Higher Criticism: An attack on Christian Orthodoxy

Lower Criticism

Lower Criticism is an old term known today as textual criticism which is a scientific activity that takes old or ancient manuscripts which have survived and arranges them in order of time.  One uses the scientific technique buy looking at the ink, the paleography, hand writing and even carbon dating to determine the date of the manuscripts.  By doing so they establish families to the manuscripts to see which ones where copied from which ones. In doing this they eliminate copies’ errors; the lower critic works his way back until finely he is able to provide the best resulted text which is closest to the original writing.

Higher Criticism

Higher Criticism again is an old term known today as historical criticism which began in the 17th century rooted in Protestant reformation ideology that rested on both philosophical and theological interpretation, that is, blending the two together.  The Higher critic doesn’t deal with actual manuscripts, he begins where the lower critic leaves off.   Its called higher because they are going up the stream to the original author.  He takes the best resulted text and works with it in a literary fashion looking at the style, the vocabulary, is it consistent, does it stem from a single author, etc.?   Dr. John W. Montgomery states that problems exist with Higher Criticism.  “The Higher Critics argue that because of stylistic variations, vocabulary variations, shifts in argument within the gospels or within the writings of Paul in the New Testament that these were not unitary documents written by the people they are attributed to.  They are instead the product of rather clumsy editing.”  Dr. Montgomery also states that “human beings like to create religion around themselves and create religion that satisfies their personal interest.”  This then is the vehicle of Higher Criticism; the work of the higher critics has not always been pursued in a reverent spirit nor in the spirit of Christian scholarship.

Dr. John W. Montgomery 1 (My thoughts interjected)

The problem with Higher Criticism is that it is strictly subjective, literary style is an inadequate method to show authorship.  A single author can write a thesis and a poem and the literary style of both will be clearly different.  Higher Criticism cannot even be recognized as a substantial method of Scholarship as all, but the liberal theological schools have rejected the method altogether.  True Scholarship is not found in the determination of the original author or in the reconstruction of the historical situation of the author and recipients of the text, but in the accurate interpretation of the text.

Pseudo Doctrines of Higher Criticism

Because Higher Criticism is maneuvered by personal interest and is based solely on subjectivity many schools of thought have filtered down the pike of Christendom distorting and denying the inerrancy of Scripture propagating belief systems within Christianity which as sent the church headlong into apostasy.  What is left remaining is pseudo-Christianity.  Some of the hindrances to Orthodox Christianity that stem from the Higher Critics are:

 

  1. The rejection or denial of the deity of Jesus, also known as the Kenosis Theory.
  2. Ridiculed Orthodoxy.
  3. Gnosticism: The claim to have a deeper and truer view of Christianity, the Scripture, and God.
  4. The Rejection of the inerrancy of the Scriptures.
  5. A rejection of the virgin birth of Jesus Christ.
  6. Salvation by illumination; or experience over practical faith.
  7. Unitarianism: A theological movement named for the affirmation that God is one entity, in direct contrast to Trinitarianism, which defines God as three persons coexisting consubstantially in one being.

All of this springs out of Higher Criticism and is a blatant attack upon not only the proclamation and authority of Scripture but attempts to destroy the very foundation of Christianity.   Many scholars today now deny the authority of the Scripture under the pretense of higher criticism.  We also see this personated in the lives of ordinary Christians when confronted with Scripture over erroneous beliefs and conduct, it has been a trickle effect from bad theology dribbled down from the theologians of Higher Criticism.  The influences the modern church is under is a false pretense to what the church should be and believe.  As stated above, Higher Criticism is rooted in Protestant reformation ideology that rested on both philosophical and theological interpretation.  Much which has been birthed from the reformation, for example, denominationalism, which has splintered the church into thousands of sects with various belief systems, and Higher Criticism which has become the premise of all false belief systems within all the numerous denominations, has been the building blocks of apostasy.

The inerrancy and authority of Scripture can never be overemphasized for within its pages we are given the fundamentals of faith, life, salvation, the clear teachings of Christ and His apostles on Christian conduct, eschatology, the Character and Deity of Christ (God very God, and Man very man), of judgment and the world to come (eternity).  Without the inerrancy and authority of Scripture we have no religion, no faith, no resurrection, we are as Paul penned; “empty of faith, false witnesses, still in our sins and all men most pitiable.’ (1 Cor. 15:12-19 ref.)  We will now look at the pseudo doctrines of the Higher Critics listed above to get a deeper understanding.

Kenosis Theory

The Kenosis theory is precisely that, a hypothesis or theory and cannot stand as a doctrine and is very much a product of the “Higher Criticism.”  The origin of the Kenosis theory can be found in several patristic writers and formed a key point of controversy between the Lutheran theological faculties of Tübingen and Giessen in the 17th century.  It appears that in the same century that Higher Criticism gained momentum the Kenosis theory became a debatable subject of apologetics.  A. McD. Redwood defines the Kenosis theory as the admittedly difficult and abstruse question of the extent to which Christ did divest Himself of His Divine attributes in taking upon Himself the limitations involved in His become Man.2

Kenosis comes from the Greek verb κενόω, transliterated kenoō, meaning “to make empty (Phil 2:7).  Many modern versions render this word as either “emptied Himself” or “made Himself nothing,” which appears to be problematic.  The orthodox definition describes Jesus’ divine attributes were veiled but never absent. 

Phil. 2:7 – “But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.”

The emphasis is upon “Himself.”  Jesus was never robbed or stripped of His deity, He, of Himself, took on the appearance and likeness of man and of Himself took the form of a servant, He was never absent His deity.  The very expression, “being made in the likeness of men” only serves as proof He was not like ordinary men.  He appeared in history as a man but always was Emmanuel, God with us (Matt. 1:23).  The expression “emptied Himself” is pushed by the Critics to its extreme limits depriving Him of most, if not all the distinctive characteristics of His Deity, the result is minimizing Jesus to a mere man.  The Manhood of Christ was and is in harmony with His deity, under His Divine Personality.  Jesus is God of very God, Man of very man.  Jesus was in fact the embodiment of the Godhead as Colossians 2:9 states; “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.”  The Greek word for the Godhead theotēs means Jesus is the essence and nature of the Godhead, He as man, was not merely God-like, but in the fullest sense, was God.3 Corporeally Jesus was the brightness of God’s glory and the express image of His person…” (Heb. 1:3).  The distinctions here is of his nature and character, consequently the same oneness of nature and essence with the Father.  And when it is added, the express image of His Person; meaning, that by virtue of the Son of God, assuming manhood, he becomes the visible representation of the Godhead.

When occasion demanded it, Jesus exercised His divine attributes.  What Christ divested Himself of was the constant, outward and visible manifestation of His Godhead.  In Christ’s incarnation He did not surrender deity, he gained humanity. 4   We see in Matthew 17:2; “and He was transfigured before them, His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light.”  Here it indicates a visible transformation, affirming the essential glory of Jesus Christ as Messiah, validating the presents of His deity in flesh.  The undiluted glory of God shone forth and the Divine presence ascertained for the light of glory did not shine upon him but shined from Him without (cf. Luke 9:29)..

Who then can contest to such irrefutable evidence but those of depraved minds and darkened souls?  And who will follow such but those who are counted as enemies of Jesus Christ?

Ridiculed Orthodoxy.

“In our day it is incumbent on every faithful servant of Christ to be alive to the danger that threatens; to warn his fellow Christians, and to rebuke those teaching false doctrine concerning our Lord’s Person.  This entails bearing the cross, for nominal and half-hearted Christians, who desire to walk in the smile of the world, are never tiered of calling all such “uncharitable,” “narrow minded,” “heresy hunters.” – WM. C. Irvine

As man in the modern age reaches his pinnacle on achievement through knowledge, technology, etc, mankind is also regressing into depravity never seen on the side of the deluge before.  This is easily discernable, but it is the Christian religious community that Scripture teaches the most about.  It is the religious conditions that would prevail in the end times, “False Christs,” False Prophets,” “False Teachers,” False Brethren,” which was the concern of Jesus and the Apostles.  Jesus taught His disciples that their delusions at that time would be so great that “if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect” (Matt. 24:24).

The same warnings Jesus gave His disciples they gave to the churches to make it known that toward the end of the age the foundational truths of Christianity will be denied and forsaken.  This time, Paul tells the Thessalonians, would be the “the Apostasy,” just prior to the revealing of the Antichrist (2 Thess. 2:3).  This serves as an unmistakable sign to faithful believers that the end of the age is drawing to a close.  No matter how attractive the Christian religious system might be it means absolutely nothing without the fundamental truths it was founded on.  But that’s what apostasy is, a departure from the truth and the delusions we see taking place today in Christianity is not the workings of Satan, but has been sent by God Himself (2 Thess. 2:9-11).  They are in the Christian organization (Church), they are just not part of the organism (body of Christ).  They are the tares, a counterfeit Christianity.

Believing Scripture to be the final authority in all matters of faith, truth then is an absolute to the literalist, and is also met with much ridicule from nominal half-hearted Christians and in some cases, unbelievers.  The Apostle Peter clearly taught that at the end of the age there would be those who would ridicule the prophetic promise of the Lord’s coming, casting doubt upon the teachings of the Old Testament Prophets and Patriarchs and the writings of those of the first-generation Christianity.

Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior, knowing this first; that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lust, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming?’ For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creations” (2 Peter 3:1-4).

To lay such a charge against all who recorded God’s Word through Inspiration is of itself to cast doubt upon it’s truths, for no doctrine is larger and clearer than that of Christ’s Second Coming.  To deride the united testimony of the prophets and apostles is an arrogance displaying a definite sign that the end of the age is nearing.  The Greek word empaiktēs (Scoffers; mockers) is found only in one other passage and in context as we look at the Greek definition identifies the scoffers as false teachers.  This places these scoffers as Church leadership whose own pleasure is their sole ruling without restraint or reverence for God.

These are grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lust; and they mouth great sweeling words, flattering people to gain advantage.  But you, beloved, remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; how they told you that there be mockers (Scoffers) in the last time who would walk according to their own ungodly lust.  These are sensual persons, who cause divisions, not having the Spirit

–  Jude 16-19

This in no way excludes the average Christian who as proselytes of this corrupt Church hierarchy, for there is no short supply of ridicule and railings coming from them today against all faithful and diligent stewards of God’s Word.  And there is no short supply of Scripture which reveals the prevailing conditions of the professing church at the end of the age.

They will have a form of godliness

But understand this, that in the last days dangerous times [of great stress and trouble] will come [difficult days that will be hard to bear]. For people will be lovers of self [narcissistic, self-focused], lovers of money [impelled by greed], boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy and profane, [and they will be] unloving [devoid of natural human affection, calloused and inhumane], irreconcilable, malicious gossips, devoid of self-control [intemperate, immoral], brutal, haters of good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of [sensual] pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of [outward] godliness (religion), although they have denied its power [for their conduct nullifies their claim of faith]. Avoid such people and keep far away from them” –  2 Tim 3:1-5

They will not endure “Sound Doctrine”

For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine and accurate instruction [that challenges them with God’s truth]; but wanting to have their ears tickled [with something pleasing], they will accumulate for themselves [many] teachers [one after another, chosen] to satisfy their own desires and to support the errors they hold, and will turn their ears away from the truth and will wander off into myths and man-made fictions [and will accept the unacceptable].” – 2 Tim. 4:3-4

They will adhere to heresies   

But [in those days] false prophets arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will subtly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction on themselves.” – 2 Peter 2:1

They will deny the incarnation of Jesus Christ, His deity, etc.

 “And every spirit that does not confess Jesus [acknowledging that He has come in the flesh, but would deny any of the Son’s true nature] is not of God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming, and is now already in the world.” – 1 John 4:3

Of the rest of the pseudo doctrines of Higher Criticism we will address in a later Article.  And much more could be said concerning the Kenosis theory and the ridicule of Orthodoxy.  Time is short Brothers and Sisters and I would suggest all closely examine all doctrine taught to you with Scripture as every denomination has tainted the Doctrine of Christ with traditions and practices contrary to the clear teachings of Scripture.   I would only trust the Holy Spirits ability to guide you into all truth (1John 2:27) and never fear to challenge any leadership in their teachings should they fail to comply with Scripture.  I believe that God is calling His people out of organized religion.  In my opinion, the Institutional Church has failed God and His people, beware!

 

  1. John W. Montgomery; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nExah5X0sY0
  2. The Kenosis Theory; p. 105, Heresies Exposed; by WM. C. Irvine
  3. Jamieson Fausset Brown; e-Sword, commentary Col 2:9
  4. All the Doctrines of the Bible; Herbert Lockyer, p.44

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