Periodical Reviews -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 124:493 (Jan 1967)
Article: Periodical Reviews
Author: Anonymous

Periodical Reviews

“The Protestant Sickness,” Robert E. Fitch, Religion In Life, Autumn, 1966, pp. 498-503.

“There is a Protestant sickness,” Fitch affirms, “and its name is anarchy” (p. 498). Anglo-American Protestantism at least, Fitch insists, on the level of theology and of ethics…has been moving toward an enhancement of disorder. The current name for this chaos in ethics is situationism or contextualism; in theology, it is atheism or christocentric humanism” (p. 498).

In this probing diagnosis Fitch declares: “At the heart of the Protestant sickness today lies an old idolatry—the idolatry of secularism” (p. 501). He observes that the rise of Protestantism and that of secularism “are too coincidental movements in modern history” (p. 501), both being offspring of the renaissance of learning. Only with the rise of modern religious liberalism, however, have these two movements, which at birth took divergent paths, merged in incestuous union.

Throughout the article Fitch challenges the insistence of the avant-garde ecclesiastics upon the newness of their ideas. Concerning Fletcher’s so-called “new morality,” for example, he says: “There is nothing ‘new’ in this ethics…it is pretty well dated back to the respectable liberalism of the 1920’s” (p. 498). In discussing “the apostles of the death of God” he writes: “Again, these men are all apostles of ‘the new optimism.’ In the back of their minds is the one nineteenth-century doctrine of evolutionary immanence. And they come at it now as eager, naive, as bright-eyed as they did one hundred years ago” (pp. 502-3).

Fitch also makes a telling point that the posture of open-mindedness struck by the Protestant liberals persists only as long as the ideas advanced are in basic agreement with their liberal position. When the contrary occurs, they can be vitriolic in their bigoted opposition. He asks: “If it were suggested…that there be established a chair of atheism or of anticlericalism in a seminary, would it not get the response that of course we must ‘keep up the dialogue’? But if it were suggested that we establish chairs of race hatred or of holy wars, would anyone in that case want to ‘keep up the dialogue’?” (p. 503).

“There is a grand funeral

procession in the making, we are told,” Fitch writes. He continues: “But it is possible that the real candidate for interment is a lesser chap by the name of Liberal Protestantism.” His conclusion is: “Nevertheless, we may be confident that it is he who will be buried—not God. And when he is decently laid in his tomb, may we expect any kind of resurrection or rebirth?...

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