J. Gresham Machen, A Biographical Essay

Introduction

Throughout the history of Christianity, certain theologies, ideologies, and philosophies have arisen and threatened the church’s understanding of the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. One such theology is the modern liberalism that arose in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which the main character of this essay describes as “an attempt to solve the problem of historic Christianity’s relation to modern culture.”[1] In an attempt to solve this “problem,” modern liberalism became rooted in naturalism and discarded the supernatural particulars of the Christian message such as the virgin birth, substitutionary atonement, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ as mere symbols of the more general aspects of religion.[2]

Modern liberalism taught that the essence of Christianity is to be found in its general ethical principles rather than in the event of the Son of God dying for the sins of His people. Liberalism made its way into many churches, denominations, and seminaries by the dawn of the twentieth century and was threatening to overpower historic Protestantism in its popularity and acceptance. However, church history often demonstrates that when a harmful theology arises, God raises up a voice to expose, correct, and provide clarity for the church. In the early decades of the twentieth century in the United States, that voice was J. Gresham Machen’s.

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The Center and Core of the Whole Bible

I’ve been reading through Ned Stonehouse’s biography of J. Gresham Machen, the conservative New Testament professor at Princeton Seminary who stood against the liberal theology that was making inroads in the Presbyterian Church of America in the 1920s and 1930s.

Throughout the Book, Stonehouse highlights key sections from Machen’s works. In one of them, titled What is Faith?, Stonehouse recounts where Machen clearly sets forth what he believes to be the “center and core” of the whole Bible: the grace of God. And I couldn’t agree more. He writes,

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Ernie Reisinger on Doctrine and Christian Experience

Green and Yellow Photo Quotes Fall Twitter Post

I’ve been working my way through Geoff Thomas’s biography of Ernie Reisinger and came across one of the clearest explanations of my own views regarding the importance of doctrine and Christian experience. Thomas quotes from Reisinger’s pamplet entitled Doctrine and Devotion,

“Doctrine is to Christian experience what bones are to the body. A body without bones would be like a lump of “glob,” utterly useless. Likewise, Christian experience without roots is like cut flowers stuck in the ground. They may look pleasant for a while, but ultimately they will fade. The other side of this truth must also be taken into account, that is, bones without flesh are but a dead skeleton. Doctrine without experience is useless.’

Thomas provides helpful additional commentary, “It is not enough to speak of immediate experiences of God without doctrinal knowledge. God must be worshipped in truth as well as in Spirit. Truth can be stated in real words, and when that is done there is Christian doctrine. To be a disciple of the Lord Jesus without knowing what Christ taught must be a vain quest. It is impossible to over-emphasize the importance of sound doctrine in the Christian life. Right thinking about all spiritual matters is imperative if we are to have right living. As men do not gather grapes of thorns, nor figs of thistles, so sound Christian character does not grow out of unsound doctrine. The church that neglects to teach sound biblical doctrine weakens church membership. It works against true unity. It invites instability in its fellowship. It lessons conviction and puts the brakes on vital progress in the congregation.”

He concludes regarding experience, “Mark well that apostasy from the faith has never resulted from a prayerful and diligent submission to God’s Word. If the great doctrines do not produce and develop such Christian character of true zeal, genuine holiness, self-denial, and evangelism, then those doctrines are not being held properly or else they have become an end in themselves.”

May God grant that we recognize the importance of and continue growing in both Christian doctrine and experience!

Magnifying Christ as the Sovereign God of Technology

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In our day and age, we have technophiles, technophobes, and people in the middle. Technophiles are incredibly enthusiastic about technological developments, while technophobes are deathly afraid of them. But the Christian can stand comfortably balanced between the two, because the God of all of this stuff- all our technology, rules over it all.

Technology is a tool, and tools are given to us by God. The first stone Adam used to crack open a coconut was a tool. It was a token of technological advancement. As the centuries have passed, God has given us the resources and abilities to continue advancing our tools. These tools are not inherently good or bad in themselves. However, they can find themselves in the hands of a person doing good or evil, something beneficial or detrimental. They are not new “gods” unless we revere and worship them as such. They are neutral. However, as Doug Wilson points out in Ploductivity, technology is a form of wealth. The Bible describes wealth as a blessing, but a blessing that can easily turn our hearts away from God (Deut. 8:10-20). Therefore we must view our technological tools with grateful suspicion. We should be grateful for the blessing that they are and desire to use them to honor God. But we should be suspicious of our hearts that can quickly turn blessings into a means of forgetting the God who blessed us in the first place.

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The Red Sea: Salvation is of the Lord

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Two sets of water. Two miracles. Two fundamental lessons on salvation.

The parting of the Red Sea and the Jordan River are much more than neat miracle stories. They are central events in the unfolding drama of redemption that proclaim who God is and the nature of His salvation. In this post, I will discuss one fundamental lesson of salvation revealed in the first of these events.

The Red Sea

Imagine the scene at the Red Sea: God had promised to lead His people out of slavery in Egypt and into land he promised to give Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Through many miraculous signs and wonders, God moved the stubborn heart of Pharaoh to momentarily allow Israel to leave. In dramatic fashion, the people evacuate Egypt, Pharaoh changes his mind and pursues Israel, and Israel seems to be trapped by the impassibility of the Red Sea. Their first thought isn’t to turn to God for help (easy to judge, but unfortunately we often do the same), but to complain and grumble against Moses and declare that they were better off in Egypt (see Exodus 14:10-12). Moses responds, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today” (Exod. 14:13).

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Looking Unto Jesus- Charles Spurgeon

“Looking unto Jesus.” —Hebrews 12:2

“It is ever the Holy Spirit’s work to turn our eyes away from self to Jesus; but Satan’s work is just the opposite of this, for he is constantly trying to make us regard ourselves instead of Christ.

He insinuates, ‘Your sins are too great for pardon; you have no faith; you do not repent enough; you will never be able to continue to the end; you have not the joy of His children; you have such a wavering hold of Jesus.’

All these are thoughts about self, and we shall never find comfort or assurance by looking within. But the Holy Spirit turns our eyes entirely away from self: He tells us that we are nothing, but that ‘Christ is all in all.’

Remember, therefore, it is not thy hold of Christ that saves thee—it is Christ; it is not thy joy in Christ that saves thee—it is Christ; it is not even faith in Christ, though that be the instrument—it is Christ’s blood and merits.

Therefore, look not so much to thy hand with which thou art grasping Christ, as to Christ; look not to thy hope, but to Jesus, the source of thy hope; look not to thy faith, but to Jesus, the author and finisher of thy faith.

We shall never find happiness by looking at our prayers, our doings, or our feelings; it is what Jesus is, not what we are, that gives rest to the soul. If we would at once overcome Satan and have peace with God, it must be by ‘looking unto Jesus.’

Keep thine eye simply on Him; let His death, His sufferings, His merits, His glories, His intercession, be fresh upon thy mind; when thou wakest in the morning look to Him; when thou liest down at night look to Him.

Oh! let not thy hopes or fears come between thee and Jesus; follow hard after Him, and He will never fail thee.

‘My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesu’s blood and righteousness:
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesu’s name.’”

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–Charles Spurgeon, “June 28 – Morning” in Morning and Evening (Geanies House, Fearn, Scotland, UK: Christian Focus, 1994), 378.

John 3 – “You Must Be Born Again”

Jesus was very clear about the change that must take place in order to become one of his own and see the kingdom of God.

You must be born again” John 3:7

Must I go to church? No, you must be born again. Must I pray a certain prayer? No, you must be born again. Must I give to the poor? No, you must be born again. Must I be baptized? No, you must be born again. Must I follow the law? No, you must be born again. Must I teach Sunday school or sing in the choir? No, you must be born again!

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” John 3:3

One of my spiritual heroes, C.H. Spurgeon, illustrated this truth this way (in my own paraphrase):

Suppose that in England, there should be a law passed that admission to courts, preference to office, and any privileges in the nation were only given to the natural born citizens of the country. What then, would court officials say if an native Indian man came to them and said, “I will change my name” or “I will change my dress” or “I will change my family, my friends,” or “I will learn the language” or “I will work for it!” You see none of these things could admit the man, for the law is absolute, the man must be an natural born citizen to obtain the privileges, and he is not.

This illustration also correlates with us as Christians. We cannot change our names (call ourselves Christians), change the way we dress, change our friends, change our behavior, learn to talk like Christians, learn to pray like Christians, give away our money, help the poor, or do any type of Christian service. For God’s statement is clear: “You must be born again.”

This new birth is a sweeping process which is more than a change, it is a creation. Not just reformation, but regeneration. Not just becoming religious, but being born. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefor, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; Behold, the new has come.”

Do you exhibit a different life than you did before? Do you now hate the very things you used to love? Have your desires changed? Do you have a hunger for reading and understanding God’s Word? Do you desire to be around other believers? Can you persist in sin? What is your attitude towards sin- are you brokenhearted over it? or are you still indifferent to it? To whom have you entrusted your whole life to?

We cannot bring about these changes ourselves, nor make ourselves “born again.” We are only born again of the Spirit, the power of God. Salvation is a magnificent work where a soul is saved and made completely new. Ultimately, Jesus is the only one who can bring about this new creation in us.

It is imperative to understand that he brings about this change. “Behold” says Christ, “I make all things new” (Revelation 21:5). Dear friend, you must be made new; you must be born again! I paraphrase Mr. Spurgeon again, “Christ can make you really pure in heart; he can make you a new creature, so that you shall be converted and become as a little child. “Oh!” say you, “how can I get it? How can I prepare myself for him?” You do not want to prepare yourself for him. Go to him just as you are; trust him to do it, and he will do it. That is faith, you know–trust, dependence. Can you believe that Christ can save you? Oh! you can believe that; well now, will you trust him to save you? Will you trust him to deliver you from your drunkenness, from your angry temper, your pride, your love of self, your lusts? Do you desire to be a new creature in Christ Jesus? If so, that very desire must have come from heaven. I could fain hope that he has already begun the good work in you, and he that begins it will carry it on.”

“”Oh! make me a new creature!” If you have said that from your heart, you are a new creature, dear brother, and we will rejoice together in this regenerating Savior.” (Spurgeon, A New Creation, published July 15, 1915.)