J.Gresham Machen & "True Science" Machen's Apologetical Continuity With Old Princeton's Right Use of Reason by Paul K. Helseth, edited http://homepage.mac.com/shanerosenthal/reformationink/pkhmachen.htm
Machen was convinced that there was no greater problem facing the modern church than the relationship between Christianity and culture. His answer and solution is clearly articulated in an address that was originally delivered to the Philadelphia Ministers' Association in the fall of 1912. The address was originally intended to be a defense of scientific theological study, and initially entitled "Scientific Preparation of the Minister," but published later under the heading Christianity and Culture.
"Christianity and Culture" is Machen's first published work on the problem of the relationship between knowledge and piety, or, culture and Christianity. He argues that the true solution to the problem is to be found in the consecration rather than the destruction or accommodation of modern culture. Christians must consecrate modern culture to Christianity because they must "mould the thought of the world in such a way as to make the acceptance of Christianity something more than a logical absurdity." In an article entitled "Christian Scholarship and the Defense of the Faith" (1932), a similar statement refers not to the goal of the task of consecration but rather to the goal of Christian apologetics. Machen asserts that apologetics is useful "most of all in producing an intellectual atmosphere in which the acceptance of the gospel will seem to be something other than an offence against truth."
Apologetics for Machen was a decidedly offensive enterprise. He did apologetics not because he was convinced that faith needs answers to the objections of modern critics, but because he recognized that "False ideas are the greatest obstacle to the reception of the gospel," and that answers to the objections of modern critics are consequently needed for "faith of a biblical sort."
Machen argued that the problem of the relationship between Christianity and culture may be settled in one of three ways: first by stating Christian belief in modern terms through the accommodation of Christianity to modern culture and the conclusions of modern science. This solution is based upon the presumption that the Christian religion is simply a mystical or moral rather than a supernatural historical phenomenon.
The second solution to the problem of the relationship between Christianity and culture goes to the opposite extreme. While the "Worldly Solution" seeks to preserve the Christian religion by subordinating it to modern culture and the conclusions of modern science, the "Obscurantist Solution" seeks to save the Christian religion from the devastating conclusions of modern scholarship by "withdrawing into a sort of unhealthy, modernized, intellectual monastery." "Some men in the Church are inclined to choose a simple way out of the difficulty," "they are inclined to reject the whole of modern culture as either evil or worthless; this wisdom of the world, they maintain, must be deserted for the divine "'foolishness' of the gospel." Advocates of this solution conclude that "the culture of this world must be a matter at least of indifference to the Christian." While the Christian must live in and be a part of human culture, they regard this participation "as a necessary evil - a dangerous and unworthy task necessary to be gone through with under a stern sense of duty in order."
Machen was convinced that these solutions pose a serious threat to the enduring relevance and viability of the Christian religion. They are based upon the explicit or implicit endorsement of philosophical assumptions that undermine the integrity of the gospel by encouraging the accommodation of Christianity to the "epistemological error" of the modern era, the notion that there is discontinuity (even antagonism) between the epistemological realms of religion and science. Advocates of these solutions, in their accommodation of a naturalistic view of the universe, insisted that the Christian religion can be preserved in the modern era only "by divorcing it from science." They argued that the Christian religion is not based upon the rational appropriation of something that is considered to be objectively true. It is based, rather, upon an ineffable mystical or moral experience that is the natural manifestation of the universal human effort to "tap" into and thereby order life according to the vital moral force that pervades and actuates world processes. Religion is simply that individual or corporate effort to live in accord with those values of love and good will that the Ultimate Reality has woven into the processes of the cosmos. Religion and science occupy autonomous epistemological realms. Religion "may hold to a realm of religious and ethical ideals; but science must be given the entire realm of facts." The threat posed by these solutions to the problem of the relationship between Christianity and culture is in this abandonment to science of "the whole realm of objective truth."
Machen insisted that these solutions are unacceptable precisely because they are ultimately unable to satisfy the religious needs of fallen sinners. Nothing but something that is objectively true can meet the supernatural needs of the sinful soul. Objective truth is abandoned by "the epistemological By-Path Meadow which is found in the separation of religion from science." He was convinced that all truth is ultimately one and concluded that the conflict between Christianity and culture will be settled not by "destroying one or the other of the contending forces," but rather by "transforming the unwieldy, resisting mass of human thought until it becomes subservient to the gospel." "Instead of obliterating the distinction between the Kingdom and the world, or on the other hand withdrawing from the world into a sort of modernized intellectual monasticism," Machen insisted that Christians must "go forth joyfully, enthusiastically to make the world subject to God."
Christian scholars to make the world subject to God, to move the
Christians must pursue the consecration rather than the destruction or accommodation of modern culture. The "true solution" to the problem of the relationship between Christianity and culture is to be found in the subjugation of modern culture to Christian truth. Two factors make the consecration of modern culture necessary. The first, saving faith is based upon the rational appropriation of objective truth rather than upon the ineffable religious experience of a fallen moral agent. The experience of regeneration is essential. "What the Holy Spirit does in the new birth is not to make a man a Christian regardless of the evidence, but on the contrary to clear away the mists from his eyes and enable him to attend to the evidence." The Spirit enables the moral agent to attend to the "thoroughly reasonable" foundations of the Christian religion. Since saving faith is "always a conscious condition of the soul" that is logically based upon a movement of the mind, it follows that the need for consecration is related to the fact that "A man can believe only what he holds to be true." "It is impossible to hold on with the heart to something that one has rejected with the head. All the usefulness of Christianity can never lead us to be Christians unless the Christian religion is true."
While the first
factor has to do with the logical priority of the intellect in faith,
the second has to
do with what Machen considered to be the primary obstacle to the advancement of
based upon a conviction of the objective truth or trustworthiness of what is
Yet faith for many is impossible because their thinking is controlled by ideas
that make acceptance of the gospel "logically impossible."
Consecration rather than destruction or accommodation of modern culture is
necessary for two reasons.
It is necessary not only because the Christian religion "must justify its
place in the world of facts," but because this justification (creation
of "those favorable conditions for the reception of the gospel)"
is really necessary for the "external advancement" of the
Machen's solution repudiates the naturalism of the age by insisting that saving faith is grounded in the rational appropriation of objective truth rather than the ineffable religious experience of a fallen moral agent. The task of consecration is not a merely rationalistic enterprise, but rather an enterprise that recognizes the import of the subjective and the centrality of experience in religious epistemology. This recognition is manifest in Machen's insistence that the task of consecration is based upon and appeals to "true science." Science ought not be defined in a manner that artificially limits or narrows the scope of what is regarded as "fact" to the conclusions of "those methods of research that operate merely with the doctrine of "physical causation (in a manner that endorses the separation of the epistemological realms of religion and science)." It ought to be defined in a manner that is "true" because it recognizes that the sphere in which science moves is broad enough to include even the knowledge of God that He has given of Himself "in nature and in His Word."
What determines how broadly or narrowly science is defined, whether the science of the consecrating scholar "is really scientific or not"? Machen was convinced that the soul is a single unit whose unitary activity is certainly determined by that which "lies far deeper than individual actions," the moral character or personality of the "whole man." There "is no such thing as the will, considered as a separate something-or-other inside of a man. The will is just the whole man willing, as the intellect is the whole man thinking and the feelings is the whole man feeling." Science is a form of human activity that is engaged in by the "whole man" and thus conditioned by the moral character of the "whole man". While all science rests on presuppositions that are determined by the perception and conception of the intellect, the perception and conception of the intellect is itself conditioned by the moral character of the "whole man." The breadth and quality of scientific investigation are ultimately determined by the moral character or personality of the investigating agent.
Adam was created in the image of God and thus "was like God not only in that he was a person but also in that he was good." His likeness to God did not consist merely in a capacity for personal freedom, but "it also means that there was a moral likeness between man and God." It was this moral likeness, however, that Adam lost for himself and for his posterity by his first act of disobedience, for it was in response to his violation of the covenant of works that "God withdrew His favor" and the souls of "all mankind became spiritually dead" and fell "into an estate of sin and misery." As a consequence, Adam and all those descended from Adam not only lost communion with God, but they also forfeited the ability to be "truly scientific." Why does spiritual death prohibit a moral agent from having the ability to be "truly scientific"? The answer gets to the heart of the relationship between moral character and the presuppositions that condition scientific investigation. The power of sin precludes the possibility of "true science for the same reason that it precludes the possibility of "true religion." It corrupts the moral nature of the investigating agent and thus renders "a sound metaphysic" impossible.
How is the science of the fallen sinner to be made a truthful thing? The answer explains the experiential foundation of the task of consecration. The presuppositions that condition scientific investigation are themselves the manifestation of an intellectual operation that is conditioned by the moral character or personality of the "whole man." The science of the fallen sinner can be made a truthful thing only through the "regenerating power of the Spirit of God." It is the regenerating power of the Spirit of God that makes the intellect a "trustworthy instrument for apprehending truth." The experience of regeneration is at the very foundation of the task of consecration simply because it is that "moral awakening of a soul dead in sin" that makes fallen sinners "better philosophers" or scientists by enabling them "to see clearly where formerly their eyes were darkened." "What the new birth does is not to absolve men from being scientific in their defense of the faith, but rather to enable them to be truly scientific because a veil has been taken from their eyes."
Two observations regarding the relationship between "better philosophy," better science, and the task of consecration. First, modern interpreters will never understand how "better philosophy" and better science are related if they forget that the veil that lies before the eyes of the fallen sinner's mind is moral rather than merely rational. The philosophical or metaphysical presuppositions that inform the breadth and quality of scientific investigation reflect the moral character of the "whole man" rather than the intellectual capacity of the rational faculty alone simply because it is the moral character of the "whole man" that conditions the perception and thereby the conception of the intellect. The unregenerate do not have the ability to be "truly scientific" not merely because of rational weakness, but rather because of moral weakness. The unregenerate do not have the moral ability to see God for who he objectively is, and as a consequence they do not have the moral ability to take account of "all of the facts" that impinge upon the integrity of the gospel message.
Second, what does the better science of the consecrating scholar look like? How is the science of the consecrating scholar different from the science of the non-Christian scholar? For Machen the science of those who are possessed of "a sound epistemology" (the regenerate) is different from the science of those who are epistemologically challenged (the unregenerate) not because the science of the regenerate is a type of science that only the regenerate can practice. The science of the regenerate is different because it is more "comprehensive" and therefore more forceful than the science of those who, because of spiritual blindness, have yet to attain to "a sound metaphysic."
If the task of consecration appeals to Christian experience because it includes an adjuration to "true science, the attempt to extend the Kingdom not by asking fallen sinners "to regard science and philosophy as without bearing upon religion. On the contrary, it asks them to become more scientific and more philosophic through attention to all, instead of to some, of the facts."
One of the primary responsibilities of the modern Church lies in the task of transforming modern culture until it becomes subservient to the gospel. "Argument alone is quite insufficient to make a man a Christian. If the really decisive factor in the production of Christian conviction is the regenerating activity of the Holy Spirit, does it follow that the intellectual labor of the consecrating scholar is unnecessary? The insufficiency of the "external proofs" of the Christian religion to produce faith "is due not at all to any weakness of their own but only to a weakness in our minds." The consecrating scholar can induce an "intellectual" or "theoretical" conviction of the truth of the Christian religion by presenting the historical and philosophical proofs for its trustworthiness. But a "full" or "moral" or "saving" conviction cannot be attained without the regenerating activity of the Holy Spirit not because the arguments of the consecrating scholar lack objective sufficiency, but because the veil that lies before the eyes of the fallen sinner's mind prohibits the apprehension of that sufficiency. The work of the Spirit is of critical importance not because it makes fallen sinners Christians regardless of the evidence, but on the contrary because it removes the veil from the eyes of their minds and enables them to attend to the evidence. It enables them to see that the "probable" conclusions of the consecrating scholar, which establish the integrity of the gospel and thereby "prepare" for the "gracious coming" of the Spirit, are indeed true and therefore trustworthy.
How does the regenerating activity of the Holy Spirit remove the veil from the eyes of the fallen sinner's mind, and how does the Spirit thereby confirm that the gospel message is both true and trustworthy? The Spirit accomplishes both of these ends by bringing fallen sinners into contact with the law of God and thereby enabling them to take "a truly scientific attitude towards the evidence." Through the law, grounded in the moral perfection of God, the Spirit enlightens the eyes of the fallen sinner's mind to the perfect righteousness of God and thereby convicts him of "the guilt and misery of man in his sin." It is this illumination of the mind to "the facts of the inner life of man" that enables the fallen sinner to "really lay hold upon the central message in the Bible." It is the "sense of need" occasioned by the revelation of the majesty of the transcendent God that suddenly makes "the words of Scripture glow with a heavenly light and burn in the hearts of men."
Why does the
work of the Spirit foster the external advancement of the
The work of the
Spirit fosters the external advancement of the