Historical-Criticicism Critiqued - Part 8

by Etta Linnemann

(Editor's preface: How have conservatives and liberals come to be so far apart? Etta Linnemann has seen both sides, for she was first a student of Rudolph Bultmann and Ernst Fuchs and later a professor of theology at Braunschweig Technical University-until the Lord showed her the falsity of the historical-critical system. ("My ‘no' to historical-critical theology stems from my ‘yes!' to my wonderful Lord and Savior Jesus Christ….") This concludes the series taken from Chapter Six of her now-out-print book, Historical Criticism of the Bible-Methodology or Ideology? [Baker Books, c. 1990].) In it Ms. Linnemann reveals not only the false assumptions of historical criticism but also how students are caught up in the system and turned into reproductions of their liberal professors.

It is said that the old concepts, as they were originally used, are no longer accessible to modern man, and one must therefore transpose the concepts into the contemporary situation. It is demanded that there be a distinction made in God's Word between what is said and what is meant. But against these claims the Scripture asserts: "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

It is likewise said that Holy Scripture is both Word of God and word of man, as our Lord Jesus is God and man, according to church confession. The same confession, however, asserts that these natures of Christ are "without confusion, without separation."* It is therefore not permissible, and also not possible, to sort out the time-conditioned human word from the eternally valid divine Word. In a mixture of iron filings and sawdust, one can use a magnet to draw out the iron. God's Word, however, is not a mixture of valid Word of God and time-conditioned word of man which can be separated from each other.

Consequences of Historical-Critical Theology

These lines are not written for the purpose of condemning persons for whom, after all, our Lord Jesus went to the cross. The purpose is rather to characterize the danger posed by the system of historical-critical theology. What I have tried to do is comparable to putting an appropriate warning label on a bottle of poisonous liquid, so that no one inadvertently drinks it thinking it will be a nutritious and tasty snack.

If one realizes what critical study of theology involves, then one will no longer automatically assume that someone should of course study theology if he is called by God to become an apostle, a missionary, an evangelist, a pastor, or a teacher (see Eph. 4:11). In the world one must, if possible, complete a course of study in order to have a good income and "make something out of life." This world is not our home, however, but our citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20). We are admonished not to be conformed to the world (Rom. 12:2). We are not to forget that the world hates us (John 15:19; 1 John 3:13). We are soldiers of Jesus Christ, and no soldier sets out without marching orders, especially not into enemy territory. If he does it anyway, he is asking for a lot of trouble.

A young person facing the question of whether to engage in critical theological study should, with a pure heart and with willingness to give up personal plans, ask God if that is His will. The individual should gain clear guidance regarding a call by the Lord, not only to become a strategic component in the body of Christ (Eph. 4:16), but also expressly to the formal study of theology.

Whomever the Lord calls to formal theological training should give himself joyously and confidently to the task as an envoy of the King, who knows how to protect His subjects even under a theology faculty. But the student must plot movements there with care, like a soldier does behind enemy lines.

Whoever has not received such a call to get formal theological training should know that many possibilities are available to our Father in heaven for preparing a person for service:

• Joseph was not trained in the royal academy of administration to be second in command over Egypt under Pharaoh, but rather in the royal dungeon.

• Moses, since he was regarded as a son of Pharaoh's daughter, was instructed in all the sciences and arts of the Egyptians. But what prepared him to lead his people out of Egypt into the Promised Land was a forty-year education as a shepherd in the desert for his father-in-law Jethro.

• Joshua received his preparation through serving as Moses' subordinate for a period of decades.

God says, "My son, give me your heart and let your eyes keep to my ways" (Prov. 23:26).

* [Linnemann refers to the Definition of Chalcedon (A.D. 451), in which theologians acknowledged Christ's two natures, both existing "unconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, and inseparably." See "Chalcedon, Definition of (451 )," in J. D. Douglas, ed., The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), 209.1