Tuesday, 29 November 2005

enslaving thought to Christ

J. Gresham Machen, 1881-1937. My Dad almost got called Machen, since my Grandfather had studied under him and held him in high regard (thankfully, my Granny stepped in so that my Dad avoided the name, and probable bullying at school). I knew that he had fought liberalism tooth and nail and done much to prevent its advance. I own one book of his but to my shame have not yet read it. I am now determined to read all I can find of his, having come across this lecture online: Christianity and Culture. I quoted extensively from it in a seminar I gave the other day on the philosophy of the Belgian 'Free' universities:

We are all agreed that at least one great function of the Church is the conversion of individual men. The missionary movement is the great religious movement of our day. Now it is perfectly true that men must be brought to Christ one by one. There are no labour-saving devices in evangelism. It is all hand-work.

And yet it would be a great mistake to suppose that all men are equally well prepared to receive the gospel. It is true that the decisive thing is the regenerative power of God. That can overcome all lack of preparation, and the absence of that makes even the best preparation useless. But as a matter of fact God usually exerts that power in connection with certain prior conditions of the human mind, and it should be ours to create, so far as we can, with the help of God, those favourable conditions for the reception of the gospel.

False ideas are the greatest obstacles to the reception of the gospel. We may preach with all the fervour of a reformer and yet succeed only in winning a straggler here and there, if we permit the whole collective thought of the nation to be controlled by ideas which prevent Christianity from being regarded as anything more than a harmless delusion. Under such circumstances, what God desires us to do is to destroy the obstacle at its root.

...What is to-day matter of academic speculation begins tomorrow to move armies and pull down empires. In that second stage, it has gone too far to be combated; the time to stop it was when it was still a matter of impassioned debate. So as Christians we should try to mould the thought of the world in such a way as to make the acceptance of Christianity something more than a logical absurdity.

And that is a bit out of context - not so as to destroy its sense, but do read the whole lecture! While noting that, speaking at the start of the last century, Machen speaks of modern culture, I think what he says is just as true of the church and the thin veneer of 'post-modern' over modern culture.

Or as Paul said,
The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ...
(2 Cor. 10:4-5, ESV).


David said...

Hi Rosemary,

Keep up the reading of Machen. I read 'Christianity & Liberalism' over the summer and think it's excellent.

étrangère said...

Thanks David. I mean to grab that over Christmas - I'm sure my Dad will have a copy somewhere in the house. I think I had thought that since Machen was fighting 'old liberalism' it wouldn't be so relevant as to be high up my reading list, but I'm seeing more just how 'old' current liberalism (and other trends) can be.