The third person is George Wellhausen. George Wellhausen was a German rationalist. In the last century, the Germans were the people who created the philosophy, the scientific know-how, and also the religious views that almost controlled the world, up until World War II. Many people believe that education will make people nice, fine, and decent, but the most educated people on earth at the time of World War II were the Germans. You couldn't be a philosopher, a medical man, or a theologian, without knowing what the Germans were saying, because they ran the intellectual world. But they proved themselves to be a most evil people, responsible for the destruction of millions as they organized their effort of world conquest. The effect was fantastic. German rationalism came to its height in the middle of the nineteenth century. In about 1875, one man came to the forefront and gave us an interesting concept. His name was George Wellhausen, and his view is what we call “higher criticism.”
George Wellhausen was a biblical critic. He gave us the “documentary hypothesis” of Scripture—EJPD. “E” for Elohim, “J” for Jehovah, “P” for the priestly document, and “D” for the book of Deuteronomy. He divided up the Scriptures, and made it the best compilation of “human thoughts” that we have, but he denied the inspiration of the Bible. Consequently, the result was that rationalism took the place of revelation. How do you read the Bible? Do you read the Bible and say, “I will be a judge, and I will decide what it says to me,” or do you read the Bible and say:
More about Jesus in His Word,
Holding communion with my Lord.
Spirit of God my teacher be,
Showing the things of Christ to me.
There is a terrible difference between reading it the first way and reading at the second way. As a result of German rationalism, espoused by George Wellhausen, man became the master of the Bible, instead of being submissive to divine revelation. This was ruinous to Christianity. The Bible became, because of a documentary hypothesis and biblical criticism, a human book. Because it was a human book, it could be examined rationally, and therefore Christianity lost the fountainhead of divine revelation.
George Wellhausen's rationalism gave birth to the liberal movement that practically captured all of consular Christianity. Liberalism broke upon the United States after the turn of the century, and every single Christian school of any note was captured and taken over by this rationalistic theology. We have not recovered from it up to this very day. Not one school (such as Yale, Princeton, Harvard, and the others) that has been captured by the liberals, has recovered a conservative position. All of the great denominations were also captured by liberalism. Many denominations have liberal leadership, and it is a rare pastor who still stands for the faith once delivered to the saints.
For further information on this important theme, I would recommend a book, Christianity and Liberalism, written by the great Gresham Machen. Although it was published in the year 1923, it reads like it was written yesterday. He shows that Christianity and liberalism (even though it is called Christian) are two separate and distinct religions. They believe a different Bible, they worship a different Christ, they hold allegiance to a different God, they have a different definition of salvation, and there is no consonance between the two. When you are talking about religious liberalism, you are talking about something outside of Christianity.
What happened when liberalism broke upon the world? Think of yourself as being a professor in a school back in 1912 or 1915. You'd heard of evolution, and professed to believe it. Therefore, you believed that man had been emergent in his body, mind, and intelligence. You thought of yourself as riding upon the wave of historic optimism. Then, along came Karl Marx, and he gave you a dialectical view so you could think further of some sort of a wave motion, but then came Wellhausen and religious liberalism. He said, “Look, we used to think of God as the vindictive God of judgment that we see in the Old Testament, but now our minds have evolved. We view this thing more intelligently. God is not a God of vindictiveness; He is a God of love. And if he is a God of love, he cannot be offended. Therefore, sin is not an offense to a holy God. Sin is lack of education, lack of enlightenment, lack of personal realization. What we need is salvation by personal realization, salvation by education.” If the body of man has evolved, so has his mind. If his mind has evolved, so have his ideas. If his ideas have evolved, so have his concepts about God. The ideas of God in the Old Testament are immature. The idea that we have now, the God of love who forgives everything, that's the most mature idea of God.
If we except this image of God, we lose the doctrines of original sin, divine judgment, and the vicarious atonement of Christ on Calvary's cross. This so-called Christianity became poverty-stricken, and it looked like all was lost. People met in churches like Riverside Church in New York City, and they recited, “Every day and in every way, we are getting better and better.” They traded the message of the Bible for humanism and human optimism. The result is that out of most of the churches in United States today, very few still preach the faith once delivered to the saints, believe the gospel, and love Jesus Christ. But remember something, when you deny the faith (“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils”—1 Tim. 4:1), you don't just take one step down. You drop into the dark abyss.
Today the religious establishment is advocating some of the most terrible things imaginable, publishing the filthiest pornography, and propagating the most worthless causes. The early Church fathers were convinced that false doctrine was demonic. Corrupt religion is not just a nice thing that used to be better. Corrupt religion is one of the most evil things on the face of this earth. Lewis has written a beautiful little article called “Lilies That Fester,” in which he says they smell far worse than weeds. The greatest sins imaginable are committed the closest to the altar. The religious leader that defects from the faith so often becomes a reprobate beyond description, and the religious establishment in the world today is filled with reprobates. Who was it that announced, ”God is dead?” Was it Madalyn Murray O'Hair, one of the atheists? No, a Methodist theologian made this announcement, which is one of the most fearful things that a man can say and still pretend to have human intelligence.
It was at the same time that many new gospel movements came into being. Great tabernacles like Chicago Gospel Tabernacle, Moody Church, People's Church in Toronto, Canada, Kadel Tabernacle in Indianapolis, the Church of the Open Door in Los Angeles, and other independent works, rose by the grace of God and saved the day.
Almost all denominational tradition is unspeakably corrupt, so the only tradition worth living for is your generic relationship with Jesus Christ, and your personal acquaintance with Him and His power to save. Concerning faith, the Bible says:
Forasmuch as he know that he were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.
—1 Peter 1:18-19
The religious consular establishment has been badly shaken by liberalism. The only thing that saved the day was fundamentalist resurgence from independent sources, which is the life blood of Protestant Christianity in our time.