True Revival and Controversy

Timely words from J. Gresham Machen:
Again, we are told that our theological differences will disappear is we will just get down on our knees together in prayer. Well, I can only say about that kind of prayer, which is indifferent to the question whether the gospel is true or false, that it is not Christian prayer; it is bowing down in the house of Rimmon. God save us from it!

Instead may God lead us to the kind of prayer in which, recognizing the dreadful condition of the visible church, recognizing the unbelief and the sin which dominate it today, we who are opposed to the current of the age both in the world and in the church, facing the facts as they are, lay those facts before God, as Hezekiah laid before him the threatening letter of the Assyrian enemy, and humbly ask him to give the answer.

Again, many say that instead of engaging in controversy in the church, we ought to pray to God for a revival; instead of polemics, we ought to have evangelism. Well, what kind of revival do you think that will be? What sort of evangelism is it that is indifferent to the question what evangel is it that is to be preached? Not a revival in the New Testament sense, not the evangelism that Paul meant when he said, “Woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel.”

No, my friends, there can be no true evangelism which makes common cause with the enemies of the cross of Christ. Souls will hardly be saved unless the evangelists can say with Paul: “If we or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel than that which we preached unto you, let him be accursed!”

Every true revival is born in controversy, and leads to more controversy. That has been true ever since our Lord said that he came not to bring peace upon the earth but a sword.

And do you know what I think will happen when God sends a new reformation upon the church? We cannot tell when that blessed day will come. But when the blessed day does come, I think we can say at least one result that it will bring. We shall hear nothing on that day about the evils of controversy in the church. All that will be swept away as with a mighty flood. A man who is on fire with a message never talks in that wretched, feeble way, but proclaims the truth joyously and fearlessly, in the presence of every high thing that is lifted up against the gospel of Christ. (J. Gresham Machen, Selected Shorter Writings, 147-148)

HT: Kevin DeYoung