What Did They Fear?

Our weekly Machen fix from Geneva Redux reminds us that when the evangelicals and liberals in the PCUSA conspired (is there a better verb?) to prosecute Machen for daring to be confessional in the mainline they revealed a good deal about themselves, namely that they were neither truly “liberal” nor truly “evangelical.”

The liberals weren’t so liberal as to tolerate a man or a movement with which they fundamentally disagreed and the “evangelicals,” who were ostensibly all about spreading the faith, weren’t.

After all, the formal cause of Machen’s trial, was his involvement in a missions board that was formed because the PCUSA was sending out “missionaries” who were openly denying the gospel (remember, this was in the 1920s and 30s). Here’s the closing paragraph to Machen’s statement before the committee:

Perhaps it may be objected that if we continue to be tolerated, we shall harm the church by an insistence upon the maintenance of a strict view of its doctrinal standards.  I think that just from the “Liberal” point of view there ought not to be any such fear.  The truth, after all, will prevail.  If we are wrong, we shall come to naught.  Surely it will be better to tolerate our teaching and to refute it in public discussion than to engage in a method of suppression which would clearly involved a breach of faith.

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