Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Machen: Religion’s Absolute Dependence on Doctrine

Here is another brief excerpt from J. Gresham Machen’s What is Faith? (1925; Eerdmans, 1962) in which Machen interprets the significance of the central statement in Hebrews 11:6.

“…for he that cometh to God must believe that he is…” (Hebrews 11:6).

….Here we find a rejection of all the pragmatic, non-doctrinal Christianity of modern times.

In the first place, religion is here made to depend absolutely upon doctrine; the one who comes to God must not only believe in a person, but he must also believe that something is true:  faith is here declared to involve acceptance of a proposition.  There could be no plainer insistence upon the doctrinal or intellectual basis of faith.  It is impossible, according to the Epistle to the Hebrews, to have faith in a person without accepting with the mind the facts of the person.

Entirely different is the prevailing attitude in the modern Church; far from recognizing, as the author of Hebrews does, the intellectual basis of faith, many modern preachers set faith in sharp opposition to knowledge.  Christians faith, they say, is not assent to a creed, but it is confidence in a person.  The Epistle to the Hebrews on the other hand declares that it is impossible to have confidence in a person without assenting to a creed.  “He that cometh to God must believe that he is.”  The words “God is” or “God exists,” constitute a creed; they constitute a proposition; and yet they have here placed as necessary to that supposedly non-intellectual thing that is called faith.  It would be impossible to find a more complete opposition than that which here appears between the New Testament and the anti-intellectual tendency of modern preaching (pp. 47-48).


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