Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism

By George M. Marsden | Go to book overview
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7. Understanding J. Gresham Machen

A CONTROVERSIAL LEGACY

J. GRESHAM MACHEN (1881-1937) was not a typical fundamentalist or evangelical. He belonged to one of the subgroups, strict Presbyterians loyal to the Old Princeton theology that looked to the Westminster Confession of Faith for its creed. He did not like being called a fundamentalist, he was an intellectual, he was ill-at-ease with the emotionalism and oversimplifications of revival meetings, he opposed church involvement in politics including even the widely popular Prohibition movement, and he declined to join in the antievolution crusade. Yet he was willing to make common cause with popular fundamentalism. In his view modernist theology threatened to undermine Christianity by proclaiming another gospel. His volume Christianity and Liberalism (1923) cast him as the foremost spokesperson for the fundamentalist coalition.

During the following years Machen became the leading controversialist in the (northern) Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. After efforts to oust modernists from Presbyterian pulpits had failed by 1926, liberals and moderates launched a counterattack. Machen, a New Testament scholar at Princeton Theological Seminary, was refused a promotion at the seminary, following an investigation of his divisiveness by a com

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