You will have a battle, too, when you go forth as ministers into the church. The church is now in a period of deadly conflict. The redemptive religion known as Christianity is contending, in our own Presbyterian Church and in all the larger churches in the world, against a totally alien type of religion. As always, the enemy conceals his most dangerous assaults under pious phrases and half truths. The shibboleths of the adversary have sometimes a very deceptive sound. “Let us propagate Christianity,” the adversary says, “but let us not always be engaged in arguing in defense of it; let us make our preaching positive, and not negative; let us avoid controversy; let us hold to a Person and not to dogma; let us sink small doctrinal differences and seek the unity of the church of Christ; let us drop doctrinal accretions and interpret Christ for ourselves; let us look for our knowledge of Christ in our hearts; let us not impose Western creeds on the Eastern mind; let us be tolerant of opposing views.” Such are some of the shibboleths of that agnostic Modernism which is the deadliest enemy of the Christian religion to-day. They deceive some of God’s people some of the time; they are heard sometimes from the lips of good Christian people, who have not the slightest inkling of what they mean. But their true meaning, to thinking men, is becoming increasingly clear. Increasingly it is becoming necessary for a man to decide whether he is going to stand or not to stand for the Lord Jesus Christ as he is presented to us in the Word of God. Read more»te;
J. Gresham Machen, “The Good Fight of Faith” (1929). Listen to a reading of this sermon.
Why should Satan devise new schemes against the Church when his old ones work like a charm?
Since the Word of God is the only legitimate means by which we may know the mind of God, Satan’s strategy is always to attack the Word, just as he did in the garden. “Has God really said?” is the question he uses to attack, and undermine trust in the authority of God’s Word. What a blessing we have, as Reformed Christians, in the confessional standards of our churches, to be able to access a faithful summary of God’s Word that has been proven to be tried, tested, and true through centuries of scrutiny by the churches.
Today the battle seems to be is not so much between Christianity and Liberalism but between Christianity and the “Woke” gospel. As the pastor at the PCA church I am a member of recently preached (based on Romans 12:9) “what sins should we abhor? We should abhor racism, sexual abuse, and marginalizing the powerless!” It seems to me the “Woke” gospel reverses the order of the first and second commandments. Van Til wrote a preliminary review of race theory in his unpublished papers (Logos software) “Black Theology and Black Power.” There is the “Statement on Social Justice,” https://statementonsocialjustice.com/ which tries but fails to address the “Woke” gospel on a very deep level. But we need a Machen today.
Even though Jesus emphatically denied that His kingdom was of this world, the social gospel is determined to take Him, by force if necessary, to make Him the king who is concerned with curing all social ills. It is the logical out working of Liberalism and Theological Modernity which wants to replace the gospel message of reconciliation with God so that we might have eternal life, with a better life in this world. Having denied the eternal, spiritual and supernatural character of Christianity, the concerns of this life is all that is left. It turns the good news of eternal reconciliation with God into the bad news that Jesus is just a man who modelled behaviour that we should imitate to make this world a better place. That is a type of moralism, a false gospel of works for earthly rewards. Machen was right to call this, “a completely alien type of religion.”
Thank you for making these distinctions tirelessly. Seeing/recognizing the ‘modern’s map of hostility’ toward our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, compels us to be equipped through hearing the Word and participating in the Sacraments, administered faithfully by Pastors committed to confessional Reformed Theology.
Dr. Julius J. Kim writes about the rise of moralism in Anglicanism during the 1600s through the influence of Benjamin Whichcote and John Tillotson in his essay, The Rise of Moralism in Seventeenth-Century Anglican Preaching, in the book, Covenant Justification and Pastoral Ministry. “Tillotson opposed Calvinist doctrines such as irresistible grace and imputed righteousness because they were too God-centered and God dependent without attributing anything to man.” He wanted to make man responsible for doing his part, insisting that faith included works, or cooperating with grace. He wanted a theology that appealed to natural
man’s reason, and that would foster morality for the good of society. He opposed the idea of original sin and insisted that man was capable of working to make a better world and pleasing God by his own best efforts. Liberalism and Theological Modernism are not so new, it seems, but the destructive influence is always the same. As soon as man is made to be his own saviour, Christ is robbed of His position, and reduced to a moral example. This is a man centered hermeneutic rather than a Christ centered understanding of Scripture, as Dr. Kim observes. It is a different religion. It says we do good works to make a better world, and through our efforts become pleasing to God, while the Christ centered faith says we have been made pleasing to God through the obedience of Christ, therefore we strive to obey the moral law out of love and obedience to God.
‘How then can we sinners stand before that throne? How can there be peace for us in the presence of the justice of God? How can he be just and yet justify the ungodly? There is one answer to these questions. It is not our answer. Our wisdom could never have discovered it. It is God’s answer. It is found in the story of the Cross. We deserved eternal death because of sin; the eternal Son of God, because he loved us, and because he was sent by the Father who loved us too, died in our stead, for our sins, upon the cross. That message is despised to-day; upon it the visible church as well as the world pours out the vials of its scorn, or else does it even less honor by paying it lip-service and then passing it by.’
Thank you for publishing Dr. Machen’s final sermon to the students at the Princeton Seminary. His practical distinctions between the modernist’s creed and the Apostle’s Creed identify and define Ministers who Preach God’s Word without fear. These Pastors protect His flock with the message of the Cross; they are loving and obeying God by holding to the Power of the Cross for Salvation.
As a lay person I am beginning to understand God’s peace with men whom He calls to minister His Word and Sacraments to His Church. The Cross informs and refines my prayers for us who believe, especially our ministers, in these relentless battles. God gave the Apostle Paul peace in every situation, condition, circumstance. Paul trusted and obeyed God because God was at peace with Paul through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.
Amen!!! Paul was able to face so many trials because he knew his righteousness was not in himself but in the imputed righteousness of Christ. He was determined to boast only in Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Paul knew that he was eternally right with God, so whatever man might do to him, in this short life, really did not even matter anymore. The love he had for God, out of gratitude for so great a salvation, was what drove him to serve and obey the Lord he loved, regardless of the consequences it brought him in this life.