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The Importance of Christian Scholarship (XI)

This excerpt from Machen’s Education, Christianity & the State argues that we should not avoid becoming familiar with the arguments against the historic Christian faith, but should become familiar with the arguments for it first.

It is no easy thing to defend the Christian faith against the mighty attack that is being brought against it at the present day. Knowledge of the truth is necessary, and also clear acquaintance with the forces hostile to the truth in modern thought.

At that point, a final objection may arise. Does it not involve a terrible peril to men’s souls to ask them–for example, in their preparation for the ministry–to acquaint themselves with things that are being said against the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ?
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The Importance of Christian Scholarship (VI)

This excerpt from Machen’s Education, Christianity & the State deals with the necessity of argumentation in defense of the faith.

Certainly a Christianity that avoids argument is not the Christianity of the New Testament. The New Testament is full of argument in defence of the faith. The Epistles of Paul are full of argument–no one can doubt that. But even the words of Jesus are full of argument in defence of the truth of what Jesus was saying. “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” Is not that a well-known form of reasoning, which the logicians would put in its proper category? Read more…

The Importance of Christian Scholarship (V)

This excerpt from Machen’s Education, Christianity & the State deals with the necessity of an active and counter-cultural defense of the faith.

…Christian scholarship is also necessary… for the defence of the faith…. There are, indeed, those who tell us that no defence of the faith is necessary. “The Bible needs no defence,” they say; “let us not be forever defending Christianity, but instead let us go forth joyously to propagate Christianity.” But I have observed one curious fact–when men talk thus about propagating Christianity without defending it, the thing that they are propagating is pretty sure not to be Christianity at all. Read more…

The Importance of Christian Scholarship (IV)

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…

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The Importance of Christian Scholarship (III)

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…

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The Importance of Christian Scholarship (II)

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…

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The Importance of Christian Scholarship (I)

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…

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Crushing the Freedom of Thought

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.

Categories: Education, State

Machen on the Religious Basis of Morality

At the end of J. Gresham Machen’s testimony before Congress in February 1926, Senator Ferris asked Dr. Machen about the connections between religion and morality. This was in a discussion about the advisability of the creation of a federal department of education. Machen was objecting to the intrusion of the federal government into education, and was deeply concerned that teaching morality in government schools would, in practice, be moral teaching that was opposed to the orthodox understanding of the Bible. Earlier on this blog is a post about Machen’s opposition to the teaching of the Bible in public schools. Machen’s careful response to the senator emphasized the inseparability of religion and morality. (In Education, Christianity, and the State, Machen makes this far clearer.) Note too, at the end, a hint of eschatological optimism–in free conflict with other views, Machen had confidence that the Christian view would win out.

SENATOR FERRIS: I am just wondering whether there is any such thing as moral conduct in the United States Congress or among the citizens of the United States apart from a distinctively religious basis. I am just wondering whether the public schools have any function in the way of teaching morality which is not distinctively religious in its basic idea.

DR. MACHEN: I think that the solution lies not in a theoretic teaching in the public schools as to the basis of morality, because I do not think you can keep that free from religious questions; but I do hold that a teacher who himself or herself is imbued with the absolute distinction between right and wrong can maintain the moral standing, the moral temper of a public school.

SENATOR FERRIS: Is the ethical culturist ruled out from the consideration of morality in his views and conduct?

DR. MACHEN: I am not ruling out anybody at all, sir — the ethical culturist or anyone else.

SENATOR FERRIS: No; but if religion is the basic element in all morality, then can we have a morality that is not founded on a religious idea?

DR. MACHEN: I myself do not believe that you can have such a morality permanently, and that is exactly what I am interested in trying to get other people to believe; but I am not at all interested in trying to proclaim that view of mine by any measures that involve compulsion, and I am not interested in making the public school an agency for the proclamation of such a view; but I am interested in diminishing rather than increasing the function of the public school, in order to leave room for the opportunity of a propagation of the view that I hold in free conflict with all other views which may be held, in order that in that way the truth finally may prevail.

SENATOR PHIPPS: Thank you, Doctor. [Applause.]

Thanks to Shane Rosenthal at ReformationINK for the valuable archive of Machen’s writings.

Machen’s Objections to Federal Aid in Education

On February 25, 1926, J. Gresham Machen appeared before the Senate Committee on Education and Labor, and the House Committee on Education, to express his opposition to the bill establishing a federal Department of Education. An excerpt of comments from his opening statements follows.

“The department of education… is to promote uniformity in education. That uniformity in education under central control it seems to me is the worst fate into which any country can fall. That purpose I think is implicit also in the other form of the bill, and it is because that is the very purpose of the bill that I am opposed to it.

“This bill, I think, cannot be understood unless it is taken in connection with certain other measures of similar kind which have been proposed in the last few years; in the first place, of course, the so-called child-labor amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which I think was one of the most cruel and heartless measures that have ever been proposed in the name of philanthropy, which is saying a good deal. Another similar measure, of course, is the bill which has now been introduced, I believe, and which has appeared a number of times during the last few years, establishing in a very radical way a system of Federal aid to the States, with conditions on which this aid is to be received. It is perfectly clear of course, that if any such principle of Federal aid in education is established, the individual liberty of the States is gone, because I think we can lay it down as a general rule, with which everyone who has examined the course of education recently will agree, that money given for education, no matter what people say, always has a string tied to it. That appears in gifts of money by private foundations, and it appears far more, of course, when the gift comes from the Federal Government, which has already been encroaching to such an extent upon the powers of the States. But this bill establishing a Federal department of education, which has in it the principle of Federal aid, is a step and a very decisive step in exactly the same direction, and it is for that reason that we think it is to be opposed.”

The complete transcript of his testimony can be found here, at ReformationINK.

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