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What Is Reformed Militancy?

Reformed militancy is something that comes up when you consider J. Gresham Machen because he was known to be a fighter. He defended it and militancy for noble, worthwhile causes that most people would agree with. The question becomes whether Machen overdid it or have Presbyterians have overdone it.

Reformed militancy is contending for the faith. Quite simply, what I think sometimes people forget or miss about Machen is that being a professor at Princeton, he was part of an institution that had a long history of polemical theology. I even think there were appointments in the nineteenth century that included the title of systematic and polemical theology or something like that. And if you go back and read the Princeton Theological Review and before that the Biblical Repertory and Princeton Review, you see article after article written by Princeton faculty and other Presbyterian leaders critical of developments in the church—transcendentalism, abolitionism, and developments in Scotland. I mean they were writing about everything, and they were oftentimes critical of it. So, it wasn’t at all unusual for Machen to do this from his position at Princeton. There was a long history of it.

But the church, you could argue, or American society, you could argue, had become softer by then, and there were efforts to try to make everybody get along and harmonize. And so, now you have someone come along who’s a fighter that doesn’t fit so much. I would argue that Calvin, Knox, and going back through Presbyterian history—back to Europe and the British Isles—Presbyterians have always been fighters. They’ve been sons of a gun. So, you know all the sudden now, they’re supposed to be nice. Where does that come from?

Adapted from a transcript of the video.


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