Contend Earnestly: I Wonder What Bell or McLaren Think of This Quote?

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

I Wonder What Bell or McLaren Think of This Quote?

It is no surprise that we are seeing the rise of postmodern thinking as everything old gets repackaged someday.

That which has been is that which will be, And that which has been done is that which will be done. So there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one might say, "See this, it is new"? Already it has existed for ages Which were before us. There is no remembrance of earlier things; And also of the later things which will occur, There will be for them no remembrance Among those who will come later still.
Ecclesiastes 1:9-11

It seems though that things get repacked quicker these days though. Modernism came from the stems of the Enlightenment and it seems as though we are already seeing modernism repackaged in our postmodern "friends." What is interesting is that as you read quotes from dead guys like Machen, it sounds like they could be speaking today. If I were to give you the quote below and put David Wells' name behind it, or Tim Keller's name behind it, speaking about postmoderns you probably wouldn't even blink. But the amazing thing is that this is a quote to the moderns back in Machen's day in the early 20th century. This comes from the book that I am currently reading, which is very good by the way, titled, "Jesus: Made in America" by Stephen J. Nichols.

"There is a profound difference, then," Machen observes in Christianity and Liberalism, "in the attitude by modern liberalism and by Christianity toward Jesus the Lord. Liberalism regards him as an example for faith; Christianity, the object of faith." Then he puts it with a bit of rhetorical flourish, "Liberalism regards Jesus as the fairest flower of humanity; Christianity regards Him as a supernatural Person." Machen is not denying the role of Christ as example. In fact, he states, "The imitation of Jesus has a fundamental place in Christian life; it is perfectly correct to represent Him as our supreme and only perfect example." Machen further observes that Christ did not come to offer mere guidance; he came to offer salvation. Here Machen finds himself to be in good company, as he notes, "Not the example of Jesus, but the redeeming work of Jesus, was the primary thing for Paul." Building on this, Machen proceeds to argue that it was not the faith of Christ, but the faith in Christ. Christ is not, in Machen's words, the example of faith but faith's object.

Machen drives this latter point home in What is Faith? in a chapter he entitled, "Faith in Christ." He states the problem this way, "The truth is that in great sections of the modern church Jesus is no longer the object of faith, but has become merely an example for faith; religion is based no longer upon faith in Jesus but upon a faith in God that is, or is conceived to be, like the faith that Jesus had in God." Machen further takes on the theological complacency of Fosdick and others. He writes, " 'Let us alone,' some devout pastors say, 'we are preaching the gospel; we are bringing men and women in the Church; we have no time for doctrinal controversy; let us above all have peace'...'Let us sink our doctrinal differences.'" Machen responds by noting sympathy with such concerns and even that he understands some speak such words sincerely. He concludes, however, "But for us, and for all who are aware of what is really going on, the policy of 'peace and work,' the policy of concealment and palliation, would be the deadliest of sins." Not because Machen relished a good fight but because maintaining "the redemptive religion known as Christianity" was at stake.

Jesus: Made in America, by Stephen J. Nichols, pgs. 117,118


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