After reading this chapter from Contending for Our All, I wondered… alot of this sounds like what the Jollyblogger has been saying lately (polemics, Paul’s instruction to Philippi vs. Galatia). Hmmmm.
This was a good chapter, but not the homerun the previous chapters had been. Piper in no way idealizes of idolizes Machen. But he recognizes that the church owes Machen a great debt. While in Germany, Machen was under the spell of liberalism for a time. Dr. Herrmann had a passion that his profs at Princeton seemed to lack. But Machen realized he needed both truth and passion, or light and heat as Edwards put it so well.
Piper has a good discussion of why Machen was not, and did not want to be known as, a Fundamentalist. Machen was too much of a scholar for a largely anti-intellectual movement. Nor was he a legalist, as much of Fundamentalism was. Instead of retreating from culture, Machen wanted to challenge it head on.
Machen, who many found annoying, once said of Princeton theologian B.B. Warfield “With all his glaring faults he was the greatest man I have ever known.” That might be a good word for many of us. I’ve met some of the greats of the last century, and I’ve seen some of their foibles. We can throw stones at their imperfections- but they are still greatly used by Jesus. We need to offer some charity over character flaws, and balance that with real accountability when they sin big (if indeed they do).
I think Machen’s best work was Christianity and Liberalism. What is found there, as he confronts a ‘church’ captive to modernism, is quite appropriate to the more extreme elements in the emerging church. The radicals or revisionist movements within the emerging church are pretty much doing what the liberals of Machen’s day were doing. They were hemming and hawing, redefining words, reinterpreting creeds rather than out-right denying them.
One of Piper’s challenges to us from Machen is: “He challenges us … to say what we mean and mean what we say, and to repudiate duplicity, trickery, sham, verbal manipulating, sidestepping, and evasion.” I think Machen, like Driscoll, would be in McLaren’s face and not allowing him to play word games and throw up smoke and mirrors.
There’s also good stuff about institutional integrity: “The compromise of an institution’s fidelity and the misuse of academic freedom happens when doctrinal and ethical doubts are kept secret, or, worse, when lurking denials are put forward as affirmations. … But the duplicity that hides secret denials will destroy an institution and a soul.” (Piper)
Piper ends on a great point with this: “…God reigns over his church and over the world in such a way that he weaves the weaknesses and the strengths of his people with infinite wisdom into a fabric history that displays the full range of his glories.”
It is worth investing the time to read about Machen, and what Machen has written.