Sunday, February 27, 2011

Machen on What the Church Should Do During Economic Depression

J. Gresham Machen (1881 - 1937)
William M. Hobbs has provided us with a fascinating article "The Church and Economic Recovery" published in the most recent New Horizons, the official magazine of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Hobbs draws upon an article written by J. Gresham Machen in 1932 entitled "The Responsibility of the Church in Our New Age." The article was Machen's contribution to a symposium on the Great Depression. The symposium was sponsored by the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences and included a labor-management consultant, a Jewish scholar, and a Christian scholar. The Christian scholar was J. Gresham Machen, a presbyterian theologian and professor at Westminster Theological Seminary.

Hobbs notes that Machen's "address stands today, not only as a remarkable warning against the "nanny state," but also as a beacon for a proper view of the church in such a troublesome climate." He rejected the growing spirit of collectivism and the "materialistic paternalism" of the state.

Machen's address to social scientists was also remarkable for its call for the Church to be the Church, meaning the Church was not to be a political lobby or primarily a society for social work. The mission of the Church is what it has been since it was ordained: to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. As Machen put it:
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—nay, 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 whosoever 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—nay, all the wonders of the starry heavens—are as the dust of the street.

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