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Machen’s Princeton Appointment: Credentials vs. Conscience

In Crossed Fingers: How the Liberals Captured the Presbyterian Church, Gary North discusses the problem of Princeton Seminary’s shift toward academic credentialing as opposed to the covenantal authority of the Church over seminary faculties. North points out that the “most important screening device for entrance into ministry” became academic examination, undermining ecclesiastical governance. Machen’s appointment to the seminary is an example. From chapter 10:

The extent of Princeton Seminary’s later commitment to technical scholarship above the authority of the Church is best seen in Machen’s appointment to a teaching position: instructor. He received the appointment in the fall of 1906. He was not ordained to the teaching eldership until June 23, 1914. He was elevated to assistant professor in May, 1914, to begin in the fall of that year. The faculty was self-conscious about this, as Stonehouse’s language indicates: “Acting on the background of Machen’s licensure, the Faculty of the Seminary was not slow to recommend his election as Assistant Professor of New Testament in its report to the Board of Directors at its meeting during the first week of May, 1914.”

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Leftward Movement among Seminaries and Ecclesiastical Colleges

A friend referenced a comment on an old post (2006) at baylyblog.com by Fr. Bill Mouser, which contains some interesting thoughts on the path toward theological liberalism in denominations. The post concerned indications of liberalism in the chapel program at Covenant College, but the comment is more broadly applicable. Evidently, a large part of the problem is academic elitism at seminaries and ecclesiastical colleges, without sufficient oversight by the denomination. Read more…

Machen, the Fundamentalist Mentality, and Separation

I came across a copy of Edward John Carnell’s book The Case for Orthodox Theology (1959). Chapter 8, “Perils,” is worth a lengthy discussion, as it contains a criticism of J. Gresham Machen for his defiance of the church courts in the course of his battles with modernism in the Presbyterian church. Following is an excerpt from the chapter, and a few thoughts from others on the problems of Carnell’s position. This is important because it deals with the overarching question of how the Christian is to handle official ties to those who claim the name of Christ but deny the essence of the gospel. In a broader sense, this is relevant to the right of withdrawal from any institution that has authority.
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Christianity and Culture

In the context of a discussion of the difficulty of the relationship of culture and Christianity, J. G. Machen mentions the problem that arises when religion is studied using the intellectual tools applied to the study of other aspects of culture, such as science or history. He then writes,

This problem may be settled in one of three ways. In the first place, Christianity may be subordinated to culture. That solution really, though to some extent unconsciously, is being favored by a very large and influential portion of the Church today. For the elimination of the supernatural in Christianity–so tremendously common today–really makes Christianity merely natural. Christianity becomes a human product, a mere part of human culture. But as such it is something entirely different from the old Christianity that was based upon a direct revelation from God. Deprived thus of its note of authority, the gospel is no gospel any longer; it is a check for untold millions–but without the signature at Read more…

Shawn Ritenour Talk on Machen (1996)

April 30, 2012 1 comment

I ran across a post at the Southern Bread blog from October 2010 referencing an audio recording of an old (1996) talk by Shawn Ritenour at the Ludwig von Mises Institute “brown bag” seminars they ran when I was in graduate school with Shawn. The blogger writes,

“It’s an overview of J. Gresham Machen’s views on the state. He was staunchly anti-state and anti-war. Yet, as a solid Christian theologian he didn’t see how those things conflicted with his faith at all. To the contrary, he saw them as a compliment. This is a very good lecture and worth your time to listen to. If you don’t know Dr. Ritenour’s work, he’s very good. He’s a professor of economics at Grove City College, a Christian liberal arts college in Pennsylvania.”

Ritenour – J. G. Machen: Calvinist, Revolutionary, Hero (mp3)

Shawn Ritenour is author of Foundations of Economics: A Christian View. Two other posts by Dr. Ritenour on this blog:

“Machen: A Forgotten Libertarian”

“Christianity versus the Soul-Killing Collectivism of the Modern State”

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 (X)

February 24, 2012 Leave a comment

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.
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The Importance of Christian Scholarship (IX)

February 17, 2012 Leave a comment

This excerpt from Machen’s Education, Christianity & the State notes the virtues of honest acknowledgement of differences among debaters, in place of a pretense of agreement.

But in defending the faith against the attack upon it that is being made both without and within the Church, what method of defence should be used?

In answer to that question, I have time only to say two things. In the first place, the defence, with the polemic that it involves, should be perfectly open and above board. I have just stated, that I believe in controversy. But in controversy I do try to observe the Golden Rule; I do try to do unto others as I would have others do unto me. And the kind of controversy that pleases me in an opponent is a controversy that is altogether frank.

Sometimes I go into a company of modern men. A man gets up upon the platform, looks out benignly upon the audience, and says: “I think, brethren, that we are all agreed about this”–and then proceeds to trample ruthlessly everything that is dearest to my heart.
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The Importance of Christian Scholarship (VIII)

February 10, 2012 Leave a comment

This excerpt from Machen’s Education, Christianity & the State argues that revivals are born in controversies, and that “positive preaching” neglects the obvious polemics of the Bible.

Again, men say that instead of engaging in controversy in the Church, we ought to pray to God for a revival; instead of polemics, we ought to have evangelism. Well, what kind of revival do you think that will be? What sort of evangelism is it that is indifferent to the question what evangel is it that is to be preached? Not a revival in the New Testament sense, not the evangelism that Paul meant when he said, “Woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel.” No, my friends, there can be no true evangelism which makes common cause with the enemies of the Cross of Christ.
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The Importance of Christian Scholarship (VII)

This excerpt from Machen’s Education, Christianity & the State argues that defending the truth of the Bible in church controversies is essential to a broader defense of the faith.

[I]f we are to have Christian apologetics, if we are to have a defence of the faith, what kind of defence of the faith should it be?

In the first place, it should be directed not only against the opponents outside the Church but also against the opponents within. The opponents of Holy Scripture do not become less dangerous, but they become far more dangerous, when they are within ecclesiastical walls.

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