I’d like to thank EP Books for giving me a copy of J. Gresham Machen in return for my honest review.
The Bible is God’s Word. It’s authoritative, clear, necessary, and sufficient. And, God’s Word is under attack.
Now, that’s not really a huge surprise. Scripture and the truth of the gospel have been under attack since the very beginning of the Church. The epistles take time to address heresies and misunderstandings. False teachers are decried by the Apostles. In Philippians 3:2, Paul tells us to: “Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh.” There, he was referring to enemies of the gospel who sought to bind believers to the Jewish Law. We see him address various false teachings throughout his letters…..
One of the reasons I’m creating Cobblestone Path for our family to use is that I want my children to understand the false teachings that have plagued the Church and our culture throughout the past two millennia. I want them to understand how those false teachings present themselves today–in our culture and in our churches.
While there are a number of really concerning teachings circulating today, I think one of the most concerning is liberalism, also known as modernism. It’s the idea that the Bible is not inspired, infallible, or inerrant. In fact, the miraculous and supernatural events described in Scripture are merely metaphorical. God’s Church is reduced to a platform for social justice and good works. Now, we are absolutely called to social justice and good works, but it is in our understanding of the grace we have been given in Christ that we are spurred to work for the good of others. Jesus was not just a teacher, a prophet, or a good man. Jesus is God–one Person of a Triune God.
Paul addresses the idea that Jesus was not raised supernaturally in 1 Corinthians 15 (an excellent read!). Check out verses 17-20 of chapter 15:
And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
That’s pretty clear. The supernatural is a part of the works of God throughout Scripture, culminating in Christ’s sacrificial death and resurrection for his children.
OK, so to the point: the truth of the gospel as it is preached in Scripture is under attack. This attack has not come from outside the Church, but from within. In fact, liberal theology has been taught widely in seminaries for over a century here in America. Those seminary students, in turn, have taught it from the pulpit.
J. Gresham Machen (1881-1937), author of Christianity and Liberalism, was a theologian and the Professor of the New Testament at Princeton from 1906-1929. Before Machen spent his life fighting liberalism, and ultimately founding Westminster Theological Seminary and the OPC branch of the Presbyterian Church, he was himself wooed by the teachings of modernism during a study-abroad time in Germany. Once Machen determined that the Bible was indeed the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God, he spent his life fighting for the orthodox faith and the clarity of the gospel. That fight cost Machen greatly–in the loss of status, friendships, and security. Yet he persevered, and though he lost the fight for Princeton, he formed Westminster Theological Seminary.
Sean Michael Lucas’ new book, J. Gresham Machen (EP Books, 2015) tells the story of Machen’s fight for the faith, and outlines the cost of fighting for orthodox Christianity. “Fundamentalism” is often used today as a synonym for “Pharisaical” even in the most theologically conservative circles. Yet, fundamentalism was a fight for the truth of Scripture.
I think J. Gresham Machen is an important book for any high school student being raised to understand the history of the faith. Understanding the story of the fight for Princeton Seminary will help young people identify the fight that takes place in churches today. We can neither fall to the side of dismissing God’s inspired Word, nor can we become legalistic, relying upon our own good works as though we could save ourselves from our own sin. I highly recommend J. Gresham Machen. We’ll be reading it in our home when we study the 20th century, and we may read through Machen’s Christianity and Liberalism at the same time.
Sean Michael Lucas, the author of several books, holds a Ph.D. from Westminster Theological Seminary and is the senior minister at First Presbyterian Church in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and the associate professor of church history at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi.
J. Gresham Machen would coordinate well with studies involving
- Modernism / Theological Liberalism
- Scripture Alone
- The History of Presbyterianism
- The early 20th Century
- The American Church
You can find J. Gresham Machen at
- Amazon: J. Gresham Machen
Bitesize Biographies from EP Books
Additional Bitesize Biographies reviewed at Thinking Kids:
- George Whitefield
- Samuel Rutherford
- Zachary Macaulay
- Festo Kivengere
- George Smeaton
- Thomas Chalmers
- Girolamo Savonarola
- George Muller
- Ulrich Zwingli
Other books for older students reviewed on Thinking Kids:
- God’s Story: A Student’s Guide to Church History by Brian Cosby
- Water the Earth: A Student’s Guide to Missions by Aaron Little
- Rebels Rescued: A Student’s Guide to Reformed Theology by Brian Cosby
- Bitesize Theology: An ABC of Christian Faith by Peter Jeffrey
- Questions God Asks by Israel Wayne
- Grace Works! (And Ways We Think It Doesn’t) by Douglas Bond
Thinking Kids Book Review Indexes
Thinking Kids Pinterest Book Boards
- Christian Books for Preschoolers
- Christian Books for 4-7 Year Olds
- Christian Books for the Middle Grades
- Christian Books for Middle School
- Christian Books for High School
- Christian Books for Kids’ Devotions
- Christian Books about Parenting
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~ Danika Cooley
Danika Cooley is the author of When Lightning Struck! The Story of Martin Luther (Fortress Press, 2015), Wonderfully Made (CF4K, 2016), and Bible Road Trip. Her work has been featured in internationally-recognized children's magazines over 150 times.