“Christianity and Liberalism” and the Old Testament as History

Mercifully, gloriously, this God of the Bible is eager to be known, and is generous in his self-disclosure.

If the events that the Old Testament narrates really did happen in time and space as it records, then we see a God who exists independent of man’s imaginings, who acted on his own initiative and according to his own plan, who is, in fact, real! That is something that is relevant to all people of all times.

 

In his book Christianity and Liberalism, J. G. Machen repeatedly emphasizes that Christianity cannot float in a vague, ethereal sea of timeless principles. Rather, it is and must always be tethered to the historical events that founded it—namely, the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

Historicity is similarly critical for the Hebrew Bible, which Christians call the Old Testament. It tells about a God who created the world, chose Abraham, and rescued his people from slavery in Egypt, among hundreds of other things. If these events did not really happen, if they are just legends or embellishments, then the Old Testament is no more than the musings of an ancient people about what sort of god they longed for. Both the legends and the god featured in them are, for people of other times and places, just a passing curiosity or a subject of scholastic research.

However, if the events that the Old Testament narrates really did happen in time and space as it records, then we see a God who exists independent of man’s imaginings, who acted on his own initiative and according to his own plan, who is, in fact, real! That is something that is relevant to all people of all times.

Mercifully, gloriously, this God of the Bible is eager to be known, and is generous in his self-disclosure. Each time God acted in human history, he revealed something about himself to those who witnessed it or heard about it—just ask Rahab (Josh. 2:9–11). But each revelation would have benefitted only the people of that time if God had not preserved a record for people of later generations. Yet he went beyond merely recording his deeds.

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