Machen Day 2021

How to think about spikes in urban crime and criminal justice reform:

But what was the difference between the teaching of Paul and the teaching of the Judaizers? What was it that gave rise to the stupendous polemic of the Epistle to the Galatians? To the modern Church the difference would have seemed to be a mere theological subtlety. About many things the Judaizers were in perfect agreement with Paul. The Judaizers believed that Jesus was the Messiah; there is not a shadow of evidence that they objected to Paul’s lofty view of the person of Christ. Without the slightest doubt, they believed that Jesus had really risen from the dead. They believed, moreover, that faith in Christ was necessary to salvation. But the trouble was, they believed that something else was also necessary; they believed that what Christ had done needed to be pieced out by the believer’s own effort to keep the Law. From the modern point of view the difference would have seemed to be very slight. Paul as well as the Judaizers believed that the keeping of the law of God, in its deepest import, is inseparably connected with faith. The difference concerned only the logical − not even, perhaps, the temporal − order of three steps. Paul said that a man (1) first believes on Christ, (2) then is justified before God, (3) then immediately proceeds to keep God’s law. The Judaizers said that a man (1) believes on Christ and (2) keeps the law of God the best he can, and then (3) is justified. The difference would seem to modern “practical” Christians to be a highly subtle and intangible matter, hardly worthy of consideration at all in view of the large measure of agreement in the practical realm. What a splendid cleaning up of the Gentile cities it would have been if the Judaizers had succeeded in extending to those cities the observance of the Mosaic law, even including the unfortunate ceremonial observances! Surely Paul ought to have made common cause with teachers who were so nearly in agreement with him; surely he ought to have applied to them the great principle of Christian unity. (Christianity and Liberalism)

2 thoughts on “Machen Day 2021

  1. This is the kernel of anarchy, ” keep the law the best we can”, ” then justified”. “Best we can”‘ make’s man the ultimate judge….and then who do we serve, God or man? In America, In some people’s judgement, disorder should rule as a means to an end. The end is all about changing judges….usually someone with the most gold and the biggest sword.


  2. By more than a ¾ majority (1438-417, 77.5%, nearly 4/5ths), the recent PCA GA responded to Overture 23 by proposing to amend the Book of Church Order 16 by adding the following clause:
    16-4 Officers in the Presbyterian Church in America must be above reproach in their walk and Christlike in their character. Those who profess an identity (such as, but not limited to, “gay Christian,” “same sex attracted Christian,” “homosexual Christian,” or like terms) that undermines or contradicts their identity as new creations in Christ, either by denying the sinfulness of fallen desires (such as, but not limited to, same sex attraction), or by denying the reality and hope of progressive sanctification, or by failing to pursue Spirit-empowered victory over their sinful temptations, inclinations, and actions are not qualified for ordained office.

    If 2/3 of the presbyteries agree and a simple majority of the next GA does, that clause will become part of the PCA BCO. What results might that bring?

    Among other results, that clause means more than that the PCA GA went on record as rejecting the idea that Christians may remain comfortable with homosexuality. It also means the PCA GA went on record as insisting that the Bible teaches progressive sanctification and Spirit-empowered victory over sin. Indeed, these doctrines, these condensed statements of truth, provide the foundation for offering hope to those who think they are trapped in some sin, unable to defeat it, whether it be despair, alcoholism, pornography, or homosexuality.

    Perhaps some might contend that people concerned about hyper-grace, no-sweat sanctification used a Trojan Horse tactic. They snuck the part that denied such into the proposed 16.4, figuring to use opposition to homosexuality as a means to get the whole clause approved. But that is not so. Denial of Christians identifying as unchangeably homosexual is an application of progressive sanctification. It is an application of affirming that the Spirit brings a changed life to those redeemed. This demonstrates the inseparable connection between theology and practice, between what one believes and how one lives.

    Put another way, the PCA will have to decide whether to pass a BCO change which does more than reject Christians identifying as homosexual. The proposed change would provide undeniable, straight-forwardly explicit grounds for discipline of pastors whose teaching endorses—or even does not openly and clearly deny—homosexual identity among Christians. It would also do the same for pastors who—either by denial or by omission—do not proclaim progressive sanctification, and/or who do not teach Christians must necessarily pursue Spirit-empowered victory over sin.

    Put even more pointedly, all through the various levels of the PCA—GA, Presbytery, Congregation—people will have to decide whether or not to shepherd pastors regarding an issue those levels have thus far ignored. The PCA does have pastors who teach that because salvation is by grace alone, God is not due obedience, does not expect obedience, and certainly does not demand it. These pastors deny or fail to teach that regeneration makes the Christian spiritually alive, responsive to God, enabled to fight sin, enabled to consciously and purposefully strive for holiness. They deny or fail to teach that the grace of new birth produces new life, with observable, identifiable results.

    Expect opposition to the GA’s response to Overture 23.


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