Defending the Faith: J. Gresham Machen and the Crisis of


  • Paperback
  • 227 pages
  • Defending the Faith: J. Gresham Machen and the Crisis of Conservative Protestantism in Modern America
  • D.G. Hart
  • English
  • 05 May 2019
  • 0875525636

10 thoughts on “Defending the Faith: J. Gresham Machen and the Crisis of Conservative Protestantism in Modern America

  1. Caleb Caleb says:

    This is an excellent biography of an important figure D.G Hart deftly contextualizes J Gresham Machen in the intellectual currents and cultural controversies of the early 20th century Machen emerges as a refreshing foil to the standard political and religious tropes of the late 20th century culture wars a brilliant fundamentalist with independent political views and intellectual integrity While one could argue that Hart perhaps reads too much of his own contrarian perspective back into Mac This is an excellent biography of an important figure D.G Hart deftly contextualizes J Gresham Machen in the intellectual currents and cultural controversies of the early 20th century Machen emerges as a refreshing foil to the standard political and religious tropes of the late 20th century culture wars a brilliant fundamentalist with independent political views and intellectual integrity While one could argue that Hart perhaps reads too much of his own contrarian perspective back into Machen, I can forgive him because part of the point, I think, is to undermine the tendency of other scholars lazily to insert culture wars dynamics into the modernist fundamentalist controversies of the 1920s Machen confounds their cherished, whiggish, self congratulatory binaries In the process, Hart demonstrates rather convincingly that the people and politics of the past arecomplicated and contradictory than we give them credit for, rarely supporting our own categories as much as we like to pretend


  2. Jacob Aitken Jacob Aitken says:

    A decent biography, and my differences with Hart aside, probably one of thereadable ones I think Hart overreads his own spirituality of the church into Machen Yes, Machen probably wouldn t attend Falwell rallies, but Machen did press his faith on the floor of the United States Senate The Two Kingdom guys have never really gotten around that.


  3. Anson Cassel Mills Anson Cassel Mills says:

    D G Hart b 1956 , formerly head librarian at Westminster Seminary, where most of the Machen papers are archived, has here written a careful intellectual biography of perhaps the most gifted conservative American theologian of the early twentieth century As Hart well demonstrates, Machen s religious, political, and social views were hardly typical of contemporary fundamentalism While this fact diminishes the ability of Machen to serve as a representative of any religious position, it also d D G Hart b 1956 , formerly head librarian at Westminster Seminary, where most of the Machen papers are archived, has here written a careful intellectual biography of perhaps the most gifted conservative American theologian of the early twentieth century As Hart well demonstrates, Machen s religious, political, and social views were hardly typical of contemporary fundamentalism While this fact diminishes the ability of Machen to serve as a representative of any religious position, it also demonstrates that early twentieth century religious conservatives ought not to be treated as cardboard caricatures even when they are being compared with Machen


  4. Chris Hansen Chris Hansen says:

    Defending the Faith is a fascinating portrayal of one of the most important figures in American Christianity during the last century J Gresham Machen Machen was perhaps the last of the great confessional Presbyterian scholars at Princeton Seminary and was perhaps the central figure in the fundamentalist controversy in the early 20th century He was a man of immense learning and intellect, whose work was greatly respected by conservatives, liberals, and secularists alike Machen was the most f Defending the Faith is a fascinating portrayal of one of the most important figures in American Christianity during the last century J Gresham Machen Machen was perhaps the last of the great confessional Presbyterian scholars at Princeton Seminary and was perhaps the central figure in the fundamentalist controversy in the early 20th century He was a man of immense learning and intellect, whose work was greatly respected by conservatives, liberals, and secularists alike Machen was the most formidable opponent of liberalism in the church, contending that Christianity and Christian liberalism were, in fact, two entirely different religions who could not coexist united in any fashion but are of nature opposed to each other Interestingly enough, however, he did not fit neatly into the mold of fundamentalism either His arguments against liberalism were borrowed by secular humanists as much as they were by fundamentalists and, in some respects, hadaffinities with the former than the latter He won praise from men like H.L Mencken and Walter Lippmann To quote Yale literary critic Harold Bloom, upon reading Machen s tome Christianity and Liberalism, I have just read my way through this, with distaste and discomfort but with reluctant and growing admiration for Machen s mind I have never seen a stronger case made for the argument that institutional Christianity must regard cultural liberalism an enemy of faith If Machen, a scholar and an intellect, is rightly called a Fundamentalist, then I must insist that Wally Amos Criswell and his swarm be called something else, and Know Nothings will do very nicely Machen was an orthodox Christian, but he had little affinity for the revivalist heritage of fundamentalism He was a libertarian Democrat Democrats werelikely to be small government federalists in Machen s day than today who opposed prohibition, he believed in the separation of church and state and the spirituality of the church He was non committal on evolution, opposed dispensationalism, and strongly critical of ecumenical para church organizations All of these positions separated him from his fundamentalist allies Nevertheless, in many ways Machen stands as the father of evangelical academia As conservative Christianity tried to develop a scholarly side after World War 2, they found themselves highly indebted to the work of Machen In the end, his work culminated with a conservative exodus from the Northern Presbyterian Church to form the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and the founding of Westminster Seminary to continue the legacy of Princeton once it had been lost to the liberals and moderate evangelicals Hart contends that without the efforts of Machen, confessional Presbyterian in America may have been lost forever to the liberals and moderate evangelicals As for the book itself, it is engrossing and very well written, filled with fascinating detail about Machen s life and context The parallels between our own time and Machen s are striking, as liberalism and moderate, anti doctrinal and anti creedal evangelicalism threatens the church again and the some of very issues that Machen debated vigorously have arisen once again within the conservative wings of the church The only criticism I may have to offer is that I wish Hart had includedmaterial about Machen s founding of Westminster Seminary and it s early years Hart also accentuates Machen s standing alone between the forces of liberalism and fundamentalism, which may be true in many respects, but he was not without allies and influence as his founding of Westminster shows Highly influential scholars that Machen brought from Princeton to Westminster like Geerhardus Vos, Cornelius Van Til, and John Murray were barely even mentioned in the book and I wish there wasabout his relationships with them in the book It probably isn t fair to criticize a historian for what he didn t choose to write about, however, and what Hart did write about he did artfully and carefully I highly recommend this book for anyone who is interested about the development of American Christianity


  5. Jennifer Jennifer says:

    This is the biography of a very important man, who very few people know of today Machen was born into a privileged life, and established himself comfortably at Princeton, where he enjoyed living among the intelligentsia, teaching and training the country s best This suited him well, and it was a life he loved and would not have left behind lightly But for some people, study goes beyond the mind and settles in the heart and this was true of Machen This is a story of one man s growth from h This is the biography of a very important man, who very few people know of today Machen was born into a privileged life, and established himself comfortably at Princeton, where he enjoyed living among the intelligentsia, teaching and training the country s best This suited him well, and it was a life he loved and would not have left behind lightly But for some people, study goes beyond the mind and settles in the heart and this was true of Machen This is a story of one man s growth from head knowledge to heart conviction and where it took him, and how his seemingly pointless, increasingly isolated position broke his body even as it took hold in the hearts of others, breathing new life into an old religion In clinging to orthodox Christianity vs the new liberal theologies infiltrating his beloved Princeton, that he would not even deign to call Christianity at all he lost much of what he loved, even in the end losing his own health but he left a legacy that continues to this day He left Princeton to found Westminster Seminary, preserving an opportunity to instruct others to carry on the doctrines that he valued so dearly He spent much of his own inheritance, gave up his comfortable lifestyle and his reputation, traveled constantly to ask for gifts to sustain his new seminary, endured criticism from both the liberal and the conservative factions who both wanted to use him to achieve their own often political ends He stood firm, though, refusing to be distracted from what he discerned to be THE most important issue of his day preserving the purity of the Gospel for the Church Evolution, prayers in schools, social gospel and semantics were all brushed aside as he strained to press upon faithful believers the truths of the Reformation that are actually truths from the Bible Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, through Christ alone He believed that this was the only hope for a shrinking Church, and he refused to compromise or be distracted His graciousness in conflict, his determination to keep his eyes fixed on the Cross of Christ, his humility, and his willingness to be creative in living out his faith, as well as his lasting legacy for us today who call ourselves Christian, are all reasons to read this book He was an incredibly intelligent man, well fit for his calling, who knew how to logically and smoothly deliver his reasons and methods in a hostile environment without fear, without loss of dignity, without anger, with hope intact He was well loved by a faithful few, and his short life reminds us that even the seemingly insignificant life can have far flung ripple effects, if we are faithful to our convictions And no matter what, even if that life remains small and unnoticed, a humble life based upon studied contemplation and acceptance of the truth is a well lived life, in the end An interesting thing to do, if you are interested in this book or this era of Church history would be to read this along with the biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer they never met, but their stories relate to one another in interesting ways, despite the ocean between I was left wishing they HAD met, when Bonhoeffer visited America briefly I think they could have encouraged each other so much, these two men who felt increasingly isolated in their convictions But God willed it so, and it is good to know that there is a Heaven where they both reside, now What good dinner conversation must be going on, there Bonhoeffer Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy


  6. BJ BJ says:

    Fascinating biography of J Gresham Machen by D.G Hart Hart s understanding of Machen and the surrounding religious, political, denominational, and cultural landscape is a pleasure to read Machen is a very complicated figure, and one of great conviction He is a single man, a momma s boy, a brilliant scholar, a theological conservative, a political libertarian, a wealthy man, a controversial man, a conservative man, a very clear and pointed man who did not put up with slippery language, a w Fascinating biography of J Gresham Machen by D.G Hart Hart s understanding of Machen and the surrounding religious, political, denominational, and cultural landscape is a pleasure to read Machen is a very complicated figure, and one of great conviction He is a single man, a momma s boy, a brilliant scholar, a theological conservative, a political libertarian, a wealthy man, a controversial man, a conservative man, a very clear and pointed man who did not put up with slippery language, a well known man, a man who saw the horrors of war in country and in church, a well liked cordial teacher and a disliked blunt opponent, a Calvinist, an enjoy er of culture, a man who once was interested in Unitarian woman, a hiker, a sports fan, I could go on and on.Best word in the book lubricity , that is, lubricity of language Machen hated the lubrication of language in the church when it came to theology and views of Scripture He desired the clear proclamation of the Gospel and all that it contained rather then the flaccid social gospel of liberalism


  7. Tony Tony says:

    Hart writes from a position of sympathy with Machen he attended Westminster Seminary but his affection for many of Machen s position does not cloud his judgment or ability to present Machen as he was warts and all.I m not entirely sure what I was expecting when I began reading this book but I soon realized that this was not it That is not a bad thing I tremondously enjoyed Hart s academic style and colorful presentation of what most people would find incredibly boring information Oftentim Hart writes from a position of sympathy with Machen he attended Westminster Seminary but his affection for many of Machen s position does not cloud his judgment or ability to present Machen as he was warts and all.I m not entirely sure what I was expecting when I began reading this book but I soon realized that this was not it That is not a bad thing I tremondously enjoyed Hart s academic style and colorful presentation of what most people would find incredibly boring information Oftentimes there was excessive technical jargon, but for most people interested in this subject and Hart s work this will not be a problem.If you have read and enjoyed Longfield s _The Presbyterian Controversy_, then you will also enjoy this book which providesdetail and depth about one of the major conservative players in the fundamentalist modernist controversy in the old Northern Presbyterian Church


  8. Andy Smith Andy Smith says:

    An excellent book of information, if not as well written as one would have hoped The introduction to Machen s life as well as the feeling of the modernist controversy of the 20s is excellent, and Hart s astute observations on Machen s odd role as enemy and friend of both moderns and fundamentalists are brilliant However, the book is weighed down by Hart s dense writing style and poor organization at points Still, a very worthwhile read.


  9. Lance Kinzer Lance Kinzer says:

    An extremely readable, careful and balanced consideration of a fascinating man who played a vital role in the modernist vs fundamentalist debates of the 1920 s and 30 Valuable not just for what it has to say about those times, but for its cautionary note regarding the impact on conservative Protestantism when it ignores Machen s warnings about the dangers inherent in conflating the Gospel of Christ with programs for social reform.


  10. LJ LJ says:

    A good biographical sketch of a man whose later life was almost tragic He seemed to have suffered a lot of defeats in his professional work, though he managed to rack up a lot of accomplishments throughout his life Some of the material presented here isscintillating than others The chapters on science and Machen s scholarly methodology were very good the chapter on Presbyterian missions less so.


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Defending the Faith: J. Gresham Machen and the Crisis of Conservative Protestantism in Modern America J Gresham Machen , writes D G Hart, was the scion of a prominent and genteel Balti family, who studied at the finest American and European universities and, while teaching at Princeton Seminary, went on to become one of the United States s leading authorities in New Testament studies Defending the Faith explains how a privileged and learned Protestant became embroiled in the religious disputes of the s, writes Hart This study, he continues, has much to tell us not just about the issues that unsettled some would say unseated mainstream Protestantism s hold on American intellectual and cultural life But it also offers a distinctive and revealing perspective on the way we have come to assess and locate religion, science, and modernity in the early twentieth century This biography, the first of Machen since , originally appeared in


About the Author: D.G. Hart

Darryl G Hart Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University directs the honors programs and faculty development at the Intercollegiate Studies Institute and serves Westminster Seminary California as adjunct professor of church history He has written or editedthan fifteen books, including Defending the Faith, a biography of J Gresham Machen He is coeditor of the American Reformed Biographies series.