Reformed Churchmen

We are Confessional Calvinists and a Prayer Book Church-people. In 2012, we remembered the 350th anniversary of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer; also, we remembered the 450th anniversary of John Jewel's sober, scholarly, and Reformed "An Apology of the Church of England." In 2013, we remembered the publication of the "Heidelberg Catechism" and the influence of Reformed theologians in England, including Heinrich Bullinger's Decades. For 2014: Tyndale's NT translation. For 2015, John Roger, Rowland Taylor and Bishop John Hooper's martyrdom, burned at the stakes. Books of the month. December 2014: Alan Jacob's "Book of Common Prayer" at: January 2015: A.F. Pollard's "Thomas Cranmer and the English Reformation: 1489-1556" at: February 2015: Jaspar Ridley's "Thomas Cranmer" at:

Monday, March 31, 2014

(PBS) Deadline Day, Affordability May Be Real Test

The crush of last-minute signups for health insurance at drove the website out of service for part of the day. Some applicants turned to in-person help centers around the country to enroll. Health policy analyst Susan Dentzer and Mary Agnes Carey of Kaiser Health News join Judy Woodruff to discuss what's at stake for the Affordable Care Act.

(ABC) Mass Scramble of Uninsured on Deadline Day with Website Crash

Democrats Like Clinton v. Obama

Video Script: HILLARY CLINTON: In this election, we need a nominee who can pass the Commander-In-Chief test. Someone ready on day one, to defend our country and keep our families safe. And we need a President who passes that test.

War on Youth?

Krauthammer's Take: Repub Senate Post-Nov 14 Should Pick Through Obamacare Wreckage

Special Report: Obama's Deadline, the Spin and the Numbers

Obamacare: Competing Narratives, Numbers, Spins and Facts? (Don the Wading Boots)

Putin Orders "Partial" Withdrawal from Ukrainian Border (=1K Troops, Wow)

Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO): "I Would Vote for Obamacare Again"

WH Won't Say What Caused Obama's Website Crash

WH Claims Obamacare Surge Yet Not Internal Issues: Those Paying or Those Previously Uninsured

Sebelius Speechless After Hearing 64% of Oklahomans Oppose ObamaCare

Signing up for Obamacare Not Easy

(CNN) WH Reports Obamacare Surge

3-Martini Lunch: Obamacare Website Breaks, Chuck Todd's Claim, & Sen Angus' Claim

Published on Mar 31, 2014 

Jim and Greg have fun with being down on the last day of enrollment, react to Chuck Todd saying Obamacare is un-repealable, and ponder Senator Angus King saying there is no such thing as Obamacare.

Obama's Healthcare Website Crashes on Deadline Day for Enrollment

Mr. (Rev.) John Richardson Passes--Church of England Rector & Blogger

The Ugley Vicar — with the Lord

Posted on March 31, 2014
Filed under
Church of England

John Richardson

Lee Gatiss in the UK shares some very painful news:

“I’m sorry to be the bearer of sad news, but our good friend and faithful minister of the gospel, John Richardson, died this morning after recent illness.”

John was a good friend of many and a very able defender of the gospel. There will be many tears.

What Democrats Up For Re-Election Really Think of Obamacare

Church Society: Positively Anglican, 13-14 Jun 14

The cover of the Positively Anglican leaflet

Ministry Monday: the next Church Society conference Posted by Lee Gatiss, 31 Mar 2014

Ministry Monday today is all about the ministry of the next Church Society conference! Yes, it’s that time of year again. This year our AGM and conference will be spread over two days, at Oak Hill Theological College in London. The conference is entitled ‘Positively Anglican’. As we seek a way forward in a time of confusion and change, now is the moment to reassert a positive evangelical vision for the future, as we re-imagine what it means for us to be committed to the Church of England. -

See more at:

Sen. (Dr-Physician) Barrasso: WH Cooking Numbers on Obamacare

Sunday, March 30, 2014

(Telegraph) Mid-14th Century Bubonic Plague Caused by Airborne Infection

Black death was not spread by rat fleas, say researchers

Evidence from skulls in east London shows plague had to have been airborne to spread so quickly

The Observer,

Black death
Black death researchers extracted plague DNA from 14th century skulls found in east London. Photograph: Philip Toscano/PA

Archaeologists and forensic scientists who have examined 25 skeletons unearthed in the Clerkenwell area of London a year ago believe they have uncovered the truth about the nature of the Black Death that ravaged Britain and Europe in the mid-14th century.

Analysis of the bodies and of wills registered in London at the time has cast doubt on "facts" that every schoolchild has learned for decades: that the epidemic was caused by a highly contagious strain spread by the fleas on rats.

Now evidence taken from the human remains found in Charterhouse Square, to the north of the City of London, during excavations carried out as part of the construction of the Crossrail train line, have suggested a different cause: only an airborne infection could have spread so fast and killed so quickly.

The Black Death arrived in Britain from central Asia in the autumn of 1348 and by late spring the following year it had killed six out of every 10 people in London. Such a rate of destruction would kill five million now. By extracting the DNA of the disease bacterium, Yersinia pestis, from the largest teeth in some of the skulls retrieved from the square, the scientists were able to compare the strain of bubonic plague preserved there with that which was recently responsible for killing 60 people in Madagascar. To their surprise, the 14th-century strain, the cause of the most lethal catastrophe in recorded history, was no more virulent than today's disease. The DNA codes were an almost perfect match.

According to scientists working at Public Health England in Porton Down, for any plague to spread at such a pace it must have got into the lungs of victims who were malnourished and then been spread by coughs and sneezes. It was therefore a pneumonic plague rather than a bubonic plague. Infection was spread human to human, rather than by rat fleas that bit a sick person and then bit another victim. "As an explanation [rat fleas] for the Black Death in its own right, it simply isn't good enough. It cannot spread fast enough from one household to the next to cause the huge number of cases that we saw during the Black Death epidemics," said Dr Tim Brooks from Porton Down, who will put his theory in a Channel 4 documentary, Secret History: The Return of the Black Death, next Sunday.

For the rest, see:

King George III Mad?

John Piper: New School Presbyterian-Baptist-Revivalist-Enthusiast Style?

John Piper’s New Calvinism

New School Presbyterianism Baptist Style?

by Dale M. Coulter

John Piper recently gave a lecture at Westminster Theological Seminary about the New Calvinism that is already getting play at several Reformed sites (see here, here, and here). His aim was to argue for an interrelationship between Old Calvinism and New Calvinism and to attempt to ground the ethnic diversity of the movement in classic Reformed doctrines. If anyone has the stature and force of personality to will a connection between Old and New, it’s John Piper. Nevertheless, the probabilities are that Old Calvinists, who are better understood primarily as Old School Presbyterians, will remain unconvinced even if they think an alliance is the most effective way forward.

Old School Presbyterians had a more strident interpretation of Presbyterianism, complete with Sabbath keeping (no sports or other kinds of activities on the Sabbath) and following the old Reformed Directory of Public Worship. Raised a Missouri Presbyterian, Mark Twain once quipped about sabbath keeping that “we were good Presbyterian boys when the weather was doubtful; when it was fair, we did wander a little from the fold” (I imagine there are plenty of good Presbyterians in the northeast and Midwest this winter). On the whole, this reflects mid-nineteenth century Old School ways, not necessarily early twenty-first century. Yet, there remains a concern for proper worship and a distaste for revivalism commensurate with the Old Princeton theologians, Charles Hodge and B. B. Warfield. The New School Presbyterians, conversely, were very much in line with revivalism as it unfolded in the nineteenth century and had a looser view about worship as a result.

It is the revivalist style of at least some members of the New Calvinism punctuated by constant references to Jonathan Edwards and the rise of charismatic Calvinism that has many Old School Presbyterians concerned. Piper side-stepped the main issue between the two camps: from an Old-School perspective the New Calvinism smacks of the evangelical revivalism of a D. L. Moody, or, more to the point, the baseball-player-turned-evangelist Billy Sunday (insert Mark Driscoll reference here). Sunday once called the novelist Sinclair Lewis  “Satan’s cohort” in response to Lewis’s 1927 satirical novel Elmer Gantry, whose main character—a hypocritical evangelist—was modeled on Sunday’s flamboyant style. 

For the rest, see:

(Charisma) Celebrity Pastors Selling Pulpits for Gain?

Are Celebrity Pastors Selling Their Pulpits for Commercial Gain?

By Gina Meeks, 27 Mar 2014

Many churches use visuals on stage while the pastor is delivering a sermon, but how about pulpits surrounded by advertisements for products, such as Cadillac or Monster Energy drinks?

“The thought is disgusting, but it is happening all the time, and it’s time we started pointing it out and objecting to the commercial corruption of the pulpit,” writes Christian blogger James Duncan.

He continues, “While a lot of deserved attention is being paid these days to the deceptive marketing behind many celebrity pastors’ books, another aspect of the whole endeavor reveals the primacy of commercial interests. Not only are pastors not telling the truth about how they’re earning money, they’re not proclaiming the truth until and unless they’re earning money.”

Duncan, an associate professor of communication at Anderson University in South Carolina, argues that although pastors admittedly spend a long time writing books, they should offer their ideas to their congregation for free.

“Why not offer the results of their church-funded research to God’s people as soon as they were confident enough to put it to paper?” he asks.

He points out that it took nearly a year for Perry Noble’s book Unleash to be published. He coordinated a corresponding sermon series at the time of the release, but why did he wait nearly a year to share his ideas with his congregation?

Duncan argues that not preaching on a topic until a pastor’s book is released abandons the sheep.

For the rest, see:

(Telegraph) Obama Once Walked on Water: Today, He Needs Pope's Support

Obama once walked on water. Today, he needs the Pope's support to make a move

By Christina Odone

How things have changed. Who would have imagined, back in 2008, that the pin-up of liberals around the world would need the Pope's support? No one. Just as no one would have said, in those dark days for the Catholic Church, that the leader of the much-reviled Vatican could ever add lustre to the leader of the free world.

It is a measure of Obama's failure and Francis's success that this week's visit to the Vatican by the US President has been seized by the White House as proof of the Pope's support for Obama. The Vatican, meanwhile, has downplayed the event, as if it does not want to be tarnished by association with the architect of Obamacare and a faltering foreign policy.

Back in 2008, Barack Obama held us rapt, in his thrall: he was black, brilliant, and above all, he was not Bush. He could walk on water. I remember weeping at his victory, and knowing that anyone who'd witnessed the racial tensions in the US  in the 70s and 80s would have done the same. But that miraculous election proved to be the one thing Obama did right. From Guantanamo to Ukraine, Obama's administrations have turned out to be a huge disappointment.

Or worse. With his plans for Obamacare, he plunged the country into a culture war that has left his reputation badly bruised. America had always and admirably balanced secularism with respect for religious freedom. Obamacare upset that balance. By requiring religiously affiliated institutions to offer insurance coverage for birth control, the President's health care violated the Constitution's guarantee of religious freedom.

When Obama first outlined his health care package, he knew he didn't need to worry about the Vatican. Yes, he must beware of America's  Catholic voters; but many among them were disenchanted with their Church hierarchy because of the paedophile priest scandals and the lingering whiff of corruption that clung to the curia. Obama figured this state of play would continue and see him victorious in the culture war he'd started.

Wrong. What no one – least of all the anti-Catholic Administration – had predicted was that Benedict XVI would resign from the papacy, making way for Papa Francis. In the new Pope, Catholics found a leader they could be proud of and the world, a spiritual figure they could love. Liberals of all nationalities trumpeted his humaneness and humility. Francis became so popular, Catholics regained their self-confidence.

For the rest, see:

Jesus to Justin Bieber to Trendy, Nightclub, Hillsong NY Cleric

From Jesus to Bieber, NY Pastor Makes Church Trendy

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. -- Every Sunday thousands flock to Hillsong Church in New York City, but it's not your typical, traditional church. It is complete with strobe lights, concert-like worship and an unconventional leader in its pastor, Carl Lentz. The 35-year-old Lentz looks more like a rockstar than a man of the cloth. He chooses to wear leather jackets and jeans instead of a suit and tie. Lentz's message is also out of the box. "Our church is awesome; I love it," he told CBN News. "It's extremely imperfect and that's why everybody fits in." "One time somebody was like 'I don't come to church 'cause there's a lot of hypocrites,' and I'm like 'We've got room for one more,'" he joked.

For the rest, see:

Mr. (Rev.) Angus Stewart: "Basket of Firstfruits " (Dt. 26)

Published on Mar 30, 2014

The Basket of the Firstfruits (Deuteronomy 26:1-11) by Rev. Angus Stewart of Covenant Protestant Reformed Church, Northern Ireland

I. What It Is

II. Its Accompanying Confession

Obama Meets Pope: The Spin Begins

Obama meets the Pope: the spin begins
By Phil Lawler
Speaking to reporters after his meeting with Pope Francis, President Obama said that Church concerns about religious freedom and individual conscience were “not really a topic of conversation” during the exchange.
That’s funny. The Vatican summary of the discussion mentioned “questions of particular relevance for the Church, such as the exercise of the rights to religious freedom, life and conscientious objection..” Since the entire Vatican summary of the conversation encompassed just 98 words, that suggests that the Pope laid heavy emphasis on those questions. Maybe the President wasn’t listening carefully.
Obama did say that he spoke with the Holy Father about “the poor, the marginalized, those without opportunity, and growing inequality.” That sounds entirely plausible, doesn’t it? And yet here’s the interesting thing: The Vatican statement doesn’t mention any of those topics. Not a single word.
If the subject of economic inequality was the main topic of the conversation, why didn’t the Vatican even mention that subject? I can think of two possible explanations:
1.      The people who prepared the official Vatican statement aren’t terribly enthusiastic about promoting the Pope’s agenda.
2.      The people who prepared the official Vatican statement aren’t terribly enthusiastic about promoting someone else’s agenda.

Mark Driscoll's Sermons Keep Disappearing

Mark Driscoll’s Sermons Keep Disappearing

March 24, 2014 By Warren Throckmorton

In recent weeks, many of Mark Driscoll’s sermons have disappeared from the Mars Hill Church website. On March 19, Wenatchee the Hatchet pointed out the disappearance of all preaching content before 2008.  Then on Saturday, WtH noted that the spiritual warfare series is now missing.

Some of these pages figure prominently in various controversies involving Driscoll. For instance, the page on Driscoll’s study guide on Peter is now missing. According to a message once posted on that page, the guide was to be returned to the site after plagiarized sections were properly sourced. Nothing is there now.

He once disclosed that he had the ability to visualize the sins of others in graphic detail. He claimed to get those visions from God. Those sermons are now missing.

During a 2007 sermon, Driscoll famously wished he could “go Old Testament” on a couple of elders. He also told the story about the fight trainer who kept his fighters in line by busting their noses. He did not disguise his anger at elders who disagreed with his direction during those messages. Those sermons are now gone.

On March 14, Driscoll issued a conciliatory sounding letter to his congregation. Now Mars Hill appears to be attempting to cover up some of the issues for which Driscoll claims to be sorry.

Many people have this material archived so I don’t know what Mars Hill Church hopes to accomplish. However, this does seem like standard operating procedure when troubling content comes to light. As I documented here, the scrubbers at Mars Hill have been busy for a long time.

As an aside, a week has come and gone since twenty former Mars Hill pastors asked Mars Hill leaders for mediation. No response has come.


Face the Nation: Putin, Ukraine, 2016, Christie & Jeb Bush

David Ignatius, David Gergen, Carolyn Ryan, and Gwen Ifill discuss the 2016 presidential race, the crisis in Ukraine, and more.

(FNS) Battle over WH Obamacare Numbers

ABC's This Week: Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak on Crimea & Eastern Ukraine

(CNN) Obama on the Comeback Trail?

(CNN) Grading Media Coverage of Obamacare

Published on Mar 30, 2014 

Obamacare enrollment hits 6 million - but are reporters fairly covering the highs and lows of the overall rollout?

(WSJ) Russian Foreign Minister: "Niet, Niet, We Won't Go Into Ukraine:"

(WSJ) Jorge (Pope Francis) Bergoglio Shows & Goes to Confession

Published on Mar 30, 2014 

Pope Francis unexpectedly took confession in full view of the congregation during a "Celebration of Penance" service at the Vatican's St.Peter's Basilica on

(CNN) Sen Intel Chair Dianne Feinstein on CIA & NSA: "NSA Intimidating My Staff"

(CNN) Comeback for Gov. Christie?

ABC's This Week: Power Roundtable (Donna Brazile, Matthew Dowd, David Plouffe, & Bill Kristol)

ABC's This Week: Ukraine in Crisis

(CNN) Candy Crowley: Obama's 6 Million Number

David Gergen on "Thug" Putin & Obama's "Consequences"

Dem Strategist Donna Brazile: Dems Can't Run From Obamacare

FNS: Gov. Christie Debate

Meet the Press: Montage of Obama Sales Pitches

Meet the Press: Future of Obamacare? Spiking Football?

Exposing Her True Color: Ebony Editor, Lemieux, Spews Racist Hate Toward Black Conservatives (LTCOL Allen West)

Media Buzz: Opinions Split on Gov. Christie's Bridgegate

(Former) Deputy CIA Director Morell & GEN Hayden: Putin Not Looking to Annex Ukraine

Russian Amb Pings Obama: If We're a "Regional Power, At Least Our Region Covers Europe and Asia"

Pennsylvania Dem Bribegate: Dem AG Shuts Down Because Racist Investigation

Obamacare's Future Impact On The Job Market

The White House Delays Tomorrow's Obamacare Enrollment Deadline - Sunday Morning Futures

Tale to Two Phonecons: Putin v. Obama & Pope v. Obama

30 March: Prof. J. Gresham Machen's "My Idea of God"

30 March: “My Idea of God” by J. Gresham Machen

The PCA historians tell the story at:    
30 March, 2014

Not a sermon for this Lord’s Day, but rather a testimony, this is one of Dr. Machen’s lesser known works. This brief testimony, titled “My Idea of God,” appeared in a book of the same name, a gathering of statements largely philosophical, which only served to make Machen’s testimony stand out all the more.

Editor’s preface:—


JOHN GRESHAM MACHEN was born in Baltimore in 1881. After graduating from Johns Hopkins and Princeton Universities and the Princeton Theological Seminary, he studied in Marburg and Gottingen Universities, and was ordained to the Presbyterian ministry in 1914. Since 1914 he has been associate professor of New Testament literature in Princeton Seminary, doing work betimes with the French Army and the A.E.F., in France and Belgium, during the World War.

Besides textbooks of Greek and many articles in reviews, Dr. Machen has written two books of unusual quality for general readers, Christianity and Liberalism (in which he holds that liberal Christianity is not Christianity at all, but a confection of modern theories exactly opposed to the Christian faith, with which there can be neither compromise nor unity) and What Is Faith? which inspired an extraordinary symposium in The British Weekly.

In the recent discussion which has agitated the Churches – now happily subsiding – Dr. Machen was the outstanding exponent of the conservative attitude, adding to a vital mind a lucid logic and a cogent style which left no shadow upon his meaning. His essay has value equally for its directness and its sincerity.



IF my idea of God were really mine, if it were one which I had evolved out of my own inner consciousness, I should attribute very little importance to it myself, and should certainly expect even less importance to be attributed to it by others. If God is merely a fact of human experience, if theology is merely a branch of psychology, then I for my part shall cease to be interested in the subject at all. The only God about whom I can feel concerned is one who has objective existence, an existence independent of man.

But if there be such a really and independently existent Being, it seems extremely unlikely that there can be any knowledge of Him unless He chooses to reveal Himself: a divine Being that could be discovered apart from revelation would be either a mere name for an aspect of man’s nature – the feeling of reverence or loyalty or the like – or else, if possessing objective existence, a mere passive thing that would submit to human investigation like the substances that are analyzed in the laboratory. And in either case it would seem absurd to apply to such a Being the name of “God.”

A really existent God, then, if He be more than merely passive, if He be a living God, can be known only through

His revelation of Himself. And it is extremely unlikely that such revelation should have come to me alone. I reject, therefore, the whole subjectivizing tendency in religion that is so popular at the present time – the whole notion that faith is merely an “adventure” of the individual man. On the contrary, I am on the search for some revelation of God that has come to other men as well as to me, and that has come into human life, not through a mere analysis of human states of consciousness but distinctly from the outside. Such revelation I find in the Christian religion.

The idea of God, therefore, which I shall here endeavor to summarize is simply the Christian idea. I have indeed been enabled to make it my own; I love it with all my heart; but I should not love it if I thought that it had been discovered merely in the depths of my own soul. On the contrary, the very thing that I love about it is that it comes to me with an external authority which I hold to be the authority of God Himself.

At this point, however, there will no doubt be an objection. We have spoken about the knowledge of God; but in reality the knowledge of God, it is often said, is unnecessary to our contact with Him, or at least it occupies merely a secondary place, as the symbolic and necessarily changing expression of an experience which in itself is ineffable. Such depre-. ciation of knowledge in the sphere of religion has been widely prevalent in the modern world, and at no time has it been more prevalent than now. It underlies the mysticism of Schleiermacher and his many successors; it underlies the Ritschlian rejection of “metaphysics”; it underlies the popular exaltation of “abiding experiences” at the expense of the mental categories in which they are supposed to be expressed; and in general it is at the roots of the entire separation between religion and theology, experience and doctrine, faith and knowledge, which is so marked a characteristic of the religious teaching of the present day.

In opposition to this entire tendency, I for my part must still insist upon the primacy of the intellect. It may seem strange that the intellect should have to be defended by one who has so slight an experimental acquaintance with it as I; but reason in our days has been deposed from her queenly throne by pragmatism the usurper, and, wandering in exile as she does, cannot be too critical of any humble persons who rally to her defense. And, as a matter of fact, the passionate anti-intellectualism of the present age is having its natural fruit in a lamentable intellectual as well as moral decline. Such decadence can be checked – I, for my part, believe – only by a reemphasis upon truth as distinguished from practice, and in particular only by a return from all anti-intellectual mysticism or positivism to the knowledge of God.

Certainly, unless our contact with God is based upon knowledge of Him it ceases to possess any moral quality at all. Pure feeling is non-moral; what makes my affection for a human friend, for example, such an ennobling thing is the knowledge which I possess of the character of my friend. So it is also with our relation to God: religion is moral and personal only if it is based upon truth.

If then, in order that there may be a moral and personal relation to God, there must be knowledge of Him, how may that knowledge be attained? I have no new ways to suggest: the only ways of knowing God which I can detect are found in nature, in conscience, and in the Bible.

God is revealed, I hold, in the first place through the things that He has made. “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth His handiwork.” This revelation of God through nature is commonly called – or used to be commonly called – “natural religion.” And natural religion is by no means altogether dead. Modern men of science, if they be thoughtful, admit that there is a mystery in the presence of which the wisdom of the wisest men is dumb; the true man of science stands at length before a curtain that is never lifted, a mystery that rebukes all pride. But this revelation through nature is far richer than many men of science suppose; in reality it presents to us not merely a blank mystery, but the mighty God. The revelation comes to different men in different ways. For example, when I viewed the spectacle of the total eclipse of the sun at New Haven on the twenty-fourth of January I925, I was confirmed in my theism. Such phenomena make us conscious of the wonderful mechanism of the universe, as we ought to be conscious of it every day; at such moments anything like materialism seems to be but a very pitiful and very unreasonable thing. I am no astronomer, but of one thing I was certain: when the strange, slow-moving shadow was gone, and the world was bathed again in the wholesome light of day, I knew that the sun, despite its vastness, was made for us personal beings and not we for the sun, and that it was made for us personal beings by the living God.

In the second place, God is revealed by His voice within us. I am perfectly well aware that that voice is not always heard. Conscience has fallen on evil days: it is drowned by a jargon of psychological terms; it is supposed to be rendered unnecessary by an all-embracing network of legislative enactments.

The categories of guilt and retribution are in many quarters thought to be out of date, and scientific sociology is substituted for the distinction between right and wrong. But I for my part am not favorably impressed with the change; self-interest seems to me to be but a feeble substitute for the moral law, and its feebleness, despite bureaucratic regulation of the details of human life and despite scientific study both of individual human behavior and of the phenomena of human society, seems to be becoming evident in an alarming moral decline. The raging sea of passion cannot, I think, be kept back permanently by the flimsy mud embankments of utilitarianism; but recourse may again have to be had to the solid masonry of the law of God.

In the third place, God is revealed in the Bible. He is revealed in the Bible in a way which is entirely distinct from those ways that have just been mentioned. The Bible tells us things about God of which no slightest hint is found either in nature or in conscience. Of those things we shall speak in a moment.

But first it should be observed that, in addition to that fresh information, the Bible also confirms the revelation which has already been given. The confirmation is certainly necessary; for the revelation of God both in nature and in conscience has been sadly obscured. In comparing the fortieth chapter of Isaiah or the first verse of Genesis or the teaching of Jesus with the feeble and hesitant theism which is the highest that philosophy has to offer, and in comparing the unaided voice of conscience with the fifty-first Psalm or the searching law presented in the Sermon on the Mount, one feels that in the Bible a veil has been removed from the eyes of men. The facts were already there, and also the gift of human reason for the apprehension of them; but the light of reason somehow was obscured until in the Bible men were enabled to see what they ought to have seen before.

Thus, in these three ways there is attained, I hold, a genuine and objective knowledge of God. Certainly that knowledge does not remove the feeling of wonder which is dear to the mystic’s heart. Indeed, it ought to accentuate that feeling a thousandfold. There is nothing in the knowledge of God which should stifle, but everything which should awaken, the “numinous” quality in religion of which Otto speaks. God has gently pulled aside the curtain which veils His Being from the gaze of men, but the look thus granted beyond only reveals anew the vastness of the unknown. If a man’s knowledge of God removes his sense of wonder in the presence of the Eternal, then he has not yet known as he ought to know.

Yet partial knowledge is not necessarily false, and there are certain things which are known about God.

At the very centre of those things stands that which is most often denied to-day; the very centre and core of Christian belief is found in the awful transcendence of God, the awful separateness between God and the world. That is denied by modern men in the interests of what is called, by a perversion of a great truth, the “immanence” of God. We will have nothing to do – men say – with the far-off God of historic theology; instead we will worship a God who exists only in and with the world, a God whose life is found only in that life which pulsates through the life of every one of us. Pantheism, in other words, is substituted for theism, on the ground that it brings God nearer to man.

But has it really the desired effect? I, for my part, think not. Far from bringing God nearer to man, the pantheism of our day really pushes Him very far off; it brings Him physically near, but at the same time makes Him spiritually remote; it conceives of Him as a sort of blind vital force, but ceases to regard Him as a Person whom a man can love. Destroy the free personality of God and the possibility of fellowship with Him is gone; we cannot love a God of whom we are parts.

Thus, I for my part cling with all my heart to what are called the metaphysical attributes of God – His infinity and omnipotence and creatorhood. The finite God of Mr. H.G. Wells seems to me to be but a curious product of a modern mythology; He is to my mind not God, but a god; and in the presence of all such imaginings I am obliged to turn, very humbly but very resolutely, toward the dread, stupendous mystery of the Infinite, and say with Augustine: “Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in Thee.”

This devotion to the so-called metaphysical attributes of God is unpopular at the present day. There are many who tell us that we ought to cease to be interested in the question how the world was made, or what will be our fate when we pass through the dark portals of death. Instead, we are told, we ought to worship a God who is not powerful but merely good. Such is the “ethical theism” of Dr. McGiffert and many others; Jesus, it seems, was quite wrong in the stress that He undoubtedly laid upon the doctrine of heaven and hell and the sovereignty of God. We moderns, it seems, can find a higher, disinterested worship – far higher than that of Jesus – in reverence for goodness divested of the vulgar trappings of power.

It sounds noble at first. But consider it for a moment, and its glory turns to ashes and leaves us in despair. What is meant by a goodness that has not physical power? Is not “goodness” in itself the merest abstraction? Is it not altogether without meaning except as belonging to a person? And does not the very notion of a person involve the power to act? Goodness divorced from power is therefore no goodness at all. The truth is that overmuch abstraction has here destroyed even that which is intended to be conserved. Make God good and not powerful, and both God and goodness have been destroyed.

In the presence of all such abstractions, the heart of man turns with new longing to the Living and Holy God, to the God who is revealed in nature, in the dread voice of conscience, and in the Bible. But as one turns to such a God, there is no comfort but only despair; the whole human race is separated from God by an awful abyss. Strange indeed, to us Christians, seems the complacency of the world; the very root of our religion is found in the consciousness of sin.

But at that point, on the basis of such presuppositions, there comes the really distinctive revelation that the Bible contains. It is not a revelation of things that already were true, but the explanation of an act. The Christian religion is based not merely upon permanent truths of religion, but upon things that happened in Palestine nineteen hundred years ago; it is based not merely upon knowledge of what God is, but also on a record of what God did. Into our sinful world – the Christian holds – there came in God’s good time a Divine Redeemer.

His coming, marked by a stupendous miracle, was a voluntary act of condescension and love. During the days of His flesh, He proclaimed by His word and example the law of God. He proclaimed it in a new and terrible way that of itself could only deepen our despair. But with His proclamation of’ the law there went His proclamation of the gospel; with His pronouncement of the Divine judgment upon sin there went His offer of Himself as Saviour. When that offer was received in faith, there was not only cure of bodily ills, but also forgiveness in the presence of God.

At first faith was implicit; men trusted themselves to Jesus without fully knowing how it was that He could save. But even while He was on earth He pointed forward with ever increasing clearness to the redeeming work which He had come into the world to do. And at last, on the cross, that work was done. The Divine Saviour and Lord, for the love wherewith He loved us, bore all the guilt of our sins, made white and clean the dark page of our account, and reconciled us to God. There is the centre of our religion. But how pitiful are my words! I may perhaps make men understand what we think, yet I can never quite make them sympathize with what we feel. The holy and righteous God, the dreadful guilt and uncleanness of sin, the wonder of God’s grace in the gift of our Saviour Jesus Christ, the entrance through Christ into the very house of God, the new birth by the power of God’s Spirit, the communion with the risen and ascended Lord through His Holy Spirit present in the Christian’s heart – these are the convictions upon which rest our very lives.

If these convictions are false, they must be given up. But so long as we think them true we must act in accord with them, and it is morally wrong to ask us to do otherwise. At this point appears the profoundly unethical character of most of the proposals for Church union that are being made at the present day. The right way to combat us who call ourselves evangelical Christians is to combat honestly and openly our central convictions as to God and sin and redemption, not to ask us to hold those convictions and then act contrary to them. So long as we think as we do, we cannot, if we love our fellow men, allow them, so far as our testimony is concerned, to remain satisfied with the coldness of what we regard as a baseless and fatal optimism. We must endeavor, by the preaching of the law of God and of the gospel of His love, to bring them into the warmth and joy of the household of faith.

[This work by Dr. J. Gresham Machen was first issued as a chapter in the book, My Idea of God, published by Little, Brown and Company, Boston, 1927, and appeared on pages 39 – 50 of that volume.] To view or download a PDF of this work, click here.