This excerpt from Machen’s Education, Christianity & the State argues that the defense of the faith should be scholarly, with knowledge and not “mere denunciation.”
…[T]he defence of the faith should be of a scholarly kind. Mere denunciation does not constitute an argument; and before a man can refute successfully an argument of an opponent, he must understand the argument that he is endeavouring to refute. Personalities, in such debate, should be kept in the background; and analysis of the motives of one’s opponents has little place.
That principle, certainly in America, has been violated constantly by the advocates of the modernist or indifferentist position in the Church. It has been violated by them far more than by the defenders of God’s Word. Yet the latter, strangely enough, have received the blame. The representatives of the dominant Modern-indifferentist forces have engaged in the most violent adjectival abuse of their opponents; yet they have been called sweet and beautiful and tolerant: the defenders of the Bible, and of the historic position of the Church have spoken courteously, though plainly, in opposition, and have been called “bitter” and “extreme.” I am reminded of the way in which an intelligent American Indian is reported (I saw it in the American magazine The Saturday Evening Post, a few months ago) to have characterized the terminology used in histories of the wars between the white men and the men of his race. “When you won,” said the Indian, “it was, according to your histories, a ‘battle’; when we won, it was a ‘massacre.'”
Such, I suppose, is the treatment of the unpopular side in every conflict. Certainly it is the treatment which we receive today. Men have found it to be an effective way of making themselves popular, to abuse the representatives of so unpopular a cause as that which we Bible-believing Christians represent.
Yet I do not think we ought to be dismayed. If in these days of unbelief and defection in the Church we are called upon to bear just a little bit of the reproach of Christ, we ought to count ourselves honoured, and certainly we ought not to mitigate in the slightest measure the plainness either of our defence of the truth or of our warnings against error. Men’s favour is worth very little after all, in comparison with the favour of Christ.
But certainly we should strive to keep ourselves free from that with which we are charged. Because our opponents are guilty, that is no reason why we should make ourselves guilty too. (J. Gresham Machen, Education, Christianity & the State, pp. 31-32)
This post is the tenth of a series of excerpts from chapter 2 of J. Gresham Machen’s book Education, Christianity & the State, “The Importance of Christian Scholarship.” This chapter is a compilation of addresses given at the Bible League meetings in Westminster, London, on June 17, 1932. Page references are from the 1987 Trinity Foundation edition of this book.