Christianity and the L Word: My Conversation With J. Gresham Machen

 

GM: Thanks for joining us. I’m here with J. Gresham Machen, Presbyterian rabble-rouser who has made a career of warning the world of the preaching of a sentimental, non-redemptive gospel. In his spare time, he founded the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and Westminster Theological Seminary, where he also was a professor.

Ok, maybe it’s because I turned 50 recently (ok, last year, but who’s counting?). Or maybe it’s because there is so much uncertainty in the world. Or maybe watching the implosion of our American mainline denominations has something to do with it (as a Presbyterian minister, I have a dog in the fight, as they say).  The Kardashians don’t help, either. Bottom line, I’m feeling a little uneasy…

Where did the church go off the rails?

Modern men say, ‘we are not interested in the theology of the creeds; we are not interested in the doctrines of sin and salvation; we are not interested in atonement through the blood of Christ: enough for us is the simple truth of the fatherhood of God and its corollary, the brotherhood of man.’ It is very strange how intelligent persons can speak in this way. (Christianity and Liberalism, Eerdmans, 1923, 2009, p.51)

GM: But aren’t we supposed to love ev…

The modern doctrine of the universal fatherhood of God is not to be found in the teaching of Jesus. (52)

GM: Okay. So the belief that everyone is going to heaven, which is poisoning the church today, means that the Crucifixion was a cruel joke, correct? And totally unnecessary. And, further, the church is just as unnecessary, right? Might as well turn our sanctuaries into condos.

How did we get to this point?

(M)odern liberalism…tends everywhere to break down the separateness between God and the world, and the sharp personal distinction between God and man. (55)

GM: Practically speaking, what does this mean?

At the very root of the modern liberal movement is the loss of the consciousness of sin. (55) 

GM: But talking about sin might hurt someone’s feelings! And since we’re the Church, aren’t we supposed to be all about love? I know I keep saying that, but that seems to be the argument from everyone I talk with.

This is how I usually respond: is it love if we fail to discipline our children? Are we loving them by letting them do whatever they want? I discipline my children because I love them!

It is not love when we allow sin to go unchecked and unaddressed. If I truly love you, I am going to tell you what the bible says. The entire bible. The whole ‘Creation>Fall>Redemption>Restoration’ narrative. Am I on the right track? This sounds heartbreaking…

(A)lthough Christianity does not end with the broken heart, it does begin with the broken heart; it begins with the consciousness of sin. (57)

GM: Go on…

(W)hen a man comes under the conviction of sin, his whole attitude toward life is transformed; he wonders at his former blindness, and the message of the gospel, which formerly seemed to be an idle tale, becomes now an instinct with light. But it is God alone who can produce the change. (58)

GM: This is great news! Not only are lives changed, but it is God who does the changing! It’s not up to me to ‘talk someone into salvation,’ right? Ravi Zacharias said, “An argument may remove doubt, but only the Holy Spirit can convict of truth.” And that’s what you’re affirming here.

So the church is to be faithful in teaching the fullness of the gospel. The redemptive gospel. This is freeing!

The fundamental fault of the modern Church is that she is busily engaged in an absolutely impossible task- she is busily engaged in calling the righteous to repentance. Modern preachers are trying to bring men into the Church without requiring them to relinquish their pride; they are trying to help men avoid the conviction of sin. Even our Lord did not call the righteous to repentance, and probably we shall be no more successful than He. (58)

GM: Ha, good point! By the way, can you tell us all how to correctly pronounce your name? I’ve heard some real train wrecks…(laughing)

(Not laughing) The first syllable is pronounced like May, the name of the month. In the second syllable the ch is as in chin, with e as in pen: may’chen. In Gresham, the h is silent: gres’am. (The Literary Digest)

GM: Um, okay. Before we leave, can you tell us, in a nutshell, what we should be looking and listening for in the days to come? Any final words of advice?

(L)iberalism is totally different from Christianity, for the foundation is different. Christianity is founded upon the Bible. It bases upon the Bible both its thinking and its life. Liberalism on the other hand is founded upon the shifting emotions of sinful men. (xv)

GM: Thank you so much! Looks like the church has her marching orders! Hallelujah, and amen.

About pastoroftheprez

Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Kings Mountain, NC.
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