Christianity & Liberalism

I have been reading from some writings of John Gresham Machen. I am sure that he is not on most people’s list of authors. But, for me, I find him to be extraordinarily astute. He wrote warnings and essays in the 1920’s that have not only stood the test of times but, they have become even more applicable today than 100 years ago. His insight and wisdom are inspiring to me.

Specifically, I was reading Liberalism & Christianity (Machen, 1923) for a journal article I am writing. He says that there are two lines of criticism against liberalism in respect to the liberal attempt at reconciling science and Christianity. In this case, Machen considers liberalism to be the interpreting of the Bible metaphorically not literally. However, he also discusses the challenges of extending this worldview into all walks of life, which is more like our contemporary view of liberalism as opposed to conservatism. Therefore, He says, ”

Modern liberalism may be criticized:

(1) on the ground that it is un-Christian and

(2) on the ground that it is unscientific.

Machen concerns the reader with it being on the ground of being un-Christian first. I found this to be interesting. This reasoning, thinking, and devoted man chose first to address that it is un-Christian. Is it not true, in a Christian worldview that Christ and his teachings are first? Machen is so bold to say, “modern liberalism not only is a different religion from Christianity but belongs in a totally different class of religions”. Can we honestly say that the disregard of Biblical truths is Christian? Like Machen, I contend it cannot be.

The liberal attempt at making Christianity more relevant is false. We are not showing that there is no way of rescuing the relevancy of Christianity at all. On the contrary, the Christianity of the New Testament is not in conflict with science or truth, rather the supposed Christianity of the modern liberal Church. “The real city of God, and that city alone, has defenses which are capable of warding off the assaults of modern unbelief. (Machen, 1923 p. 5).” The immediate concern is with the other side of the problem of demonstrating just how that the liberal attempt at reconciling Christianity with modern science has really relinquished everything distinctive of Christianity. What essentially remains is only that same type of religious aspiration which was in the world before Christianity came upon the scene.” In trying to remove from Christianity everything that could possibly be objected to in the name of science, in trying to bribe off the enemy by those concessions which the enemy most desires, the apologist has really abandoned what he started out to defend. (Machen, 1923 p. 115)” Here, as in many other essentials of life, it appears that the things that are sometimes thought to be hardest to defend are also the things that are most worth defending.

This is why Salem Christian School uses every discipline to point toward the truth. We know that each truth in any discipline supports the Christian faith. We want our students to have the understanding that we should conform to the likeness of Christ, biblical truth, and God’s will rather than the pressures or liberal theology and contrary cultural norms. We should transform ourselves to the likeness of Christ.

“But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3: 16-18 (NIV)

Machen, J. G. (1923). Christianity & Liberalism (First ed.). New York , NY: Macmillan.

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