This excerpt from Machen’s Education, Christianity & the State deals with the necessity of scholarship in evangelism.
…[I]f salvation depends upon the message in which Christ is offered as Saviour, it is obviously important that we should get the message straight. That is where Christian scholarship comes in. Christian scholarship is important in order that we may tell the story of Jesus and his love straight and full and plain.
At this point, indeed, an objection may arise. Is not the gospel a very simple thing, it may be asked; and will not its simplicity be obscured by too much scholarly research? The objection springs from a false view of what scholarship is; it springs from the notion that scholarship leads a man to be obscure. Exactly the reverse is the case. Ignorance is obscure; but scholarship brings order out of confusion, places things in their logical relations, and makes the message shine forth clear. Read more…
One hundred thirty years ago today, J. Gresham Machen was born in Baltimore, Maryland to Arthur Webster Machen, an Episcopalian lawyer, and Mary Jones Gresham (pronounced “Gressam”), a faithful Presbyterian who taught her son the Westminster Shorter Catechism from an early age.
This excerpt from Machen’s Education, Christianity & the State deals with what today would be called “head knowledge” and “heart knowledge.” Machen argues here and in last week’s post that saving faith cannot exist without some modest degree of intellectual understanding of the gospel.
…[I]s this modern anti-intellectualistic view of faith in accordance with the New Testament? Does the New Testament offer a man salvation first, on the basis of a psychological process of conversion or surrender–falsely called faith–and then preach the gospel to him afterwards; or does the New Testament preach the gospel to him first, set forth to him first the facts about Christ and the meaning of His death, and then ask him to accept the One thus presented in order that his soul may be saved?
That question can be answered very simply by an examination of the examples of conversion which the New Testament contains. Read more…
Christian scholarship is necessary to the preacher, and to the man who in whatever way, in public or in private, endeavours to proclaim the gospel to his fellow-men, in at least three ways.
In the first place, it is necessary for evangelism. In saying so, I am perfectly well aware of the fact that I am putting myself squarely in conflict with a method of religious work which is widely prevalent at the present time. Knowledge, the advocates of that method seem to think, is quite unnecessary to faith; at the beginning a man may be a Fundamentalist or a Modernist, he may hold a Christian view or an anti-Christian view of Christ. Never mind; he is to be received, quite apart from his opinions, on the basis of simple faith. Read more…
There was a time when the raising of the question as to the importance of Christian scholarship might have seemed to be ridiculous; there was a time when a man who does so much talking as a minister or a Sunday School teacher does, and as no doubt every Christian ought to do, in the propagation of the Faith to which he adheres, would have regarded it as a matter of course that he ought to know something about the subject of which he undertakes to talk.
But in recent years we have got far beyond all such elementary considerations as that; modern pedagogy has emancipated us, whether we be in the pulpit or in the professor’s chair or in the pew, from anything so irksome as earnest labour in the acquisition of knowledge. It never seems to occur to many modern teachers that the primary business of the teacher is to study the subject that he is going to teach. Instead of studying the subject that he is going to teach, he studies “education”; a knowledge of the methodology of teaching takes the place of a knowledge of the particular branch of literature, history or science to which a man has devoted his life. Read more…
Freedom of thought in the middle ages was combated by the Inquisition, but the modern method is far more effective. Place the lives of children in their formative years, despite the convictions of their parents, under the intimate control of experts appointed by the state, force them then to attend schools where the higher aspirations of humanity are crushed out, and where the mind is filled with the materialism of the day, and it is difficult to see how even the remnants of liberty can subsist. Such a tyranny, supported as it is by a perverse technique used as the instrument in destroying human souls, is certainly far more dangerous than the crude tyrannies of the past, which despite their weapons of fire and sword permitted thought at least to be free.
–J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism, Eerdmans, 1923, p. 14.
In an article in The Presbyterian Guardian, J. Gresham Machen wrote on the problems of terms commonly used to describe the historic Christian faith. Here are a few excerpts:
Many years ago, …some brilliant person said: “Orthodoxy means ‘my doxy’ and heterodoxy means ‘the other man’s doxy’.”
The unknown author of that famous definition–unknown to me at least–may have thought that he was being very learned. Knowing that the Greek word “heteros,” which forms a part of the English word “heterodoxy,” means “other,” he built his famous definition around that one word, and “heterodoxy” became to him “the other man’s doxy.”