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Monday, April 02, 2007

Piper on Machen on Relativism

From Piper's message "The Challenge of Relativism" (transcript and audio) given at Ligonier National Conference:

This gives rise to every manner of spin. The goal of language is no longer the communication of reality, but the manipulation of reality. It no longer functions in the glorious capacity of affirming the embrace of confessional truth, but now it functions in the devious capacity of concealing defection from the truth.

Eighty years ago, J. Gresham Machen described this relativistic corruption of language in relation to confessional affirmations:

It makes very little difference how much or how little of the creeds of the Church the Modernist preacher affirms. . . . He might affirm every jot and tittle of the Westminster Confession, for example, and yet be separated by a great gulf from the Reformed Faith. It is not that part is denied and the rest affirmed; but all is denied, because all is affirmed merely as useful or symbolic and not as true.

This utilitarian view of language is the direct fruit of relativism. It leads to evasive, vague speech that enables the relativist to mislead people into thinking he is still orthodox. Listen to Machen’s amazingly up-to-date description of the mindset that comes from relativism:

This temper of mind is hostile to precise definitions. Indeed nothing makes a man more unpopular in the controversies of the present day than an insistence upon definition of terms. . . . Men discourse very eloquently today upon such subjects as God, religion, Christianity, atonement, redemption, faith; but are greatly incensed when they are asked to tell in simple language what they mean by these terms.
This is nothing new. Athanasius dealt with this regarding Arianism. Men would sign the Nicene Creed, even though they would redefine what it meant. Machen was writing his response to modernists, nearly a century ago. What makes us think it is not happening today?


  • At 3:37 PM, Blogger Brad said…

    What a guy, that Machen. Founded quite a denomination, he did.


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