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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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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 Intellectual Integrity of J. Gresham Machen

Many Christians have struggled with their faith when it is confronted with apparently contradictory “reasonable” arguments. For years, J. Gresham Machen faced doubt and wrenching inner conflict, which caused him to delay his own ordination. He emerged from this period with not only greater intellectual strength but also an understanding of the difficulties others faced in such times. In his 1940 memoir of Machen, Rev. H. McAllister Griffiths writes,

Nor was he hard and full of censure against the young men who had to fight agonizing battles in their own souls before full certainty could be found. No,–to them he was patience and help and tenderness. He knew the long dark hours of inner conflict, when faith seems at its nadir and doubt a mocking jailer. He knew these things because he had experienced them, and because he too had walked that road he could help others over its stony places. Many a man today can thank God for the human instrument who helped him to face every problem squarely and fairly, not turning away from any difficulty, but finding the answer in the reasonableness and truth of the Word of God.

There were many who, while they lightly took ordination vows without really meaning them, scoffed at Dr. Machen’s insistence that such vows should be taken sincerely or not at all and, once taken, kept with fidelity. Perhaps they did not know that he had every moral right so to hold. He was graduated from Princeton Seminary in 1905. But he was not ordained–mark the year well until–1914. During a portion of that period he did not know whether he ever could conscientiously apply for ordination. In later years he wrote, “It was not Germany, however, that first brought doubts into my soul; for I had been facing them for years before my German student days. Obviously it is impossible to hold on with the heart to something that one has rejected with the head, and all the usefulness of Christianity can never lead us to be Christians unless the Christian religion is true. But is it true or is it not? That is a serious question indeed.”

Then he mentioned some of the things that helped “as I passed through the long and bitter experience that the raising of this question brought into my life.” It was out of those “dark hours when the lamp burned dim” (as he himself described them) that the insight and strength came with which he helped others in the years that followed.

Thus was fused in him a deep humanity with a passionate insistence upon intellectual integrity. He never shrugged-off problems that were real, as though they did not exist. He never advocated “short cuts” either in preparation for the service of Christ or in the testing of the claims which the Bible makes for itself. He realized that there is no conflict at all between reason and faith, that when rightly understood they coincide. So he did not ask men to “have faith” in something that their minds could not believe. He took them, instead, to the Bible and helped them to see that it is credible, that its truth is demonstrable, that faith is neither a gamble nor a leap in the dark, but a resting upon the character of the self-revealing God.

The rest of the memoir is here at the PCA Historical Center: “Dr. J. Gresham Machen – Unreconstructed Christian: A Memoir.”

Categories: JGM's Life Tags:

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.

The Resurrection of Christ

Here at ReformationINK is J. Gresham Machen’s 1924 sermon “The Resurrection of Christ,” in defense of the historic, miraculous resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

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