by Mike Ratliff
1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (Ephesians 2:1-10 NASB)
I spent the last several days away from email, the Internet, work, et cetera, and simply rested and spent time with family with the intent of taking up right where I left off on our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount when I returned. However, before we get back to that, I would like to share some insights from some time I spent in the solitude of study and quiet I had during my “downtime.” Part of that time was spent in reading J. Gresham Machen’s Christianity and Liberalism, which was published in 1923. I have not quite finished it yet, but I made good progress. Some of you I know have read it because you recommended the book to me. For those who don’t know, Machen’s thesis in the book was to address the encroachment of Liberal theology in his day, which was taking over the Northern Presbyterian Church in the United States to the point that the Seminary at Princeton was preparing to “liberalize.” His thesis for this magnificent book is that “Liberal Christianity” and Christianity are two different religions.
The battles he was fighting and he addressed in this book could be taken from the battlegrounds we fight daily in our discernment ministries. Only the names and liberal ministries have changed. The “seeker-sensitive” downgrade has said and still does a lot of the same things that the Liberal Christian attack in Machen’s day did. They both fought hard against doctrine being what defines Christianity. Rick Warren’s “Deeds not Creeds” would fit right in there with the slogans that Machen addressed as the false forms of man-centered religiosity that only pretends to be Christian.
In the chapter “Doctrine” Machen states:
As a matter of fact, however, in the modern vituperation of “doctrine,” it is not merely the great theologians or the great creeds that are being attacked, but the New Testament and our Lord Himself. In rejecting doctrine, the liberal preacher is rejecting the simple words of Paul’ “Who loved me and gave Himself for me,” just as much as the homoousion of the Nicene Creed. For the word “doctrine” is really used not in its narrowest, but in it broadest sense. The liberal preacher is really rejecting the whole basis of Christianity, which is a religion founded not on aspirations, but on facts. Here is found the most fundamental difference between liberalism and Christianity—liberalism is altogether in the imperative mood, while Christianity begins with a triumphant indicative; liberalism appeals to man’s will, while Christianity announces, first a gracious act of God.
Now let us fast-forward to the 21st Century to our time where those making the most noise with those large “mega-churches” with their man-centered, appeal to the will of man, i.e. tickling itching ears; and no matter what they claim is their doctrinal confession of faith, if they are operating in the imperative (man-centered) rather than in the God-centered indicative, then there is no proclamation of the finished work of Christ all according the plan of God the way he proclaimed for it to be done. No, instead, we have men doing things man’s way to please men.
There has been a lot of “noise” lately from those who don’t like it when light is shown into darkness exposing certain things about certain so-called Christian leaders that they don’t want exposed. The dirty work of doing this is looked down upon by those “big shots” who think that only those with “a lot of juice” should be ones taking care of these problems, not people like those of us who write for CRN or Apprising. When both those sites were deliberately taken down illegally several days ago, some of these same people actually said that they hoped they would not come back up.
I am sure that the Liberal theologians who forced J. Gresham Machen out of the Northern Presbyterian Church were not pleased when he founded Westminster Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church either. “Liberal Christianity” is a different religion from Christianity. Genuine Christianity will never be popular with the masses nor with what our Lord called “the world.” He even warned us to beware if the world loves us. Why? “Liberal Christianity” is no threat to offend anyone and in the politically correct days of our time, that very thing has become the most egregious crime of all. To tell the truth to the point of offending people is exactly what the message of genuine Christianity does. It does offend. It does anger some people, but it is also the message that is the means God uses to bring the Law to bear upon the hearts of those he effectually calls to himself. Yes, it can be costly to be the ones standing firm and telling the truth even when the world hates the message and, therefore, us, but we must always be those bearing the light of the truth, never compromising.
Soli Deo Gloria!