Christianity and Liberalism by J. Gresham Machen

J. Gresham Machen, at this point in my life, is probably my favorite author. Last year around this time I read his book Christianity and Liberalism. It was great. The purpose of his book was to identify liberalism (Liberal Christianity) and Christianity (Christianity that holds to the historic Christian doctrines) as two distinct religions. At one point in the book he states,

Admitting that scientific objections may arise against the particularities of the Christian religion . . . the liberal theologian seeks to rescue certain of the general principles of religion, of which these particularities are thought to be mere temporary symbols, and these general principles he regards as constituting “the essence of Christianity.” . . . As a matter of fact . . . what the liberal theologian has retained after abandoning to the enemy one Christian doctrine after another is not Christianity at all, but a religion so entirely different as to belong in a distinct category.


By identifying liberalism as distinct from Christianity, he reveals that doctrinal separation already existed. This left practical separation as the logical conclusion. Advocating for liberals to withdraw from the denominations (and only the conservatives as a last resort), namely the Presbyterian denomination, Machen insisted that “separation between the two parties in the Church is the crying need of the hour” because unity would otherwise be unsatisfactory and dishonest.

This book is a great read for any Christian. Although it is older (1923) and might not be the easiest thing to read, Machen’s writing keeps you captivated and I certainly do not find his writing to be difficult reading. This book is great for anyone who is struggling to see why doctrine matters or why a less than conservative (theologically speaking) Christianity is that big of a deal.

If your interested on further information about J. Gresham Machen, check out this paper I wrote summarizing his life with a special emphasis on his separatist actions within the emergence of the Fundamentalist movement (although he would not have classified himself as a “Fundamentalist”)–The Presbyterian Separatist..

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