From The Pastor At St. Paul's UCC, Freeburg, IL

From Christianity And Liberalism – J. Gresham Machen

machen.jpgThe fundamental fault of the modern Church is that she is busily engaged in an absolutely impossible task–she is busily engaged in calling the righteous to repentance. Modern preachers are trying to bring men into the Church without requiring them to relinquish their pride; they are trying to help men avoid the conviction of sin. The preacher gets up into the pulpit, opens the Bible, and addresses the congregation somewhat as follows: “You people are very good,” he says; “you respond to every appeal that looks toward the welfare of the community. Now we have in the Bible–especially in the life of Jesus–something so good that we believe it is good enough even for you good people.” Such is modern preaching. It is heard every Sunday in thousands of pulpits. But it is entirely futile. Even our Lord did not call the righteous to repentance, and probably we shall be no more successful than He.

Note well – this was published in 1923.


8 responses

  1. My Personal Testimonial on this topic:

    This misconception of “I am a good person (I am righteous) and I don’t sin much, therefore God will save me from damnation (if it exits) because I work so hard at being so good” is held by many sitting in the pews of Christian churches today and has been erronously preached from the pulpit for many years: “We are already perfect because God made each one of us, we don’t have to repent for sins (becoming more common all of the time), if we work hard enough by doing good works our good Lord will Love us more, I deserve heaven because God made me what I am in his image, and I don’t need to worry because Hell isn’t real!” (Truth: God sends no one to hell – we send ourselves!)

    I was of this mind too for many years. Why? I wasn’t learning his Word through study and prayer – I was dead wrong in most of my beliefs, except for the fact that God does LOVE each of us (humans) so much that it is impossible for him to LOVE us more fully, even our sinfulness does not tarnish this love.

    Good works are wonderful and are commanded of us by Christ, but the ultimate command is: Love God with all our heart, soul, and mind. The “mind” needs to be filled with his Word, Old and New Testament – Law and Gospel – to know God. The joy we find in God is demonstrated through a natural flow of love for fellow man.

    Some say the bible is outdated and is in need of fixing! God’s Word is perfect and for all time. Even Christ said “I did not come to destroy the Law, but to fulfill it”

    We are all pure sin (hard to grasp at first), he does love us, he sent his willing Son to die for us to erase all our sins, Christ’s blood makes “believers who are born of the Spirit – born again” as white as snow before God’s eyes (we appear righteous to Him through Christ)- not because we deserve it – but because Christ took the world’s sins upon himself and saved us from the damnation of HELL that we deserve.

    We all sinned yesterday, we will sin today, and we will sin tomorrow, but our goal is to become as “Christ-like” as possible (we fail miserably) through our “God given” faith, humbling ourselves as undeserving sinners before God, obeying Christ’s commands “To Love God with all of our heart, soul, and mind, and to love one another, just as he loves us”.

    We cannot do anything on our “own power”: We can’t wish for salvation, pray for salvation, work toward salvation, without God’s grace and mercy, it is beyond us…faith is a gift and to know God we must rely on his “perfect” Word for all we need. Is one sin worse than another sin? No sin is sin. Is anyone on earth deserving of heaven – no, not one.

    How do I know this and why did it take me so long to learn the Truth? I did not take my faith seriouly, I thought I knew all I needed, and I became convinced I deserved heaven because I was a good girl. The truth is found in hearing the scripture read, reading it myself daily, studying from sound authors who interpret the inerrant(God breathed)Word of God in Truth, and knowing Pastor Earl speaks the Truth given to us in scripture.

    Was it my decision to study and learn God’s Word for Truth? A few years ago I would have said yes, I decided to study – How good I am for that! No, it was not my decision – the Holy Spirit opens our eyes and ears to seek God at God’s appointed time – does that make me holier, less “pure sin” than I am – No, I am still pure sin – but in learning the Word, attending bible studies, relying on the Spirit’s help, prayers to God for his mercy, faith and trust in Jesus and The Cross which are the only quarenteed path to heaven, puts us on a path of sanctification which is a life long process.

    The wonderful thing is, is that Christ erased our sinfulness through his blood on The Cross and he will leave no one behind that God has gifted to be “born again” through the working of the Holy Spirit.

    He wants us to be weaned off the “milk” of understanding, and eat from the “meat” of His Word. Why? So we can fulfill his mission set before us – to share the Good News with confidence and Truth.

    In Christian Love,

    March 8, 2008 at 11:08 am

  2. I should not have said “Christ erased” our sins. Christ, sinless in all ways, chose willingly to “take all our sins onto himself.” Our sins were still present, but in Christ rather than in us.

    March 8, 2008 at 3:10 pm



    March 10, 2008 at 9:15 pm

  4. It’s quite revealing to me to see that this analysis is over 80 years old. It helps me to see that what controversies we’re dealing with now are not new – and that they’re not just about us. Most of all I appreciate how it helps me see and understand what’s going on now. Again, I highly recommend this short book.

    Machen, BTW, was a founder of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church – different from the PCA.

    March 11, 2008 at 6:17 am

  5. Becky

    Wow Deb, what a great testimonial! I would like to read this book.Im curious if/how this gentleman suggests counteracting the after-effects of this sort of un-Biblical preaching?

    March 14, 2008 at 12:25 pm

  6. Pator Earl has the book and I want to read it too. I have ordered so many books this year, that I have decided to take time to finish the ones I have before ordering any more! I am in the midst of reading three different ones at the moment! Oh, if we just had more time and sponges for brains!HA

    March 15, 2008 at 12:19 pm

  7. You can buy this book at halfdotcom here:
    or at amazon here:
    (copy & paste into your browsers web address)

    March 15, 2008 at 12:38 pm

  8. Machen was writing during the “fundamentalist/modernist” controversy of the 1920’s. Eventually he broke away from the Presbyterian church to help form the Orthodox Presbyterian church which still exists.

    As a pastor, I often wonder about my role in such a liberal denomination. There are two things that keep coming back to me about that. 1) God called me to Freeburg. It was no accident! 2) My primary function, the sine qua non, is to preach the gospel. If the Word is proclaimed then the way will be made clear. The Word, not me, has the power to make whatever changes are necessary. That’s good because I’m often unclear as to what changes are necessary, much less how to accomplish them!

    March 15, 2008 at 12:41 pm

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