The Bible at the Center of the Modern University
June 20, 1920
In this essay, Dixon–one of the original Fundamentalists, that is, an organizer and editor of The Fundamentals: A Testimony to the Truth (published between 1910 and 1915)–discusses two of the core principles that gave the fundamentalist movement its name.
This address does not discuss all of the fundamentals (defined in 1910 as the inerrancy of the Bible; the virgin birth of Christ; his death to atone for man’s sinfulness; his resurrection; and the authenticity of Biblical miracles). It focuses on just two, the Bible and man’s salvation through Christ’s death. It also touches on other issues important to the fundamentalists: the wayward character of a merely ethical Christianity; urbanization; the changing roles and status of women; and secularization, especially the secularization of education (see Hall). Perhaps its dominant theme is the identification of Christianity and the United States as the defenders of justice in the modern world, particularly as this concerns the defense of the weak from the power of the strong. Abraham Lincoln is its hero, second only to Christ. Darwin and Friedrich Nietzsche are the enemy, encouraging the belief that might makes right.
Baptist Fundamentals, Being Address delivered at the Pre—Convention Conference at Buffalo, June 21 and 22, 19201
The first verse of Genesis, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth,” reads like a perfect creation. There is no hint of fiery nebulosity. “The heaven” and “the earth” have clearly defined meanings in the Pentateuch. The inspired comment upon it in Isaiah 45:18 informs us that God “formed the earth and made it: he established it: he created it not waste; he formed it to be inhabited.” “The heaven” remained perfect, but “the earth,” by some power not revealed, was wrecked. Mr. Anstey, author of “The Romance of Chronology,”2 insists that the Hebrew word rendered “was” in the Authorized Version must be translated “became.” “The earth became without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep.” Other authorities admit that it may be thus translated. The first three verses give us an epitome of the whole Bible:
- Construction: God’s perfect creations.
- Destruction: The wreck of God’s perfect creations.
- Reconstruction: Restoration of order out of chaos…
Mature Product First
“God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after its kind.” It is plain that the mature product comes first. The herb yields the seed; not the seed the herb. The tree yields the fruit; not the fruit the tree.
“And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and let the fowl fly above the earth.” As in the vegetable, so in the animal kingdom, the mature product comes first, not the life germ producing the living creature, but the living creature that has the life germ. Not the egg that produces the fowl, but the fowl that produces the egg. This is economy of miracle. If the germ of animal or egg of fowl comes first, then there must be a series of many miracles to produce the mature product without the fostering care of motherhood. But if the mature product comes first, reproduction takes place by natural law. No further miracle is needed. We will not pause to view this in relation to present-day science. Of that later. What appears now is that the Genesis record places the mature product first, whatever its relation to modern “science.”
A Perfect Civilization
It is also evident that in the moral and social world the perfect comes first. In the second chapter of Genesis is the highest type of civilization this world has ever seen. There is a perfect man and a perfect woman. And there can be no perfect society unless there be perfect individuals.
There is for this perfect man and perfect woman perfect environment. “God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there he put the man whom he had formed.” They are in the midst of fertility, beauty, and plenty.…
There is perfect love in the marriage of one man and one woman. “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” It is not said that the woman shall leave all and cleave to her husband. It is taken for granted that she will do that. But the husband leaves all for her. She has preeminence in the realm of love, and even a suffragette ought to be satisfied with that.
Has any civilization on earth given woman a higher position than that? Verily not.
There is perfect life. In the material, mental, moral, and spiritual realm all things are good. There is no disease or death. Perfect life of body and soul prevails. A civilization of perfect character, perfect environment, perfect employment, perfect rest, perfect law, perfect love, and perfect life has never been surpassed in the history of the world.
The Wreck of God’s Perfect Order
But there comes a change. A powerful personality, who may have had something to do with wrecking the perfect earth at first, comes on the scene. Speaking to those who had been listening to God’s Word, he first calls in question the fact of revelation. “Yea, hath God said?” “Are you sure that God has spoken at all? Does God speak directly to his creatures? Is there such a thing as revelation from God?” Satan puts an interrogation point after the fact of revelation; and the fact that he continues to do so is clear proof that the personality who operated in Eden is at work in the world today. . . .
. . . Then he goes a step farther and offers knowledge as a substitute for revelation. “God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be open, and ye shall be as gods, KNOWING.”. . . . A desire to know the evil as well as the good has wrecked the character of many a young man in a few weeks after he has come from the pure atmosphere of a Christian home in the country to the great city with its monstrous mixture of good and evil.
Some of our educational institutions do not hesitate to offer to students in lecture and textbook the evil as well as the good. At the commencement of a theological seminary, I heard the baccalaureate speaker say that seminaries ought to keep on their faculties at least one heretical professor, so that the students may learn the other side. That is, one professor at least should be permitted to play the part of Satan by calling in question or denying the revelation from God, so that the students may know the evil as the good. Another proof that the personality in Eden still lives, and has to do with the preparation of baccalaureate addresses. . . .
In 1620 there landed on Plymouth Rock a little company of men and women who were chased from their homes in England by the violent spirit of this unholy alliance [of church and state]. In the hold of the “Mayflower” they wrote a compact which had in it two phrases, “for the common good,” and “just and equal laws,” which have been mighty factors in fostering the spirit of democracy and the love of justice among the American people.
When I was in Old Boston, England, I went to the Guild Hall where are the prison cells in which John Bradford, William Brewster, and others were incarcerated. I requested the janitor to shut me in one of the cells, that I might sit in the dark on the hard stone seat and meditate upon the “Mayflower” and what the little vessel with its Puritan passengers meant to the world. My mind flew across the Atlantic to the museum at Plymouth in which are John Alden’s well-worn Bible and the cradle in which little Peregrine White, the baby born on the “Mayflower,” was rocked. Nearby is the pot in which the pilgrims cooked their common dinners, and beside it, the long flint-lock gun of Miles Standish, the only soldier in the company. Here are the four pillars of the American commonwealth, the Bible, the home, the pot, and the gun. As I sat in the narrow cell, I saw the “Mayflower” still sailing across the ocean of time with all the nations on earth trying to get on board. And then I saw her multiplied a hundredfold crossing the Atlantic with three hundred thousand soldiers every month,3 still carrying the open Bible, the Christian home, the pot, and the gun, that all the nations of the earth may now enjoy the liberty which the Pilgrim Fathers braved the perils of the ocean to secure.
Then I saw another ship landing at Jamestown, Va., with a civilization on board which approved of human slavery without thought of “just and equal laws” or “the common good.” The “Plymouth Rock” and “Jamestown” civilizations were . . . like the confluence of the Rhone and the Arve, mud and crystal in conflict; and the mud at length prevailed. The spirit of slavery mastered New England. In the Old South Church, Boston, is still preserved the gallery under the belfry in which the slaves sat during the Sunday services. But finally the Plymouth Rock civilization was victorious, and since 1865 there have been no slaves under the American flag. Today “Old Glory” has the new glory of having delivered little Cuba from her strong oppressor and of having joined with Great Britain and her allies in defending the weak against the aggression of the strong. The same spirit has led to the victory of prohibition over the oppressive powers of the drink traffic in America, and now seeks to drive this enslaver of man from the face of the earth.
Genesis of “Evolution”
Let us trace this modern conflict between the weak and their oppressors back to its source. The Greek philosophers, between 700 and 300 B.C., were, with one exception, evolutionists. Thales, of Miletus, taught that water was the primordial germ. Heraclitus believed that fire originated all things, and Pythagoras, the mathematician, was confident that number somehow brought life and form into existence. Plato, the greatest of all Greek philosophers, did not agree with his compeers. He believed that man began equal with the gods, and the beasts were degenerated men, contending that the monkey came down from man and not man up from the monkey. And Plato had the weight of evidence on his side even without a revelation, for any one with eyes in his head can see that there is more tendency in men to become monkeys than in monkeys to become men.
Darwin and Malthus
Charles Darwin, in his university course, caught the vision of the Greek philosophers and, rejecting the theory of Plato, became an ardent advocate of the hypothesis that everything was evolved from beneath; that life originated with germinal, embryonic beginnings; that in nature there is perpetual war, which is called “the struggle for existence,” the strong and fit destroying the weak and unfit, and thus causing everything to move upward. . . . Darwin confesses in his autobiography that he received this suggestion from the Rev. Thomas Robert Malthus, an Anglican clergyman, who died in 1834. . . . Malthus taught that man increases with geometrical ratio, while food supply increases with only arithmetical ratio. Therefore wars and pestilences are necessary, that the surplus population may be killed off, in order that the remainder may survive.
A little clear thinking makes it clear that Malthus was wrong. Man does not increase with geometrical ratio, while food does increase “some thirty, some sixty, and some an hundredfold.”4 But Darwin was deceived by the plausible reasoning of Malthus, and made this mistake one of the foundation-stones of his scientific system. It is a libel upon a benevolent God, who has provided enough for man and beast without demanding that the strong shall kill the weak. . . . [T]here is no struggle for existence even among carnivorous animals, a benevolent God having provided a kinder method of preventing their dangerous increase.
Of course, we are all evolutionist in the sense of Mark 4: 28, “First the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.” Everybody knows that the embryo or germ in plant and animal develops by growth into the mature product.
But evolutionary processes have no history. The growth of embryo or germ into mature product, as we see it, simply suggests to the imagination a similar process which, it is claimed by evolutionists, took place in the abysmal past. No one has ever observed it and its history, therefore, cannot be written. If, however, life began on earth with immature embryonic beginnings and evolved through countless ages into the mature product, it must have done so in obedience to the same laws which govern the development of the immature embryo as we see it develop today, and must be subject to the same limitations. Bear this in mind, for it is a fact of great importance.
Now, though I confess a repugnance to the idea that an ape or an orang-outang was my ancestor, I have been willing to accept the humiliating fact, if proved; but . . . there are insurmountable difficulties in the way of my permitting eminence to decide this matter for me.
Facts Against Evolution
1. Immature, embryonic life is never reproductive. . . .
2. Immature, embryonic life is unimprovable. . . .
3. Embryos and germs are easily destroyed. . . .
4. There are two things lacking which are essential to the evolutionary theory: spontaneous generation and transmutation of species. . . No scientist of any repute claims that life has really originated from lifeless matter. Naturalistic evolution which ignores God has no explanation of the origin of life. And theistic evolution which admits that God must have created matter and introduced life can give no good reason why a God who introduces one kind of life into suitable environment, should not introduce another kind of life under similar fitting conditions.
The claim that one species of living things in plants or animals develops into another species has no facts in nature to support it. “After its kind,” as in the first chapter of Genesis, is universal law. When one species unites with another, the result is a hybrid which is sterile, so that stubborn mule stands in the path of [the] evolutionist and will not let him pass on his way of error.
5. Evolution, whether naturalistic, theistic, atheistic, or Christian, is pagan in origin and spirit. The Bible, which is the text-book of Christianity, teaches that God created the mature product first and left this mature product to reproduce itself by natural law. . . .
[W]hen we observe that the effect of the theory in others is to drag them down from the spiritual to the natural, from the realm of music, poetry, painting, and religion to the realm of the worm as it works in the dirt and dark, we are driven to the conclusion that there is something in this pagan theory which drags us down into the mud, and robs us of the clearer vision and purer atmosphere of the higher spiritual realms.
6. Evolution with its ”struggle for existence” and ”survival of the fittest,” which gives the strong and fit the scientific right to destroy the weak and unfit, is responsible for the oppression and destruction of the weak and unfit by the strong and fit. It has fostered autocratic class distinctions and is no friend to the democracy which stands for the protection of the weak against the oppression of the strong. The greatest war in history, which has drenched the world with blood and covered it with human bones, can be traced to this source. If the strong and fit have the scientific right to destroy the weak and unfit, that human progress may be promoted, then might is right, and Germany should not be criticized for acting upon this principle.
Nietzsche, the neurotic German philosopher, hypnotized the German mind with his pagan brute philosophy. ”The ‘weak and the botched,’” said he, “shall perish; first principle of humanity. And they ought to be helped to perish. What is more harmful than any vice?
Practical sympathy with the botched and weak—Christianity.” “If what I publish be true,” he wrote to an invalid woman, “a feeble woman like you would have no right to exist.”
“Christianity,” he said again, “is the greatest of all conceivable corruptions, the one immortal blemish of mankind.”6 And he hated it because of its sympathy with the weak and botched. He glorified his ideal of the German ”blond beast” and gave to the world a “superman,” one-third brute, one-third devil, and one-third philosopher. Under the spell of his daring brutality, Germany adopted the motto, “Corsica has conquered Galilee.”7 Nietzsche’s philosophy of beastliness has its roots in the evolutionary assumption that the strong and fit in the struggle for existence, have the scientific right to destroy the weak and unfit. Under the spell of Nietzsche’s “superman” there came into the brain of the Kaiser the vision of a supernation, a national brute, devil and philosopher, with the scientific right to destroy all weaker nations and erect his throne upon their ruins. One Sunday morning, four months after the war began, I spoke something like this from the Metropolitan Tabernacle pulpit in London; and, after the service a gentleman with military bearing appeared in the vestry and said: “I am a German, brought into London on a captured ship; and why I have not been interned I do not know; but I have an intimation that I shall be interned next week, and before I go I would like to give you a piece of my mind. You have said that this terrible war was due to Darwinian evolution, and I believe it. I hope I am a Christian. I love Jesus Christ and believe the Bible, but my wife and daughter have had their faith wrecked by Nietzsche and his pagan gang. But what I want to say to you is that we Germans got Darwinism from England. We took it from you and worked it out to its legitimate consequences. So, when you mention it again, speak softly, for you are really getting back what you sent.” I could not deny it. Back of this war and responsibility for it is Darwin’s pagan teaching that the strong and fit have the scientific right to destroy the weak and unfit.
England and France
This suggests the fact that France gave to Germany her first lessons in the destructive higher criticism of the Bible. It was Jean Astruc,8 a learned, dissolute French physician, of Marseilles, who first suggested that Genesis had two authors. Doctor Eichhorn,9 of Germany, took Astruc’s suggestion as a clue and announced that he had discovered many authors. Thus began a movement which has done more to discredit the Bible than any other movement of modern times. The scientists of Germany took Darwinism from England with its struggle for existence, giving the strong and fit the scientific right to destroy the weak and unfit, and gave to the politicians the infernal dictum that might is right, while the German theologians took from Jean Astruc his composite-authorship-of-Genesis theory and worked it out to the discrediting of the Bible as a revelation from God. . . . While victory on the side of liberty and humanity has checked, if not destroyed, German militarism, it remains for those who believe and love the Bible to mobilize and fight the battle for the truth which has given to the world its passion for liberty and humanity.
Darwin and Lincoln
It is an interesting fact that Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln were born on the same day, February 12, 1809, and in the lives of these two men continue the battle between mud and crystal. Darwin, born into an environment of wealth, through the teachings of Greek philosophers and of Malthus became the champion of the strong and fit against the weak and unfit. Abraham Lincoln, born into an environment of poverty and struggle, became the champion of the weak against the strong. He believed that the weakest and worst have the right of existence with fair treatment, and that the strong and fit, instead of destroying and weak and unfit, should be their protectors and benefactors. When he saw a negro woman in a New Orleans slave-market auctioned off to a rich slave-owner, he said, “If I ever get a chance to strike that thing, I will hit it hard.” And he did hit it hard, when he led the movement which resulted in the abolition of slavery under the American
Let us turn again to Genesis and trace the crystal river of faith in the coming Messiah in conflict with the mud of unbelief. In the curse upon the serpent there is a promise that the seed of the woman (not man) shall bruise his head. Of course, we know who the serpent is: “that old serpent, which is the devil and Satan” (Rev. 20:2). But do not think of Satan as Doré10 painted him, with horns, hoofs, bats’ wings, and forked tail. Such a monster could tempt no one, except to run and get out of his way. Paul declares that Satan in this age is transformed as a messenger of light.11 His mission is to give light, historic light, scientific light, all kinds of light, if by any means he may satisfy the world with light without Him who is the light of the world. Satan would have our colleges, universities, seminaries, and churches blazing centers of light without Him who is the light of the world. Satan would have our colleges, universities, seminaries, and churches blazing centers of light without the Light, Christ Jesus, as atoning Saviour. And Satan wishes his ministers to be ministers of righteousness. His favorite is the ethical minister who preaches a high standard of morality and humanity, urging people to be good and to do good without salvation through the atoning blood of Christ.
One of the great needs of the Christian Church today is a university with the Bible at its center as the standard of all truth, religious, moral, historic, and scientific, and the Lord Jesus Christ preeminent in the realm of knowledge as in all other realms. The Bible, “the Impregnable Rock of Scripture,” as Gladstone12 called it, is the only book in which its religion, ethics, history, and science, are always and everywhere up to date. You have doubtless heard of the “scientific morgue” in Paris, a rather gruesome place, where dead scientific theories are laid out for inspection. Most of them died under twenty-five years of age. Almost every theory I studied in college is in the scientific morgue. But the Bible is not there and never will be. Its statements have frequently been denied by the high authorities, but time has always proved that the Bible is right. . . .
[Dixon mentions three examples in which modern historians questioned Biblical accounts but were later themselves disproved.]
And now the facts of science against the fancies of all scientific romancers, ancient and modern, are confirming the teachings of Moses and the dim vision of Plato that man began perfect and was wrecked by sin.
In some universities the theological schools are clustered about the halls of history, philosophy, and science. It is time that the order should be reversed. Let the Bible school with teachers who believe in the infallible Book and give Christ preeminence in all realms, be at the center with the halls of history, philosophy, and science clustered about it. Let the Sun, and not the earthly, be the center of God’s solar system of truth.
In Genesis 6:14 we are told that God commanded Noah to make an ark, and “pitch it within and without with pitch.” And the Hebrew scholar is almost startled to find, as he reads Leviticus, that the Hebrew word translated “pitch” in this verse is rendered “atonement” all through Leviticus. It was the pitch which made the ark seaworthy, keeping out the waters of judgment and keeping in Noah and his family. So the atoning blood of Christ it is, which keeps out the waters of judgment and keeps in the subjects of grace. And all through the Bible we can trace the Messianic idea which grows fuller and fuller until it finds complete fulfillment in the “Lamb as it had been slain standing in the midst of the throne.”13 “The Lamb as it had been slain standing” suggests life from the dead, and standing in the midst of the throne suggests royalty. It is the risen, living Christ with the marks of the cross upon him who gives us paradise restored. The perfect civilization in Eden with its perfect environment, perfect employment, perfect rest, perfect law, perfect love, and perfect life, has been restored.
All hail the power of Jesus’ name;
Let angels prostrate fall;
Bring forth the royal diadem
(Ye men of the schools, colleges, and seminaries, and universities)
AND CROWN HIM LORD OF ALL!
What are the key characteristics of what Dixon calls German thinking? Why is he so concerned that it will gain influence in the United States? How is it related to evolution? Is what Dixon describes as German thinking compatible with the principles of the Declaration of Independence? Why is Lincoln important to Dixon? What is Dixon’s attitude toward science? What is Dixon’s attitude toward the Bible?
Would Dixon consider Spencer, as described by Youmans, as “German thinking”? What would Dixon say about Spencer’s social and ethical philosophy?
2 Martin Anstey, The Romance of Bible Chronology: an Exposition of the Meanings, and a Demonstration of the Truth, of every Chronological Statement Contained in the Hebrew Text of the Old Testament, 2 vols., (London: Marshall Brothers, 1913).
7 “Corsica” is Napoleon; “Galilee” is Christ. Napoleon stands for the doctrine of force, Christ for the doctrine of justice and charity for all. The phrase is attributed to a professor J. A. Cramb. It was a frequently used expression among evangelical and conservative Christians at the time Dixon wrote.