Same Old, Same Old

old clocks at a flea marketCertain ideas in the area of theology seem newly discovered (“we now know …”). Sometimes they’re billed as if no one was smart enough before now to figure things out. There are, of course, new archaeological finds. But messing with truth and taking potshots at the reliability of Scripture—well, that’s always been around. Nothing new. (The older you are, the more you recognize the recycling of the same old, same old.)

Way back in the day, R. C. Foster (1888–1970) was in a unique position to investigate supposed new insights. He studied at both Yale and Harvard (before 1920) and sometimes had very theologically liberal professors. He had to dig in. His writing devotes significant space to exposing the flaws in those liberal claims. In 1968 R. C. was a prof at what was then called Cincinnati Bible Seminary. He spoke at the dedication of the new library building, his message titled “The Battlefield.” It highlighted the ever-present spiritual battle and was a call for us students to keep standing strong on the Lord’s solid foundation. I didn’t fully appreciate it at the time.

(Note: The Foster quotes in this post are from my old 3-volume set of Studies in the Life of Christ. Those are now available as a single volume.)

Here are a few samples of R. C.’s sharp takedowns of liberal theology. There is such a thing as righteous indignation. After all, that’s what several Bible heroes—and Jesus himself—exhibited at times, calling out those who were intentionally misrepresenting/hindering the Lord’s way (ex: Jeremiah 23:1, 2; Matthew 23:13ff).

  • R. C. Foster was discussing the time when Peter referred to Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). The liberals asserted that this isn’t actually true about Jesus, but was “read back into his [Peter’s] mind by the experience and belief of the early church.” Then R. C. commented, “What polite phrases the modernists use to give lie to the Gospel writers!” (Studies in the Life of Christ: The Middle Period, p. 225) Ha! If you call someone a liar in a nice way, maybe people won’t notice that’s what you’re doing and will just absorb it. We can be swept along by the fatherly soothing and clever wording of the latest band of false teachers. It’s important to be on alert and demand evidence for claims against key teachings.
  • In another spot, R. C. was discussing the deity of Jesus, specifically Thomas’s declaration of Jesus as “my Lord and my God” in John 20:28. Then R. C. said, “The final tribute of Thomas to the deity of Jesus is brushed aside by the modernists with the sneer, ‘Oh! that is the Gospel of John.’” Such theologians deny the deity of Jesus. So they assert that since the book of John was written later than Matthew, Mark, and Luke, it was tainted with popular myth-like info and not really God’s original message. (In other words, Jesus wasn’t really God.) R. C. just called the bluff, continuing with: “Since the hostile theorists insist on the priority of Mark, let us look at the testimony of Mark. A glance at the first chapter should suffice.” (Middle Period, p. 228) R. C. knew that the Bible is so full of evidence for the deity of Jesus, a mere glance at one other spot will disprove any trumped-up claim! And R. C. went on to show just that.
  • Here R. C. reported on one of the liberal professors he’d studied under: “Professor G. F. Moore of Harvard took the position that we do not possess sufficient facts to enable us to determine how [Jesus’] tomb became empty. This is to declare that the eyes are to be kept closed tightly and the step quickened until we have safely passed the overwhelming evidence and then we can open them again with the precious theory of denial of the resurrection in hand. This is to confess the utter failure of all the skeptics through the ages to conjure up any sort of rational explanation of the facts which will enable them to deny the fact of the resurrection with a logical recital of events. Professor Moore is at least to be congratulated in that he did not attempt the impossible. But the refusal to accept the actual evidence is another exhibition of how modernism rests upon theory instead of fact.” (The Final Week, p. 263). I love the imagery of someone trying to tippy-toe around the truth!
  • It’s important to know the Lord’s truth and then to declare it, as R. C. reminded ministers: “Whenever the church has faithfully obeyed the final command, ‘Go preach the gospel,’ Christianity has prevailed. Whenever the church has gone to sleep and failed to raise its voice, or become fearful and talked in whispers, or, Judas-like, has betrayed its message, the light has been dimmed and the world slipped into the valley of shadows.” Because R. C. had seen the bad happen, he added this startling challenge: “Has a pulpit lost its power today? Not when Christian martyrs, instead of craven cowards or selfish worldlings, stand in the pulpit.” (Introduction and Early Ministry, p. 472, 473) Couldn’t help recalling how the seeker-friendly movement didn’t want sermons to mention tough topics … and how the emergents/progressives keep using the same old ideas in their attempts to dismantle the Bible … and how we shrink from witnessing to friends for fear that we might offend. Ouch.

R. C. Foster’s attitude and confidence feed my soul when I feel wimpy in the battle for truth—or when distressed that others seem wimpy! He epitomized “Jeremiah’s 4S Strategy”: suit up, stand up, speak up, stay up.

(See another spotlight on R. C. in “Trained Controversialists.”)


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