"Modern liberalism has lost all sense of the gulf that separates the creature from the Creator; its doctrine of man follows naturally from its doctrine of God," Machem wrote in his 1923 book, Christianity & Liberalism. "According to the Bible, man is a sinner under the just condemnation of God; according to modern liberalism, there is really no such thing as sin. At the very root of the modern liberal movement is the loss of the consciousness of sin."1 Machem saw that a denial of man's inherent tendency to sin and evil, according to the Bible was at the heart of this optimism.
Machen was no stranger to working against a rising tide. A New Testament scholar at Princeton theological seminary in the 1920s, Machen had been among the most prominent men to defend the historicity of the Bible, the Virgin Birth of Jesus, and the resurrection of Jesus in the Presbyterian denomination. His presence and dogmatism would eventually lead to the founding of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, out of his view that many mainline Presbyterians were either compromising or failing to make clear claims to what he believed were essential doctrines.
Some twenty years after the war, in 1935, Machem wrote, "Russia stands under the most soul-killing despotism, perhaps,.that the world has ever seen; . and despots rule also in Italy and in Germany."2 Machem would argue that, rather than avoiding an even more deadly war, some of the very despots he was alluding to were rushing headlong into an even more deadly conflict.
Machen was firm in his view that this optimism was fooling the wider world and the church itself into not taking the situation they were in more seriously. Believers were becoming more wrapped up in minor details of belief than actively preaching the gospel to a fallen world. The non-Christian was convinced that he didn't need the gospel. Modern liberals were all to ready to confirm the lost in their delusions. Another World War did come, and Machen's pessimism was proved well founded. Mankind was not so angelic.
1) Machen, Christianity & Liberalism, p 64.
2) Machen, “The Changing Scene and the Unchanging Word,” The Presbyterian Guardian (October 7, 1935)
J. Gresham Machen, Christianity & Liberalism (Chapter 7), http://www.reformed.org/books/chr_and_lib/
J. Gresham Machen, “The Changing Scene and the Unchanging Word,” The Presbyterian Guardian (October 7, 1935), 4 (http://www.opc.org/guardian.html)
D. G. Hart, “Machen and the OPC,” Committee for the Historian of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church: http://www.opc.org/machen.html
J Gresham Machen, Christianity & Culture, http://journals.ptsem.edu/id/BR1913111/dmd002