A Call to Thoughtful Vigilance

What can we learn in our day about being vigilant in defending and promoting biblical Christianity?

Paul’s warning was taken very seriously by many churches and ministers in the controversy between fundamentalists and liberals in the 1920s. Fundamentalists seeing their churches and schools deserting historic Christianity viewed liberals as devious, deceptive, even demonic. Dr. J. Gresham Machen, in the most valuable and enduring critique of liberalism written in the 1920s, Christianity and Liberalism, concluded that Christianity was one religion and liberalism was quite another.

 

Paul warned the elders of the church in Ephesus about the critical need for them to be vigilant: “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert…” (Acts 20:28–31). This apostolic warning was not just for the Ephesian church; it is a warning that is necessary for every church in every age.

Paul’s warning was taken very seriously by many churches and ministers in the controversy between fundamentalists and liberals in the 1920s. Fundamentalists seeing their churches and schools deserting historic Christianity viewed liberals as devious, deceptive, even demonic. Dr. J. Gresham Machen, in the most valuable and enduring critique of liberalism written in the 1920s, Christianity and Liberalism, concluded that Christianity was one religion and liberalism was quite another.

While Dr. Machen’s analysis was accurate and presented in a temperate manner, many in the churches of his day did not accept it. Why was that, and what can we learn in our day about being vigilant in defending and promoting biblical Christianity?

The Mind of Liberalism

In the first place, we should try to understand how the liberals saw themselves and how they communicated their convictions to others. Liberals insisted that they were evangelical Christians. They believed that they did hold to the essentials of the Christian faith. They insisted, affirming the language of the Auburn Affirmation of 1924, that they held to basic Christian doctrines and only rejected some of the theories that fundamentalists used to elaborate those doctrines. For instance, they believed that Jesus was God with them, but not in the virgin birth. The liberals sincerely believed that they alone would save Christianity in the modern world by making it more relevant. As such, they were active missionaries for their cause.

Dr. Machen was right when he stated of the liberals: “By the equivocal use of traditional phrases, by the representation of differences of opinion as though they were only differences about the interpretation of the Bible, entrance into the Church was secured for those who are hostile to the very foundations of the faith.” But the liberals denied such charges, and by using ambiguous language, they persuaded many that they were not as bad as their critics claimed.

Read More

×

2019 Matching Funds Campaign: Goal is $7000 ... Donate now!