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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Greenville Seminary conference on Old Princeton Seminary

February 9, 2012 Leave a comment

Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, in Greenville, SC, is hosting a conference on Old Princeton Seminary, A Commemoration of Princeton (1812-2012), March 13-15. Many excellent speakers will be giving talks, including:

  • Dr. Tony Curto
  • Dr. James Garretson
  • Dr. Darryl Hart
  • Dr. Paul Helseth
  • Dr. Joseph Pipa
  • Dr. Benjamin Shaw
  • Dr. Carl Trueman
  • Andrew Webb
  • Dr. C.N. Willborn
  • Dr. Fred Zaspel

J. G. Machen fans may be particularly interested in Darryl Hart’s talk Thursday, “Machen and the End of Old Princeton.”

From GPTS’s page:

Praised, maligned, and misunderstood, the effects of Old Princeton Seminary have towered over theological discussion for a century. From the time God raised up this school in 1812 until 1929, the Princeton theologians were the stalwarts of experimental, Calvinistic theology. The founders of Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary consciously adopted the Princeton Plan as the foundation of instruction for the seminary. Therefore, it is our pleasure to devote our 2012 Spring Theology Conference (the 200th anniversary of Princeton’s founding) to an assessment of Princeton and the practical lessons for the church today. Our aim is to shape the discussion in a practical way that will benefit all who attend.
‘From 1812 to 1929, Princeton Theological Seminary represented a coherent, continual effort to teach and practice what the Princetonians believed was historic Reformed Christianity… They taught theology as they found it in the Bible, and as they received it from Augustine, Calvin, Turretin, and, especially, the Westminster Standards. Their lives proved that they were not only scholars teaching the faith-they were Christians living it.’
~ David B. Calhoun ~
Be sure to sign up early for this popular annual conference and save. Early Bird registration cut-off is Monday, February 13th, 2012.

Machen’s Last Words

The June 2006 issue of the OPC journal New Horizons has a wonderful article entitled “What Machen Meant” on Machen’s last words, dictated shortly before his death on January 1, 1937, in a telegram to his friend John Murray: “I’m so thankful for the active obedience of Christ. No hope without it.”

The March/April 1996 issue of Modern Reformation also has an article by Michael Scott Horton on the same topic: “A Dying Man’s Consolation: The Active and Passive Obedience of Christ.”

Finally, here, from the PCA Historical Center, we have Maitland Alexander’s eulogy for Machen, delivered on January 3, 1937 in Pittsburgh:

On Tuesday of last week Dr. Machen sat in my office and told me his hopes and his plans concerning that theological institution which he himself founded, Westminster Theological Seminary. And then I had a telegram from the hospital in Bismark saying he was very ill, followed up by another bulletin, and then the information that he had passed away. I said to myself, “A prince has fallen in Israel.” What Dr. J. Gresham Machen’s death will mean to the thousands of Bible-believing Christians throughout the world is hard to tell.

I do not hesitate to say that he was the world’s greatest New Testament scholar, and those who attempted to answer him were thrown back like waves that beat against an eternal rock.  He was the greatest champion of the Reformed Faith in the world.  By the Reformed Faith — I will put it in words that you will understand and I will understand better than that theological phrase — he was the world’s greatest champion of the old-fashioned, evangelical religion.  He believed in the eternal purposes of God; he believed that God came down to earth to save the world; he believed in the bodily resurrection of the believer; he believed in the inerrant Bible; and he stood for those things through thick and thin, through the storms of persecution and amid the great efforts that were made to stop him.

I believe Dr. Machen was also a man, as he would have to be, of intense convictions and wonderful courage.  I remember after he had had a great setback in his convictions I met him and I expected to find him sunk, as it were as I was myself, and instead I found him bubbling over with triumph.  I said to him, “I don’t see how you can feel this way.”  “Well,” he said, “the Lord reigneth, let the earth rejoice”; and that was the underlying philosophy of his life.

Then, Dr. Machen was a humble Christian.  I do not know any man that I have ever known that was as truly humble before his God as he was.  He was a man of principle, of course he was a man of intense Bible study.  He was a man who gave his heart wholly and unreservedly to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Dr. Machen was the object of great personal attacks by the men in power in his own Church, which issue finally in the end refused him communion in the Presbyterian Church.  It is one of the few things that I have ever felt that made me wish that I was not a Presbyterian.  I am ashamed of the Church.  And now that Dr. Machen is dead I am wondering:  Will his blood be the seed of another Church, or will his blood water the dying elements of evangelical faith so that it will grow into a great and glorious honor of Christ.  I believe it will.  I believe the result of his death will be almost greater than the results of his life, and if I were standing today s they laid him to rest, I would say, “Servant of God, well done.  Rest from thy great employ.”  And I would say perhaps to those who were listening, that there are men who are greater in their death than they were in their life, and I would say, “Here was a man who was the greatest of all in his life and in his death generated a power that will almost pull down the adversaries of the Son of God and exalt Him in His Cross high above all things, that men will return from the uttermost ends of the earth to be sprinkled with the blood of the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world.”

Categories: JGM's Life

Machen on World War I

November 10, 2011 Leave a comment

As we approach the day formerly known as “Armistice Day,” a little note about Machen’s views of World War I seems appropriate. As World War I began, Machen had deep misgivings about American intervention on the side of the British. It appears he was far from a “hawk” on foreign policy.

In contrast to the optimistic progressives, professor J. Gresham Machen at Princeton Theological Seminary expressed a more measured view of events in Europe. Like so many of his theological opponents, he had studied abroad in Germany. Yet for some reason Machen’s fondness and sympathy for Germany seemed more durable than that of his liberal colleagues, an attitude all the more striking given his contempt for modernist German theology. In a letter to his mother dated six weeks after the opening of the war, he called Britain’s alliance with Russia and Japan “an unholy thing” that had been fashioned for the sole purpose of subduing Germany, Britain’s “progressive commercial rival.” The idea that this was to be a war for democracy he found manifestly absurd. … Responsibility for the war rested with Britain’s drive for imperial supremacy, he argued, an ambition that deprived Germany of “a place in ocean trade” and actually prevented international peace. This was not a war of ideals, but rather a war of economic competition.

While Hillis [Dwight Hillis was a minister promoting war with Germany] was beating the drum for intervention, other clergy lamented the prospect of war. J. Gresham Machen had never claimed to be an idealist or a pacifist, and over the past two years had spoken against American subservience to British policy. In 1915 he advocated genuine international pluralism over the British ambition to impose the “English mind” around the world. In 1916, he mourned America’s submission to British foreign policy, lamenting that “the spirit of ‘76 seems to be dead at last.” And now on the eve of intervention, he warned privately that the United States was heading toward bondage and statism, that is, toward “a permanent alliance with Great Britain, which will inevitably mean a continuance of the present vassalage, and a permanent policy of compulsory military service with all the brutal interference of the state in individual and family life which that entails, and which has caused the misery of Germany and France. Princeton is a hot-bed of patriotic enthusiasm and military ardor, — which makes me feel like a man without a country.”

Quotations from The War for Righteousness by Richard M. Gamble, pp. 96-97, 147, ISI Books

Categories: State Tags: ,

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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Categories: Church, Liberal Theo. Tags: ,

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…

Categories: Church, Education Tags:

130 years ago today: J. Gresham Machen’s birth

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.

Here is a post from Martin Downes at against-heresies.blogspot.com from two years ago, commemorating Machen’s birthday.

Categories: JGM's Life

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…

Categories: Church, Education Tags: ,
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