J Gresham Machen on Public Education

BY Herschel Smith
1 year, 2 months ago

Surprisingly, PJM has a piece on J. Gresham Machen’s “Christianity and Liberalism.”  It’s a quick read but a good piece to start the day.  Thie gem appears.

Place the lives of children in their formative years, despite the convictions of their parents, under the intimate control of experts appointed by the state, force them to attend schools where the higher aspirations of humanity are crushed out, and where the mind is filled with the materialism of the day, and it is difficult to see how even the remnants of liberty can subsist.

A public-school system, if it means the providing of free education for those who desire it, is a noteworthy and beneficent achievement of modern times; but when once it becomes monopolistic it is the most perfect instrument for tyranny which has yet been devised. Freedom of thought in the middle ages was combated by the Inquisition, but the modern method is far more effective.

True, all of that.  I’m proud and pleased to say that I own a copy of Machen’s “The Origin of Paul’s Religion.”  At the time Machen taught, the liberal school of theology was promulgating the idiotic notion that Paul’s theology was at odds with, or an addition to, Christ’s theology.  Red Letter Christians, they are called.  You get to accept the words of Christ, but ignore everything else, especially all of Paul’s difficult teachings.

It makes a mockery of the unity of the Holy Writ, and Machen addresses the issue in the book.

By the way, Machen’s Christianity and Liberalism can be found in PDF version without even having to purchase it, if you don’t happen to have the small bit of money to get a hard back copy.  Nearing the conclusion of this brief book, he observes the following.

“The present is a time not for ease or pleasure, but for earnest and prayerful work. A terrible crisis unquestionably has arisen in the Church. In the ministry of evangelical churches are to be found hosts of those who reject the gospel of Christ. 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. And now there are some indications that the fiction of conformity to the past is to be thrown off, and the real meaning of what has been taking place is to be allowed to appear. The Church, it is now apparently supposed, has almost been educated up to the point where the shackles of the Bible can openly be cast away and the doctrine of the Cross of Christ can be relegated to the limbo of discarded subtleties.”


Comments

  1. On March 19, 2023 at 10:10 pm, PGF said:

    Good find, Herschel. Pasted below is the beginning of Chapter two. “…there is no new thing under the sun.” – Ecc 1:9. Machen, back in 1923, used the term I thought to have recently coined. He calls it the “new religion.” He wasn’t wrong, and it’s even worse today than he found then.

    We’re in perilous times. I heard some very good preaching this morning. A call to double down on the fundamental tenants of hard-core, no-compromise Christianity. Once you compromise on studying the word of God, you slip on the doctrines and actions, including teaching your children every day from the word, Gospel witnessing every week, everywhere you go, rejecting modernity and trends, fashions, and media in your family and church. This includes religious trends. He went on, alternating between tears and righteous anger, to say what some few others are shouting, hoping to penetrate the dullnes of the modern mind; you’re losing your civilization for lack of faith in doing what Christ commands precisely as He commanded, keeping His law and word.

    As we’ve tried to explain over these pages at length, and Machen also explains, picking your favorite verse or section of Scripture or commentary and making it your religion is not Christianity at all. You will not get away with standing before Christ and telling Him that you lived according to your favorite verse or two.

    If you read the below carefully, Machen seems to question their conversion, as do I today. The truth is found in the word of God, from Genesis one to Revelation 22 and every word between. The more uncomfortable a section of Scripture makes you feel, the more you must double down in prayer about it with God, asking Him to teach you and conform to His image to do His will. Yeah, it’s no fun, but neither is civilizational collapse. You won’t stand in the time of trouble if you don’t train your soul to suffer, then accept, then embrace, then love the whole counsel of Almighty God. Amen.

    There are plenty of so-called Christians that will lie to you and make you feel pretty comfortable. The father of lies is their master.

    Chapter 2: Doctrine

    “Modern liberalism in the Church, whatever judg-
    ment may be passed upon it, is at any rate no longer merely
    an academic matter. It is no longer a matter merely of theo-
    logical seminaries or universities. On the contrary its attack
    upon the fundamentals of the Christian faith is being car-
    ried on vigorously by Sunday-School “lesson-helps,” by the
    pulpit, and by the religious press. If such an attack be un-
    justified, the remedy is not to be found, as some devout
    persons have suggested, in the abolition of theological
    seminaries, or the abandonment of scientific theology, but
    rather in a more earnest search after truth and a more loyal
    devotion to it when once it is found.
    At the theological seminaries and universities, how-
    ever, the roots of the great issue are more clearly seen than
    in the world at large; among students the reassuring em-
    ployment of traditional phrases is often abandoned, and
    the advocates of a new religion are not at pains, as they are
    in the Church at large, to maintain an appearance of con-
    formity with the past. But such frankness, we are con-
    vinced, ought to be extended to the people as a whole. Few
    desires on the part of religious teachers have been more
    harmfully exaggerated than the desire to “avoid giving of-
    fense.” Only too often that desire has come perilously near
    dishonesty; the religious teacher, in his heart of hearts, is
    well aware of the radicalism of his views, but is unwilling to
    relinquish his place in the hallowed atmosphere of the
    Church by speaking his whole mind. Against all such pol-
    icy of concealment or palliation, our sympathies are alto-
    gether with those men, whether radicals or conservatives,
    who have a passion for light.”

  2. On March 19, 2023 at 10:13 pm, PGF said:

    Good find, Herschel. Pasted below is the beginning of Chapter two. “…there is no new thing under the sun.” – Ecc 1:9. Machen, back in 1923, used the term I thought to have recently coined. He calls it the “new religion.” He wasn’t wrong, and it’s even worse today than he found then.

    We’re in perilous times. I heard some very good preaching this morning. A call to double down on the fundamental tenants of hard-core, no-compromise Christianity. Once you compromise on studying the word of God, you slip on the doctrines and actions, including teaching your children every day from the word, Gospel witnessing every week, everywhere you go, rejecting modernity and trends, fashions, and media in your family and church. This includes religious trends. He went on, alternating between tears and righteous anger, to say what some few others are shouting, hoping to penetrate the dullnes of the modern mind; you’re losing your civilization for lack of faith in doing what Christ commands precisely as He commanded, keeping His law and word.

    As we’ve tried to explain over these pages at length, and Machen also explains, picking your favorite verse or section of Scripture or commentary and making it your religion is not Christianity at all. You will not get away with standing before Christ and telling Him that you lived according to your favorite verse or two.

    If you read the below carefully, Machen seems to question their conversion, as do I today. The truth is found in the word of God, from Genesis one to Revelation 22 and every word between. The more uncomfortable a section of Scripture makes you feel, the more you must double down in prayer about it with God, asking Him to teach you and conform to His image to do His will. Yeah, it’s no fun, but neither is civilizational collapse. You won’t stand in the time of trouble if you don’t train your soul to suffer, then accept, then embrace, then love the whole counsel of Almighty God. Amen.

    There are plenty of so-called Christians that will lie to you and make you feel pretty comfortable. The father of lies is their master.

    Chapter 2: Doctrine

    “Modern liberalism in the Church, whatever judg-
    ment may be passed upon it, is at any rate no longer merely
    an academic matter. It is no longer a matter merely of theo-
    logical seminaries or universities. On the contrary its attack
    upon the fundamentals of the Christian faith is being car-
    ried on vigorously by Sunday-School “lesson-helps,” by the
    pulpit, and by the religious press. If such an attack be un-
    justified, the remedy is not to be found, as some devout
    persons have suggested, in the abolition of theological
    seminaries, or the abandonment of scientific theology, but
    rather in a more earnest search after truth and a more loyal
    devotion to it when once it is found.
    At the theological seminaries and universities, how-
    ever, the roots of the great issue are more clearly seen than
    in the world at large; among students the reassuring em-
    ployment of traditional phrases is often abandoned, and
    the advocates of a new religion are not at pains, as they are
    in the Church at large, to maintain an appearance of con-
    formity with the past. But such frankness, we are con-
    vinced, ought to be extended to the people as a whole. Few
    desires on the part of religious teachers have been more
    harmfully exaggerated than the desire to “avoid giving of-
    fense.” Only too often that desire has come perilously near
    dishonesty; the religious teacher, in his heart of hearts, is
    well aware of the radicalism of his views, but is unwilling to
    relinquish his place in the hallowed atmosphere of the
    Church by speaking his whole mind. Against all such pol-
    icy of concealment or palliation, our sympathies are alto-
    gether with those men, whether radicals or conservatives,
    who have a passion for light.”

  3. On March 19, 2023 at 10:14 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    J Gresham Machen was a man for the ages. As much as I admire Deitrich Bonhoffer, he ridiculed the “American fundamentalists” who didn’t accept the German “higher critics.” Sure enough, he eventually gave his life for the preservation of other life, but he was misguided in his theology.

  4. On March 19, 2023 at 10:55 pm, Wyotana said:

    1. Publick skooling should be outlawed. Most especially, it must be outlawed under a secular state. The state’s interest in educashun is certainly not aligned with that of the student. Still less with the pupil’s family. Even more is the state’s interest in education at odds with mission of the Church and altogether opposed to the will of God. How could it be otherwise?

    The separation of education and state should be a no-brainer under any reasonable constitutional republic. How would you possibly align the interest of the state and its bureaucrats with that of the people and their children? Obviously, no such thing is even theoretically possible. The state’s interest in learning is analogous to the farmer’s interest in his geese being able to fly and all his bull calves being capable of breeding and his horses free on the range.

    2. Progressivism doesn’t lead to heresy. It is heresy. The distinction is important.

  5. On March 20, 2023 at 10:03 am, PGF said:

    @Wyotana, Interesting and largely accurate. Consider, however, that the role of the Church of Jesus Christ is to set the moral law for a just society. If the body of Christ were doing its job, the government would be occupied (Luke 19:13) by Christians who would keep the law.

    But, we nonetheless agree, it’s a parent’s job to “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” – Proverbs 22:6

    If the State were managed by Christians (actual converts), it would not mind a parent teaching his own. Nor would it mind weapons ownership and a whole host of other things.

    The State will always attempt to take over the other two primary institutions God gave, the Church and the Family. The State will always ruin both because its ordination is solely for the dispensing of righteous judgment and none other.

  6. On March 20, 2023 at 11:23 am, Herschel Smith said:

    That sounds like something I’ve said before. Following R J Rushdoony, who followed Calvin.

  7. On March 20, 2023 at 6:24 pm, Bill Buppert said:

    Bottom line: if you as a parent have your children in a government school, don’t be surprised by the Marxoid aliens that come home at night.

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This article is filed under the category(s) Religion and was published March 19th, 2023 by Herschel Smith.

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