on my first fundamentalist hero opposing modernism

Here is the first of the letters I promised to post. This one is from my dad to the president of the Bible Institute my mother graduated from in the early 1950s. At the time my dad wrote this letter, the Church of God in Western Canada was seriously troubled by certain liberal teachings in its schools. I do not know if any of this has been corrected in the ensuing years, I have been out of that loop for so long that I barely know the names of a few of the players anymore.

When I was younger, my dad used to represent our church as a layman during the annual meetings. He was involved with some of the other conservative men in trying to keep liberalism and charismatism out of the group. The conference was stacked against them and some pretty underhanded things were done in the meetings, as I recall.

This letter comes much later, actually during my first semester of my MDiv years at BJU. I believe my dad sent this set of letters to me a year or so later when I was taking church history with Dr. Panosian. In that class I had to write a paper on the history of the Church of God (a paper I remember staying up all night to type, literally). We were assigned our topic based on the group we came out of. I still have a set of outlines we all prepared for one another from each of our papers. Some interesting names in that group, I wonder where they all are now?

Back to the letter… You will see that the issues my dad was contending for was out and out liberalism. I am going to leave the man’s name off the letter, although those who know the situation will likely be able to figure out who it is.

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April 14, 1980

Rev. XXX XXXXXX
c/o Alberta Bible Institute
Camrose, Alberta

Dear Sir:

In April issue of “Worth Reading”, you express a profound admiration for the “great” Dr. Elton Trueblood.

That he is highly educated in the humanistic sense is beyond question. He has written several books, and as you say he has no doubt managed to master the social graces.

An analysis of his books, however, reveal that his claims to “greatness” may be open to question from a Biblical perspective. His book, Philosophy of Religion, Harper Press, gives quite a comprehensive expression of his theological views, which are anything but Biblical, orthodox, or fundamental. He arrives at his conclusions by the process of human reasoning and human reference, quoting as reference many learned but generally unorthodox thinkers and theologians, including Tillich, Archbishop Temple, Martin Buber and many other learned but unbiblical thinkers.

His conclusions are a curious, compromised mixture of truth and error, that due to his educational status and due to his highly convoluted and complex rational meanderings may appear to the unenlightened to be very profound.

Some of the conclusions he arrives at in his mental exercises are as follows. Page references from “Philosophy of Religion.”

1. The Bible, both Old and New Testaments, consists in considerable part, of mythological and legendary elements. Man’s logic and “scientific” scholarship alone can sort this out of the Bible and properly qualify it. Page 4.

2. The idea of the inerrancy of the Bible is incompatible with the reality of human life and expression, from which human sources the Bible has come. Page 43.

3. Life has evolved from simple unicellular organisms. Man has evolved and descended from the lower animals. He is not a special creation of God. Pages 97-102.

4. Religious thought has evolved from polytheism (pagan religions) through monotheism (Islam, Hebrew religion), to a composite conception, the Trinitarian idea. Christianity is only one of many stages in the evolution or human development of religion. It may be a superior, or “later” stage, but it has no right to claim any exclusivity as “The Way” to God. Therefore missionary activity apart from a primarily vocational or social effort is non-essential, unjustifiable and meaningless. Pages 224-230.

5. Personal existence will continue after death, but there is no hell or condition of eternal separation from God. Page 295.

He is a universalist. All will ultimately arrive. By conclusion therefore, we must assume that he does not believe in the sacrificial atonement of Christ. Christ’s death would have value only as an example of supreme dedication to principle, even at the cost of life.

What might be called the positive elements of his philosophy are;

A. There is a personal God.

B. God is involved in a purposeful way in the ongoing of the Universe.

C. Man as a person is capable of communicating with the Divine Person, but it is implied by his other arguments that the sacrificial and mediatory offices of Christ are not essential to this.

Jesus said that he came to fulfill the law and the prophets, and that one jot or tittle would in no wise pass away until all was fulfilled, and that he that broke the least commandment and taught others to break it would be considered the least in the kingdom of heaven.

It therefore appears from the published meanderings of the Trueblood mind, that by the standards of Jesus, Trueblood can by no means be considered as a “great” man. The true gospel is hid from his mind. The apostle Paul says that if the gospel is hid, it is hid to them that are lost. Unless Trueblood has changed his beliefs and convictions greatly since the writing of his religious philosophy, he is a lost man and will never see heaven, and he will never know Christ except as the judge of all men.

His considerable association with and acceptance by the Church of God organization is an evidence of the declension and departure by the organisation and many in it from Biblical standards of theology, teaching and association.

Sincerely

[signed]

T. W. D. Johnson

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Interesting, in light of some discussions elsewhere, to see my dad use the word ‘meanderings‘!! The ‘bold’ is mine.

Regards,
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

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