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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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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…

Machen on Orthodoxy

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.”

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Richard Gamble on Christianity and Liberalism

Machen wrote, “The liberal believes that applied Christianity is all there is of Christianity, Christianity being merely a way of life.” From Richard Gamble’s book The War for Righteousness:

From Princeton Theological Seminary in 1923, J. Gresham Machen fired another salvo at Protestant liberalism in his Christianity and Liberalism, which Walter Lippmann later called “the best popular argument produced by either side in the current controversy.” Machen acknowledged the dramatic changes that had swept the world in the past hundred years, and he agreed with the liberals’ assessment of the basic question facing Christianity in the contemporary world, namely, “What is the relation between Christianity and modern culture; may Christianity be maintained in a scientific age?” From this point on, however, he disagreed sharply with the progressive clergy. It was one thing to admit that the world was changing, but quite another to say that Christianity had to change along with it.

Machen proposed that liberalism had not rescued Christianity at all but rather had substituted something alien in its place. Liberalism had constructed an entirely new religion that diverged from the historic faith in every basic doctrine, from the nature of God and man, to the Bible, Christ, salvation, and the church. He rejected liberalism’s view of God’s immanence, its tendency to identify sin everywhere but within the human heart, and its fondness for statist collectivism. At the root of the problem he found liberalism’s penchant for making Christianity a means to another end, for putting “applied Christianity” above more fundamental concerns. He granted the need for Christian influence in the world but lamented that “the liberal believes that applied Christianity is all there is of Christianity, Christianity being merely a way of life.” Of its global aspirations, Machen complained that “the missionary of liberalism seeks to spread the blessings of Christian civilization (whatever that may be), and not particularly interested in leading individuals to relinquish their pagan beliefs.” At the heart of the debate was the definition of Christianity’s fundamental mission in the world.

From The War for Righteousness by Richard M. Gamble, pp. 249-250, ISI Books

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