John Gresham Machen bigraphy, stories - Religion

John Gresham Machen : biography

July 28, 1881 - January 1, 1937

John Gresham Machen ( July 28, 1881 – January 1, 1937) was an American Presbyterian theologian in the early 20th century. He was the Professor of New Testament at Princeton Seminary between 1906 and 1929, and led a conservative revolt against modernist theology at Princeton and formed Westminster Theological Seminary as a more orthodox alternative. As the Northern Presbyterian Church continued to reject conservative attempts to enforce faithfulness to the Westminster Confession, Machen led a small group of conservatives out of the church to form the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. When the northern Presbyterian church (PCUSA) rejected his arguments during the mid-1920s and decided to reorganize Princeton Seminary to create a moderate school, Machen took the lead in founding Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia (1929) where he taught New Testament until his death. His continued opposition during the 1930s to liberalism in his denomination's foreign missions agencies led to the creation of a new organization, The Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions (1933). The trial, conviction and suspension from the ministry of Independent Board members, including Machen, in 1935 and 1936 provided the rationale for the formation in 1936 of the OPC.

Machen is considered to be the last of the great Princeton theologians who had, since the formation of the college in the early 19th century, developed Princeton theology: a conservative and Calvinist form of Evangelical Christianity. Although Machen can be compared to the great Princeton theologians (Archibald Alexander, Charles Hodge, A. A. Hodge and B. B. Warfield) he was neither a lecturer in theology (he was a New Testament scholar) nor did he ever become the seminary's principal.

Machen's influence can still be felt today through the existence of both institutions that he founded—Westminster Theological Seminary and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. In addition, his textbook on basic New Testament Greek is still used today in many seminaries, including PCUSA schools.

Asked how to say his name, he told The Literary Digest, "The first syllable is pronounced like May, the name of the month. In the second syllable the ch is as in chin, with e as in pen: may'chen. In Gresham, the h is silent: gres'am."Charles Earle Funk: What's the Name, Please?, Funk & Wagnalls, 1936.

Pre War Period

Princeton 1906-1916

In 1906, Machen joined Princeton Seminary as an instructor in New Testament after assurances he would not have to sign a statement of faith. Among his Princeton influences were Francis Landey Patton, who had been the prosecutor in a nineteenth-century heresy trial, and B. B. Warfield, whom he described as the greatest man he had ever met. Warfield maintained that correct doctrine was the primary means by which Christians influenced the surrounding culture and he emphasised a high view of scripture and the defence of supernaturalism. It appears that under their influence Machen resolved his crisis of faith. In 1914, he was ordained and the next year he became the Assistant Professor of New Testament.

World War One

Machen did not serve "conventionally" during World War I, but instead went to France with the YMCA to do volunteer work near and at the front - a task he continued with for some time after the war. Though not a combatant, he witnessed first-hand the devastations of modern warfare. Suspicious of his family friend Woodrow Wilson's project of spreading democracy and of imperialism, he was staunchly opposed to the war, and upon returning to the U.S., he saw that many of the provisions of, "the Treaty of Versailles constituted an attack upon international and interracial peace....[W]ar will follow upon war in a wearisome progression."Douglas M. Jones III: ANTITHESIS January/February 1991 - Volume 2, Number 1.

Early life

Machen was born in Baltimore to Arthur Webster Machen and Mary Jones Gresham. Arthur, a Baltimore lawyer, was 45 and Mary was 24 when they married. While Arthur was an Episcopalian, Mary was a Presbyterian, and taught her son The Westminster Shorter Catechism from an early age. The family attended Franklin Street Presbyterian Church.

Living octopus

Living octopus

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