to determine whether the analogy holds in a variety of relations.

By the use of this analogical process, kept within the bonds of Scripture itself, we may study its every part, and find that perfect fitness links together in abiding interrelation and interdependence all the parts of its complex structure. For example, the Levitical order of sacrifice bore a very important relation to Israel’s place as Jehovah’s people, while its laws were also a manifestation of his character and government. Analogous to this in the New Testament is the teaching concerning the sacrifice of Christ and its relation to the manifestation of God, its bearing upon the relation of man to God, and in particular upon the relation to God of those accepted on the principle of faith according to the value of the atonement. Between these things there is analogy, similarity of relations, although by comparison very much that is different. But the fact that this analogy has been established for us by Scripture itself lays a secure basis upon which to proceed to determine in what other respects the analogy holds just as in the case of light and learning suggested above. Thus the features of resemblance between the Levitical and Christian systems may be studied and discovery made of what is typical in the Levitical of the Christian which is indeed the perfection of things, the substance of which the Levitical is now seen to be the shadow. The comparative study will also enable us to discern what is of an anomalous character, and the contrast between them will serve to emphasize the worth of the analogous features.

The analogical use of Scripture serves as a sufficient reply to any reproach brought against it because of its anthropomorphic statements. It must always be borne in mind that the extent of the analogy or resemblance is to be determined within those limits to the application of such statements which Scripture itself furnishes.

Analogy established by the careful comparison of Scripture with Scripture opens the way into the spiritual meaning of the written Word. It is a process which will effectually protect its user from the extravagant and fantastic interpretations characteristic of the allegorical school represented, for example, by Clement and Origen.

Many a difficulty in the Bible can be solved only by a careful consideration side by side of various circumstances and conditions pertaining to that difficulty and these related conditions may be scattered over a wide area of Scripture. But once assembled and seen in their interrelation they will be found to constitute an adequate explanation of that difficulty for any one except a prisoner within the walls of contemporary thought. Because such difficulties are not dissolved by a wave of the hand, many seem to think they are divinely commissioned to turn their backs on the problem they are supposed to study, and so destroy for themselves, at least, the possibility of finding its solution. Such rashness is a sad indication that the fundamental message of the Book has not been apprehended. It bears consistent testimony to man’s spiritual destitution and sinfulness, his need of new birth, the acceptance by faith of the eternal Savior-hood of our Lord. As the one Mediator between God and men who accomplished atonement on the Cross, He is the only and all-sufficient Savior in whom men must believe to be saved, and acknowledge Him to be both Lord and God. Otherwise, remaining what Scripture calls “natural men” (1 Cor. 2:14), they cannot know the things of God. To such men it is small wonder that the Book’s points of essential difference with modern thought, by which standard so much of it is judged to be outgrown, are a stumbling-block to their worldly wisdom. Except a man become as a little child, the Book must remain enigmatical to him, so that seeing he may not see straight, and, hearing, as he supposes, yet not be hearing according to God. The modern use of the Bible which we have been considering builds upon the most insecure of foundations— the modern critical approach to the Book; makes use of a principle thoroughly destructive in its tendencies; and inevitably produces results highly inimical to man’s spiritual welfare.61

35 This is set forth by Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick in his recent book The Modern Use of the Bible (Macmillan, Sept., 1924). It is examined in this section. The references given in footnotes refer to this work.

36 This is made in seeming forgetfulness that man’s first great need is to see himself as God sees him, sinful, helpless, and hopeless, a moral and spiritual ruin, needing a spiritual regeneration, as much as the chaotic earth needed just such a preparatory physical work before it could be inhabitated by man. The natural man does not understand the things of God (1 Cor. 2), nor by worldly wisdom can he know God (1 Cor. 1). He must be “born again,” receiving spiritual life through faith in God’s word, and the acceptance of Christ as God’s appointed Saviour, whose atoning death alone redeems and saves eternally (Rom. chs. 1-3; John 3; Titus 2:11-14; 3:3-8; 1 Peter 1; Heb. 10).

37 Such as miracles, demons, angels, fiat creation, apocalyptic hopes, eternal hell, bodily resurrection; and in the Old Testament “gross authropomorphisms,” “belated ethics,” “Semitic cosmology,” etc. (e. g. pp. 5, 89).

38 The best that can be said is that this chronological arrangement is approximate (p. 6), and that the result is only “in its outlines well assured” p. 7. We have examined them and these outlines seem very uncertain; they in fact appear too much like the quivering line drawn by the seismograph. They leave a man in a chaotic state of mind regarding the Bible. “The reader, of course, must never take the actual order of documents in our Bible as indicative of the chronological order in which they were originally produced. The first chapter of Genesis, for example, is very late” (p. 12, footnote). Some day we will probably get the Bible published in its chronological order, and then we may expect to find parts of Genesis in about the middle, Judges perhaps at the beginning, the Psalms scattered along at different points, though most of them are considered very late, and Daniel would come near the end of the Old Testament. Nevertheless, we are assured that this approximately chronological order, despite “endless minor uncertainties,” has an importance which “from the standpoint of practical results is difficult to exaggerate” (p. 7). From this grab bag of approximate results and confessed difficulties a spirit of wisdom is obtained in some way by which “we can trace the great ideas of Scripture in their development from their simple and elementary forms, when they first appear in the earliest writings until they come to their full maturity in the latest books” (p. 7).

39 Pp. 8, 11.

40 P. 36.

41 We are told we must “decode the abiding meanings of Scripture from outgrown phraseology” (p. 122). Paul was mistaken when he thought we had God-breathed Scriptures (writings); probably what he meant was that we had God-breathed ideas or ideals clothed in the very imperfect and temporary dress of man-made conceptions, for the “decoding demanded by the facts which we are now considering is … not between transient customs, but between elemental forms of conception, a manifest divergence between our habitual presuppositions of thought and those used in Scripture” (p. 123). From this it would seem that Scripture can be broken, although the Lord Jesus said “cannot” (John 10, 35); little would it seem to matter about its “jot or tittle” of which He spoke (Matt. 5:18); and what are we to think of such wholesale rejection of Scripture’s phraseology, if “men spake from God, being moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:21, R. V.)

42 P. 189.

43 Pp. 30, 95.

44 Pp. 216, 217.

45 Pp. 61, 95.

46 Pp. 121, 122.

47 Pp. 124-126.

48 P. 156.

49 P. 158.

50 Pp. 163,164. Among those regarded as “incredible” the following are named: the sun standing still, which “may be poetry;” the story of Jonah and the fish, which “may be parable;” the miraculous aspects of the plagues in Egypt and the fall of Jericho’s walls, which “may be legendary heightenings of historical events;” “the amazing tales of Elijah and Elisha [which] may be largely folk-lore;” and, in the New Testament, finding a coin in a fish’s mouth, or walking on water, or blasting a tree,—these “may be just such stories as always have been associated with an era of outstanding personalities and creative spiritual power.” The puzzling ones mentioned are the miraculous draft of fishes which might be one of “many symbolic literary devices in an Oriental Book,” and “the physical aspects of the resurrection of Christ,” such as his eating fish, passing through closed doors and offering to let Thomas touch his hands and feet.

51 P. 165.

52 Pp. 104-110.

53 P. 104.

54 P. 188.

55 In this I refer to the three forms of temptation recorded in the Gospels.

56 Dr. Fosdick says: “What has actually happened is the production of a Book which from lowly beginnings to great conclusions records the development of truth about God and his will, beyond all comparison the richest in spiritual issue that the world has known. Personally, I believe that the Spirit of God was behind that process and in it. I do not believe that man ever found God when God was not seeking to be found. The underside of the process is man’s discovery; the upperside is God’s revelation” [p. 30]. “He who long can ponder the fact and not perceive that God was speaking there does not earnestly believe in God at all” [p. 95].

57 P. 190.

58 And it everywhere accredits the Old Testament as God’s word.

59 P. 170.

60 Quoted from Berkeley.

61 27 Although Dr. Fosdick emphatically rejects the allegorical interpretation of Scripture, and considers it absolutely unusable today, there could hardly be anything more allegorical in character than the way he proposes to find in the Bible abiding experiences in changing categories. Allegorism is arbitrarily treating what is obviously historical as spiritual or figurative. Demons, angels and miracles, as presented in the Bible, are historical, real existences and events of actual occurrence. His prestidigitateur method causes them to vanish, and their places are taken by figments of the writers’ brains, which are nothing more than figures of, or a symbolic way of giving expressions to, various spiritual experiences which ever abide and are constantly reproducible. According to Dr. Fosdick’s method devil, demons, angels and miracles have no existence outside of their existence and function in this outgrown apparatus of explanation. The Biblical writers evidently believed that devil, demons, angels actually existed, and that miracles were historical events; but modern men think they know better, and therefore must consider such things only to be taken in an allegorical sense.