At the outbreak of the first world war in 1914, Archibald McNeilage of the Free Church of Scotland wrote, “War, no matter how just soever it may be, is a national calamity and a divine judgment. It is placed by the Holy Spirit on the same plane as pestilence and famine. All these are servants of the Most High to punish men for transgression and for forgetfulness, if not open denial, of God.” He also listed as causes of God’s wrath with Britain, pride, luxury, and the spirit of unbelief entertained within the church itself. On the latter, he also wrote:
“An awakening consideration with regard to this German menace is the German Higher Criticism that has so long been patronised and imbibed by many leaders and schools of religious thought, especially in Presbyterian Scotland and Nonconformist England. For years past nothing would serve our aspiring youth and men of culture but a term in some German university, there to assimilate the godless learning of Harnack and Wellhausen. But God is now showing us that the haunt of a godless culture is also the land of barbaric militarism and that Krupp’s cannon factory is a related phenomenon to Pfleiderer’s infidel lecture room. This lesson is being taught, but whether it will be learnt is another matter. However, a more spiritual generation yet to come will easily discern that the quenching of the Holy Spirit, implied in the admired disquisitions of Harnack, or some other idolised exponent of a godless criticism is justly followed by the hardness of heart which breeds war and destruction” (A McNeilage, Diary of Kenneth MacRae).
Now here we are in 2020, over a hundred years have expired, and we have had yet another world war and further wars and rumours of wars. Today we have floods and pestilence, yet further evidence of God’s wrath upon our nation. And still, we might say with the godly Mr McNeilage, “this lesson is being taught, but whether it will be learnt is another matter.” The church in the West has never recovered from that virus which is far worse than any coronavirus, the virus of German Higher Criticism. Still, the scholars tinker with God’s word, casting shadows of doubt upon the few yet left occupying the pews. She has not learnt from the all severe and clear evidence we have of God’s judgments upon us as a nation, still, the unbelief persists. Alas, I fear, that God’s displeasure will remain with us until we do learn.