Saturday, July 01, 2006

Tom Nefyn Williams: A Warning from History 6: A matter of Principle

The Presbyterian Church was careful to show fairness to the accused minister. After all, the complainants were elders who had resigned from his Church. Accordingly, the man charged with investigating Tom Nefyn (pictured later in life) was Dr. Owen Prys, Principal of the Theological College at Aberystwyth, a man personally familiar with, and sympathetic to, the accused. Prys suggested that Tom Nefyn take a Sabbatical in order to consider the Church's Confession of Faith, believing that 'Nefyn' would accept the substance of the confession, even if he could not accept every jot and tittle.

Tom Nefyn refused, and in October, 1927, he write a letter to the London Association, where, as we have seen, he preached at the ordination of Dr. Lloyd-Jones, demanding that he be tried on the content of his belief. To help the authorities, he included a forty-page booklet called Y Ffordd yr Edrychaf ar Bethau ('The Way I Look at Things'). Most of this was taken up with an exposition of doctrine. This demonstrated that he was an advanced modernist.

While Tom Nefyn would adopt the air of a martyr, the contents of this document demonstrated beyond all doubt that he was completely at odds with the Confession of Faith. In his view, God was immanent in the world, being defined impersonally as the 'great spirit that seeks to realise itself in the expression and life of the world' [p.11], 'Creative Mind' and 'Eternal Mind', the force that energised the evolutionary spirit.

The Trinity was rejected on the grounds that: 'To speak of three Persons in the Godhead means sacrificing true unity'. The supernatural element was dismissed as a mere fancy, Christ's miracles being allegorised out of existence on the grounds of modern 'science.'

On the Incarnation, Tom Nefyn denied almost everything. Christ was to be considered divine only in terms of his knowledge of the divine spark 9ideal humanity) inside every man, a knowledge he shared with other 'teachers.' The atonement was to be understood solely in terms of moral influence [p.17], and the resurrection was the disciples' "early method of declaring the victory and lasting value of Christ's personality, ... it was a Jewish way of emphasising the conquest of life and goodness of Jesus over sin and destruction."

Reading this, Owen Prys' heart fell. There could be no doubt that his former student was guilty as charged.



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