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Posts Tagged ‘Modernity’


I’ve been talking with my close friends about the difficulty ‘gospel men’ have determining when to fight a theological battle or just avoid offense. As we mature, I doubt this difficulty will go away. Rather, we will likely be tempted to fall into two extremes: 1) offending everybody whenever we disagree with them, or 2) Offending nobody even though we strongly disagree with them.  Both, I believe, are wrong.

As for me, I hope to follow my Lord’s example and that of the apostle Paul.  Although they were gentle as doves with those who needed protection, they surely didn’t avoid conflict with those who needed opposition (“I opposed him to his face,” Gal 2:11), and on occasions seemed to seek it out. And even though they must have known it would arouse the vitriol of their opponents, they didn’t stop short of employing singularly inflammatory statements.

I wonder if Christ or Paul would fair too well in our day… Should we fight? Or should we not? Is there a time to fight? (I think a wise man once said there was a time for everything.)

With that in mind, I ran across this address by J. Gresham Machan entitled ‘The Scientific Preparation of the Minister‘ which was delivered September 20, 1912 at the opening of the 101st session of Princeton Theological Seminary.  As some of us gear up for the ‘Christianity and Liberalism Revisited‘ conference this weekend at WSC, I thought the following paragraph may be particularly appropriate:

Beneath the surface of life lies a world of spirit. Philosophers have attempted to explore it. Christianity has revealed its wonders to the simple soul. There lie the springs of the Church’s power. But that spiritual realm cannot be entered without controversy. And now the Church is shrinking from the conflict. Driven from the spiritual realm by the current of modern thought, she is consoling herself with things about which there is no dispute. If she favours better housing for the poor, she need fear no contradiction… The twentieth century, in theory, is agreed on social betterment. But sin, and death, and salvation, and life, and God – about these things there is debate.

You can avoid the debate if you choose. You need only drift with the current… The great questions may easily be avoided. Many preachers are avoiding them. And many preachers are preaching to the air. The Church is waiting for men of another type. Men to fight her battles and solve her problems. The hope of finding them is the one great inspiration of a Seminary’s life. They need not all be men of conspicuous attainments. But they must all be men of thought. They must fight hard against spiritual and intellectual indolence. Their thinking may be confined to narrow limits. But it must be their own. To them theology must be something more than a task. It must be a matter of inquiry. It must lead not to successful memorizing, but to genuine convictions. – J. Gresham Machen

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