Thursday, December 22, 2005

Dorrien on Machen

"In many respects, [Machen] was far from a typical fundamentalist. Like Warfield, he opposed faith healing, revivalism, Holiness teaching, Pentecostalism, and any form of Christian doctrine or practice that smacked of anti-intellectualism. Politically, he was a libertarian who belonged to the Democratic Party. He believed that the very idea of Christian America was a terrible mistake that undermined the capacity of the churches to be Christian. He opposed most forms of government interference in public life and nearly all forms of church involvement in politics. He therefore opposed Prohibition, military conscription, the registration of aliens, jaywalking laws, child labor laws, and the creation of a federal Department of Education. He also opposed Bible reading in schools and school prayer. He was open to evolutionary theory and refused to join any fundamentalist organization that professed adherence to dispensational theology. He was repulsed by the aesthetic crudeness of fundamentalist preaching, hymnody, and public manners. Revival music especially repelled him."
-Gary Dorrien, The Remaking of Evangelical Theology (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1998), 35.

I really like Machen. I just wish he was not so anti-dispensationalism, and I would not go so much for the evolutionary theory part. His politics, though conservative, seem radical in an age where government grows larger and larger. The government overregulation largely comes from ideological concoctions of liberal social theory. And he pretty well had it on the question of church and state. I often wonder if the church, in becoming so active in politics and public policy, is not reacting to their former power being stripped from their hands. I think we would all do well to consider seriously the church's relationship to the state. Instead of embracing the neoevangelical (in the true sense of the word) dream of redeeming culture and America, we should become concerned with "doing church" well. Even if the possibility of an America revival existed, I am not sure the present methods (court battles, abortion protests, pushing prayer back into schools, ten commandment displays, etc.) are the most effective.

And those last two sentences are particularly instructive. There are many, I am sure, who assume that the position I and others take on music, and gospel songs in particular, is a recent invention. Even a cursory glance at the history of evangelicalism during the late 19th and early 20th centuries would show that the position is, in fact, quite old. Let that last sentence just roll around in your head for a while: "Revival music especially repelled him."

2 Comments:

Blogger Greg Linscott said...

Ryan,

I, for one, don't think your position is espcecially new. I do think that it can be said that it is somewhat counter-culture to what IFBs have generally practiced the last 100 years or so- good or bad.

How much of Machen's position on these issues stemmed from the fact he was a Presbyterian? I haven't known many, but the ones I have known tend to be more reserved when it comes to worship in general than most Baptists or dispensational types (again, good or bad).

12/27/2005 09:52:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Well, Greg, that is a good question, and I am considering investigating this question (in part) in my dissertation. I am very interested in the forms of Baptist liturgy before the 20C. I would say that even today there are some Baptists who are "more reserved," as you put it, though they are generally outside fundamental circles. You bring up dispensationalism, and, interestingly enough, this may be related to the question. Some Reformed Baptists repudiate the gospel song. But, at the same time, some Presbyterians are dispensational in their theology, though I am not sure what their particular liturgy looks like. I think I have some idea why a "gospel song" or popular liturgy may be tied (though not necessarily) to dispensationalism, but that is for another day.

I know I have rambled quite a bit here. There is no question that my/our position is "counter-culture to what IFBs have generally practiced the last 100 years or so." I am certainly not going to deny that, which I why I am concerned to "preach the good tidings" of a better culture and liturgy. On this subject, here is a remark from Joel Carpenter which is quite illuminating:

"Moody's partners in this new wave of popular outreach were a group of gifted and respectable urban pastors such as Presbyterians A. T. Pierson of Philadelphia and A. B. Simpson of New York, and Baptist A. J. Gordon of Boston and A. C. Dixon of Baltimore. These ministers mortified their own genteel tastes and values and revamped their congregations to reflect the popular, revivalistic style of the urban evangelists."

from Revive Us Again: The Reawakening of American Fundamentalism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), 35.

12/27/2005 11:09:00 PM  

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Immoderate: Dorrien on Machen

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Dorrien on Machen

"In many respects, [Machen] was far from a typical fundamentalist. Like Warfield, he opposed faith healing, revivalism, Holiness teaching, Pentecostalism, and any form of Christian doctrine or practice that smacked of anti-intellectualism. Politically, he was a libertarian who belonged to the Democratic Party. He believed that the very idea of Christian America was a terrible mistake that undermined the capacity of the churches to be Christian. He opposed most forms of government interference in public life and nearly all forms of church involvement in politics. He therefore opposed Prohibition, military conscription, the registration of aliens, jaywalking laws, child labor laws, and the creation of a federal Department of Education. He also opposed Bible reading in schools and school prayer. He was open to evolutionary theory and refused to join any fundamentalist organization that professed adherence to dispensational theology. He was repulsed by the aesthetic crudeness of fundamentalist preaching, hymnody, and public manners. Revival music especially repelled him."
-Gary Dorrien, The Remaking of Evangelical Theology (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1998), 35.

I really like Machen. I just wish he was not so anti-dispensationalism, and I would not go so much for the evolutionary theory part. His politics, though conservative, seem radical in an age where government grows larger and larger. The government overregulation largely comes from ideological concoctions of liberal social theory. And he pretty well had it on the question of church and state. I often wonder if the church, in becoming so active in politics and public policy, is not reacting to their former power being stripped from their hands. I think we would all do well to consider seriously the church's relationship to the state. Instead of embracing the neoevangelical (in the true sense of the word) dream of redeeming culture and America, we should become concerned with "doing church" well. Even if the possibility of an America revival existed, I am not sure the present methods (court battles, abortion protests, pushing prayer back into schools, ten commandment displays, etc.) are the most effective.

And those last two sentences are particularly instructive. There are many, I am sure, who assume that the position I and others take on music, and gospel songs in particular, is a recent invention. Even a cursory glance at the history of evangelicalism during the late 19th and early 20th centuries would show that the position is, in fact, quite old. Let that last sentence just roll around in your head for a while: "Revival music especially repelled him."

2 Comments:

Blogger Greg Linscott said...

Ryan,

I, for one, don't think your position is espcecially new. I do think that it can be said that it is somewhat counter-culture to what IFBs have generally practiced the last 100 years or so- good or bad.

How much of Machen's position on these issues stemmed from the fact he was a Presbyterian? I haven't known many, but the ones I have known tend to be more reserved when it comes to worship in general than most Baptists or dispensational types (again, good or bad).

12/27/2005 09:52:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Well, Greg, that is a good question, and I am considering investigating this question (in part) in my dissertation. I am very interested in the forms of Baptist liturgy before the 20C. I would say that even today there are some Baptists who are "more reserved," as you put it, though they are generally outside fundamental circles. You bring up dispensationalism, and, interestingly enough, this may be related to the question. Some Reformed Baptists repudiate the gospel song. But, at the same time, some Presbyterians are dispensational in their theology, though I am not sure what their particular liturgy looks like. I think I have some idea why a "gospel song" or popular liturgy may be tied (though not necessarily) to dispensationalism, but that is for another day.

I know I have rambled quite a bit here. There is no question that my/our position is "counter-culture to what IFBs have generally practiced the last 100 years or so." I am certainly not going to deny that, which I why I am concerned to "preach the good tidings" of a better culture and liturgy. On this subject, here is a remark from Joel Carpenter which is quite illuminating:

"Moody's partners in this new wave of popular outreach were a group of gifted and respectable urban pastors such as Presbyterians A. T. Pierson of Philadelphia and A. B. Simpson of New York, and Baptist A. J. Gordon of Boston and A. C. Dixon of Baltimore. These ministers mortified their own genteel tastes and values and revamped their congregations to reflect the popular, revivalistic style of the urban evangelists."

from Revive Us Again: The Reawakening of American Fundamentalism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), 35.

12/27/2005 11:09:00 PM  

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