Monday, April 29, 2013

History and Faith

"Give up history, and you can retain some things.  You can retain belief in God.  But philosophical theism has never been a powerful force in the world.  You can retain a lofty ethical ideal.  But be perfectly clear about one point - you can never retain a gospel.  For gospel means "good news," tidings, information about something that has happened.  In other words, it means history.  A gospel independent of history is simply a contradiction in terms."

The Bible has been viewed as a ladder "to scale the dizzy height of Christian experience," which may be kicked down when one is once safely on top.  But this figure, Machen felt, was misleading:

"The Bible is not a ladder; it is a foundation.  It is buttressed, indeed, by experience; if you have the present Christ, then you know that the Bible account is true.  But if the Bible were false, your faith would go.  You cannot, therefore, be indifferent to Bible criticism.  Let us not deceive ourselves.  The Bible is at the foundation of the Church.  Undermine that foundation, and the Church will fall.
    Two conceptions of Christianity are struggling for the ascendancy; the question that we have been discussing is part of a still larger problem.  The Bible against the modern preacher... The Church is in perplexity.  She is trying to compromise.  God grant that she may choose aright.  God grant she may decide for the Bible!"

- J. Gresham Machen, ordination sermon "History and Faith", 1915