August 20, 2017

The Bible at the Center of the Modern University

A. C. Dixon, D. D.

Professor, The Bible Institute, Los Angeles, Calif.

Editorial note: We are in the midst of a series of posts from the messages delivered at the Pre-Convention Conference of the Northern Baptist Convention, 1920. From the Conference the Fundamental Fellowship was formed which is today known as the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship International. The messages from the conference were published in a book called Baptist Fundamentals. The book has been digitized by Maranatha Baptist University and is available as part of the Roger Williams Heritage Archives collection in Logos format, available here. Links to previous posts will appear at the end of this post.

Due to length, this installment will be broken into two parts. Watch for Part Two tomorrow.

A brief biographical note, drawn mostly from David Beale’s Pursuit of Purity, pp. 222-225 is probably in order as we begin. A. C. Dixon is well known and appreciated as the strong fundamentalist pastor of many prominent churches, including the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London during the First World War. He was involved (obviously) in the founding of the Fundamental Fellowship and had a hand in writing the confession of faith of the Baptist Bible Union. A few months before he died (February, 1925), he resigned his membership in the BBU and offered a less militant stance than formerly. He would pass away in June of that year. At the time of the Pre-Convention Conference, however, his convictions were firmly fixed.


The first verse of Genesis, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth,” reads like a perfect creation. There is no hint of fiery nebulosity. “The heaven” and “the earth” have clearly defined meanings in the Pentateuch.

The inspired comment upon it in Isaiah 45:18 informs us that God “formed the earth and made it: he established it: he created it NOT WASTE; he formed it to be inhabited.”

“The heaven” remained perfect, but “the earth,” by some power not revealed, was wrecked. Mr. Anstey, author of “The Romance of Chronology,” insists that the Hebrew word rendered “was” in the Authorized Version must be translated became. “The earth BECAME without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep.” Other authorities admit that it may be thus translated. The first three verses give us an epitome of the whole Bible:

  1. Construction: God’s perfect creations.
  2. Destruction: The wreck of God’s perfect creations.
  3. Reconstruction: Restoration of order out of chaos.

Redemption is reconstruction, restoring man to the perfect character in the image of God which sin has wrecked. And the means used in reconstruction, material and spiritual, is God’s Word: “God said”; “God said.” And whatever God said was done. God’s will expressed in words worked the wonders of creation and restoration. “God said, Let there be light”; and whenever God speaks, there is light. “God divided the light from the darkness”; and this dividing of light from darkness will continue until at last there will be only two worlds, one of light and the other of darkness. “God called the light day, and the darkness he called night.” “And God called the firmament heaven.” The Bible is God’s dictionary of definitions, and its authority is the highest. When God defines sin, salvation, heaven, hell, or any other subject, it is wise to accept his definition as final. He knows.

Mature Product First

“God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after its kind.” It is plain that the mature product comes first. The herb yields the seed; not the seed the herb. The tree yields the fruit; not the fruit the tree.

“And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and let the fowl fly above the earth.” As in the vegetable, so in the animal kingdom, the mature product comes first, not the life germ producing the living creature, but the living creature that has the life germ. Not the egg that produces the fowl, but the fowl that produces the egg. This is economy of miracle. If the germ of animal or egg of fowl comes first, then there must be a series of many miracles to produce the mature product without the fostering care of motherhood. But if the mature product comes first, reproduction takes place by natural law. No further miracle is needed. We will not pause to view this in relation to present-day science. Of that later. What appears now is that the Genesis record places the mature product first, whatever its relation to modern “science.”

A Perfect Civilization

It is also evident that in the moral and social world the perfect comes first. In the second chapter of Genesis is the highest type of civilization this world has ever seen. There is a perfect man and a perfect woman. And there can be no perfect society unless there be perfect individuals.

There is for this perfect man and perfect woman perfect environment. “God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there he put the man whom he had formed.” They are in the midst of fertility, beauty, and plenty.

There is perfect employment. “The Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden, to dress it and to keep it.” Here is industry exerting itself in the cultivation of the beautiful and the useful, an ideal condition.

There is perfect rest. “God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it.” One day’s rest in seven is the need of man’s body and mind. The fifth day and the tenth have been tried, but they do not meet man’s physical and moral need. He is built for one day’s rest in seven.

There is perfect law, for God himself is the law-giver. “The Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it.” This invests him with the dignity of moral responsibility.

There is perfect love in the marriage of one man and one woman. “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” It is not said that the woman shall leave all and cleave to her husband. It is taken for granted that she will do that. But the husband leaves all for her. She has preeminence in the realm of love, and even a suffragette ought to be satisfied with that.

Has any civilization on earth given woman a higher position than that? Verily not.

There is perfect life. In the material, mental, moral, and spiritual realm all things are good. There is no disease or death. Perfect life of body and soul prevails.

A civilization of perfect character, perfect environment, perfect employment, perfect rest, perfect law, perfect love, and perfect life has never been surpassed in the history of the world.

The Wreck of God’s Perfect Order

But there comes a change. A powerful personality, who may have had something to do with wrecking the perfect earth at first, comes on the scene. Speaking to those who had been listening to God’s Word, he first calls in question the fact of revelation. “Yea, hath God said?” “Are you sure that God has spoken at all? Does God speak directly to his creatures? Is there such a thing as a revelation from God?” Satan puts an interrogation-point after the fact of revelation and the fact that he continues to do so is clear proof that the personality who operated in Eden is at work in the world today. And when the reply is given, “God hath said,” he calls in question the truth of revelation. “Thou shalt not surely die.” “Such a revelation is too severe. It savors of cruelty. A God of love could not have said it; or if he did, we have a right to reject it. It violates our inner consciousness.” Another proof that the personality in Eden is active in the world today.

Then he goes a step farther and offers knowledge as a substitute for revelation. “God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be open, and ye shall be as gods, KNOWING.” “Reject God’s revelation, or act independently of it, and your sphere of knowledge will be enlarged. Now you know only good; then you shall know good and evil.” This enlargement of knowledge marks the difference between heaven and earth, if not between heaven and hell. In heaven they know only the good; in hell only the evil; on earth good and evil. A desire to know the evil as well as the good has wrecked the character of many a young man in a few weeks after he has come from the pure atmosphere of a Christian home in the country to the great city with its monstrous mixture of good and evil.

Some of our educational institutions do not hesitate to offer to students in lecture and text-book the evil as well as the good. At the commencement of a theological seminary, I heard the baccalaureate speaker say that seminaries ought to keep on their faculties at least one heretical professor, so that the students may learn the other side. That is, one professor at least should be permitted to play the part of Satan by calling in question or denying the revelation from God, so that the students may know the evil as well as the good. Another proof that the personality in Eden still lives, and has to do with the preparation of baccalaureate addresses.

By questioning the fact of revelation and then denying the truth of revelation with an offer of knowledge as a substitute for obedience and a further appeal to the physical nature, a “tree good for food,” to the esthetic nature, “pleasant to the eyes,” and to the intellectual nature, “to make one wise,” Satan succeeds in wrecking God’s perfect civilization. Sin enters “with all its woe.” Man is brought down to Satan’s level. “Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle. Upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life.” And if Satan can induce us to call in question the fact of revelation, deny the truth of revelation, and accept knowledge as a substitute for revelation through our physical, esthetic, of intellectual natures, he will bring us down to the dirt level with himself, and give us a diet of dust earthiness instead of the manna which comes down from heaven. He would thus make us crawl with him in the dust of low desire rather than look up and wait upon the Lord, that we may “mount up with wings as eagles, run, and not be weary, walk, and not faint.”

The Conflict of the Ages

As I stood on a hilltop near Geneva, Switzerland, and looked down upon the confluence of the Rhone and the Arve, I could but think of these chapters of Genesis. The Rhone flows out of Lake Geneva as pure as crystal, while the Arve comes tumbling down from the Alps turbid with the many impurities it has gathered. As soon as the two rivers meet, there begins a conflict between mud and crystal; and after a few miles, the muddy Arve has gained the victory; the whole river is turbid. The first two chapters of Genesis are like the Rhone, clear as crystal, flowing from the great lake of God’s power, wisdom, and love. There is no trace of sin. But the third chapter is like the muddy Arve flowing into this crystal river. There begins at once the conflict between mud and crystal till the mud of sin, through Satan’s subtle temptations, gains the victory, and the whole river has been muddy ever since.

The river is very muddy when Cain murders his brother in a religious quarrel (no falling upward here), and goes out from the presence of God ever afterward to ignore him and to found a civilization without God or altar. He builds a city, and it may have been magnificent in its architecture. But God has no place in it. There is education bordering on a university curriculum, but God is also excluded from that. Professor Jabal teaches agriculture and sends out many cattlemen who live in the fields with their herds. It was a civilization like that which still exists in portions of Western America, far removed from barbarism. Professor Jubal gave himself to music, and from him went out a great musical family skilled in handling harp and organ. Professor Tubal-Cain was a great metallurgist, “an instructor of every artificer in brass and iron.” It is an age of agriculture, music and metal, but of moral degeneracy. Polygamy begins. “Lamech took unto himself two wives” and murdered two men on account of them. He is the first polygamist, and the second recorded murderer.

But the crystal water is still in conflict with the mud. Along the line of Seth, whom Eve recognized as spiritual successor to Abel, there continued a civilization which recognized God and called upon his name. The altar occupies a prominent place. We have in Genesis five the genealogy of these worshipers from Seth to Noah, in which is another Enoch, who did something better than give a name to a city. He walked with God. Noah also reached the same eminence. But the Arve of the godless civilization of Cain soon flows into the Rhone of the civilization of Seth, and again pollutes its waters. “The sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair, and they took them wives of all which they chose.” The result was a race of giants, “mighty men,” “men of renown,” who filled the earth with wickedness, so degenerate that God was compelled to clear the earth of them, that he might start again a pure civilization with the altar and the family at its center. The student of history is startled by the fact that the vitiation of the true by the false results in strength with violence. Constantine by uniting the Christian Church with the Pagan State filled the world with a violence which drenched the centuries with the blood of martyrs. It made the Spanish Inquisition and many a kindred cabal of persecution.

Two Civilizations

In 1620 there landed on Plymouth Rock a little company of men and women who were chased from their homes in England by the violent spirit of this unholy alliance. In the hold of the “Mayflower” they wrote a compact which had in it two phrases, “for the common good,” and “just and equal laws,” which have been mighty factors in fostering the spirit of democracy and the love of justice among the American people.

When I was in Old Boston, England, I went to the Guild Hall where are the prison cells in which John Bradford, William Brewster, and others were incarcerated. I requested the janitor to shut me in one of the cells, that I might sit in the dark on the hard stone seat and meditate upon the “Mayflower” and what the little vessel with its Puritan passengers meant to the world. My mind flew across the Atlantic to the museum at Plymouth in which are John Alden’s well-worn Bible and the cradle in which little Peregrine White, the baby born on the “Mayflower,” was rocked. Near by is the pot in which the pilgrims cooked their common dinners, and beside it, the long flint-lock gun of Miles Standish, the only soldier in the company. Here are the four pillars of the American commonwealth, the Bible, the home, the pot, and the gun. As I sat in the narrow cell, I saw the “Mayflower” still sailing across the ocean of time with all the nations on earth trying to get on board. And then I saw her multiplied a hundred-fold crossing the Atlantic with three hundred thousand soldiers every month, still carrying the open Bible, the Christian home, the pot, and the gun, that all the nations of the earth may now enjoy the liberty which the Pilgrim Fathers braved the perils of the ocean to secure.

Then I saw another ship landing at Jamestown, Va., with a civilization on board which approved of human slavery without thought of “just and equal laws” or “the common good.” The “Plymouth Rock” and “Jamestown” civilizations were again like the confluence of the Rhone and the Arve, mud and crystal in conflict; and the mud at length prevailed. The spirit of slavery mastered New England. In the Old South Church, Boston, is still preserved the gallery under the belfry in which the slaves sat during the Sunday services. But finally the Plymouth Rock civilization was victorious, and since 1865 there have been no slaves under the American flag. Today “Old Glory” has the new glory of having delivered little Cuba from her strong oppressor and of having joined with Great Britain and her allies in defending the weak against the aggression of the strong. The same spirit has led to the victory of prohibition over the oppressive powers of the drink traffic in America, and now seeks to drive this enslaver of man from the face of the earth.

Genesis of “Evolution”

Let us trace this modern conflict between the weak and their oppressors back to its source. The Greek philosophers, between 700 and 300 B. C., were, with one exception, evolutionists. Thales, of Miletus, taught that water was the primordial germ. Heraclitus believed that fire originated all things, and Pythagoras, the mathematician, was confident that number somehow brought life and form into existence. Plato, the greatest of all Greek philosophers, did not agree with his compeers. He believed that man began equal with the gods, and that beasts were degenerated men, contending that the monkey came down from man and not man up from the monkey. And Plato had the weight of evidence on his side even without a revelation, for any one with eyes in his head can see that there is more tendency in men to become monkeys than in monkeys to become men.

Darwin and Malthus

Charles Darwin, in his university course, caught the vision of the Greek philosophers and, rejecting the theory of Plato, became an ardent advocate of the hypothesis that everything was evolved from beneath; that life originated with germinal, embryonic beginnings; that in nature there is perpetual war, which was called “the struggle for existence,” the strong and fit destroying the weak and unfit, and thus causing everything to move upward. Darwin did not get his idea of perpetual warfare in nature from the Greek philosophers, who were more benevolent in their thinking. They believed that all life and form were evolved from beneath by quiet forces; but they did not give the strong the scientific right to destroy the weak. Darwin confesses in his autobiography that he received this suggestion from Rev. Thomas Robert Malthus, an Anglican clergyman, who died in 1834, when Darwin was twenty-five years old. I do not know that Darwin ever met Malthus, but he was a careful reader of his books, and in his autobiography admits that he was indebted to Malthus for the suggestion. Malthus taught that man increases with geometrical ratio, while food supply increases with only arithmetical ratio. Therefore wars and pestilences are necessary, that the surplus population may be killed off, in order that the remainder may survive.

A little clear thinking makes it clear that Malthus was wrong. Man does not increase with geometrical ratio, while food does increase “some thirty, some sixty, and some an hundredfold.” But Darwin was deceived by the plausible reasoning of Malthus, and made this mistake one of the foundation-stones of his scientific system. It is a libel upon a benevolent God, who has provided enough for man and beast without demanding that the strong shall kill the weak. The fact that dolphins chase flying-fish for food, and that some animals are intended for the food of others does not prove that in nature there is perpetual warfare, but rather the contrary. It is a benevolent provision that some animals should be intended as food for others, so that the strong may subsist without a struggle with their equals for existence. Read George Paulin’s books, “No Struggle for Existence,” “No Natural Selection,” and you will see proof enough that there is no struggle for existence even among carnivorous animals, a benevolent God having provided a kinder method of preventing their dangerous increase.

Of course, we are all evolutionists in the sense of Mark 4: 28, “First the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.” Everybody knows that the embryo or germ in plant and animal develops by growth into the mature product.

But evolutionary processes have no history. The growth of embryo or germ into mature product, as we see it, simply suggests to the imagination a similar process which, it is claimed by evolutionists, took place in the abysmal past. No one has ever observed it and its history, therefore, cannot be written. If, however, life began on earth with immature embryonic beginnings and evolved through countless ages into the mature product, it must have done so in obedience to the same laws which govern the development of the immature embryo as we see it develop today, and must be subject to the same limitations. Bear this in mind, for it is a fact of great importance.

Now, though I confess a repugnance to the idea that an ape or an orang-outang was my ancestor, I have been willing to accept the humiliating fact, if proved; but the more I have investigated, the more thoroughly I have been convinced that, if I am to be an evolutionist and thus keep up with the modern academic drift, I must refuse to let the gray matter of my brain work, while I permit others to do my thinking for me and accept their authority, not because of the reasons they give for their theory, but solely because of their eminence in the literary and educational world. But there are insurmountable difficulties in the way of my permitting eminence to decide this matter for me.

To be continued…


Link to Baptist Fundamentals and other works available in Logos format as part of the Roger Williams Heritage Archives, produced by Maranatha Baptist University.

Baptist Fundamentals series:

Introduction

Baptist Fundamentals: Opening Address

Comments on Baptist Fundamentals: Opening Address

Historic Baptist Principles? … or the seed of defeat in the soil of revival

Baptist Fundamentals: Fidelity to Our Baptist Heritage (1)

Baptist Fundamentals: Fidelity to Our Baptist Heritage (2)

Comments on Baptist Fundamentals: Fidelity to Our Baptist Heritage

Baptist Fundamentals: The Divine Unity of Holy Scripture

Comments on Baptist Fundamentals: The Divine Unity of Holy Scripture

Baptist Fundamentals – The Significance of the Ordinances

Comments on Baptist Fundamentals – The Significance of the Ordinances

Northern Baptists and the Deity of Christ

Comments on Northern Baptists and the Deity of Christ

An Unexpected Message

Comments on An Unexpected Message

Comments

  1. Dixon wrote:

    “It is not said that the woman shall leave all and cleave to her husband. It is taken for granted that she will do that. But the husband leaves all for her. She has preeminence in the realm of love, and even a suffragette ought to be satisfied with that. Has any civilization on earth given woman a higher position than that? Verily not.”

    I never thought about it that way before. He’s right! Eph 5:25.

    • He had a way with words. The whole sermon is great, part 2 tomorrow.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3


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