Machen and Paul: A fictional dialogue

J. Gresham Machen is the heretical founder of the “orthodox” Presbyterian “Church” (i.e., synagogue of Satan). He wrote a “defense” of Christianity against the liberals who were deemed by him, “enemies within” the church. Among other things, Machen wrote that these liberal enemies denied the deity of Christ and scorned the cross. But alas, this was all billows of bombastic bluster bereft of backbone as the following quote plainly shows:

“The greatest menace to the Christian Church today comes not from the enemies outside, but from the enemies within; it comes from the presence within the Church of a type of faith and practice that is anti-Christian to the core. We are not dealing here with delicate personal questions; we are not presuming to say whether such and such an individual man is a Christian or not. God only can decide such questions; no man can say with assurance whether the attitude of certain individual ‘liberals’ toward Christ is saving faith or not. But one thing is perfectly plain–whether or no liberals are Christians, it is at any rate perfectly clear that liberalism is not Christianity” (Christianity and Liberalism, pp. 159-160).

From this quote above, it is plain that Machen was an unregenerate man with a spine akin to a jellyfish. In view of Machen’s comments that clearly expose him as amoeba-like, I would like to put forth a fictional scenario that reveals the truth of how the apostle Paul deals with those who reject the true Christ and how Machen deals with those who reject the true Christ. Please keep fresh in your mind, what Machen said in the quotation above, pages 159-160:

Paul: Those [the liberals of Machen’s day for instance–CD] who count the cross as foolishness are those who are perishing (1 Corinthians 1:17-18).

Machen: Now, now Paul. You cannot presume to say that. This is a delicate personal question, and we are to be pastorally sensitive; we must make a charitable judgment and your condemning them eternally to hell (or “consigning them to the flames”) because they’re ignorant or confused is an extreme and harsh attitude, not befitting of Christian charity. You ought to be a Piper Calvinist.

Paul: Most who call themselves Calvinist teach a form of salvation conditioned on the sinner. I believe that salvation is conditioned on the work of Christ ALONE. Thus, I’m no Calvinist, let alone a Piper Calvinist. But will you demonstrate true, charitable, and righteous judgment by commanding them to repent of their false gospel of salvation conditioned on the sinner, and to believe the true gospel of salvation conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ alone? Or, will you continue to tell them like the false prophets in Jeremiah’s day, “peace, peace” when there is no peace?

Machen: Well, unlike you Paul, I don’t advocate doctrinal perfectionism. Are you perfect in your theology, Paul? You see, unlike you I believe in salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. By saying that those who count the cross as foolishness are necessarily lost (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:18), you are in fact denying that salvation is even by grace alone through faith alone at all!

Paul: Huh? Okay, so…uh…I’m advocating perfection of theological knowledge in Romans 10:1-4; 1 Corinthians 1:18, 23; Galatians 1:8-9; 2 Corinthians 11:4, 13-15? Evidently, Peter is in 2 Peter 3:15-16? And clearly John is so advocating in 1 John 5:20-21, 2 John 9-11? And apparently, Jesus is in John 8:24? And how about Isaiah in Isaiah 45:20-25 for good measure? How do you think those whom I say are perishing in 1 Corinthians 1:18, 23 and are anathema in Galatians 1:8-9, should be dealt with? Should not those who are perishing be told to repent and believe the gospel? Isn’t that the most loving thing to do?

Machen: First, I must say that we can and should judge the cross-scorning doctrine and/or theological system as a “perishing system” or an “anathematized system.” But that is as far as we can go, I think. Since we ought to be truly humbled by our own doctrinal imperfections, we are not to presume who is a Christian or not, or whether certain cross-scorning attitudes toward Jesus Christ is saving faith or not.

Unlike you Paul, we ARE able to distinguish between the demonic DOCTRINES (of true-Christ-scorning, false-christ-believing, free-grace-hating, efficacious-cross-glory-robbing, self-righteousness-establishing) and those PERSONS who adhere to said doctrines. I realize that nowhere in the whole Bible is that taught–the supposed separation or distinction of the PERSON from the DOCTRINE he holds to, but that is how I attempt to get away with speaking peace to myself and to others, while believing a false gospel salvation conditioned on the sinner. I realize that the apostle John in 1 John 2:22 and 4:1-3 never distinguishes the antichrists from their antichristian doctrines, but I certainly do. In fact I MUST do this–otherwise I would be found out as an antichristian heretic, would I not? To avoid exposure, I simply encourage people to keep my person completely separate from the system of doctrine that I teach.

You see how that works practically, Paul? To those who are blinded by the god of this age would see my written words to the theological liberals as bold, unmincing, and most importantly of all, humble and loving. But to those who have been given eyes to see and ears to hear, they see right through the facade. They see it as an amalgamation of peace, peace when there is no peace, false humility, and devilish pride. As for my usage of strong language to describe the pantheistic liberals, they see it as nothing but billows of bombastic bluster bereft of backbone. Similar to the phrase in 2 Peter 2:18 which says: “great swelling words of vanity.” That’s me, I guess.

Paul: Correct you are. I, and all true Christians, in obedience to King Jesus will judge the sheep-clothed wolf by his fruits. Which of course you won’t do since it’s a “delicate personal matter” and all. Jesus said that we will know them by their fruits — but in a “genuine display” of “Christian humility” and “pastoral sensitivity” you will contradict Christ and make His teaching on judging totally meaningless. You want to judge the fruits indelicately when they are considered all by their lonesome. But when the fruits are connected to an actual person you want to be delicate toward the poor confused wolf and distance the wolf from the very fruits that show him to be a wolf.

So when God says to judge–and thus to separate from — those of Belial, you just can’t bring yourself to do that (2 Corinthians 6:14-18). Since you do not know what the gospel is — or at least do not believe the true gospel and so judge by a false gospel — you cannot tell who you are to come out from among and be separate from; nor can you recognize who you are to preach repentance and faith to; nor can you obey the command to assemble together with believers (Hebrews 10:25).

So, John Gresham Machen, how do YOU deal with those who are ignorant of the righteousness of God revealed in the gospel (Romans 10:1-4) and who count the cross as foolishness and a stumbling stone? You refuse to tell them to repent and believe the true gospel (, so what do YOU do?

If you say that you would tell them to repent of their errors without judging whether they are Christians or not, then obviously you’re not sure if you’re telling believers or unbelievers to “repent of their errors.” There is a world of difference between commanding a regenerate person to repent of something contrary to God’s law and telling an unregenerate person to repent and believe the gospel. Machen, you drain out the Biblical content of such passages as Romans 1:16. You are ashamed of the true gospel.

Machen: You’re demonstrating an extremely unchristian attitude and are not showing forth the fruits of the spirit you know…you made me lose my train of thought…Anyway, you know that I had said that I will not say whether or not pantheistic, naturalist liberals are Christians or not. You know I said that. I did of course separate from them (perhaps due to a non-credible profession on their parts).

Why else would I separate from them and bring about 136 people with me–unless of course, I was just being schismatic. There might be, however, some who might take a pantheistic profession as credible. After all, I myself DID say that no one can judge whether or not these pantheistic liberals are Christians. Is not that church — I know you would call it a Synagogue of Satan Paul, but I have a more irenic spirit than such a one as yourself — what I mean is, are not those confused liberals nevertheless a part of the visible church?

Again, Paul, I know that you would count those Arminians lost since they deny that the cross of Christ is the dunamis (1 Corinthians 1:18, 24) of God to salvation. And we Calvinists, since many of us started out as Arminians, are not so quick to condemn. Of course, I wouldn’t condemn Arminians since I won’t even condemn pantheistic liberals for charity’s sake!!

Where was I? Oh, yes. Dunamis. Paul you think that upon regeneration, when God saves the elect that, pow!! Dunamis!!! They know and believe that Jesus Christ is the wisdom and power of God and His cross is actually and efficaciously dunamis (1 Corinthians 1:17-31; 2 Corinthians 4:6). Now I find that a bit foolish; not to mention scandalous. Christians need time to grow in grace and knowledge (2 Peter 3:18). They need time to grow out of deeming the message of the cross foolishness and a stumbling block, and grow into believing it to be the dunamis of God.

And since I just referenced Peter, perhaps he was being a bit hasty in his castigation of those wonderfully confused yet earnest men (2 Peter 3:16) who just did not have all of their theological i’s dotted and t’s crossed. Now you know that there are vast multitudes of Calvinists who believe Christ died for everyone without exception, but only dunamisly (i.e., efficaciously) for the elect, right? Unlike you Paul, we do NOT believe that the cross of Christ is the DUNAMIS of salvation towards all whom He represented.

Now some of my fellow Owenist Calvinists might SAY that they believe that the cross of Christ is the dunamis of God towards all whom He represented. But then there’s that “grace” enabling them to meet conditions for salvation, and from what you write in Romans 11:6 that’s not exactly “grace” now is it?

Okay. I’ve blathered long enough. Now, to answer your question of what would I do in the case of pantheistic liberals, Arminians, those who nullify the message of Christ crucified as the DUNAMIS of God with their profession, those who count the cross foolishness, and those earnest men condemned eternally in Galatians 1:8-9 for innocently and ignorantly believing that they were justified by their own righteousness (cf. Romans 10:1-4)? What to do with or to say about them? Repent and believe the gospel? Yeah, right.

Hey! I know! Rather than to tell the aforementioned “earnest believers” — I do say that of Arminians but as you saw above, I cannot say one way or the other with regard to pantheistic liberals — to repent and believe God’s promise to save His people conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ alone, I will just send those ignorant and confused ones (e.g., Romans 10:1-4) to WSC. And while they are there, those whom that big meanie Paul judged as lost in 1 Corinthians 1:18 will be met by that Professor whose teaching position is prefaced with my name. We know Paul would certainly judge them lost (and he is mean.) But here, listen to what the J. Gresham Machen Professor of Theology and Apologetics (hey, I like the sound of that!) had to say about the enemies of the apostle Paul:

“Let us lovingly confront our brothers and sisters in a spirit of boldness, but humility, as we undertake to bring ourselves and our fellow Christians into greater conformity to ‘the faith once and for all delivered to the saints (Jude 24)'”(Michael Horton, Evangelical Arminians: Option or Oxymoron?).

Paul: Jesus said that the blind leading the blind, both shall fall into a ditch.

Machen: Big meanie.