What would He Think of Machen?

This is about the reporter who has had many fruitful interactions with Tim Keller:

The late writer Christopher Hitchens had what you might call an intellectual jumper cable routine: he would wake up in the morning, open the New York Times, read its front page motto “All the News Fit to Print,” and allow that hackneyed boast to enrage him into carrying out his polemical duties. Lately I’ve found myself accidentally mimicking Hitchens, but with the Washington Post, which since Trump’s election has been running with the slogan “Democracy Dies in Darkness.” So long as that shamelessly self-aggrandizing, wokeness-overdosed, low-rent Dashboard Confessional refrain-cum-greasy fortune cookie slip remains the ethos of my local paper, it’ll only take one cup of coffee to wake me up, thanks.

This week, though, it’s the Times that’s got my goat, probably because, unlike the Post, I read as much of it as possible every morning (for its excellent foreign coverage, not its masthead). Last week the Gray Lady published a column by op-ed page fixture Nicholas Kristof, the Tom Bergeron of liberal internationalism, titled “Trump’s Threat to Democracy.” Kristof cites two political science academics at Harvard who list four omens as to whether a “political leader is a dangerous authoritarian”: he “shows only a weak commitment to democratic rules,” “denies the legitimacy of opponents,” “tolerates violence,” and “shows some willingness to curb civil liberties or the media.” “Donald Trump,” the profs ruefully announce, “met them all.” And then the clincher: “With the exception of Richard Nixon, no major-party presidential candidate met even one of these four criteria over the last century.”

Come again?

That timespan easily covers Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s presidency, during which the mildly anti-civil liberty policy of rounding up 120,000 Japanese Americans and interning them in camps was implemented. But you don’t even need to go back that far to refute Kristof’s professors: events still in the public memory can provide. The George W. Bush administration instituted a surveillance regime that stretched the Fourth Amendment into cellophane, and then tried to browbeat a hospitalized (and possibly addled) John Ashcroft into granting it his approval; it allowed prisoners to be indefinitely detained and tortured, and even mulled using the military against terrorism suspects on U.S. soil. Barack Obama assassinated American citizens with drones, invoked the Espionage Act to spy on reporter James Rosen, launched a war against Libya’s Moammar Gaddafi without congressional authorization, and set a record for the most Freedom of Information Act requests denied in American history. Bush and Obama didn’t just “show some willingness to curb civil liberties or the media,” to use the academics’ soupy words; they rammed right through them with the brunt power of the federal government.

With friends like these. . .

9 thoughts on “What would He Think of Machen?

  1. Is Machen the standard by which this writers’ writings should be judged? A ‘yes’ answer indicates an authoritarian view. With authoritarianism, truth is determined more by credentials rather than the facts and logic employed in what is said.

    We should also note that Machen and Trump concentrated in different spheres where the use of authority should be at different levels.


  2. D.G.,
    I find you to be insulting when you peg someone as belonging to whatever group and then express disbelief when they tell you they are not a part of that group. Are there things I appreciate about him? Yes, but there are also things I appreciate about you.


  3. Since Jesus is dead for every sinner, find assurance in your love for the poor.


    Tim Keller — How do you know you’ve really been born again? You care about the poor. If you don’t, maybe you’re saved, but you’re lacking the evidence of salvation.”

    Tim Keller—“To grow in grace comes not simply from believing more in our justification. Growing flows from using the gospel of grace on the root of our sin—the mistrust of God’s goodness and the inordinate love of other things When we behold the glory of Christ in the gospel, it reorders the loves of our hearts, so we delight in him supremely, and the other things that have ruled our lives lose their enslaving power over us. This is not merely telling yourself that you are accepted and forgiven….The root of our sinful behavior is an inability to hate sin for itself, and this stems from a tendency to see obedience as simply a way to avoid danger and have a good life—not as a way to love and know Jesus for who he is.


  4. “Tim Keller—Parties who agree on all doctrinal basics can still differ sharply on emphasis, tone, and spirit, as can be seen in the ‘Marrow Controversy’ in the Church of Scotland in the early eighteenth century when all parties agreed wholeheartedly with the Westminster Confession of Faith, yet a significant portion of the church was sliding toward “legalism.”

    They, who are once effectually called and regenerated, having a new heart and a new spirit created in them, are further sanctified really and personally, through the virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection,(1) by His Word and Spirit dwelling in them;(2) the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed,(3) and the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened and mortified,(4) and they more and more quickened and strengthened in all saving graces,(5) to the practice of true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.
    There abideth still some remnants of corruption in every part whence ariseth a continual and irreconcilable war; the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.
    In which war, although the remaining corruption, for a time, may much prevail,(1) yet, through the continual supply of strength from the sanctifying Spirit of Christ, the regenerate part doth overcome;(2) and so, the saints grow in grace,(3) perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

    Scott Cook—The charges of legalism and antinomianism in this debate are not matters of emphasis, tone, and spirit. They are straightforward theological and doctrinal categories. ..There is a severing of any “moral or ethical link” between our obedience and God’s blessings or our disobedience and our suffering. Both James and Paul would have problems with such a construction (see James 5:13-16 and I Corinthians 11:27-32), …The Reformed answer to these sorts of questions traditionally has taken the form of John Owen’s Mortification of Sin or Jay Adams’ teaching on the put on/put off dynamic of Scripture.



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