A Couple Thoughts on Machen and Clement

3 Sep

I apologize for the silence over the past couple weeks.  Its been a great time for me to step back and enjoy life, focus on upcoming Fall plans, and think about what I’d like to write on in the next few weeks.

As for today, I merely want to post a couple thoughts I’ve had as I’ve been reading through two great books.  The first is entitled, Christianity & Liberalism (Eerdmans, 2009) by J. Gresham Machen.  This book was first published in 1923, confronting the challenges that orthodox Christianity faced with the rise of liberal theology.  The second book is a compilation of early church fathers and writers entitled, Early Christian Writings (Penguin, 1968).  In this volume is a letter from the bishop in the region of Rome in the first century, Clement.  He writes a letter to the church in Corinth chastising them for their dissension, lack of love, and forgetfulness of the doctrines Paul had taught them.

With these two texts dancing around in my head, these two things have come to mind:

1. I care not for Christian morality if it is divorced from Christian redemption through Christ. If all we do is conform people to a moral code (albeit a Godly, good one), we have done nothing but harden their heart to the gift of grace.  Likewise, if we merely exhort people to do, act, and engage without emphasizing the source of, and power for (the Gospel and Holy Spirit), then all we are doing is sticking people on the treadmill of works-righteousness.

And, building on this point…

2. With Clement of Rome, I exhort Christians to “by all means be pugnacious and hot-headed, my brothers, but about things that will lead to salvation.  Too many of the things that we fervently argue about, and passionately live for, have nothing to do with salvation, or the only means of finding it, the Gospel.  Of first concern should be proclaiming, reminding, and remembering the Gospel of God’s grace in sending Jesus Christ to redeem fallen humanity (by means of his perfect life, sacrificial death on the cross, and victorious resurrection), and its implications (the forgiveness of sins, eternal life, promises and blessings of God, renewal of the earth).  If we cement ourselves in these truths and let them marinate in our hearts and minds, they will flow out in worship to God and loving action towards our neighbor (and possibly Gospel-oriented responses to the things we tend to be most heated about).


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