Soli Deo Gloria: For the Glory of God Alone Abraham Kuyper
Posted: Friday, August 13, 2010 11:17 am
The Messenger, August 12, 2010
Consistent Contender for Biblical Christianity: Part 1
By the Rev. BILLY L. MCGARITY
Special to The Messenger
There is an inherent evolution in most all thought and practice. In many areas of life and thought, this evolutionary tendency goes unnoticed due to the normality or lack of profound importance in the various disciplines involved. But how does this evolutionary tendency impact a subject or discipline that is called to maintain a set principle, especially when that principle is regarded by its own witness as ultimate, essential and necessary truth?
The tendency of accommodating the evolutionary process of thought has plagued the Christian church throughout her long existence. Many times this has occurred when exceptional scientific work has been accomplished in various fields of study. Rare is the scholar who possesses the ability to extract what is sound and proper from the various disciplines and then employ it in such a way as to be consistent with revealed truth. The scholar J. Gresham Machen was such a man, the last of the great Princeton theologians and a defender of sound orthodox biblical doctrine.
Machen lived from 1881 until 1937. He was reared in a loving and cultured home by parents concerned with both the academic and the religious well-being of their children. God prepared this stalwart of the Christian faith through a rigorous college and seminary education in the United States and Germany. During his young life, he appeared to be just another average young man without direction. Although Machen possessed potential greatness, he was much more concerned with self-indulgence than with long-standing contributions to humanity.
While in Germany, Machen found the life purpose he had previously lacked. He encountered the modern theological liberalism of Wilhelm Herrmann, especially in the area of biblical criticism (the critical analysis of biblical text). Prompted by many, Machen had studied at Princeton even though he had not decided to pursue the vocation of ordained ministry. There he encountered a cold “fact of the matter” dealing with biblical text that was beginning to be influenced by modernity. Although Machen would spend the rest of his life combating various aspects of Herrmann’s school of interpretation, Herrmann served as the catalyst to move this young disoriented scholar to action.
There is much to be learned from Machen’s reaction to the modern liberal (here liberal is to be taken in its theological rather than political sense) and to the progressive impact of liberalism on Christianity in the early 20th century. First, we are to judge the scholarship that we encounter by a sure and true norm. The Christian is not called to merely dispel various teachings in light of their own personal opinion or belief; rather, we must judge those teachings in light of the infallible, inerrant, Word of the living God. Many of the methods employed by modern scholarship are to be applauded; however, many of the conclusions must be rejected in light of the clear revelation of God in Scripture.
Second, God raises up men in the Church, men such as Machen, to defend the truths of Scripture. God is sovereign over His creation, and many times He uses an instrument wielding a “two edged sword” to bring out those truths that need to be clarified. (Primary resource for this article: Defending the Faith by D. G. Hart.)
Editor’s note: The Rev. Billy L. McGarity is a Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church in America and Pastor of Grace Community Church (PCA) in Union City.