SIR ROBERT ANDERSON
Secret Service Theologian
Then said Great-Heart to Mr. Valiant-for-Truth "Thou hast worthily behaved thyself. Let me see thy sword."
So he showed it to him. When he had taken it in his hand and looked thereon a while, he said,
"Ha! it is a right Jerusalem blade."
The Pilgrims Progress.
With the conscientiousness and courage of an Old Testament prophet Sir Robert Anderson sounded the trumpet of alarm, and led the battle against the errors which he believed were destroying the fundamentals of Christianity.
His lot to a large extent was the loneliness of the man who seeks to be a prophet of God, faithfully proclaiming God's message without regard to results, not a leader following the line of least resistance and seeking to gather round him the largest number of followers. The age needs such men.
May God multiply the number.
The Rev. A. C. DIXON, D.D., in The Biblical Recorder.
TO some people my father was known chiefly as a fearless
and by no means gentle critic of the methods and findings of modern destructive
Biblical criticism. "Would that the Daniel controversy could be brought before
some competent tribunal!" he once said. And the test of competency should be
adequate knowledge of the science of evidence, together with experience of
inquiries of the kind, and a fair share of that rare quality called common
sense. Reasonable qualifications, surely; but in each of them the critics
seemed singularly wanting. "If you are a man of affairs," he wrote," and
especially if you be a trained lawyer or an experienced juror, you are better
fitted to deal with the Daniel controversy than the Hebraist, the professor or
the ecclesiastic as such. The Christian who gives up Daniel at the bidding of
the professor is both intellectually and morally on a level with the Roman
Catholic peasant who blindly takes his creed from his priests." The publication
of one of his books brought a letter from Mr. Gladstone impressing on him that
one of the distinguished scholars arraigned in it was wholly lacking in the
judgment needed for such an enquiry. And Matthew Arnold, in spite of sympathy
with the critics, had not been able to refrain from saying:
"Shut a number of men up to make study and learning the business of their lives, and how many from want of some discipline or other seem to lose all balance ofjudgment, all common sense!" And after speaking of the ordeal of a strong and strict sense of fact, Arnold went on to say:
"We are much mistaken if it does not turn out that this ordeal makes great havoc among the vigorous and rigorous theories of German criticism concerning the Bible documents."
Although the critics practically ignored him as a mere layman, such opinions encouraged Sir Robert in continually stressing the point that their proper place was in the witness-box as experts; and that they had no right to appoint themselves judge and jury into the bargain. And he claimed that consideration for the critics as men should not prevent very strong speaking about their opinions and their "assured results."
This explains in part the vigour of his attacks on them. Another side was well brought out in a review of the first edition of this memoir in Evangelical Christendom
"The Church of Christ owes a great debt to the memory of Sir Robert Anderson. . . . It is a great mistake to suppose that he was a narrow-minded man, or an opponent of legitimate criticism, or a mere unreasoning champion of orthodoxy. He had insight into the full-orbed Gospel, and his attachment to Christ amounted to a passion which sometimes - as for instance against the blasphemous 'New Theology' teaching - found full display. . . . Sir Robert was a humble Christian of a most tender disposition as we were privileged to know by experience."
Another review in The Christian World had this appreciation
"Ulster had a typical son in Sir Robert Anderson, whose strongly marked personality was familiar in strict evangelical circles for half a century. It was through several protective rinds that one had to pass to get to the simple pleasantness of the Christian father and friend. He was first (outwardly) the keen, relentless Secret Service agent, the terror of Irish rebels; he was the 'no-surrender' foe of Biblical criticism ; he was the tireless speaker, preacher and writer for his faith. But when his day's fight was done he was lovable and much loved. Friend and foe alike, recalling that austere and dignified presence, will gladly read this outline of his full and consistent life."
It is entirely true that he was no opponent of legitimate criticism, being, as he often used to say, by temperament and training a sceptic and critic himself; and he was far from being an unreasoning up-holder of orthodox views as such. But lifelong study of the whole Bible as a whole made him ever more firmly convinced of its Divine authority and integrity. His belief in its inspiration (in the fullest sense of the word) rested on no merely negative ground, as this extract from a letter well shows:
"Beneath all these special lines of truth there lies the many-stranded line of type and prophecy running unbroken through the Bible, giving proof upon proof that it is all Divine. A moral fitness moreover is needed for the study of it. . . . And of course one must know something of the deeper language in which it is written. I do not mean Hebrew or Greek, but type and anti-type - that language which speaks Christ in it throughout. Refer to Alford's Commentary (Greek Testament) on Luke xxiv'.
But all this is beyond the ken of the Critics. Some of them give sad proof that they are spiritually ignorant of God. None give proof that they know anything of this meaning of the whole Scriptures as a whole."
The letter went on to give his own experience along these lines. At one time his natural scepticism had seized upon the plain differences in the four Gospels as proof that they could not be Divinely inspired. But an address in a friend's drawing-room turned the points which once more shunted him on to the line of faith. In a rapid summary of the Synoptic Gospels the speaker showed how each followed consistently what the writer was being used of God to unfold. Matthew revealed the Son of David and Abraham, Israel's Messiah and King, in all the circle of their earthly promises and hopes. Mark revealed the Servant humbly fulfilling the work of God. Luke spoke of the son of Adam - the Son of Man - revealed on the wider platform of Gentile and world blessing. And then John revealed the moral glory of the Only-begotten of the Father, with no special mention of the Nativity or even of the Ascension. "Light shone on the Book where all had been doubt and darkness; and I learned that while I boasted of being a superior person and a critic, I was but a poor conceited ignoramus."
This new light on the Gospels led him to turn afresh to the Old Testament as well as to the rest of the New Testament in a study of the Scriptures as a whole. The "assured result" was an ever-deepening belief in the Divine nature of Holy Writ. This was the positive basis of his faith. On the other hand, long and patient investigation, with all his experience of weighing evidence, led to the conclusion that the modern criticism could be met and answered on its own ground. And realising that its claims could be made good only at the cost of discrediting the testimony of the Lord Himself, he felt that in resisting it "we are contending for our all." In the main it was a lonely and difficult path, laying one open to much misunderstanding. But there were many to encourage and cheer him on.
Dr. A. T. Pierson of the United States, well known and beloved also in Britain, wrote : "R' The more I know you the more I feel that like Esther you are 'come to the kingdom for such a time as this.' You believe as I do in carrying the war into the enemies' camp." And again : ".
"Your remarkable paper in which you handle the critics without gloves. It is trenchant, vigorous in argument, irresistible in logic, and shows a remarkable adroitness in marshalling testimony."
Canon J. McCormick, of St. James's, Piccadilly, said
"How some of the Higher Critics dislike your writings! If you did not hit them hard they would take no notice of you. I pray God to give you more and more grace in defence of His truth. . . . The Bishop of - thinks your language a bit strong. Something strong is needed when the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection are denied by professing Christians. Some of the critics are so conceited that they deserve some pointed epithets. . . . Some try to get rid of you by saying, 'Oh, he cannot teach;, he is only a layman.' But you need not mind. Sacerdotal critics are peculiar "I am only a plodder and slow by nature," wrote Canon R. B. Girdlestone, "but I am thankful if I can supply cartridges for quick-firing guns like yourself. People are only half awake to the enemies' tactics. If Christ may not be trusted with regard to the past, how about the future? And what about the' Ransom for many?'" "The attacks have their value," wrote Dr. Robert Sinker of Cambridge; "they show you have struck a blow which is felt." And another friend said on a special occasion : "I am looking out for the glitter of your sword." Lord Rosebery gave his support in these words
"My DEAR SIR ROBERT, - I am very grateful for the book, and glad that you have taken up the cudgels for revealed religion which in these days needs all its defenders.
"Yours sincerely, R."
On the general question of Biblical criticism a valuable opinion was expressed in the following letter from Dr. Oswald Dykes, ex-Principal of Westminster College, Cambridge:
"I am not an expert in Old Testament criticism, and with some of the material on which critics operate I am quite disqualified to deal. But 1 am unable to suppress the suspicion - shared probably by many in my position - that there has been a great deal of rashness and over-haste in drawing conclusions from weak or uncertain data, and in confidently offering for 'results' positions that can only be described as more or less probable conjectures. There is plenty of room in my judgment for such warning and protesting works as yours, with their appeal from the 'expert' to the trained weigher of evidence."
The fact of the German origin of much modern Biblical criticism is if possible of even gPeater importance now than a a generation ago. Sir Andrew Wingate, K.C.I.E., writing after my father's death, drew attention to this aspect in the following words: "His training, aptitude and experience alike fitted him to be a leading antagonist of German slanderous and malignant attacks upon the Bible, and enable him to face a false scholarship before which the Churches quailed.
Long before the war Sir Robert appreciated whither such insinuations against truth must lead a people, and in Germany we have seen their absorption into the mind turn a nation in one generation into devil-inspired brutes. The British owe a deep debt to Sir Robert for having raised a powerful barrier against the unquestioned acceptance of these falsehoods which were already infecting our teaching of Scripture."
On this question my father himself wrote in 1915:
"The Kultur which has produced results so widespread and deplorable is none other than the latter-day phase of the Satan gospel of Eden, 'Ye shall be as gods.' Such is the sinister power behind the infidel crusade of the sham 'Higher Criticism ' - the most subtle attack that has ever been launched against the faith. And it is as successful as it is subtle. For in a single generation it has led to the dethronement not only of the Bible but of the Christ of the Bible in Germany. . . . The German people have been taught to regard the most sacred of all sacred words as merely 'a scrap of paper.' And this is the Kultur which has changed a great and God-fearing nation into the Germany of this infamous war. And as the movement is rapidly leavening the Protestant Churches of Britain it is high time to give warning of its effects."
And now, thirty years afterwards, we can see how the road led ever downwards to the pagan religion of National Socialism. In Cross and Swastika (published by the Student Christian Movement), Dr. Arthur Frey, a German-Swiss, writing just before the outbreak of the second world war, tells the story
"The philosophy of the 18th and 19th centuries had broken away one stone after another from the Christian creed. God's Word was humanised; it was made subject to human knowledge. . . . Man in his faith in himself, in his folly, did not shrink from subjecting even the Word of God to his so modest and pitiful bits of knowledge."
National Socialism, according to Dr. Frey, is only a product of the development going on for the last hundred years leading to the deification of man, following the belief that man is by-nature good, and the rejection of the Bible doctrine of man's inherent sinfulness and need of redemption. "The morality of an optimistic belief in evolution became indigenous not only in the world but in the Church." Reconciliation and redemption in the Christian sense were not needed by the German man. But now, he goes on, who still dares to hold that man is by nature good? "There has gone to pieces that belief in man and his continuous upward evolution by which Liberalism and Socialism lived."
Then he tells of the stand made by the Confessional Church. "What saved and renewed the Church was nothing else than simple belief in God's Word and simple obedience to that Word." Professor Karl Barth, in an Introduction to the English edition of the book, stresses that the Church had to turn back anew to its true original foundations, to the Holy Scriptures and the doctrine of the Reformers. And in a warning to the Churches of other countries he says: "We have but to think of the apostasy from the faith of the Bible and of our fathers, of the bad, weak theology of which all the Churches are guilty, and with which they have all contributed to the affliction which has now fallen on the German Church!" And this is from Dr. Frey: "In the conffict of the Evangelical Church in Germany it has become plain that Christian doctrines, as these are to be met in the latest Protestant literature, have not been the slightest help to the Confessional Church." The Bishop of Durham, writing to my father in 1913, mentioned having seen a report that Dr. Welch, Professor of Hebrew in New College, Edinburgh, "that stronghold of the new criticism," had emphasised the weighty criticism to which the Wellhausen theory was being subjected, and had expressed his belief that "Moses and the Prophets were returning to their old position." If the report was substantially correct, said Dr. Moule, it was a very remarkable sign of the times, or " a breaking of the arrogant and obstinate reign of that bad substitute for the Apostle - the Professor!"
But even now many preachers, teachers and others, seem completely ignorant of the notable swing "back to orthodoxy" on the Continent as well as in Britain. In this connection special interest attaches to the opinion of Dr. A. H. Sayce, the eminent scholar and archaeologist. A member of the Old Testament Revision Company at the age of twenty-nine, and for over thirty years Professor of Assyriology at Oxford, in his early years the "German theories" as he called them strongly appealed to him, and he regarded himself as a champion of higher critical views. His archaeological researches however convinced him of their unreliability, and eventually he became an unrelenting and aggressive opponent of those views. In a letter to my father about one of the latter's books he wrote:
"It appeals to the general public in a way that the ordinary thinking man can understand and appreciate. You have made the issues clear to him, which is just what the disciples of the 'Higher Criticism' are generally indisposed to do; sometimes because, their own ideas are not clear, sometimes because they do not wish to express themselves clearly. The point you insist on, that an adverse verdict must be based on complete and not imperfect evidence, is a very important one. The philological evidence when applied to matters of history or archaeology is necessarily imperfect. In fact we cannot prove a negative by means of it, our critical friends notwithstanding."
Air-Commodore P. J. Wiseman, C.B.E., R.A.F., writing in the Bible League Quarterly, No. 2 issue, 1945, states : " In a recent higher critical publication it has been alleged that in a private conversation he [Sayce] made statements which involved the abandonment of the position he maintained with growing strength up to the latest of his many books. I was in Iraq when he visited it just before he died, and can say that there is no warrant whatever for any alleged change of view." Not only publicly but behind the scenes Sir Robert laboured for the cause so dear to his heart. Having had some correspondence with Professor S. R. Driver about the Book of Daniel, he appealed to him personally thus:
"May I without presumption add a word or two to explain my appealing to you? Others like - seem utterly devoid of that sort of judgment which would fit them to be jurors in a heavy case at nisi prius. They are simply incapable of taking a large view of a question. But in my Preface I have taken the liberty of referring to your writing as 'so conspicuously moderate and fair'; and in this conviction I earnestly appeal to you to reconsider this Daniel controversy in the light of evidence other than the merely philological. The effect of discrediting the Book of Daniel is disastrous upon all bold and fearless thinkers. God knows I have nothing to gain by defending it. I do so as the result of long and patient and earnest consideration and study, which slowly led me to a deep conviction of its authenticity."
I have not found a reply to this letter. And it must be added that some years afterwards my father criticised Dr. Driver's later writings very severely in his Pseudo-criticism.
Personally also my father came into touch with many other men of diverse views. I remember his coming home and telling of a conversation with a well-known minister, the writer of charming popular stories. The question of the inspiration and authority of the Epistles, particularly St. Paul's writings, had arisen. Dr. - admitted having doubts regarding these, but said that he took his stand on the Lord's own words recorded in the Gospels. My father asked him how he knew that we had a reliable record of those words. "If one of my officers at Scotland Yard," he said, "brings me a report of a conversation, I ask how soon afterwards was it written down. If the reply is, On the following day, I say at once that in that case it is not good enough for me." Are we then to believe, he continued, that apart from the inspiration of the Bible in the fullest sense of the word the authors of the Gospels were able, long years after hearing them, to commit accurately to writing the long discourses of the Lord Jesus? It should be added here that the question of "discrepancies" in the different Gospels was of course not ignored in my father's writings.
This brief record of his long campaign against what he believed with all his heart to be dangerous error must include a reference to his uncompromising stand against Romanising influences and practices. In the Preface to The Bible or the Church he wrote:
"'The greatest achievement in English history ' is a distinguished historian's estimate of the Reformation. But in this flippant and shallow age we seem to be letting slip what the Reformers won for us. For a national lapse toward superstition upon the one hand and rationalism upon the other is one of the marked characteristics of the day." A review of that book under the heading "A Layman's Theology" in the South African Review (December 1908) is of unusual interest for the purpose of this memoir:
"This treatise is marked by many of those practical touches which a layman is apt to give to theology when all too rarely he enters upon a discussion of that subject. Sir Robert has not forgotten and does not wholly lay aside the experience gained at Scotland Yard, and.. is a gain that the sacerdotalist should be subjected to a scrutiny based on methods which are accustomed to run the gauntlet of judge and jury before a verdict is asked for. It must not be supposed however that our author is a mere amateur dabbler in theological questions. His study of the sources has evidently been most thorough. And he makes short work of demolishing the claims of those who would overthrow the Reformation platform, the Bible, and substitute for it the voice of the Church.
"Sophistry and subterfuges of mere professionalism meet with short shrift at Sir Robert's hands. And he is not afraid of being accounted old-fashioned when he repudiates what he believes to be pagan in certain doctrines and ceremonial sought to be revived h the extremists of the modern ritualistic school. His legal acumen stands him in good stead when he frames his indictment against those who seek to undo the work of the great Reformation; and he disposes of many of the arguments deduced from the patristic writings by copious references to the same authorities, many of which I show support standards of truth which closely approximate Reformation ideals.
"In an appendix on Romish propaganda he gives a highly interesting account of an attempt made to induce him to yield to - Papal claims."
The last reference is to a lengthy correspondence with a gentleman who wrote to my father expressing solicitude for his spiritual welfare, and an earnest desire to see him within the fold' of the Catholic Church "Towards the close of our correspondence," said Sir Robert, "he sent me a Catholic treatise to show how grievously I had misjudged his Church. His letter enclosing the book gave me the first definite hint of what I had guessed, that his letters were part of a systematic effort to lead selected Protestants to make their submission to Rome His letter remained unanswered; for I am utterly at a loss to know what answer is possible to one who ignores or distorts both history and Scripture, and honestly and earnestly believes in what he calls 'the Church.'"
Speaking on the platform of the Evangelical Alliance, Sir Robert referred to the movement for the reunion of Christendom and the position of the Church of England with regard to it, quoting the opening address at a Church Congress which stated that the desire for this reunion had been implanted by God Himself, and was in accordance with the wish and prayer of our Divine Lord. "I humbly venture to challenge every statement in those words," he said; "it is not the reunion of Christendom that the Lord spoke of in that solemn prayer recorded in the seventeenth chapter of John." The Church Congress address had stated that the Church of England was peculiarly fitted to help forward the work of reunion because she had points of contact with all the severed members of Christ's mystical body.
"I would say," he replied," with all the emphasis that I would throw into my words that the whole conception of this is essentially anti-Christian. . . . I do not think these things are consonant with Christianity, and I would venture to say they are absolutely inconsistent with the doctrines of the Reformers. . . . Will anyone tell me that a Church in which the doctrines and practices of the Church of Rome prevail is acording to the Articles of the Church of England 'a congregation of faithful men in which the pure word of God is preached, and the sacraments be duly administered according to Christ's ordinance'? Or take another type of Church, one where the very foundation truths of Christianity are assailed - the Virgin Birth, the Incarnation, the Atonement - where the Old Testament which the Lord Jesus accredited is dismissed as a farrago of myths and legends and forgeries. Can you say that in that Church, I care not what it calls itself; the pure Word of God is preached?"
The Bible or the Church was based upon an earlier work entitled The Buddha of Christendom. Canon Teignmouth Shore, a college friend, who was Chaplain-in-Ordinary to Queen Victoria and King Edward VII, wrote with regard to this: "I saw the notice of your volume in The Church Times. It only shows how hard you have hit them. I need scarcely say how heartily I agree with you. The Church of England became Protestant at the Reformation, but the Bishops have by their cowardly connivance allowed her practices and doctrines as now taught by six-tenths of the clergy to become Roman Catholic. . . . The Bishops snip off little bits of fringe here and there, when it is the whole pattern of the garment that is wrong."
A soldier's opinion was forcibly expressed by Field-Marshal Viscount Wolseley:
"It is very kind of you to send me a copy of your book. Its Protestantism cannot be too strong for me; for it is not only that 1 abhor all the absurd idolatry and customs appertaining to it that our fathers protested against and rid England of at the Reformation; but I have a sublime contempt for the invertebrate creatures in trousers who try to take from our religion that healthy manliness which Protestantism engrafted upon our national Church."
The Record ended a long review of The Bible or the Church thus "We are sincerely grateful to Sir Robert Anderson for bringing out so clearly the antithesis of the Bible and 'the Church ' - not the Church as St. Paul would have described it, and as our own Article XIX describes it, but a Church overwhelmed with accretions of human error and human perversity." And here are the closing words of The Buddha of Christendom
"The position maintained by the martyrs was no mere negation of the false ; it was a testimony to the true. The Christian converts of early days 'turned from idols to serve the living and true God.' The martyrs of later days turned from 'the Church' that they might be loyal to Christ. So it must ever be. There can be no true loyalty to the king without denouncing the pretender. Loyalty to Christ implies the repudiation of what is false to Christ."
As Chairman of an anniversary meeting of the London City Mission, Sir Robert said: "Protestantism is no anchorage for faith; but it is like the breakwater which makes our anchorage secure. It shields from influences that make Christianity impossible. While priestcraft would set up a Church to mediate between God and man, Protestantism points to the only Mediator, our Lord Jesus Christ. By placing an open Bible in our hands it leaves us with free consciences to follow God." But whilst he was a Protestant of the "No surrender" type of his Derry forbears in regard to the doctrines and practices of the Romish Church and of Anglo-Catholic followers, he recognised that amongst those whom he withstood so strongly there were many who were one with himself in their exaltation of the Lord. He felt indeed that he had more in common with many a devout Roman Catholic than with " Modern Churchmen" who denied the Deity of Christ and His atoning sacifice. His personal touch with individuals in other Communions is exemplified by this letter from Father Ignatius:
"It is most kind of you to write to me in so brotherly a way and to send me your pamphlet. Indeed what you and I believe in common far exceeds in grandeur and importance the smaller details respecting which we may differ. I have read your Coming Prince with much pleasure and profit, and now shall read (D.V.) your book on Modern Criticism.
"Believe me your affectionate brother in our Lord Jesus,
"IGNATIUS, O.S.B., Monk."
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