A REPLY by A. E. Knoch
by Arthur W. Pink
IT IS possible for a man to be right on one point yet absolutely astray on another. Luther was grand on justification, but even his most faithful adherents today will not deny that his teaching on the eucharist was unfounded. It is probable that every believer, including the writer, is right in some things and wrong in others. But the fact that we are all astray in a few matters does not prove that we are astray in all. Such a line of reasoning is a sword which cuts both ways. Either our esteemed brother must claim absolute perfection or he must acknowledge that he is absolutely and hopelessly wrong in every respect. That he is certainly wrong in some is evident to all who have followed the argument thus far. Now, to use his own reasoning, he must be wrong on the subject of the sonship of Christ.
If this reasoning is foolish as applied to him, it ought to be just as inane when used of us. If he has proved us wrong on the subject before us, then his logic would prove us wrong in other doctrines. But he seems not at all sure that he has proved us wrong, so he insinuates (what he cannot prove) that we are wrong on the subject of the "person of Christ." And this is supposed to show that we are "dangerous" on all other points!
One other thing should be pointed out before we turn to our concluding section. Some years ago, when Mr. F. C. Jennings exposed the errors of this system of Universalism, attention was called to some of the teachings of Mr. Knoch which attacked the Person of Christ. In the books from which we have been quoting there is not wanting evidence to show that, like all other Universalists and Annihilationists, Mr. Knoch's views of the person of Christ are vitally and fundamentally unsound. It is true they are not presented in positive and systematic form, but here and there expressions are used which cause us to seriously question whether, after all, Mr. Knoch believes that the Lord Jesus is anything more than a creature, though the highest and first of all. The studied refusal to speak of His eternal pre-existence (in "The Divine Mysteries" he says of the Lord Jesus, "As creation's Firstborn He was primevally pre-existent pre-eminent this should be.--A.E.K.]," which is the term he applies to the pre-Adamic earth, on page 244--"the primeval earth,") the absence of any reference to His person before He commenced His mediatorial work, the language used when treating of Him as the "image of God," cause us to seriously doubt whether he knows the Christ of God at all. If our suspicions on this point are unfair we stand ready to withdraw this paragraph as soon as Mr. Knoch assures us in print that he believes that, first, before anything was created "the Son" was GOD as fully as was "the Father;" and, second, after He has completed His mediatorial work He will remain forever God with equal glory as the Father. Anything short of a clear testimony upon these two points will be deemed an evasion, and that will only confirm our suspicions and establish his guilt.
The Crime of Keeping to the Form of Sound Words
But this reasoning is not only illogical. It is immoral. Such tricks are clever politics and will be successful in creating prejudice. But they will afford nothing but fuel in the day of Christ. If any of our readers wish to engage in unscrupulous theological discussion to maintain their own position and prestige, a few hints will suffice. First, find out in what particulars your opponent differs from orthodoxy or the opinions of the public you wish to reach. It makes no difference whether he is right or wrong, your denunciation will make him appear a dangerous man, and even if you fail to prove him unsound on any other particular, you will have ruined his prestige with the people. You must remember, however, that he gains greatly with God and Christ.
But we will let our brother prove the falsity of this assumption himself. We will allow that all that we teach is wrong. So far as we are aware we alone teach that the four wild beasts of Daniel are combined in the wild beast of the Revelation. We alone teach that apostate Israel is the Babylon of the Apocalypse. If this is false why does he repeat it in his book on "The Antichrist?" What better proof can he offer that we are right even when all are against us?
Our crime consists briefly in this: We have studiously avoided theological phrases which are not found in the Scriptures. We have never spoken of His "eternal pre-existence." The Bible never speaks of His "eternal pre-existence." Hence, we should "seriously question" whether the Bible is right on this point! Why, the Bible does not even speak of the "person" of Christ! It is clear then that we are not being judged by the Bible, but with the Bible. We are fellow criminals with the Book of Books!
The second charge might well be true, for the book under review is not concerned with the Sonship of Christ. But it happens that we have made a clear "reference to His person before He commenced His mediatorial work." On page 177, the first paragraph is the following: "Before heaven or earth knew aught of rule or ownership, the Son of God, in His solitary sublimity, held undisputed sway and complete possession of creation from center to circumference, in the heavens, as well as upon the earth."
Let it be clearly understood, once for all, that we do not believe doctrines; we believe God. The most correct human creed cannot be the object of true faith unless it consists of the words of divine revelation. When we are threatened with anathema if we do not believe so and so, our case is quite hopeless, for credence to a human formulary is credulity and fanaticism, not faith. How can I believe God when He has not spoken? How much less does a human dogma claim my belief when, not only is it absent from the revelation God has given, but is contrary to it?
We do not Believe Doctrines We Believe God Himself
Again, we repeat, we will place our signature on any copy of the Scriptures in the original (we have already done this in the CONCORDANT VERSION), but we will not sign a single sentence of human origin. We will consider it. Perhaps we will assent to it. But we put our faith in God alone, and in His Word.
We will now give the test statements which we must believe and the scriptures which we must not believe:
As to the future, we are called upon to choose between the following pronouncement and passage:
As to creation, God says Christ is the beginning, or Original, of creation, not before it. As to sonship, the Scriptures make Him the Firstborn, not before the firstborn. As to Godhood, the apostle warns us that there is one God out of Whom all is, not two sources of all, and then gives Him His true place as Lord of all and the channel of all. As it is utterly impossible to believe both A. W. P. and God, I hope he will forgive me for following the footsteps of Abraham and of John and of Paul, and of our blessed Lord Himself.
Scripture draws a sharp contrast between the place of the Son and God. The Son has been sovereign: at the consummation He becomes subject. How God can be subject to Himself, and as subject be equal in glory to Himself as regnant, is one of those deep mysteries of theology which are hopelessly incomprehensible. I am sure that A. W. P. does not expect us to understand it. But how crystalline clear and comprehensible is the Word of God! There is no difficulty about understanding it. The difficulty is to believe it. That requires a miracle, for God alone can give sight to those who will not see.
Of course, theology insists on the privilege of explaining these texts, for it is a well-understood axiom that the evident meaning is only a gloss, and the real meaning can only be discovered by modifying the terms by means of the very theory it wishes to establish.
We too, reserve the right to explain these passages, but our explanation differs in this, that we will not use other scriptures to contradict but to uphold the plain and apparent sense of the words as they stand.
We ask our readers to kindly refrain from deducing our position, for all of us unconsciously have the tendency to blend our own ideas into our conception of what a writer means, who does not fully explain himself. We prefer not to denounce error, but to replace it by truth. But now that we have been forced to do so, we do not hesitate to brand these statements as subversive of the word of God and grieving to the Christ of God.
We freely admit that our position on this matter is quite as unpalatable as our stand on God's purpose to become All in all. For a score of years, I have lived in constant companionship with the sacred originals, and human statements which stab at the heart of God's revelation, while they seek to cloak themselves in its sanctity, have become utterly repulsive to me. It is only with an effort that I can refrain from expressing my opinion of such outrageous audacity.
The moment it becomes necessary to express a hypothetical truth in language foreign to God's holy word it loses all authority, it invites suspicion, it excites distrust and disgust. This is tenfold more true in a case like this when a man is on trial for heresy.
Theology or Scripture?
Let us suppose the Diet of Worms had asked Luther the question, "Do you believe in purgatory?" Should we read this today who would be convicted of heresy by it, they or him? Similarly, now, I am constrained to class A. W. P. among those who do not believe God, because he proposes to try a fellow slave on charges which are not found in the word of God. I will not evade it, I absolutely refuse to believe A. W. P. On such a theme I would not believe him, even if he spoke the truth, but I would believe all that he can present from the word of God.
In conclusion, if A. W. P. will restate his dogmas in the words of the inspired original, I will sign his statements. If he cannot, he stands self-condemned, subject to the grace that knows no condemnation.
Briefly, we may summarize this point as follows: What do the Scriptures teach, that Christ is:
THE SON OF GOD
or God the Son?
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