F. B. Hole.
(Edification Vol. 11, 1937, page 318.)
The "Modernism," which has swept in like a flood, is based upon a refusal to face the plain and elemental facts as to human nature. It assumes that mankind is on the upward grade and that further enlightenment and progress will banish all ills. The doctrine of evolution is just assumed, when it cannot be proved, and as the assumption panders to human conceit, it is allowed to pass unchallenged in many quarters. Modernistic theologians outdo modernistic scientists in their devotion to the theory, and they certainly far outrun the ordinary plain and more matter-of-fact man of the world.
As witness of this fact we quote some paragraphs written in one of the London daily papers not long ago. The leader writer had been stirred by a report of vandalism on Ben Nevis, and the fact that nothing of a religious nature was in his mind only makes his remarks more to the point for our purpose.
"If there were no other objections to the doctrines of Socialism, a conclusive one would be found in conduct; for conduct is fundamental to the Socialist hypothesis. Its advocates assume a human nature purged of all its baser elements — one by virtue of which everybody will behave in the best possible way. It is a fallacy, a complete illusion. Nothing will be changed except that the opportunities for misbehaviour will be less restricted. The means to do ill deeds makes ill-deeds done. Take, for example, the bitter complaint that has just been uttered about the vandalism which is being practised by visitors to Ben Nevis — a spot whose majesty should forbid the show of violence. Yet it is asserted that unless something is done, 'the summit of Britain's noblest mountain will soon resemble a refuse dump.' The joy-parties who visit Ben Nevis, it appears, not only leave litter and fragments of food, empty tins and broken bottles in and around the old Observatory. They use the pillars and indicator as pedestals for bottle-targets; and so depart. The only impulse inspired by the splendid vista which is opened out to their eyes, is to make an imitation Aunt Sally range, and indulge their instinct for destruction …
"Is it not enough to change faith in human progress to despair, to know that in this Twentieth Century liberty can so easily result in vulgar and stupid licence, that in spite of the amenities and opportunities which modern life has made available for all, the heart of man remains so abysmally insensible to dignity and beauty and decency?
I hold it truth, with him who sings:
To one clear harp in divers tones,
That men may rise on stepping-stones
Of their dead selves to higher things.
"So sang Tennyson; but the evidence is against his simple faith. Man remains, at bottom, the same primordial savage. He may climb the dark brow of the mighty Ben Nevis; but only to make a cock-shy for his empty bottles on the summit. Possibly there is nothing to be done about it, except not to expect grapes from thorns or figs from thistles. Human nature is still elemental."
Now we certainly do not "expect grapes from thorns or figs from thistles"; but this, not because of the plain facts of life which we observe, whether in others or in ourselves, but, because we have been warned not to do so by the lips of the Son of God. He knows what is in man and He has plainly told us. The evil that fills the earth is not something imposed on man from without, but something that he generates from within. "Out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: all these evil things come from within, and defile the man" (Mark 7:21-23)
To accept the divine verdict against us is the beginning of all blessing; and it is a great day for us as saints when we cease to expect anything from the flesh within us, and we ratify in our own hearts what God Himself accomplished at the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. There "sin in the flesh" was "condemned;" there "our old man" was "crucified with Him."
We have no faith in human progress, yet we have no despair for we know that all good is found in Christ, and that God now has before Him a new humanity "created in Christ Jesus to good works" (Eph. 2:10). Our faith and hope is centred in Christ and not in ourselves or any other man.
The evidence is in indeed against all faith in man. Yet we are abundantly optimistic as we fix the eye of faith on Christ.