Machen’s Response To The Open Letter

In Stephen J. Nichol’s fine biography on J. Gresham Machen, he refers to historian Bradley Longfield’s description of the real problem within the church during the modernist controversy: namely, the moderates, whom Machen called the “indifferentists.” Machen wrote in a letter to evangelist Billy Sunday of one of the indifferentists, “If [Charles Erdman’s] policy of palliation and concealment of the issue is continued only a very few years, our church will be in control of the enemies of the gospel.” In a word, here is the issue with the position of the Open Letter: palliation. The signers wish to make a serious offense seem less serious. And what do we suppose will happen to the PCA if this continues only a very few years? Read more»

Ray M. Sanchez, “ A First-Time Commissioner on SSA and CRT At the PCA General Assembly,” Aquila Report | June 23, 2021


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  1. Elder Sanchez has done many PCA members a great service with his tying together the battles Machen was fighting and our present battle. We are indeed fighting against 21st Century liberals. Our liberals are smarter and more careful, and so give many the impression they are ‘just godly men of differing opinions’. This is naive in my opinion. And boarders on gullibility. Sheep can be gullible, Sheep can be naive. But Shepherds and Watchmen must not be so. That is how the visible Church gets polluted. That is part of the cause of the Elect getting bruised.

    • Is RE Sanchez going to attend GA? It’s not enough to go and pass resolutions. Offenders need to be disciplined and if they refuse to repent, be kicked out. Time to build walls and not bridges.

    • I understood he was going to GA. While most would gently chide you for saying ‘walls not bridges’, I would shout Amen if you said it in my church. When they escort us out we can get coffee somewhere. Effeminate shepherds need to do something else somewhere else.

    • Amen. I’ve about had it. Effeminate shepherds cannot fulfill their vocation to protect the sheep. Fighting is a man’s game and needs men to play it.

      “They” are not escorting me anywhere. “They” are leaving, not me.

    • I agree that there are serious issues at stake in the PCA, not least of which is the intrusion of Marxist ideology in the form of Critical Theory. It blows my mind that at least one avowed adherent of Critical Theory was elected Moderator of GA in recent years.

      At the same time, I am equally concerned about the way people are treating each other as these disagreements are discussed. “Build walls, not bridges” is in my view a sentiment equally as destructive as Greg Johnson’s “They have won the battle but lost the war” tweet, or the “sit down and be quiet” sentiment expressed in the Open Letter.

      Galatians 6:1 calls us to “restore gently” those caught in sin, and in my view this sort of rhetoric is out of accord with our calling to love one another. Being correct is of little value if in the process one becomes a “resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.”

  2. Moderate between which poles? In Machen’s day it was broad orthodoxy and heterodoxy. Surely moderation or tolerance is unacceptable in this case, but what are the poles in the PCA?

    Don’t most of us benefit from moderates from time-to-time? You’re an old-earth creationist in a majority young-earth creationist communion. Isn’t that because of moderate YECs? Couldn’t someone make this same post and say the problem is moderates who allow old-earth creationism in our denomination? If you read the PCA confessionalists, they claim anything but 6/24 YEC is a problem.

    • Scott,

      In the context of the fundamentalist-modernist controversy, the “moderates” of the period (e.g., Charles Erdman) thought that they could stake out a middle ground between those who were standing for orthodoxy (i.e., Machen) and the liberals (e.g., Pearl Buck, Harry Emerson Fosdick). They thought of themselves as personally orthodox but they were tolerant (or better, latitudinarian) toward the liberals in the interest of “missions.” When push came to shove, and it did, they sided not with the gospel and Machen but with power, influence, and prestige but they postured as if they were for “mission” when the contest was always, which mission and which message?

      In the current context it is illuminating to consider the moderates since the rhetoric used by some of the NP types is quite similar to the rhetoric used by the Erdmans of the 1920s.

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