Skip to comments.Gresham Machen, Friend to Catholics
Posted on 05/26/2013 9:08:28 PM PDT by Alex Murphy
Mistakenly thinking the great Presbyterian theologian J. Gresham Machen had written a book on Catholicism and wanting to give it as an example of Protestant apologetics in yesterdays item, I googled the subject and found that he didnt, but he did say this in his book Christianity and Liberalism:
Far more serious still is the division between the Church of Rome and evangelical Protestantism in all its forms. Yet how great is the common heritage which unites the Roman Catholic Church, with its maintenance of the authority of Holy Scripture and with its acceptance of the great early creeds, to devout Protestants today!He had some thoughts on how such divided Christians could face their division, noted by our friend Darryl Hart. Machens thoughts appear in a discussion of pernicious laws against Christian schooling which he called the clearest attack upon tolerance in America being proposed in the mid-twenties:
We would not indeed obscure the difference which divides us from Rome. The gulf is indeed profound. But profound as it is, it seems almost trifling compared to the abyss which stands between us and many ministers of our own Church. The Church of Rome may represent a perversion of the Christian religion; but naturalistic liberalism is not Christianity at all.
Against such tyranny, I do cherish some hope that Jews and Christians, Roman Catholics and Protestants, if they are lovers of liberty, may present a united front. I am for my part an inveterate propagandist; but the same right of propaganda which I desire for myself I want to see also in the possession of others.And theres this from a weblog dedicated to Machen, about Machens time working with the YMCA in the trenches in WWI:
What absurdities are uttered in the name of a pseudo-Americanism today! People object to the Roman Catholics, for example, because they engage in propaganda. But why should they not engage in propaganda? And how should we have any respect for them if, holding the view which they hold that outside the Roman church there is no salvation they did not engage in propaganda first, last, and all the time? Clearly they have a right to do so, and clearly we have a right to do the same. . . .
Does this mean, then, that we must eternally bite and devour one another, that acrimonious debate must never for a moment be allowed to cease? . . . . There is a common solution of the problem which we think ought to be taken to heart. It is the solution provided by family life.
In countless families, there is a Christian parent who with untold agony of soul has seen the barrier of religious difference set up between himself or herself and a beloved child. Salvation, it is believed with all the heart, comes only through Christ, and the child, it is believed, unless it has really trusted in Christ, is lost. These, I tell you, are the real tragedies of life. And how trifling, in comparison, is the experience of bereavement of the like!
But what do these sorrowing parents do? Do they make themselves uselessly a nuissance to their child? In countless cases they do not; in countless cases there is hardly a mention of the subject of religion; in countless cases there is nothing but prayer, and an agony of soul bravely covered by helpfulness and cheer.
Spiritually, he had to make do too reading his English Bible rather than in Greek, which brought home some things with a freshness; worshipping with Roman Catholics. Of one sermon he says It was far, far better than what we got from the Protestant liberals.
In conversation afterwards, he could not agree with the priest on the mass but responded to a complaint that the phrase descended into hell was missing from versions issued to American soldiers I could assure him that I disapproved as much as he did of the mutilation of the creed.
....What absurdities are uttered in the name of a pseudo-Americanism today! People object to the Roman Catholics, for example, because they engage in propaganda. But why should they not engage in propaganda? And how should we have any respect for them if, holding the view which they hold that outside the Roman church there is no salvation they did not engage in propaganda first, last, and all the time? Clearly they have a right to do so, and clearly we have a right to do the same. . . .
As I understand it, Rome has attempted to finesse the issue of “no salvation outside the Roman church” when beholding the obvious Christly witness of the life of devout Protestants, as declaring such people to possibly be somehow Roman Catholic after all. As a wascally Protestant I don’t see that as worth arguing with Rome about, if that’s the formula they want to use to arrive at Christian comity. When we see some of them, in turn, exercising direct trust in Jesus Christ we don’t call them honorary Protestants, however....
Anyhow, the witness of the bible itself is also a witness of people that everyone in Christendom would call genuine Christians. So in a sense the Roman Catholics could say that Christians who believe in Christ through the bible’s witness are “Roman Catholics” if that’s what the church really was from the word go. It’s funny the egotism that Roman Catholics project on Protestants, though, by assuming that A Pope Is An Inseparable Part Of Christianity and then since Protestants aren’t doing more than affirming the historical Peter to be the first Christian, then They Must Be Their Own Proud Popes. Well there are stuck up Protestants but there are stuck up Roman Catholics too. And I wonder how many of these Roman Catholics are actually familiar with practicing Protestants rather than just viewing them from afar through the wrong end of a telescope?
I think the personal philosophy will be stll in tune with many FR participants. Here is a Wiki excerpt on Machen's outlook:
Machen was suspicious of mixing religion and politics. He found attempts to establish a Christian culture by political means insensitive to minorities. He was even more concerned about the corrupting influence of politics on Christianity and saw the social gospel as a terrible warning. He opposed school prayer and Bible reading in public school. This position, however, implied that Christians should run their own schools.
Historian George Marsden has described Machen as 'radically libertarian. He opposed almost any extension of state power and took stands on a variety of issues. Like most libertarians, his stances violated usual categories of liberal or conservative.' He opposed the establishment of a federal Department of Education, suggesting before a joint Congressional committee that government control of the children was the ultimate sacrifice of freedom. He was not against locally operated public schools per se, but feared the influence of materialist ideology and opposition to higher human aspirations. He also opposed Prohibition - a costly stance in an age when abstinence was almost a creed among Protestants."
This Wiki article is a good read, to briefly get the flavor of his formation and expression.
This is an excellent post! Thank you for your effort --
The same could be said on the other side
Personally, i know born-agains, Lutherans (devout and liberal), Jehovah's Witnesses and some Baptists (mix of devout and liberal) --> and the difference between what they thought I as a Catholic believed in, and what we Catholics DO believe in, was quite different
i'm sure it is the same on the other foot
however, the theme of this article is what I appreciate -- we have differences, there are massive differences between Presbyterians and Catholics, but not as massive a difference between a conservative Presbyterian/Catholic and a liberal one
On the social issue despite our differences we need to be sensible enough to recognize a common enemy -- secularism and Islam. If we stand by while gaylords win over one or the other, we are fools.
I'd rather have an argument with a believing Presybterian than with a liberal, "gay marriage", "pro abortion" Presbyterian (or Catholic for that matter).
“Personally, i know born-agains, Lutherans (devout and liberal), Jehovah’s Witnesses and some Baptists (mix of devout and liberal)”
Just to be clear, the Jehovah’s Witnesses are not Protestant, they’re a highly controlling religious cult that denies the Trinity and changes the text of the Holy scripture to defend their strange and abhorrent theology.
Ok, sorry, my mistake for including them.
The point Machen is trying to impress on us regarding differences is not so much Catholic/Reformed or conservative/liberal--the great chasm is that of missing the roadmap to eternal residence with The Savior, and winding up in the Lake of Fire instead. Although process is important, terminal disposition is decisive and unalterable.
Simply minimizing differences is not the key to obtaining salvation/sanctification. It's a go/no-go situation. And it can be known in the temporal sphere, beyond the shadow of a doubt. IMHO
Jesus started one church, the Catholic Church. The Roman Catholic Church is the only part of that Church has stayed steadfast and loyal to the church Christ founded 2,000 years ago. He did not start 35,000 PROTESTants churches. They were all started by mortal men. That is the difference in the Catholic Church and the Ecclesial communities.
“To be deep in history is to cease to be protestant”
~ Cardinal John Henry Newman
Former Protestant, Catholic Convert
Leading Theologian of the 19th Century
There are two lungs of the Catholic Church. One is the Latin branch. The other is the Orthodox branch.
Yes He started a Universal church, of course. All believers through an authentic witness (the bible has that witness) are part of it. I am that sort of believer. I say that contrariwise, men have compromised practice in the Roman church, and no local worship community has it perfect. But I affirm the existence of genuine Christian practice among many people in the earthly organization that calls itself the Roman church.
Well, to go with the body analogy it’s really like a lot of alveoli (lung sacs). And sadly they can’t get along with one another very well.
It might be possible for genuine Christian believers to appear even there; enough scripture has escaped JW revisions to be authentic even though some has been mangled. It’s actually by concurring in the fallacy that the preachers are what make the church go, that one would say that no person going to Jehovah’s Witness congregation could be a Christian. If JW went far enough off the deep end to prevent even that from happening, they’d ditch the bible altogether. That’s my $0.02 read on it, take it for whatever it might be worth.
C. S. Lewis was one witness as to what actually happens when Protestants and Roman Catholics who are serious about the Lord get together. It turns out when they do, that the personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ is often more shared than differed over. I’ve known Jesus Christ truly present in a special way at explicitly symbolic communions at a bible church I used to attend, and I don’t try to parse out how except to say it’s spiritual.
This is the thread I was going to post, but Alex beat me to it.