J. Gresham Machen, A Biographical Essay

Introduction

Throughout the history of Christianity, certain theologies, ideologies, and philosophies have arisen and threatened the church’s understanding of the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. One such theology is the modern liberalism that arose in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which the main character of this essay describes as “an attempt to solve the problem of historic Christianity’s relation to modern culture.”[1] In an attempt to solve this “problem,” modern liberalism became rooted in naturalism and discarded the supernatural particulars of the Christian message such as the virgin birth, substitutionary atonement, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ as mere symbols of the more general aspects of religion.[2]

Modern liberalism taught that the essence of Christianity is to be found in its general ethical principles rather than in the event of the Son of God dying for the sins of His people. Liberalism made its way into many churches, denominations, and seminaries by the dawn of the twentieth century and was threatening to overpower historic Protestantism in its popularity and acceptance. However, church history often demonstrates that when a harmful theology arises, God raises up a voice to expose, correct, and provide clarity for the church. In the early decades of the twentieth century in the United States, that voice was J. Gresham Machen’s.

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