Arthur Cushman McGiffert (Presbyterian, USA, 1900)
Arthur Cushman McGiffert’s inaugural address at Union Theological Seminary was described as “most excellent Quaker teaching, but … a direct onslaught on the very basis of Reformed and, indeed, of the whole Protestant theology”. His 1897 book A History of Christianity in the Apostolic Age aroused much hostility. He worked on the basic assumption that historical change makes all religious teaching relative and there is no continuing “essence” of Christian history. The General Assembly strongly disapproved of the book, issued a warning to McGiffert and counselled him to reform his views or withdraw peaceably from the Presbytery. McGiffert refused to do either and the next Assembly referred the matter to the New York Presbytery, which disapproved of specific views but voted against another heresy trial. However, one member then filed formal heresy charges which were again brought to the General Assembly in 1900; McGiffert decided to withdraw “to save the Presbyterian Church which he loved dearly, from a great heresy trial.” He joined the Congregational Church and was president of Union Theological Seminary from 1917 to 1926.
Christian heresy in the modern era
This is the era that saw the rise of Modernism. Historicity is the new buzz word in certain academic circles, and has infected the religious departments of certain Ivy League universities. “Higher criticism” means that by a purely historical view, half the Bible is dismissed as myth, meaning is relative to the time as language evolves, and the criteria for proving historical truth is so strict that if applied to any other historical figure, we would have little “authentic history” about anything. Prof. Dale Martin of Yale is the poster boy of the Myth Theory. Remove relativism from these theories and they collapse like a house of cards.
St. Pope Pius X strongly condemned modernism as the synthesis of all heresies; it’s a slippery slope that leads to the death of faith. Notice that PASCENDI DOMINICI GREGIS was proclaimed a mere 10 years after the publication of McGiffert’s book, but the evil philosophy had already begun to take shape before that.
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