Saturday à Machen: Thinking Desperately Low of God

“[I]t has already been observed that when the liberal preacher uses the word ‘God,’ he means something entirely different from that which the Christian means by the same word. ‘God,’ at least according to the logical trend of modern liberalism, is not a person separate from the world, but merely the unity that pervades the world. To say, therefore, that Jesus is God means merely that the life of God, which appears in all men, appears with special clearness or richness in Jesus. Such an assertion is diametrically opposed to the Christian belief in the deity of Christ.

“Equally opposed to Christian belief is another meaning that is sometimes attached to the assertion that Jesus is God. The word ‘God’ is sometimes used to denote simply the supreme object of men’s desires, the highest thing that men know. We have given up the notion, it is said, that there is a Maker and Ruler of the universe. Such notions belong to ‘metaphysics,’ and are rejected by the modern man. But the word ‘God,’ though it can no longer denote the Maker of the universe, is convenient as denoting the object of men’s emotions and desires. Of some men, it can be said that their God is mammonmammon is that for which they labor, and to which their hearts are attached. In a somewhat similar way, the liberal preacher says that Jesus is God. He does not mean at all to say that Jesus is identical in nature with a Maker and Ruler of the universe, of whom an idea could be obtained apart from Jesus. In such a Being he no longer believes. All that he means is that the man Jesus—a man here in the midst of us, and of the same nature as ours—is the highest thing we know. It is obvious that such a way of thinking is far more widely removed from Christian belief than is Unitarianism, at least the earlier forms of Unitarianism. For the early Unitarianism no doubt at least believed in God. The modern liberals, on the other hand, say that Jesus is God not because they think high of Jesus, but because they think desperately low of God.”

(J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism [1923; reprint, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999], pages 110-1.)

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