I’ve been reading J. Gresham Machen’s Christianity & Liberalism along with several other people through Tim Challies blog over the last couple of weeks. So far, I am really enjoying the book. It offers a lot for me to think through and process.
I’ve been reading the first few chapters as I’ve had time at camp. For the last two weeks, I’ve been at summer church camp, first with high school students, and then with 5th and 6th graders.
I’ve been more of a passive observer in this process with the others who have joined together in reading this classic, preferring to be more on the sidelines and learning instead of jumping into the middle of the conversations. I’m learning a lot.
Here are a few of Machen’s thoughts from chapter 2, Doctrine. These are some of the things that I’ve been mulling over in my mind; things that caught my attention.
But if any one fact is clear, on the basis of this evidence, it is that the Christian movement at its inception was not just a way of life in the modern sense, but a way of life founded upon a message. It was based, not upon a mere feeling, not upon a mere program of work, but on an account of facts. In other words it was based on doctrine.
Without the slightest doubt, they believed that Jesus had really risen from the dead. They believed, moreover, that faith in Christ was necessary to salvation. But the trouble was, they believed that something else was also necessary; they believed that what Christ had done needed to be pieced out by the believer’s own effort to keep the Law. From the modern point of view the difference would have seemed to be very slight. Paul as well as the Judaizers believed that in keeping the law of God, in its deepest import, is inseparably connected with faith. The difference concerned only the logical — not even, perhaps, the temporal — order of three steps. Paul said that a man (1) first believes on Christ, (2) then is justified before God, (3) then immediately proceeds to keep God’s law. The Judaizers said that a man (1) believes on Christ and (2) keeps the law of God the best he can, and then (3) is justified.
If Christ provides only a part of our salvation, leaving us to provide the rest, then we are still hopeless under the load of sin.
But even in the Sermon on the Mount there is far more than some men suppose. Men say that it contains no theology; in reality it contains theology of the most stupendous kind. In particular, it contains the loftiest possible presentation of Jesus’ own Person… The Sermon on the Mount, like all the rest of the New Testament, really leads a man straight to the foot of the Cross.
There was on time and one time only when the disciples lived, like you, merely on the memory of Jesus. When was it? It was a gloomy, desperate time. It was the three sad days after the crucifixion. Then and then only did Jesus’ disciples regard him merely as a blessed memory. “We trusted,” they said, “that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel.” “We trusted” — but now our trust is gone. Shall we remain, with the modern liberalism, forever in the gloom of those sad days? Or shall we pass out from it to the warmth and joy of Pentecost?
It is not enough to know that Jesus is a Person worthy of trust; it is also necessary to know that he is willing to have us trust him. It is not enough that he saved others; we need to know also that He has saved us.
Chapter Two dealt with the concept of doctrine in general. Over the course of the next few chapters, Machen will examines several specific doctrines in detail. As I read through them, I’ll continue to post some of the things that stand out to me.
As I think over the things that I post here, I hope you can gain something from them as well.
Do any of the thoughts above stick out to you? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.