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This week’s posts concern the final excerpts of John Gresham Machen‘s Christianity and Liberalism, first published in 1923. For previous entries, click here.

The passages below are from Chapter 7 – the Church, pages 147 – 151 of Reformed Audio’s PDF of the book.  Over the next few days we shall read of Machen’s warnings about attacks on doctrine from inside the Church which are weakening her.  He is not one in favour of unity at all costs only to embrace error — a pervasive cry even in those days.  A companion piece to this is my post about the American Lutheran clergyman, Charles Porterfield Krauth, who warned in 1872 on the gentleness with which error creeps into the church.  And, of course, we see this battle going on in the Anglican Communion today.  The more orthodox are regrouping or fleeing to other denominations.  The Catholic Church — one of the refuges for Anglo-Catholics — also has its share of apostate priests who trivialise the Mass and preach a doctrine of what I call Christ-lite.

Subheads and emphases below are mine for easier navigation.

On the misrepresentation of missionaries

When, according to Christian belief, lost souls are saved, the saved ones become united in the Christian Church. It is only by a baseless caricature that Christian missionaries are represented as though they had no interest in education or in the maintenance of a social life in this world; it is not true that they are interested only in saving individual souls and when the souls are saved leave them to their own devices.

The ‘brotherhood of man’ a modern concept

Very different is this Christian conception of brotherhood from the liberal doctrine of the “brotherhood of man.” The modern liberal doctrine is that all men everywhere, no matter what their race or creed, are brothers. There is a sense in which this doctrine can be accepted by the Christian. The relation in which all men stand to one another is analogous in some important respects to the relation of brotherhood. All men have the same Creator and the same nature. The Christian man can accept all that the modern liberal means by the brotherhood of man. But the Christian knows also of a relationship far more intimate than that general relationship of man to man, and it is for this more intimate relationship that he reserves the term “brother.” The true brotherhood, according to Christian teaching, is the brotherhood of the redeemed.

There is nothing narrow about such teaching; for the Christian brotherhood is open without distinction to all; and the Christian man seeks to bring all men in. Christian service, it is true, is not limited to the household of faith; all men, whether Christians or not, are our neighbors if they be in need. But if we really love our fellow-men we shall never be content with binding up their wounds or pouring on oil and wine or rendering them any such lesser service. We shall indeed do such things for them. But the main business of our lives will be to bring them to the Savior of their souls.

It is upon this brotherhood of twice-born sinners, this brotherhood of the redeemed, that the Christian founds the hope of society. He finds no solid hope in the improvement of earthly conditions, or the molding of human institutions under the influence of the Golden Rule. These things indeed are to be welcomed … But in themselves their value, to the Christian, is certainly small. A solid building cannot be constructed when all the materials are faulty; a blessed society cannot be formed out of men who are still under the curse of sin.

On society’s institutions

Human institutions are really to be molded, not by Christian principles accepted by the unsaved, but by Christian men; the true transformation of society will come by the influence of those who have themselves been redeemed.

Thus Christianity differs from liberalism in the way in which the transformation of society is conceived. But according to Christian belief, as well as according to liberalism, there is really to be a transformation of society; it is not true that the Christian evangelist is interested in the salvation of individuals without being interested in the salvation of the race. And even before the salvation of all society has been achieved, there is already a society of those who have been saved. That society is the Church. The Church is the highest Christian answer to the social needs of man.

Why the Church is in trouble

But what is the trouble with the visible Church? What is the reason for its obvious weakness? There are perhaps many causes of weakness. But one cause is perfectly plain − the Church of today has been unfaithful to her Lord by admitting great companies of non-Christian persons, not only into her membership, but into her teaching agencies.  It is indeed inevitable that some persons who are not truly Christian shall find their way into the visible Church; fallible men cannot discern the heart, and many a profession of faith which seems to be genuine may really be false. But it is not this kind of error to which we now refer. What is now meant is not the admission of individuals whose confessions of faith may not be sincere, but the admission of great companies of persons who have never made any really adequate confession of faith at all and whose entire attitude toward the gospel is the very reverse of the Christian attitude. Such persons, moreover, have been admitted not merely to the membership, but to the ministry of the Church, and to an increasing extent have been allowed to dominate its councils and determine its teaching. The greatest menace to the Christian Church today comes not from the enemies outside, but from the enemies within; it comes from the presence within the Church of a type of faith and practice that is anti-Christian to the core.

… no man can say with assurance whether the attitude of certain individual “liberals” toward Christ is saving faith or not. But one thing is perfectly plain − whether or not liberals are Christians, it is at any rate perfectly clear that liberalism is not Christianity. And that being the case, it is highly undesirable that liberalism and Christianity should continue to be propagated within the bounds of the same organization. A separation between the two parties in the Church is the crying need of the hour.

On erroneous church ‘unity’

The Church, we are told, has room both for liberals and for conservatives. The conservatives may be allowed to remain if they will keep trifling matters in the background and attend chiefly to “the weightier matters of the law.” And among the things thus designated as “trifling” is found the Cross of Christ, as a really vicarious atonement for sin.

Such obscuration of the issue attests a really astonishing narrowness on the part of the liberal preacher. Narrowness does not consist in definite devotion to certain convictions or in definite rejection of others. But the narrow man is the man who rejects the other man’s convictions without first endeavoring to understand them, the man who makes no effort to look at things from the other man’s point of view …

The liberal preacher says to the conservative party in the Church: “Let us unite in the same congregation, since of course doctrinal differences are trifles.” But it is the very essence of “conservatism” in the Church to regard doctrinal differences as no trifles but as the matters of supreme moment. A man cannot possibly be an “evangelical” or a “conservative” (or, as he himself would say, simply a Christian) and regard the Cross of Christ as a trifle. To suppose that he can is the extreme of narrowness. It is not necessarily “narrow” to reject the vicarious sacrifice of our Lord as the sole means of salvation. It may be very wrong (and we believe that it is), but it is not necessarily narrow. But to suppose that a man can hold to the vicarious sacrifice of Christ and at the same time belittle that doctrine, to suppose that a man can believe that the eternal Son of God really bore the guilt of men’s sins on the Cross and at the same time regard that belief as a “trifle” without bearing upon the welfare of men’s souls − that is very narrow and very absurd. We shall really get nowhere in this controversy unless we make a sincere effort to understand the other man’s point of view.

Tomorrow: On honesty in the Church

You might not be familiar with the name, but you will certainly know of the effect this group of professors has had on 20th century Western society.  Before we look at just who they were, let’s look at ideas and quotes that helped develop their Marxist worldview:

– Karl Marx advocated a ‘community of women’ in his Communist Manifesto.   

– Friedrich Engels promoted matriarchy in ‘The Origins of the Family, Private Property and the State’.

– Wilhelm Wundt, who largely devised the methodology used in behavioural psychology, proposed in the 1870s that man was nothing more than an animal and, as such, could not control his impulses.  He believed that children could be trained only through a stimulus-response approach via the nervous system.

– A group of intellectual socialists founded the Fabian Society in London in 1884. Its goal was to gradually transform society through left-wing ideology; Fabians founded the London School of Economics in 1895 and Britain’s Labour Party in 1900.

– Georg Lukacs, as Deputy Commissar for Culture in the short-lived Bolshevik Bela Kun regime in Hungary in 1919, set about de-Christianising the nation and sexualising its children.   

Needless to say, much thought and activity abounded between the mid-1800s, giving rise to Modernism and Communism, which would see its fruition in 1917 and the development of a Soviet state.  Pope St Pius X and some Protestant theologians, such as the Lutheran Charles Porterfield Krauth and the Presbyterian John Gresham Machen, condemned Modernism.  Pius X declared it a heresy in 1907 and advised Catholics to avoid joining labour organisations which went against Church teaching. 

After the Soviet state took root, Marxists and Communists in the West were confused as to why other countries weren’t undergoing similar transformations.  Antonio Gramsci was one of these.  His contemporaries in Germany at the University of Frankfurt am Main (on the Main River) wondered similarly.  Gramsci and this group of Marxist professors at the University’s Institute for Social Research would independently theorise how to advance Marxist praxis (practice) in Western society. 

But, before we look at the Frankfurt School, let’s study another contemporary of the period, Georg Lukacs.  Almost 20 years before the publication of Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks, which advocated a de-Christianised and totally transformed culture comprised of criminals, women and racial minorities, Lukacs had already implemented these in what was up to that time, a highly traditional Hungary.  Linda Kimball explains in her essay on Cultural Marxism for American Thinker:

Reasoning that if Christian sexual ethics could be undermined among children, then both the hated patriarchal family and the Church would be dealt a crippling blow. Lukacs launched a radical sex education program in the schools.  Sex lectures were organized and literature handed out which graphically instructed youth in free love (promiscuity) and sexual intercourse while simultaneously encouraging them to deride and reject Christian moral ethics, monogamy, and parental and church authority.  All of this was accompanied by a reign of cultural terror perpetrated against parents, priests, and dissenters. 

Hungary’s youth, having been fed a steady diet of values-neutral (atheism) and radical sex education while simultaneously encouraged to rebel against all authority, easily turned into delinquents ranging from bullies and petty thieves to sex predators, murderers, and sociopaths.

Gramsci’s prescription and Lukacs’ plans were the precursor to what Cultural Marxism … later brought into American schools.

 

Lukacs was a primary influence, along with Marx, Hegel, Freud, Kant and others on the Frankfurt School.  These social theorists, some of whom were only loosely affiliated with each other, had in common a strong desire for social change.  Many of their influences and much of their work was based on countering the positive aspects of Western society.  Their approach was a fluid one to counter their opponents.  If an argument supported Marxism, they called it logical.  If an argument supported capitalism or maintaining the status quo, they termed it illogical.  Opponents were termed mentally unstable.  Eventually, ideas put forth by the Frankfurt School from the Institute for Social Research’s inception in 1923 eventuall evolved into today’s political correctness, but more on that later.

The tradition of thought associated with the Frankfurt School is known as critical theory, in an allusion to Kant’s critical philosophy.  Cultural Marxism, also primarily associated with the Frankfurt School, is the application of critical theory to social matters — what we would see as social engineering.       

By the early 1930s, the Frankfurt School members — principally, Theodor W. Adorno, Max Horkheimer, Ernst Bloch, Walter Benjamin, Wilhelm Reich, Erich Fromm, Herbert Marcuse, Wolfgang Fritz Haug and Jürgen Habermas — realised political change was afoot in Germany.  Adolf Hitler rose to power in 1933 and the institute left for Geneva (Switzerland) that same year.  In 1934, Columbia University in New York City offered the theorists an academic home.  And so, instead of transforming German society, they set about putting their ideas in place to transform American society.  They published a journal called Studies in Philosophy and Social Science.  The articles explored American culture, especially its more populist aspects.  American academe gave the professors a warm and welcome response. 

Linda Kimball writes:

The school was a multidisciplinary effort which included sociologists, sexologists, and psychologists.

The primary goal of the Frankfurt School was to translate Marxism from economic terms into cultural terms. It would provide the ideas on which to base a new political theory of revoltuion based on culture, harnessing new oppressed groups for the faithless proletariat. Smashing religion, morals, It would also build a constituency among academics, who could build careers studying and writing about the new oppression.

 

After the Second World War ended, many of the theorists returned to Europe, namely West and East Germany.  Adorno and Horkheimer re-established the Institute in Frankfurt in 1953.  Marcuse, however, stayed behind in America, where his ideas largely shaped the sexual revolution and student protests of the 1960s.   

Kimball describes this period and its aftermath:

Toward this end, Marcuse-who favored polymorphous perversion-expanded the ranks of Gramsci’s new proletariat by including homosexuals, lesbians, and transsexuals.  Into this was spliced Lukacs radical sex education and cultural terrorism tactics.  Gramsci’s ‘long march’ was added to the mix, and then all of this was wedded to Freudian psychoanalysis and psychological conditioning techniques. The end product was Cultural Marxism, now known in the West as multiculturalism.

In short, anything that represented historical Western culture was viewed as ‘authoritarian’.  Americans — and others — who upheld Western traditions and family values were labelled as intolerant or mentally disturbed:

In 1950, the Frankfurt School augmented Cultural Marxism with Theodor Adorno’s idea of the ‘authoritarian personality.’  This concept is premised on the notion that Christianity, capitalism, and the traditional family create a character prone to racism and fascism.  Thus, anyone who upholds America’s traditional moral values and institutions is both racist and fascist.  Children raised by traditional values parents, we are told to believe, will almost certainly become racists and fascists.  By extension, if fascism and racism are endemic to America’s traditional culture, then everyone raised in the traditions of God, family, patriotism, gun ownership, or free markets is in need of psychological help.

And this is where political correctness comes in.  Kimball goes on to say:

The strong suggestion here is that in order for one not to be thought of as racist or fascist, then one must not only be nonjudgmental but must also embrace the ‘new’ moral absolutes: diversity, choice, sensitivity, sexual orientation, and tolerance.  Political correctness is a Machiavellian psychological ‘command and control’ device.  Its purpose is the imposition of uniformity in thought, speech, and behavior.

In its nihilism critical theory, in turn, promotes political correctness (emphasis in the original):

Critical Theory is an ongoing and brutal assault via vicious criticism relentlessly leveled against Christians, Christmas, the Boy Scouts, Ten Commandments, our military, and all other aspects of traditional American culture and society. 
 
Both political correctness and Critical Theory are in essence, psychological bullying.  They are the psycho-political battering rams by which Frankfurt School disciples such as the ACLU are forcing Americans to submit to and to obey the will and the way of the Left.

 

If political correctness relies on critical theory, then critical theory relies on what is known as cultural determinism.  Cultural determinism is essentially identity politics.  In a Godless world the Frankfurt School and its present-day adherents say we have nothing more to rely on than our physical characteristics and sexual preferences.  Those determine who we are.  Without a God, there is no morality, so we cannot change what or who we are.  This opens the door to postmodernism and all the relativism associated with it, which we’ll look at in Monday’s post.

For now, here is a 10-minute overview (probably from the 1980s) which summarises the Frankfurt School and their influence on American society:

Further reading:

American Thinker: ‘Cultural Marxism’

‘What is the Frankfurt School?’

Frankfurt School

Cultural Marxism

When Pius IX was concerned about Modernism in the 19th century, so was a notable Lutheran minister in the United States.

The Revd Charles Porterfield Krauth was a learned man.  Indeed, his father, also a Lutheran clergyman, was a university president.  Krauth was concerned about the dilution of American Lutheranism and wrote the Akron-Galesburg Rule which stated that only Lutheran pastors could preach from Lutheran pulpits and that only Lutherans could receive the Lord’s Supper at Lutheran altars.  Krauth and his conservative followers eventually formed the General Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in 1867. (Not to be confused with the present-day ELCA!) Most of the original state synods involved have over the years evolved and separated, the best known being the LCMS (Missouri) and WELS (Wisconsin).

in 1872 Krauth wrote his most famous work, The Conservative Reformation and Its Theology.  What the late Fr John Neuhaus — a convert to Catholicism from the LCMS — called Neuhaus’s Law was actually taken from Krauth’s description of ecclesiastical error. 

What Krauth wrote is just as true now as it was then. Note how he describes error coming in quite innocently and asking for tolerance (emphasis mine):

But the practical result of this principle [of the church tolerating within her bosom those who claim she is teaching error] is one on which there is no need of speculating; it works in one unvarying way. When error is admitted into the Church, it will be found that the stages of its progress are always three. It begins by asking toleration. Its friends say to the majority: You need not be afraid of us; we are few, and weak; only let us alone; we shall not disturb the faith of others. The church has her standards of doctrine; of course we shall never interfere with them; we ask only for ourselves to be spared interference with our private opinions. Indulged in this for a time, error goes on to assert equal rights. Truth and error are two balancing forces. The Church shall do nothing which looks like deciding between them; that would be partiality. It is bigotry to assert any superior right for the truth. We are to agree to differ, and any favoring of the truth, because it is truth, is partisanship. What the friends of truth and error hold in common is fundamental. Anything on which they differ is ipso facto non-essential. Anybody who makes account of such a thing is a disturber of the peace of the church. Truth and error are two co-ordinate powers and the great secret of church-statesmanship is to preserve the balance between them. From this point error soon goes on to its natural end, which is to assert supremacy. Truth started with tolerating, it comes to be merely tolerated, and that only for a time. Error claims a preference for its judgments on all disputed points. It puts men into positions, not as at first in spite of their departure from the Church’s faith, but in consequence of it. Their recommendation is that they repudiate that faith, and poistion is given them to teach others to repudiate it, and to make them skilful in combating it. (From The Conservative Reformation and Its Theology. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Co., 1872, pp. 195-96.)

This strategy was the same for the Lutheran Church that Krauth examined, the Presbyterian Church that Gresham Machen encountered in the 1920s (we haven’t had that story yet), Vatican II in the Catholic Church, institutional changes in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion as well as changes in the theology of evangelical churches and, last year, the resolution approved in the ELCA.  It is rampant.  It is no different to a cancer.

This time-honoured formula is guaranteed to work every time.  So, watch for the wolf in sheep’s clothing disguised as a pitiful, marginal victim.  It was a symptom of modernism and it is a symptom of postmodernism.  Be very careful of what ‘new idea’ you are asked to accept at church, be it rules, liturgy, music, sermons.  If your inner fundamentalist says ‘no’ when you hear them, please listen to that little voice and turn away.  These can potentially — and often do — go against your denomination’s teachings and confessions of faith, both of which are based on Scripture. 

Follow truth, not the crowd.

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