Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Gospel is worth fighting for

No-one should take pleasure in theological conflict for the sake of it. In a sense it is always to be regretted. But that is a far different thing to say than to claim it is unnecessary, or to suggest that engaging in it is ungodly.

One can understand the desire to shrink back from conflict. There is the fear that conflict is bad press for the church in the eyes of an onlooking world, a world it must be remembered that the church is seeking to win by its word and conduct.

Yet there is something amiss in what seems to be a right and proper motivation to avoid polemics, especially polemics that are open to public view. What is amiss is the absolute necessity of maintaining the truth of the gospel. This will always be worth fighting for. And this is exactly what animated Paul in his public exchanges and public write up of them in Galatia, "We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you" (Galatians 2:5).

Not to engage in this fight is unthinkable. For the glory of God, and the eternal good of souls, this battle must be fought.

Here are some extracts from the much maligned but steadfastly faithful J. Gresham Machen:

Tertullian fought a mighty battle against Marcion; Athanasius fought against the Arians; Augustine fought against Pelagius; and as for Luther, he fought a brave battle against kings and princes and popes for the liberty of the people of God.

Luther was a great fighter; and we love him for it. So was Calvin; so were John Knox and all the rest. It is impossible to be a good soldier of Jesus Christ and not fight.

J. Gresham Machen, an extract from his last sermon at Princeton Seminary Chapel, March 10th 1929

Let us not fear the opposition of men; every great movement in the Church from Paul down to modern times has been criticized on the ground that it promoted censoriousness and intolerance and disputing. Of course the gospel of Christ, in a world of sin and doubt, will cause disputing; and if it does not cause disputing and arouse bitter opposition, that is a fairly sure sign that it is not being faithfully proclaimed.

J. Gresham Machen

Quoted in David Calhoun, Princeton Seminary: The Majestic Testimony 1869-1929, p.364

1 comment:

étrangère said...

I love Machen. My Grandfather studied under him in Princeton and went on to fight the same battles in Northern Ireland as Machen was fighting in America, so I've a double interest in him. You've read the sermons those quotes came from, in God Transcendent?