My interest in Dr. Machen while he lived, though it was large, was not personal, for I never had the honor of meeting him.  Moreover, the doctrine that he preached seemed to me, and still seems to me, to be excessively dubious.  I stand much more chance of being converted to spiritualism, to Christian Science, or even to the New Deal than to Calvinism, which occupies a place, in my cabinet of private horrors, but little removed from that of cannibalism.  But Dr. Machen had the same clear right to believe in it that I have to disbelieve in it and, though I could not yield to his reasoning, I could at least admire, and did greatly admire, his remarkable clarity and cogency as an apologist, allowing him his primary assumptions.

These assumptions were also made, at least in theory, by his opponents, and thereby he had them by the ear.  Claiming to be Christians as he was, and of the Calvinish persuasion, they endeavored fatuously to get rid of all the inescapable implications of their position.  On the one hand, they sought to retain membership in the fellowship of the faithful but, on the other hand, they presumed to repeal and re-enact with amendments the body of doctrine on which that fellowship rested.  In particular, they essayed to overhaul the scriptural authority which lay at the bottom of the whole matter, retaining what coincided with their private notions and rejecting whatever upset them.

Upon this contumacy, Dr. Machen fell with loud shouts of alarm.  He denied absolutely that anyone had a right to revise and sophisticate Holy Writ.  Either it was the Word of God or it was not the Word of God and, if it was, then it was equally authoritative in all its details and had to be accepted or rejected as a whole.  Anyone was free to reject it, but no one was free to mutilate it or to read things into it that were not there.  Thus, the issue with the Modernists was clearly joined, and Dr. Machen argued them quite out of court and sent them scurrying back to their literary and sociological Kaffeeklatsche. . .

From: “Dr. Fundemantalis,” H. L. Mencken’s obituary for J. Gresham Machen, from the Baltimore Evening Sun for Monday, January 18, 1937.

Henry Louis Mencken (1880-1956) and John Gresham Machen (1881-1937) were both native Baltimoreans.  They resemblance ends there.


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