Presbyterian Theology and Judaism Part Two

Presbyterian Theology and Judaism Part Two May 6, 2019

If journalists want to dig deeper into the roots of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, they may come across an essay by J. Gresham Machen entitled, “The Relations between Jews and Christians” (originally delivered in 1924 to The Fellowship of Reconciliation):

Against such tyranny, I do cherish some hope that Jews and Christians, Roman Catholics and Protestants, if they are lovers of liberty, may present a united front. I am for my part an inveterate propagandist; but the same right of propaganda which I desire for myself I want to see also in the possession of others. What absurdities are uttered in the name of a pseudo-Americanism today! People object to the Roman Catholics, for example, because they engage in “propaganda.” But why should they not engage in propaganda? And how should we have any respect for them if, holding the view which they do hold–that outside of the Roman church there is no salvation–they did not engage in propaganda first, last, and all the time? Clearly they ave a right to do so, and clearly we have a right to do the same.

But in insisting upon the right of unlimited proselytizing, we hope that we shall not throw all discretion to the winds. Certainly in trying to convert other people we do not mean that we are ourselves setting up to be better than they. On the contrary, we are doing exactly the opposite. It is just because we are so conscious of our own unworthiness that we are unable to satisfy ourselves with the skeptical view that Christianity is a life and not a doctrine. It is just because we are not able to stand upon the basis of our lives before God–or, to use a figure proper to the present moment, upon our “record”–that we cling to the gospel of Christ and try to bring to others the joy that that has brought to us.

Does that mean, then, that we much eternally bite and devour one another, that acrimonious debate must never for a moment be allowed to cease? We do not think that it does. But how can it help doing so? We Christians think that you–as we should be ourselves–are lost and hopeless without Christ. How then shall we live with you in peace and avoid making ourselves insufferable by constant arguments and appeals?

There is a common solution of the problem which we think ought to be taken to heart. It is the solution provided by family life. In countless families, there is a Christian parent who with untold agony of soul has seen the barrier of religious difference set up between himself or herself and a beloved child. Salvation, it is believed with all the heart, comes only through Christ, and the child, it is believed, unless it has really trusted in Christ, is lost. These, I tell you, are the real tragedies of life. And how trifling, in comparison is the experience of bereavement of the like! But what do these sorrowing parents do? Do they make themselves uselessly a nuisance to their child? In countless cases they do not; in countless such cases there is hardly a mention of the subject of religion; in countless cases there is nothing but prayer, and an agony of soul bravely covered by helpfulness and cheer.

There is the solution of the problem presented by the inveterately proselytizing tendency of Christianity. It is a solution which, I admit, in the larger sphere about which we are talking tonight,is only very, very imperfectly tried. But if it were tried, it would work. The problem is very difficult. But love would find a way. (J. Gresham Machen: Selected Shorter Writings, 419-20)

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