Book Review; J. Gresham Machen’s The Gospel and the Modern World And Other Short Writings

This short but meaty introduction to J. Gresham Machen’s writings by Stephen Nichols is a helpful starting point for those interested in Machen and the history of the church in early part of the last century. Nichols has done a fantastic job introducing the reader to J. Gresham Machen, the founder of Westminster Theological Seminary. He provides a short explanation of each work included and why it was selected in the introduction. I found this to be a very useful piece of framing on Nichols part. Nichols then provides two addresses that Machen delivered on the topics of a minister’s call to be a faithful preacher of the gospel of Christ and the Gospel and the Modern World. Additionally, Nichols has allowed the reader to see Machen’s personal warmth by including a collection of letters in which he corresponds with a former student. Lastly, there is a short editorial Machen wrote entitled, Skyscrapers and Cathedrals. While short in length the essay provides an astute look at modern living and the real need of the soul. I would recommend this to anyone looking to deepen their understanding of the modernist debates of the early 20th century. J. Gresham Machen was an faithful man of yesterday and his work is as fresh today as then.  I believe that this is the most accessible introduction to Machen available and the church would be well served to interact with his writings.  Here is a stand out quote from the gospel and the modern world:

The truth is that what remains in Christianity when the supernaturalism of the bible is given up is not Christianity at all. Liberal Christianity and liberal Judaism, for example, turn out to be exactly alike. They have the same God, or father the same fundamental skepticism about god, the same complacency about man, and the same mild admiration for the prophet of Nazareth. Tolerance has had its perfect work. The equilibrium has been restored. The consuming fire of Christianity has burned out and we have merely the same feeble moralism that was in the world before Christianity took its rise.


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