Christianity and Liberalism by J. Gresham Machen

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Machen’s great classic, published in 1923 at the height of the Fundamentalist/ Liberal battle, has been reviewed far too many times to need much comment by me.  However, in the face of new waves of liberalism sweeping over the evangelical community, Christianity and Liberalism is as relevant today as when it was written.  Indeed there is an eerie sense of déjà vu as Machen identifies the apostasies of old liberalism that have resurfaced in the new liberalism of the emergent church and other movements.  A quick listing of some of these issues will show the similarities. 

Old liberalism taught:

1. A sentimental religion (p. xi); Christianity is life, not doctrine (pp. 17, 38-39).
2. That doctrines are unimportant (pp. 5-6, 16-24, 43, 47) and experience, not truth, is what matters (p. xiv).  Yet liberalism uses evangelical terminology which makes it all the more dangerous.
3. That tolerance is more important than truth (pp. 15, 40-45).
4. That we should not seek to know God but to feel Him (p. 47). 
5. The fatherhood of God and brotherhood of man (pp. 51-55).
6. That sin is not our great problem (pp. 55-58).
7. Paganism (the enjoyment of life) as a substitute for Christianity (p. 56).
8. That the Bible is a musty record—authority rests in the individual and in pragmatism (pp. 60, 66-67).
9. That we are to follow the example of Jesus, not be concerned with His redeeming work (pp. 70, 82)
10. That the resurrection was not historical but amounts to Christ’s influence through us (p. 92).
11. That the Christian doctrine of salvation is to be criticized because it is narrow and exclusive (pp. 104-104), absurd (p. 106), and presents a cold, cruel and unloving view of God (pp. 109-111).
12. Enslavement to law and works by minimizing grace (p. 121).
13. That the betterment of the earth is the church’s agenda (pp. 125-134).

Machen ends his book with a call to defend the faith, eject false teachers from ministerial positions, separate from liberals if necessary, and serve in love and hope for God is still sovereign (pp. 146-152).  Nevertheless he admits, “… in the meanwhile our souls are tired” (p. 151).

A quick read of this work published 90 years ago will remind believers of recent church history and prepare them for the battles in front of them.  Highly recommended. 

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