Notes from Chapter 6 of Machen's "Christianity & Liberalism"
A. Liberalism ridicules the Christian conception of the Cross of Christ "as being 'a subtle theory of the atonement.'"
B. "[V]icarious atonement... is the only atonement of which the New Testament speaks."
C. The fundamental truth of vicarious atonement is "so simple that a child can understand it."
D. Vicarious atonement is the truth that "'[w]e deserved eternal death, but the Lord Jesus, because He loved us, died instead of us on the cross'".
III. The liberal view of the atonement:
A. Various theories:
1. The Cross as the supreme example of self-sacrifice;
2. The Cross as a demonstration of God's hatred of sin [as liberals today seem to not hold to a biblical notion of sin, and to often avoid the language of sin, I
3. The Cross as the ultimate picture of God's love.
B. Though these theories contain some truth, they all have the problem of not dealing with sin and guilt due to sin.
IV. Liberal objections to vicarious atonement:
A. This doctrine ties the Christian faith to history, rather than immediate experience:
1. This is correct, and differentiates Christianity from mysticism.
2. Christian experience does serve to testify to the truth of Christ's work in history.
B. This doctrine is narrow, and many have never heard the name of Jesus:
1. This is true, and Christianity has always been exclusive; in the early Church "[such exclusiveness ran directly counter to the prevailing syncretism of the Hellenistic age."
2. "If... this way of salvation is not offered to all, it is not the fault of the way of salvation itself, but the fault of those who fail to use the means that God has placed in their hands."
C. "How can one person... suffer for the sins of another?"
1. "It is perfectly true that no mere man can pay the penalty of another man's sin. But it does not follow that Jesus could not do it; for Jesus was no mere man but the eternal Son of God."
2. "The Christian doctrine of the atonement, therefore, is altogether rooted in the Christian doctrine of the deity of Christ."
3. Again, Christian experience testifies to the truth of the vicarious atonement, for it is when we lay aside our own attempts at law-keeping, and embrace the work of Christ on our behalf, that we find true joy and peace.
D. "God is more willing to forgive sin than we are willing to be forgiven; reconsciliation, therefore, can have only to do with man; it all depends upon us; God will receive us any time we choose."
1. "The objection depends of course on the liberal view of sin" in which sin is a small matter and easily overlooked.
2. To simply overlook sin is not gracious, but cruel, even in human relationships.
3. "The truly penitent man longs to wipe out the effects of sin, not merely to forget sin. But who can wipe out the effects of sin?"
4. "If a man has once come under a true conviction of sin, he will have little difficulty with the doctrine of the Cross."
5. Liberalism consistently overlooks the fact that it is God Himself who provides vicarious atonement for sin.
III. Liberalism seeks to make Christianity joyful by doing away with the idea of God as a righteous God, and by instead picturing Him simply as a loving Father; two questions must be asked of this notion:
A. Q1: Does it work? A: No, because such teaching leads to:
B. Q2: Is it true? A: No, because a denial of God as Judge is contradicted by:
C. Conclusion: A one-sided God is not a real God, and a false God cannot bring real joy.
[In most of the remainder of the chapter, Machen gives a powerful proclamation of the gospel, focusing on the need for the new birth and on justification by faith alone (with a discussion of the nature of saving faith).]