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 Post subject: Mencken on Machen (a fundamentalist)
PostPosted: Sun Nov 01, 2009 10:25 pm 
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Since there are discussions of fundamentalism currently occurring on this MB, people may find this comment by the skeptic Mencken of interest.
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The following excerpt is from The Impregnable Rock, by H. L. Mencken
American Mercury, Dec. 1931 (vol. 9), pp. 411-12

H.L. Mencken

Thinking of the theological doctrine called Fundamentalism, one is apt to think at once of the Rev. Aimee Semple McPherson, the Rev. Dr. Billy Sunday, and the late D. John Roach Straton. . . . Such clowns, of course, are high in human interest, and their sincerity need not be impugned, but one must remember always that they do not represent fairly the body of ideas they presume to voice, and that those ideas have much better spokesmen. I point, for example to the Rev. J. Gresham Machen, D.D., Litt.D., formerly of Princeton and now professor of the New Testament in Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia. Dr. Machen is surely no more soap-boxer of God, alarming bucolic sinners for a percentage of the plate. On the contrary, he is a man of great learning and dignity – a former student of European universities, the author of various valuable books, including a Greek grammar, and a member of several societies of savants. Moreover, he is a Democrat and a wet, and may be presumed to have voted for Al in 1928. Nevertheless, this Dr. Machen believes completely in the inspired integrity of Holy Writ, and when it was questioned at Princeton he withdrew indignantly from those hallowed shades, leaving Dr. Paul Elmer More to hold the bag.

I confess frankly, as a life-long fan of theology, that I can find no defect in his defense of his position. Is Christianity actually a revealed religion? If not, then it is nothing; if so, then we must accept the Bible as an inspired statement of its principles. But how can we think of the Bible as inspired and at the same time as fallible? How can we imagine it as part divine and awful truth, and part mere literary confectionary? And how, if we manage so to imagine it, are we to distinguish between the truth and the confectionary? Dr. Machen answers these questions very simply and very convincingly. If Christianity is really true, as he believes, then the Bible is true, and if the Bible is true, then it is true from cover to cover. So answering, he takes his stand upon it, and defies the hosts of Beelzebub to shake him. As I have hinted, I think that, given his faith, his position is completely impregnable. There is absolutely no flaw in the argument with which he supports it. If he is wrong, then the science of logic is a hollow vanity, signifying nothing.
http://genevaredux.wordpress.com/2009/08/12/h-l-mencken-the-sage-of-baltimore-on-j-gresham-machen/


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 Post subject: Re: Mencken on Machen (a fundamentalist)
PostPosted: Tue Nov 03, 2009 1:13 am 
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So by saying Machen was not a bumpkin and his fundamentalist belief could not be faulted unless his whole premise was unsound, wasn't Mencken setting religion up for the old one-two punch?

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 Post subject: Re: Mencken on Machen (a fundamentalist)
PostPosted: Tue Nov 03, 2009 6:49 pm 
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moksha wrote:
So by saying Machen was not a bumpkin and his fundamentalist belief could not be faulted unless his whole premise was unsound, wasn't Mencken setting religion up for the old one-two punch?
Mencken certainly was no friend of religion in general.

Here's some other comments on the connection between the two:

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H. L. Mencken—though often it is those farthest removed from the situation who see it most clearly. In his column for the Baltimore Evening Sun, Mencken wrote that what had caused Machen to found his own seminary and church “was his complete inability, as a theologian, to square the disingenuous evasions of Modernism with the fundamentals of Christian doctrine” Machen, thus, fell out with the reformers who “have been trying, in late years to convert the Presbyterian Church into a kind of literary and social club, devoted vaguely to good works.” In words similar to Machen’s, Mencken added that modernism was completely incompatible, “not only with anything rationally describable as Christianity, but also with anything deserving to pass as religion in general.” For religion, he explained, “if it is to retain any genuine significance, can never be
reduced to a series of sweet attitudes, possible to anyone not actually in jail for felony.” Mencken was also one of the few observers to see a direct connection between Machen’s theology and his opposition to what the journalist called “the Prohibition imbecility.” When a multitude of “theological quacks, including not a few eminent Presbyterians, sought to read support for [Prohibition] into the New Testament,” Machen “attacked them with great vigor, and routed them easily.” He not only “proved that there was nothing in the teachings of Jesus to support so monstrous a folly: he proved abundantly that the known teachings of Jesus were unalterably against it. And having set forth that proof, he refused as a convinced and honest Christian to have anything to do with the dry jihad.”

Mencken’s observations provide a good vantage from which to evaluate Machen’s contribution to American Protestantism and culture. Mencken saw, as few observers did then or historians have since, that the thrust of Machen’s writings, from his criticism of Protestant liberalism to his opposition to the Eighteenth Amendment and the Volstead Act, pointed out the inconsistencies and contradictions in white Protestant hopes for Christian civilization in America. Machen not only defended Calvinist orthodoxy against the sentimentalism and moralism of theological modernism, but, more pointedly, he opposed Protestant strategies designed to preserve a Christian nation which sacrificed doctrinal fidelity for cultural influence.
http://www.marshillaudio.org/resources/pdf/Hart_Machen.pdf


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 Post subject: Re: Mencken on Machen (a fundamentalist)
PostPosted: Sat Jan 02, 2010 2:04 pm 
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moksha wrote:
So by saying Machen was not a bumpkin and his fundamentalist belief could not be faulted unless his whole premise was unsound, wasn't Mencken setting religion up for the old one-two punch?


I don't think that Machen would have disputed this. His writing points to a belief in a Christianity based in a set of historic realities that if proven wrong would have necessitated a rejection of the entire system. This is why he had so little patience for liberal Christianity.

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 Post subject: Re: Mencken on Machen (a fundamentalist)
PostPosted: Sat Jan 02, 2010 5:40 pm 
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Welcome, gundek! I'm happy to see you here.

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 Post subject: Re: Mencken on Machen (a fundamentalist)
PostPosted: Sat Jan 02, 2010 6:39 pm 
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MsJackMeyers wrote:
Welcome, gundek! I'm happy to see you here.


Thank you, I was surprise to find a Machen and Mormon hit in my reader. I had to find out what Machen's Warrior Children were up to.

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 Post subject: Re: Mencken on Machen (a fundamentalist)
PostPosted: Tue Mar 16, 2010 5:56 am 
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"Bonhoeffer also encountered the fundamentalist theology of J. Gresham Machen and his followers, especially in the Southern Baptist Church. This kind of theology, he remarked, revealed "a different side of the American character", namely, "an unrelenting harshness in holding on to one's possessions, possessions either of this or of the other world. I acquired this possession with trust in God, God made my success happen, so whoever infringes upon this possession is infringing upon God" (p. 317)."

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 Post subject: Re: Mencken on Machen (a fundamentalist)
PostPosted: Tue Mar 16, 2010 5:57 am 
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"Bonhoeffer also encountered the fundamentalist theology of J. Gresham Machen and his followers, especially in the Southern Baptist Church. This kind of theology, he remarked, revealed "a different side of the American character", namely, "an unrelenting harshness in holding on to one's possessions, possessions either of this or of the other world. I acquired this possession with trust in God, God made my success happen, so whoever infringes upon this possession is infringing upon God" (p. 317)."

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Israeli Archaeologist Israel Finkelstein: "For if there were no patriarchs no Exodus, no conquest of Canaan--and no prosperous united monarchy under David & Solomon--can we say that early biblical Israel as described in the Five Books of Moses and the books of Joshua Judges and Samuel ever existed at all?" The Bible Unearthed, p. 124.


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 Post subject: Re: Mencken on Machen (a fundamentalist)
PostPosted: Tue Mar 16, 2010 7:17 pm 
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aussieguy55 wrote:
"Bonhoeffer also encountered the fundamentalist theology of J. Gresham Machen and his followers, especially in the Southern Baptist Church. This kind of theology, he remarked, revealed "a different side of the American character", namely, "an unrelenting harshness in holding on to one's possessions, possessions either of this or of the other world. I acquired this possession with trust in God, God made my success happen, so whoever infringes upon this possession is infringing upon God" (p. 317)."


Machen was a Presbyterian more rightly called confessional than a fundamentalist. I also not sure that many, if any, in the Southern Baptist convention would call themselves the theological followers of his traditional Reformed beliefs. Besides Machen was a "wet" and apposed prohibition, this alone would have had him tossed out of the SBC as it did the Northern mainline Presbyterian Church.

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