Tuesday, November 1, 2016

the responsibility of the church toward society

The following paragraphs are taken from the conclusion of an article by J. Gresham Machen, originally published in 1933 in the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science.  Machen is addressing the relevance of the Christian message to American education early in the 20th century.  He answers the question of what responsibility the church has in working for the betterment of society... 

"The message will not be enforced by human authority or the pomp of numbers.  Yet some of you may hear it.  If you do hear it and heed it, you will possess riches greater than the riches of all the world.

"Do you think that if you heed the message you will be less successful students of political and social science; do you think that by becoming citizens of another world you will be come less fitted to solve this world's problems; do you think that acceptance of the Christian message will hinder political or social advance?  No, my friends, I will present to you a strange paradox but an assured truth--this world's problems can never be solved by those who make this world the object of their desires.  This world cannot ultimately be bettered if you think that this world is all.  To move the world, you must have a place to stand. 

"This, then is the answer that I give to the question before us.  The responsibility of the church in the new age is the same as its responsibility in every age.  It is to testify that this world is lost in sin; that the span of human life--no, all the length of human history--is an infinitesimal island in the awful depths of eternity; that there is a mysterious, holy, living God, Creator of all, Upholder of all, infinitely beyond all; that he has revealed himself to us in his Word and offered us communion with himself through Jesus Christ the Lord; that there is no other salvation, for individuals or for nations, save this, but that this salvation is full and free, and that whoever possesses it has for himself and for all others to whom he may be the instrument of bringing it, a treasure compared with which all the kingdoms of the earth--no, all the wonders of the starry heavens--are as the dust of the street.

"An unpopular message it is--an impractical message, we are told.  But it is the message of the Christian church.  Neglect it, and you will have destruction; heed it, and you will have life." 

~ J. Gresham Machen, "The Responsibility of the Church in Our New Age" in Selected Shorter Writings (P&R Publishing, 2004) p. 376. 


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