Abstract of a Sermon Preached on February 23, 2000
by Glenn Conjurske
I intend to speak to you tonight on the terms of discipleship. There
is scarcely anything more important than this in the present day. I once
thought the way to convict men of sin was to preach repentance, but long
experience has taught me another thing. I have found that in knocking
on doors to preach the gospel, I may preach repentance in the strongest
terms, and every Roman Catholic, and every Pharisee of every description,
will agree with every word I say, though they are obviously ungodly. But
as soon as I begin to preach discipleship, they balk, and begin to argue.
The terms of discipleship convict them of their actual condition, as it
seems nothing else will do.
Now I believe that the terms of discipleship are the terms of salvation,
though I will probably be called a heretic for affirming it. I have been
called a heretic often enough, by the preachers of the antinomian gospel.
All such preachers will tell you that the terms of discipleship cannot
be the terms of salvation, and I know some who contend that they are standing
against antinomianism, who yet contend that the terms of discipleship
and the terms of salvation are not the same. To be a disciple of Christ,
they will tell you, costs you all that you have, while to be a Christian
costs you nothing. I used to preach the very same doctrine myself, more
than thirty years ago, when I knew but little, and thought I knew a great
Before I proceed to the terms of discipleship, then, I aim to prove that
a disciple and a Christian are the same thing. This in fact is so obvious
in the Bible that it really doesn't need any proof
have been questioned but for antinomian theology ----but the Spirit
of God is all-wise, and he has left us a direct proof of the matter in
Acts 11:26. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.
First in Antioch, and afterwards everywhere. The disciples, then, are
Christians ----and so the Christians disciples. Do you think that
men saw a congregation of 500 unholy, antinomian believers, with half
a dozen committed disciples among them, and gave the name Christian to
the half dozen? What did they call the rest? Such a notion needs no refutation.
The obvious fact is, they called the whole church Christians, and the
corollary is, they were all disciples.
The great commission teaches us the same thing. Go ye therefore,
and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of
the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. The word teach here
is maqhteuw, which means intransitively, to be a disciple, and transitively
to make a disciple of, or to teach. The second of these meanings is the
only one allowable here. Modern Evangelicalism has determined that discipling
is something we do to those who are Christians already, but the great
commission overturns such a notion. The teaching which the
Lord speaks of comes before baptism, and no one would dream that we are
to merely teach these Gentiles, and then baptize them, without converting
them. To teach them means to convert them. It means to make
Christians of them. And the word by which the Lord enjoins this means
to make disciples of them. We are to make disciples of them, and then
baptize them. Again there is but one conclusion. A disciple and a Christian
are the same thing. And if so, the terms of discipleship are the terms
I proceed then to the terms of discipleship. In Luke 14:25-27 the Lord
says, And there went great multitudes with him, and he turned, and
said unto them, If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother,
and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life
also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross,
and come after me, cannot be my disciple.
For years I have contended that love is an emotion, and I strongly oppose
the hyperspiritual notion that love is a choice, or love
is a decision. Love belongs to the soul, not the spirit. It is something
we feel, not something we do. Nevertheless, when the Bible speaks of love
and hate in the spiritual sphere, I believe it does belong to the spirit,
and it is a choice. It may be that in the spiritual realm the terms love
and hate are used figuratively, but explain that however you
will, I contend that when the Lord requires you to hate father and mother,
wife and children, brothers and sisters, and your own life also, he is
not talking about any emotional aversion. I prove this three ways:
First, to hate father and mother, wife and children, or brothers and sisters,
in an emotional sense would be sinful.
Next, to hate your own life in an emotional sense is impossible.
And finally, the first principle of discipleship is self-denial
any man will come after me, let him deny himself ----and there
is no self-denial in giving up what we dislike, or have any kind of aversion
to. It is no self-denial to give up pickled okra, if we hate it anyway.
Chocolate is another matter.
To hate father and mother, then, means to renounce them, in spite of the
fact that you love them. So of wife and children, brothers and sisters,
and your own life also. Here is the real crux of the matter. This cannot
mean that you hate your own life in an emotional sense, nor that you cease
to care and provide for your own life. It does mean, however, that you
renounce all its claims, and lay it all on the altar of sacrifice. Whatever
you may put the word my in front of is your life. My position,
my possessions, my plans, my pleasures, my pastimes, my ambitions, my
family, my friends
----all this makes up my life, and all this I
must renounce to be Christ's disciple.
Then I must take up my cross, and follow him. I need say but little about
this. A cross never existed but for one purpose. When Christ took up his
cross, this was not to bear it about his whole life, in order that he
might be burdened and miserable. It was to die. When he took up his cross,
it was to bear it out to Calvary to die, and he requires you to take up
your cross for the same purpose. This is death to self. This is hating
your own life also, and without this you cannot be a disciple of Christ.
Now the Lord continues, and says, For which of you, intending to
build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether
he have sufficient to finish it. So likewise of the king going out
to battle. Remember, the Lord spoke these things to the great multitudes
which followed him. It was his purpose to teach them what it meant to
follow him, and to move them to count the cost. He lays down, therefore,
the most stringent conditions, and three times reiterates that, except
by these hard conditions, we cannot be his disciples. Having moved us
thus to count the cost, he plainly indicates once more what that cost
is. So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that
he hath, he cannot be my disciple.
The most of our modern preachers will tell us that this has nothing to
do with salvation, but how they can do so with a clear conscience is a
great mystery. If it be a question of forsaking all, the Bible says, Then
Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee.
And, as another gospel adds, What shall we have therefore?
And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no
man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother,
or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel's, but he
shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and
sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and
in the world to come eternal life. (Mark 10:28-30). If this is not
salvation, what is it?
Again, if it be a question of hating our life, the Lord plainly says,
He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life
in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. (John 12:25). And
again, For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever
will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited,
if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? (Matt. 16:25-26).
If this is not salvation, what is it? Anybody who can make these scriptures
refer to anything but eternal life, and the salvation of the soul, ought
to hang his head for shame. He is not an honest man.
Now understand, the Lord requires all this of us precisely because it
is right and reasonable. We have no rights. We are sinners
have forfeited all our rights. We have made our plans without consulting
the will of God. Acquired our possessions, made our friends, sought our
pleasures, assumed our position, built our fortune, feathered our nest
just as we pleased, without ever troubling ourselves about the will of
God. Now God comes to us and says, You have no right to any of it. Forsake
it all. Hate it all. Take up your cross. Die to self, follow Christ, and
do the will of God.
This is plainly what Christ requires of us, or we cannot be his disciples.
But how to go about this may not be so clear. It is plain enough that
he speaks (for lack of a better term) figuratively. He certainly does
not mean literally to forsake all that we have. If we forsook the clothes
on our backs, and went naked, this would be sinful. If we forsook the
means of our livelihood, and so ceased to provide for our families, this
would be sinful. The Lord cannot mean to literally part with all that
we have. I realize that the carnal will abuse this fact to the point that
they forsake nothing. I am sorry for them, but I cannot conceal the truth
because some will abuse it, and the truth is, we are not called upon literally
to forsake strictly all that we have.
What then does he mean? I believe he means to forsake all in our hearts
and minds, to lay all on the altar of sacrifice, to place all that we
have at his disposal, to reserve no rights to anything, to withhold nothing
from his control. The best illustration I can find of this is in the book
of Exodus. Israel must be delivered not only from the stroke of the death
angel, by the blood of the passover lamb, but also from the bondage of
Egypt. This was their salvation, and this is the type of ours. But when
God sent Moses to Pharaoh with the message Let my people go,
Pharaoh refused. God therefore sent his plagues after his messenger. Feeling
those plagues, Pharaoh began to propose various compromises to Moses.
Go now ye that are men, but leave your little ones in Egypt.
Go not very far away. Leave as it were one foot in Egypt.
Moses rejected all these compromises, and God sent more of his plagues.
Pharaoh proposes another compromise. Go ye, serve the LORD; only
let your flocks and your herds be stayed: let your little ones also go
with you. Moses rejects this also, saying, Our cattle also
shall go with us; there shall not an hoof be left behind; for thereof
must we take to serve the LORD our God; and we know not with what we must
serve the LORD, until we come thither. In other words, we must place
all that we have at the Lord's disposal. We know not what he shall require
of us in the wilderness pathway. Therefore we dare not leave one hoof
behind. All that we have must be laid on the altar. All that we have must
be placed at the Lord's disposal. We reserve no rights. We withhold nothing.
But at this point ten thousand of our modern preachers will step forth
to decry this doctrine as some grave heresy, because, they will tell us,
we are to be saved by faith. Yes! Yes! Exactly! And I tell you, Salvation
by faith is precisely what I am preaching, and salvation by faith is precisely
what they deny. It is precisely faith which yields its all to the hands
of God, and trusts him to deal rightly, reasonably, and mercifully with
us. But these men preach salvation by unbelief, and call it faith. What
sort of faith is this which clings to that which God forbids? This is
that faith which refuses to trust its happiness in the hands of God, which
supposes itself better able or more willing to secure its own welfare
than God is. This is that faith which reckons God so hard a master that
to obey him will lead to misery, and the devil so good, that to hearken
to him will secure my bliss. This was the faith of Eve in the garden of
Eden, while she eyed and fondled the forbidden fruit, and chose to sink
her guilty teeth into its juicy pulp. This is the faith which says, God
cares nothing for my happiness, for he withholds from me the very thing
which is essential for my well-being. The devil and I!
how to make me happy. God cares nothing that I remain unsatisfied ----thirsting,
pining, longing, craving. The devil and I! ----we know how to secure
my fulfilment. God suppresses me. He holds me back. The devil will exalt
me. God gives me prohibitions and threats. The devil gives me sweet promises.
God says, Ye shall surely die ----if we but indulge
in that which he knows very well is necessary for our advancement, our
fulfilment, our happiness. The devil says, Ye shall not surely die,
and freely gives us what God withholds. God denies me what my nature craves,
and requires me to deny myself. The devil freely offers me what I want.
Therefore I distrust God and trust the devil. Therefore I disregard the
command of God, and act on the promise of the devil. Therefore I disobey
God, and follow the devil. And all this is called salvation by faith.
This is the faith by which Eve fell, being actual unbelief in both the
love and the holiness of God, actual unbelief in both the goodness and
severity of God ----a faith that ye shall not surely die,
though ye trust the devil more than God, and have more confidence in your
own will and way than in the will and way of God ----and by this
faith men now think to be saved.
This is that faith which refuses to forsake all for Christ. It consists
of a belief in the head of a few facts of the gospel, coupled with an
equal belief in the devil's lie, Ye shall not surely die,
though ye sin to your heart's content
----and all this tacked on
to a heart full of distrust in the Almighty, and an actual heart-confidence
that the ways of the devil are better than the ways of God, that sin is
better than holiness, disobedience better than obedience, and that the
world, the flesh, and the devil are either more able or more willing to
secure my happiness than God is. And by such faith as this men think to
be saved! Was ever delusion more complete?
True faith actually trusts God, and therefore lays its all upon the altar,
entrusting its safety and its happiness into the hands of the God it trusts.
It is precisely the faith of the Bible which forsakes all for Christ.
It is the faith of the Bible which says, Not an hoof shall be left
behind. I lay all upon the altar of sacrifice. I place all that
I have at his disposal. I make no bargains with God, but trust in him
who says, Whatsoever is right I will give you.
him to give me better than I deserve, and better than I can procure for
myself. I go out, therefore, as Abraham did, not knowing whither I go,
nor what awaits me. I know not what the Lord shall require of me in the
wilderness pathway, but I trust him, believing that his every demand will
be for my own best interest, and for my ultimate happiness. I therefore
reserve nothing for myself, though I know full well how painful it will
be to part with those things to which my heart is attached. That sort
of faith which refuses this submission to Christ, which withholds from
him what he asks, which clings to its own plans and provisions for its
own happiness, is no faith at all, but precisely unbelief.
We do not believe that God requires perfect faith of us, but he requires
real faith. We know that Christ sometimes called his disciples ye
of little faith, but we know also that long ere this they had exercised
a faith which actually forsook all and followed him. This is not some
lofty pinnacle of faith, but only its beginning. This was the beginning
of Abraham's faith, when by faith he obeyed, and went out, forsaking all
that he had, for he trusted God to give him better. But if we so far distrust
him as to refuse to yield up our all to him
----treat him as though
he were a hard master or a robber for demanding it ----consider
ourselves better able to secure our own welfare than he is ----how
can we be said to trust him? This is not faith at all, but unbelief.
Calvinism, Hyperspirituality, & the Use of Means
by Glenn Conjurske
The Calvinistic system is hyperspiritual throughout, making all of God,
and nothing of man, who is made in his image
----making all of the
direct working of God, and nothing of the means which he has created.
We do not accuse all Calvinists of the same degree of error in this, for
Calvinism exists in many varying degrees, and most Calvinists are very
inconsistent, holding sundry self-contradictory doctrines at the same
time, for in spite of all its pride, Calvinism is a very shallow system,
as much against reason as it is against Scripture. Alas, it is common
enough with Calvinists to despise the carnal reason which
would set them right, speaking their double-talk and holding their self-contradictions
directly in the teeth of sound reason.
With regard to the use of means, in common with all the hyperspiritual,
they often profess one thing, and practice another. This was apparent
to the homespun wisdom of Peter Cartwright, who addressed them as follows:
If you so firmly believe in the decrees, why are you afraid of fire,
guns, of being drowned, etc.? The truth is, there may be theoretical Calvinists,
but there never was nor ever will be a practical one; they are all as
fearful of dying as any Arminian on earth. We trust our Calvinistic
friends will take no offence if I
----who was once a thorough Calvinist
myself ----bring them face to face with such reason and Scripture
as will force them to face some of the absurdities of their system.
Desiring to give Calvinists as much credit for sense and sincerity as
we can, we grant at the outset that there is very much in the Bible which
gives apparent support to their system. This is doubtless one of the primary
reasons for its popularity, from the time of Augustine till the present
day. Calvin did not originate the system. He got it from Luther, who got
it from Augustine, and it was held by many between Augustine and Luther,
including John Wycliffe (in a very moderate form) and many of the papists
through the dark ages. All these of course professed to stand on Scripture,
and we grant that there are many scriptures which give them an apparent
footing, but as is the case with hyperspiritual doctrines in general,
those scriptures are taken in an extreme or absolute sense, at the expense
of sound reason and the rest of Scripture. The scriptures which seem to
favor their system are exalted too high, which forces them to reduce the
rest of the Scriptures too low, or hiss them out of court altogether.
I pause to illustrate my remarks by one example. The Bible says, in Ephesians
5:25, that Christ loved the church, and gave himself for it.
Some will insist that this means he loved the church and none else, and
that he gave himself for it alone. But see how this makes void both reason
and other scriptures. First, reason. The same apostle who says that Christ
loved the church, and gave himself for it, says in Galatians 2:20 that
he loved me, and gave himself for me. Now if the former verse
must mean the church only, then by parity of reason the latter
must mean me only, which is a plain absurdity. As for Scripture,
the Bible repeatedly affirms that Christ gave himself a ransom for
all, that he tasted death for every man, that he is
the propitiation not for our sins only, but also for the sins of
the whole world. But in order to maintain a foolishly technical
and extreme interpretation of the one scripture, all the others must be
watered down and explained away, to the point that their plain meaning
is discarded altogether. Such is the usual method of Calvinism
it is of hyperspirituality in general, and of all error of every sort.
Now as regards the use of means, it is a plain fact that God has created
various means, which actually work to secure their several ends. This
is warrant enough to common sense to use them. But beyond that, Scripture
everywhere ordains and commands the use of means, and in general assumes
and appeals to their efficacy. But in Calvinism there is an inveterate
tendency to discard the use of means, or to slight and belittle them,
in order that God himself may be put in their place. Where Calvinism is
strong, that tendency is usually strong also. Where Calvinism is inconsistent,
or moderate, as it is called, that tendency is usually weakened,
and kept in check.
My first introduction to this tendency came in 1965. I had been converted
only about a year, and was a new student at Bible school. My room-mate
was a rather bigoted Calvinist
----had been expelled from the Baptist
college for preaching his Calvinism ----and of course went directly
to work to make a Calvinist of me. He loved to speak against the Baptists,
and wished to take me to a Reformed church, where sound doctrine was preached.
I consented to go, and one Sunday morning we went to the Seventh Reformed
Church, on Leonard Street in Grand Rapids. He evidently did not know the
time of the meeting, and we arrived and took our seats just as the pastor
was finishing his sermon. He was preaching against preaching the gospel.
You might just as well go to the cemetery, he said, and
call upon the people to rise from their graves and stand up. They are
dead! dead! and cannot respond to your preaching.
This may have been too much even for my friend the Calvinist, for he never
offered to take me to a Reformed church again. Nor was there any need,
for there was Calvinism enough at the Bible school, and within a year
I was as Calvinistic as anybody.
As for the sinners being dead, this is but one example among a myriad
of the extreme and technical manner of interpretation upon which Calvinism
is based. It must press this single word dead to the ultimate
of its possible meaning, while a thousand other scriptures, in which God
appeals to man as though he were very much alive
all the faculties of reason, emotion, and will ----are made to mean
nothing at all. Come now, let us reason together ----Turn
ye, turn ye, for why will ye die? ----these and a thousand
scriptures like them must mean nothing at all, in order that this one
word dead may mean everything which may be extracted from
it. It must mean as dead as an inanimate object, and we must
be continually presented with either the extreme hypocrisy or the extreme
folly of the omniscient God addressing these inanimate objects as though
they were living beings. We know, of course, that the salvage crews and
damage control teams of Calvinism have invented numerous auxiliary doctrines
to sustain the reputation of God and Calvin, such as that regeneration
is the first act of God upon the soul of man ----a dogma held
even by Spurgeon. By means of this shift God is exempted from commanding
and reasoning with inanimate objects, but the shift itself stands as directly
against the Bible as the doctrine which it aims to salvage.
But we pass on. The distrust of means is one of the reasons for the opposition
to revival, evangelism, and missions which persistently cleaves to Calvinism,
in spite of the endeavors of many good men to thrust it out. One of the
most memorable incidents of such opposition occurred when William Carey
first attempted to enlist the sympathies of his Calvinistic Baptist denomination
for the evangelization of the heathen. At a meeting of ministers
held about this time at Northampton, Mr. Ryland, senior, called on the
young men around him to propose some topic for discussion, on which Mr.
Carey rose and proposed for consideration, 'The duty of Christians to
attempt the spread of the Gospel among heathen nations.' The venerable
divine received the proposal with astonishment, and, springing on his
feet, denounced the proposition with a frown, and thundered out, 'Young
man, sit down. When God pleases to convert the heathen, He will do it
without your aid or mine.' He will do it, that is, without the use
of any of those means which he has ordained.
The Calvinists of the Old School strongly opposed the anxious seat
employed by Charles G. Finney. Of this Finney's biographer says, The
opposition to the anxious seat arose largely from its theological significance,
since the Old School Calvinists were not willing to admit that the human
will possessed that self-determining power implied in these urgent appeals
to immediate submission. In their view, there was little natural connection
between the means used for the persuasion of men and their conversion.
According to their theory, conversion could only follow regeneration,
and that was a mysterious process wrought directly by God on the hearts
of the elect.
This view of the Calvinistic opposition to evangelism is confirmed by
statements from the Calvinists themselves. Jacob Knapp, a Calvinistic
Baptist, writes, About this time, 1833, the practice of holding
protracted meetings began to enter in amongst the Baptist churches. These
were of rare occurrence, and generally looked upon with distrust and opposition.
There prevailed among Baptists, views of the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit
in the conversion of men, which led to a practical denial of the necessity
of all human agency in bringing sinners to consider the claims of the
gospel. The theology of that day was, that God evinced his sovereignty
independently of means, rather than through them; that human agencies
were interferences with the divine purposes, and that all experiences
that might result from the use of means were to be rejected as 'man-made'
Knapp and some few others labored for years under much obloquy among the
Baptists of America, where no means for the conversion of sinners were
allowed as legitimate, and even prayer was regarded as an unwarranted
assumption of the divine prerogative. They were startled from their
lethargy only by their hostility to the encroachments of these new measures.
They became active, not to save souls, and elevate society, but to oppose
those who had set themselves to promote 'every good word and work.'
Now in truth these Calvinists ought to have had as much objection to the
natural means which God himself employs to persuade and convert sinners,
as to the measures of Jacob Knapp and Charles G. Finney, but they managed
to find a way to sustain the reputation of God, while they blackened that
of Finney. They cannot have been ignorant of the fact that God himself
reasons with sinners, commands them, endeavors to move them with fear,
pleads with them, even weeps over them, but they quite generally hold
that there is no actual connection between the means used and the end
to be gained. There is no efficacy in the means. This is common
grace, and not so much as intended to convert its recipients. The
end is to be gained solely by the direct and immediate working of God
himself. If asked, Why then should we use the means? some will reply that
we ought not to use them. We ought not to preach the gospel, or invite
sinners to come to Christ, nor to use any means to persuade them. Others
make a bad matter worse ----will answer that we are to use the means
because God prescribes them, though both he and we know very well that
there is no actual connection between the means and the end ----no
more than there was between Elisha's salt and the healing of the waters
of Jericho, no more than there was between the stick of wood and the swimming
of the iron, no more than there was between the spittle and clay and the
restoration of the blind man's sight. All the means which we use to convert
sinners are just an empty show. All our impassioned pleading, all our
tears, all our strong arguments, all our appeals to men's best interests ----and
all of God's appeals and tears and arguments ----are a mere empty
show, clouds without rain, wells without water, powder without shot, fired
away into the ranks of the enemy as so many empty blanks, unable to do
the least execution, or to slay man, mouse, or mosquito. All the actual
accomplishment is to be secured by the secret, sovereign, and inscrutable
working of God himself, and that working is no way dependent upon the
True, most Calvinists will not state the matter so plainly
double-talk is generally their favorite tongue ----but that this
is no caricature of Calvinism may be demonstrated with ease enough.
A New England Calvinist speaks much on this theme in a sermon on the death
of George Whitefield. Means tending to produce any end or effect,
he says,have such tendency by a law or constitution of nature: but
this is only a certain way or method in which God works. This law has
no power or agency of its own, and is nothing but the continued, immediate
efficiency of God, according to the constitution he has been pleased to
establish. So that however natural the connection between means and effect
may be, yet this nature is nothing but the immediate efficiency of the
God of nature. Translated into a little plainer English, the law
or constitution of anything is only the uniform method in which God has
determined to use it. It has nothing to do with any intrinsic properties
of the thing itself. There is thus no actual connection between the means
used and the effect produced, so that of itself a swinging bat is no more
likely to send a ball through the air than the fluttering wing of a butterfly,
a magnet is no more likely to pick up steel than a sugar cube, and an
earnest gospel sermon no more likely to convert a sinner than a dance
or a card party. Any seeming natural connection here is nothing
but the immediate efficiency of the God of nature. A due attention
to this, the preacher continues, may be of great use to shew,
how means become effectual, either in the natural or moral world.
Further, Nothing but the power of Christ opened the eyes of the
man born blind, and the clay he put on them was only a sign or symbol
of that power; and as it was a sovereign appointment of the Lord of nature
in that particular case, so it had as natural a tendency to produce the
cure, as any other more common means have to produce their ordinary effects:
And the reason we do not see the connection between the means and end
in the cure of the blind man by putting clay on his eyes, is, that God
rarely connects these things together, yea never did in any instance but
this, that we know of: for after all, it is the immediate energy of God
which connects means and end together in every case, i. e. the means have
no self-efficiency to the end, either in the natural or moral world.
Here is just the same again. There is no self-efficiency in
the means, that is, no intrinsic properties in them which will naturally
produce any particular effects. This is nothing but the continued,
immediate efficiency of God, nothing but his own immediate
energy, his own direct working.
The whole physical and moral universe, then, is only an empty masquerade.
Fire is no more hot than ice. It is not the fire which burns, but the
immediate working of God. The sword is not sharp
----no more so
than a fur coat. It is not the sword which cuts, but the immediate working
of God. There is no more heat in the sun than in the moon. It is not the
sun which warms the earth, but only the immediate working of God. Immediate,
by the way, means without medium, that is, without means.
The force of gravity does not lie in the earth or the moon at all. It
is nothing but the immediate efficiency of God. When Cain
undertook to slay his brother, it was nothing in his heavy fist, nor in
his hard club, which did the execution. It was nothing but the immediate
efficiency of God. When Samson tied his foxes tail to tail, with
firebrands between them, and set fire to the Philistines' fields, it was
nothing in the nature of the foxes or the fire which set the fields ablaze.
It was nothing but the immediate efficiency of God. When David's
heart was taken away by the sight of the bathing Bath-sheba, it was nothing
in the face or form of the woman which carried off his heart, nay, nothing
but the immediate energy of God. Let him deny it who can, while
he holds that the means have no self-efficiency to the end, either
in the natural or moral world, that it is the immediate energy
of God which connects means and end together in every case, and
that A due attention to this may be of great use to shew, how means
become effectual, either in the natural or moral world. The sword
cuts both ways. Those who bend all their energies to make God all, and
his creatures nothing, forget that there is evil in the world. If all
means were actually intrinsically ineffectual, God alone making them efficacious
by his own direct working, then the devil and the wicked could do nothing ----unless
the immediate energy of God himself should make the means effectual in
their hands to the accomplishment of their ends. Thus God is made to be
the actual perpetrator of every sin ever committed. The sword, I say,
cuts both ways, and we decry that shallow reasoning ----typical
of both Calvinism and hyperspirituality ----which wields the sword
always in the same direction, oblivious to the fact that it has another
edge. What's good for the goose must be good for the gander, and if no
means are intrinsically suited to turn men from sin, no more can we believe
that any means are intrinsically suited to turn him to it. Let him confute
this who can. The Westminster Confession informs us that Unto this
catholick visible church Christ hath given the ministry, oracles, and
ordinances of God, for the gathering and perfecting of the saints in this
life, to the end of the world; and doth by his own presence and Spirit,
according to his promise, make them effectual ----but it
neglects to tell us who makes the means effectual in the devil's hands,
to accomplish his ends.
Calvinists, we know, commonly take refuge in the doctrine of the depravity
of man, supposing no means required to turn men to evil, and none effectual
to turn them from it. And the doctrine of the inefficiency of means gains
an appearance of reason when we speak of turning depraved men to God and
to good, but it fails to explain who made the means effectual to tempt
Eve from her rectitude, nor how the devil won the allegiance of the holy
angels. Unless we impute their fall to the immediate energy of God,
it must have been the means themselves which were effectual, when there
was no depravity at all in those who were tempted.
But more. On this plan miracles are nothing. If everything is a miracle
effect wrought by the direct power of God, without any efficacious means ----then
nothing is a miracle, and the very term miracle is rendered
nugatory and deceptive. It is equally miraculous for the iron to sink
as to swim. Both are effected by the immediate working of God, irrespective
of any intrinsic properties in the iron, the water, or the gravitational
pull of the earth. It was no more miracle for Peter to walk on the water
than to walk on the land. On this plan science is nothing. There are no
distinctive properties resident in anything which God has created. Chemists,
pharmacists, detectives, scientists of every description, are all deceived.
Supposing they have found such properties resident in the things which
they study, they have in reality discovered no such thing, but only the
decree of God, to use that substance in that manner while he pleases.
But more. On this plan wisdom is nothing. Wisdom consists precisely of
understanding the various properties of all that God has created
mental, moral, and spiritual ----so that we know what means are
effectual to accomplish our ends. The poor man by his wisdom delivered
the city. (Eccl. 9:15). He understood and prescribed the means which
would be effectual to that end, but such wisdom becomes the merest non-entity,
if no means are actually effectual for anything, and all is done by the
mere choice and immediate working of God.
Such is the consummate folly of hyperspirituality, when it attempts to
make all of God, and nothing of his creatures
----and such is the
way of Calvinism. While it endeavors to make all of God, and nothing of
his creatures, it in fact makes nothing of his wisdom, nothing of the
display of his glory in the starry heavens, nothing of the most marvellous
instincts native to the teeming life of earth, nothing of the wondrous
properties which lie in the physical elements ----and nothing of
those which lie in the soul and spirit of man, though man is made in the
image of God.
We of course know that all Calvinists do not carry things so far. They
may not allow such folly in the physical realm, but they preach the very
same doctrine in the moral and spiritual realm. Some of them are as afraid
of persuasive preaching as they are of poison
----afraid of the
poison because they believe it is effectual, and afraid of the preaching
because they believe it is not ----and believe it presumptuous besides,
as taking the work of God out of his hands.
Bennet Tyler, another New England Calvinist, and a prominent man in his
day, writes, We see from facts, that at one time, the preaching
of the gospel has little or no effect. Few or none are awakened and renewed.
At another time, these same truths, which have been heard year after year
with no apparent effect, are clothed with power, arrest the attention
of numbers, and are the means of producing a wonderful change in their
feelings and sentiments; so that many now cordially embrace those truths,
which a few weeks before, they bitterly opposed and denied; and now take
pleasure in prayer, reading the Scriptures, serious conversation, and
the other duties of religion, which but a short time since, they perhaps
ridiculed and despised, or at least neglected and considered as very tedious
and irksome. Such facts fully evince, that the power which produces these
remarkable effects, is not of man, nor in the gospel itself, but of God.
We think such facts fully evince no such things. This is very
short-sighted reasoning. Such facts would fully evince
such things only if all the factors remained exactly equal, with the exception
of the immediate and invisible working of God. When did George Whitefield
ever preach the gospel without effect? Was there not something in the
man which made his preaching effectual? Alas, I have heard Calvinists
deny it, and affirm that the only reason Whitefield's preaching was so
effectual was that God had chosen so to use it, irrespective of anything
suitable or efficacious in the preaching itself! And Tyler informs us
that there is no power even in the Gospel to convert sinners. That is
to say, Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and
I will give you rest, has no natural or constitutional tendency
to draw a man. He that loveth his life shall lose it has no
intrinsic power to awaken a man. He that doeth sin is of the devil
has no intrinsic power to convict a man. It is all the immediate working
of God. The word of God is not living and powerful. It does not pierce
to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit. All this is only the direct
and immediate working of God.
But the fact is, Scripture itself accounts for the different effects of
the gospel, and never suggests that they lie in any difference in God's
working. It is the soil which accounts for the difference. The soil is
the heart of man. The good seed brings forth its fruit when it is sown
in the good soil. And other fell on good ground, and sprang up,
and bare fruit an hundredfold. (Luke 8:8). The good ground is not
the immediate, inscrutable working of God, but a good and honest
heart, as we are told a few verses later. Tyler's dictum assumes
that hearts which were not good and honest one year could not be so the
next year either, overlooking all the natural tendencies of afflictions
and many other providential dispensations to soften hard hearts
the plain command of God to Break up your fallow ground, (Jer.
4:3), and so make good and honest hearts of bad ones. All must be the
direct and immediate power of God ----given at one time, and withheld
at another, according to no principle but his own inscrutable will ----while
all the faculties of him who is made in the image of God, and all the
intrinsic vigor of the living and powerful word of God itself, are a mere
cipher. God must be all, and the means which he has ordained nothing.
We do not, however, accuse all Calvinists of holding such notions as these.
We only contend that Calvinism itself has an inveterate tendency in that
direction, and that many Calvinists have clung to that tendency with more
or less consistency in theory, though they have generally manifested a
great deal of inconsistency in reducing their theory to practice. Yet
many have practiced their theories at least in a measure, and to this
we may trace most of the Calvinistic opposition to revivals and revival
measures, to evangelists, to missions, and to any kind of aggressive evangelism.
But it will be said that the Bible supports such doctrines. The Bible
says, in I Corinthians 3:6 & 7, I have planted, Apollos watered;
but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing,
neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. He that
planteth, then, is nothing. He that watereth is nothing. God is all, who
alone giveth the increase. Here is a plain scripture, which unequivocally
asserts the very doctrine which I have been opposing in this article.
But hold. If Paul actually believed him that planteth to be literally
and technically nothing, a mere cipher, why did he continue to plant?
Were you engaged to bail out the sea with a bucket, would you not cease
when you came to perceive that your labor availed nothing? Such tests
as this are employed to determine the sanity of men. Was Paul insane?
Why did he labor, while he believed that his labor was nothing? Nay, why
did he say, In Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel,
if he knew that he was literally nothing, and his preaching a mere cipher?
The fact is, we know that there are numerous apparently absolute statements
in the Bible, both negative and positive, which yet cannot be taken in
an absolute sense. All can rarely be pressed to mean every
single one, nor can none always be pressed to mean not one.
All seek their own things, says Paul, and not the things
of Christ Jesus, yet the same chapter names three exceptions, in
Epaphroditus, Timothy, and Paul himself. There is none that seeketh
after God. No? Not Cornelius? Calvinists themselves, though they
will be sure to insist that numerically none means exactly
none, will be forced to qualify this statement with some except
or until, to reconcile it with acknowledged facts. Such statements
are general, though couched in absolute language. All things are
possible to him that believeth. Can he then blot the sun from the
heavens, create another world, convert the world that now is, remove the
curse from the earth? No, but all things in some narrower
sphere, which the Bible leaves to our own sense to define. All things
are lawful. What? Adultery? Murder? Lying? Thieving? No, not all
things universally, but all things of a certain sort. The absolute language
must be qualified by common sense, by the context, or by other considerations.
The fact is, it is rare that any combination of words has only one possible
meaning. This is usually true even of apparently absolute statements,
according to the common usage of language. Every sentence has a range
of possible meaning, above which it cannot be legitimately exalted, and
below which it cannot be legitimately reduced. Its actual meaning usually
lies somewhere between those extremes, and it is the province of true
interpretation to determine this, by common sense, by the nature of the
case, and by the rest of Scripture. But it is the way of Calvinism always
to exalt certain scriptures to the utmost limit of their possible meaning,
which obliges it to reduce other scriptures much below their lowest legitimate
meaning. Such interpretation is false on its face.
If it be asked why God would make general statements, and use apparently
absolute terms, we can only say that we all do so, and that the holy men
of God who wrote these things spoke in the same language as the rest of
the human race. The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, Perceive
ye how ye prevail nothing? behold, the world is gone after him.
(John 12:19). This is the common speech of humanity, though it was not
strictly or literally true that they accomplished nothing, nor that the
world was gone after him. That speech which must confine itself to general
terms to make general statements is fastidious, tame, and insipid. Forceful
speech uses strong language, though it is not intended to be pressed to
the full extent of its possible meaning. If any man can find a better
explanation than this, we will be glad to hear it. Meanwhile I only repeat,
If Paul had actually believed all his labor to be exactly nothing, would
he not have ceased to labor? No sane man continues to labor if he knows
that his labor is either hopeless or needless, and by this theory Paul's
But Scripture seems to support these notions in another way. It presents
to us numerous examples of means used, which evidently have no connection
at all with the end to be gained. Such are the salt used to heal the waters
of Jericho, the clay and spittle used to restore the blind man's sight,
the wood which caused the iron to swim, the smiting of the rock to bring
forth water in the wilderness, the serpent of brass for the healing of
the Israelites, the waters of Jordan to cure the leprosy of Naaman, the
anointing with oil to heal the sick, the shadow of Peter, the handkerchiefs
of Paul, the hem of Christ's garment, the bones of Elisha, and many such
like things. Why were all these means used or prescribed, when we know
very well they contained nothing in themselves to accomplish the desired
----when we know very well that the end depended solely upon
the immediate power of God, and that the means contributed nothing at
all to the effect?
And what if I say, I know not? I do not pretend to know everything. The
reader will observe that the first word in the question is why,
and I do not pretend to answer why questions concerning God.
I have a thousand of such questions to ask when I see his face, but I
cannot pretend to answer them now. Now I know in part
then face to face.
Yet though I know but in part, still that part may be worth something.
I observe, first, therefore, that in every case where means are used which
have no actual connection with the end sought, the end secured is in fact
a miracle. We grant
----we contend ----that those means contributed
nothing to those miracles. We grant that there were no intrinsic properties
in the means employed, which could contribute anything at all to secure
those miraculous effects. But we deny that the miraculous is the rule
of the ordinary. Elisha healed the waters of Jericho miraculously by casting
in salt, but we absolutely deny that any man shall reap a harvest of grain
naturally by sowing salt in his field. The miracles of Scripture are granted
in response to natural means which have nothing to do with the desired
end, yet the same Scriptures continually exhort us to the use of means
which naturally contribute to the desired ends, in both the physical and
the spiritual realms, for miracles are not to be expected where the ordinary
means in our hands will suffice.
As for those natural means which were used to work miracles, we may as
well ask why God prescribed any means at all, as to ask why he prescribed
those particular means which he did, for in fact one natural agency is
as unfit as the next to work a miracle. Yet even here we may offer some
suggestions, for while our ignorance is great, it may not be absolute.
Some of the means thus used were types of spiritual things. Such were
the brasen serpent, and Moses' smiting of the rock to bring forth the
water. Others of them were tests of the obedience of those who sought
the benefit. Such were the waters of Jordan to Naaman the Syrian. Others
were undoubtedly to place the divine stamp of approval upon the man through
whom the miracles were wrought. Such were Peter's shadow, Paul's handkerchiefs,
Elisha's bones, and the hem of the garment of Christ, a man approved
of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs. (Acts 2:22).
A fourth reason for the use of such means may have been precisely to emphasize
the fact that those operations were miraculous, for every man could plainly
see that there was no connection between the means and the end. But what
have these miraculous cases to do with the myriad of ordinary cases, in
which every man can just as plainly see that there is a real connection
between the means and the end?
Mistaken piety, we know, is accustomed to speak of everything spiritual
as though it were a miracle, but such speech is unscriptural. The conversion
of a sinner in particular is spoken of in glowing terms as the greatest
of miracles. Such talk may be pious, and well meant, but it is certainly
unscriptural. The Bible never applies the terms miracles,
signs, or wonders, to any such spiritual operations,
which are secured by spiritual means, any more than it does to physical
operations, which are secured by physical means. The very meaning of the
word miracle must be altered to admit of such an application.
The conversion of a sinner is no miracle, but a simple spiritual operation,
secured by ordinary spiritual means. Of his own will begat he us
with the word of truth. The entrance of thy word giveth light,
and The engrafted word ... is able to save your souls. And
beyond that, the word of his grace ... is able to build you up,
and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.
These are all spiritual operations, secured by spiritual means, and are
not properly miraculous, for those means actually secure those ends. The
Bible never speaks of any of them as miraculous. We believe these things
are wrought by God. We believe also they are wrought by means. As to the
precise relationship between the means and the power of God, we would
rather confess our ignorance than speak dogmatically, but it will nothing
aid our understanding to so broaden the meaning of miracle
as to make a miracle of everything which God does. If everything is a
miracle, the term is meaningless.
Meanwhile, there is nothing hyperspiritual in the Bible. It constantly
exhorts us to the use of means, both natural and spiritual. We are exhorted
----to plow and plant and water and reap ----as much
so in the spiritual realm as in the natural. We are exhorted to preach,
to exhort, to teach, to persuade, to reason, to weep ----and are
all these things an empty show, mere hypocritical play-acting, the merest
busy-work, which has no real connection with the end which we seek, and
nothing in itself calculated to promote that end? Does God send men to
sweep the street that it might rain, or to milk the cows that the sun
might shine, if God be pleased to add his blessing to the means?
Let him believe it who can.
We believe in the divine influence working with the means, or through
the means, but of what exactly that influence consists, or of how exactly
it is related to the means employed, we can only profess our ignorance.
We only know that we dare not affirm that it consists of any magical or
supernatural working by which the means are made effectual. We believe
the means were made effectual when God created them, that they therefore
are effectual in themselves, as they now exist, and that there is therefore
no need to make them effectual in any other sense. Those who affirm the
contrary must then answer this question: Who makes them effectual in the
hands of the wicked, for the accomplishment of the purposes of the devil
and all his hosts? Is it the work of God to do the work of the devil?
We believe in the divine influence working with the means, or through
the means, but not instead of the means. We believe in the unction of
the Holy Ghost
----and feel it very keenly if we lack it in our
preaching or writing. Yet that divine influence is as the oil to the wheels
of the cart ----the wheels themselves, if you please ----but
it is not the cart, nor is it any substitute for the cart. God works by
his word. God's method, in general, is a man, and the unction of the Holy
Ghost is no substitute for his word, nor for a holy man of God. A man's
mind, his reason, his doctrine, his fervency, his tears, his emotions ----these
are the tools of the Holy Ghost. These are the means which actually accomplish
the work of the Lord. We are indeed workers together with God.
Curse ye Meroz, said the angel of the LORD, curse ye bitterly the
inhabitants thereof; because they came not to the help of the LORD, to
the help of the LORD against the mighty. (Judges 5:23). Yet if there
is no effectual grace ----no effectual calling ----but
by the immediate efficiency of God himself, what does he want
with help? The fact is, these hyperspiritual theorists are generally ready
to curse those who do come to the help of the Almighty. From this propensity
arose all the Calvinistic opposition to the new measures in
Finney's day. From this has come repeated Calvinistic denunciations of
revivals as the work of the devil. From this arose all the Calvinistic
opposition, in Scotland, to the work of D. L. Moody. From this arises
all the opposition in the present day, on the part of men like Ian Murray,
to what they reproachfully call the invitation system and
revivalism. From this source came Lewis Sperry Chafer's book
True Evangelism, aptly labelled by John R. Rice as A Hurtful, Unscriptural
Attack on Evangelism and Evangelists. According to Chafer evangelists
are one of the False Forces in Evangelism. His subtitle, Winning
Souls by Prayer, betrays his distrust of all means but the direct
working of God. This is the hyperspirituality of Calvinism.
And here lies the great evil of these hyperspiritual doctrines. They make
all those things which lie within our own power to be indifferent, unnecessary,
or impertinent. They thus promote indifference, lukewarmness, apathy.
They thrust out zeal and fervency head and shoulders. They teach us that
dead orthodoxy is as likely to accomplish the work of God as spiritual
----that the preaching of John Gill was as likely to convert
sinners as that of George Whitefield ----that the only difference
in their effects lay in the inscrutable choice of the Almighty to add
his blessing to the one more than to the other. Thus do the hyperspiritual
notions of Calvinism ----if consistently acted upon ----dry
up true religion from its very roots. The system of theology,
says C. H. Spurgeon, with which many identify his [John Gill's]
name has chilled many churches to the very soul, for it has led them to
omit the free invitations of the gospel, and to deny that it is the duty
of sinners to believe in Jesus. Spurgeon excuses Gill from the blame
for this, with what justice I do not now inquire. I only affirm that the
system of theology of which he speaks was consistent Calvinism ----Calvinism
practicing what it preached ----and that it chilled those churches
to the very soul by rejecting as unnecessary, unprofitable, ineffectual,
or impertinent, those means which the wisdom of God has both created and
Howell Harris on the Terms of Salvation
[Harris wrote but little himself, except letters. Much has been written
about him, however, and little wonder, for the historian of Welsh Nonconformity
calls him the most successful preacher that ever ascended a pulpit
or a platform in Wales. He was the father of Welsh Calvinistic Methodism,
and a close associate of George Whitefield, often taking charge of Whitefield's
Tabernacle in Whitefield's absence. Charles Wesley wrote of him, Never
man spake, in my hearing, as this man spake. Thus speaks a man who
had often heard both John Wesley and George Whitefield. The following
extracts, from his letters, will sufficiently indicate what sort of gospel
he preached. I do not endorse his every sentiment. His failure to distinguish
between nature and sin, and between inclination and choice, may give a
legal tinge to his theology, but at any rate these extracts show him to
be, with all the great preachers of the past, very far indeed from the
antinomian gospel of the modern church.
O let nothing share your heart with Him: He is willing to take you as
you are, a poor, blind, weak, lost, helpless worm, (Rev. iii.18.) if you
are made willing to part with the right eye, right arm, and all for Him:
but if He shall not have all your heart He will not take any part of it.
If you will not be wholly united to Him, all your sins will meet upon
your own head and condemn you in the last day, and all the vials of God's
wrath will be poured upon you. O the thought of it is most dreadful, and
strikingly awful! Halt not then between two minds! Let either God, or
the world and the flesh, have you all.
I beg of God to search you, lest after much seeking you may not find
because you did not seek with all your heart. Before there can be a complete
marriage between Him and our souls, there must be an eternal separation
made between us and not only the gaiety, and pride, and pomp, and outward
conformity to, and pleasures of this evil world, but also between us and
the inward desire after the praise or good opinion of any one of our fellow
creatures, or after any treasure or creature enjoyment,
more than that, there must be a thorough separation between us and ourselves
before we can be truly united to Him. We must come out of our own willing
and reasoning to God; we must cease living to that great idol ----self,
that we may live to Him who died for us. Self must be subdued, and Christ
must be exalted and set up in our souls, or we cannot be saved. If we
live after the flesh or after the desire and will of the flesh or nature,
or if we carry on an interest contrary to or separate from our Lord's
interest, we shall most certainly perish.
---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- --
n Book Review n
by Glenn Conjurske
---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- --
The Menace of the Religious Movie, by A. W. Tozer
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Christian Publications, n.d.,
We think this little book manifests both the strength and the weakness
of its author. As for his weakness, his language is undignified, and his
tone not always grave enough for the matters he handles. I quote one paragraph
which may serve to illustrate these remarks:
We of the evangelical faith are in the rather awkward position of
criticising Roman Catholicism for its weight of unscriptural impedimenta
and at the same time tolerating in our own churches a world of religious
fribble as bad as holy water or the elevated host. Heresy of method may
be as deadly as heresy of message. Old-line Protestantism has long ago
been smothered to death by extra-scriptural rubbish. Unless we of the
gospel churches wake up soon we shall most surely die by the same means.
(pg. 3). All true, no doubt, and all very solemn
----and more solemn,
we think, than the tone in which the writer sets it forth. The rather
awkward position, and such like expressions ought by all means to
be cast away for something more suited to the gravity of the occasion.
But I gladly turn to speak of Tozer's strength. That he had spiritual
discernment beyond the most of his contemporaries is beyond doubt, and
this little book is a certain example of it. It is full of the most excellent
observations throughout. He begins by affirming that as Moses was commanded
to build the tabernacle according to the pattern shown to him in the mount,
without varying the breadth of a hair from that pattern, so the New Testament
church is to be built on the pattern of the New Testament. Not the
doctrines only, but the methods are divinely given. (pg. 1). This
we endorse in toto. We have preached the same ourselves for more than
a third of a century, though we never read a line of Tozer's book before
the present day.
We do not know the date of the book before us. We only know that it was
written shortly after the religious movie came into being, as the following
paragraph (pp. 3-4) indicates:
Within the last few years a new method has been invented for imparting
spiritual knowledge; or, to be more accurate, it is not new at all, but
is an adaptation of a gadget of some years standing, one which by its
origin belongs not to the Church but to the world. Some within the fold
of the Church have thrown their mantle over it, have 'blessed it with
a text' and are now trying to show that it is the very gift of God for
our day. But, however eloquent the sales talk, it is an unauthorized addition
nevertheless, and was never a part of the pattern shown us on the mount.
I refer, of course, to the religious movie. We quite agree.
He defines what he means by the religious movie: By the religious
movie I mean that type of motion picture which attempts to treat spiritual
themes by dramatic representation. These are (as their advocates dare
not deny) frank imitations of the authentic Hollywood variety, but the
truth requires me to say that they are infinitely below their models,
being mostly awkward, amateurish and, from an artistic standpoint, hopelessly
and piteously bad. (pg. 5). Too true, alas, and as always when the
church imitates the world, the main thing accomplished by it is to create
a taste for the superior product which the world has to offer. ...the
taste for drama which these pictures develop in the minds of the young
people will not long remain satisfied with the inferior stuff the religious
movie can offer. Our young people will demand the real thing. (pg.
27). So we suppose it is with contemporary Christian music
also. Perhaps a dozen years ago I heard a man remark that he could always
tell in a moment if the radio was turned to a Christian station, without
hearing any of the words, for though the Christian music was the same
in kind as the world's, it was noticeably inferior in quality. And so
far as my limited acquaintance with the radio goes, I can certainly verify
the remark. Contemporary Christian music is no more than an inferior imitation
of the world. Had not the church better create a taste for the manna from
heaven, which the world cannot supply at all? When she creates a taste
for the leeks and onions and garlic, people soon learn that the world
can supply it better than the church can. The world is under none of the
restraints which godliness imposes upon the church. The church is out
of its element in this business. Can squirrels and monkeys plunge into
the deep and think to compete with the fish? Let them keep to their trees,
where the fish cannot come at all. What little I have heard of the most
popular dramatic productions of the modern church, in certain popular
radio programs, I would certainly pronounce to be hopelessly and
----painfully artificial, the very tone of the
voice being generally affected and unnatural. The acting must be frequently
interrupted and augmented by blaring sound effects, which would prove
an intolerable distraction instead of a welcome relief, if the acting
were worth anything. The popularity of such productions I can only attribute
to one fact, namely, that modern Christians are so accustomed to such
inane and artificial stuff, by long familiarity with it, that they have
lost their capacity to see anything amiss. The epidemic of amateurism
(pg. 30) has displaced all greatness from the church, and the amateurism
is praised as though it were praiseworthy.
Well, but Evangelicalism has come of age, and after three generations
of competing with Hollywood, some of our Evangelicals are not far behind.
I have seen but very few religious movies in my life, yet in some of those
which I have seen the acting was superb
----so much the worse for
modern Evangelicalism. One of those superb actors played a pimp, and it
remains impossible for me to suppose the man was godly. In another case,
a beautiful young woman labored to seduce another woman's husband, and
so perfect a seductress was she that I cannot conceive that any godly
girl could have played the part so well ----if indeed a godly girl
could have played such a part at all. And the effect of this was certainly
not to excite any abhorrence for the sin, but rather to make it appear
as delightful and delectable as the beautiful woman who played the part.
This was doing the devil's work, and the effect upon the actors must have
been as bad or worse than it was upon the viewers. And here lies one of
the greatest, though little suspected, evils of the drama. No human being
can play such parts well unless they feel the emotions which belong to
them, and thus, unless these films shall contain no characters but saints
and angels, they must do untold damage to the souls of the actors. Even
if we limit our drama to the content of the Bible, who could play well
the part of a Pilate, a Judas, a Herod, or a Delilah, without being defiled
by it? Who could act out the fall of Adam or Eve ----much less the
part of their tempter ----without being defiled by it? But this
drama does the same sort of damage to those who watch it. The audience
is also made to feel unholy and impure emotions. Paul says it is a shame
even to speak of those things which the ungodly do in secret. How much
more to see their evils vividly portrayed before our eyes and ears, to
the very wink of the eye and tone of the voice.
All this I have long felt, but Tozer has introduced another side of the
matter, entirely new to my thinking. He writes (pg. 14), To pretend
to pray, to simulate godly sorrow, to play at worship before the camera
----how utterly shocking to the reverent heart!
We agree absolutely. This is sacrilegious, and to play the parts of godliness
may be as damaging as to play the parts of sin.
Tozer rehearses seven objections to the religious movie, with which we
generally agree. To these we proceed.
1. It violates the scriptural law of hearing. (pg. 6). Proceeding
on the principle of Scripture that Faith cometh by hearing,
our author writes (pg. 8), Surely it requires no genius to see that
the Bible rules out pictures and dramatics as media for bringing faith
and life to the human soul.
The plain fact is that no vital spiritual truth can be expressed
by a picture. ...
If I am reminded that modern religious movies are 'sound' pictures,
making use of the human voice to augment the dramatic action, the answer
is easy. Just as far as the movie depends upon spoken words it makes pictures
unnecessary; the picture is the very thing that differentiates between
the movie and the sermon. The movie addresses its message primarily to
the eye, and to the ear only incidentally. Were the message addressed
to the ear as in the Scriptures, the picture would have no meaning and
could be omitted without loss to the intended effect. Words can say all
that God intends them to say, and this they can do without the aid of
This is true. I used the very same argument against the Visual Aids
courses at Bible school thirty-five years ago.
2. The religious movie embodies the mischievous notion that religion
is, or can be made, a form of entertainment. (pg. 9).
Speaking of religious fiction as well as religious movies, Mr. Tozer says
(pg. 10), That religion and amusement are forever opposed to each
other by their very essential natures is apparently not known to this
new school of religious entertainers. Their effort to slip up on the reader
and administer a quick shot of saving truth while his mind is on something
else is not only futile, it is, in fact, not too far short of being plain
dishonest. The hope that they can convert a man while he is occupied with
the doings of some imaginary hero reminds one of the story of the Catholic
missionary who used to sneak up on sick people and children and splash
a little holy water on them to guarantee their passage to the city of
gold. We agree.
Again, on page 11, It is true that men by thinking cannot find God;
it is also true that men cannot know God very well without a lot of reverent
thinking. Religious movies, by appealing directly to the shallowest stratum
of our minds, cannot but create bad mental habits which unfit the soul
for the reception of genuine spiritual impressions. We agree, and
contend that religious radio is worse still.
3. The religious movie is a menace to true religion because it embodies
acting, a violation of sincerity. (pg. 12). He says some good things
concerning the unique
----sacred I would call it ----individuality
of every man, tells us (truly) that the Greek word hypocrite
actually means an actor, and only metaphorically a pretender. Yet we are
not sure that acting as such is evil, or that it constitutes any violation
of our sacred individuality. Spurgeon and Whitefield often impersonated
others in their sermons, with telling effect. This was acting of a sort.
Yet in a couple of Tozer's points we absolutely agree with him. The
more fully, he says, he can become possessed by another personality
the better he is as an actor. (pg. 13). This is unquestionably true,
and if so it must be very damaging to the soul of the actor to play an
evil part ----or at least to play it well. All this, however, does
not convince us that there is any sacrifice of sincerity, or any violation
of individuality, in acting as such. Yet if we are not to play evil parts
we must play good ones, and here the damage may be just as great, as we
have rehearsed above.
4. They who present the gospel movie owe it to the public to give
biblical authority for their act: and this they have not done. (pg.
Now, for the religious movie where is the authority? For such a
serious departure from the ancient pattern, where is the authority? For
introducing into the Church the pagan art of acting, where is the authority?
Let the movie advocates quote just one verse, from any book of the Bible,
in any translation, to justify its use. This they cannot do. The best
they can do is to appeal to the world's psychology or repeat brightly
that 'modern times call for modern methods.' But the Scriptures
from them one verse to authorize movie acting as an instrument of the
Holy Ghost. This they cannot do. (pg . 18).
This is as true as it is forceful, but alas, the modern church in general
has utterly departed from the principle that the word of God is our only
rule of faith and practice. Some now contend against following the pattern
shown to us in the mount. On this we stand with Tozer
there immovably for thirty-five years.
5. God has ordained four methods only by which Truth shall prevail
the religious movie is not one of them. (pg. 20). The four methods,
according to Tozer, are prayer, song, preaching, and good works. But we
must now have a new spiritual gift. Screen artists are now
in order. Preliminary printed matter has been sent out announcing
that a new organization is in process of being formed. It is to be called
the 'International Radio and Screen Artists Guild,'and one of its two
major objectives is to promote the movie as a medium for the spread of
the gospel. Its sponsors, apparently, are not Modernists, but confessed
Fundamentalists. Some of its declared purposes are: to produce movies
'with or without a Christian slant': to raise and maintain higher standards
in the movie field (this would be done, it says here, by having 'much
prayer' with leaders of the movie industry); to 'challenge people, especially
young people, to those fields as they are challenged to go to foreign
This last point should not be allowed to pass without some of us
doing a little challenging on our own account. Does this new organization
actually propose in seriousness to add another gift to the gifts of the
Spirit listed in the New Testament? To the number of the Spirit's gifts,
such as pastor, teacher, evangelist, is there now to be added another,
the gift of the movie actor? To the appeal for consecrated Christian young
people to serve as missionaries on the foreign field is there to be added
an appeal for young people to serve as movie actors? That is exactly what
this new organization does propose in cold type over the signature of
its temporary chairman. Instead of the Holy Spirit saying, 'Separate me
Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them,' these people
will make use of what they call a 'Christian talent listing,' to consist
of the names of 'Christian' actors who have received the Spirit's gift
to be used in making religious movies.
Thus the order set up in the New Testament is openly violated, and
by professed lovers of the gospel who say unto Jesus, 'Lord, Lord,' but
openly set aside His Lordship whenever they desire. No amount of smooth
talk can explain away this serious act of insubordination. (pp.
6. The religious movie is out of harmony with the whole spirit of
the Scriptures and contrary to the mood of true Godliness. (pg.
24). This is perhaps Mr. Tozer's most telling objection, yet alas, the
objection the least likely to tell with the advocates of religious entertainment.
The fact is, they themselves are so far out of harmony with the spirit
of Scripture, so far from the mood of true godliness, that this objection
will no more enter into their hearts than many stripes into a fool. Yet
we think Tozer's commentary upon this is the most telling paragraph in
his little book. He says (pg. 25), Let a man dare to compare his
religious movie show with the spirit of the Book of Acts. Let him try
to find a place for it in the twelfth chapter of First Corinthians. Let
him set it beside Savonarola's passionate preaching, or Luther's thundering,
or Wesley's heavenly sermons, or Edwards' awful appeals. If he cannot
see the difference in kind, then he is too blind to be trusted with the
leadership in the Church of the Living God. The only thing that he can
do appropriate to the circumstances is to drop to his knees and cry with
poor Bartimæus, 'Lord, that I might receive my sight.
"7. I am against the religious movie because of the harmful effect
upon everyone associated with it." (pg. 26).
Among various points made under this heading Mr. Tozer speaks of an advertisement
for a religious film which he had recently seen in a Fundamentalist paper,
saying, it reeked of Hollywood and the cheap movie house.
He adds (pg. 27) that the rising generation will naturally come
to look upon religion as another, and inferior, form of amusement. In
fact, the present generation has done this to an alarming extent already,
and the gospel movie feeds the notion by fusing religion and fun in the
name of orthodoxy. It takes no great insight to see that the religious
movie must become increasingly more thrilling as the tastes of the spectators
become more and more stimulated. (pp. 27-28).
Mr. Tozer says in his conclusion, One thing may bother some earnest
souls: why so many good people approve the religious movie. The list of
those who are enthusiastic about it includes many who cannot be written
off as border-line Christians. If it is an evil, why have not these denounced
The answer is, lack of spiritual discernment. ... The light has
gone out and good men are forced to stumble around in the darkness of
the human intellect.
The religious movie is at present undergoing a period of gestation
and seems about to swarm up over the churches like a cloud of locusts
out of the earth. The figure is accurate; they are coming from below,
not from above. The whole modern psychology has been prepared for this
invasion of insects. The Fundamentalists have become weary of manna and
are longing for red flesh. What they are getting is a sorry substitute
for the lusty and uninhibited pleasures of the world, but I suppose it
is better than nothing, and it saves face by pretending to be spiritual.
Let us not for the sake of peace keep still while men without spiritual
insight dictate the diet upon which God's children shall feed. (pp.
29-30, bold type mine).
This is very well said, and it applies to a great deal more than religious
motion pictures. Thank God for such a voice as that of A. W. Tozer on
such a subject.
A Prominent Christian Musician Speaks
On One of the Evils of Recorded Music
We appreciate the radio, but must admit that it has taken from the young
and old much of the initiative and desire for individual participation.
The sale of musical instruments gradually declined with the advent of
the radio. The sale of sheet music has also materially decreased. Why
learn the piano or violin when by simply turning a little knob you bring
into the home the masterpieces of music?
----Twenty Years with Billy Sunday, by Homer Rodeheaver. Winona
Lake, Indiana: The Rodeheaver Hall-Mack Co., n.d., copyright 1936, pp.
OP&AL is a testimony, not a forum. Old articles are printed without
alteration (except for correction of misprints) unless stated otherwise,
and are inserted if the editor judges them profitable for instruction
or historical information, without endorsing everything in them. The editor's
own position is to be learned from his own writings.