• Keith Mathison

The Present Emergency and How to Meet It


In 1935, J. Gresham Machen delivered a series of radio messages on various aspects of Reformed theology. The first series of messages was published the following year under the title The Christian Faith in the Modern World. All of the messages have recently been republished under the title Things Unseen. (If you don't have a copy yet, what are you waiting for?) The first message of the first series is titled "The Present Emergency and How to Meet It." In it, we see one aspect of Machen's wisdom at its finest, and it is wisdom we could well use today. The mid 1930s were a time of grave concern for those looking at the conditions of the contemporary culture. Machen acknowledges this, but he insists the best way to address the emergency is by focusing on God and the Gospel.


Rather than attempting to respond one after another to an ever-changing series of contemporary issues, here today and gone tomorrow, Machen focuses on God. This is as it should be, and such a focus is as needed today as it was almost a century ago. We too look around and are faced by a series of ever-changing cultural issues that deeply concern us, and we face the temptation to set God aside as we deal with "more important things." Machen makes the point that if we are going to remain faithful in the midst of ever-changing emergencies, we must cling to that which does not change. This is why Machen's work is still read today while the sermons and lectures of those churchmen who tried to be culturally relevant are gathering dust.


Today, many Christians might describe our own current situation as "the present emergency." It is in times such as these that Machen's words are particularly important. While you are waiting for your copy of Things Unseen to arrive (you did already order it, right?), find The Christian Faith in the Modern World available online here. Take a few moments to read the first essay "The Present Emergency and How to Meet It." Then share it.


The emergency of the 1930s is long past. Some day the emergency of the 2020s will be long past. One thing will not have changed, however. The Lord Jesus Christ will still reign, and His Word will still stand.


The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever (Isaiah 40:8).