Part 6. Reformation to Now. Lesson 5 of 7.
lesson 38. The 1800’s

Through today’s lesson, we hope you will learn the danger of not putting reason in its proper place.

1.Quakers. Many other independent churches developed in England besides those mentioned in lesson 4.  Most were organized according to the Congregational system, and were illegal at first.  Here is one  that has remained to the present day: in 1647 a man in England 14 founded the Quakers.  The name means “to shake.”  Once when a judge said that his church was illegal, he answered that the judge should “tremble at the word of God.”  The judge said “you are the tremblers” (in English, quakers). The formal name of the group is the Society of Friends.   In 1890, the first Quaker missionary came to China.  Today’s Quaker services may be of two kinds, either the original kind in which no one leads, and everyone waits quietly until the Spirit moves someone to speak, or a service more like other reformed churches.

2.Against denominations. In the 1800’s, people from many denominations left their churches, and formed new churches.  They said, “there are too many denominations, so we will form churches that do not belong to any denomination.”  Some of the churches they established are called “Churches of Christ” and “Disciples of Christ.”  Even though their goal was to reject denominations, yet they still had to take a position on each issue that Christians teach about.  So, the result is that they are just another denomination.

Q  Do you know any believer who says “I do not belong to any denomination?” Does this person have a position on the questions that denominations disagree about?

3.Brothers. Another independent church movement began in 1826 when a Church of England student decided he could be a missionary even without seminary training.  His supporters grew into a church that desired simplicity.  No one was called “pastor;” they all called each other brothers.  One of the main groups was centered in Plymouth, England, where in 1831 the Plymouth Brethren was founded.  (Brethren is an Old English way to say “brothers.)  One of their most influential leaders was named Darby. There are many other similar groups.  Some Chinese Christians of the 1930’s were influenced by them, and you can see this influence still today in churches that have a very simple service, without pastors, and celebrate communion every Sunday. ¹

4.End of the World. Based on his study of prophecy, in 1830, Darby  promoted the idea that the believers would be taken away from the world before a time of great persecution,which would be followed by a one-thousand year rule of Christ on earth before judgment day. Please read Revelation 20:2. does say that Satan will be bound for one thousand years.  Darby taught that this verse meant an exact 1000 years, and in this he was saying something new that had not been commonly taught before.  Before 1800, the common view in all three branches of Christianity was that the “thousand years” means “a long period of time,” and designates the time from the beginning of the church to the end of the world.   During this time, the world would become worse and worse, and finally the world would end, God would judge the world, and the believers would have eternal life in heaven. Paul writes that we who are still alive when Jesus returns will be caught up in the clouds with those who had already died, and thus we shall always be with the Lord. 3   As science brought progress in living standards, another view of the thousand years appeared: some other Christians taught that the world would become better and better, and the world would not end, but the world would gradually become heaven.  After the first and second world wars, it was obvious that the world is not getting better and better, so this view seemed unlikely.  Many of the denominations that formed during the past 200 years have adopted Darby’s view.

Q  Do you know anyone who believes that God will remove Christians from the world, and then there will be a time when Satan rules the world?

5.Saturdays. In the Old Testament, the Jews were commanded to rest on Saturdays.  In the New Testament, there is no command about any certain day.  During the early centuries after Christ, believers began to meet for worship in Sundays.  They established this custom because Jesus rose from the dead on a Sunday.  In the 1800’s, some promoted the idea that God’s Old Testament laws about Saturday should still apply to Christians today.  They said that it is wrong to worship on Sunday, and that true worship could only take place on Saturday.  In 1863 a new denomination was formed, called “seventh day Adventists.”  The word “Adventist” means “coming,” and indicates this group’s emphasis on details of when Christ will return. They insist that worship should be on Saturdays. On this question, Paul  writes, “let no one pass judgment on you in regards to  … a new moon celebration or a sabbath day.” 4

Q  Do you know people who teach that Christians should worship only on Saturday? _

6.Holiness churches. In the 19th century, some in the Methodist church felt that the church was not as zealous as before.  In order to recapture the original spirit of John Wesley, they began a new  movement and established new denominations.  They emphasized holiness in living, and therefore the movement is called the “holiness” movement.  They taught that each Christian has two blessings.  The first blessing is becoming a Christian.  The second blessing is achieving a holy life.  In 1845 a Holiness church called Wesleyan Methodist was founded.  In 1895 a holiness church called  “Church of the Nazarene” was formed. “Nazarene” means Jesus, because he grew up in Nazareth.  By taking this name, the believers indicated that they wanted to follow Jesus in their behavior.  1 John 1:9 says that  If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves.

Q  In Ephesians 1:1, the believers are called saints. Do you think this letter was addressed to all the believers living in Ephesus, or only to a few who were especially holy?   Do you think there are two types of Christians, one holy and one not holy?

7.Evangelicals.³³ In the nineteenth century, those Christians who continued the emphasis on heartfelt devotion and religious experience called themselves “evangelicals.”  They saw themselves as examples within their churches, always hoping to get people more involved in Bible study and personal devotions. They were motivated to resolve social problems: one famous English evangelical became a member of parliament,  and through his workby 1807  the government of Great Britain prohibited people from selling slaves . English evangelicals saw themselves as different from those within the Church of England who promoted formality and traditional worship customs: the formal style was called “high-church” and the informal style was called “low-church,” but both were found in the Church of England.  The evangelicals also saw themselves as different from a small group of theologians who were taking a more intellectual approach, who felt that Christianity had to be explained in new ways to accommodate people who no longer trusted the Bible.  The evangelicals along with other conservatives felt it was not necessary to seek new ways to explain the Bible, because the Bible was already clear enough. The evangelicals did not agree with those church members who concluded that developments in science and philosophy meant that the Bible was no longer a sufficient basis for faith, that a scientific person could not accept the miracles of the Bible, that the prophecies of the Bible must have been written after their fulfillment took place and that the revelations in the Bible that could not be proved by reason should not be required.   Conservative Christians on the other hand did not see any reason to reject miracles and prophecies just because of the development of science, and used the word “liberals” for those who thought there was a need to change Christian teachings.   The section below explains how the word liberal was used in the 19th century, and lesson 39 will explain how the word is used today.

8.Definitions. The words “conservative” and “liberal” have a special meaning when used in the church. A person who accepts the events in the Bible without question is a “conservative.”  A person who judges the events in the Bible by using methods from outside the Bible is called a “liberal.” 5  A conservative would say, “The Bible says it, so I believe it.” A liberal would say, “The Bible says something, so I must discover whether or not it is really true.”  The liberal may use historical methods or sociological methods. The liberal typically assumes that miracles are not possible. Each liberal scholar has different theories, so to help you understand “liberal,” many different examples are given below.

9.Philosophers. Those Bible scholars who were called “liberals” were influenced by some famous German philosophers.  In 1781 Kant published a book that criticized reason.  Kant said that “truth” is created by our minds, as our minds make patterns from the things we see and hear.  Kant did not want to discard religion, but he felt he must substitute a different basis for religion: not reason and not the Bible.  Kant felt that the essence of religion was moral behavior.  He developed his moral theories not from the Bible, but from the sense of duty that most people feel.  For him, Jesus was a good teacher, but not a savior.  By showing the limits of reason he hastened the end of the enlightenment (lesson 37 paragraph 4).  Luther had often spoken of the limits of human reason, so the end of the enlightenment was not necessarily a bad thing for Christians.  But most people around us in society still have a certain amount of faith in reason.  We cannot bring them to faith through reason, but we can use reason to show them that certain objections to Christianity do not make sense.  We can remove obstacles by showing them that certain Christian teachings are “reasonable.”  For example, if they say that the disciples stole the body of Jesus, we can use reason to show them that this idea does not make sense, for if the disciples knew that the resurrection was false, why would they have been willing to die for their faith?

10.History.  Another influential philosopher was Hegel.  In 1807 Hegel explained the process of history by saying that one idea would cause the opposite idea to emerge, and then the two would combine into a new idea.  He taught that history used this process to make people more and more civilized.  His theory was that religions evolve from many gods to one God, which is the opposite of the Biblical teaching.  This theory became even more popular after 1859 when Darwin published his book about evolution.  Hegel went even further by teaching that God himself is evolving along with nature and history. 6  Hegel looked at God more as a “spirit of the world” than as the Lord and Creator as taught in the Bible.

11.Feelings. The most famous theologians who tried to create a form of Christianity that would not be in conflict with reason or philosophy are introduced below.  Even though these theologians disagreed with one another, they all felt that the Bible was no longer a sufficient basis for Christianity, and each suggested some other basis.  These scholars show us the variety within the movement in the church called “liberalism.”  In a book of 1830, a German scholar 7  based religion on the feeling of dependence.  To him, a true Christian is merely one who depends not on himself but on something greater.  Conservatives agree that faith means “depending,” but this man went further.  He felt he could disregard any biblical teaching that did not help us have this kind of “feeling.”  Since he placed another viewpoint, feelings, higher than the teachings of the Bible, he is often called the “father of liberalism.”  He did not look at the Bible as God’s revelation, but as a record of how people experienced God at that time.  He regarded Jesus as a teacher, but not as God.  His father was a Pietist, so many have pointed out that although he continued the Pietist emphasis on feelings, he did not continue the Pietist acceptance of the Bible and the descriptions of God as recorded in the creeds.  Therefore he could not say that one religion was better than any other; even though each religion had its own stories, nevertheless he felt they all could lead to that same feeling of “dependence.”  Now we know more about world religions than he did.  We know that many religions do not lead to such a feeling.  By centering Christianity on feeling rather than on Jesus, he is in conflict with biblical teaching.   According to John 14:6, coming to God is not a matter of feeling but of trusting in Jesus who is “the way, the truth, and the life,” and who said, “no one comes to the Father except through me.”

  1.  Jesus as influence. Starting in 1870, another German scholar 8 wrote of Jesus as a perfect man, not as equal with God. He said that Jesus influences us by his teaching, but is not our God.  He felt that God is not wrathful toward us, so therefore we don’t need Jesus to be a sacrifice for our sin.  He felt our reconciliation with God is a change in our attitude, not a decision by God to forgive us.  He felt that we experience salvation by being part of a church community, not by accepting the revelations in the Bible. Romans 1:18 on the other hand says that God does feel full of wrath against sin.
  2. Christianity as having changed. In a speech in 1899, another German scholar 9 said that Christianity had changed in the course of history. He felt that the lasting parts of Christianity are the idea that God is like a father and the idea of love.  To him, the idea that Jesus is God is not an original part of Christianity, but only an idea that was added during history.  On the other hand, the Bible teaches that Jesus is God, and that Jesus reveals God in the most complete way.  John 1:18 tells us that we can know God only through Jesus.

13..Jesus and history. In 1906 a German scholar 10 concluded that using historical methods to explain Jesus in ways different than the Bible explained him had been unsuccessful.   Many scholars of the 19th century assumed that the four gospels did not describe the true Jesus, so they had been using various methods to decide which statements in the Bible were true and which were false. But they had not agreed with one another, and had not found the answer they were looking for.  The scholar concluded that it was impossible to find Jesus.  Meanwhile, the evangelicals continued to grow, based on sharing about Jesus as he was described in the Bible.

14.Social Gospel. As stated in his book of 1907, an American theologian 11  said the most important thing was helping others.  The purpose of the church was to change society; those who contributed to society were the true Christians.  Although he did not deny faith in Christ, those who rejected him because they thought he should have emphasized Jesus more called his teaching the “Social Gospel.”

15.Summary. This chapter has described the “19th century liberals.”  It has been said that 19thcentury liberalism “taught the love of God, but denied his wrath against sin.”  Today, we still use the words “liberal” and “conservative,” but the meanings of these words has developed further, as will be explained in the next lesson.

16.Leap of faith. There was another person who criticized the liberals, and also criticized those whom he regarded as outward church members without a living inward faith.  In his journal of1835, a Christian in Denmark 12 wrote that the facts of the Bible are of no use unless he could see the way it gave direction to his personal life.  By his stress on the “personal,” he is seen as an influence on a later philosophy that was called “existentialism.” 13  He felt the most important thing was to decide to accept God, even if it was a blind faith.  Conservatives of course agree that it is important to accept God, but do not feel it is blind: they feel it is based on the teachings of the Bible.

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Footnotes. 1) . The Chinese church leader Watchman Nee 倪托声 spent time with the Plymouth Brethren church in England.
2) Wilberforce  威伯福士
3) 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18
4) In Colossians 2:16
5) LIberalism. 自由主义 The Chinese translation means “freedom group,” but a clearer way to explain liberalism in the church is “the movement to use a non-biblical viewpoint to judge the Bible.  That “other viewpoint” might be a certain philosophy, or a branch of social science.  When the word “liberal is used in other areas of life, such as  politics or economics, the definition is different.  About Evangelicals福音派 : The Chinese translation means “gospel group,” but a clearer way to explain it is “a movement that continues the emphasis of pietism on heartfelt faith without denying  the historic teachings of Christianity.”
6) Hegel 黑格尔also promoted the idea that one idea will cause an opposite idea to appear, and those two ideas will be in conflict until they eventually come up with a third idea that will solve the conflict. Then this process will happen over and over again  Later, a philosopher named Karl Marx applied this idea to the conflict between capitalism and workers. The thought process is called Dialectical Materialism 辨证(證)唯物论(論).
7) Schleiermacher士来马赫
8) Ritschl 立敕尔
9) Harnack  哈纳(納 ) 克
10) Schweitzer. 史怀哲 He was also a scholar of the music of Bach and a medical doctor in Africa.
11) Rauschenbusch 饶(饒)申布士
12) Kierkegaard  祁克果
13) existentialism 存在神学(學)comes from the word “existence.” 存在
14) George Fox   喬治。弗克斯

Translations.   Church of Christ  基督教会   Church of the Nazarene  拿撒勒人耶稣的教会   Darby  达尔比 逹爾比   Disciples of Christ  基督门徒教会    evangelicals 福音派  Hegel   黑格尔(爾)  Holiness churches  圣洁教会 or   宣圣会 (聖洁 教會,宣聖會)  Kant 康德    Liberalism  自由主义  Liberals 自由派    Plymouth Brethren  普里穆特弟兄会    Quakers  贵格会 (貴格會)     Society of Friends  教友会 or 公谊会  (公誼會)   Wesleyan Methodist church  卫理公会 衛理公會