Paul vs. Liberalism: The Primary Importance of Christian Doctrine

Certainly, then, Paul was no advocate of an undogmatic religion; he was interested above everything else in the objective and universal truth of his message.  So much will probably be admitted by serious historians, no matter what their own personal attitude toward the religion of Paul may be.  Sometimes, indeed, the modern liberal preacher seeks to produce an opposite impression by quoting out of their context words of Paul which he interprets in a way as far removed as possible from the original sense.  The truth is, it is hard to give Paul up.  The modern liberal desires to produce upon the minds of simple Christians (and upon his own mind) the impression of some sort of continuity between modern liberalism and the thought and life of the great Apostle.  But such an impression is altogether misleading.  Paul was not interested merely in the ethical principles of Jesus; he was not interested merely in general principles of religion or of ethics.  On the contrary, he was interested in the redeeming work of Christ and its effect upon us.  His primary interest was in Christian doctrine, and Cristian doctrine not merely in its presuppositions but at its centre.  If Christianity is to be made independent of doctrine, then Paulinism must be removed from Christianity root and branch.

J. Gresham Machen, Christianity & Liberalism (New edition; Eerdmans, 2009), 21-22.

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R. Andrew Compton
Christ Reformed Church (URCNA)
Anaheim, CA

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2 comments on “Paul vs. Liberalism: The Primary Importance of Christian Doctrine

  1. David Gray says:

    Machen’s Christianity and Liberalism is a great book. And he’s spot on when he says he has far more in common with an orthodox Roman Catholic than he does with a liberal Presbyterian.

  2. Lon says:

    Read C & L this year. It was so relevant and impressive. Thank God for the clear distinction he was willing to make. It can’t have been without personal cost.

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