Machen Death Day: Harmonic Convergence?

Machen (who died this day in 1937 in Bismarck, North Dakota) wondered what a Christian was supposed to do when pastors were so politicized and churches were so transformational:

Weary with the conflicts of the world, one goes into the Church to seek refreshment for the soul. And what does one find? Alas, too often, one finds only the turmoil of the world. The preacher comes forward, not out of a secret place of meditation and power, not with the authority of God’s Word permeating his message, not with human wisdom pushed far into the background by the glory of the Cross, but with human opinions about the social problems of the hour or easy solutions of the vast problem of sin. Such is the sermon. And then perhaps the service is closed by one of those hymns breathing out the angry passions of 1861, which are to be found in the back part of the hymnals. Thus the warfare of the world has entered even into the house of God, and sad indeed is the heart of the man who has come seeking peace.

Is there no refuge from strife? Is there no place of refreshing where a man can prepare for the battle of life? Is there no place where two or three can gather in Jesus’ name, to forget for the moment all those things that divide nation from nation and race from race, to forget human pride, to forget the passions of war, to forget the puzzling problems of industrial strife, and to unite in overflowing gratitude at the foot of the Cross? If there be such a place, then that is the house of God and that the gate of heaven. And from under the threshold of that house will go forth a river that will revive the weary world. (Christianity and Liberalism, 180-81)

Within a year, another bad boy of Baltimore was wondering along the same lines:

. . . try to imagine a man full of a yearning for the consolations of that poetry. He is tired of the cannibalistic combat that life is; he longs for peace, comfort, consolation. He goes to church. A few hymns are sung, and there arises in the pulpit a gentleman told off to preach. This gentleman, it quickly appears, is not currently merchanting peace. The Beatitudes are not his text. He turns to the Old Testament. There he finds a text to his taste. And leaping from it as from a springboard, he gives over an hour to damning his fellow-men. He wants them to be sent to jail, to be deported, to be hanged. He demands that the business be dispatched forthwith. He denounces mercy as a weakness and forgiveness as base.

Our Christian friend, with a yell of despair, rushes from the basilica and seeks another. There he hears the pastor call upon the agents of Prohibition to shoot bootleggers. He seeks a thrid. The pastor denounces girls who kiss their beaux as harlots, and demands that they be taken by the Polizei and cast into jail. He seeks a fourth. The pastor praises a Federal judge for refusing a jury trial to a victim of the Anti-Saloon League. He turns to a fifth. The rev. rector calls upon God to singe and palsy the pope. A sixth. The shepherd urges his sheep to watch their neighbors, and report every suspicious whiff. A seventh. The Bolsheviki are on the grill. . .

But by this time another atheist is on his way to the public library, at 18 knots an hour to read Darwin, Huxley, Spencer and Nietzsche . . . or maybe Tolstoi. The Christians are being driven out of the churches. Their places are being filled by hunters and trappers, i.e., by brutes. A few old-fashioned pastors survive, but they diminish. (H. L. Mencken, “Preachers of the Word, Baltimore Evening Sun, September 29, 1924)

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45 thoughts on “Machen Death Day: Harmonic Convergence?

  1. The Christians are being driven out of the churches. Their places are being filled by hunters and trappers, i.e., by brutes.

    Not to worry, Mr. Mencken. Actually nobody came to take the Christians’ place.

    http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/dec/29/bethany-blankley-christianity-exits-europe-crimina/

    unless you count the Muslims. That the Christians shut up and went away may have pleased a secularist such as yourself, but what filled the vacuum would scare the bejesus out of such a clever man as yourself. [It scared the hell out of Christopher Hitchens, quite properly.]

    RIP Mr. Machen, who took the serious things seriously. Certainly, “Church” should not be indistinguishable from a political convention, but OTOH, is the Church only the Lord’s Supper, where you go to Jesus’s Bar & Grill to refuel and get away from it all for a few hours?

    At the moment, Mr. Machen’s

    And from under the threshold of that house will go forth a river that will revive the weary world

    is not much in evidence, and the “scandal of the evangelical mind” has merely left the Bible-bots inarticulate on morality and the natural law, which embarrasses the hell out of intellectuals such as Mark Noll and Darryl G. Hart in front of their progressive pals.

    Like

  2. Would this mean that we need to hear the gospel every time we attend worship with a Christian congregation? Does it mean that a “synagogue sermon” is not good enough? Or should we agree that the synagogues also can be quiet places of week-end refreshment and personal “me-time”?

    The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life” –John 6:63.

    “In Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel” — 1 Corinthians 4:15.

    “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first-fruits of his creatures” — James 1:18.

    “He called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” — 2 Thessalonians 2:14.

    “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth” — John 17:17.

    “God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed, from the heart, the model of doctrine into which ye were delivered” — Romans 6:17.

    “The gospel, which is come unto you, as it is in all the world, and brings forth fruit” — Colossians 1:5, 6.

    “The gospel of Christ — is the power of God unto salvation, to every one that believes” — Romans 1:16.

    “The gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved” — 1 Corinthians 15:1, 2.

    “The doctrine of the cross is to us who are saved the power of God” — 1 Corinthians 1:18.

    Like

  3. Quite interesting observations by both Dr. Machen and Mr. Mencken ! And what a change of pulpit subject matter from the Founding of the Republic to their day, and by extension, ours!

    To illustrate the topic, here is something, right from Harvard, no less :

    Joseph Lathrop, D.D., preached the ordination sermon at the installation of Stephen Bemis to the Congregational Church at Harvard June 3, 1801.

    Dr. Lathrop dropped a succinct nugget of advice regarding “politics and the pulpit” that lends real balance to the issue, which as Dr. Machen and Mr. Menken so well illustrate, had been lost in their day. And too often, in our day.

    Take notice of the last line… .

    “Ministers set for the defence of the Gospel; and how they are to defend it.”

    “You will select such subjects of discourse, as are interesting to your hearers, and will keep back nothing which is profitable to them. Your prudence will direct you, if not wholly to avoid, yet to treat with delicacy matters of personal grievance, private contention, and political controversy.

    For the minister to preach on matters of government may, at one time, be deemed commendable; at another, criminal, as the political phrenzy may happen to vary, or as his political opinion may be suspected to incline. But whatever man may dictate, act thou with the dignity of a servant of Christ, not with the servility of a dupe to party.

    As a citizen, you doubtless have an equal right, with other citizens, to form your private opinion on national concerns, and to impart, or retain it, as your prudence shall prescribe. And on those concerns you may certainly preach, as far as did the Savior, the prophets and apostles.

    There may be occasions, which will call you to state the qualifications, and the duties of rulers-to inculcate peace and order in society, and obedience and submission to authority-to give warnings of dangers, which arise from external circumstances or internal corruptions.

    But the pulpit surely is not the place to settle forms of government, to support the claims of candidates, or discuss the merits of competitors for office, to decide on the wisdom of national treaties, and canvass the high acts of government. These things you will leave to other departments, and will teach men to observe all things whatsoever CHRIST has commanded.

    Study to make your hearers good Christians: thus you will make them good citizens and good in all relations.” pp. 28-30.

    Like

  4. Russell
    Posted January 3, 2015 at 10:19 am | Permalink
    Dr. Lathrop dropped a succinct nugget of advice regarding “politics and the pulpit” that lends real balance to the issue, which as Dr. Machen and Mr. Menken so well illustrate, had been lost in their day. And too often, in our day.

    Take notice of the last line… .

    “Study to make your hearers good Christians: thus you will make them good citizens and good in all relations.”

    Well observed. To be good citizens is more than simply living as compliant sheep, mute and inert. That does not fulfill the command to be salt and light.

    As for “non-Christians” being able to be “good citizens,” even the Gentiles sometimes “show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them.”

    At those times, they are indeed good citizens, for they further the common good, the only purpose of government in the first place. [The “common good” is not achievable outside the “natural law” that Paul refers to here, of course, axiomatically.]

    Like

  5. It’s a logical exercise, dgh. Good Christians “will” be good citizens by virtue of natural law plus direction of Spirit-guided Scriptural fidelity. Non-Christians “may” be so by promptings of God’s ordained natural law alone. More uncertain for them, though.

    Like

  6. nocable
    Posted January 3, 2015 at 6:54 pm | Permalink
    It’s a logical exercise, dgh. Good Christians “will” be good citizens by virtue of natural law plus direction of Spirit-guided Scriptural fidelity. Non-Christians “may” be so by promptings of God’s ordained natural law alone. More uncertain for them, though.

    Exactly. And in an unbearable irony, the “scandal of the evangelical mind” has been to abandon all logic and every bit of sense the good Lord gave them for idiotic interpretations of the Bible.

    If the Gentiles are a stopped clock that’s right twice a day, it takes real genius to as wrong as Darryl is here.

    Like

  7. kent
    Posted January 4, 2015 at 12:36 am | Permalink
    Tom, too sweeping a round up of Evangelicals based on the worst five that you heard of third-hand.

    Kent, I’m speaking of a book by Dr. Mark Noll, an erstwhile colleague of Dr. Darryl G. Hart, called “The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.” Thesis: There isn’t much of an evangelical mind. ;-[

    I’m sure Darryl appreciates your attack on me on his behalf, but that’s not what this is about.

    ocable
    Posted January 3, 2015 at 6:54 pm | Permalink
    It’s a logical exercise, dgh. Good Christians “will” be good citizens by virtue of natural law plus direction of Spirit-guided Scriptural fidelity. Non-Christians “may” be so by promptings of God’s ordained natural law alone. More uncertain for them, though.

    Like

  8. It was a general comment on anything you can discuss about categories of people.

    Those of us who converted to Reformed from Ev’ism understand feeling that way, but there still were and are several excellent teachers and people forever respected…

    Like

  9. Machen Death Day: Harmonic Convergence?
    By D. G. HART | Published: JANUARY 1, 2015
    Machen (who died this day in 1937 in Bismarck, North Dakota) wondered what a Christian was supposed to do when pastors were so politicized and churches were so transformational:

    Weary with the conflicts of the world, one goes into the Church to seek refreshment for the soul. And what does one find? Alas, too often, one finds only the turmoil of the world. The preacher comes forward, not out of a secret place of meditation and power, not with the authority of God’s Word permeating his message, not with human wisdom pushed far into the background by the glory of the Cross, but with human opinions about the social problems of the hour or easy solutions of the vast problem of sin. Such is the sermon. And then perhaps the service is closed by one of those hymns breathing out the angry passions of 1861, which are to be found in the back part of the hymnals. Thus the warfare of the world has entered even into the house of God, and sad indeed is the heart of the man who has come seeking peace.

    Is there no refuge from strife? Is there no place of refreshing where a man can prepare for the battle of life? Is there no place where two or three can gather in Jesus’ name, to forget for the moment all those things that divide nation from nation and race from race, to forget human pride, to forget the passions of war, to forget the puzzling problems of industrial strife, and to unite in overflowing gratitude at the foot of the Cross? If there be such a place, then that is the house of God and that the gate of heaven. And from under the threshold of that house will go forth a river that will revive the weary world. (Christianity and Liberalism, 180-81)

    Within a year, another bad boy of Baltimore was wondering along the same lines:

    . . . try to imagine a man full of a yearning for the consolations of that poetry. He is tired of the cannibalistic combat that life is; he longs for peace, comfort, consolation. He goes to church. A few hymns are sung, and there arises in the pulpit a gentleman told off to preach. This gentleman, it quickly appears, is not currently merchanting peace. The Beatitudes are not his text. He turns to the Old Testament. There he finds a text to his taste. And leaping from it as from a springboard, he gives over an hour to damning his fellow-men. He wants them to be sent to jail, to be deported, to be hanged. He demands that the business be dispatched forthwith. He denounces mercy as a weakness and forgiveness as base.

    Our Christian friend, with a yell of despair, rushes from the basilica and seeks another. There he hears the pastor call upon the agents of Prohibition to shoot bootleggers. He seeks a thrid. The pastor denounces girls who kiss their beaux as harlots, and demands that they be taken by the Polizei and cast into jail. He seeks a fourth. The pastor praises a Federal judge for refusing a jury trial to a victim of the Anti-Saloon League. He turns to a fifth. The rev. rector calls upon God to singe and palsy the pope. A sixth. The shepherd urges his sheep to watch their neighbors, and report every suspicious whiff. A seventh. The Bolsheviki are on the grill. . .

    But by this time another atheist is on his way to the public library, at 18 knots an hour to read Darwin, Huxley, Spencer and Nietzsche . . . or maybe Tolstoi. The Christians are being driven out of the churches. Their places are being filled by hunters and trappers, i.e., by brutes. A few old-fashioned pastors survive, but they diminish. (H. L. Mencken, “Preachers of the Word, Baltimore Evening Sun, September 29, 1924)

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    This entry was posted in J. Gresham Machen and tagged American Protestantism, H. L. Mencken. Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.
    « Bow Your Heads, and Close Your EyesI Wonder if This Applies to All Sins »
    17 Comments
    John Yeazel
    Posted January 1, 2015 at 4:07 pm | Permalink
    Great quotes!

    Jack Miller
    Posted January 1, 2015 at 5:47 pm | Permalink
    Oh we wish it weren’t so, but…

    Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

    Good one, Darryl. Welcome to the New Year, gents and gals…

    AB
    Posted January 1, 2015 at 8:56 pm | Permalink
    An interesting window into history, seen from two perspectives. Thanks.

    Vermonter
    Posted January 1, 2015 at 10:23 pm | Permalink
    Yeah, but at least they didn’t have garage bands up front.

    TVD
    Posted January 1, 2015 at 11:07 pm | Permalink
    The Christians are being driven out of the churches. Their places are being filled by hunters and trappers, i.e., by brutes.

    Not to worry, Mr. Mencken. Actually nobody came to take the Christians’ place.

    http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/dec/29/bethany-blankley-christianity-exits-europe-crimina/

    unless you count the Muslims. That the Christians shut up and went away may have pleased a secularist such as yourself, but what filled the vacuum would scare the bejesus out of such a clever man as yourself. [It scared the hell out of Christopher Hitchens, quite properly.]

    RIP Mr. Machen, who took the serious things seriously. Certainly, “Church” should not be indistinguishable from a political convention, but OTOH, is the Church only the Lord’s Supper, where you go to Jesus’s Bar & Grill to refuel and get away from it all for a few hours?

    At the moment, Mr. Machen’s

    And from under the threshold of that house will go forth a river that will revive the weary world

    is not much in evidence, and the “scandal of the evangelical mind” has merely left the Bible-bots inarticulate on morality and the natural law, which embarrasses the hell out of intellectuals such as Mark Noll and Darryl G. Hart in front of their progressive pals.

    Mark Mcculley
    Posted January 2, 2015 at 8:31 am | Permalink
    Would this mean that we need to hear the gospel every time we attend worship with a Christian congregation? Does it mean that a “synagogue sermon” is not good enough? Or should we agree that the synagogues also can be quiet places of week-end refreshment and personal “me-time”?

    The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life” –John 6:63.

    “In Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel” — 1 Corinthians 4:15.

    “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first-fruits of his creatures” — James 1:18.

    “He called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” — 2 Thessalonians 2:14.

    “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth” — John 17:17.

    “God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed, from the heart, the model of doctrine into which ye were delivered” — Romans 6:17.

    “The gospel, which is come unto you, as it is in all the world, and brings forth fruit” — Colossians 1:5, 6.

    “The gospel of Christ — is the power of God unto salvation, to every one that believes” — Romans 1:16.

    “The gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved” — 1 Corinthians 15:1, 2.

    “The doctrine of the cross is to us who are saved the power of God” — 1 Corinthians 1:18.

    Mark Mcculley
    Posted January 2, 2015 at 8:44 am | Permalink
    I have heard that a cruise is a good way to get away from all the unrest

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/10/19/all-aboard-the-uss-persecution-complex.html?via=desktop

    Lewis
    Posted January 2, 2015 at 2:36 pm | Permalink
    Yet the Gospel Co-Allies preach about “white privilege” rather than our privilege in Christ. How are Christians and non-Christians supposed to hear the gospel when the world sets the agenda at church?

    http://m.christianpost.com/news/pastor-matt-chandler-speaks-up-about-white-privilege-nonsense-going-on-in-ferguson–125048/

    Russell
    Posted January 3, 2015 at 10:19 am | Permalink
    Quite interesting observations by both Dr. Machen and Mr. Mencken ! And what a change of pulpit subject matter from the Founding of the Republic to their day, and by extension, ours!

    To illustrate the topic, here is something, right from Harvard, no less :

    Joseph Lathrop, D.D., preached the ordination sermon at the installation of Stephen Bemis to the Congregational Church at Harvard June 3, 1801.

    Dr. Lathrop dropped a succinct nugget of advice regarding “politics and the pulpit” that lends real balance to the issue, which as Dr. Machen and Mr. Menken so well illustrate, had been lost in their day. And too often, in our day.

    Take notice of the last line… .

    “Ministers set for the defence of the Gospel; and how they are to defend it.”

    “You will select such subjects of discourse, as are interesting to your hearers, and will keep back nothing which is profitable to them. Your prudence will direct you, if not wholly to avoid, yet to treat with delicacy matters of personal grievance, private contention, and political controversy.

    For the minister to preach on matters of government may, at one time, be deemed commendable; at another, criminal, as the political phrenzy may happen to vary, or as his political opinion may be suspected to incline. But whatever man may dictate, act thou with the dignity of a servant of Christ, not with the servility of a dupe to party.

    As a citizen, you doubtless have an equal right, with other citizens, to form your private opinion on national concerns, and to impart, or retain it, as your prudence shall prescribe. And on those concerns you may certainly preach, as far as did the Savior, the prophets and apostles.

    There may be occasions, which will call you to state the qualifications, and the duties of rulers-to inculcate peace and order in society, and obedience and submission to authority-to give warnings of dangers, which arise from external circumstances or internal corruptions.

    But the pulpit surely is not the place to settle forms of government, to support the claims of candidates, or discuss the merits of competitors for office, to decide on the wisdom of national treaties, and canvass the high acts of government. These things you will leave to other departments, and will teach men to observe all things whatsoever CHRIST has commanded.

    Study to make your hearers good Christians: thus you will make them good citizens and good in all relations.” pp. 28-30.

    D. G. Hart
    Posted January 3, 2015 at 5:29 pm | Permalink
    Russell, so non-Christians are bad citizens?

    TVD
    Posted January 3, 2015 at 6:31 pm | Permalink
    Russell
    Posted January 3, 2015 at 10:19 am | Permalink
    Dr. Lathrop dropped a succinct nugget of advice regarding “politics and the pulpit” that lends real balance to the issue, which as Dr. Machen and Mr. Menken so well illustrate, had been lost in their day. And too often, in our day.

    Take notice of the last line… .

    “Study to make your hearers good Christians: thus you will make them good citizens and good in all relations.”

    Well observed. To be good citizens is more than simply living as compliant sheep, mute and inert. That does not fulfill the command to be salt and light.

    As for “non-Christians” being able to be “good citizens,” even the Gentiles sometimes “show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them.”

    At those times, they are indeed good citizens, for they further the common good, the only purpose of government in the first place. [The “common good” is not achievable outside the “natural law” that Paul refers to here, of course, axiomatically.]

    nocable
    Posted January 3, 2015 at 6:54 pm | Permalink
    It’s a logical exercise, dgh. Good Christians “will” be good citizens by virtue of natural law plus direction of Spirit-guided Scriptural fidelity. Non-Christians “may” be so by promptings of God’s ordained natural law alone. More uncertain for them, though.

    D. G. Hart
    Posted January 3, 2015 at 10:23 pm | Permalink
    nocable, so what are the obedience boys worried about? If citizenship comes so easily, good works must also.

    TVD
    Posted January 3, 2015 at 11:46 pm | Permalink
    nocable
    Posted January 3, 2015 at 6:54 pm | Permalink
    It’s a logical exercise, dgh. Good Christians “will” be good citizens by virtue of natural law plus direction of Spirit-guided Scriptural fidelity. Non-Christians “may” be so by promptings of God’s ordained natural law alone. More uncertain for them, though.

    Exactly. And in an unbearable irony, the “scandal of the evangelical mind” has been to abandon all logic and every bit of sense the good Lord gave them for idiotic interpretations of the Bible.

    If the Gentiles are a stopped clock that’s right twice a day, it takes real genius to as wrong as Darryl is here.

    kent
    Posted January 4, 2015 at 12:36 am | Permalink
    Tom, too sweeping a round up of Evangelicals based on the worst five that you heard of third-hand.

    TVD
    Posted January 4, 2015 at 1:19 am | Permalink
    kent
    Posted January 4, 2015 at 12:36 am | Permalink
    Tom, too sweeping a round up of Evangelicals based on the worst five that you heard of third-hand.

    Kent, I’m speaking of a book by Dr. Mark Noll, an erstwhile colleague of Dr. Darryl G. Hart, called “The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.” Thesis: There isn’t much of an evangelical mind. ;-[

    I’m sure Darryl appreciates your attack on me on his behalf, but that’s not what this is about.

    ocable
    Posted January 3, 2015 at 6:54 pm | Permalink
    It’s a logical exercise, dgh. Good Christians “will” be good citizens by virtue of natural law plus direction of Spirit-guided Scriptural fidelity. Non-Christians “may” be so by promptings of God’s ordained natural law alone. More uncertain for them, though.

    kent
    Posted January 4, 2015 at 1:23 am | Permalink
    It was a general comment on anything you can discuss about categories of people.

    Those of us who converted to Reformed from Ev’ism understand feeling that way, but there still were and are several excellent teachers and people forever respected…

    Not sure you’re hearing me on all this, or any of it. I don’t discuss “categories of people” except to defend them from caricature and condemnation.

    Darryl is off base here, I think. “Two Kingdoms” theology must reconcile with natural law.

    ocable
    Posted January 3, 2015 at 6:54 pm | Permalink
    It’s a logical exercise, dgh. Good Christians “will” be good citizens by virtue of natural law plus direction of Spirit-guided Scriptural fidelity. Non-Christians “may” be so by promptings of God’s ordained natural law alone. More uncertain for them, though.

    Like

  10. kent
    Posted January 4, 2015 at 1:23 am | Permalink
    It was a general comment on anything you can discuss about categories of people.

    Those of us who converted to Reformed from Ev’ism understand feeling that way, but there still were and are several excellent teachers and people forever respected…

    Not sure you’re hearing me on all this, or any of it. I don’t discuss “categories of people” except to defend them from caricature and condemnation. Like “evangelicals. Even “Calvinists” in a pinch.

    Darryl is off base here, I think. “Two Kingdoms” theology must reconcile with natural law.

    ocable
    Posted January 3, 2015 at 6:54 pm | Permalink
    It’s a logical exercise, dgh. Good Christians “will” be good citizens by virtue of natural law plus direction of Spirit-guided Scriptural fidelity. Non-Christians “may” be so by promptings of God’s ordained natural law alone. More uncertain for them, though.

    Like

  11. As I read I kept thinking of the hymn, “I Come to the Garden Alone.” Churches sometimes feel more like racetracks than places and moments of sweet communion. Pastors are rushed, busy and burdened. Praise bands are amped. Programs abound and budgets exponentially increase. Causes are announced and the concerned are recruited. O to be a coronary Christian and to be supported those who see my need to be so.

    Like

  12. I’m obviously confused about the church. What is the church? There is vast disagreement here. I’m still looking for the church like this:

    We have “become the righteousness of God in Christ” by God’s imputation of the one man’s obedience, even unto death. The Christian life is not the way we make payments back on our justification; the Christian life is the party the Father gives the returning prodigal. Neither our justification nor our life as Christians depends on our moral progress. Indeed, all our works are only acceptable if we are already justified before God.

    Grace for the woman caught violating family values, parties for parasites back for more money, food for the brothers who send Joseph down to Egypt- this is grace! Grace for the Protestants who made martyrs of the Anabaptists. Grace for those who used to be legalists who put their hope in their martyrdom rather than in Christ alone! Grace. Grace alone.

    The nation-states have always appreciated the moralism of the churches to make for them “good citizens”, but those nation-states have nothing to gain from the good news of grace. The rulers are happy when we repress ourselves in Methodist fear of losing our salvation. The NSA and Homeland Security are glad for us to police ourselves. However, what do those institutions that operate by the ABC’s of this age have to gain from our teaching grace and by our living as though we believed in grace?

    Like

  13. Gospel Truth is sufficient. It needs no requisite, no preparative from man to produce a relish for it. It creates a relish for itself; it answers to the majesty of him whose voice it is, and who framed the conscience of man for hearing his voice; it wounds and it heals; it kills and it makes alive; it blocks up and darkens all the resources of the pride of man, in the light of which he formerly walked and lived; and it brings him light and life from an unexpected quarter, by opening, as it were, a window in Heaven. No lecture about any law can affect the conscience of man like this truth, which shows the Divine law magnified and honored in the most eminent manner; which demonstrates God to be inflexibly in earnest as to every word spoken in his perfect law, and so demolishes all the subterfuges of human pride. Robert Sandeman (Letters on Theron and Aspasio Addressed to the Author, 1757)

    Like

  14. DGH : “nocable, so what are the obedience boys worried about? If citizenship comes so easily, good works must also.”

    Citizenship hardly comes easily, a quick perusal of the U.S. Naturalization Application (Form N-400) makes an explicit study on what is required to become a citizen of the U.S. To summarize Pages 13-17, the applicant is asked if they had any affiliation with any Communist Party, Totalitarian Party, or Terrorist Organization. This is further defined with more detailed questions concerning the same.

    Finally, on Pg. 21, there is the Oath of Allegiance, which ends with “So help me God”. Note that there is no expiration date to the Oath, and that it is a prayer, thus binding the person to the “Supreme Judge of the World” for the rectitude of their intentions.

    Now, to my recollection, just about all the requirements made upon the naturalized citizen explicitly, do implicitly rest upon the natural born citizen… .

    So, citizenship, rightly understood, puts much responsibility on both naturalized and born citizens, particularly for anyone who at any time took any government post requiring an Oath.

    This is why USSC Justice Joseph Story tells his Harvard Law students in 1829: “An American citizen has many political duties to perform, and his activity is constantly demanded for the preservation of the public interests.”

    Form N-400
    http://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/files/form/n-400.pdf

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  15. Saying “law and gospel” without explaining that “law is not gospel” is like saying that “faith alone” really “always means faith and works”.

    Machen: 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. 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; 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 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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  16. can you really be “truly Reformed” and think that a church is a “voluntary association”?

    Machen—a true Christian church… will never say that doctrine is the expression of experience; it will never confuse the useful with the true, but will place truth at the basis of all its striving and all its life. Into the welter of changing human opinion, into the modern despair with regard to any knowledge of the meaning of life, it will come with a clear and imperious message. That message it will find in the Bible, which it will hold to contain not a record of man’s religious experience but a record of a revelation from God.
    Machen— The intolerance of the church, in the sense in which I am speaking of it, does not involve any interference with liberty; on the contrary, it means the preservation of liberty. One of the most important elements in civil and religious liberty is the right of voluntary association – the right of citizens to band themselves together for any lawful purpose whatever, whether that purpose does or does not commend itself to the generality of their fellow men. Now, a church is a voluntary association. No one is compelled to be a member of it; no one is compelled to be one of its accredited representatives. It is, therefore, no interference with liberty of a church to insist that those who do choose to be its accredited representatives shall not use the vantage ground of such a position to attack that for which the church exists. . .

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  17. mcmark, in America you do think of the church as a voluntary association. We don’t have established churches. What’s so hard about that?

    Otherwise, can you really be a Reformed church and have trustees? Calvin didn’t include those officers in his Ordinances. The state of Michigan does.

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  18. DGH “Russell, but is citizenship a fruit of the Spirit?”

    John the Baptist had some sage advice to government agents and soldiers regarding the Fruit of the Spirit manifest in their official conduct that also serves as an example to all of us of a Spirit led citizenship:

    Luke 3:12 And some tax collectors also came to be baptized, and they said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” 13 And he said to them, “Collect no more than what you have been ordered to.” 14 Some soldiers were questioning him, saying, “And what about us, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not take money from anyone by force, or accuse anyone falsely, and be content with your wages.”

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  19. “voluntary association” is a good thing, in every time and situation

    but nobody did that back then?

    better to say that those who attempted to do “voluntary associations” back then were often killed by those who wanted continuity with the catholic traditional alliance between professional clergy and magistrate

    do not take money by force (as a private individual, or as a Christian) but if it’s your public vocation given by God (the Christian God in your opinion) by all means take both money and life by force, even if there is no specific standard to go by in deciding how to eliminate those who are attempting voluntary associations….

    preventing sedition is like making fishing poles or wine —do the best you can by the means at hand because the Bible does not cover everything

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  20. Chortles,

    I finally got around to listening to those video’s. You still don’t get the gospel for the elect alone- they might not all be magistrates nor want magistrates ruling over them. They might have problems with some reformed confessions that they would have to submit themselves to. Why is that so hard to get? I don’t think Scott Saul’s is a Pastor I would want to listen to every Sunday morning. I have found a compromised Gospel in reformed confessional churches and Scott Saul’s is not the answer I would be looking for. Reformation confessionalists hear what they want to hear and disregard the rest. A list of objections to the reformation:

    1) A lack of attention to the reforms fought for by the stepchildren of the reformation (the Anabaptists) – those stepchildren that the magisterial reformers and Catholics persecuted severely due to the rebellion against the established order by the Anabaptists
    2) That infant water baptism undermines the doctrine of justification by grace alone
    3) That the offshoot branch of the Anabaptists in America (the broadly defined evangelicals) are more concerned about family values and patriotic rituals then about getting the Gospel right
    4) In reaction to secularism, a lot of Baptist and Mennonite Anabaptists sing praises to the pope and anything religious in America
    5) That the pope continues to reject the authority of the Bible and justification by grace alone and insists that Christian unity must recognize the authority of papal tradition
    6) That the Christian life is not the way we make payments back on our justification. The Christian life is the party the Father gives to the returning prodigals.
    7) That neither our justification nor our life as Christians depends on our moral progress. All of our works are only acceptable if we are already justified before God. The grace of the good news does not come with strings attached after reading the fine print.
    8) That Christian’s are not saved because of faith, because faith is not Christ’s righteousness- our faith is God’s gift to us based on Christ’s righteousness
    9) That elect Christians have been called out, set apart, constituted as holy, but not because God is going to enable us to meet the requirements of God’s law- nothing can add or subtract from the complete achievement of Jesus Christ
    10) That the Catholics (and most of the Protestants) agree doctrinally that the doctrine of grace alone through faith alone is not the doctrine on which the church stands or falls. They celebrate their doctrine that the sacrament is not what they do but what God is doing. They thus exclude those who read no sacrament in Scripture.
    11) That though Roman Catholics, Protestants and Anabaptists have different doctrines, they are all attracted to the use of the force of coerced violence for “the greater good.”
    12) The lack of sufficient motivation to endure suffering due to misguided teaching in regards to sharing in the sufferings of Christ so as to be like him (Philippians 3:10)
    13) That all the groups that came out of the reformation have added to what was Paul’s one great gain found in Christ- not having a righteousness of his own that comes from the law, but a righteousness that comes through the obedience of Christ
    14) That there is not enough talk about the NEW- new covenant, new law and new ethic. Most in the Reformed camp are still trying to figure out the continuity between the Old Mosaic Covenant and the New Covenant rather than seeing the New Covenant as the abolishment of the Mosaic Covenant

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