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Christianity and Liberalism, new ed. Paperback – June 2, 2009

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About the Author

J. Gresham Machen (1881–1937) was professor of New Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. He was also the author of Christian Faith in the Modern World, What Is Faith? and The Origin of Paul’s Religion.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.; New edition (June 2, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802864996
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802864994
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.4 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (101 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #31,648 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

143 of 149 people found the following review helpful By Rod D. Martin on June 27, 2000
Format: Paperback
Few books have had as pivotal a role in the battle of ideas as J. Gresham
Machen's Christianity and Liberalism. Machen's classic was written in the
height of the battle for control over the Presbyterian Church USA (the most
prominent of the "mainline denominations"), and defines with brilliance the
battle lines between liberal (so-called) Christianity and the orthodox
faith. Moreover, it points out exactly what is at stake: the true faith, as
opposed to a perverse shadow of that faith, a shadow based on subjectivism
which elevates man's sovereignty over God's and ends in believing nothing at

It is important to understand that the liberalism Machen castigates is not
political but theological (although many if not most of the liberals of the
latter camp fell also in the former, numerous prominent political liberals
-- such as three-time Democrat Presidential nominee William Jennings Bryan
-- fought alongside Machen). This theological liberalism manifests itself in
many ways, but is chiefly characterized by a rejection of Scripture as
infallibly inspired, a denial of the doctrines of the Fall and of Hell, and
a belief in man's evolutionary self-perfection (process theology, with
progress guided by an "enlightened" elite). Machen correctly asserts that
this is not merely a different approach to the Gospel, but is in fact a
different gospel: an exchange of God's sovereignty for man's, God's law-word
for man's, God's eternal, unchanging standards for man's evolving, situation
ethics. For this reason, Machen contends that liberalism and Christianity
are separate things: rival religions, permanently at war.
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49 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Nicola Gibson on October 17, 2005
Format: Paperback
Christianity and liberalism is perhaps the best-known book length treatise against early 20th century theological liberalism in America. It was published as the famous "Fundamentalist-Modernist" controversy was heating up, and has since been one of the clearest contrasting descriptions of the heart of the difference between modernist liberal Christianity and historical Christian orthodoxy.

The major thesis of the book is that Liberalism (modernist theology) and Christianity are diametrically opposed religions that unfortunately use the same language to describe their opposite views of things. He states, "the great redemptive religion which has always been known as Christianity is battling against a totally diverse type of religious belief, which is only more destructive of the Christian faith because it makes use of Christian terminology." Later he states in his thesis, "...we shall be interested in showing that despite the liberal use of traditional phraseology modern liberalism is not only a different religion from Christianity, but belongs to a totally different class of religions."

Machen is interested not in necessarily proving that Liberalism is wrong as he is in explaining that it is not Christian. His burden is not to disprove the tenants of Liberalism (although he speaks some to that end), but to simply describe each clearly and make obvious the huge divergence of thinking in the two groups.

Although Machen is perhaps "the" great Fundamentalists, on must keep in mind this was before Fundamentalist meant: narrow, reactionary, separatist, nationalistic, literalist, ignorant, and the like.
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49 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Shane Rosenthal (Reformation Ink: on May 12, 1998
Format: Paperback
J. Gresham Machen's magnum opus, Christianity & Liberalism, is a book that everyone concerned about the demise of American Christianity should read. At first one might not find the title of his book all that striking, but in its day (1923), it had a little more punch. Machen was trying to show that Christianity and liberalism were two separate plans of salvation, two separate faiths--in short, two entirely different religious systems. In his day, it was thought that liberalism was a fresh new approach to Christianity, a way of practicing the faith in the modern context. But in Machen's thinking, however, liberalism had "relinquished everything distinctive of Christianity, so that what remains is in essentials only that same indefinite type of religious aspiration which was in the world before Christianity came upon the scene." Machen set out therefore to bring all the issues out into the open and make clear-cut distinctions between the two faiths: "What that message is can be made clear, as is the case with all definition, only by way of exclusion, by way of contrast." But this approach wasn't always well received:
"Presenting an issue sharply is indeed by no means a popular business at the present time....Clear-cut definition of terms in religious matters, bold facing of the logical implications of religious views, is by many persons regarded as an impious proceeding...But with such persons we cannot possibly bring ourselves to agree. Light may seem at times to be an impertinent intruder, but it is always beneficial in the end. The type of religion which rejoices in the pious sound of traditional phrases, regardless of their meanings, or shrinks from "controversial" matters, will never stand amid the shocks of life.
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