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▶️Christianity and Liberalism – J. Gresham Machen / Full Audio Book
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J. Gresham Machen (1881-1937) was the principal figure in the founding of the OPC if for no other reason than that the Presbyterian controversy in which he played a crucial role provided the backdrop for the denomination begun in 1936. A distinguished New Testament scholar at Princeton Seminary from 1906 to 1929, Machen defended the historical reliability of the Bible in such works as The Origin of Paul’s Religion (1921) and The Virgin Birth of Christ (1930). He emerged as the chief spokesman for Presbyterian conservatives by issuing a devastating critique of Protestant modernism in the popular books Christianity and Liberalism (1923) and What is Faith? (1925). When the northern Presbyterian church (PCUSA) rejected his arguments during the mid-1920s and decided to reorganize Princeton Seminary to create a moderate school, Machen took the lead in founding Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia (1929) where he taught New Testament until his death. His continued opposition during the 1930s to liberalism in his denomination’s foreign missions agencies led to the creation of a new organization, The Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions (1933). The trial, conviction and suspension from the ministry of Independent Board members, including Machen, in 1935 and 1936 provided the rationale for the formation in 1936 of the OPC. Only six months after the new denomination’s beginning, Machen died in Bismarck, North Dakota while trying to rally support for the OPC. He was arguably the most important conservative Protestant thinker of the first half of the twentieth century and the guiding light for the first generation of Orthodox Presbyterians.
The message of this famous classic of the Christian faith is more desperately needed in the 21st century than it was in the early 20th century. Since Machen wrote, the philosophical and theological trends that generated the issues he was addressing have become more firmly entrenched in the consciousness not only of the culture at large, but of evangelical Christianity in particular. The major thesis of this books is not that theological liberalism is bad, although Machen leaves little doubt of his opinion of it. Rather, the major thesis is that theologically liberal Christianity is not Christianity at all, and that toward every one of the most fundamental teachings of historic Christianity, theological liberalism takes an antithetical stance.
The position of the liberal church toward doctrine is that Christianity should be an undogmatic religion, unconcerned with theological subtleties. Christianity should be a life, not a system of doctrine. Certainly at this point, liberalism could not possibly be more firmly allied with contemporary mainstream evangelicalism. Anti-doctrinalism goes hand in hand with the two most pervasive philosophical currents of our age, postmodernism with its radical relativism, and existentialism, with its radical subjectivism and distrust of objective systems in general. Machen shows that the religion of both the apostle Paul and Jesus Christ himself was as dogmatic as possible. For example, even in the Sermon on the Mount, a favorite passage among theological liberals, “Jesus represents Himself as seated on the judgment seat of all the earth . . . Could anything be further removed than such a Jesus from the humble teacher of righteousness appealed to by modern liberalism?”
Concerning God and Man, Machen emphasizes the liberal tendency to break down the separateness between God and Man and to take an optimistic view of human goodness. One of the most penetrating insights in the book is that “modern liberalism, even when it is not consistently pantheistic, is at any rate pantheizing.” This is in opposition to the orthodox teaching of the absoluteness of the Creator-creature distinction, and also of the absolute moral gulf between God and Man as a result of sin, hopelessly unbridgeable apart from the work of Jesus Christ.
In the person of Jesus Christ, liberalism sees an example for faith, but not an object of faith. This is because the driving principle of liberalism, anti-supernaturalism, cannot admit the historical teaching of who Jesus Christ really was. For liberalism “Jesus differs from the rest of men only in degree, and not in kind: He can be divine only if all men are divine.”
Concerning salvation, liberalism sees the source of salvation in man; Christianity sees it in God. Machen also shows that what distinguished early Christianity from the pagan religions of the time was specifically its exclusiveness. Paganism, like modern liberalism, had no problem with many roads to God and many gods, but it has a very deep problem with the exclusivity of Christianity. Finally, the very concept of salvation in Christianity is concerned with heaven, or the future world and life, while modern liberalism is concerned only with this world. This is in my estimation the area in which the majority of Reformed Christians have in fact followed liberalism, specifically with the contemporary preoccupation with cultural transformation as the means to institute God’s kingdom on this earth. This is precisely the idea that unambiguously characterizes unbelieving thought, from the rebellious nation of Israel, through the Pharisees, and into the Enlightenment and modern liberalism. Until the European Enlightenment, the true church had consistently affirmed that the world is not our home.
Please watch: “A Call to Separation – A. W. Pink Christian Audio Books / Don’t be Unequally Yoked / Be Ye Separate”