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This year marks one hundred years since the publication of Christianity and Liberalism by J. Gresham Machen (1881–1937). Machen was a professor at Princeton Theological Seminary from 1906 to 1929, when he left to help establish Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, where he was professor of New Testament until his death. Machen was instrumental in the founding of what later became known as the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. He is one of the most important, but lesser-known, Christian figures of the twentieth century, and it would be difficult to overstate the significance of his classic work. In Christianity and Liberalism, Machen took a valiant and unwavering stance by drawing a sharp contrast between true, biblical Christianity (as summarized by the church’s historic creeds and confessions) and liberalism, demonstrating that liberalism is an altogether different religion from Christianity. While some chose not to enter the fray, Machen confidently and charitably fought to maintain the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace in the one, true church of Jesus Christ.
In his introduction, Machen wrote: “In the sphere of religion, as in other spheres, the things about which men are agreed are apt to be the things that are least worth holding; the really important things are the things about which men will fight. In the sphere of religion, in particular, the present time is a time of conflict; the great redemptive religion which has always been known as Christianity is battling against a totally diverse type of religious belief, which is only the more destructive of the Christian faith because it makes use of traditional Christian terminology.”
Machen argued that liberalism is a form of disguised naturalism based on modernistic scientific theories and not on the Word of God. Machen’s thesis has long been vindicated, as we have witnessed liberalism show itself time and again as an entirely false religion that preaches an entirely false gospel. Machen declared, “The Christian religion . . . is certainly not the religion of the modern liberal Church, but a message of divine grace, almost forgotten now, as it was in the middle ages, but destined to burst forth once more in God’s good time, in a new Reformation, and bring light and freedom to mankind.” This is precisely why we fight, as Machen did, standing firm and contending earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints, for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the glory of our triune God. For without the gospel, there is no message of hope for mankind.