Evangelical Protestantism and the Biblical Studies of M.Godet: Part 1

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The following pages were hastily penned at the request of a person who was keenly affected by the teaching which M. Godet's books presented in a popular form to the Christian public. Others having read the manuscript requested that it might be printed on account of the extreme gravity of the false doctrines it exposes. It was not without some reluctance that the author yielded to this request, the evidence of which will appear in the opening lines of this little work.
Besides mentioning the imperfections attached to a work undertaken whilst traveling, and in the midst of the innumerable fatigues accompanying the ministry of the word, the author considered, that in order to form a correct idea of his system as a whole, it would have been needful for him to make himself acquainted with all M. Godet's works. He has therefore merely limited himself to noting three essential points, which will suffice in his opinion to warn the people of the Lord against a teaching that assails His word, His person, and His work.
M. Godet has many times answered the objections of rationalists, and this I acknowledge gladly. Had not the writings now before me falsified the very gospel itself, I should never have taken the pen in hand. I shall, in those writings, examine but three fundamental points relating to the gospel: The authority of the word, and inspiration: The person of Christ: and lastly, His work. I have during my life had too much of controversy to seek for it. In one's old age moral repose, Christ Himself, is that which the heart seeks beyond all else.
It is somewhat difficult to one whose thoughts have been derived from the word itself, to answer such a book as that of M. Godet, in which the author in serving himself of expressions used by that word, attaches to them some peculiar signification of his own. Thus the scriptures speak of redemption as the work of the Savior, and that according to the common acceptation of the word, although the means used to workout that redemption are not in accordance with the world's thoughts. The scriptures speak of redemption as of a deliverance effected by a ransom, and subsequently by a power producing a full result in behalf of those for whom that ransom has been paid. “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of offenses.” (Eph. 1:99Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: (Ephesians 1:9).) “Awaiting adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.” (Rom. 8:2323And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. (Romans 8:23).)
Redemption, according to M. Cadet, is but a positive interposition of God in the history of mankind—a work of education which has put on the character of a redemption. This word appears in the election of one family, and it is seen in development as that family gradually becomes transformed into a people. The manner in which M. Godet seeks to justify this definition of redemption is somewhat peculiar. He thus quotes 1 Cor. 1:2121For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. (1 Corinthians 1:21). “Since by wisdom the world has not known God in his wisdom, it has pleased God to save by the foolishness of preaching those who believe.” I confess that by no efforts of reflection have I succeeded in comprehending how this passage shows redemption to be a work of education. The quotation moreover is false. It is written, “since in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom hath not known God, God hath been pleased, by the foolishness of the preaching, to save those that believe.” One of the unpleasant things that occur in such of M. Godet's writings as I have examined is, that at least half the passages he uses are inaccurately quoted.
According to the author, promised salvation is, by Christ's advent, consummated in His person; the people, having rejected Him, perishes; and then salvation is proclaimed to the world by the elect of the nation. “And by this double result of Israel's history, the religion of redemption with all its antecedents becomes divinely sealed.” Is this the redemption of which the Bible speaks? But let us proceed. “To this primary fact, a second is necessarily attached. The work of redemption, which we have just sketched out, has been accompanied by a work of revelation.” “How has God accomplished this great work?” —that is, that of redemption— “He has made use of human agents for this work. And to effect, this, it was needful for Him to attract, to win, and to attach them to Himself. Consequently it was necessary to make known to them His projected work—to unfold the scheme, at least according to the measure in which they wore to come in the execution of it. He must also make them contemplate prospectively its glorious goal; in order that they might be enabled to interest themselves by acquaintance with the purpose, and be laborers with Him in it, in a manner worthy of the work and of God Himself, with conscience and liberty.” “The phases of revelation also keep pace with those of redemption.” “At the period when God called Abraham to found with Himself the work of redemption, He revealed Himself to him.”
There are many things I might take up in the pages whence I make these quotations, but I abstain from so doing, my aim being to expose the basis of M. Godet's system. I shall, I trust, abstain from expressing my own sentiments with regard to all stated by the author. At this time, I shall occupy myself less with his manner of presenting revelation than with the views be presents in another work upon the Lord Jesus Christ. Possibly I may be wrong; but I fear offending that Savior by using expressions which might give occasion to believe I knew not by what spirit I was actuated. Therefore I shall confine myself to placing the views contained in these books in contrast with what is found in the word.
My reader might suppose that, in speaking of revelation and the work of the prophets, M. Godet occupied himself with the Bible. Not so. The Bible, as such, is to him no revelation, and this he formally avows. At page 10 he says, “The Bible therefore, notice it well, is not revelation itself; it is, properly speaking, the narrative given of revelation.” “The statement” of those truths is “the authentic document of the redemption of the human race, as well as of the revelations by which that work has been accompanied.” What then is revelation? It is “a fact which has its place between God and His agent; the place of holy scripture is between that agent and the rest of humanity.” (Ibid.) With regard to the first part of the last phrase, I should have no difficulty in accepting it, were not the definition of the word revelation in question. Whether it be applied to the immediate communication God makes to the instrument He deigns to employ, or whether it be solely applied to the fact that that instrument through the Spirit announces to others what has been revealed to him, it is equally “a revelation from God.”
But if one limits oneself to consider the communication made to the instrument employed then in that which concerns us (us, “the remainder of mankind"), the whole question remains unanswered. In fact, what have we got, we who are not the recipients of that immediate communication? We have a given statement—but given by whom? Is that given statement a correct one? “An authentic document” is too vague a term to throw a true light on this point; moreover, this is all extremely superficial. It is, in fact, to us, no question of whether the document be authentic, but whether its entire contents be absolutely true, and given by God. The expression itself is very inaccurate. It is no given statement.
(To be continued)