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J. Gresham Machen: Selected Shorter Writings Hardcover – February 18, 2004
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"A long-overdue anthology. Hart has provided a great service to the church by editing these biblical and confessional arguments for the church and its witness in the modern world." --John R. Muether
About the Author
J. Gresham Machen wrote well-known books such as Christianity and Liberalism and The Virgin Birth of Christ. In addition, he wrote innumerable articles, book reviews, and addresses, and shorter writings that are also an important legacy.
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Following Archibald Alexander, Charles and A. A. Hodge and Benjamin B. Warfield, Machen is generally regarded as the last in the line of the "Old Princeton" tradition and theology. He was at the center, and, in many respects the flashpoint, of the modernist/liberal ascendancy that began in earnest with the death of Warfield in 1921 culminating in the reorganization of Princeton Theological Seminary in 1929. The reorganization led to Machen, Cornelius Van Til, Oswald Allis, Robert Dick Wilson and others to resign from Princeton and form Westminster. Near the end of his life Machen was also defrocked by the now liberal-dominated PCUSA and he helped found what is now the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC).
Machen was the author of three seminal works, Christianity and Liberalism, What is Christianity and The Virgin Birth. Additionally he authored scores of shorter essays and reviews, some of which this volume compiles together. Originally, this essays in this book were included in a larger three volume set that included: J Gresham Machen: A Biographical Memoir, God Transcendent a collection of sermons, and the collection of shorter essays, entitled What is Christianity, written and compiled by Ned Stonehouse. While the biography and sermons have remained in print the collection of essays dropped away, and this volume, as the editor states, "is an effort to make up for this curiosity in publishing history" (p. 2).
The editor, who has written extensively on Machen's life and work, provides an introductory chapter, "The Forgotten Machen?" (1-22) which alone would be worth the price of this entire book. It is an excellent and penetrating examination of Machen, particularly in relation to the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy of his day and the theological decline of his own denomination.
The essays in this collection are divided into ten different categories. A good many of the articles have to do with the controversies raging in the PCUSA during Machen's last days at Princeton. Those articles are enlightening about the issues that led to the formation of Westminster Seminary and finally the OPC. Some of the articles are classics, such as the section "The Task of Christian Scholarship" and there are others that, while a little odd sounding, are enlightening to the history of a previous era, such as the essay on the 18th Amendment and the laws enacting Prohibition. His essay on "The Christian and Human Relations" (421-28) is very instructive to this age, particularly as it relates to unsaved friends. He emphasizes that strong friendships with unbelievers are essential in personal evangelism. "Without such friendship, any persuasion that we attempt will usually be mere empty words" (p. 427). Machen was particularly concerned with the interaction between Christianity and culture as several other essays demonstrate. His essays on the Virgin Birth (57-74) and the Resurrection of Christ (75-87) are both classic statements on the subject.
This work contains two lengthy bibliographies for additional reading (16-20 and 571-75). While he points to the complete bibliography of Machen's works in another (now out of print work), it seems that this volume would have been an appropriate location for that bibliography as well. It also contains a useful, albeit brief, subject and name index.
The reissuing of this collection of Machen's writings, combined with the additional materials supplied by the editor is a welcome addition to evangelical literature. While Machen's main works have remained in print since their original publication over 70 years ago, Machen himself is perhaps not as well remembered as his stature warrants. This book will open a door into the life, times and thinking of one of the most fascinating and original Christian thinkers of his day.