Thursday, October 10, 2013


A sermon by Dr. Walter A. Maier
Christian News, Vol. 51, No. 39, October 14, 2013

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. — Proverbs. 1:7

God, most mighty and compassionate: We raise thank-filled hearts this afternoon to praise the love and power that have preserved unto us Thy saving Word. But earnestly do we entreat Thee that this promise of salvation through the blood of Thy Son may continue its blessed work in our hearts, our homes, our churches, our nation. Rise up in Thy strength, O Lord of hosts, to defeat the hell-born counsel of those who would destroy the message of the Cross. Give to the education of the young devout leaders who are not ashamed of Thy Son and His Gospel. Grant unto us Christian homes, as fortresses of Christian faith; pious parents who will teach Thy truth to their children; faithful pastors who seek to please Thee and not to please men. And as this Word now speeds out into Thy firmament, endow it with the power of Thy Spirit, so that it may bless many with the Savior’s promise, "Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out." We ask this in His blessed name. Amen.

THE recent brilliant gathering of American scientists in St. Louis forcefully reminded us that our age has sworn complete hostility to every form of ignorance. As the vast panorama of progress unfolds itself before us, we behold restless research penetrating far beyond the fringe of civilization. In the silence of an Antarctic night a dogsled mushes along, carrying an expedition that would wrest nature’s secrets from her frozen grasp. In a fever-infested jungle a doctor lies in wait to discover a new treatment for the ravages of epidemic. Archeologists remove the debris of the centuries from Mesopotamian mounds; astronomers camp on South Sea islands to observe a solar eclipse; physicists measure cosmic rays; chemists are on the quest of a new element, biologists scrutinize life cells; electrical wizards create superenergies. We are thrilled by the voyages into the stratosphere and by the submarine descents into the bathysphere; we read with astonishment of the revolutionary discoveries in sound and light transmission; and on all sides we behold investigations that daily extend the human horizon and help to make this the age of history’s greatest enlightenment.

The Church views all this as a special benediction from God. It does not hide its head in the sand of ignorance while the pageant of science marches on. Wherever the Cross of Christ is raised, ignorance is banished, and the arts and the sciences are systematically promoted. The greatest schools of the world were founded by the Church, just as the greatest minds of the ages have been Christians. It is only when human reason rules out God and blasphemously raises unholy hands to pull down the Savior’s Cross that the Church voices its uncompromising protest.

This rebuke must be reaffirmed today because avowed atheists are too frequently and too securely enthroned in the high and low places of American education. Your sons and daughters in the plastic age of high-school adolescence or in the four formative years of college life are sometimes exposed to the soul-blighting influence of men who go out of their way to lampoon the Christian religion. In hundreds of tax-supported schools the basic American principle that our public education is to be free from anti-religious influence is willfully swept aside. In hundreds of pulpits — and could any disloyalty more quickly invoke the wrath of God Almighty? — clerical unbelief joins in the away-with-God, away-with-the-Bible campaign to exalt the triumph of reason over religion.

My appeal to you this afternoon, based on the words in the seventh verse, first chapter, of the Book of Proverbs, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge," asks your interest, your prayers, your action, for a wide-spread Christian awakening under the cry: —BACK TO BIBLE TRUTH! an issue which means far more to this nation and its eighth of a billion inhabitants than the absorbing events which mightily engage our attention. THE BIBLE AS THE BASIS OF HUMAN KNOWLEDGE There is no fear of God either in the beginning or in the end of much that is paraded as the assured results of modern investigation. We read the opening verse of the Bible: "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth"; but before we have completed the verse, loud objections are raised. "God created the world?" we are challenged. ‘Why, any high-school teacher can tell you that we are too far advanced to believe in Genesis." "We know definitely," they continue, "that this earth came into being at least two thousand million years ago (the minimum figure according to the latest outline of science), when by sheer chance a wandering star approached too closely to the sun and tore off a cigar-shaped filament to form the earth."

We read on in the Scriptures to find man as God’s masterpiece, made in His divine image. But again the voice of denial taunts: "God created man? Don’t you know we have proof positive of man’s gradual ascent — again by purest chance — from primary organisms that clung to slimy rocks? Don’t you know that our natural-history museums offer exhibits which verify man’s ape ancestry?"

We turn to the second chapter of Genesis to learn that, as God’s supreme creation, man was endowed with the intelligent gift of speech. "But," we are warned, "if you believe this, you show a second-rate mentality; for investigation has proved that the first hairy apelike monkey-man could not speak and only accidentally learned to imitate the sounds and cries of his animal world."

As we turn each page of the Bible, new batteries of hatred are trained against God’s Word; and because even churchmen are straddling the issue or are bowing down before the gilded idol of "science falsely so called;’ as sponsored by men whose names leap from head-line to headline in our newspapers and showy magazines, this blatant atheism threatens to warp the mind of America’s rising generation and to hoodwink them into believing they must bid the Bible farewell if they would be enlightened, intelligent, and up to date.

The Church must mobilize; for this stabbing denial strikes deep into the vitals of our Christian faith. If we cannot accept the first pages of the Bible, how can we believe the last? Let there be no mistake about this basic fact: you cannot deny any one statement from Genesis to Revelation without weakening the entire authority of the Scriptures. It is either the whole Bible or no Bible.

What, then, is the Church’s task in this struggle between God and the brute, between the providential guidance of a heavenly Father and blind chance? What else can it be than to reaffirm its faith in the truth that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning" of all knowledge and to show the failure, the insufficiency, the deceit, that lurk in every theory that would pull God down from His heavens?

Remember there is no uniformity in the attacks led by the generalissimos of atheism. For instance, the Exhibit A, the star witness in the defense of evolution, is the Java fossils widely hailed as the remains of the first apelike man. Now, not I nor the Church, but the Smithsonian Institution in Washington lists fifteen major points on which scientists hold contradictory opinions concerning these three bone fragments. They are not even agreed that the fossils belong to one creature. Many hold that they are ape remains. In spite of this wide-spread disagreement and the suspicious way in which these bones have been handled they are employed by imagination, not by science, to construct a slinking, brutish, apelike man, who is to demonstrate that the Bible account of creation is an exploded myth. I ask the members in this audience, entirely apart from the religious issues, whether any court in the land could admit testimony as contradictory as this.

Glaring errors crop out on every page of scientific history. The great Huxley announced that he had found the primary living substance in slimy ooze at the bottom of the sea. Congratulations poured in upon him. The scientific world was agog for a decade or two, until it was found that this gelatine life which was to disprove divine creation and to establish brute origin was concocted when a quantity of alcohol was poured into a bottle of sea water. Medical anesthesia was denied by scientists; the action of microbes ridiculed, the telephone declared ventriloquism, railroad construction branded as an absurdity, meteors ruled out as impossible, the theory that the blood circulates through the body regarded as stupid twaddle.

A lecturer at the American Academy of Science derided the idea of piping water to the upper floors of a building. A German scientist of the last century declared that nerve impulses could never be measured; yet at the recent convention in St. Louis the biology department of Washington University exhibited apparatus that, besides serving other purposes, recorded exact nerve measurements.

Besides, this cutthroat criticism of the Bible has perpetually been marked by misrepresentations. The great Haeckel, who for years dominated scientific biological thought in Germany, stooped to falsehood and fraudulently used the same illustration to picture the embryo of a dog, an ape, and a man.

Now, my purpose in naming a few of these major blunders committed, not by dabbling amateurs, but by recognized research leaders, is not to discredit their work; for we profit even by mistakes and advance by trial and error investigations. I simply want to repeat what the greatest scientists themselves have declared, that a system which has wandered into so many blind alleys, which has repeatedly been marked by mistakes, cannot rightfully claim to offer us the absolute truth now nor demand that its findings be substituted for the eternal Word. Are you ready to build on shifting sands, to base your hopes on theories that are advocated to-day only to be discarded tomorrow? Or do you want that Word of which God Himself says: "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My Word shall not pass away"?

We must hark back to the fear of the Lord as the beginning of wisdom; for without that reverence, crime and godlessness in our nation will run on to ruin. You cannot exile God without banishing morality, virtue, law, and order. Why is it that today crime has followed in the footsteps of each bold advance of atheism; that cold-blooded murder and bestial lust are taking the greatest toll in all American history? Is all this not because the philosophy of the brute has assumed the upper hand in many hearts and lives, because Wanton lecturers are invading our campuses to scream in one of their pointed slogans:

"Animals we are, and animals we remain"? Is it only a coincidence that the terrible World War was fought in an age of highest culture and intellectual advance? You know that behind every declaration of war lurked the obsession of power, the ambitions for profits (and true patriots serve without pay and without 30,000,000 dripping dollars’ commission), the whole cruel survival-of-the-fittest mania that helped to catapult nations into blood, misery, scurvy, starvation, insanity, suicide.

I ask you, the Christian men and women of America, to find in Christian education the first antidote to the double-strength poison. We must do more than train the mind; we must influence the soul, and for that, Jesus says, "without Me ye can do nothing." A college degree may be the evidence of mental cleverness, but it is no certificate to morality. An illiterate murderer kills with an ax and pays the penalty; but the college killer invents slow tortures for his writhing victims and cheats justice through unprincipled attorneys. You will often find that the men or women behind the lust and the filth of the sensuous novel or the debauch of cheap printed obscenity are college graduates. An unlearned thief, shivering in the breadline, will steal food from municipal headquarters; but the sleek, well-nourished college-trained extortioner will steal the city’s treasury.

Now, to provide for Christian education which not only will mold the mind, but strengthen the heart, and which emphasizes the fear of the Lord as the beginning of every branch of knowledge, the congregations of my Church have established almost 1,400 Christian day-schools throughout the nation, where the love of Christ and the principles of true Christianity are taught daily. The facilities of most of these schools are offered free of charge to parents who wish to give their children a moral basis in life, religious reverence, the spiritual hope that comes with Christ. I shall be glad to write to any of you personally and tell you how your children may enroll in these Christian schools, just as I shall consider it a privilege to give you further information on Christian colleges in which the fear of the Lord permeates the lectures and the lives of the instructors. THE BIBLE AS THE BASIS OF SPIRITUAL KNOWLEDGE In a much more exalted sense, however, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of all spiritual wisdom; for it is only when men reverently and penitently approach God in Christ that they find the crystal-clear truth for their everlasting salvation.

Have you ever stopped to realize that there are only two kinds of religion? The one — call it by as many different names as you will, disguise it in as many different ways as you can, — a class of man-made religions, is solidly united in offering heaven as a payment, a reward for character and accomplishment, in demanding of its followers that they earn their way into heaven and pay for blessedness by good works, good intentions, and good resolutions. And on the other side, separated by an unbridged chasm, is that true soul wisdom which proclaims, "Christ died for our sins," and reaffirms the promise of God that, when the "bleeding Head and wounded" dropped into death with the gasp "It is finished," Christ earned all, gave all, paid all, so that His word holds for all the immeasurable glory of this free, unconditioned, unrestricted, unlimited Gospel faith: "By grace are ye saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God."

Other teachers have left their followers clutched by paralyzing fear of the hereafter; but it is the eternally blessed Christ who offers heaven as a blessed certainty, so that timid and weary souls can do more than yearn for heaven, pray for heaven, hope for heaven; they can rejoice in heaven, repeating the sacred conviction that nothing "shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus."

Cold-blooded anti-Biblical science makes man a human accident. Under its cruel teachings life becomes a hard, unsolved mystery, full of question-marks, leading through heaped disappointments to a futile end. But Christ’s heavenly wisdom comes to the aid of millions who have felt the cold, hard impact of the last years to tell them that in Christ we are the children of God; that through faith in His redemption He becomes the guiding, strengthening, interpreting, atoning force in our hearts and lives; that whatever befalls us, even broken promises, accidents, sieges of sickness, bankruptcy, and impoverishment, all may serve, through Christ, to refine our faith, purify our desires, and strengthen our courage.

Now, we may not be able to understand all the sacred truths of the Christian faith — the profound mystery that Christ is both divine and human, that His blood is the cleansing power for all human sin, that the Holy Spirit works in human hearts to make new-born men and women. But are there not thousands of factors in our every-day life that we cannot understand and explain? You cannot account for the powers and processes by which a single seed of an elm-tree planted in the ground first decays and then sprouts forth to become a mighty tree, which in the course of its life may produce one thousand five hundred and eighty-four millions of seeds; yet you know that there are elm-trees and that they grow in this way. You cannot understand the processes by which my voice is brought to you through hundreds of miles in the fraction of a second; yet there is no doubt that you in this moment hear these words. Now, if we are surrounded by unnumbered facts, all far beyond the power of our analysis and understanding, yet each real and actual, would it not be a double folly, as Jesus reminded Nicodemus, to spurn the invitation of Christ’s mercies because we cannot explain them by the processes of our slow and narrow reasoning? You cannot prove the truth of Christ’s redemption by laboratory methods. His special blessing embraces those "that have not seen and yet have believed," who have the witness of the Spirit in their own hearts.

This blessing of unshaken confidence would I invoke upon your hearts as I ask you to join that great company of courageous witnesses who have heard Jesus say to His Father, "Thy Word is truth," and who believe it — men of world-wide renown like Virchow, the great pathologist, whose last prayer, spoken in the presence of his fellow-scientists, was the confession: — Jesus’ blood and righteousness My beauty are, my glorious dress; Pasteur, whose revolutionary discoveries in preventive medicine have saved thousands of lives, yet who confessed: "The more I know, the more nearly my faith is that of a Breton peasant"; Brewster, physicist, showered with international honors, who declared: "It is presumptuous to doubt Christ’s Word"; Fleming, authority in electricity, whose inventions paved the way for broadcasting, who writes: "Nothing in the... facts or principles of science forbids belief in the Gospel miracles."

In the midst of this Epiphany season I ask you, then, to come with the mind of the Magi; and as these Oriental sages and scientists laid their tribute at the feet of the Christ-child, I beseech you in His name to offer the gold of your courageous faith, the frankincense of your abiding hope, and the myrrh of your increasing devotion. Amen. [This Lutheran Hour sermon first aired in January 1936]

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