Not an Easy Life

These words, reprinted from The Presbyterian Journal (May 4, 1977) were delivered by the late Dr. J. Gresham Machen to Princeton Seminary students before he left the Presbyterian Church USA. They are good counsel also today for our candidates for the ministry in the CRC.

You will have a battle when you go forth as ministers in the church. The church is now in a period of deadly conflict. The redemptive religion known as Christianity is contending in our own Presbyterian Church, and in all the larger Churches in the world, against a totally alien type of religion.

As always, the enemy conceals his most dangerous assaults under pious phrases and half truths. The shibboleths of the adversary have sometimes a very deceptive sound. “Let us propagate Christianity,” the adversary says, “but let us not always be engaged in arguing in defense of it; let us make our preaching positive, and not negative; let us avoid controversy; let us hold to a person and not to a dogma; let us drop small doctrinal differences and seek the unity of the Church of Christ; let us drop doctrinal accretions and interpret Christ for ourselves; let us look for our knowledge of Christ, not to ancient books, but to the living Christ in our hearts; let us not impose a Western creed on the Eastern mind; let us be tolerant of opposing views.”

Such are some of the shibboleths of that agnostic modernism which is the deadliest enemy of the Christian religion today. They deceive some of God‘s people some of the time; they are heard sometimes from the lips of good Christian people, who have not the slightest inkling of what they mean.

But their true meaning, to thinking men, is becoming increasingly clear. Increasingly, it is becoming necessary for a man to decide whether he is going to stand or not to stand for the Lord Jesus Christ as He is presented to us in the Word of God.

If you decide to stand for Christ, you will not have an easy life in the ministry. Of course, you may try to evade the conflict. All men will speak well of you if, after preaching no matter how unpopular a Gospel on Sunday, you will only vote against the Gospel in councils of the Church the next day; you will graciously be permitted to believe in supernatural Christianity all you please if you will only make common cause with its opponents.

Such is the program that will win the favor of the Church. A man may believe what he pleases, provided he does not believe anything strongly enough to risk his life on it and fight for it.