Was J. Gresham Machen A Consistent Calvinist?
Van Til vs. Machen & The Princeton Apologetic of Common Sense.
by Shane Rosenthal
© 2001 Reformation Ink - Last updated: 01/23/02
Shane Rosenthal (M.A., Historical Theology, Westminster Theological Seminary in CA), is a freelance editor and producer. He is currently one of the creative producers for the national radio program The White Horse Inn, and webmaster for Reformation Ink. Shane, along with his wife and three children, resides in southern California. This article has not yet been published and may be revised.
The following is an excellent article for those seeking to understand the issues regarding what has come to be called holding to a "Reformed Epistemology".
I know many Christians do not like to read such "wordy" articles, but if you are a Christian who desires to be educated, and has a desire to understand Apologetics and hence, defend the faith, then please do yourself and the Church a favor and read these kinds of articles.
J. Gresham Machen (1881-1937) was arguably one of the most important Reformed apologists of the first half of the twentieth century. His book Christianity & Liberalism published in 1923 had a tremendous impact on the fundamentalist-modernist controversy, and is still regarded by some as a sturdy defense of the basic claims of orthodox Christianity. (1) Some have argued that Machen's apologetic approach was the same as that of Old Princeton, which basically relied on the philosophy of the school of Scottish Common Sense Realism.(2) However, Corneilius Van Til (one of Machen's students, later fellow professor), used the label "Less Consistent Calvinism" to describe the Princeton apologetic (mentioning specifically B. B. Warfield and Charles Hodge), and a large part of his critique related directly to the tenets of the Common Sense philosophy.(3)
But the question must be asked, if Machen's apologetic is essentially that of Warfield, Hodge and the Princeton tradition, can Machen himself be charged with being an inconsistent Calvinist on this issue? Perhaps it was out of personal respect and admiration that Van Til did not include Machen in his critique. Regardless, it is the goal of this paper to inquire as to whether or not the apologetic methodology of J. Gresham Machen is consistent with Calvinist theology as defined by Van Til. In attempting to get at this question we will first of all have to take a close look at the underlying roots of the Princeton apologetic, specifically at the philosophy of Thomas Reid. Chief among our concerns is the issue as to whether Reid is an Enlightenment thinker or whether his views amount to a critique of Enlightenment rationalism. After evaluating Reid, we will then take a close look at Van Til's charge of inconsistency, comparing it not only with the apologetic approach of Hodge and Warfield, but also with the approach of Machen. Once we have established whether or not Machen is a consistent Calvinist (from Van Til's point of view), we will then proceed to evaluate whether or not Van Til is essentially correct in his assessment of Old Princeton.
Common Sense: The Underlying Philosophy
The first thing that should be mentioned is the fact that the philosophy of Common Sense is not original with Thomas Reid, for according to James McCosh in his book The Scottish Philosophy, Reid "was not the founder" of the school but rather was best to be seen as a "fit representative of the Scottish philosophy. " (4) The person according to McCosh who first exercised the most influence on this philosophical tradition was not Reid but a Englishman by the name of Lord Shaftesbury (Anthony Ashley Cooper, 1671-1713), who was personally educated and tutored by John Locke. Shaftesbury was an ardent student of the classics and was widely read in Greek and Latin philosophy. He authored a number of miscellaneous writings from 1707 - 1712, which were afterwards published together as the Characteristics of Men, Manners and Times. One of these essays published in 1709 was titled, "Sensus Communis, an Essay on the Freedom of Wit and Humor."(5)
According to McCosh, Shaftesbury "everywhere appeals to common sense. His general doctrine is thus expressed, 'Some moral and philosophical truths there are withal so evident in themselves, that it would be easier to imagine half mankind to have run mad, and joined precisely in one and the same species of folly, than to admit any thing as truth which should be advancing against such natural knowledge, fundamental reason, and common sense.'" (6) McCosh then traces the lines of descent from Shaftesbury to Francis Hutcheson in Glasgow (1694-1746), and from Hutcheson to Turnbull (1698-1748), who founded the Aberdeen branch of the school. Turnbull was in turn to have a great influence upon the mind of Thomas Reid. "I have no doubt," McCosh concludes, that "Reid and Beattie got their favorite phrase, 'common sense,'...directly from the treatise so entitled in the Characteristics."(7) Reid basically admits this in his Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man where he quotes extensively from the Sensus Communis and refers to Lord Shaftesbury as that "noble author" who refers to first principles "by the words, natural knowledge, fundamental reason, and common sense."(8)
What is interesting about this connection is the fact that Lord Shaftesbury is widely known as one of the principle English deists. John Orr wrote that "in the year 1736, when the deistic agitation was at high tide, a book entitled the Cure of Deism made Shaftesbury and Tindal to figure on its title page as the 'two oracles of deism.'"(9) Orr also suggested that the tone of his reasoning on religion and ethics was "naturalistic," and at times "his attitude of hostility to supernaturalism crept out." (10) He was not only anti-clerical in spirit but he manifested hostility to both religious writers and speakers, and he repeatedly subjected the Bible to ridicule. (11) Charles Hodge himself pointed this out in his discussion on the history of deism in his Systematic Theology. He writes that it was Lord Shaftesbury "who...in his 'Characteristics,' 'Miscellaneous Treaties,' and 'Moralist,' made ridicule the test of truth. He declared revelation and inspiration to be fanaticism." (12) As if this was not enough, it appears that Shaftesbury, along with other English deists whose writings were translated into German, significantly influenced Enlightenment philosophers such as Gotthold Lessing and Immanuel Kant.
Now, to suggest that the philosophy of Common Sense might be inherently deistic because of the outlook of the original founder, it should be admitted, is nothing but guilt by association. Nevertheless, it is helpful for us to keep in mind the seedbed wherein the principles of common sense were born.
Thomas Reid was no deist. Born in 1710, he would eventually become a Presbyterian minister in 1737. It was only after fifteen years of pastoral work that he was appointed professor of philosophy at Kings College in 1752. During his time in the ministry, at least, Reid had to subscribe to the Westminster Standards, so it is possible that he would have considered himself a Calvinist.
At the core of Reid's philosophy is the assertion that there are basic fundamental starting points which cannot be deduced from reason, but rather, must simply be believed. These Reid called "first principles." "I hold it to be certain, and even demonstrable, that all knowledge got by reasoning must be built upon by first principles. This is as certain as that every house must have a foundation." (13) Interestingly enough, there seem to be different accounts of Reid's view expressed here. One calls it foundationalism, (14) another, non-classical foundationalism, (15) while yet another non-foundationalism. (16) What accounts for this ambiguity? The problem is not that Reid is unclear, rather, it's that his work is being used in different ways. First of all, it must be understood that one of the principle tasks of Reid's work is to offer a criticism of Descartes (who wished to ground all knowledge on the foundation of human reason alone). This is what is normally referred to as foundationalism. Reid's view could be considered a type of foundationalism, although not in the Cartesian sense because his system is "built upon a broad foundation" of the numerous principles of common sense, which, because they are each self evident, require no proof and do not lead to skepticism. (17) Descartes' system, by way of contrast, "is built upon one axiom, expressed in one word, cogito," (18) Thus, "reason must rear the whole fabric of knowledge upon this single principle of consciousness." (19) Non-classical foundationalism is therefore a way of distinguishing Reid's view from typical Cartesian foundationalism. But can Reid's view be considered non-foundational? Michael Horton defended this label because in his words, "it does not require absolute certainty and makes room for presuppositions, which are re-evaluated in the light of experience." (20) Let's examine these claims. First, it is well known that Cartesian philosophy attempted to build a foundation with apodictic certainty. Reid's system on the other hand makes no claim to mathematical certainty, but rather insists on accepting certain basic propositions by faith; "I take it for granted that I think, that I remember, that I reason...Every man finds himself under a necessity of believing what consciousness testifies, and everything that hath this testimony is to be taken as a first principle." (21) Thus, instead of following Descartes' presupposition of doubt, Reid starts with a presupposition of belief that his senses, his memory, and his consciousness are not deceiving him. These first principles form the broad foundation on which he builds his philosophy:
When we examine the evidence of any proposition, either we find it self-evident, or it rests upon one or more propositions that support it. The same thing may be said of the propositions that support it, and of those that support them, as far back as we can go. But we cannot go back in this track to infinity. Where then must this analysis stop? It is evident that it must stop only when we come to propositions which support all that are built upon them, but are themselves supported by none--that is, to self-evident propositions. (22)
Thus, from self-evident truths, one can infer many other propositions, but the foundational propositions themselves are supported by nothing, but must themselves be presupposed. When looked at this way, Reid's system could be viewed as a type of presuppositionalism. Sir William Hamilton, a Reidian philosopher and editor of Reid's collected works lists one hundred and six witnesses from classical philosophy and Christian writings who in essentials agree with Reid's common sense approach. Included in this list is Anselm's Credo ut intelligas (I believe that I might understand) "as opposed to the "Intellige ut credas of Abelard." (23) To the extent that one emphasizes this aspect of Reid's philosophy (i. e., that it is a foundation supported by nothing), then to this extent it is acceptable to refer to is as a non-foundational philosophy.
Thus far we have seen that Reid is possibly a Calvinist, and holds to a form of presuppositionalism. If this holds true, it seems that there might be basic compatibility between his thought and the Calvinistic presuppositionalism of Cornelius Van Til. In fact, an entirely new form of apologetics known as Reformed Epistemology has appeared on the scene using the writings of John Calvin and Thomas Reid as their basic starting points. For them, Reid's philosophy is not at odds with the basic tenets of Calvinism. (24)
So which is it? Is Reid's philosophy consistent with Calvinism, or is it basically a form of Enlightenment thinking? An examination of additional material from Reid will help us here. It is clear that Reid is intending to be critical of the Enlightenment assumptions of Descartes and Hume, because of their tendency to radical skepticism. But in appealing to "common sense," isn't it possible that he could run the risk of making acceptable only that which is common or sensible? How sensible is it, after all, to believe in the trinity? This appears to be Lord Shaftesbury's error. He rejected many of the miraculous accounts of the Bible because in his mind they were "ridiculous." Though in Reid, this attitude is not found, there is a noticeable lack of discussion on the issue of sin. For example, Reid writes, "Common sense and reason have both one author; that Almighty Author in all whose other works we observe a consistency, uniformity, and beauty....there must, therefore, be some order and consistency in the human faculties, as well as in other parts of his workmanship." (25) Here Reid is content to discuss the faculties of man as made in the image of God, but basically leaves out the fact that this man is fallen, and therefore has a corrupt reason and a darkened understanding. The basic reason for this lack is that Reid's work is primarily philosophical, rather than theological, it deals purely with natural revelation to the exclusion of special revelation. But, in my opinion, Reid can be criticized for this omission for the simple fact that sin is a fact of the natural world. This in my opinion, however, is a sin of omission, not of commission, for his philosophy does not address the issue of proving the existence of God by the use of evidence based upon a naive view of the post-lapsarian powers of man. Rather, Reid's entire system deals with and builds upon the presupposition of God's existence that secures for mankind trustworthy and reliable first principles. These include the basic reliability of sense perception, the trustworthiness of human memory and testimony, the existence of a material world and other minds. Those who adopt this philosophic system for the purpose of Christian apologetics therefore have the responsibility of using it wisely, given the fact of sin in Christian theology. (26) But Reid himself does not apply his own system, to use Calvin's categories, toward things heavenly, but only toward things earthly. (27) Calvinist theologian Francis Turretin (1627-1683), for example, granted the possibility of first principles that are "common to all men," for he writes, "we grant that in natural theology by the light of nature some such do exist upon which supernatural theology is built (for example, that there is a God, that he must be worshipped, etc). Rather the question is are first principles (adequate and proper to true religion) held among all? This we deny." (28) Thus, for Turretin, first principles common to all men were sufficient for natural theology, but were altogether inadequate by themselves for "true religion" which must be by way of revelation.
Ultimately at issue here is whether or not there is a tendency in the Common Sense philosophy to place reason, or the dictates of common sense over that of revelation. This is essentially what determines whether one is a rationalist (i.e., Enlightenment thinker) or a Biblically based Christian. Again, from Turretin:
...the question is simply whether [natural reason] bears the relation of a principle and rule in whose scale the greatest mysteries of religion should be weighed, so that nothing should be held which is not agreeable to it, which is not founded upon and cannot be elicited from reason. This we deny against the Socinians who, the more easily to reject the mysteries of the Trinity, incarnation and satisfaction of Christ...contend that reason is the rule of religion of things to be believed, and that those things are not to be believed which seem to the mind to be impossible. (29)
Calvin himself on numerous occasions had to defend himself from this accusation, "They give out that we are so wedded to human reason, that we attribute nothing more to the power of God than the order of nature admits, and common sense dictates." Calvin thus considers this charge of rationalism nothing more than "wicked calumnies" and claims that he did not receive his doctrine by plumbing the depths of reason, or subjecting it to the laws of nature. Rather than relying on "common apprehension" Calvin argued that his doctrine ascends to heaven on "the wings of faith." (30)
While it must be admitted that the tendency to subject revelation to the notions of common sense appears to be absent from the entire corpus of Reid's collected works (edited by Sir William Hamilton), one can find interesting comments to this effect in Reid's Lecture's on Natural Theology, which were not compiled and published until 1981. (31) In these lectures delivered in 1780, which are drawn chiefly from student's notes, Reid reveals much more about his own philosophical outlook than he had admitted in his previously released works:
It is no doubt true that Revelation exhibits all the truths of Natural Religion, but it is no less true that reason must be employed to judge of that revelation; whether it comes from God. Both are great lights and we ought not to put out the one in order to use the other... Revelation was given us not to hinder the exercise of our reasoning powers but to aid and assist them. Tis by reason that we must judge whether that Revelation be really so; Tis by reason that we must judge of the meaning of what is revealed; and it is by Reason that we must guard against any impious, inconsistent or absurd interpretation of that revelation. (32)
Whereas Calvin and Turretin insisted on the fact that reason had a ministerial function underneath that of revelation, Reid here seems to be suggesting that it is revelation that assumes the ministerial function as it submits to the authority of unaided reason, "Revelation was given us not to hinder the exercise of our reasoning powers but to aid and assist them" (emphasis mine). In fact, it is reason itself that must judge "whether that Revelation really be so." But if it is by unaided reason that we must judge whether the revelation be from God or not, things contrary to fallen reason can be automatically and "reasonably" rejected. This was Turretin's point about the Socinian error. The idea of the trinity was to them an impossibility, therefore, they reasonably concluded that it was a false doctrine.
Reid's chief problem appears to be his underestimation of the effects of sin on human reason. In fact, at one point in these lectures while discussing the foolishness of men in worshipping God on mountain tops and in temples, Reid confesses the following: "Strange! That reason should be so corrupted as to form such mean ideas of the great cause of all; yet so it is, that we see that they were generally spread all over the heathen world." (33) Thus, while he does admit that reason is to some extent corrupted (i. e., by the observable data of false worship), he finds this fact somewhat "strange," as if he didn't know how to account for it.
It appears then that Thomas Reid, was perhaps not unaffected by the deistic thinking of Shaftesbury's work. His approach, insofar as it deals with natural theology, is not necessarily opposed to Calvinism (as we have seen a basic compatibility with the thought of Francis Turretin on this point), (34) but to the extent that Reid personally positioned reason and common sense above that of revelation, he is to be considered an Enlightenment rationalist.
The Princeton Apologetic
That Scottish Common Sense Realism came to dominate the Princeton philosophy is not a novel thesis. Mark Noll has observed that "It was brought to America in its fullest form by the Rev. John Witherspoon, who became president of Princeton College in 1768 where he taught the teachers of the Princeton theology." (35) Noll went on to note that Witherspoon's views were passed on faithfully from William Graham to Archibald Alexander, and another pupil of Witherspoon, Ashbel Green, was responsible for indoctrinating Charles Hodge.
B. B. Warfield was instructed in the Scottish philosophy directly from James McCosh, who "became president of Princeton College in 1868 as Warfield was beginning his undergraduate career." (36)
Thus it happens that Hodge and Warfield were fully indoctrinated in the philosophy of Common Sense Realism. Because of this, and because of the fact that the Princeton apologetic placed such a large emphasis on objective facts, some critics such as Jack Rogers and Donald McKim have argued that, "The Princeton men...held almost Pelagian confidence that the mind was essentially undisturbed by sin's influence." (37) Paul K. Helseth summarizes this approach this way:
Whereas scholars in the Reformed tradition typically insist that the human intellect has been hopelessly blinded by the Fall and that a saving apprehension of revealed truth thus necessitates that the eyes of the mind be opened by the regenerating activity of the Spirit of God, apologists influenced by "the optimism of the Scottish Renaissance" were allegedly convinced that the mind was essentially undisturbed by sin's influence, and that saving faith could be practically induced through the clear presentation and analysis of objective evidence. (38)
The fact of the matter, as will be demonstrated in what follows, is not that the Princeton apologists had a naive view of sin's influence, but rather, that some scholars have demonstrated a naive view of Princeton's apologetic methodology.
Van Til's Critique of The Princeton Apologetic
One of the criticisms that Van Til offers towards the Princeton apologetic is the fact that it appeals to the "common consciousness of man." This, Van Til argues, is contrary to Reformed theology, specifically, as it relates to the doctrine of man as the creation of God. (39) "There seems to be for...Hodge, something in the way of a common sense philosophy which the natural man has and which, because intuitive or spontaneous, is, so far forth, not tainted by sin. It appears, however...that the 'common notions' of men are sinful notions." (40) Van Til is therefore suspicious of this underlying common sense philosophy because of its under-emphasis of the effects of the fall. This concern, it should be noted, might equally apply to Machen as well who taught that, "To be a Christian is, we think, a truly reasonable thing; Christianity flourishes not in obscurantist darkness, where objections are ignored, but in the full light of day." Machen goes on to say, "I verily believe that the new Reformation, for which we long...will mean a return to plain common honesty and common sense." In fact, one of the main tasks of the newly formed Westminster Theological Seminary, he argued, was to "cultivate common sense." (41) This appeal to common sense and the reasonableness of Christianity is not at all uncommon in Machen's writings, as D. G. Hart observes, "Just as the founders of Princeton had employed the Common Sense philosophy to counter the skepticism of Paine and Hume, Machen repeatedly appealed to axioms of Common Sense to defend the truth of Christianity." (42) So fond is he of this expression that Machen even refers to the Bible as "a wonderfully common-sense book." (43)
Suffice it to say that if Van Til is correct in his consideration of Hodge, it is an equally valid criticism of Machen whose view is virtually identical to Hodge on this point. Both affirmed that reliable first principles may be derived from natural revelation, and that this makes "common sense" possible.
Another critique that Van Til raised over against the Princeton apologetic was the fact that fallen men and women should not be allowed the right to judge the credibility and evidence of revelation, "For if this is done, we are virtually telling the natural man to accept just as much and no more of Christianity as, with his perverted concept of human nature, he cares to accept." (44) Hodge himself did teach that it is "the prerogative of reason to judge of the credibility of a revelation...The incredible is that which cannot be believed. The credible is that which can be believed. Nothing is incredible but the impossible. What may be, may be rationally (i. e., on adequate grounds) believed." (45) Van Til had a problem with this view for the same reason that Turretin had a problem with the Socinian view which saw the concept of the trinity as an impossibility. Van Til's point therefore is that it is one's presuppositions that determine what is or is not possible or credible. Again, we will leave the question unresolved for now as to whether or not Van Til is essentially correct in his critique of Hodge. Our present goal is to prove that Machen's approach was identical to that of Old Princeton. "It is useless to proclaim a gospel that people cannot hold to be true," Machen wrote, "no amount of emotional appeal can do anything against the truth." (46) Rather than asking people to presuppose the truth and authority of the Bible, Machen often put the issue as follows: "Did Christ or did He not rise from the dead; is the Bible trustworthy or is it false?" (47) And in framing the issue this way, Machen is essentially in agreement with Hodge that the power to determine "whether" the Bible is credible or not lies within the realm of man. In another address Machen similarly claims:
Suppose a man comes to the reading of the Bible without any belief in inspiration. Even then he ought to give credence to what he reads. It can be shown him even before any acceptance on his part of the doctrine of plenary inspiration that the writers were men who had opportunities of knowing the facts, that they were honest men, that they knew how to distinguish truth from falsehood. If he will only consider these Biblical books with the same fairness as that with which he approaches other sources of historical information, he will accept what they say as being substantially true. Then, on the basis of that conviction that they are substantially true, he will go on to see that the books are not only substantially true, in the way which other good books are true, but that they are altogether true because of the supernatural work of the Spirit of God. (48)
It is obvious from this selection that Machen does not start with an a priori doctrine of Biblical authority, but rather, starts with historical documents that contain credible data. This data then becomes the springboard from which one dives into the belief of inspiration. Again, more than anything this shows Machen's continuity with the Princeton apologetic, for this particular teaching comes right out of Warfield's view of Biblical authority; "Inspiration is not the most fundamental of Christian doctrines, nor even the first thing we prove about the Scriptures. It is the last and crowning fact as to the Scriptures. These we first prove authentic, historically credible, generally trustworthy, before we prove them inspired." (49) Thus, Warfield argued, "We do not adopt the doctrine of the plenary inspiration of Scripture...on a priori or general grounds of whatever kind." (50) Greg Bansen has argued, however, that Machen diverged from Warfield on this very point. Whereas Warfield held that the Bible is "based upon and supported by evidences, which in turn provide the proof or support needed for the doctrine of inspiration," Machen on the other hand "took the position, in contradistinction to this, that...inspiration 'is not in accordance with the wisdom of the world,'" but in fact was a doctrine that belonged "not to the superstructure but to the foundation." (51) While it is true that Machen did believe that the doctrine of the inspiration of the Bible was foundational, by this he meant that it was the doctrinal foundation for the Christian, (i. e., if you believe that the Bible is inspired, you will necessarily believe all its doctrines, such as sin, the need for redemption, etc.). Epistemologically, however, the doctrine of inspiration was not foundational for Machen. In the same series of lectures, (52) for example, Machen writes the following: "As an eyewitness [The Apostle John] insists that he is worthy of belief. Even before his hearers or his readers should come to believe in any supernatural inspiration of which he was the recipient they ought to believe him as men believe a credible witness when he takes his seat on the witness stand." (53) He then goes on to argue that (what has been quoted at length above) from this type of reasoning men will go on to affirm the doctrine of inspiration. In short, Bansen was mistaken. Machen does not diverge from Warfield on the issue of inspiration.
Related to this, Bansen tried to show another divergence between Machen and Warfield when he argued that the latter "maintained that apologetics must appeal to a notion of 'right reason' which is independent of any commitment to belief or unbelief (neutrality), that apologetics must prove the historical trustworthiness of the New Testament before proving its inspiration and then presupposing it in other reasoning..." (54) Warfield's view of "right reason" was strongly criticized by Van Til when he wrote, "This 'right reason' is not the reason of the Christian. It is the reason that is confronted with Christianity and possesses some criterion apart from Christianity with which to judge of the truth of Christianity. Appealing to 'right reason' in the sense defined, Warfield asks it to judge in its own terms that Christianity is true." (55) Essentially accepting Van Til's criticism, Bansen attempts to show how Machen does not make this same mistake: "Unlike Warfield's conception of 'right reason,' Machen's conception was that regeneration 'is necessary in order that [the] truly scientific attitude may be attained; it is not a substitute for the intellect, but on the contrary by it the intellect is made to be a trustworthy instrument for apprehending truth.'" (56) But is Machen's view really all that different from Warfield after all? Here is how Warfield himself viewed the concept of "right reason":
Though faith is the gift of God, it does not in the least follow that the faith which God gives is an irrational faith, that is, a faith without cognizable ground in right reason. We believe in Christ because it is rational to believe in Him, not even though it be irrational. Of course mere reasoning cannot make a Christian; but that is not because faith is not the result of evidence, but because a dead soul cannot respond to evidence. The action of the Holy Spirit in giving faith is not apart from evidence, but along with evidence; and in the first instance consists in preparing the soul for the reception of the evidence. (57)
In this passage Warfield insists that 1) mere reasoning cannot make a Christian, but that regeneration is necessary, 2) this has nothing to do with the value of the evidence, but rather with sin and human inability, 3) regeneration works in tandem with the evidence, and in fact prepares men to receive the evidence.
Upon examination, it appears that Machen affirms each of these points in the citation selected by Bansen. Similarly, Machen elsewhere writes,
...the evidence for the existence of a personal God was spread out before us all the time, but we failed to discern it because of the intellectual effects of sin. Now these effects of sin are removed by Christ. But that does not mean that He causes us to relinquish the theistic proofs which were open to us even in our unredeemed state, or that He causes us to despise that measure of understanding of those proofs which, through common grace, was attained even by unregenerate men. What it does mean is that we are enabled through the redemption offered by Christ to see clearly where formerly our eyes were darkened. The experience of regeneration does not absolve us from being philosophers, but it makes us better philosophers. (58)
For Machen, regeneration is what makes us see more clearly, and this, it appears, is what Warfield meant by "right reason." (59) "Christianity is not", Warfield wrote "a distinctive interpretation of a religious experience common to all men, much less is it an indeterminate and constantly changing interpretation of a religious experience common to men; it is a distinctive religious experience begotten in men by a distinctive body of facts known only to or rightly apprehended only by Christians." (60) Thus right apprehension, or right reason, is the Christian use of reason, and in arguing along these lines, Warfield is essentially working with the categories of Francis Turretin who frequently contrasts corrupt reason with right reason: "For a thing to be contrary to reason is different from its being above and beyond it...The mysteries of faith are indeed contrary to corrupt reason and are assailed by it, but they are only above and beyond right reason and are not taught by it." (61) Van Til erred, then, in failing to correctly understand Warfield's position (i.e. in asserting that his "'right reason' is not the reason of the Christian) and Bansen's error was essentially in uncritically following Van Til on this point, and attempting to show that Machen had diverged from his predecessor. As we have seen, this cannot be demonstrated. (62)
Van Til's Critique of Princeton: Right or Wrong?
Thus far we have essentially been arguing that Machen's views are identical to those of Old Princeton. And since Van Til accused representatives of that school with Calvinistic inconsistency, this by way of inference implicates Machen as well. So the question that lies before us at this point is whether or not Van Til was essentially correct in his assessment of Old Princeton, of which Machen is a part.
As we have seen, Van Til was not correct in his evaluation of Warfield on the issue of "right reason," but going deeper than that, is there a sense in which his criticism still holds? For example, does the Princeton apologetic appeal to the common notions of men without realizing that common notions are sinful notions? Secondly, do the Princeton apologists attribute to the natural man the right to judge by means of his own preconceptions of what is possible or impossible?
The first question gets us back to the issue of common sense and common ground. Before we move on, it will be helpful for us to identify what Calvin's position was on this issue so that we may be able to evaluate whether or not the Princeton apologists are consistently or inconsistently "Calvinistic." Addressing the issue of human ability after the fall, Calvin writes that "man's efforts are not always so utterly fruitless as not to lead to some result, especially when his attention is directed to inferior objects. Nay, even with regard to superior objects, though he is more careless in investigating them, he makes some little progress." (63) It is at this point that Calvin introduces his helpful distinction between things earthly and things heavenly. "By earthly things, I mean those which relate not to God and his kingdom, to true righteousness and future blessedness, but have some connection with the present life, and are in a manner confined within its boundaries. By heavenly things, I mean the pure knowledge of God, the method of true righteousness, and the mysteries of the heavenly kingdom." After setting up this general distinction, Calvin goes on to say that,
As to the former, the view to be taken is this: Since man is by nature a social animal, he is disposed, from natural instinct, to cherish and preserve society; and accordingly we see that the minds of all men have impressions of civil order and honesty. Hence it is that every individual understands how human societies must be regulated by laws, and also is able to comprehend the principles of those laws. Hence the universal agreement in regard to such subjects, both among nations and individuals, the seeds of them being implanted in the breasts of all without a teacher or lawgiver...[therefore] it is true that some principle of civil order is impressed on all. And this is ample proof, that, in regard to the constitution of the present life, no man is devoid of the light of reason. (64)
For Calvin then, there is such a thing as natural instincts and impressions regarding things earthly. He also goes so far as to suggest that there is "universal agreement" about such things which have been "implanted in the breasts of all." Finally, Calvin admits that "in regard to the constitution of the present life, no man is devoid of the light of reason." Thus far, there does appear to be a basic compatibility between Calvin and the Princeton apologetic of common sense. (65) Both affirm that men, by virtue of their creator, can and do arrive at real knowledge of the real world. Van Til seems go farther than Calvin on this point in his criticism of Charles Hodge who in his opinion "frequently argues as though that original nature can still be found as active in the 'common consciousness' of men," (66) and who "speaks about 'reason' as something that seems to operate rightly wherever it is found. But the 'reason' of sinful men will invariably act wrongly." (67) Van Til even suggests that, "We shall need to challenge the possibility of either science or theology on any but a Christian foundation." (68) For Calvin however, "it is manifest that men whom the Scriptures term carnal, are so acute and clear-sighted in the investigation of inferior things, their example should teach us how many gifts the Lord has left in possession of human nature..." (69) He affirmed that the "light of truth" can be found in nature and even in the "profane authors," but should nevertheless be considered as "gifts from the Creator." Therefore Calvin rhetorically asks, "Shall we say that the philosophers, in their exquisite researches and skilful description of nature, were blind? Shall we deny the possession of intellect to those who drew up rules for discourse, and taught us to speak in accordance with reason?" (70) Calvin, in contrast to Van Til, appears to be suggesting that by virtue of God's graciousness, the reason of sinful men does not "invariably act wrongly," but can in the sphere of inferior things be quite clear sighted.
Genevan theologian Francis Turretin even argued that orthodox Calvinists "uniformly teach that there is a natural theology, partly innate--derived from the book of conscience by means of common notions--and partly acquired--drawn from the book of creatures discursively." (71) One of the ends and uses of this natural theology for Turretin is to be seen "as a subjective condition in man for the admission of the light of grace because God does not appeal to brutes and stocks, but to rational creatures," (a phrase Hodge likes to use), nevertheless he concludes that this natural revelation is not "itself sufficient for salvation." (72) Hence, regarding things earthly, Calvin and Turretin affirm common sense knowledge, but this knowledge cannot help us towards things heavenly without special intervention. In my opinion, therefore, Van Til appears to be somewhat denying the "things earthly" column of Calvin's important distinction, whereas Turretin and the Princetonians appear in their methodology to be making use of it.
As mentioned earlier, Machen's apologetic of common sense was identical to that of Old Princeton. While he affirmed on the one hand that "the Christian faith is a thoroughly reasonable thing," (73) at the same time he argued that "Christianity...is radically contrary to the natural man, and it cannot possibly be maintained without a constant struggle." (74) By virtue of its being historically true, it is reasonable to believe, and by virtue of the effects of the fall, it is contrary to the natural man "unless there be one other thing -- the mysterious, creative power of the Holy Spirit in the new birth." (75) In fact, in a revealing passage, Machen even goes so far as to admit that he is not "altogether unaware of the difficulties that beset what may be called the common-sense view of truth; epistemology presents many interesting problems and some puzzling antinomies." This forces Machen to confess the limitations of human intellect, but it does not "prove that the intellect is not reliable so far as it goes." He therefore does not abandon his convictions; "I am not ready to rest in pragmatist skepticism; I am not ready to say that truth can never be attained." (76)
The second question we are to deal with is whether or not the Princeton apologetic attributes to the natural man the right to judge by means of his own presuppositions of what is possible or impossible, and thereby grants man the autonomy to accept in principle that which he would on his own terms like to accept, as in the case of Lord Shaftesbury. Surprisingly Charles Hodge himself defines rationalistic or deistic thinking as that "which rejects any other source of knowledge of divine things than what is found in nature and the constitution of the human mind. It assumes certain metaphysical and moral axioms, and from them evolves all the truths which it is willing to admit." (77) So while he admits with Thomas Reid that all men "must assume the validity of those laws of belief which God has impressed upon our nature," (78) he goes on to assert that,
These first principles...are not to be arbitrarily assumed. No man has a right to lay down his own opinions, however firmly held, and call them 'first truths of reason,' and make them the source or test of Christian doctrines. Nothing can rightfully be included under the category of first truths, or laws of belief, which cannot stand the tests of universality and necessity, to which many add self-evidence. But self-evidence is included in universality and necessity, in so far, that nothing which is not self-evident can be universally believed, and what is self-evident forces itself on the mind of every intelligent creature. (79)
Thus, according to Hodge's view, deists such as Shaftesbury have erred not in the fact that they have first principles other than Biblical ones, but rather that the first principles they chose were arbitrary and not universal. If every man, Hodge writes, "is at liberty to exalt his own intuitions, as men are accustomed to call their strong convictions, we should have as many theologies in the world as there are thinkers." (80) Thus, he concludes, "The question whether the knowledge of God derived from his works, be sufficient to lead fallen men to salvation, is answered affirmatively by Rationalists, but negatively by every historical branch of the Christian Church." (81)
Another form of Rationalism, according to Hodge, is one that "assumes that the human intelligence is the measure of all truth." This Hodge argues is an "insane presumption." (82) "If asked, Why he does not believe the doctrine of the Trinity, he answers, because it is unreasonable." (83) "Consequently," Hodge concludes, "reason, rational demonstration, or philosophical proof is not the ground of faith. We may rationally believe what we cannot understand." (84) So if we cannot ground our faith in reason or in philosophical proof, what are we to do? "Our duty, privilege, and security are in believing, not in knowing; in trusting God, and not our own understanding..." (85) Hodge then goes on to affirm Calvin's "things earthly" / "things heavenly" distinction: "There is no safety for us, therefore, but to remain within the limits which God has assigned us. Let us rely on our senses, within the sphere of our sense perceptions; on our reason within the sphere of rational truths; and on God, and God alone, in all that relates to the things of God." (86)
All of this was not to suggest that Christians should deny the use of their reasoning powers. Every one of the Princeton apologists affirmed the ministerial use of reason, even towards things heavenly, along the lines set forth by Francis Turretin who wrote, "A ministerial and organic relation is quite different from a principal and despotic. Reason holds the former in relation to theology, not the latter. It is the Hagar (the bondmaid) which should be in subjection to Scripture)" (87) Thus Hodge writes that reason is in fact "necessarily presupposed in every revelation. Revelation is the communication of truth to the mind. But the communication of truth supposes the capacity to receive it...Truths to be received as objects of faith, must be intellectually apprehended." (88) This aspect of reason, in matters of religion Hodge calls the "usus organicus, seu instrumentalis, rationis." About this there can be no dispute." (89) While Van Til agreed that there was little cause for dispute on this point, he did take Hodge to task on his claim that "Reason must judge of the credibility of a revelation." (90) The problem as Van Til saw it, was that "The natural man will invariably employ the tool of his reason to reduce [the contents of Scripture] to a naturalistic level...For his own ultimacy is the most basic presupposition of his entire philosophy." (91) But hasn't Hodge himself warned about this tendency in his critique of Rationalism? "If every man is at liberty to exalt his own intuitions...we should have as many theologies in the world as there are thinkers." As we have shown, Hodge recognized that men often rely on their own presumptions "arbitrarily," and that this should not be allowed, "No man has a right to lay down his own opinions, however firmly held, and call them 'first truths of reason,' and make them the source or test of Christian doctrines." So how did Hodge deal with this particular abuse? Rather than asking such a person to assume Christian presuppositions and arguing for the impossibility to the contrary (as in Van Til's method), Hodge simply calls us to challenge the arbitrary nature of one's false presuppositions, "Nothing can rightfully be included under the category of first truths, or laws of belief, which cannot stand the tests of universality and necessity, to which many add self-evidence." In this way, Hodge does not leave a person under the conviction of "their own ultimacy." Though this way of dealing with presuppositions is not in any way Van Tillian, Hodge certainly is within the bounds of classical Calvinism. Van Til's criticism of Hodge, therefore, is in my opinion simply unfounded.
Machen is in fundamental agreement with the position of Hodge as outlined above. Notice for example how he argues in this lengthy citation:
'If Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand?' Here we have a truly argumentative way of meeting attack. Let not that fact seem to the simple Christian to be derogatory to the dignity of our Lord. It involves, no doubt, a marvelous condescension; He who was endued with all authority in heaven and on earth consents actually to reason with the children of men. But such condescension is no mark of weakness, but rather a supreme manifestation of glory. There can be without argument no clear, and no reasonable, presentation of a message. And the presentation of the Christian message in the whole New Testament is profoundly reasonable. We do not mean that the content of the message can be deduced by human reasoning from the observed facts in nature; at the centre the message is sheer revelation from God. But though the content of the revelation cannot be deduced by human reasoning, the credentials of the revelation become clear to a human reason that has been freed from the blinding effects of sin. And even the content of the revelation, though it cannot be deduced from reason, can be shown, and should be shown, not to be contrary to reason. So it is in the New Testament. From the very beginning, acceptance of the gospel was commended as a truly reasonable thing. (92)
Machen's argument is interesting. Part of what is involved in God's reasoning with man is the principle of condescension. And because God consented to reveal himself thus, his revelation is profoundly reasonable. Contra the rationalists, Machen also asserts that "the content of revelation cannot be deduced from human reasoning" (i. e., no magisterial use of reason). When he suggests that "the credentials of the revelation become clear to a human reason (ministerial use) that has been freed from the blinding effects of sin," he is arguing that it is only regenerated reason that attends to the evidence in an appropriate manner. And while affirming all this, Machen also does not fail to recognize the underlying presuppositions that affect one's reasoning abilities:
It is certainly true that in order to believe in the virgin birth of Christ one needs to do more than merely examine the immediate documentary evidence; for one needs to take the documentary evidence in connection with a sound view of the world and with certain convictions as to the facts of the human soul. But the sharp separation between the documentary evidence on the one hand and these presuppositions about God and the soul on the other is far from being truly scientific. A science of history that shall exist by itself, independent of presuppositions, is an abstraction to which no reality corresponds. As a matter of fact, scientific history as well as other branches of science rests upon presuppositions; only, the important thing is that the presuppositions shall be true instead of false. (93)
Machen does therefore account for subjective considerations, (94) and his form of presuppositionalism is more in line with Hodge's critique of arbitrary first principles, and Warfield's "right reason," than it is with the thought and methodology of Cornelius Van Til.
In his book Christianity & Liberalism, for example, Machen admits that the universal fatherhood of God which the liberals preach as "the essence of Christianity, really belongs at best only to that vague natural religion which forms the presupposition which the Christian preacher can use when the gospel is to be proclaimed." (95) This "vague natural religion, though it is not in itself sufficient because of human sinfulness, does nevertheless in Machen's thinking form the basic presuppositions of natural man which the preacher can take advantage of, as Paul did in his sermon on Mars Hill. (96) "If we really love our fellow men," Machen went on to say, "we shall not go about the world, with the liberal preacher, trying to make men satisfied with the coldness of a vague natural religion. But by the preaching of the gospel..." (97) Thus, natural theology, as Machen conceived it, forms the basis of our first principles, while the preaching of the gospel, which makes use of these presuppositions, was the effective means of salvation.
Now, it must be understood in no uncertain terms that Machen, along with Warfield and Hodge, each affirm the principle that reason has the duty of judging the credibility of a revelation. But, one may ask, isn't this is one of the points by which we identified Thomas Reid as Enlightenment rationalist? Yes, this must be admitted. The Princeton apologists, however, have a number of important and noticeable differences. First, they repeatedly emphasize the effects of the fall and the need for regeneration (which Reid does not do). Second, they affirm the ministerial rather than magisterial use of reason-Reid appears to have this inverted when he asserts that Revelation was given to assist Reason. Third, they affirm that it is only regenerated reason that can properly attend to the evidence for the Scripture's inherent credibility. The Princeton apologists affirmed nothing more about the function of reason than what Francis Turretin suggested hundreds of years before, "It ought to compare the things proposed to be believed with the sacred Scriptures, the inflexible rule of truth...But reason itself neither can nor ought to be constituted the rule of belief. (98) It cannot be denied that one of the tasks Turretin assigned to the powers of reason was "as a subjective condition in man for the admission of the light of grace" (99) It is in this sense that Machen is to be understood when he writes, "The Christian trusts God because God has been pleased to reveal Himself as one whom it is reasonable to trust." (100) These important nuances, in my opinion keep Old Princeton from being inconsistently Calvinistic.
But though the Princeton apologists may not have had rationalistic tendencies in the Reidian sense, isn't it possible that they are still significantly removed from Calvin who wrote,
[Scripture] appears not probable merely, but certain, that the name of God is neither rashly nor cunningly pretended. If, then, we would consult most effectually for our consciences, and save them from being driven about in a whirl of uncertainty, from wavering, and even stumbling at the smallest obstacle, our conviction of the truth of Scripture must be derived from a higher source than human conjectures, judgements, or reasons; namely, the secret testimony of the Spirit. (101)
It cannot be denied that Machen, and Warfield before him, often used probabilistic arguments, "The historical evidence for the resurrection amounted only to probability; probability is the best that history can do." (102) Elsewhere Machen asked, "Shall we desert that ship for one far less approved, simply because the evidence in its favor does not amount to apodictic certitude?" (103) Nevertheless, Machen only used this type of approach in an introductory sense. That is, he understood that this type of argumentation only takes one so far, "The resurrection of Christ is a fact of history...But how can the acceptance of an historical fact satisfy the longing of our souls? Must we stake our salvation upon the intricacies of historical research?...Surely some more immediate certitude is required. The objection would be valid if history stood alone. But history does not stand alone; it is confirmed by experience. (104) The experience of the new birth and of Christ in the soul, Machen argued, is what gives us that immediate certitude and conviction. While it cannot be denied that there are some points of divergence, there is nevertheless an essential compatibility between the thought of Machen and Calvin on this particular point. The testimony of the Spirit lifts the believer up above the plain of human reasoning to the higher realm of existential certitude.
The purpose of this paper has not been to vindicate Machen's apologetic methodology. Rather, the basic goal has been to show that, whether right or wrong, Machen's approach, which was identical to that of Old Princeton, is consistent with Calvinism. The underlying philosophy of Scottish Common Sense Realism is not necessarily at odds with the theology of Calvin and Turretin, although it can, and has been, taken in non-Calvinistic or rationalist directions. We have observed that Cornelius Van Til's claim that the Princeton apologetic amounted to an undervaluation of the effects of sin could not be justified, nor could we agree with his assertion that the common sense approach failed to challenge sinful man's autonomy.
J. Gresham Machen was a Common Sense thinker. His apologetic methodology stressed the importance of objective facts that could be reasonably understood, but at the same time, he acknowledged that there were subjective considerations that needed to be accounted for. Thus, he was not overly optimistic about the powers of reason. Machen therefore stressed the importance of "a truly comprehensive apologetic--an apologetic which does not neglect the theistic proofs or the historical evidence of the New Testament account of Jesus, but which also does not neglect the facts of the inner life of man." (105) Essentially, the answer to the question of this paper is, yes! Machen was a consistent Calvinist, and he is such by virtue of his continuity with Old Princeton, not in spite of it. As Machen concluded in his own autobiographical essay, "I have come to see with greater clearness that consistent Christianity is the easiest Christianity to defend, and that consistent Christianity--the only thoroughly Biblical Christianity--is found in the Reformed Faith." (106)Notes
(1) Harold Bloom, The American Religion, (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992): p. 228.
(2) See for example Darryl G. Hart, "The Princeton Mind in the Modern World and the Common Sense of J. Gresham Machen," The Westminster Theological Journal, Vol. 46 No. 1 (Spring 1984): 1-25, and Defending The Faith, J. Gresham Machen and the Crisis of Conservative Protestantism in Modern America, (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994), 52; Mark Noll, The Princeton Theology1812-1921, (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1983), 30ff.; George Marsden, "J. Gresham Machen, History, and Truth," The Westminster Theological Journal, Vol. 42 No. 1 (Fall 1979); David B. Calhoun, Princeton Seminary Volume 2, (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1996): 413ff; Paul Kjoss Helseth, "Right Reason & the Princeton Mind," The Journal of Presbyterian History Vol. 77, No. 1 (Spring 1999): 16ff, and "The Apologetical Tradition of the OPC: A Reconsideration," The Westminster Theological Journal Vol., 60, No. 1 (Spring 1998): 109-29.
(3) Cornelius Van Til, The Defense of the Faith, (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 1967, Third Edition): pp. 79ff.
(4) McCosh, James, The Scottish Philosophy, (London: Macmillan, 1875): p. 192.
(5) Ibid., pp. 29ff.
(6) Ibid., p. 31.
(7) Ibid., p. 35.
(8) Thomas Reid, Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man, Essay VI, 2, and VI, 4; in The Works of Thomas Reid, vol. 1, edited by William Hamilton, (Edinburgh: Maclachlan and Stewart, 1872): pp. 423-4, 434.
(9) John Orr, English Deism: Its Roots and Its Fruits, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1934): p. 123.
(10) Ibid., p. 124-125.
(11) Ibid., p. 125-126.
(12) Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, Vol. 1 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1952, orig. 1871): p. 42.
(13) Reid, Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man, VI, 4, (Works of Reid, vol. 1, p. 435).
(14) Paul Helm, "Thomas Reid, Common Sense and Calvinism," Rationality in the Calvinian Tradition, edited by Hendrik Hart, Johan Van Der Hoeven and Nicholas Wolterstorff (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1983): pp. 82, 86.
(15) Nicholas Wolterstorff, "Thomas Reid on Rationality," Rationality in the Calvinian Tradition, edited by Hendrik Hart, Johan Van Der Hoeven and Nicholas Wolterstorff (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1983): p. 64.
(16) Michael Horton, "Where Now?," Modern Reformation Magazine,(Sept/Oct 1995): p. 31.
(17) George Marsden on this point writes, "Reid differed from the classical foundationalists principally in that his close look at those beliefs that people were in practice virtually compelled to hold yielded a considerably expanded set of first principles." See his article, "American Evangelical Academia," in Faith and Rationality: Reason and Belief in God, edited by Alvin Plantinga and Nicholas Wolterstorff (Notre Dame: Notre Dame Press, 1983): p. 26.
(18) Thomas Reid, An Inquiry Into the Human Mind on the Principles of Common Sense, VII, 3 (Works of Reid, vol. 1, p. 206).
(20) Horton, "Where Now?," p. 31
(21) Reid, Essays I, 2 (Works of Reid, vol. 1, p. 231).
(22) Reid, Essays, VI, 4, (Works of Reid, vol. 1, p. 435).
(23) William Hamilton, "Note A. On The Philosophy of Common Sense," (The Works of Reid, vol. 2, p. 776).
(24) For a good introduction to this view, see Kelly James Clark's Return to Reason, (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1990).
(25) Reid, Inquiry V, 7, (Works of Reid, vol. 1, p. 127).
(26) It is clear that some advocates for the Christian faith who did underestimate the effects of the fall used the common sense realism in destructive ways. See for example: David Wells, "Charles Hodge," in The Princeton Theology, (Grand Rapids, Baker, 1989): p. 43; Mark Noll, "New Haven Theology," in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter Elwell (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1984): pp. 762-3. Regarding Nathaniel Taylor, Noll writes, "More than other heirs...Taylor also accepted the Scottish philosophy of common sense which also made much of innate human freedom and the power of individuals to shape their own destinies."
(27) John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, English translation by Henry Beveridge, (Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1845-46): 2.2.13.
(28) Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, Vol. 1, English translation by George Musgrave Giger, edited by James T. Dennison, Jr., (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R, 1992, orig. 1679): 1.4.3, p. 10.
(29) Ibid., (1.8.3; vol. 1, p. 24).
(30) Calvin, Institutes, 4.17.24.
(31) Thomas Reid, Lectures on Natural Theology, edited by Elmer H. Duncan, (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1981, orig., 1780).
(32) Ibid., p. 1-2.
(33) Ibid., p. 80.
(34) For a good discussion about the compatibility between Common Sense philosophy and Calvinism, see Paul Helm, "Thomas Reid, Common Sense and Calvinism" (referenced above, note 14), especially pp. 82-88.
(35) Mark Noll, The Princeton Theology1812-1921, (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1983): 31.
(36) Ibid., p. 32.
(37) Jack Rogers and Donald McKim, The Authority and Interpretation of the Bible, (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1979): p. 290.
(38) Paul K. Helseth, "Right Reason & the Princeton Mind," The Journal of Presbyterian History, Vol. 77, No. 1 (Spring 1999): p. 17.
(39) Van Til, The Defense of the Faith, p. 84.
(40) Ibid., p. 85.
(41) J. Gresham Machen, What is Christianity?, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1951): 227, (see also What is Faith?, p. 184).
(42) Darryl G. Hart, "The Princeton Mind in the Modern World and the Common Sense of J. Gresham Machen," The Westminster Theological Journal, Vol. 46 No. 1 (Spring 1984): 10.
(43) J. Gresham Machen, The Christian View of Man, (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1984, orig. 1937): p. 135.
(44) Van Til, The Defense of the Faith, p. 81.
(45) Hodge, Systematic Theology, p. 50.
(46) Machen, What is Christianity?, p. 129.
(48) J. Gresham Machen, The Christian Faith in the Modern World, (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1947): pp. 51-52.
(49) Benjamin B. Warfield, Revelation and Inspiration, in The Works of Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield, vol. 1 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1927; reprint, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1991): p. 210.
(50) Ibid., p. 218.
(51) Greg Bansen, "Machen, Van Til, and the Apologetic Tradition of the OPC," Pressing Toward The Mark, edited by Charles G. Dennison and Richard C. Gamble (Philadelphia: The Committee for the Historian of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, 1986): p. 282.
(52) Bansen's citation from Machen's Christian Faith in the Modern World is from page 37, whereas this quote begins on p. 50 (13 pages later), i. e., it is a continuation of the same thought. In short, Bansen appears to have taken Machen's citation out of context.
(53) Machen, The Christian Faith in the Modern World, p. 50-51.
(54) Bansen, p. 278.
(55) Van Til, The Defense of the Faith, p. 264.
(56) Bansen, p. 281.
(57) Benjamin B. Warfield, Studies in Theology, in The Works of Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield, vol. 9 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1932; reprint, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1991): p. 15.
(58) J. Gresham Machen, "The Relation of Religion to Science and Philosophy," Princeton Theological Review, 1926, vol. 24: pp. 58-59.
(59) For a detailed evaluation of this point, see Paul K. Helseth's "B.B. Warfield's Apologetical Appeal to 'Right Reason': Evidence of a 'Rather Bald Rationalism'? ", Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theology,16.2 (Autumn 1998): pp. 156-77.
(60) B. B. Warfield, review: "Foundations. A Statement of Christian Belief in Terms of Modern Thought, by Seven Oxford Men," in Critical Reviews, The Works of Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield, vol. 10 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1932; reprint, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1991): pp. 325-6.
(61) Turretin, Institutes, 1.8.18, vol. 1, p. 27.
(62) For a more detailed evaluation of this argument see Paul Kjoss Helseth, "Right Reason & the Princeton Mind," The Journal of Presbyterian History Vol. 77, No. 1 (Spring 1999), and "The Apologetical Tradition of the OPC: A Reconsideration," The Westminster Theological Journal Vol., 60, No. 1 (Spring 1998): 109-29. Helseth's articles were crucial to my own personal understanding of Warfield's "right reason," and Machen's continuity with it.
(63) Calvin, Institutes, 2.2.13 (see also 2.2.15).
(65) Calvin's Institutes contain numerous instances of the phrase "common sense, or even, "common sense dictates," (see for example: 3.3.14, 3.18.10, 3.21.3, 4.7.29).
(66) Van Til, The Defense of the Faith, p. 82.
(67) Ibid., p. 83. See also Van Til's Common Grace & The Gospel, (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R, 1972): pp. 50-51, 85, 143. Van Til says that the essence of the Roman Catholic view of natural theology is that "it attributes to the natural man the power of interpreting some aspect of the world without basic error."
(68) Van Til, Common Grace & The Gospel, (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R, 1972): p. 50.
(69) Calvin, Institutes, 2.2.15.
(71) Turretin, Institutes,1.3.4, vol. 1, p. 6.
(72) Ibid., 1.4.4, p. 10.
(73) J. Gresham Machen, What is Faith?, (New York, Macmillan, 1925, reprinted, Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1991): 243. See also pp. 65 and 134.
(74) Machen, What is Christianity?, p. 127. See also The Virgin Birth of Christ, p. 381.
(75) Ibid., 127-128. See also What is Faith?, pp. 136, 198, 203-4, and The Christian View of Man, p. 144.
(76) Machen, What is Faith?, p. 27-28. In a review titled, "The Relation of Religion to Science and Philosophy," in the Princeton Theological Review (1926, vol. 24, p. 49), Machen even affirmed that "In so far as a man's attitude will influence his interpretation of the historical data, I raise no question. We all bring a subjective element to bear upon facts."
(77) Hodge, Systematic Theology, vol. 1, p. 4.
(78) Ibid., 10.
(79) Ibid., 10-11.
(80) Ibid., 15.
(81) Ibid., 25.
(82) Ibid., 41.
(83) Ibid., 40.
(84) Ibid., 42.
(85) Ibid., 48.
(86) Ibid., 49.
(87) Turretin, Institutes, 1.8.6, vol. 1, p 25.
(88) Hodge, p. 49.
(89) Ibid., 50.
(90) Van Til, The Defense of the Faith, p. 80.
(91) Ibid., 83.
(92) J. Gresham Machen, The Virgin Birth of Christ, (New York, Harper & Brothers, 1930): p. 331.
(93) Ibid., p. 218-219. For other places where Machen admits of presuppositions, see "The Relation of Religion to Science and Philosophy," pp. 52, 59-60, and Christianity & Liberalism, pp. 54, 56-57, 61-62.
(94) See for example George Marsden's article, "J. Gresham Machen, History & Truth," p. 168. Here Marsden argues that Machen "seems determined to minimize" the "subjective aspects in knowing religious truth."
(95) J. Gresham Machen, Christianity & Liberalism, (New York, Macmillan, 1923): pp. 61-62. Darryl G. Hart has observed that it should not be thought that Machen "was actually a presuppositionalist," for he "still talks about the objectivity of a 'clear mind' accepting the truth of Christianity no matter what one's 'personal attitude' might be," ("The Princeton Mind in the Modern World and the Common Sense of J. Gresham Machen," pp. 22-23). In this same passage cited, however, Machen continues by saying that no one's mind is clear after all "who ignores the fact of sin," (What is Faith?, 134). In my thinking, Machen should be viewed as a presuppositionalist, but not in a Van Tillian sense. Rather than starting with special revelation, he starts with first principles of natural revelation.
(96) Machen actually argues that Paul on Mars Hill started with the principle of "common ground." See The New Testament: An Introduction to its Literature and History, (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1976): pp. 108ff. Also see The Christian Faith in the Modern World, p. 94.
(97) Machen, Christianity & Liberalism, p. 62.
(98) Turretin, Institutes, 1.8.6, vol. 1, p. 25.
(99) Ibid., 1.4.4, vol. 1, p. 10.
(100) Machen, What is Faith?, p. 65-66.
(101) Calvin, Institutes, 1.7.4.
(102) Machen, What is Christianity?, 183.
(103) J. Gresham Machen, "Christianity in Conflict," in Contemporary American Theology, edited by Vergilius Ferm, (New York: Round Table Press, 1932): pp. 263-4.
(104) Ibid., 182.
(105) Machen, "The Relation of Religion to Science and Philosophy," p. 64.
(106) Machen, "Christianity in Conflict," p. 254.