A proper interpretation of Machen’s “scathing criticisms” of liberals as nothing but GREAT SWELLING WORDS OF VANITY requires a sober consideration of the following extract from the Professor’s introductory course, Hollow Fulminations 101:
“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” (J. Gresham Machen, Christianity & Liberalism, pp. 159-160).
So, any and every time someone hears or reads a seemingly “solid and uncompromising” quote by Machen they need to recall the above spineless and cowardly sentences. In Machen’s Christianity & Liberalism the following quote comes right before the amoeba-like one that I have cited above (underlining mine–CD):
“And the Church invisible, the true company of the redeemed, finds expression in the companies of Christians who constitute the visible Church today. But what is the trouble with the visible Church? What is the reason for its obvious weakness? There are perhaps many causes of weakness. But one cause is perfectly plain — the Church of today has been unfaithful to her Lord by admitting great companies of non-Christian persons, not only into her membership, but into her teaching agencies. It is indeed inevitable that some persons who are not truly Christian shall find their way into the visible Church; fallible men cannot discern the heart, and many a profession of faith which seems to be genuine may really be false. But it is not this kind of error to which we now refer. What is now meant is not the admission of individuals whose confessions of faith may not be sincere, but the admission of great companies of persons who have never made any really adequate confession of faith at all and whose entire attitude toward the gospel is the very reverse of the Christian attitude. Such persons, moreover, have been admitted not merely to the membership, but to the ministry of the Church, and to an increasing extent have been allowed to dominate its councils and determine its teaching” (Machen, Christianity & Liberalism, p. 159).
Machen asserts that “GREAT COMPANIES OF NON-CHRISTIAN PERSONS” have been allowed to dominate the “church’s” councils and determine its teaching. Non-Christians? Great companies? Really, Machen? What are they? WHERE are they? Then about a paragraph later Machen turns these “Great companies of non-Christian persons” into a null class:
“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” (Machen).
Wait a minute. What just happened here? Where did those “GREAT COMPANIES OF NON-CHRISTIAN PERSONS” disappear to? I see what looks like a great pool of water upon the horizon. But as I search for just one individual droplet, all I get is a mouthful of desert sand. Huh. Must’ve been a mirage.
“The grace of God is rejected by modern liberalism. And the result is slavery — the slavery of the law, the wretched bondage by which man undertakes the impossible task of establishing his own righteousness as a ground of acceptance with God. It may seem strange at first sight that ‘liberalism,’ of which the very name means freedom, should in reality be wretched slavery. But the phenomenon is not really so strange. Emancipation from the blessed will of God always involves bondage to some worse taskmaster.
Thus it may be said of the modern liberal Church, as of the Jerusalem of Paul’s day, that ‘she is in bondage with her children.‘ God grant that she may turn again to the liberty of the gospel of Christ!” (Machen, Christianity & Liberalism, p. 144).
Machen’s “strong statement” above comes about 15 pages earlier than the other quotes I’ve cited thus far. Certainly, the “man” who is engaged in the “impossible task of establishing his own righteousness as a ground of acceptance with God” is unregenerate (see Romans 10:1-4). But as Machen has told us, it’s really too delicate and personal of a question to ask whether this self-righteousness-establishing man is “a Christian or not.” Clearly, Machen is a God-hating, spineless, emasculated, fork-tongued, wind-bagged monstrosity who refuses to judge righteous judgment.