"No facts, no good news; no good news, no hope"
In a day when many people cannot tell the difference between news and "fake news" and cannot distinguish between facts and "alternative facts", it's important to remember the importance of "real news" and "non-alternative facts." Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the late senator from the state of New York, once famously said, "Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts." Decades earlier, in 1936, J. Gresham Machen, who founded Westminster Theological Seminary and was instrumental in the establishment of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, wrote these words about the relationship between facts, news, and hope in his book Christian Faith in the Modern World:
What good does it do to me to tell me that the type of religion presented in the Bible is a very fine type of religion and that the thing for me to do is just to start practicing that type of religion now? What good does it do to tell me that I have a fine pattern of religion in the account of Jesus in the Gospels whether that account is history or an inspiring idea? What good does it do to tell me to cultivate my religious nature in the manner in which the religious nature was cultivated with such eminent success by Jesus or by Paul or by Isaiah?
I will tell you, my friend. It does me not one tiniest little bit of good. You are just mocking me when you talk to me like that. You are ignoring my true condition. You are ignoring the fact that in my own right I am a sinner under the wrath and curse of God, and that in my own strength I am under the awful bondage of sin. What I need first of all is not exhortation but a gospel, not directions for saving myself but knowledge of the way God has saved me. Have you any good news for me? That is the question that I ask of you. I know your exhortations will not help me. But if anything has been done to save me, will you not tell me the facts?
The Bible does tell me the facts. It tells me Jesus died on the cross to save me; it tells me He rose from the dead to complete His saving work and be my living Lord. What do I say when it tells me that? Do I say: ‘That is history and not religion: I am not interested in it; it may be true or it may not be true for all I care; the Bible is a book of religion and not a book of science or a book of history’? No my friends, I do not say that. I say rather: ‘Praise be to God for that blessed story of the resurrection and the cross; upon the truth of it all my hope depends for time and for eternity; how I rejoice that God Himself has told me in His holy Book that it is true!’”
Here is a rule for you, my friends: no facts, no good news; no good news, no hope. The Bible is quite useless unless it is a record of facts.
J. Gresham Machen, The Christian Faith in the Modern World, p. 57
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