J. Gresham Machen (“What Is Faith?”)

J. Gresham Machen (1881-1937) founded the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (i.e., Synagogue of Satan) in 1936. The following are my comments on writings from his book entitled, “What is faith?”:

Machen writes:

==”The truth is that the ecclesiastical currency in our day has been sadly debased; Church membership, as well as Church office, no longer means what it ought to mean. In view of such a situation, we ought, I think, to have reality at least; instead of comforting ourselves with columns of church statistics, we ought to face the facts; we ought to recall this paper currency and get back to a standard of gold.”==

Chris: And what is this gold standard, Machen? The following quote from Machen should give us some idea of what type of gold makes up this standard that he mentions:

==”We have been represented sometimes as though we were requiring an acceptance of the infallibility of Scripture or of the confession of faith of our Church from those who desire to become Church members, whereas in point of fact we have been requiring these things only from candidates for ordination.”==

Chris: Machen’s standard is that they do NOT require an acceptance of the infallibility of Scripture for those desiring to become Church members. Whoah. Talk about “seeker sensitive.” This is “seeker sensitivity” with a vengeance! Those popular mega-churches with their “Madison avenue tactics” and juggling clowns have nothing on the denomination of Machen (OPC). Can a Christian deny the infallibility of Scripture, and yet ALSO believe that Christ is the Incarnate God who came to save His people from their sins? Can a Christian say that at least some of God’s word is fallible, while at the same time say that he believes that the specific promises with regard to His people’s salvation are infallible? Is this another instance of “blessed inconsistency”? Jesus gives an unequivocal “no” in John 5:43-47. Let Jesus be true and J. Gresham Machen a liar.

Thus, Machen’s ssstandard is “did God REALLY say?” (Genesis 3:1) Machen’s “gold” is fool’s gold. For he that believes, or accepts into fellowship one who denies the infallibility of Scripture is a fool. This aforementioned fool’s gold is the ecclesiastical currency of Machen and the OPC, which is one of the many denominations that make up the Great Whore who defiles the earth with her fornications. Further, passages like 1 Thessalonians 2:13, John 5:46-47 and 1 John 5:9-12  refute the lie that true Christians could deny the infallibilty of the Word of God. It is not surprising at all though, that a Synagogue of Satan would welcome with open arms those who do the deeds of their father (John 8:44). It is BECAUSE Jesus speaks the truth in His Word, that these communicant members of Satan’s OP synagogue do NOT believe Him (John 8:45). Again, no surprise there.

==”To that end, it should, I think, be made much harder than it now is to enter the Church: the confession of faith that is required should be a credible confession;”==

Chris: Does a “credible confession” come with the denial of the infallibility of Scripture? Machen answers a resounding “Yes.” These members give the credible confession of the father of lies. Some might say that these “earnest believers” (really?) should be given time to grow in “faith” from calling God a liar to calling God a truth teller. Hey, God doesn’t birth His children as fully mature Christians, does He? I am not saying He does. But perhaps those who make these kinds of objections ought to make them against Jesus for calling “children of the devil” those who denied His infalliblity and authority among other things.

==”and if it becomes evident upon examination that a candidate has no notion of what he is doing, he should be advised to enter upon a course of instruction before he becomes a member of the Church. Such a course of instruction, moreover, should be conducted not by comparatively untrained laymen, but ordinarily by the ministers; the excellent institution of the catechetical class should be generally revived. Those churches, like the Lutheran bodies in America, which have maintained that institution, have profited enormously by its employment; and their example deserves to be generally followed.

After all, however, such inquires into the state of the souls of men and women and children who desire to enter into the Church must be regarded as at the best very rough and altogether provisional. Certainly requirements for Church membership should be distinguished in the sharpest possible way from requirements for the ministry. The confusion of these two things in the ecclesiastical discussions of the past few years has resulted in great injustice to us who are called conservatives in the Church.”==

Chris: And yet, to Machen, it is not considered a great injustice to allow into your fellowship those who call God a liar by denying the infallibility of Scripture. And if one denies that God’s word is infallible, then one denies that God’s promise to save His people from their sins conditioned on the work of Christ alone, is sure and certain.

==We have been represented sometimes as though we were requiring an acceptance of the infallibility of Scripture or of the confession of faith of our Church from those who desire to become Church members, whereas in point of fact we have been requiring these things only from candidates for ordination. Surely there is a very important distinction here. Many persons–to take a secular example–can be admitted to an educational institution as students who yet are not qualified for a position in the faculty. Similarly many persons can be admitted to Church membership who yet ought not to be admitted to the ministry; they are qualified to learn, but not qualified to teach; they should not be allowed to stand forth as the accredited teachers with the official endorsement of the Church.”==

Chris: Those ministers like Machen, who say that it’s alright to welcome with open arms into the church those who deny the infallibility of God’s word are fit to teach?? No doubt they are fit to teach–not the truth, but rather lies about the Word of God. Well, it is not a great thing that the ministers of Satan transform themselves as ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.

==”This analogy, it is true, does not by any means altogether hold: the Church is not, we think, merely an education institution, but the visible representative in the world of the body of Christ; and its members are not merely seekers after God, but those who have already found;”==

Chris: The “church” of Machen is a Synagogue of Satan. For true members of the body of Christ do not think it is okay to consider as Christians those who call God a liar by denying the infallibility of Scripture. To Machen, those who deny the infallibility of God’s word are among those who have already “found God.” But which “god” do those find, who are taught to believe that God’s testimony regarding His Son is not infallible?

==”they are not merely interested in Christ, but are united to Christ by the regenerating act of the Spirit of God. Nevertheless, although the analogy does not fully hold, it does hold far enough to illustrate what we mean. There is a wide margin of difference between qualifications for Church membership and qualifications for office–especially the teaching office that we call the ministry.

Many a man, with feeble, struggling belief, torn by many doubts, may be admitted into the fellowship of the Church and of the sacraments; it would be heartless to deprive him of the comfort which such fellowship affords; to such persons the Church freely extends its nurture to the end that they may be led into ever fuller knowledge and ever firmer faith.”==

Chris: First and foremost, Machen contradicts the definition of faith given in Hebrews 11:1: Faith Is Assurance. How does one “firm up” a non-existent faith? A Christian is led into an ever fuller knowledge, knowledge which at the first was “God’s word is NOT infallible”; but now is “God’s word IS infallible”? Really? If the persons mentioned are reprobate, this “ever fuller knowledge” will ever be learning but will never acknowledge the truth, and thus will lead to an ever firmer hardening in unbelief. The tolerant Calvinists are a prime example of this hardening in unbelief. BUT if the persons mentioned are among the elect–though presently unregenerate–they will in time be caused by God to acknowledge and believe the truth. This belief of the truth, this faith of God’s elect is wrought by the Holy Spirit of God and does NOT waver in UNBELIEF, but is strengthened in FAITH, giving glory to God (Romans 4:20-21).

==”But to admit such persons to the ministry would be a crime against Christ’s little ones, who look to the ministry for an assured word as to the way by which they shall be saved.”==

Chris: Are those who deny the infallibility of Scripture looking for an assured word? Or are they looking for someone who will tell them what their itching ears want to hear? “Peace, peace” when there is no peace.

Furthermore, the WCF–which the “ministers” are supposed to subscribe to in full–says that assurance is not of the essence of faith. Thus “faith” can have doubts and uncertainties about Christ being the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Of course, this is qualified by those who say that they do not deny the objective truth of this, but the subjective truth as it relates to their persons. To put it another way, they are saying that “they are not doubting Christ’s ability to save (objective), they are only doubting their save-ability (subjective).”  A nice sentiment, huh? A nice sentiment that reveals its ignorance of the righteousness of God, and is thus seeking to establish its own righteousness (Romans 10:3). They are doubting whether or not they are saved because they are doubting whether or not their acceptance before God is based solely on the work of Another. They are ignorant of the only righteousness that God accepts (Romans 10:1-4).

==”It is not, however, even such persons to whom chiefly we have reference when we advocate today a greater care in admitting men to the ministry. It is not men who are struggling with doubts and difficulties about the gospel to whose admission we chiefly object, but men who are perfectly satisfied with another gospel; it is not men of ill-assured faith, but men of assured unbelief.”==

Chris: What’s the difference between “ill-assured faith” and “assured unbelief”? Ill-assured faith says:

“I know for certain that Christ will save His elect; yet I am uncertain whether I am one of these elect whom Christ came to save.”

But though ill-assured faith is not quite as blatant and out in the open as assured unbelief is; yet ill-assured faith is clearly unbelief.

==”Even with regard to Church membership, as distinguished from the ministry, there is, as we have seen, a limit beyond which exclusion must certainly be practiced. Not only a desire to enter the Church should be required but also some knowledge of what entering the Church means, not only a confession of faith but a reasonably credible confession. But the point that we are now making is that such requirements ought clearly to be recognized as provisional; they do not determine a man’s standing before God, but they only determine, with the best judgment that God has given to feeble and ignorant men, a man’s standing in the visible Church.”==

Chris: What is a “reasonably credible confession” to Machen I wonder?

So if a person seeking communicant membership says to Machen, “I believe that Jesus Christ died for everyone without exception”, then Machen–who says that he is only a feeble and ignorant man–will say that this seeker of communicant membership by virtue of his confession, has a good standing in the visible Church–but perhaps not in Machen’s non-Arminian church in which case Machen would be guilty of schism. This aforementioned confession that says that Christ died for everyone without exception is indicative of lostness. It is a confession that shows that this person is ignorant of the only grounds of salvation.

A “reasonably credible” confession begins with the confession of belief in the true gospel. If someone professes belief in the true gospel while at the same time says that the Bible is fallible or in error, then not only is the authority of the Scripture undermined, that initial confession is totally vitiated (see John 5:46-47). The only time the “feeble and ignorance” would play a part, is if a person was lying when they confessed belief in the true gospel of the Person and Work of Christ. But unless they go out from among us (1 John 2:19) they are to be welcomed into the unity of fellowship based upon their boast in the work of Christ alone (Galatians 6:14) “And as many as shall walk by this rule, peace and mercy be on them and on the Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16).

Machen says that one’s reasonably credible confession–and by “reasonably credible” he means those who spit in the face of Christ and trample His blood under their feet–does not determine his standing before God. It is true that any confession by a person does not determine their standing before God–it is God who determines their standing. But the confession of the universal atonement advocate shows that they are unregenerate (Romans 10:1-4). Thus it evidences their standing before God as ones who are ignorant of and not submitted to, the righteousness of God revealed in the gospel.

==”That is one reason why we must refuse to answer, in any definite and formal way, the question as to the minimum doctrinal requirements that are necessary in order that a man may be a Christian.”==

Chris: Minimum doctrinal requirements? How ’bout just the gospel, Machen? Why does Machen refuse to answer the question about how one is to know who is a Christian? Well, we know from Machen’s refusal to tag even pantheistic liberals as lost unbelievers that Machen’s “minimal doctrinal requirements” are very minimal in deed–perhaps the “minimal requirement” is a profession of faith in any Jesus just as long as the name “Jesus” is contained in that profession.

==”There is, however, also another reason. The other reason is that the very asking of the question often betokens an unfortunate attitude with regard to Christian truth. For our part we have not much sympathy with the present widespread desire of finding some greatest common denominator which shall unite men of different Christian bodies; for such a greatest common denominator is often found to be very small indeed.”==

Chris: Well, think how many “professing Christians” would be united by the common denominator of an empty profession of belief in the deity of Christ. You would have Calvinists and Arminians of varying stripes, Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox (Greek, Russian, etc.). Machen is the one who is “betokening” an unregenerate antichristian attitude with regard to Christian truth. For him it seems that the greatest and lowest common denominator is that one profess faith in any Christ whether that “Christ” be false or true. The pantheistic liberals professed belief in Christ’s deity because they were pantheists! Machen even repudiated their “qualifier” that the “deity” just shines a little brighter in Jesus than in everyone else. BUT Machen would not say whether those who held to such beliefs concerning the Person of Christ and the nature of God were Christians or not. The only thing he would say was that pantheistic liberalism was not Christianity.

==”Some men seem to devote most of their energies to the task of seeing just how little of Christian truth they can get along with.”==

Chris: How ’bout, just the gospel Machen? Of course though, if one believes the gospel, he will necessarily believe other things as well. But again, what difference does it make to you, Machen? You admit that affirming the Virgin Birth of Christ is a truth that CHRISTIANITY as a whole cannot “get along with.” BUT you vitiate this claim by also saying that whether or not a CHRISTIAN affirms the Virgin Birth of Christ is something different. Thus, for Machen while it is necessary for Christianity to affirm the Virgin Birth of Christ, it is NOT necessary for every individual Christian to affirm it.

==”We, however, regard it as a perilous business; we prefer, instead of seeing how little of Christian truth we can get along with, to see just how much of Christian truth we can obtain. We ought to search the Scriptures reverently and thoughtfully and pray God that He may lead us into an ever fuller understanding of the truth that can make us wise unto salvation. There is no virtue whatever in ignorance, but much virtue in a knowledge of what God has revealed” (Machen, What is faith?, pp. 156-160).==

Chris: True Christians are to seek to obtain more knowledge (2 Peter 3:18). But because Machen is blind, he does not see how truly perilous a business it is to believe that true Christians can call God a liar by either doubting or more blatantly denying that the Word of God is infallible.

Machen gets along with a lot less than he realizes. He refuses to answer the question as to any “minimal doctrinal requirements,” but ironically his doctrinal requirements are so tiny that there is no room for a credible profession for the veracity of God. Machen completely undermines the whole foundation of the very Scripture he claims fuller knowledge should be sought out from.

With this kind of peculiar reasoning by Machen, one might as well allow an atheist–he denies the infallibility of the Bible too– into communicant fellowship, call him a true Christian and the give him time to grow into fuller knowledge. Let’s say that in time, he finally says he believes that the Bible IS actually infallible and says he believes the gospel but that he was–since the “ministers” told him so–a confused, baby Christian while denying or being a little bit ignorant of such “theological subtleties” such as the ground of salvation (Romans 10:1-4).