The Modern Church and Sin

The Modern Church and Sin

“The fundamental fault of the modern church is that she is busily engaged in an absolutely impossible task – she is busily engaged in calling the righteous to repentance.  Modern preachers are trying to bring men into the Church without requiring them to relinquish their pride; they are trying to help men avoid the conviction of sin.”

–       J. Gresham Machen, Christianity & Liberalism, p. 68.

The book was originally published in 1923. How much more does the church need Machen’s wisdom now?


  1. Stu (Author)

    So true Simon. It’s like people refusing to accept they have cancer and to be treated. To acknowledge we are completely sinfully depraved is extremely confronting. As Martin has said in his latest post, people like to think there is some good in them. The problem is our measuring stick is so distorted we don’t know what is good as God knows it.

    The gospel message demands we face the reality of our sinful nature and to repent and have faith in what Christ has done for us on the cross. This is extremely humbling and challenging, but without repentance there can be no salvation (2 Cor 7:10).

    Unfortunately this is difficult for people to accept and therefore unpopular, so churches try to find other ways to “attract” people. If churches focussed more on pleasing God with what they taught, as opposed to pleasing people, things might be a lot different.

  2. Simon

    Indeed, Stu. I think Machen’s critique in the book quoted above is directed at the ‘modernistic’ tendency to flatten the doctrine of sin, or remove human depravity from the church’s teaching, and therefore to remove a divine substitution by a divine saviour. It happens the other way around, too, making Jesus simply an extraordinary man, who was not God, thereby removing all significance in his death apart from it being a loving example. If it is simply a loving example, then Christian teaching becomes about human striving and works. This is far more attractive to our culture – we want to know we can save ourselves!

    I would highly recommend people read Machen’s book. It is a vital work, a sound defence of orthodox Christianity, and a sound critique of liberal Christianity. Interestingly, Machen’s main opponents at the time were moderate evangelicals . . .

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