“The truth is there can be no real progress unless there is something that is fixed. Archimedes said, “Give me a place to stand, and I will move the world.” Well, Christian doctrine provides that place to stand. Unless there be such a place to stand, all progress is an illusion. The very idea of progress implies something fixed. There is no progress in a kaleidoscope
That is the trouble with the boasted progress of our modern age. The Bible at the start was given up. Nothing was to be regarded as fixed. All truth was regarded as relative. What has been the result? I will tell you. An unparalleled decadence—liberty prostrate, slavery stalking almost unchecked through the earth, the achievements of centuries crumbling in the dust, sweetness and decency despised, all meaning regarded as having been taken away from human life. What is the remedy? I will tell you that too. A return to God’s Word! We had science for the sake of science, and got the World War; we had art for art’s sake, and got ugliness gone mad; we had man for the sake of man and got a world of robots—men made into machines. Is it not time for us to come to ourselves, like the prodigal in a far country? Is it not time for us to seek real progress by a return to the living God?
J. Gresham Machen
The Creeds and Doctrinal Advance
1.) Notice how integrated Machen’s worldview here is in this excerpt. He starts with the necessity of the absolute given-ness of the Scriptures and the Historic Christian Doctrine that they convey. From there he segues into the reality that without the Archimedian fixed reference point there can be no progress. And the progress which Machen is referring to is not merely progress in the Church but progress in culture and social order. Machen explicitly says because of the loss of fixity that is provided with and by Scripture and the Christian doctrine that flows from it, “there is decadence, there is liberty prostrate, there is slavery stalking almost unchecked upon the earth, the achievements of centuries crumbling in the dust, with sweetness and decency despised.”
- Now clearly this is worldview thinking at its best.
Machen, writing as a Christian Minister, and a Doctor of the Church, tells the Christian community that unless they return to Scripture not only will all hope of progress is abandoned but also regress into old chaos and dark night is guaranteed.
2.) Notice also, how Machen connects the teaching of Scripture to what some style the “common realm.” Machen, like all good worldview thinkers, explicitly notes that when we embraced Science apart from Christian doctrine, Art apart from Christian doctrine, Man apart from Christian doctrine the consequences were war, ugliness gone mad, and robots. Machen clearly sees a connection here between Scripture, Christian Doctrine and all of life. Machen’s faith is not a privatized faith that is cordoned off from the public square. Machen’s faith is not a faith that appeals to Natural Law to govern science, art, and man. Machen’s faith is not a faith that would keep him from boldly speaking as a Christian minister to the life issues of the time. Machen’s faith was a wholistic integrated faith as this quote clearly reveals.
3.) In his appeal to return to the living God is implied the idea that should man return to the living God then the problems he makes mention off will find themselves receding. Man will no longer be a robot and a machine but instead will discover again his manishness. Art will no longer be ugliness gone mad but will once again find its proper place and role in God’s world. Science will no longer be prone to producing War but will be harnessed for the glory of God.
Machen finds in God’s Word and Christian doctrine not only the resolution to individual men’s hostility to God and God’s hostility to them, but Machen also found in God’s Word and Christian doctrine the resolution to a world gone mad and a civilization undone by sin.
And for that R2K must re-invent the Machen of History so that he is, as one R2K advocate recently put it one who believed that, “fighting these (cultural) battles was not the ministry of the visible church.” Quite to the contrary this piece reveals a man of the visible Church fighting with an eye not only to the Church but also to the cultural issues in the world.