For Machen the relation between Christianity and culture is bound up with the relationship between piety and knowledge. This shows his understanding of the relationship between cultivation and a capacity to learn. Machen believed that the arts and sciences should be engaged in with relish, that culture should be encouraged “with the enthusiasm of the veriest humanist” and consecrated to the service of God. Because Christians want to see every human activity consecrated they must not be content to leave any of it untouched by Christianity; they want to see every legitimate human activity made a Christian activity; but more, they realize that these things are essential to human life. Machen understood that men do not exist without a culture, and culture neglected by Christianity can only result in culture being an enemy of the gospel.
Machen believed that the erosion the church was suffering was due directly to modern culture. Secular culture taught men that the intellectual credentials of Christianity were insubstantial: men did not consider Christianity because its dismissal was a foregone conclusion. Although Machen believed that regeneration was a supernatural work, he wanted to stress was that God uses means and places responsibility on believers individually and on the church as a whole. He believed the situation was desperate because of neglected responsibilities. He believed that the Church must labor in more than just evangelism. If the church ignored the intellectual labor, the labor of culture, “the great current of modern culture will sooner or later engulf her puny eddy. God will save her somehow—out of the depths. But the labor of centuries will have been swept away.”
Some withdrew and dedicated themselves to a smaller and more practical task; this was not the way that Machen chose. The academic battles, the years of careful training, the understanding of philosophy and history that Machen championed are what he has in mind when he says, “So as Christians we should try to mold the thought of the world in such a way as to make the acceptance of Christianity something more than a logical absurdity. . . . The church has no right to be so absorbed in helping the individual that she forgets the world.”