Well! I intended to put up a new post last night, and then work on this post, too, but the power went out and stayed out for a couple of hours. By the time it came back on I was ready to put on my jammies and wind down for the night. Then I’d just got things in order this afternoon and settled down on the back deck to blog when the power went out again. Here’s hoping I can get this post on Chapter 6 of Christianity and Liberalism up now, because it’s been hanging over my head for too long. (You remember that I am reading it because I am participating in this round Tim Challies’ Reading Classics Together, right?)
In this chapter, Machen spells out the contrast between the Christian view of salvation and that of modern liberalism. As with all the other doctrines covered so far in this book, the view of modern liberalism and true Christianity on the doctrine of salvation are completely different. I’ve listed some of the contrasting beliefs on the various teachings related to salvation below—not, mind you, in the exact order you’d find them in the book, but in an order that makes sense to me.
- The purpose of Christ’s death: Christianity teaches that the death of Christ was designed to have an effect upon God, but modern liberalism teaches that it was designed to have an effect only on man.
- The nature of the atonement: Christianity teaches that Christ’s death is substitutionary for sinner; modern liberalism sees it as merely an example for humankind or a demonstration for us. What’s more, the modern liberal argues that it is an absurd idea for one person to suffer in place of another, while Christianity argues that Jesus could do what he did because he “was no mere man but the eternal Son of God.”
It is perfectly true that the Christ of modern naturalistic reconstruction never could have suffered for the sins of others; but it is very different in the case of the Lord of Glory.
- The exclusivity of the gospel: The Christian gospel “binds salvation to the name of Jesus”; modern liberalism prefers a message of “right living whatever creed men may chance to have.”
- The nature of God: Christianity claims that God needs to be reconciled to us; modern liberalism claims that is is only we who need to be reconciled to God.
- The necessity of the atonement: Christianity teaches that God’s wrath must be appeased; modern liberalism teaches that God can just “let by-gones be by-gones.”
- The necessity of the new birth: Christianity teaches that we can be saved only by a supernatural work of God; modern liberalism teaches that “the world’s evil may be overcome by the world’s good.”
- The nature of faith: The faith of Christianity is dogmatic; the faith of modern liberalism is undogmatic.
- The object of faith: In Christianity, the object of faith is Christ and his work; in modern liberalism the object of faith is our obedience to God’s law.
- The nature of our hope: The ultimate Christian hope is in the life to come; the hope of modern liberalism is making things better in this world now.
- The purpose of evangelism: The purpose of Christian evangelism is leading individuals to faith in Christ—the “saving of souls”; in modern liberalism it’s “spreading the blessings of Christian civilization (whatever that may be)….”
What a long, dense chapter this is! But it’s also glorious, especially in Machen’s description of the salvation that comes through Christ. Can you see from the list above why Machen begins the chapter by writing that “Liberalism finds salvation (so far as it is willing to speak at all of ‘salvation’) in man; Christianity finds it in an act of God”?
I’ve decided to post my favourite quote from this chapter tomorrow rather tack it on the end of an already lengthy post. And it’s time for me to go make supper now, anyway.