Machen Day 2016: Before Jimmy and Bunk

My father, who died in 1915 at the age of eighty-eight, and my mother, who died in 1931 at the age of eighty-two, were both Christians; from them I learned what Christianity is and how it differs from certain modern substitutes. I also learned that Christian conviction can go hand in hand with a broad outlook upon life and with the pursuit of learning.

My father was a lawyer, whose practice had been one of the best in the State of Maryland. But the success which he attained at the bar did not serve in the slightest to make him narrow in his interests. All his life he was a tremendous reader, and reading to him was never a task. I suppose it never occurred to him to read merely from a sense of duty; he read because he loved to read. He would probably have been greatly amused if anyone had called him a “scholar”; yet his knowledge of Latin and Greek and English and French literature (to say nothing of Italian, which he took up for the fun of it when he was well over eighty and was thus in a period of life which in other men might be regarded as old age) would put our professional scholars to shame. . . .

He was a profoundly Christian man, who had read widely and meditated earnestly upon the really great things of our holy faith. His Christian experience was not of the emotional or pietistical type, but was a quiet stream whose waters ran deep. He did not adopt that “Touch not, taste not, handle not” attitude toward the good things or the wonders of God’s world which too often today causes earnest Christian people to consecrate to God only an impoverished man, but in his case true learning and true piety went hand in hand. Every Sunday morning and Sunday night, and on Wednesday night, he was in his place in church, and a similar faithfulness characterized all his service as an elder in the Presbyterian church. At that time the Protestant churches had not yet become political lobbies, and Presbyterian elders were chosen not because they were “outstanding me [or women] in the community,” but because they were men of God. I love to think of that old Presbyterian session in the Franklin Street Presbyterian Church of Baltimore. It is a refreshing memory in these days of ruthless and heartless machinery in the church. God grant that the memory may some day become actuality again and that the old Christian virtues may be revived! (J. Gresham Machen, “Christianity in Conflict,” Selected Shorter Writings, 548, 549)

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7 thoughts on “Machen Day 2016: Before Jimmy and Bunk

  1. Thanks for posting this… it is really encouraging in a day of great confusion. Machen’s description of his father seems to say it all about what it means to know God and to walk with Him. Machen seemed to have such a clear understanding of what Christianity is. Your post has made me want to read him again.

    I wrote a paper for a seminary class: “Two Princetonians, One Question” – how Charles Hodge and J. Gresham Machen answered the question, “What is Christianity?” I was struck by the similar background of both men, and by how both men believed each generation should ask this question, and by how both men answered the question by pointing solely to the objective, finished work of Christ in history. Both men also considered definitions to be of utmost importance. Etc. Their answer to the question brought a great stability, calm, rest, and steadiness to their lives. I see this as well in the description of Arthur you shared.

    I feel like we need to once again ask and answer this question for our time… and to answer by pointing to what our Savior has done for us in history. He alone is our boast, for He has done it all.

    Anyway- thank you for this great post… And “Happy Machen Day!”

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  2. Machen explains why Jesus was not a Christian—-“In the first place, it will be said, are we not failing to do justice to the true humanity of Jesus, which is affirmed by the creeds of the Church as well as by the modern theologians? When we say that Jesus could not illustrate Christian faith any more than God can be religious, are we not denying to Jesus that religious experience which is a necessary element in true humanity? Must not Jesus, if He be true man, have been more than the object of religious faith; must He not have had a religion of His own? The answer is not far to seek. Certainly Jesus had a religion of His own; His prayer was real prayer, His faith was real religious faith. His relation to His heavenly Father was not merely that of a child to a father; it was that of a man to his God. Certainly Jesus had a religion; without it His humanity would indeed have been but incomplete. Without doubt Jesus had a religion; the fact is of the utmost importance.

    Macehn—But it is equally important to observe that that religion which Jesus had was not Christianity. Christianity is a way of getting rid of sin, and Jesus was without sin. His religion was a religion of Paradise, not a religion of sinful humanity. It was a religion to which we may perhaps in some sort attain in heaven, when the process of our purification is complete (though even then the memory of redemption will never leave us); but certainly it is not a religion with which we can begin. The religion of Jesus was a religion of untroubled sonship; Christianity is a religion of the attainment of sonship by the redeeming work of Christ.

    —J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism, New Edition. (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2009), 78–79.

    Adam’s guilt is imputed to the elect until Christ’s death is imputed to the elect.

    The elect in Christ are under condemnation until God justifies them.

    The elect in Christ are under law until the elect are under grace

    Christ was UNDER LAW. . Christ is no longer under law but Christ is still not under grace because Christ’s death satisfied the law. Christ’s people are under grace.

    Romans 6: 9 we know that Christ, having been raised from the dead, will not die again. Death no longer rules over Christ. 10 For in light of the fact that Christ died, Christ died to sin once for all time.”

    The OPC Report Philippians 2 (lines 796 ff)
    “Federal Vision proponents have argued that Philippians 2 rules out the notion of merit in regard to Christ’s obedience, because in 2:9 Paul uses the word echarisato, which etymologically derives from the word for “grace,” charis, to describe God’s giving the name above every name to Christ. This indicates, they claim, that the Father exalted the Son not meritoriously but graciously.This argument as it stands fails, however. One reason it fails is its fallacious reasoning that etymological derivation determines the meaning of a word apart from context. The context of Phil 2:5- 11 shows that MERIT CANNOT BE ELIMINATED from Paul’s teaching here. The context is one of “work rendered and value received.”The Father exalted the Son because the Son perfectly fulfilled his course of obedience. The Son obeyed, therefore the Father exalted him.”

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