God Grant (vol. 1)
Throughout his literary and oratorical career, Presbyterian minister and public intellectual, J. Gresham Machen was prone to burst out in prayer, pleading that “God Grant” some ecclesial, academic, or political wish. In commemoration of the perennially poignant thrust of these prayers, we have titled Fides Quaerens’ editorial column God Grant. On March 1st, 1926, Machen addressed the Presbyterian Ministers’ Association in Philadelphia on “The Mission of the Church” and prayed,
God grant that the Christian Church upon this earth may not be brought under one organization! God grant that liberty may be preserved and that when we contemplate groups of Christians large or small who prefer to do things in their own way, we may remember the words of the Lord Jesus Christ, how he said, “Forbid him not,...he that is not against us is on our part”
In these words, Machen runs afoul, not only of today’s enlightened eceumenists who long for some compromise of uniformity and latitude within a single institution, but also of his own sectarian admirers who refuse to recognize the apostolicity of any Church differing in any minor way from their own.
Machen harbors no indifference—whether to scriptural imperatives to church unity, or the necessity for the defense and maintenance of precise doctrinal distinctives—in offending these two groups, but holds to a vision of diversity within unity. By upholding denominational and traditional boundaries, Machen’s vision allows Christ-naming and gospel-preaching christians to coexist without posing an ecclesial threat to one another. Not only are confessionally distinct Churches able to co-operate in evangelistic and social service, but they can also benefit from one another’s particular theological heritages.
This same vision lays at the root of Fides Quaerens’ mere christian project wherein dialogue and cooperation are pursued, not by ignoring differences, but by emphasizing them. We, like Machen, envision an intellectual community of card-carrying Church-members who, in Rod Dreher’s words, “are expected to argue from their own theological convictions, but nobody is trying to convert anybody else, and it’s all in friendship.”
I hope that you’ve enjoyed this first issue of Fides Quaernes, and I ask that you join us in praying God grant that the Church on earth may never be brought under one organization, and God grant that his church might be more fruitful and faithful for it!