A Summary by Sosthenes of John Nelson Darby’s
The Irrationalism of Infidelity
Being a reply to Francis William Newman’s “Phases of Faith”
Man’s proud heart would have no God (at least, not one who should interfere with him or reveal Himself). He is very anxious to get rid of the One who besets him, who exposing his lusts and his pride, closes in his conscience on every side, and who bars his will, whilst telling him in love that He, God, does concern Himself with man’s thoughts, words, and actions.
This is not a review of the positive effects of Christianity, but no one can deny that there are positive proofs of it. There are more proofs of these Christian benefits than in any event, system, and human accomplishment in any civilized people on earth. Objectors who put this all out of sight must have a totally unsound mental process. However to satisfy them we need to examine every single one of their difficulties in detail.
In scripture we have the positive proof of the divine source of Christianity. Hence, any difficulty which I cannot solve personally, is a demonstration of my incompetence to deal with the difficulty. If I had a sound mind I would be content to say, “I do not know.” The facts, events and documents of Christianity are evidenced more fully than any other universally believed religious or historical account. In spite of this, it has met with such immense opposition, that every document and fact has had to be scrutinized with a closeness which left only what was incontestable uncontested. This is to be expected, because it presents the claims of a holy God, to which the antagonistic will of man will never submit. Hostile heathens, philosophical adversaries, heretical corrupters, foolish advocates, elaborate historians, voluminous commentators, authors and characters have had to authenticate its history and its doctrines even if they oppose them.
Nobody seriously attempts to deny the history of Christianity. They hate it, oppose it, seek to destroy it by force, and subvert it by argument and ridicule. The Jews are the living witnesses to the truth of this history. They possess the books of the Old Testament, which we do. Their existence against all odds confirms the Christianity they deny.
No book in existence compares with the New Testament scriptures. Nothing approaches its simplicity, power, moral depth and purity, its profound knowledge of God, and the way in which it shows God’s heart towards man. No book displays God as much, brings Him forward so constantly, without ever admitting anything unworthy of Him. It brings Him down so near man, yet shows Him always to be God. It reveals Him in person, in doctrine, in prophecy and in His ways. It gives the sincere worshipper the sense of a pure and perfect God’s sympathy.
The scriptures introduce God manifest in flesh. We are therefore occupied with what is infinite. Nevertheless, God expresses known and perfect truth in such a simple way. Paul would sometimes labour beyond the bounds of human language, to express the thoughts of a heart which possesses more than it can contain.
Take the scene with the shepherds, when the incarnation is announced to a fallen world. Can anything exceed its simplicity? Yet what thoughts are unfolded in a few words: “Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth, good will towards men!” Luke 2:14 But Jesus Himself is to be revealed. That is more than the expression of man’s feelings about Him. What a testimony that is to the Holy Ghost being the real author of these histories of Jesus – not Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. There is a divine stamp on the whole history.
If we look at the history of the patriarchs, and the writings of the prophets, there is a unity of design, and a completeness of structure in them despite the fact that the prophets could not possibly have known what was to take place. This proves the unity of the mind of the Being whose revealing power and controlling thought and knowledge run through scripture from beginning to end.
The law as such does not admit the gospel; and the gospel sets aside the legal system. Nonetheless the law and the prophets all prove the as-yet-unannounced gospel.
There is no mention of the Church whatever in the Old Testament, yet it satisfies what these prophecies have revealed. Without the Church, the world would have remained without any direct revealed association with God. The Church is heavenly, which the world and Jewish government cannot be. The Church is revealed at the appropriate time, and not before, because it sets aside the whole previous system of Jew and Gentile. Had this revelation been made earlier, it would have destroyed all the authority of that which existed.
If scripture be of God, nothing can be hid from its power. The very proof is in its universality, infallibility, and constancy, right down to the minutest detail. No mere man could produce this.
One failure in scripture would proves that God was not there! Such is logic, at least the logic of the objectors. Take some humanly inexplicable phenomenon, such as the virgin birth. Is that a proof that there is no God, no perfect Creator and Sustainer of the universe? The wise man, sure of the undeniable proofs, will say, ‘I cannot understand it.’ If taught of God, he knows that evil has come in, and that sorrow and confusion are the fruit of it. He does not attribute the evil to God, but accepts that God permits it.
It is in vain to say, ‘I can show by the order of physical laws how it must have happened’. Who made the physical laws? That there is a law of nature is proof to the human conscience of a universal order. Why then is there an objection to God revealing what is inexplicable? There is but one reason. Revelation controls the passions, which creation does not. Man does not like the thought of judgment to come, and his having to answer to God for sin. Revelation treats this; and man does not like it. Man will allow for a God of providence. But to be judged by Him, or even to own himself before God as a sinner, and to be in such a humble a condition as to be loved by Him and to need His love, that is another matter.
Now, if God has given us a history, He must have had an object. He has not given us the history of His blessed Son merely to amuse us with facts. Revelation is not history. God selects those things that reveal Him in Christ as the Son of Man, not simply the Jewish Messiah. So large gaps may be found in the history. Historical events may be presented in a moral, not necessarily in a chronological order.
The same facts may be presented differently to bring out distinct features of His character. Grace will always shine forth; but not perhaps in the same way. Jesus is presented differently in the various gospels. Matthew presents Him in relation to the promises made to Israel: hence the constant quotation of prophecy. In John He is God Himself come down from heaven. In the beginning He was with God, and was God. Then the Word was made flesh. There is no manger of Bethlehem here. His genealogy is divine. The Jews reject Him in this character. In Luke He is the Son of Adam, though historically connected with the Jewish people. Mark gives us the gospel-service of Christ, and we have nothing before John the Baptist’s ministry.
If God gives a revelation, He must have an object, an the revelation must be suited to that object, or it would be imperfect and inefficient. Any objection raised must be against the work God pursues in reaching His object. To prove He has not given a revelation, the objector must show that the passage objected to is contrary to God’s purpose. God’s revelation is not to satisfy man’s curiosity in any way, but to instruct him. Were it so, it would prove it was not God who wrote it.
The Irrationalism of Infidelity PARTICULAR OBJECTIONS —
In the following sections, I will provide a summary of the principal objections which are made to the message of scripture, adding to them as time will allow. All of the objections will be listed, but with many (all to start with), the reader will be directed to the original text