Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Christianity and Liberalism

This my first post concerning Christianity and Liberalism by J. Gresham Machen. It is a book that has been recommended to me by several people and always comes with superlative accolades. So far, all the 'recommenders' have been spot on. Machen is piercing and deliberate in his arguments and fulfills his cited goal of "presenting an issue as sharply and clearly as possible".

Here's a few quotes from his introduction. Remember this was written in 1922.

The concern of preaching a (the) gospel that is unpalatable to society and hindering other secondary (erroneously elevated to primary) objectives...

Clear-cut definition of terms in religious matters, bold facing of the logical implications of religious views, is by many persons regarded as an impious proceeding. May it not discourage contribution to mission boards? May it not hinder the progress of consolidation, and produce a poor showing in columns of Church statistics? But with such persons we cannot possibly bring ourselves to agree. Light may seem at times to be an impertinent intruder, but it is always beneficial in the end.

Have an authentic and robust religion
The type of religion which rejoices in the pious sound of traditional phrases, regardless of their meanings, or shrinks from "controversial" matters, will never stand amid the shocks of life.

The confusion and conflict that arises when the same terms mean different things to different people

In the sphere of religion, in particular, the present time is a time of conflict; the great redemptive religion which has always been known as Christianity is battling against a totally diverse type of religious belief, which is only the more destructive of the Christian faith because it makes use of traditional Christian terminology.

The prevalence of challenges to the truth and relevance of scripture

in any case the fact itself is plain, that Christianity during many centuries has consistently appealed for the truth of its claims, not merely and not even primarily to current experience, but to certain ancient books the most recent of which was written some nineteen hundred years ago....Inevitably the question arises whether the opinions of such men can ever be normative for men of the present day
If you were entertaining any doubt, his answer to this is yes.

...objections may arise against the particularities of the Christian religion-- against the Christian doctrines of the person of Christ, and of redemption through His death and resurrection--the liberal theologian seeks to rescue certain of the general principles of religion, of which these particularities are thought to be mere temporary symbols, and these general principles he regards as constituting "the essence of Christianity."
Recently, I have heard this practice described in other ways..."peeling back the husk to find the true seed of Christianity", "jettisoning doctrine from the raft of Christianity so we can successfully ride the rapids of our time", "saving Christianity from itself" and "making Christianity culturally relevant"

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