Middle East Resources

Joseph Ernest Renan: A Type of 19th Century Ration

JOSEPH ERNEST RENAN

A Type of
19th Century Rationalism

 

By Bassam Michael Madany

During the academic years, 1950-1953, I attended The Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in preparation for the Gospel Ministry   This term paper dealt with the 19th century rationalism that spread throughout Europe, and North America.

Introduction

            One of the distinctive features of 19th Century religious thought was the prominence of Rationalism.  To assign undue authority to reason in matters of religion was not something new that emerged in the last century, for that had existed throughout the history of the Christian Church. The different sects and heresies that arose in the beginnings of Christianity are but one example of the natural inclination of man, when not guided by the Holy Spirit, to find the seat of authority in himself, and not in the revelation of God.  But the 19th century distinguishes itself by the fact that most of the leading church historians, exegetes, and theologians of many Christian countries, yielded to the influence of a deistic rationalistic philosophy.  Their outlook regarding many long-accepted teachings of the Christian Church was radically modified.  Most of the rationalists revolted completely against the cardinal doctrines of Christianity, and tried to offer their own explanation of the facts of religion.  In this they differed from the course followed by the Reformers who accepted the authority of the Bible, as the infallible Word of God.  They followed different ways and methods in showing the supremacy of reason on the positive side, and in destroying the belief in the Bible as an inerrant revelation of God on the negative side.

            Many “solutions” were offered by the rationalists or “Higher Critics” of the last century in order to account for the impact of the person of Christ on the Church, its growth and its victory over the heathen world.  For them the Bible was not to be counted as a reliable source for the explanation of the life of Christ, nor of the early Apostolic Church.  The biblical accounts of the life of Christ, for example, are to be judged critically so as to ascertain the true from the false ones.  Each rationalist, when dealing with Christianity, had his own preconceived ideas and system of thought, and it was through that colored glass of one’s own philosophy that facts were viewed.  Skepticism was rather common to most of those rationalists, and their finished products of writings in the field of religion, differed only in the degree of doubt and uncertainty their minds were enveloped in.

            The destructive criticism of the rationalists dealt with different subjects of the Bible, sparing not even the holiest in the eyes of Orthodox Christians.  A special interest arose concerning the Christian Church and the founder of Christianity, Jesus Christ.  In the year 1835 appeared the Life of Christ by D.F. Strauss, a professor at Tübingen, Germany.  He advocated the mythical theory was so outrageous and contradictory to facts universally acknowledged, that it did not please many of the most thorough going rationalists.  Twenty five years later, appeared another book on the life of Christ, this time written by a French orientalist, Joseph Ernest Rénan.  The book was written according to the legend theory of Christ; and as soon as published and read, a flood of comments from Roman Catholics and Protestants alike, gave the book a distinction which it did not merit.  Without further delay we shall pass now to J.E. Rénan and his work.

A Short Biography of Rénan
 

            Rénan was born at Tréguier, in Brittany, on February 27, 1823.  He lost his father at the age of five.  He received his early training from his mother and his sister Henriette, who was eleven years older than him. He grew in the pious atmosphere that characterized a Breton home, and felt that he was called to be a priest in the Roman Catholic Church.  Leaving home at the age of 15, he went to Paris and studied theology for four years in the séminaire of St. Nicholas de Chardonnet.  After that, in 1842 he studied philosophy at the  séminaire of Issy, where he stayed for two years, following which he spent one year at the famous séminaire de St. Sulpice.

            In his studies of philosophy and theology, the arguments of the rationalists Locke, Leibnitz, Malebranche, Cousin, Jouffrey and others, seemed to Rénan more valid than the arguments advanced against them by his teachers.  He studied oriental philology and the books of the liberal German theologians, all the while his revolt was growing stronger and stronger against the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.  He developed a great enthusiasm for German thought, which was not natural for French people.  The time of his ordination was drawing nigh, but Rénan did not take the final step, notwithstanding   the entreaties of his mother and his teacher, who did all they could to convince him to remain in the Church.  At last, he left the seminary of St. Sulpice at the age of 22, on October 6, 1845.  He went and taught at a small school two hours daily, in return for free board and lodging. This gave him ample time to prepare for the examination of the University.  He was granted a degree of “agrégé de philosophie” at his completion of a dissertation on the medieval study of Greek.  During this time, he studied the following subjects: Hebrew, Arabic, Syriac and Sanskrit, worked in mythology and in German theology.  In 1857 he was nominated for the professorship of Hebrew at the Collège de France, this appointment was confirmed by the government five years later, through the direct intervention of Napoleon III.

            Henriette, Rénan’s sister, has been sympathetic with the views of her brother; she had even offered to help him financially when he left St. Sulpice.  In 1860, Ernest and Henriette went to Palestine, and while visiting in Lebanon, his sister took ill and died at Byblos, 20 miles south of Tripoli.  Rénan had decided to write a series on the Origins of Christianity (Origine du Christianisme), and he found it opportune to start on the first volume while still in Lebanon.  He went to Mt. Lebanon and, living in a native hut, he wrote The Life of Christ (Vie de Jésus)

            The rest of the books in the series of the Origins of Christianity are: The Apostles (Les Apôtres), Saint Paul (Saint Paul), The Antichrist (L’Anté-christ), The Gospels and The Second Christian Generation (Les Evangiles et La Seconde Génération Chrétienne), The Christian Church (L’Eglise Chrétienne), Marcus-Aurelius and The End of The Old World (Marc-Auréle et La Fin du Monde Antique).

            After delivering his inaugural address at the Collège de France on February 21, 1862, he was suspended.  Two years later he was recalled to his chair at the University.  In 1879, he became a member of the famous Académie Française.  From 1884 to 1892, the year of his death, Rénan was administrator of the Collège de France.

Rénan was born at Tréguier, in Brittany, on February 27, 1823.  He lost his father at the age of five.  He received his early training from his mother and his sister Henriette, who was eleven years older than him. He grew in the pious atmosphere that characterized a Breton home, and felt that he was called to be a priest in the Roman Catholic Church.  Leaving home at the age of 15, he went to Paris and studied theology for four years in the séminaire of St. Nicholas de Chardonnet.  After that, in 1842 he studied philosophy at the  séminaire of Issy, where he stayed for two years, following which he spent one year at the famous séminaire de St. Sulpice.

            In his studies of philosophy and theology, the arguments of the rationalists Locke, Leibnitz, Malebranche, Cousin, Jouffrey and others, seemed to Rénan more valid than the arguments advanced against them by his teachers.  He studied oriental philology and the books of the liberal German theologians, all the while his revolt was growing stronger and stronger against the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.  He developed a great enthusiasm for German thought, which was not natural for French people.  The time of his ordination was drawing nigh, but Rénan did not take the final step, notwithstanding   the entreaties of his mother and his teacher, who did all they could to convince him to remain in the Church.  At last, he left the seminary of St. Sulpice at the age of 22, on October 6, 1845.  He went and taught at a small school two hours daily, in return for free board and lodging. This gave him ample time to prepare for the examination of the University.  He was granted a degree of “agrégé de philosophie” at his completion of a dissertation on the medieval study of Greek.  During this time, he studied the following subjects: Hebrew, Arabic, Syriac and Sanskrit, worked in mythology and in German theology.  In 1857 he was nominated for the professorship of Hebrew at the Collège de France, this appointment was confirmed by the government five years later, through the direct intervention of Napoleon III.

            Henriette, Rénan’s sister, has been sympathetic with the views of her brother; she had even offered to help him financially when he left St. Sulpice.  In 1860, Ernest and Henriette went to Palestine, and while visiting in Lebanon, his sister took ill and died at Byblos, 20 miles south of Tripoli.  Rénan had decided to write a series on the Origins of Christianity (Origine du Christianisme), and he found it opportune to start on the first volume while still in Lebanon.  He went to Mt. Lebanon and, living in a native hut, he wrote The Life of Christ (Vie de Jésus).

            The rest of the books in the series of the Origins of Christianity are: The Apostles (Les Apôtres), Saint Paul (Saint Paul), The Antichrist (L’Anté-christ), The Gospels and The Second Christian Generation (Les Evangiles et La Seconde Génération Chrétienne), The Christian Church (L’Eglise Chrétienne), Marcus-Aurelius and The End of The Old World (Marc-Auréle et La Fin du Monde Antique).

            After delivering his inaugural address at the Collège de France on February 21, 1862, he was suspended.  Two years later he was recalled to his chair at the University.  In 1879, he became a member of the famous Académie Française.  From 1884 to 1892, the year of his death, Rénan was administrator of the Collège de France.

Rénan’s Works and Their Influence on Religion
 

            According to the publishers of “Vie de Jesus,” Calmann-Levy, Paris, the complete works of Rénan number 42 books dealing with religion, philosophy, philology, science, literature, etc.  Besides the books mentioned above on the Origins of Christianity, he had translated from Hebrew the books of Job, The Song of Solomon and Ecclesiastes.  It is difficult to make an estimate of all his religious books, and to evaluate them in the light of modern scholarship.  Sufficient it is to examine two of his most important books, Life of Christ and Saint Paul; once we know his idea of Jesus Christ and of the apostle, we can see the general trend of his theology, and detect at the same time, his influence on the Church in France and abroad.
 
            It is not easy to reproduce Rénan’s ideas of Christ, for they are very shocking, most unreal, and devoid of any historical background.  Yet, in order to show the extreme to which he went, and the futility of depicting Christ outside of the record of the Bible, I will deal with his book, Life of Christ.

            With the most unbridled license in the treatment of his sources, Rénan produced romance around the life of Jesus.  To him Christ was a gentle Galilean, the darling of women, and an exquisite preacher of morality, dreaming of no other than the paradise of a fraternal fellowship of the children of God on earth  But this Jesus was also filled with ambition, vanity, sensual love, and undisguised deceit.  The Baptist transformed him into a religious revolutionary, a minister and a prophet, who assumed the role of the Messiah, accommodating the desire for the miraculous of his simple disciples, and perishing in the battle with Orthodox Judaism.

            The great mistake of Jesus, according to Rénan, was to forget that the ideal is fundamentally a utopia and is in constant conflict with the material.  The moment Jesus entered the battle with evil and sought to reclaim souls for the kingdom of God, Rénan’s understanding and sympathy ceased.


An Appraisal of “The Life of Jesus

           In Volume One of History of the Christian Church, Philip Schaff wrote of Rénan’s “Vie de Jésus”: “This book created even a greater sensation than the “Leben Jesu” of Strauss, but is very superficial and turns the Gospel history into a novel with a contradictory and impossible hero.”  P. 46 

            Basing his writings on the unhistorical method of presenting the origin of Christianity upon the scheme of Hegelian philosophy, Rénan sought to depict the personality of Christ from the geographical, social, cultural, and religious conditions under which he lived and worked.  But in this he failed, as he did not so much depend on his philological ability as upon that vague esthetic motive and his preconceived philosophy.  Religion as he represented it --- an ineradicable longing of the human soul --- was the esthetic and sensationalistic impulse toward the infinite, whether expressed in the renunciations of great ascetics or in the mystical effusions of lovely Magdalene.  What is beautiful is good; what pleases is beautiful.  He did travel far in the lands of primitive Christianity, he carried with him his keen curiosity, but we must not forget that he viewed everything through his philosophy.  He did not start out with the decision of being an honest investigator of the truth, a witness who will tell the truth, all the truth, and nothing but the truth; for then he would have seen otherwise.  Though the people he saw in the Holy Lands, might have resembled a great deal the people in the time of Christ, yet that resemblance was only superficial.  Great changes have taken place by the advent of a foreign Muslim civilization to thee countries, so that one may not rely very much on what he sees there, in order to discover the right idea of Christ.

            A pertinent question is, how far did Rénan’s knowledge extend into the Jewish traditions and teachings, seeing that he did not reach to the same conclusions that other Hebrew scholars have attained?  I cannot see that Rénan, according to the most reliable books, lacked knowledge of Semitics. The fault must lie in his attitude of mind which closed him in a shell strongly opposed to orthodox Christianity.

            In studying the Life of Jesus Christ, and comparing it to the historical, geographical, and religious background of Palestine, all honest investigators have reached a conclusion quite contrary to the one reached by Rénan or any other rationalistic historian.  The narratives of the Gospels do give us a real, historical scene, which can always be confirmed by works outside the Holy Writ.  As Alfred Edersheim ably puts it in his Preface to the first edition of The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah:

“The men and the circumstances to which we are introduced are real – not a fancy picture, but such as we know and now recognize them, and would expect them, to have spoken, or to have been.  Again we shall thus vividly realize another and most important aspect of the words of Christ.  We shall perceive that their form is wholly of the times, their cast Jewish – while by the side of this similarity of form THERE IS NOT ONLY ESSENTIAL DIFFERENCE BUT ABSOLUTE CONTRARIETY OF SUBSTANCE AND SPIRIT. . . . And this contrariety of spirit with manifest similarity of form is, to my mind, one of the strongest evidences of the claims of Christ, since it raises the all-important question, whence the Teacher of Nazareth?” Volume I, P. xiii

The historical analysis has proved that “Jesus Christ was, alike in the fundamental direction of His teaching and work, and in its details, antithetic to the Synagogue in its doctrine, practice, and expectancies” Ibid. xvii

Liberals in the Protestant Churches used some ideas of Rénan’s book in formulating their own shadowy beliefs, and in their works in the field of New Testament criticism.  According to Fisher, History of the Christian Church, p. 544,

“The publication of Rénan’s Life of Christ, and the commotion induced by it, were not without effect in hastening this crisis (Fisher was referring here to the controversy between the orthodox and the rationalists in the French Reformed Church.)  In 1872, the 30th national synod of the Reformed Church was permitted to meet in Paris.  A short confession of faith was sanctioned, the adoption of which was advocated by Guizot. About two-thirds of the members were on the conservative side.  The adverse party  strenuously opposed the proceeding, on the ground that no creed should be made obligatory. . . .”

            So far, we have been dealing specifically with the ideas of Rénan concerning the person of Christ.  We have seen that his interpretation, if it deserves that name, is altogether superficial and unreal, and a vain attempt to set aside personal difficulties arising from the opinions of the author.  Though there are still some people who will adopt that method of telling the story of Jesus, yet it does not have any real significance in this age that is searching after a solid foundation of faith, and for the real solution of the problems of modern civilization.

            The other volumes of the “Origins of Christianity” have more scientific value, since Rénan was less swayed by personal sympathy or antipathy.  Of these the third one, Saint Paul, is the most significant, for in this book we see not only Rénan’s personal method in approaching the books of the New Testament, but also the general method of the destructive higher criticisms of the 19th Century.

            I shall be as fair as possible with Rénan, so as to give him all the credit he deserves.  No one would deny the value of the descriptions that we find in the pages of Saint Paul, and we can see all the pain that Rénan had gone through, in order to give us the geographical setting of the voyages of the Apostle.  Here is a picture showing us Paul travelling in 45 A.D.:

“Paul walked in most of his journeys, living without doubt, on bread, vegetables, and milk.  And in this life of an errant, how many privations, how many trials! The police were either neglectful or brutal.”  P. 5

            Rénan knew the Scriptures, i.e., his quotations from many passages to prove his points are very numerous, though not necessarily proving his explanations.  We admire the knowledge that he had of the Classics and the many references to secular literature in order to give us a better setting for the accounts of Acts or the Epistles of Paul.  Rénan’s style is easy and very seldom involved.  And once one has begun reading of his books, it is very hard to stop, because of that strange attraction they have. This is not uncommon in 19th Century French literature  which has exerted a strong influence beyond the borders of France.

            But Rénan is not dealing with secular matters, or merely trying to write novels in the “romantic” style.  So let us examine some of his criticisms of the Pauline Epistles, and try to see at the same time his estimate of Paul.

             Before starting on the life of Paul, Rénan devoted 77 pages for his “Introduction” which has this subtitle: “Criticism of The Original Documents”.  Here is how he begins his “critique”:

“The fifteen or sixteen years – that this volume contains their religious history, are in the embryonic age of Christianity, those that we know the best.  Jesus and the primitive Church of Jerusalem resemble the image of a far-off paradise, lost in (the) a mysterious fog.”

This will suffice us to know the exact idea of Rénan’s attitude to the genuineness and historicity of the four Gospels.

As to the Epistles that are attributed to Paul, Rénan adopted this view:

           “1. Indisputable and undisputed epistles: Galatians, the two epistles to the Corinthians, and Romans.

            2. Certain, though some criticisms have been put forth against them: the two epistles to the Thessalonians and Philippians.

            3. Though some grave objections are against them, yet they have a probable authenticity: Colossians and Philemon.

            4. A doubtful epistle: Ephesians.

            5. False epistles: the two epistles to Timothy and Titus.”

Beside this general criticism of Rénan, we have to note the more subtle one, that which is found in his main work on the life of Paul.  Here we see that main trait which is common to all Rationalists when dealing with the Word of God: the elimination of all traces of the supernatural.  This is done as Rénan goes with Paul, examining the accounts of Acts or the Epistles, and then deciding what can be trusted as true and historical, and what is declared legendary.  Thus, while we are still in the beginning of Paul’s first voyage, and as Paul enters the city of Neapolis, the seat of the Roman Proconsul, Rénan uses his critical sense to clear the text, and separate the “wheat from the chaff.”  Thus, he decides that what we have in Acts 13: 6-12 is “a thing absolutely inadmissible”.  According to Rénan, who lived 18 centuries after the conversion of Sergius Paulus, the latter was only joking when he pretended to believe in Christ, and Paul, as all Orientals, did not understand the irony of that Western man!

            As we continue reading the life of Paul as edited by Rénan, we find here and there the main purpose that the author had in mind, when starting on the series of the Origins of Christianity.  After all, the religion of Christ and Paul is only a natural one, nothing has come from above, and nothing is absolutely true in the supposed revelation, according the Rénan.  Some more references will give us an insight into the favorite criticisms of the Rationalists:

“(The Apostles) . . . . Not having the spirit, the finesse, the elevation of Jesus, they have fallen after his death in a kind of a heavy bigotry, like the one their master had so strongly combated.  They were not capable of irony; they have nearly forgotten the eloquent invectives of Jesus against the hypocrites.”

            When coming to tell about the Jerusalem meeting of the Apostles in order to solve the problem of the Gentiles and their relationship to the ceremonial law, Rénan does not accept the fact that the question was finally settled, as far as the Church was concerned.  He gives his imagination all the liberty into creating some details that Luke never recorded, and as showing us Paul reaching out a compromise with the rest of the Apostles.  Even the decision of Paul to go and preach to the Gentiles, was according to Rénan, made in secret so that none but Peter knew of it.  What the New Testament record attributes to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, our author believes it to be “un bon sens profond”, (a profound common sense!) The cause for the dream in which Paul saw the vision of the Macedonian was just the talk that Paul had with an enthusiastic Gentile Christian, Luke! And so on . . .

            Chapter XXII, is the last one in Saint Paul, and it is devoted to a “bird’s eye view of the work of Paul.”  Some extracts are useful to the formation of our final estimate of Rénan’s religious works:

“A man who has contributed more than anyone else, to the rapid extension of Christianity. . . . To say that this man merits to be placed in a very high rank in history, is to say something evident; but we should not call him the founder.  Paul has well said, he was inferior to the other apostles.  He has not seen Jesus, neither has he heard his word.  The divine logia, the parables, he hardly knows them.  The Christ who makes personal revelations to him is his personal ghost; it is to himself that he listens, while believing that he listens to Jesus. . . .”

            Rénan went on then to claim that Paul was never admired in the Western Church, until the Reformation.  “The Reformation opened to Saint Paul a new era of glory and authority.”

“I persist therefore to find that, in the creation of Christianity, the part of Paul must be made much inferior to that of Jesus . . . . The Son of God is unique.  To appear for a moment, to throw a glow sweet and profound, to die very young, here is the life of a god.  To fight, to dispute, to conquer, here is the life of a man.  After having seen the Christian docteur par excellence, owing to orthodox Protestantism, Paul sees in our days the end of his reign; Jesus, on the contrary, is more living than ever.  It is not any more that the epistle to the Romans is the résumé of Christianity, but rather the Sermon on the Mount.  The true Christianity, which will endure forever, comes from the Gospels, not from the Epistles of Paul.  The writings of Paul have been a danger and a stumbling-block, the cause of the principal defect of the Christian theology; Paul is the father of the subtle Augustinian, the dry Thomas D’Aquin, the somber Calvinist, the quarrelsome Jansenists, of the ferocious theology which damns and predestines to damnation.  Jesus is the father of all who seek in the dreams of the ideal the rest of their souls.  What makes Christianity live, is the little we know about the word and the person of Jesus.  The ideal man, the divine poet, the great artist defies alone the times and the revolutions.  Alone he is sitting on the right hand of God the Father to all eternity.             Humanity, sometimes thou art just, and certain of thy judgments are good!”

            The Jesus that Rénan depicts and his faulty concept of Paul may not be accepted as the result of an honest, sincere criticism.  As Strauss and the other Rationalists of the 19th Century, Rénan formed his own philosophy and system of thinking before embarking on his works.  As shown by his biography, he had only one essay written when still fresh out of the prestigious Séminaire de St. Sulpice.  It was only after he had imbibed the prejudices and misconceptions of the German higher critics that he started on his major works.  We can ascribe to him originality in some minor deviations in his writings, but the core of his works is similar to any Rationalist of the second half of the 19th century.  Neither should we forget the influence of his Roman Catholic education in the three seminaries he frequented before making his final break with Rome.  His revolt against the excesses of Roman Catholicism did not lead him to the Evangelical camp, but clear out into the skeptical critical field.

            At the root of the predicament of Rénan and his confrères lay the character peculiar to Christianity: an uncontested supernatural revealed religion.  He lost faith in that foundation of Christianity or in theism, generally speaking.  As a perfect example of 19th century Rationalists, Rénan denies God in nature and God in history, a denial whose ultimate consequence is atheism and extreme pessimism.  He is extremely opposed to the miraculous, and by his simple a priori philosophical prejudice, he disposed of miracle in the New Testament.  Thus he tried to eliminate all the miracles of Christ, and to separate Him from his work on the cross.  He did the same to get rid of the supernatural in the Apostolic Church.  But what becomes of Paul if we deny his conversion, and how shall we account for his conversion without the resurrection and ascension?  What Schaff said of “unbelieving criticism” we can say of Rénan:

“[He] sees only the outside surface of the greatest movement in history, and is blind to the spiritual forces working from within or refuses to acknowledge them as truly divine.” History of the Christian Church, Vol. I, p. 858.

Dr. Schaff continued his critique of Rénan:

            “Strong as the external evidence is, the internal evidence of the truth and credibility of the apostolic writings is still stronger, and may be felt to this day by the unlearned as well as the scholar. . .

            “The first century is the life and light of history and the turning point of the ages.  If ever God revealed Himself to man, if ever heaven appeared on earth, it was in the person and work of Jesus of Nazareth. . . .  No power on earth or in hell can extinguish that sun (facts and truths of New Testament).  There it shines on the horizon, the king of day, obscured at times by clouds great or small, but breaking through again and again, and shedding light and life from east to west, until the darkest corners of the globe shall be illuminated.  The past is secure; God will take care of the future.
            MAGNA EST VERITAS ET PRAEVALEBIT.” Ibid. Pp. 862 and 863.

            And God did take care of that future.  Ninety-two years have passed since Rénan published for the first time his Vie de Jésus.  Though the caricature of Christ he depicted is still holding its sway on the minds of some liberals, yet there has been a complete revolt against that school of interpretation he represented among the Rationalists:  “The Jesus who sought in the dreams of the ideal a rest for his soul” and for the souls of men like Rénan, did not build a Christian Germany, nor was able to stop three major wars between the European powers.  And the great preaching of justification by the blood of Christ is still heard all over the globe, and Paul did not see his “dying days” in the 19th century.  If the return to the father’s house has been incomplete, as in the case of Neo-Orthodoxy, yet there has been ample proof to show the fallacy of Rénan’s speculations.  Sin is still a problem to be tackled, mankind cannot live without a Saviour, and thank God we have a Saviour in His Son and our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us on Calvary, and rose on the third day for our justification.  The mythical Christ of Strauss, or the legendary Jesus of Rénan, cannot save, cannot be preached, and must not be believed.  But we worship a risen and ever-living Christ, and we owe our very existence to Him.

            We orthodox Christians need to learn a lesson from all this.  We must ask: “how consistent is our witness to our Lord, and how much are we laboring for His glory? We cannot minimize the challenge of the Rationalists and semi- penitent liberals; neither should we ignore some of their criticism.  Our constant desire and aim should be our willingness to exhibit a living Christianity, so that we disprove the oft-heard charge of our clinging to a dead and fruitless orthodoxy.

            As Christians, who have experienced the power of the Gospel in our hearts, we need not fear to challenge the Modernists.   We are as sure of the regenerating and converting power of the Holy Spirit and the saving efficacy of Christ, as of our own existence.  “The fortress of our personal experience is impregnable; the logic of stubborn facts is more cogent than the logic of reason.”  (Schaff)

            In the final analysis, having read the works of 19th century rationalists who have rejected the historic Christian faith, we may still hear the words of our beloved Lord: “Will ye also go away?” May we all say with Peter: “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.  And we believe and are sure that Thou art that Christ, the Son of the Living God.” John 6:67-69

Bibliography

The Bible, A.V.

History of the Christian Church,  P. Schaff, Vol. I.

History of the Christian Church, G.P. Fisher

The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge: Vol. 9  Art. Rénan

E. Rénan, Saint Paul (French).