In “Taking up Machen’s Torch: An Archetype for Christian Libertarians,” Kerry Baldwin explains how Machen stood against both the political right and political left. He “staunchly opposed ideas that jeopardized the proper roles of Christian faith and civil governance and so opposed these two movements in both realms of church and state.” From this enlightening article:
Theologically, Machen distanced himself from fundamentalism’s political, eschatological, and revivalist tendencies. Against the right, he opposed prohibition, protestant character education and Bible reading and prayer in public schools. Machen recognized that Bible reading in schools would strip Christianity of its doctrine and therefore should not be done in schools at all. Stripping doctrine would result in diluting doctrinal issues. This would inevitably arise through the standardization of education. Machen knew state control of education was bad enough, but to “put God in the schools” was to sterilize the Gospel.
Continue reading ““Taking up Machen’s Torch: An Archetype for Christian Libertarians””
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”
Here’s a paper from the Water Is Thicker than Blood blog, which I’ve discovered to have some high-quality Machen entries. An excerpt from this paper:
Machen’s seemingly peculiar viewpoint can be seen in the cultural controversy of the day, as well as in the ecclesiastical confessionalism he was singularly dedicated to throughout his life at Princeton and in the formation of Westminster Theological Seminary. As a southerner, Machen “shared his family’s aristocratic sympathies throughout his life.” His loyalties lay with Southern culture in a distinct fashion, putting him on the side of constitutional states’ rights and belief in the legitimacy of secession. This view point led him to a libertarianism where he “opposed almost any extension of state powers and took stands on a variety of issues.” George Marsden further comments on his views stating that as a libertarian he did not easily fall into the categories of ‘liberal and conservative.’ Machen’s outlook concerning liberty in society was built upon philosophical and theological convictions. “Only be preserving free speech, he said, was there hope for the one instrument that could stop radicalism. ‘That instrument is reasonable persuasion.’” These convictions were in stark contrast to the Northern sentimentalities of the church he was to become associated with through teaching at Princeton.
Read more: Secessionism and Presbyterianism.
I was introduced to the Orthodox Presbyterian Church through the writings of J. Gresham Machen. As a graduate student studying economics at Auburn University, I further developed my interest in affinities between conservative theology and good economic analysis. It was during this time that I came across Daniel F. Walker’s article “J. Gresham Machen: A Forgotten Libertarian” published in December 1993 The Freeman, a magazine published by the Foundation for Economic Education. Walker’s piece was a delight as it introduced me to Machen’s social thought and served as a catalyst for me to present a seminar lecture on Machen to the political economy club we had at the Mises Institute when I was a graduate student. Walker begins his essay by quoting a passage from early in Machen’s book Christian Faith in the Modern World.
Everywhere there rises before our eyes the spectre of a society where security, if it is attained at all, will be attained at the expense of freedom, where the security that is attained will be the security of fed beasts in a stable, and where all the high aspirations of humanity will have been crushed by an all-powerful state.
The Christian Faith in the Modern World, by the way, is an excellent accessible introduction to Reformed theology concerning the nature of the Scriptures and the characteristics of God.
The Acton Institute‘s journal Religion and Liberty has a short essay on Machen as “radically libertarian” in his politics. In Christianity and Liberalism, Machen writes, “Personality can only be developed in the realm of individual choice. And that realm, in the modern state, is being slowly but steadily eradicated.”