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Christianity and Liberalism by J. Gresham Machen

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Christianity and Liberalism, by J. Gresham Machen, is a Christian classic, not only because it articulates so well the non-negotiables of the the gospel, but because it touches on the implications of the gospel to education, society, culture and a great many other areas.  It is rightly acknowledged by many as a foundational document for evangelical Christianity.

  • Tim Challies: “This book has long been a classic defense of orthodox Christian faith against Liberalism. It may be particularly relevant today as we see a resurgence of just the kind of denials that Machen battled in his day.”
  • Trevin Wax: “Machen wrote about Christians who wanted to cast aside the embarrassing parts of Christianity (such as belief in miracles) and keep “the essence” – Christianity’s moral precepts. What’s changed today is this: it’s not the miracles that are embarrassing but the moral precepts! It’s our view of sexuality, of objective truth claims, and of Christ’s uniqueness.”

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Notable Excerpts:

The truth is that the materialistic paternalism of the present day, if allowed to go on unchecked, will rapidly make of America one huge “Main Street,” where spiritual adventure will be discouraged and democracy will be regarded as consisting in the reduction of all mankind to the proportions of the narrowest and least gifted of the citizens. God grant that there may come a reaction, and that the great principles of Anglo Saxon liberty may be rediscovered before it is too late!

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But the tolerance of Paul was not indiscriminate. He displayed no tolerance, for example, in Galatia. There, too, there were rival preachers. But Paul had no tolerance for them. “But though we,” he said, “or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed” (Gal. i. 8). What is the reason for the difference in the apostle’s attitude in the two cases? What is the reason for the broad tolerance in Rome, and the fierce anathemas in Galatia? The answer is perfectly plain. In Rome, Paul was tolerant, because there the content of the message that was being proclaimed by the rival teachers was true; in Galatia he was intolerant, because there the content of the rival message was false.

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It is true that historic Christianity is in conflict at many points with the collectivism of the present day; it does emphasize, against the claims of society, the worth of the individual soul. It provides for the individual a refuge from all the fluctuating currents of human opinion, a secret place of meditation where a man can come alone into the presence of God. It does give a man courage to stand, if need be, against the world; it resolutely refuses to make of the individual a mere means to an end, a mere element in the composition of society. It rejects altogether any means of salvation which deals with men in a mass; it brings the individual face to face with his God.

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What I need first of all is not exhortation, but a gospel, not directions for saving myself but knowledge of how God has saved me. Have you any good news? That is the question that I ask of you. I know your exhortations will not help me. But if anything has been done to save me, will you not tell me the facts?

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