Machen Day (on the Julian Calendar almost)

Celebrations of Machen’s birthday (July 28, 1881) took me to an undisclosed location where Internet access was impossible. In the spirit of jaywalking, limited government, and Reformed theology, here is Machen on friendship:

Now I know perfectly well that friendships cannot be made to order — it is far too subtle a thing for that: it has its roots too deep down in the human soul. All that we an do is to remove obstacles that may stand in its way.

The first of such obstacles — and one that stands in the way not only of intimate friendship but also of all Christian intercourse — is intolerance. I am not speaking so much of intolerance for different views on quest of theology — though where there is a real religious devotion to Christ, the Son of God and the Savior of the World, tolerance is certainly a virtue — but rather of intolerance for different ways of giving expression to the common Christian faith. One man can give day and hour of his conversion, and loves to have the name of Jesus always on his lips; to another, Christian experience seems a deep and holy mystery, which must not be breathed except to sympathetic ears. One can conceive of no Christian activity other than that of preaching the gospel, and regards as part of the wisdom of this world which is foolishness with God the researches of the Christian scholar; another is filled with a deep longing for knowledge as to the way things actually happened in the time of Christ and the apostles, and is inclined to look rather askance upon the more emotional temperament of the evangelists. To one, Christianity seems a thing that is diametrically opposed to the arts; another loves to give his faith poetical expression, to bring it into some kind of connection with literature. This diversity will be a stumbling block until we remember Paul’s words about diversity of gifts but the same Spirit. We must learn to thank God that he did not make all men alike — especially that he did not make all men like us. Let us do our own work, in the special sphere and in the special way for which our gifts may fit us; but let us not disparage the work of that other man of entirely different habits of thought. Christ came to save not only the ignorant man but the scholar; not only the scholar but the ignorant man. Let us thank God that he raises up various instruments to accomplish his infinitely various work. (“The Christian and Human Relationships,” 427-28)

12 thoughts on “Machen Day (on the Julian Calendar almost)

  1. But the Obedience Boys (seem to) know exactly what sanctification and Xian expression are supposed to look like. Actually, Machen’s wisdom (which leaves room for all sorts) is a rebuke to almost everyone, but none more than the revivalistic pietists.


  2. Marilynne Robinson—-In his Letter to the Romans, Paul says, “Ever since the creation of the world [God’s] invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made.” If we are to consider the heavens, how much more are we to consider the magnificent energies of consciousness that make whomever we pass on the street a far grander marvel than our galaxy? …. I like Calvin’s metaphor—nature is a shining garment in which God is revealed and concealed.

    MR—As we perceive we interpret, and we make hypotheses. Something is happening, it has a certain character or meaning which we usually feel we understand at least tentatively, though experience is almost always available to reinterpretations based on subsequent experience or reflection. Here occurs the weighing of moral and ethical choice. Behavior proceeds from all this, and is interesting, to my mind, in the degree that it can be understood to proceed from it. We are much afflicted now by tedious, fruitless controversy. Very often, perhaps typically, the most important aspect of a controversy is not the area of disagreement but the hardening of agreement, the tacit granting on all sides of assumptions that ought not to be granted on any side…..

    When I Was a Child I Read Books, “Freedom of Thought”


  3. I no longer idolize New Calvinist hero Lloyd-Jones, but he said exactly the same thing — no Xian personality type, no one valid expression. Heck, there might even be some Lutherans we should regard favorably.


  4. But cw and dg, you forget the great advantages which come with knowing what regeneration looks like. It gives you all kind of unity with Arminian folks who are conservative like you are about morality but disagree about unimportant details in the theory of Reformed theology about atonement and justification.

    For example, even if Arminian Southern Baptists cannot agree with Calvinist Southern Baptists about regeneration being before faith, or about regeneration being purchased for the elect by Christ, nevertheless they can all unite in faith that the Jesus who died for everybody and the Jesus who died only for those who will be saved are one and the same Jesus we feel in our hearts.

    Because in the end, it’s not MERELY the death of Christ alone that matters. Christ died to give us the Spirit and the Spirit gives us regeneration ,and that means that people who know what regeneration looks like don’t need to bother with doctrinal differences. Except of course, the doctrinal difference which says that our experience of the presence of Christ will cause us to look like each other, and not like other sinners.

    Even if Paul Washer doubts that you personally are regenerate (too much sin), at least we all can agree that those who teach only about justification and the atonement are maybe not yet regenerate.

    “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has died to me, and I have died to the world.” Galatians 6:14.

    Walk by this rule.


  5. Dr. Hart,

    Really appreciate this. Deep down I’ve always felt this way (I tend to wait for ‘sympathetic ears’ myself).
    So many of the revivalist pietists will never enjoy a great Indie film, art, theater, or music. This blog makes me feel like I’m not alone.


  6. Richard, it’s because Amaro is disobeying the baseball gods who told him not to think the Phillies were the Yankees of the National League. Talk about delusional.

    11,000 loses isn’t far away.


  7. Today in OPC History, emphasis mine:

    History Image
    January 1

    J. Gresham Machen

    At 7:30 pm on January 1, 1937, J. Gresham Machen died in St. Alexius’ Hospital, Bismarck, North Dakota. He had traveled to the Great Plains four days earlier at the request of Rev. Samuel J. Allen to speak on behalf of the newly formed OPC. Machen arrived already sick and his conditioned worsened thanks in part to his insistence on fulfilling his speaking engagements. On December 31, 1936 he was admitted to the hospital with what physicians thought was a case of pleurisy. Doctors soon changed the diagnosis to lobar pneumonia, the cause of death.

    News of Machen’s death was so sudden that the editors of the Presbyterian Guardian in their January 9, 1937 edition could only insert a brief announcement. By the time of the next issue, Ned B. Stonehouse uttered a lament that resounded throughout the small, new Presbyterian communion: “The fact remains that to us he was a dearly beloved Christian brother whose life touched ours for good at a thousand points. Indeed, he was far more than a brother to many of us. He was a father in Israel and we have become orphans. The cry of our grieving hearts in these days has been: ‘Our father, our father, the chariot of Israel and the horsemen thereof!’ But God who was so gracious to him has not forsaken us.”

    From a different corner of media attention came the reflections of H. L. Mencken, a man of roughly the same age as Machen and also from Baltimore, but of decidedly different convictions. Even so, Mencken’s assessment captured a good deal of what Stonehouse had found so appealing about Machen: “[Modernists] have tried to get rid of all the logical difficulties of religion, and yet preserve a generally pious cast of mind. It is a vain enterprise. What they have left, once they have achieved their imprudent scavenging, is hardly more than a row of hollow platitudes, as empty as [of] psychological force and effect as so many nursery rhymes. They may be good people and they may even be contented and happy, but they are no more religious than Dr. Einstein. Religion is something else again—in Henrik Ibsen’s phrase, something far more deep-down-diving and mud-upbringing. Dr. Machen tried to impress that obvious fact upon his fellow adherents of the Geneva Mohammed. He failed—but he was undoubtedly right.”

    [Editor’s note: We thank Dr. Darryl Hart for composing today’s entry.]

    Picture: J. Gresham Machen mountain climbing in the early 1930s.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.