Modernism Watch

The classic definition of Protestant modernism came from J. Gresham Machen in Christianity and Liberalism. He understood that modernism was an apologetic strategy — a way to save Christianity in the face of modern intellectual and social developments. That strategy involved explaining away certain doctrines as the mere husk of Christianity (deity of Christ, virgin birth, infallibility of Scripture) and properly locating the kernel of Christian teaching (the fatherhood of God, the brotherhood of man, the vicinity of Boston). What modernists did and still do is historicize the faith. Christians believed truth X once upon a time but we now understand how X was the product of a historical moment. The modernist looks beneath the exterior of Christian belief, which is historically situated, and finds the universal truth to which it points.

The classic definition for Roman Catholic modernism came from Pius X (hence the Society of Saint Piux X) who in 1907 wrote:

These rebels profess and repeat, in subtle formulas, monstrous errors on the evolution of dogma, on the return to the pure Gospel—that is, as they say, a Gospel purified of theological explication, Council definitions, and the maxims of the moral life—and on the emancipation of the Church. This they do in their new fashion: they do not engage in revolt, lest they should be ejected, and yet they do not submit either, so that they do not have to abandon their convictions. In their calls for the Church to adapt to modern conditions, in everything they speak and write, preaching a charity without faith, they are very indulgent towards believers, but in reality they are opening up for everyone the path to eternal ruin.

And now traditionalist Roman Catholics fear that the Synod of Bishops who are discussing the nature of marriage, that these church authorities are dabbling in modernism. Even some on the left side of the Roman Catholic spectrum seem to agree (even if taking encouragement from such dabbling) though they prefer the phrase “development of doctrine” to modernism (who wouldn’t?):

Let’s look at this issue of developing doctrine and changing pastoral practice as it relates to the “homosexual agenda” which has +Burke so exercised. For years, for centuries, the Church shared the biases of the ambient culture. Homosexuality was the sin that dare not speak its name and gay people were ostracized and worse. There was little in the Church’s teaching on marriage and the family that was crafted with even a thought to the existence of LGBT people and no obvious congruence between that teaching and the lived experience of gay Catholics. But, what the Church neglected for all those years was a core, foundational doctrine: All human persons are made in the image and likeness of God. This doctrine is, I dare say, even more foundational than the Church’s teaching on marriage, indeed, the Church’s teaching on marriage and all ethical issues is built upon the imago dei, but nobody, until our lifetimes, thought to apply this doctrine to the pastoral care of gays and lesbians.

What changed? First, the experience of HIV/AIDS. In the same way that the publication of Uncle Tom’s Cabin demonstrated to all the suffering and horror of slavery to people who knew little about it, the AIDS epidemic called forth the most basic Christian, humane sensibility: compassion. . . .

There is an old joke that when the Church announces a change, the document always begins, “As the Church has always taught….” This is usually cited as a way to suggest that the Church is a bit cynical, even hypocritical. But, in fact, this is how change happens in the Church. “The Church has always taught” that all human beings are made in the image and likeness of God, we just forgot to apply that to gays and lesbians for a few centuries. The Church has always taught that Communion is the food of mercy, essential to the on-going conversion of all Christians, not just the divorced and remarried. No one is going to “change doctrine” at this synod, but the synod fathers are trying to retrieve lost insights, recalibrate the way our doctrines are applied in real pastoral praxis, discern new ways to proclaim the Gospel. The synod is evidence that the Church is alive and still attentive to the Holy Spirit, not only to the treatises on canon law. Those who are afraid of this synod – and of this pope – and the ones of little faith.

It’s hard to know how to argue against a view that says “we have always believed this even though it didn’t look like it.” But then arguing against experience as opposed to debating a proposition (yes, I’ve invoked the bogeyman of propositional truth, language speaker than I am) is like making a case against second-hand smoke. And yet, following experience instead of doctrine appears to be precisely what the cardinals are doing in Rome:

Unlike in the past, when bishops or theologians would deduce theology from general, sometimes idealized notions of God or humanity, the prelates at the Synod of Bishops on the family are using inductive reasoning to instead examine theology in the reality of families today, Canadian Archbishop Paul-André Durocher said.

“What’s happening within the synod is we’re seeing a more inductive way of reflecting, starting from the true situation of people and trying to figure out what’s going on here,” said Durocher, who leads the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The prelates, the archbishop said, are “finding that the lived experience of people is also a theological source — what we call a theological source, a place of theological reflection.”

“I think we’re learning to use the Harvard case study method in reflecting theologically on the lives of people,” continued the archbishop, who also heads the archdiocese of Gatineau in Quebec.

“And we’re only, in a sense, starting to learn how to do this as church leaders,” he said. “And this is going to take time for us, to learn to do this and together to come — as we reflect on this — to find what is the way that God is showing.”

When the bishops do eventually figure out how to use the experience of people to construct theology, will Jason and the Callers follow suit? So far the answers from the Callers have been all out of a Pius X framework. They have yet to enter or accommodate the modern world that Vatican II embraced (not to mention missing all the lessons of twentieth-century Protestant history that produced separate communions like the OPC and the PCA).

The Danger of Flattening

According to J. Gresham Machen:

. . . the witness of the New Testament, with regard to Jesus as the object of faith, is an absolutely unitary witness. The thing is rooted far too deep in the records of primitive Christianity ever to be removed by any critical process. The Jesus spoken of in the New Testament was no mere teacher of righteousness, no mere pioneer in a new type of religious life, but One who was regarded, and regarded Himself, as the Savior whom men could trust.

But by modern liberalism He is regarded in a totally different way. Christians stand in a religious relation to Jesus; liberals do not stand in a religious relation to Jesus − what difference could be more profound than that? The modern liberal preacher reverences Jesus; he has the name of Jesus forever on his lips; he speaks of Jesus as the supreme revelation of God; he enters, or tries to enter, into the religious life of Jesus. But he does not stand in a religious relation to Jesus. Jesus for him is an example for faith, not the object of faith. The modern liberal tries to have faith in God like the faith which he supposes Jesus had in God; but he does not have faith in Jesus. According to modern liberalism, in other words, Jesus was the Founder of Christianity because He was the first Christian, and Christianity consists in maintenance of the religious life which Jesus instituted. . . .

Yet in the Gospels Jesus is represented constantly as dealing with the problem of sin. He always assumes that other men are sinful; yet He never finds sin in Himself. A stupendous difference is found here between Jesus’ experience and ours.

That difference prevents the religious experience of Jesus from serving as the sole basis of the Christian life. For clearly if Christianity is anything it is a way of getting rid of sin. At any rate, if it is not that it is useless; for all men have sinned. And as a matter of fact it was that from the very beginning. Whether the beginning of Christian preaching be put on the day of Pentecost or when Jesus first taught in Galilee, in either case one of its first words was “Repent.” Throughout the whole New Testament the Christianity of the primitive Church is represented clearly as a way of getting rid of sin. But if Christianity is a way of getting rid of sin, then Jesus was not a Christian; for Jesus, so far as we can see, had no sin to get rid of. (Christianity and Liberalism)

Wouldn’t Machen’s logic, not to mention his noteworthy battle with liberalism, be a reason for avoiding statements that regard Jesus as the greatest Christian ever?

Queen of the Sciences?

That’s the old phrase reserved for systematic theology when people regarded it as the culmination of human thought about special and general revelation. Charles Hodge, Benjamin Warfield and the Old Princeton faculty more generally regarded systematic theology as the telos of biblical and theological investigation.

Warfield worried, however, that biblical theology would displace systematics:

Systematic Theology may look on with an amused tolerance and a certain older-sister’s pleased recognition of powers just now perhaps a little too conscious of themselves, when the new discipline of Biblical Theology, for example, tosses her fine young head and announces of her more settled sister that her day is over. But these words have a more ominous ring in them when the lips that frame them speak no longer as a sister’s but as an enemy’s, and the meaning injected into them threatens not merely dethronement but destruction.

In that new environment, the queenly status of systematics might have more to do with sexual orientation and the politics of identity rather than with a hierarchy of knowledge.

After reading the exchange between Dick Gaffin and Clair Davis regarding recent faculty developments at Westminster Theological Seminary, I am still convinced that an important difference between Old Princeton and contemporary Westminster is the status accorded systematic theology. Gaffin and Davis both debate how best to interpret Geerhardus Vos and the proper hermeneutic associated with redemptive historical exegesis, but systematic theology is distant from their concerns.

Of course, faculty at the Reformed seminaries are supposed to subscribe the “system of doctrine” taught in the Westminster Standards and/or the Three Forms of Unity. But whether all faculty are equally willing to teach and defend that system of doctrine — say in Sunday school or even in their own non-ST classes — is another question altogether. I mean, are the advocates of a Christotelic or Christocentric reading of the OT prepared to teach and defend limited atonement or the eternal decree? And if all seminary faculty were willing to contend for those doctrines, would the disputes among the Vossians have taken on such magnitude?

I am well aware that it is easy and a bit of a cliche to quote Machen the way that political conservatives quote the American founders. (Here goes Machen boy again.) But I wonder how many seminary faculty would agree with this assertion from Machen’s first address about WTS?

. . . biblical theology is not all the theology that will be taught at Westminster Seminary, for systematic theology will be at the very center of the seminary’s course. At this point an error should be avoided: it must not be thought that systematic theology is one whit less biblical than biblical theology is. But it differs from biblical theology in that, standing on the foundation or biblical theology, it seeks to set forth, no longer in the order of the time when it was revealed, but in the order of logical relationships, the grand sum of what God has told us in his Word. There are those who think that systematic theology on the basis of the Bible is impossible; there are those who think that the Bible contains a mere record of human seeking after God and that its teachings are a mass of contradiction which can never be resolved. But to the number of those persons we do not belong. We believe for our part that God has spoken to us in his Word, and that he has given us not merely theology, but a system of theology, a great logically consistent body of truth.

That system of theology, that body of truth, which we find in the Bible is the Reformed faith, the faith commonly called Calvinistic, which is set forth so gloriously in the Confession and catechisms of the Presbyterian church. It is sometimes referred to as a “man-made creed.” But we do not regard it as such. We regard it, in accordance with our ordination pledge as ministers in the Presbyterian church, as the creed which God has taught us in his Word. If it is contrary to the Bible, it is false. But we hold that it is not contrary to the Bible, but in accordance with the Bible, and true. We rejoice in the approximations to that body of truth which other systems of theology contain; we rejoice in our Christian fellowship with other evangelical churches; we hope that members of other churches, despite our Calvinism, may be willing to enter into Westminster Seminary as students and to listen to what we may have to say. But we cannot consent to impoverish our message by setting forth less than what we find the Scripture to contain; and we believe that we shall best serve our fellow Christians, from whatever church they may come, if we set forth not some vague greatest common measure among various creeds, but that great historic faith that has come through Augustine and Calvin to our own Presbyterian church. (“Westminster Theological Seminary,” 1929)

Of course, Machen could be wrong about systematic theology. If so, a biblical theologian might want to step up and say so and explain why. Machen’s not the pope.

But if he is right about systematic theology being as biblical as biblical theology, if he’s right about it forming the center of the theological curriculum, and if he’s right about Calvinism (as the WTS affirmations and denials — see pp. 9 and 10 — suggest), then the debates about Vos and the proper way to read the Old Testament look less important than they have become. The real test is not whether you get Isaiah or Vos right, but whether or not your teaching and writing supports the system of doctrine taught in the church’s standards. If that were the criterion for appointment and promotion, the debate between Gaffin and Davis might be better left for the attendees at the Evangelical Theological Society.

All Down Hill After John Witherspoon?

Anthony Bradley wonders (again) what has happened to Presbyterians and why they lost their momentum. First it was as popular voices among evangelicals, now it’s as dispensers of wisdom about the world:

I am wondering, then, for those who are raising their children in the Presbyterian tradition what resources exists for forming Presbyterian identity in terms of an understanding marriage & family (i.e., the relationship between covenant marriage & covenant baptism in America’s marriage debate), issues related to social & political power & federal political theory (which is derivative of federal theology), divorce and remarriage, war and social conflict, apologetics, and so on? How does a covenantal world-and-life view, and Presbyterian understandings of power structures, unlock the implications for a theology of work & economics when applied to international third world development, and so on?

By extension, I am also wondering what happened to Presbyterians as known and normative leaders of culturally leveraged institutions in American society and culture? Mark Twain and William Faulkner were Presbyterian. More Vice-Presidents of the United States have been Presbyterian more than any other denomination (Presbyterians rank 2nd for the US Presidency). Presbyterians rank 2nd in terms of placement on the Supreme Court in US History. I could go on. . . .

An initial thought is to wonder why Presbyterians need to go to another Presbyterian for instruction on the federal government. Isn’t reading the Federalists and Anti-Federalists (Presbyterian or not?) good enough?

Another wonder is whether Presbyterians have ever been all that influential as Bradley’s post assumes. To meet his criteria — “what Presbyterians are speaking to these issues or leading institutions that are (like think tanks or colleges and universities” — at least three sets of circumstances need to be in play. First, a person needs to be Presbyterian (what kind — Old Side, New Life, Neo-Calvinist — is another question)? Second, such a person needs to be writing on a vast number of public policy type subjects. So far Tim and David Bayly suffice. But then, third, and this is the kicker, the person needs to be sufficiently well known for folks in the pew to consult him or her (sorry, Tim and David). As it stands, lots of Presbyterians have lots of thoughts on all sorts of subjects and publish them (on the interweb). But no one of them stands out with Francis Schaeffer notoriety.

The problem, then, may have less to do with Presbyterian decline than with the diversification of communication technology and the formation of diverse pockets of affinity.

At the same time, Presbyterians need not feel so bad, at least if misery loves company. Bradley’s question applies just as much to Lutherans, Methodists, Episcopalians, and — boy does it ever — to Congregationalists (nee Puritans). Among Western Christians, Rome stands out as distinctly different in this regard since Roman Catholics have an endless supply of public intellectuals who are doing their best imitations of popes, who speak constantly to a host of issues below their pay grade. This may explain much of Rome’s contemporary appeal to converts. If you want a church with all the answers to life’s pressing questions — don’t go to Guy Noir but to the Vatican. But if you believe in the spirituality of the church and the sufficiency of Scripture, you don’t need a Presbyterian pontiff to tell you how to live. You go to church, say your prayers, work dutifully at your callings, and take your lumps.

One last thought about Anthony’s question comes from a period I know relatively well. During the first half of the twentieth century we did have Presbyterians who spoke on any number of issues, were well known and so had pretty large followings. These were William Jennings Bryan, Billy Sunday, J. Gresham Machen, and Carl McIntire. Maybe 1 in 4 isn’t bad. But if that’s going to be the percentage of Presbyterians we should heed when they start to pontificate about all of life, I’ll take my chances with guys who write for American Conservative.

New Schoolers, Neo-Calvinists, and Fundamentalists

After Darrell Todd Maurina kicked up some dust with his post at the Baylyblog on 2k, he made the following comment:

Men such as Dr. Darryl Hart have accused me in the past of holding the same position as the Bible Presbyterians and Carl McIntyre. That is an important accusation and it needs to be rebutted. If men such as Clark, Horton, Hart, and Van Drunen manage to successfully argue that they are in the heritage of Old School Presbyterianism while their opponents are New Schoolers, great damage will be done to the cause of those who oppose “Two Kingdoms” theology within the conservative Reformed world.

Well, if you look at the historical scholarship, Darrell, it gets even worse than you imagine. Consider first of all one inference that George Marsden drew in his first book, a study of New School Presbyterianism:

The most striking illustration of the similarities between nineteenth-century New Schoolism and twentieth-century fundamentalism is found in the sequel to the Presbyterian division of 1936. The newly formed Presbyterian Church of America itself was divided over a complex set of issues remarkably similar to those of 1837. The majority in the new denomination, led by J. Gresham Machen until his death . . . and then by his immediate associates at Westminster Seminary, took clearly Old School positions on each of the issues. The minority, which withdrew to form the Bible Presbyterian Synod, was led by the militant fundamentalist, Carl McIntire. McIntire, who had envisaged the Presbyterian Church of America as part of a wider “twentieth century Reformation,” soon found that he was not at home in a strict Old School tradition. The specific programs for which he fought were 1) toleration of a doctrine (dispenstational premillennialism) that the majority in the Church considered incompatible with the Westminster Confession of Faith; 2) continuation of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions, rather than forming an official denominational mission board; and 3) adoption by the General Assembly of a statement that total abstinence from all that may intoxicate is “the only truth principle of temperance – exactly the same statement first adopted by the New School General Assembly of 1840. These programs, together with McIntires’s claim to represent “American Presbyterianism (a former New School phrase), his avid (anti-Communist) patriotism, his zeal for revivalism and legalistic reforms, his emphasis on interdenominational cooperation, and his lack of concern for strict Presbyterian polity – all indicate a continuation of the distinctly New School traditions with the fundamentalist wing of Presbyterianism. . . .

Perhaps the greatest difference between the New School evangelical movement and fundamentalist was that the nineteenth-century movement was largely successful, while the twentieth-century movement was not. The New School was not characterized by an almost total repudiation of the cultural and scientific advances of the age. Rather, it met those challenges without losing its own respectability. The New School thus advanced toward the center of American cultural and religious life, while fundamentalism was forced to retreat to the hinterlands. This, of course, is a crucial difference and makes a characterization of the New School as proto-fundamentalist s misleading as proto-liberal. The New School was in many respects a constructive and progressive religious intellectual movement with marked success in shaping American culture at large. (247, 249)

In case Darrell and other New School-like Protestants get bogged down in McIntire’s peculiarities, the point here is not that Maurina or the Baylys are dispensationalists or tee-totalers. The point is that they put the nation and its politics ahead of their theological and confessional commitments the way New Schoolers did. They want an American Presbyterianism, a faith that shapes America. In contrast, the Old School was willing to consider Reformed Protestantism as something independent or a matter than transcended the nation. The New Schoolers were Americans first and Americans second. Old Schoolers (at least some of them) were Presbyterians first and Americans second. If the United States and Presbyterianism are not the same, the order in which you put “Presbyterian” and “American” matters. (For Presbyterians from Canada or Ireland that makes perfect sense.)

But for those inclined to think that Dutch-American (notice the order) Reformed Protestants escape these parallels and analogies, consider this point that James Bratt made in an article about Kuyper and Machen:

Put in Dutch Calvinist terms: if forced to choose, Machen would let the Christian cultural task give way to the confessional church; Kuyper would force the confessional church to take up the cultural task. Put in American Presbyterian terms, Kuyper had some strong New School traits where Machen had none. To be sure Kuyper’s predestinarianism was at odds with the New Schools Arminian tints and his movement had a low impetus for “soul-saving,” but his organizational zeal was like Lyman Beecher’s in purpose and scale, his educational purposes at the Free University recalled Timothy Dwight’s at Yale, and his invocation of the “city on a hill” to describe the church’s place in a world recalled the charter image of Puritan New England which was ever the New Schools’ aspiration. In fact Kuyper honored New England as the “core of the American nation” and shared its definition of Christian liberty as a communal opportunity to do the right thing. At that Machen would only shudder. He indicted the “angry passions of 1861″ by which New England trampled on southern rights, and defined Christian liberty as the individual’s protection from the wrong thing. When put to the test, Machen endorsed the political model of Thomas Jefferson. At that Kuyper would only shudder back. (“Abraham Kuyper, J. Gresham Machen, and the Dynamics of Reformed Anti-Modernism,” Journal of Presbyterian History Winter 1997 75.4, 254)

So if folks like Maurina are going to talk about lines of historical continuity in the Reformed world, they may want to get their ducks in a row. And by the likes of these historians who taught/teach at Calvin College, the ties among Lyman Beecher, Abraham Kuyper, Carl McIntire, Francis Schaeffer may be stronger than the anti-2kers imagine.

If Theonomy, Then No Machen (or United States)

The folks who lament the decadence of the contemporary West most (who also happen to be some of the biggest whiners about 2k) seem to think that a return to God’s law in the United States would fix our social and political woes. Aside from the problem of finding unregenerate citizens who will follow God’s law, these law lovers do not grasp a fundamental point of U.S. legal and political life (and this may explain why the so-called Religious Right is so easily ridiculed).

For Americans, as well as the Brits before them, law is not simply the embodiment of God’s moral standards. Laws against stealing and perjury do, of course, reflect God’s righteousness. But legal documents like the venerated Constitution are not primarily about morality. They are primarily procedural. Such laws place limits on government. The Constitution, for instance, prescribes and limits the powers of each branch of the federal government. Such restraints are at the heart of the Anglo-American notion of liberty, namely, the idea that people need to be protected from arbitrary and despotic power. To enjoy a life free from a potentially coercive government, we as a people drew up a body of laws that were designed not to constrain the actions of individuals but to prescribe the power of the magistrate. Placing limits on the government for the sake of civil and religious liberties is at the heart of libertarianism and is a major theme in J. Gresham Machen’s thought and political activities. (Whether or not he was a member of the American Civil Liberties Union, he was sympathetic to the ACLU, a sympathy that would drive the likes of Doug Wilson and Greg Bahnsen batty).

Those who want more of God’s law in public life do not appear to understand this basic aspect of civil society in the U.S. They seem to think that if God’s moral standards are on their side, they have the power, duty, and right to make sure that the rest of Americans know that they are deserving God’s wrath. They also apparently believe they have responsibility to condemn the state if it fails to enforce God’s law, hence the double-down point about the magistrate’s duty to require observance of both tables of the law.

That argument about both tables of the law is almost entirely at odds with the American notion that law restrains government from exercising power unspecified in the Constitution. It also runs up against the legal tradition of assuming an accused citizen’s innocence until proven guilty. Just because we “know” someone broke the law doesn’t mean that district attorneys and police are free from following the laws that keep us from being a police state. In fact, the appeal to God’s law by some culture warriors has the flavor of vigilantism, that is, taking the law into their own hands. The problem for theonomists and other moral breast beaters is not simply that they don’t have power to execute God’s law. They also don’t seem to understand that the “rule of law” as we understand it in the United States actually prevents government from enforcing a whole host of laws, including God’s.

Even Presbyterian books of discipline reflect this other rule of law — not the embodiment of God’s morality but the protection from arbitrary power. The OPC’s book ensures that those accused will receive a hearing and not be found guilty of violating God’s law simply on the basis of an individual’s complaint:

3. Every charge of an offense must: (a) be in written form, (b) set forth the alleged offense, (c) set forth only one alleged offense, (d) set forth references to applicable portions of the Word of God, (e) set forth, where pertinent, references to applicable portions of the confessional standards, (f) set forth the serious character of the offense which would demonstrate the warrant for a trial.

Each specification of the facts relied upon to sustain the charge must: (a) be in written form, (b) declare as far as possible, the time, place, and circumstances of the alleged offense, (c) be accompanied with the names of any witnesses and the titles of documents, records, and recordings to be produced.

4. Offenses are either public or private. Public offenses are those which are commonly known. Private offenses are those which are known to an individual only, or, at most, to a very few individuals. Private offenses may or may not be personal, a personal private offense being one which involves injury to the person bringing the charge.

5. No charge of a personal private offense shall be admitted unless the judicatory has assured itself that the person bringing the charge has faithfully followed the course set forth in Matthew 18:15-17; nor shall a charge of a private offense which is not personal be admitted unless it appears that the plaintiff has first done his utmost privately to restore the alleged offender. However, even in the case of public offenses, it is not wrong to seek reconciliation in terms of Matthew 18:15-17 or Matthew 5:21-26 or Galatians 6:1. (chapter 3)

Maybe the Anglo-American tradition of law and constitutional liberties is wrong (though it finds expression in Presbyterian government). Maybe the West if fundamentally flawed and should follow political patterns and traditions established by the Persians and Turks. Or maybe theonoomy and the original Reformed confessions’ teachings about the magistrate lost when the Reformed and Presbyterian churches embraced the politics associated with a certain eighteenth-century republic founded in North America.

Old Life New Year Revelries

Celebrating New Year’s Day is always mixed with sobriety (talk about paradoxes) thanks to January 1 being the anniversary of J. Gresham Machen’s death (1937). He died of pneumonia at 7:30 Central Standard Time in a Roman Catholic hospital in Bismarck, North Dakota.

To honor the man, here is an excerpt from his defense of his vote against a motion before the Presbytery of New Brunswick to support Prohibition (which by the way bears on this matter of the Bible speaking to all of life and the flip side of Christian liberty):

In the first place, no one has a greater horror of the evils of drunkenness than I or a greater detestation of any corrupt traffic which has sought to make profit out of this terrible sin. It is clearly the duty of the church to combat this evil.

With regard to the exact form, however, in which the poser of civil government is to be used in this battle, there may be difference of opinion. Zeal for temperance, for example, would hardly justify an order that all drunkards should be summarily butchered. The end in that case would not justify the means. Some men hold that the Eighteenth Amendment and the Volstead Act are not a wise method of dealing with the problem of intemperance, and that indeed those measures, in the effort to commplish moral good, are really causing moral harm. I am not expressing any opinion on this question now, and did not do so by my vote in the Presbytery of New Brunswick. But I do maintain that those who hold the view that I have just mentioned have a perfect right to their opinion, so far as the law of our church is concerned, and should not be coerced in any way by ecclesiastical authority. The church as a right to exercise discipline where authority for condemnation of an act can be found in Scripture, but it has no such right in other cases. And certainly Scripture authority cannot be found in the particular matter of the Eighteenth Amendment and the Volstead Act . . .

In making of itself, moreover, in so many instances primarily an agency of law enforcement, and thus engaging in the duties of the police, the church, I am constrained to think, is in danger of losing sight of its proper function, which is that of bringing to bear upon human souls the sweet and gracious influences of the gospel. Important indeed are the functions of the police, and members of the church, in their capacity as citizens, should aid by every proper means within their power in securing the discharge of those functions. But the duty of the church in its corporate capacity is of quite a different nature. (“Statement on the Eighteenth Amendment,” J. Gresham Machen: Selected Shorter Writings, 394-95).