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J. Gresham Machen on Liberalism and Social Religion

News Division

Supporters of Pulpit & Pen via Patreon (or other financial venues) at the Expositor Level receive free books in the mail every month. Like last month, this month, Patreon Expositors will get TWO books. One will be Christianity & Liberalism by J. Gresham Machen and the other will be Christianity and the Craft (about Freemasonry) by Seth Dunn.

But, for those who won’t receive a free copy of Christianity & Liberalism for supporting P&P, I still want to encourage you to read it. And if you absolutely refuse to read it, I’m just going to spoon-feed you some quotations from Machen that are incredibly poignant for 2018.

J. Gresham Machen was a Presbyterian minister who was born in 1881 and died in 1931. He was a New Testament ministry professor at Princeton, but he revolted against modernism and liberalism in theology and helped to form Westminster Theological Seminary. Today, Westminster Philadelphia itself has succombed to liberalism, as its taken lots of cash of James Riady and has promoted heavily the notion of social religion – the very thing that their founder, Machen, fought against.

He was also pivotal in the formation of The Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions, the PCA and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

If only New Calvinists would listen to this Old Calvinist, the current Social Justice debate wouldn’t have to happen.

Consider these quotations from Machen’s book, Christianity and Liberalism.

On Liberalism

“The older evangelism, says the modern liberal preacher, sought to rescue individuals, while the newer evangelism seeks to transform the whole organism of society: the old evangelism was individual, the new evangelism is social.”

“The greatest menace to the Christian Church today comes not from the enemies outside, but from the enemies within; it comes from the presence within the Church of a type of faith and practie that is anti-Christian to the core.”

“But one thing is perfectly plain – whether or not liberals are Christians, it is at any rate perfectly clear that liberalism is not Christianity. And that being the case, it is highly undesirable that liberalism and Christianity should continue to be propagated within the boundaries of the same organization. A separation between the two parties in the church is the crying need of the hour.”

“The plain fact is that liberalism, whether it be true or false, is no mere ‘heresy’ – no mere divergence at isolated points from Christian teaching. On the contrary, it proceeds from a totally different root, and it constitutes, in essentials, a unitary system of its own…Christianity is being attacked from within by a movement which is anti-Christian to the core.”

On Separating from Liberals

“Many indeed are seeking to avoid the separation. Why, they say, may not brethren dwell together in unity? The church, we are told, has room both for liberals and for conservatives. The conservatives may be allowed to remain if they will keep trifling matters in the background and attend chiefly too the ‘weightier matters of the law.’ And among the things thus designated as ‘trifling’ is found the Cross of Christ as a vicarious atonement for sin.”

“The liberal preacher says to the conservative party in the Church: ‘Let us united in the same congregation, since of course, doctrinal differences are trifles.’ But it is the very essense of ‘conservatism’ in the Church to regard doctrinal differences as no trifles but as the matters of supreme moment.”

“The separation of naturalistic liberalism from the evangelical churches would no doubt greatly diminish the size of the churches. But Gideon’s three hundred were more powerful than the thirty-two thousand with which the march against the Midianites began.”

On Subversive Liberalism

“[Subversive liberals] seek a place in the ministry that they may teach what is directly contrary to the Confession of Faith to which they subscribe. For that course of action various excuses are made…if a man desires to combat the message instead of propagating it, he has no right, no matter how false the message may be to, to gain a vantage ground for combating it by making a declaration of his faith which – be it plainly spoke – is not true.”

“The Unitarian Church is frankly and honestly just the kind of church that the liberal preacher desires – namely, a churcch without an authoritative Bible, without doctrinal requirements, and without a creed.”

“If the liberal party, therefore, really obtains control of the Church, evangelical Christians must be prepared to withdraw no matter what it costs. Our Lord has died for us, and surely we must not deny Him for the favor of men.”

On Polemics

“They should not say, in the sense in which some laymen say it, that more time should be devoted to the propagation of Christianity, and less to the defense of Christianity…What they really intend is the discouragement of the whole intellectual defense of the faith. And their words come as a blow in the face of those who are fighting the great battle. As a matter of fact, not less time, but more time, should be devoted to the defense of the gospel. Indeed, truth cannot be stated clearly at all without being set over against error. Thus a large part of the New Testament is polemic; the enunciation of evangelical truth was occasioned by the errors which had arisen in the churches.”

“God has always saved the church. But He has always saved it not by theological pacificsts, but by the sturdy contenders for the truth.

On Keeping Social Justice Out of the Church

“The preacher comes forward, not out of a secret place of mediatation and power, not with the authority of God’s Word permeating his message, not with human wisdom pushed far into the background by the glory of the Cross, but with human opinions about the social problems of the hour or easy solutions of the vast problem of sin. Such is the sermon…Is there no refuge from strife? Is there no place where two or three can gather in Jesus’ name, to forget for the moment all those things that divide nation from nation and from race to race, to forget human pride, to forget the passions of war, to forget the puzzling problems of industrial strife, and to unite in over flowing gratitude at the foot of the Cross? If there be such a place, then that is the house of God and that is the gate of Heaven.”