Thursday, April 16, 2009

Ancient Word, Changing Worlds (3)

I am continuing my reading of Ancient Word, Changing Worlds by Nichols and Brandt.

As chapter one continues there is mention of J. Gresham Machen, a champion of inerrancy and Harry Emerson Fosdick whose views boldly diverged from biblical orthodoxy. Fosdick's famous sermon, "Shall the Fundamentalists Win?" was widely disseminated. Fosdick was of the opinion that the Bible needed retooling to fit a modern world-view. He believed that instead of beginning with the Bible preachers should begin with the felt needs of their hearers. The sermon, in Fosdick's view, should come to resemble a kind of therapy.

Machen's view was that Fosdick promoted a religion that was fundamentally different from Christianity. The fruit of Machen's interaction with views like those of Fosdick was his classic Christianity and Liberalism. Although written in 1923 Christianity and Liberalism is as relevant now as it was then.

According to Machen, one's view of inspiration and consequently of the text of the Bible itself has to do with one's starting point. If you start with the supposition that God has revealed himself in all of the words of Scripture, then you submit to the teachings of Scripture, however hard they may be for a modern person or however seemingly challenging they are. If you start with the legitimacy of modern sensibilities, then you can conveniently overlook and downplay those difficult elements. Machen did not deny Fosdick the right to his view of Scripture. Machen just had problems with Fosdick claiming that his view was Christian. (p. 36)

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