He Took Up Arms Against Liberalism

He Took Up Arms Against Liberalism

On New Year’s Eve, 1936, in a Roman Catholic medical center in Bismarck, North Dakota, J. Gresham Machen was one particular day away from loss of life at the age of 55. It was Christmas crack at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia, where by he taught New Testomony. His colleagues had stated he appeared “deadly tired” at the end of the phrase. But as an alternative of resting, he had taken the teach from Philadelphia to the 20-down below-zero winds of North Dakota to preach in a several Presbyterian church buildings at the ask for of pastor Samuel Allen.

“There is only a person hope, but that hope is sure. God has under no circumstances deserted his church his promise in no way fails.”

He had pneumonia and could scarcely breathe. Pastor Allen arrived to pray for him that very last working day of 1936, and Machen instructed him of a eyesight that he had experienced of being in heaven. “Sam, it was wonderful. It was wonderful,” he said. And a minor later he included, “Sam, is not the Reformed faith grand?”

The pursuing working day — New Year’s Working day, 1937 — he mustered the toughness to send out a telegram to John Murray, his mate and colleague at Westminster. It was his past recorded term: “I’m so thankful for [the] lively obedience of Christ. No hope with no it.” He died about 7:30 that evening.

Insubordinate Presbyterian

Machen was cut off in the midst of a excellent do the job — the institution of Westminster Seminary and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. He hadn’t set out to observed a seminary or a new church. But offered who he was and what he stood for and what was going on at Princeton, where he experienced taught for 23 a long time, and in the Presbyterian Church in the United states of america, it was almost inevitable.

Westminster Seminary was seven a long time aged when Machen died. The Orthodox Presbyterian Church was 6 months outdated. The occasion for starting a new Presbyterian church about against the large Presbyterian Church in the United states was that on March 29, 1935, Machen’s Presbytery in Trenton, New Jersey, discovered him guilty of insubordination to church authorities and stripped him of his ordination.

The motive for the demand of insubordination was that Machen had established an impartial board of foreign missions in June 1933 to protest the simple fact that the Presbyterian Board of International Missions endorsed a laymen’s report (known as Rethinking Missions) that Machen stated was “from starting to close an attack upon the historic Christian faith” (J. Gresham Machen: A Biographical Memoir, 475).

He pointed out that the board supported missionaries like Pearl Buck in China, who represented the form of evasive, noncommittal perspective towards Christian truth of the matter that Machen thought was destroying the church and its witness. She mentioned, for instance, that if anyone existed who could generate a person like Christ and portray him for us, “then Christ lived and lives, irrespective of whether He was when a single overall body and a single soul, or no matter if He is the essence of men’s highest dreams” (474).

As a result, Machen was forced by his own conscience into what the church considered as the gravest insubordination and disobedience to his ordination vows. For this reason the beginning of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

‘Princeton Seminary Is Dead’

A couple many years before, Machen had still left Princeton Seminary to located Westminster Seminary. This time he was not compelled out, but chose freely to depart when the governing boards of the seminary had been reorganized so that the conservative board of administrators could be diluted by liberals more in tune with the denomination as a total.

Princeton Seminary died, in Machen’s eyes, and out of the ashes he intended to protect the custom of Charles Hodge and Benjamin Warfield. So when he gave the inaugural tackle of Westminster Seminary on September 25, 1929, to the initially class of fifty pupils and company, he reported,

No, my mates, while Princeton Seminary is lifeless, the noble tradition of Princeton Seminary is alive. Westminster Seminary will endeavor by God’s grace to proceed that custom unimpaired. (458)

Machen’s most enduring response to what he named modernism was the founding of these two institutions: Westminster Seminary (which nowadays is a key influence in American evangelicalism) and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (which now, more than 8 a long time later on, bears a witness disproportionate to its smaller dimension).

Faith and Question

Machen met modernism confront to confront numerous decades previously, when paying a 12 months in Germany immediately after seminary. As he examined New Testament with properly-recognised German students, Machen was shaken profoundly in his religion. Practically overpowering was the influence of Wilhelm Herrmann, the systematic theologian at Marburg, who represented the most effective of what Machen would later oppose with all his could possibly. He was not casting stones above a wall when he criticized modernism. Machen had been in excess of the wall and was virtually lured into the camp.

In 1905 he wrote property,

I have been thrown all into confusion by what [Herrmann] suggests — so substantially deeper is his devotion to Christ than anything at all I have recognised in myself through the past several a long time. . . . Herrmann affirms extremely tiny of that which I have been accustomed to regard as vital to Christianity yet there is no doubt in my thoughts but that he is a Christian, and a Christian of a peculiarly earnest form. (107)

His battle with question gave him patience and sympathy with some others in the similar circumstance. 20 years later, he wrote,

Some of us have been by these struggle ourselves some of us have identified the blankness of question, the fatal discouragement, the perplexity of indecision, the vacillation involving “faith diversified by doubt,” and “doubt diversified by religion.” (432)

Yet, Machen arrived through this time with no shedding his evangelical faith and was identified as to Princeton to educate New Testament, which he did from 1906 till he left to kind Westminster in 1929. In the course of that time, he grew to become a pillar of conservative, Reformed orthodoxy and a powerful apologist for biblical Christianity and an internationally acclaimed New Testament scholar.

Duplicity in the Classroom

Machen’s working experience in Germany made a long lasting effects on the way he carried on controversy. He claimed all over again and once again that he experienced regard and sympathy for the modernist who could truthfully no more time believe that in the bodily resurrection or the virgin start or the next coming, but it was the rejection of these points devoid of overtly admitting one’s unbelief that angered Machen.

For case in point, he reported after that his trouble with particular lecturers at Union Seminary was their duplicity:

There is my serious quarrel with them. As for their complications with the Christian faith, I have profound sympathy for them, but not with their contemptuous remedy of the conscientious men who imagine that a creed solemnly subscribed to is much more than a scrap of paper. (221–22)

He wished to deal with persons in a simple fashion and consider his opponents’ arguments critically, if they would only be honest and open up with their constituents and visitors. As it was, even so, numerous modernist professors and pastors have been not honest and open.

Liberalism: A further Religion

In the Presbyterian Church of Machen’s working day, there ended up hundreds who would not deny the Confession of Faith, but by advantage of this modernistic spirit had provided it up even even though they’d signed it. One of the most jolting and penetrating statements of Machen on this challenge is found in his book What Is Faith?

It will make incredibly little change how a great deal or how very little of the creeds of the Church the Modernist preacher affirms, or how a lot or how small of the Biblical instructing from which the creeds are derived. He may well affirm every jot and tittle of the Westminster Confession, for instance, and nevertheless be separated by a great gulf from the Reformed Faith. It is not that section is denied and the relaxation affirmed but all is denied, since all is affirmed simply as practical or symbolic and not as genuine. (What Is Faith? 34)

When Machen took on modernism, then, he took it on as a obstacle to the total of Christianity. His most essential guide in the debate was Christianity and Liberalism, posted in 1923. The title nearly claims it all: Liberalism is not vying with Fundamentalism as a species of Christianity. The ebook is not entitled Fundamentalism and Liberalism. As an alternative, Liberalism is vying with Christianity as a individual faith. He wrote the blurb for the guide:

Liberalism on the one hand and the faith of the historic church on the other are not two kinds of the exact same faith, but two unique religions proceeding from completely separate roots. (J. Gresham Machen, 342)

Modernism to Postmodernism

I really do not feel the structure of the modernism of Machen’s working day is too unique from the postmodernism of our working day. In some churches, the triumph of modernism is finish. It is nevertheless a menace at the doorway of all our churches and colleges and agencies. Just one of our terrific protections will be the consciousness of tales like Machen’s — the enemy he confronted, the struggle he fought, the weapons he utilised (and failed to use), the losses he sustained, the cost he paid, and the triumphs he wrought.

For instance, Machen’s daily life and assumed problem a call for all of us to be trustworthy, open, apparent, straightforward, and guileless in our use of language. He worries us, as does the apostle Paul (2 Corinthians 2:17 4:2 Ephesians 4:25 1 Thessalonians 2:3–4), to say what we indicate and indicate what we say, and to repudiate duplicity, trickery, sham, verbal manipulating, sidestepping, and evasion.

“All is denied, mainly because all is affirmed basically as practical or symbolic and not as true.”

The hazards of the utilitarian makes use of of moral and spiritual language are nonetheless all around in our working day. It is not unusual, for illustration, to appear across language equivalent to what I examine in the Washington Moments when I was very first studying Machen’s daily life. The spokesman for the Human Rights Marketing campaign Fund, the nation’s major homosexual advocacy team, instructed the Periods, “I individually believe that most lesbian and homosexual Americans help conventional relatives and American values,” which he defined as “tolerance, concern, help, and a sense of community.”

This is an example of how words with ethical connotations have been co-opted by distinctive-interest teams to achieve the moral substantial ground devoid of moral information. They audio like values, but they are vacant. “Tolerance” for what? All factors? Which issues? “Concern” for what? Expressed in what way? Redemptive opposition or sympathetic endorsement? “Support” for what? For the behavior that is damaging and completely wrong? Or for the particular person who admits the behavior is completely wrong and is struggling valiantly to get over it? “Community” with what criteria of unification? Widespread endorsements of actions? Prevalent eyesight of what is appropriate and mistaken? Popular indifference to what is appropriate and improper?

In each individual circumstance, the standards are not described. All you have is text driven by a utilitarian view of language in which honesty and truth of the matter are not paramount. Machen shows us that this is not new, and that it is harmful to the church and the bring about of Christ — specifically when pastors have interaction in these duplicity from the pulpit.

His Guarantee Hardly ever Fails

The overarching lesson to be figured out from Machen’s daily life, even so, is that God reigns in excess of his church and over the world. His all-inclusive approach is normally additional hopeful than we think in the darkest several hours of historical past, and it is usually much more intermixed with human sin and weakness than we can see in its brightest several hours. This indicates that we need to renounce all triumphalism in the vibrant seasons and renounce all despair in the dim seasons.

Our hope for the church and for the unfold of the true gospel lies not ultimately in our methods but in God. Even when the culture degenerates, and as soon as-trustworthy establishments drift, as they did in Machen’s day, there is each hope that God will triumph. He writes,

That Church is continue to alive an unbroken non secular descent connects us with those people whom Jesus commissioned. Moments have transformed in lots of respects, new complications will have to be faced and new problems prevail over, but the very same information will have to continue to be proclaimed to a lost globe. Today we have require of all our faith unbelief and error have perplexed us sore strife and hatred have set the environment aflame. There is only 1 hope, but that hope is certain. God has under no circumstances deserted his church his assure never fails. (J. Gresham Machen, 386)

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