Friday, July 31, 2009

Defending The Faith: J. Gresham Machen and the Crisis of Conservative Protestantism in Modern America - by D. G. Hart

"...he held that theological integrity and cultural authority were inversely related: a theology eager for public influence invariably compromised the Christian faith, while a principled theology could at best benefit society indirectly." (pg. 8)

"For Machen, although he was very conservative in religion, the threat of cultural modernism - pitting modern relevance against old-fashioned dogma, scientific verification against an implausible faith, and metaphysical skepticism against religious certainty - was not as great as the danger posed by Protestant hegemony in a free and diverse society. As great as the challenges of modern science and philosophy were, in the end they were not as profound as the peril of a religion that tailored its faith and practice to fit the prevailing temper of the age." (pg. 9)

"Instead of reducing seminaries to centers of religious sentiment and professional training, Machen wanted them to become 'battlegrounds of the faith.'... This was Machen's call to the ministry, the vision that he hoped to instill in students at Princeton, and the message he would eventually take before the councils of the Presbyterian Church." (pg. 34)

"'Jesus, according to Paul,' Machen concluded, 'came to earth not to say something, but to do something.' Paul's writings did not 'deal with general principles of love and grace, and fatherliness and brotherliness' but instead with the 'thing most distasteful to the modern liberal Church,' Jesus' death and resurrection. The clear implication was that Paul and Jesus were of a piece and the modern church could not reject Paul without also rejecting Jesus." (pg. 57ff)

"In Christian teaching, Machen wrote, a great gulf lay between God and man, and it was widened by human sinfulness. In contrast, the modern age had exhibited a 'supreme confidence in human goodness,' giving liberal ministers the impossible task of 'calling the righteous to repentance.' But Christianity, Machen said, began with the law of God and a conviction of sin." (pg. 70)

"Using religion as a means for solving social ills, Machen asserted, was altogether different from Christ's 'stupendous words' which demanded utter loyalty from his followers, even to the point of hating father and mother." (pg. 76)

"...following the example of the early church Machen recommended that modern church membership be restricted to those believers with an adequate understanding of their denomination's doctrinal standards. Although theological knowledge did not make one a Christian, it redressed the modern tendency to divorce faith from knowledge." (pg. 92)

"By stressing the intellectual aspects even in the subjective dynamics of religious experience Machen, in effect, made theologians out of all believers. Only in the act of regeneration, he explained, once the 'blinding' effects of sin had been removed, could the truth of Christianity be understood properly." (pg. 94)

"He believed that historic Christianity was fundamentally narrow, exclusive, and partisan and, therefore, could not provide the basis for public life in a free society. To do so, he argued, was to mistake ethics for salvation. Using Christian morals to promote public duties gave the faulty impression that people could do good without grace. 'When any hope is held out to lost humanity from the so-called ethical portions of the Bible apart from its great redemptive core, then the Bible is represented as saying the direct opposite of what it really says.'" (pg. 138)

"Indeed, at the same time that secular intellectuals attacked the Protestant ethos of American culture, Machen argued that the churches' involvement in cultural and social life was harmful because it undermined faithful witnessing to Christian truth. Unfortunately for Machen, that twin commitment - to Presbyterian orthodoxy and religious pluralism - went largely unheeded in fundamentalist and evangelical circles. Yet his outlook may still prove instructive to believers and secularists in America today who through a series of cultural wars struggle to reconcile the demands of faith with the realities of modernity." (pg. 170)

D. G. Hart, Defending The Faith: J. Gresham Machen and the Crisis of Conservative Protestantism in Modern America (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing Company, 2003)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Desire and Deceit: The Real Cost Of The New Sexual Tolerance - by R. Albert Mohler Jr.

"The integrity of Christian marriage requires a man to exercise his will even in the arena of love and to commit all of his sexual energy and passion to the honorable estate of marriage, refusing himself even the imagination of violating his marital vows." (pg. 7)

"Sex has lost its public shamefulness; moral boundaries have been pulled down in the name of moral 'progress'; and overt sexuality now drives much of our entertainment, advertising, and cultural conversation. How is lust to be separated from all that?" (pg. 14)

"In an odd twist, hyperexposure to pornography leads to a lower net return on investment, which is to say that the more pornography one sees, the more explicit the images must be in order to excite interest. Thus, in order to sustain the excitement of 'transgressing,' as the postmodernist would put it, pornographers must continue to push the envelope." (pg. 29)

"We must also be careful to make clear that while we reject the concept of sexual orientation as a category of identity, we are not denying that there are some persons who discover themselves to be sexually attracted to persons of the same sex. Since our sexuality is such an important part of our lives, we are naturally tempted to think that our profile of sexual attraction is central to our identity. But our identity must not be constituted by mere sexuality. We are first of all human beings created in the image of God. Secondly, we are sinners whose fallenness is demonstrated in every aspect of our lives - including our sexuality." (pg. 67ff)

"We must learn to address the issue of homosexuality and other difficult sexual issues with candor, directness, and unembarrassed honesty. This is not an hour for prudish denial. To fail at the task of speaking clearly and directly to this issue is to fail to speak where God has spoken." (pg. 81)

"In the eyes of all too many in our culture, gender is merely a plastic social construct. Indeed, in the postmodern world, all realities are plastic and all principles are liquid. Everything can be changed. Nothing is fixed. All truth is relative, all truth is socially constructed, and anything that is constructed can also be deconstructed in order to liberate." (pg. 136ff)

"The very habits of human life - the customs and traditions on which civilization is grounded - are now being reversed, marginalized, and discarded in an effort to eliminate all norms by normalizing the abnormal." (pg. 141)

"The single greatest obstacle to the victory of the culture of polymorphous perversity is the Judeo-Christian heritage. The greatest obstacle to the normalization of homosexuality is the Bible." (pg. 152)

"Civilization cannot survive the triumph of the age of polymorphous perversity, because the idea of polymorphous sex is hopelessly incompatible with the very notion of civilization itself. Civilization is based upon order, respect, habit, custom, and institution - all of which are rejected outright by the age of polymorphous perversity." (pg. 155)

"...we must make certain that our marriages and our families are a testimony to God's intention, and that we live before the world declaring that even if insanity, irrationality, and sexual anarchy rule the world, it will not rule us. God's glory will be shown in faithfulness wherever it is found, even in the tiny domestic picture of our seemingly insignificant families." (pg. 159)

R. Albert Mohler Jr., Desire and Deceit: The Real Cost Of The New Sexual Tolerance (Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah Books, 2008)