Machen Death Day 2019: Elites in the Ancient Church

It must be remembered that what Paul in Gal. ii. 1-10 desires most of all to prevent is the impression that he is appealing to the Jerusalem apostles as to a higher instance. He is not basing the authority of his preaching upon any authorization that the apostles gave him; he is not saying that he has a right to be heard because those who were the pillars of the Church endorsed his message. Such a representation of the conference would have cast despite upon all the work which he had done before, and would have made it necessary for him in the future to prove constantly against all Judaizers and other opponents his agreement with the Jerusalem authorities. The profound consciousness which he had of his apostolic authority did not permit any such course of action; and such restrictions would have hindered his work wherever he went. It was absolutely essential in the economy of God that the leader of the Gentile work should have independent authority and should not be obliged to appeal again and again to authorities who were far away, at Jerusalem. Hence what Paul desires to make clear above all in Gal. ii.
1-10 is that though he appealed to the Jerusalem authorities it was not necessary for his own sake for him to appeal to them.

They were great, but their greatness had absolutely nothing to do with his authority; for they added nothing to him. It was therefore not the real greatness of the original apostles which caused him to appeal to them (for he needed no authorization from any man no matter how great), but only the greatness which was attributed to them by the Judaizers. They really were great, but it was only the false use which had been made of their greatness by the Judaizers which caused him to lay his gospel before them. The Judaizers were to be refuted from the lips of the very authorities to whom they appealed. (The Origin of Paul’s Religion, 121-22)

3 thoughts on “Machen Death Day 2019: Elites in the Ancient Church

  1. Even if you call them a “second kingdom”, the current magistrate is always elite to those who want to define “the church.”

    dgh–Puritanism grew from frustration with what Queen Elizabeth and her advisors would allow. Often, the Puritan’s
    inspiration for further reform were the Reformed churches of Geneva and Zurich…..When Hooper returned to England,
    he became a popular London preacher, known for his condemnation of England’s national sins. He also objected to the practices of wearing vestments and kneeling for the Lord’s Supper—hallmark offenses for hot Protestants. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, appointed Hooper to the bishopric of Gloucester but the former monk refused to wear vestments for the ceremony and went to prison for his convictions. Under threat of execution, Hooper relented and became Gloucester’s bishop….Presbyterians also favored a national church. Congregationalists… opposed a national church and favored religious freedom….Presbyterians tended to be royalists while Congregationalists could wander into republicanism

    Lee Gatiss—“John Owen thought that the State had a duty to stop anti-Trinitarians infiltrating the church. It was against the light and law of nature, Owen said, for supreme magistrates not to exert their authority to support, preserve, and further the cause of the gospel and forbid, coerce, and restrain false teaching….In a Constantinian context, appealing to the conscience to ‘accept the Christ who died for you’ may have had a very powerful effect on those haunted by the weighty obligation of their infant baptism and church membership

    Scott Clark—There is one standard for the Western church prior to the Reformation and another standard after. Once the Word had been recovered, the gospel, the pure administration of the sacraments, there is no excuse to corrupt the administration of baptism….

    Machen—A true Christian church will be radically intolerant… 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. A church is a voluntary association. No one is compelled to be a member of it


  2. Steven Wedgeworth—Still praising certain neo-Calvinist influences,, the FV showed antipathy towards what they thought of as Lutheran and pietistic elements … and instead wanted to focus on “the important stuff” of counter-cultural living…. They were wanting to modify being Reformed slightly, typically towards an Anglican direction, as well as parallel liturgical and sacramental schools of thought like that of the Nevin and Schaff’s Mercersburg Theology….
    The debate could be framed as a debate between more evangelical  modern Presbyterians over and against the older confessional position, or it could be framed as a debate between high-predestinarian Calvinists over and against ‘ordinary means of grace’ Calvinists, or it could be framed as a debate between more Lutheran-leaning or Anglican-leaning Calvinists and more strictly Reformed Calvinists….Norman Shepherd’s theology had caused controversy since as early as 1975, and it was arguably the main reason why the OPC and PCA were unable to formally unite as one denomination, a proposal initially made in 1981….

    Machen, Notes on Galatians, p 178–You might conceivably be saved by works or you might be saved by faith, but you cannot be saved by both. It is ‘either or’ here not ‘both and’. The Scripture says it is by faith. Therefore it is NOT works.

    Patrick Ramsey—It’s all a misunderstanding. Some people are too simple-minded to have a robust distinction between title to life and possession to life.  Others more irenic and winsome take comfort in the complexity.


  3. A few thoughts on “The origin of Paul’s Religion” by J. Greshem Machen

    This is a solid scholarly work, dealing with flawed theology, which entered the United States largely though Presbyterianism from Germany. The book refutes ideas popular at the time in mainline Presbyterianism. It examines ideas about Paul, popular in the early decades of the 20th century as we in the United States found ourselves enthralled with new scientific learning. Many were willing to trade a humanities based worldview for one weakly based on science, not science that we understood, but that was handed down from a “high priesthood” of science that slowly took over more and more of our lives until we felt squeezed out – Many of us woke up to discover that our lives were disappearing or were gone!

    It talks about Paul, a Roman citizen, who grew up in a Greek academic city, but in a Hebrew household as a Pharisee and the son of Pharisee. It deals with how his life was transformed by Jesus, whom he was going to stamp out any memory of – The very task he was in the middle of when he met the risen Lord on the road to Emmaus.
    Other major topic are Paul’s early years, the Jewish environment of that generation, Hellenism of that age, redemption in pagan religion and in Paul. He explains in great detail how gentile freedom won out in the early church.
    Many of the 19th and 20th century scholars, he refutes are now largely forgotten by Americans, who have been as influential in the world as the Greeks and Romans were in previous eras.

    Has the change from a humanities to scientific worldview reached it’s zenith in 2020?

    Time will tell.


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 )

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.