J.G.Machen on the Mission of the Church in the World – Old Life Theological Society

Transforming History | Old Life Theological Society.

Back in August of this year a bit of a firestorm erupted on the blogosphere when certain prominent Reformed and Presbyterian men opened up some solid criticism of the neo-Calvinists and their transformationalist philiosophy (that Christians and the church ought to be in the business of transforming culture). Carl Trueman was one of those who swung the machete against this new Kuyperianism (in “honor” of the noted Dutch churchman Abraham Kuyper and his theory of “common” grace which gave and still gives much impetus to this neo-Calvinist philiosophy), and he was in turn taken to task by many, including a certain Bill Evans. Darryl G.Hart came to Trueman’s defense, quoting J.Gresham Machen’s statements on the true mission of the church in this world.

JGMachenInterestingly, the calling of the church toward social/moral issues of the day also came up in our Bible study this past Wednesday. I found Machen’s comments to be helpful in guiding us with regard to these matters. I hope you do too.

Here first is Hart’s comment and then his quote from Machen:

For one, he (i.e., B.Evans -cjt) does not seem to recall that WTS’ chief founder was J. Gresham Machen, a man whom neo-Calvinists will contort into a transformationalist but who better than anyone else in the first half of the twentieth century articulated the spirituality of the church over against the transformationalism that dominated the PCUSA:

But when I say that a true Christian church is radically intolerant, I mean simply that the church must maintain the high exclusiveness and universality of its message. It presents the gospel of Jesus Christ not merely as one way of salvation, but as the only way. It cannot make common cause with other faiths. It cannot agree not to proselytize. Its appeal is universal, and admits of no exceptions. All are lost in sin; none may be saved except by the way set forth in the gospel. Therein lies the offense of the Christian religion, but therein lies also it glory and its power. A Christianity tolerant of other religions is just no Christianity at all. . . .

There are certain things which you cannot expect from such a true Christian church. In the first place, you cannot expect from it any cooperation with non-Christian religion or with a non-Christian program of ethical culture. There are those who tell us that the Bible ought to be put into the public schools, and that the public schools should seek to build character by showing the children that honesty is the best policy and that good Americans do not lie nor steal. With such programs a true Christian church will have nothing to do. . . .

In the second place, you cannot expect from a true Christian church any official pronouncements upon the political or social questions of the day, and you cannot expect cooperation with the state in anything involving the use of force. Important are the functions of the police, and members of the church, either individually or in such special associations as they may choose to form, should aid the police in every lawful way in the exercise of those functions. But the function of the church in its corporate capacity is of an entirely different kind. Its weapons against evil are spiritual, not carnal; and by becoming a political lobby, through the advocacy of political measures whether good or bad, the church is turning aside from its proper mission. . . .

The responsibility of the church in the new age is the same as its responsibility in every age. It is to testify that this world is lost in sin; that the span of human life — nay, all the length of human history — is an infinitesimal island in the awful depths of eternity; that there a mysterious, holy, living God, Creator of all, Upholder of all, infinitely beyond all; that He has revealed Himself to us in His Word and offered us communion with Himself through Jesus Christ the Lord; that there is no other salvation, for individuals or for nations, save this, but that this salvation is full and free, and that whosever possesses it has for himself and for all others to whom he may be the instrument of bringing it a treasure compared with which all the kingdoms of the earth — nay, all the wonders of the starry heavens — are as the dust of the street. ( “The Responsibility of the Church in the New Age,” 1933)

 

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