Monday, June 10, 2013

The Importance of Christian Scholarship by J. Gresham Machen

Having been attending the OPC again after a long number of years, I've become something of a Machen junky.  I don't agree with him on everything, but so much of what he writes is just spot-on.  Here's a review I did for the local paper:

In The Importance of Christian Scholarship, J. Gresham Machen calls for a revival of learning in the context of Christian teaching, evangelism and defending the faith, largely in response to the objections of “modern”, anti-intellectual evangelical leaders and the insistence that deeper knowledge is not necessary for faith, and that the gospel is a simple thing that does not need to be obscured by too much scholarly research. Machen confronts these alternative opinions by establishing that scholarship brings order out of confusion and makes the message shine fourth more clearly. It is “out of a great fund of Christian learning that the true message springs.” To Machen, in evangelism it's important that we tell the story of Jesus “straight and full and plain” and that what many despise today as “doctrine” the New Testament refers to as “gospel” (one of the things so refreshing about reading Machen is how relevant his message is to today, even though he was writing these works in the 1920's...)

Machen teaches that Christian evangelism isn't just "look at me and my virtues" and "you can be as happy and wonderful as me if you do this and that", but explains that people are not saved by a radiant testimony, but by a preaching of the Lord Jesus Christ. It's only through the gospel and having this taught clearly and with a solid doctrinal understanding that the message is put forward through which they can be saved.

Machen maintains that all objections and criticisms of the faith are addressed in the New Testament. Teaching solid Christian doctrine to believers is about giving to Christian people materials that they can use in both dealing with avowed skeptics and also when they speak with their families, friends, students, etc. Christian scholarship and doctrinal richness empowers Christians to be both strong and fortified in their faith and to have a scholarly response to objections. Scholarship empowers the Christian to give credible responses to these questions.

Underlying preaching is Christian scholarship, necessary to both the preacher and to the man. The gospel is a simple thing, and while some objections would weigh that scholarship can obscure the message of the gospel, the opposite is actually true: scholarship helps the message shine forth more clear.

This work was presented as a series of lectures by Machen and is available for free from here:

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