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Christianity and Liberalism

Several years ago, coming fresh from the cloister of Liberty University and looking for a career in the real world, I had a surreal experience during a job interview. The boss who was interviewing me noticed that I was a religion major and asked what I thought about all the people out there who still believed that Jesus was actually God. I was a bit taken aback by this question. I knew the man’s church to be a conservative, Bible-believing church, and I personally knew the man’s pastor likewise to be a faithful preacher. Yet, this man assumed that because I was educated as a religion major, I would be a member of an elite group of people who can wink at one another over the heads of the ignorant and superstitious masses. I spent the rest of the awkward interview, for a job unrelated to the field of religion mind you, listening to the man explain that Jesus never claimed to be God and that whenever it looks like He is it’s only because prophets and holy men always spoke in God’s name. I had to disagree of course, firmly but tactfully, not wanting to start a relationship with a potential employer with an explosive theological argument. I think we both came away from that interview with some illusions shattered. He couldn’t believe that an intelligent, educated person could really believe all those stories of miracles and resurrection, and I couldn’t believe that there were total theological liberals still attending small-town conservative churches.

All this is simply to say that Christianity and Liberalism by J. Gresham Machen is as timely today as it was when it was originally written almost ninety years ago. Machen attacks liberalism (theological not political) which has for the last 150 years or so set itself against the understanding of the historic Church. In this book, Machen attempts to demonstrate that liberalism, far from being just another development within Christianity, is actually a completely different religion with different foundational principles attempting to use the same terminology as faithful Christians in order to hijack Christianity into a different way of thinking. The main difference between liberalism and other non-Christian movements that attempt to use the same language, Mormonism for example, is that unlike those movements that break off and start aberrant heretical sects, liberalism exists within the realm of the orthodox Church and co-opts the resources and efforts of faithful Christians for its own ends.

Machen walks through six specific areas in which liberalism departs from true Christianity: the importance of doctrine, the natures of God and man, the Bible, the person and nature of Christ, the purpose and goal of salvation, and the role and importance of the Church. While some of the material in the book is a bit dated, overall the book is excellent and ought to be read widely by thinking Christians. One of the things that pleasantly surprised me about this book was its catholicity. Machen, the founder of what would become the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, willingly admits his Reformed Protestant beliefs, but yet considers himself closer to a Roman Catholic than a liberal in his own denomination. In other words, he draws the boundary lines of the faith correctly freely admitting that despite disagreements, Lutherans, Anglicans, Roman Catholics and Orthodox believers are all Christians and must all be ready to stand against the onslaught of modernism and liberalism which attack the very foundations of the Christian faith.


DavidS said…
Thank you for posting this review. I was not aware of the book until now. I look forward to reading it. Merry Christmas!
Rick said…
I hope you'll find it as relevant to the Church today as I did. God Bless and Merry Christmas!