We're so used to hearing about "liberal Christianity" that to our desensitized ears it sounds strange to hear them contrasted, as though "liberalism" and "Christianity" were two different things. But the fact that Christianity and Liberalism are, in fact, two competing religions rather than two iterations of the same faith is exactly the premise of J. Gresham Machen's classic book.
21st-century readers will be equally surprised to learn this book was initially published in 1923, and remarked on trends Machen traced back at least 75 years from his own day. Machen founded the Orthodox Presbyterian Church after a prolonged struggle against liberalism in his native Presbyterian Church in the United States of America denomination, an organization now completely freed of any historic orthodox ties.
What are the differences between modern liberalism and historic Christianity? As many as there are Christian doctrines. The Christian faith is rooted in historic events and God's self-revelation in the Bible and Jesus Christ, while liberalism is a purely human invention, meant to get rid of sin, guilt, theism, personal salvation, and divine authority, putting in their place a program of human self-redemption through social efforts.
Machen pleads throughout these pages with liberal pastors and theologians to be honest. He isn't a religious fascist: he's not trying to force anyone to be a Christian. But he does want those with a different message than the one taught by Jesus and His apostles to be forthright about their identity. If you teach anti-Christian doctrines, don't call yourself a Christian!
Liberalism cannot save anyone. At best, it helps its adherents blind themselves to the hopelessness of their situation, and gives them a palliating placebo perpetuating the fantasy that God will accept our poor efforts to please Him whether we humble ourselves to Him or not through repentance and faith. That is a lie that damns all who believe it to hell, Machen says, and he points us instead to the biblical faith once for all delivered to the saints by Christ Himself.
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Table of Contents:
- God and Man
- The Bible
- The Church
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here
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