Machen on False Ideas

Here’s a quote from J. Gresham Machen shared by Dr. James Parker today:

“False ideas are the greatest obstacles to the reception of the gospel. We may preach with all the fervor of a reformer and yet succeed only in winning a straggler here and there, if we permit the whole collective thought of the nation or of the world to be controlled by ideas which, by the resistless force of logic, prevent Christianity from being regarded as anything more than a harmless delusion. Under such circumstances, what God desires us to do is to destroy the obstacle at its root.” J. Gresham Machen, “Christianity and Culture,” Princeton Theological Review 11 (1913): 7.

If we are uneducated in the history of philosophy – the history of ideas – then how can we be aware of these false ideas that we are to “destroy…at its root”?  As the Preacher says in Ecclesiastes, “there is nothing new under the son,” and this goes with philosophies and theories floating around today.  The ideas of today are grounded in ideas of the past (recent and the distant past); to destroy the false ideas of today, we need to be familiar with the history of philosophy and its current developments.

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2 comments

  1. Friendly Stranger · February 5, 2013

    Does Machen mean to imply that God wishes us to destroy the tools of logic and critical thought in order to prevent believers from experiencing cognitive dissonance?

    He seems to imply that “false ideas” are any ideas that fundamentally contradict Christianity… even if they’re logically sound. That doesn’t seem right to me.

    – FS

    • Danny · February 5, 2013

      I don’t think so. We are told to in 2 Cor. 10:5 “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.”
      I’m unclear on how Machen would imply what you state. Aren’t you using, in part, the tools of logic and critical thought when destroying false ideas?
      Thanks!

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