In his 1923 book, Christianity and Liberalism, J. Gresham Machen describes four common objections liberal Christians trotted out to demonstrate their disgust for the doctrine of salvation through the cross of Christ.
Liberals bristled at the idea that Christians responded to an obscure event in Palestine long ago. Christians could attend to what Christ did for them today–in the here and now.
Liberals criticized salvation bound to the name of Jesus only, because there are many men in the world who have never in any effective way heard of the name of Jesus. We really need an all-inclusive religion that will save all men everywhere.
Liberals balked at the idea that another man could die for your guilt. Impossible, they say, since all guilt is personal.
Finally, liberals objected to atonement by crucifixion because it degraded the character of God by making Him out to be bitter, irascible and uptight. He’d never lurk idly while he waited for a ransom.
Remember: These were objections common around the turn of 20th Century. That’s 100 years ago. Recognize any of these objections in our own time? I bet you do.
In case you’re curious, here’s the answer to those 4 objections:
1. The Gospel is the good news of an event that occurred in history. It’s what God did for us. Without this historical context, Christianity amounts to nothing more than mysticism.
2. The Christian way of salvation is narrow only so long as the church allows it to remain narrow. It’s our fault–not the way of salvation–if we don’t reach all men.
3. Jesus was no mere man. But the son of God. The doctrine of atonement is rooted in the doctrine of Christ’s deity.
4. The rejection of the wrath of God is rooted in a low view of sin and is at odds with the New Testament teaching of Jesus.