Mencken Contrasts J. Gresham Machen and William Jennings Bryan

In a 1937 article posted on the OPC’s website, Baltimore Sun writer H.L. Mencken writes about J. Gresham Machen, showing that what Machen said about the modernist controversy was true. The secular writer knew that what the modernist were offering with their changes to Christianity writing that it was “hardly more than a row of hollow platitudes, as empty as of psychological force and effect as so many nursery rhymes.”

While Mencken was not a Christian, according to this article, he had great admiration for Machen, and felt that Machen was sorely abused for his stance of orthodox Christianity as well as his stance against the unbiblical prohibition. In the following quote, he contrasts William Jennings Bryan, who was thought to be the hero of the day, with Machen. It’s quite humorous and shows Mencken’s disdain for the populist Bryan.

The fantastic William Jennings Bryan, in his day the country’s most distinguished Presbyterian layman, was against Dr. Machen on the issue of Prohibition but with him on the issue of Modernism. But Bryan’s support, of course, was of little value or consolation to so intelligent a man. Bryan was a Fundamentalist of the Tennessee or barnyard school. His theological ideas were those of a somewhat backward child of 8, and his defense of Holy Writ at Dayton during the Scopes trial was so ignorant and stupid that it must have given Dr. Machen a great deal of pain. Dr. Machen himself was to Bryan as the Matterhorn is to a wart. His Biblical studies had been wide and deep, and he was familiar with the almost interminable literature of the subject. Moreover, he was an adept theologian, and had a wealth of professional knowledge to support his ideas. Bryan could only bawl.

I’m not saying we should use such language or comparisons in our dealing with people, but I couldn’t help but find it humorous. It also helps to put the two men in proper perspective.

O that we had journalist like Mencken today, who understood the power of the pen. Today’s journalist only understand the power of the spin.


Aseity of God

Also taken from John A. Battle’s paper on the Doctrine of God.

Aseity means “self-existence.” God’s existence is “necessary,” that is, his existence is not conditioned on anything outside himself; he is totally independent. His existence is grounded totally on himself:

Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” (Exod 3:14)

This necessity of existence is not only a logical necessity (as with the ontological and cosmological arguments), but also a necessity of nature. God’s existence is not grounded on the will of God, but on the nature of God. God’s nature is prior to his will (in this regard Aquinas was correct over William of Occam). Since God absolutely exists, he is the source of all existence and life for us.


God’s Absolute Attributes

Also known as His incommunicable attributes. Here is a definition from John A. Battle’s paper on the Doctrine of God:

Those attributes of God which he has in himself, which can be exercised apart from his relationship to his creation, are referred to as his absolute attributes. Those attributes exercised especially with regard to the creation are called relative attributes. Of course, there is some overlap. God’s absolute attributes are exercised in relation to his creation as well, and his knowledge and love were exercised before the creation within the Godhead. The Shorter Catechism describes God as “infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being.” The characteristics of infinity or immensity, eternity, and immutability are descriptive of all his attributes. These qualities are studied under this category of absolute or incommunicable attributes.

Free Will Defined

From the article The Freedom and Bondage of the Will, found in the New Geneva Study Bible, edited by R.C. Sproul, p. 1181.

Free will has been defined by Christian teachers from the second century on as the ability to choose any at all of the moral options offered in a given situation. Augustine taught that this possibility was lost through the Fall. The loss is part of the burden of original sin. After the Fall, our natural hearts are not inclined toward God; they are in bondage to sin and cannot be freed from this slavery except by grace of regeneration. Such an understanding of this fallen will is taught by Paul in Romans 6:16-23.

Here is that passage:

16 Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? 17 But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. 18 And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. 19 I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness.

20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The article concludes:

Only a will that has been set free is able to choose righteousness freely and heartily. A permanent love of righteousness, that is, an inclination of the heart to the way of the living that pleases God, is one aspect of freedom that Christ gives (John 8:34-36; Gal. 5:1, 13).

Strong Men and Strong Churches Only Come About Through Discipline

The most essential attribute a boy needs to become a man is the ability to receive instruction and correction. Proverbs makes it clear that nothing is more crucial (see 1:7, 4:13, 5:23, 10:17, 29:1, etc).

This is why a society that coddles boy can’t produce men. It only can produce manchilds who are easily offended and buck against the slightest critique.

Boys are like iron on anvil. The hammer of correction makes them tough and useful.

The same can be applied to a church. A church that refuses to correct will only produce frail and feeble Christians. Give praise to God if you have brethren and pastors that are willing to make you strong.

Michael Foster

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
But fools despise wisdom and instruction (1:7).

Take firm hold of instruction, do not let go;
Keep her, for she is your life (4:13).

He shall die for lack of instruction,
And in the greatness of his folly he shall go astray (5:23).

He who keeps instruction is in the way of life,
But he who refuses correction goes astray (10:17).

He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck,
Will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy (29:1).



Wokeness Explained

When you stop to think about it, being woke takes work. A lot of work. It is work that requires the kind of perpetual sin-shaming of which Christ has assuaged us through His atoning and propitiatory work on the cross. There is very little, if any, grace in wokeness; only guilt and vindictiveness.

By Darrell B. Harrison

This is helpful in understanding the left. The left is never driven by grace, compassion, or true mercy. They are always driven by hatred. This is why they are so into hate-laws. They figure, since they are filled with hate, then everyone must be and seeking to outlaw the supposed hatred of others, never dealing with the hatred they have in themselves.

God’s Word Has to be the Final Authority

The non-Christian thinks that his thinking process is normal. He thinks that his mind is the final court of appeal in all matters of knowledge. He takes himself to be the reference point for all interpretation of the facts. That is, he has epistemologically become a law unto himself: autonomous.

Dr. Greg L Bahnsen, Always Ready, p. 46

What is sad is that the quote above could be said just as easily about evangelicals. When push comes to shove, most set themselves up as the final authorities of what is to be believed and rejected. They are all experts. They all know what is best. Even when what they think and know to be best, is in complete contradiction to what Scripture says.

The issue is and always will be: who is our final authority? What is our final authority? It must be, as always, God’s word. This means that when we come to God’s word that contradicts what we have commonly held to be true, we must reject what is commonly held to be true, and accept it as God’s word.

Otherwise, we are no better than the non-Christians that Dr. Bahnsen writes about in the above quote.

Two Kinds of Books: Two Messages

Tim Challies, in his review of the book Girl, Wash You Face by Rachel Hollis helps us understand that there are only two kinds of books being written for Christians today.

It has long been my observation that there are two kinds of books being marketed to Christians. There are some whose foundational message is what you need to do and others whose foundational message is what Christ has already done. The first make a model out of the author, the second make a model out of Jesus. The first place the burden for change on personal power while the second place the burden for change on Christ’s power. It is clear that Girl, Wash Your Face falls squarely in the first category.

Of course, the books that sell the most are the ones that tell us what to do. This is Humanism 101, which is also described as picking yourself up by your bootstraps, believe in yourself, and you are told the world is your oyster. Humanism is a works-based religion in which the adherents are given instructions and told to follow those instructions in order to achieve happiness. It comes in many forms with multiple requirements and the message of society is humanism.

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Culturally Significant?

In order to be the spiritual successor of the Presbyterian Church in the USA, the OPC had to become culturally significant.

Those words were penned in Fighting the Good Fight: A Brief History of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, by D.G. Hart and John Muether. In the early 1940s, there were those in the OPC who feared that the denomination would not be socially involved enough, and they were seeking to bring about a committee to make sure they didn’t drop the social-agenda ball.

Hart and Muether had already shown that the identity of the OPC never was to have a politically-active mindset. In fact, members of the OPC had fought against it from the beginning of the denomination’s history.

Not that they were always silent. They did send letters to like-minded churches in South Africa with concerns about apartheid long before it became popular to bring up the topic in the 1980s. But the OPC has never been one to jump on the political and social bandwagons that we see so many churches doing today.

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Doctrine and History are Essential for Christianity

J. Gresham Machen shows the importance of realizing that our faith is a faith rooted in history and that history leads to doctrine. For Christians, doctrine and history are inseparable. You cannot have one without the other and you cannot have true the Christian faith without history and doctrine.

…the message of the resurrection was not isolated. It was connected with the death of Jesus, seen now to be not a failure but a triumphant act of divine grace; it was connected with the entire appearance of Jesus upon earth. The coming of Jesus was understood now as an act of God by which sinful men were saved. The primitive Church was concerned not merely with what Jesus had said, but also, and primarily, with what Jesus had done. The world was to be redeemed through the proclamation of an event. And with the event went the meaning of the event; and the setting forth of the event with the meaning of the event was doctrine. These two elements are always combined in the Christian message. The narration of the facts is history; the narration of the facts with the meaning of the facts is doctrine. ‘Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried”— that is history. “He loved me and gave Himself for me” — that is doctrine. Such was the Christianity of the primitive church.

Machen is showing the necessity for sound doctrine in the Christian faith. Liberals, and in our day progressives, always seek to subvert biblical doctrine with their own doctrine. I use to think that liberals were trying to do away with sound doctrine. Machen helped me see the they are not. They are trying to do away with biblical doctrine for their own doctrine. In light of 1 Timothy 4:1, we can see the true reality: Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons.

My point: we will be drawn to one doctrine or another. Either we look to biblical doctrine, or man’s doctrine. The first is rooted in the nature of God, the latter in the rebelliousness of man.

Kevin DeYoung On Biblical Social Justice

“My less-than-exciting conclusion [on studying Biblical social justice] was that we should not oversell or undersell what the Bible says about justice. On the one hand, there is a lot in the Bible about God’s care for the poor, the oppressed, and the vulnerable. There are also plenty of warnings against treating the helpless with cruelty and disrespect. On the other hand, justice, as a biblical category, is not synonymous with anything and everything we feel would be good for the world. Doing justice means following the rule of law, showing impartiality, paying what you promised, not stealing, not swindling, not taking bribes, and not taking advantage of the weak because they are too uninformed or unconnected to stop you.

So for simplicity sake, let’s take biblical “social justice” to mean something like “treating people equitably, working for systems and structures that are fair, and looking out for the weak and the vulnerable.”

Read entire article here.

Against the Generic “god”

“I am the way the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

John Calvin, in his commentary on John 14:1-6, points out that many people will mention God only, but never refer to Christ in their religion. In doing so, they will be easily blown about by every wind of doctrine.

Calvin writes:

Proud men are ashamed of Christ’s humiliation, and, therefor, they fly to God’s incomprehensible Divinity. But faith will never reach heaven unless it submit to Christ, who appears to be a low and contemptible God, and will never be firm if it (does) not seek a foundation in the weakness of Christ.

This reminds me of one woman who was facing death, who refused to actually look to Christ and be saved. It was gut-wrenching because both my wife and I tried to help her see the need to trust in Christ alone for salvation. She would not have Christ. She was far too comfortable with the generic god of her faith, even telling this god that she wanted to live for 10 more years. Sadly, she didn’t have 10 more weeks.

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2 Seconds of a Three-Hour Movie — Matt Chandler on How We View Our Lives

From Matt Chandler’s Book, Take Heart, quoted on the Wee Flea.

Saint Augustine, the fourth-century bishop of Hippo, said that to be human is to have your face pushed up against a stained-glass window. You see some color, but you see a lot of glass fragments. It is only given to God and those who are with him to be back far enough to see the whole window. To put it differently, to tell God the Father that he should do things differently is to step into a three-hour-long movie for two seconds, and then step back out and lecture the director on the storyline. That’s what it’s like. You just don’t know, and he— the fountain of life— does.

This helps keep God’s sovereignty and our limited ability to understand it, in perspective.

Fundamentalist and the Sabbath

Too funny not to share, from R. Scott Clark:

The fundamentalists (used here in the post-Machen sense of the word) think that creation refers entirely to the length of the creation days. In their approach to Scripture, the main thing for which Genesis is good seem to be to establish the age of the earth by adding up the chronologies and to refute 19th century geology and paleontology. They spend hours defending “creationism” while breaking the Sabbath at the creation museum (open from 12:00 PM to 8:00 PM on Sundays).

It never occurs to them, that the Sabbath/LORD’s Day, was actually given before sin entered the world. God set it aside for a purpose and a reason, yet so many think He did away with the day in the New Testament. I’m sure the LORD of the Sabbath, Christ Himself, will have something to say to that.

Believing Every Word of the Bible, While Denying What It Actually Says

From Randy Alcorn’s Poor Interpretation Lets Us “Believe” the Bible While Denying What it Actually Says:

Historically, theological liberals denied Scripture, and everyone knew where they stood. But today many so-called evangelicals affirm their belief in Scripture, while attributing meanings to biblical texts that in fact deny what Scripture really says. Hence they “believe every word of the Bible” while actually embracing (and teaching) beliefs that utterly contradict it…

…We rightly call upon people to read their Bibles, but it seems many spend much more time reading INTO the Bible than reading OUT of it. So nearly everything they read becomes merely an echo of what they already think or what most people around them are already saying. God gave us His Word to teach, rebuke, correct, and train our thinking (2 Timothy 3:16), not so we could interpret it away into something that’s just a mirror image of our preferred beliefs.

In Bruising Ourselves

We must join with God in bruising ourselves. When He humbles us, let us humble ourselves, and not stand out against Him, for then He will redouble His strokes. Let us justify Christ in all His chastisements, knowing that all His dealing towards us is to cause us to return into our own hearts. His work in bruising tends to our work in bruising ourselves. Let us lament our own perversity, and say: Lord, what a heart have I that needs all this, that none of this could be spared! We must lay siege to the hardness of our own hearts, and aggravate sin all we can. We must look on Christ, who was bruised for us, look on Him whom we have pierced with our sins. But all directions will not prevail, unless God by His Spirit convinces us deeply, setting our sins before us, and driving us to a standstill. Then we will cry out for mercy. Conviction will breed contrition, and this leads to humiliation. Therefore desire God that He would bring a clear and a strong light into all the corners of our souls, and accompany it with a spirit of power to lay our hearts low.

From The Bruised Reed, by Richard Sibbes, Banner of Truth Trust, Carlisle, PA, 1998, p. 11-12.

When the Chief Shepherd Appears

Except pastors retain this end in view, it can by no means be that they will in good earnest proceed in the course of their calling, but will, on the contrary, become often faint; for there are innumerable hindrances which are sufficient to discourage the most prudent. They have often to do with ungrateful men, from whom they receive an unworthy reward; long and great labors are often in vain; Satan sometimes prevails in his wicked devices. Lest then, the faithful servant of Christ should be broken down, there is for him one and only one remedy,–to turn his eyes to the coming of Christ.

From John Calvin’s commentary on 1 Peter 5, specifically verse 4: and when the Chief Shepherd appears.


Redeeming the Culture?

From Andrew Dionne and Andy Halsey:

“Redeeming culture” is the Reformed code phrase for “I want to watch sex and violence at the theater and act like an art snob and you have to respect me for it.” Redeeming culture is how we wind up with The Gospel Coalition telling us how a skin flick points us to Christ. Neither the love of God nor the love of our neighbor grows out of imbibing cultural artifacts documenting man’s rebellion against God.

This quote comes from their article about a PCA church outside St. Louis that is trying desperately to justify homosexuals as being “gay-Christians.” It has been pointed out before (and by many) that you cannot hyphenate Christianity. You are either a Christian, born again and made a new creation, or a slave to sin. Those seeking to continue as slaves to sin and yet calling themselves Christians don’t realize that they are still slaves and have not tasted true spiritual freedom.

You can read Dionne and Halsey here.

Rob Bell and His Cleverness

Rob Bell is up and about again with a new documentary on how he became enlightened and became a heretic at the same time. He thinks that being a heretic is a good thing, but alas, this just shows his foolishness. Brett McCracken reviews Bell’s documentary along with another movie about another heretic entitled “Come Sunday,” and does a good job of showing that both these men have nothing to offer but a powerless message.

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Quotes and More

In the comments section of The Demise of the PCA, Alec wrote the following:

Have you heard of Matthias Loy? He was a faithful Lutheran in Nineteenth Century at the time when the Lutherans were facing the issues the Presbyterians faced 50 years later with the troubles that came to a head at Princeton. Dr. Loy wrote the following in his autobiography:

“The history of the Church confirms and illustrates the teachings of the Bible, that yielding little by little leads to yielding more and more, until all is in danger; and the tempter is never satisfied until all is lost. It seems but a small concession that we are asked to make when an article of our confession is represented as a stumbling block to many Christians which ought therefore in charity to be removed, but surrendering that article would only lead to the surrender of another on the same ground, and that is the beginning of the end; the authority of the inspired Word of our Lord is gradually undermined.” The Story of My Life

I thought it was a great quote, making the point of denominational and seminary drift, along with the church. When we will not stick to the truths of the Bible, we all drift, which we must not do. This is one reason I appreciate the creeds, like the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Heidelberg Catechism. These two documents help keep us grounded in what the church has concluded to be the important doctrines of the faith.

But given all that, I couldn’t help think of Alec’s quote when I read what John Newton preached back in 1779, concerning the passage “speak the truth in love,” from Ephesians 4:15.

The Bible is the grand repository of the truths that it will be the business and the pleasure of my life to set before you. It is the complete system of divine truth to which nothing can be added and from which nothing can be taken with impunity. Every attempt to disguise or soften any branch of this truth in order to accommodate it to the prevailing taste around us either to avoid the displeasure or court the favor of our fellow mortals must be an affront to the majesty of God and act of treachery to men. My conscience bears me witness that I mean to speak the truth among you.

Amen and amen.