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Defending the Faith: J. Gresham Machen and the Crisis of Conservative Protestantism in America

D. G. Hart

Reviewed by: G. I. Williamson

Date posted: 04/09/2006

Defending the Faith: J. Gresham Machen and the Crisis of Conservative Protestantism in America, by D. G. Hart. Reissued by P&R Publishing, 2003. Paperback, 227 pages, list price $14.99. Reviewed by OP minister G. I. Williamson.

I first heard about J. Gresham Machen in 1950, when I was a student at Pittsburgh-Xenia Seminary. I was intrigued, but it wasn't easy to get at the truth. I heard many criticisms of Machen, but they were usually nothing more than vague allegations. The more I heard, the less convinced I was that they were true. But how was I to make sure? There wasn't much in print about Machen in those days—at least not much that was readily accessible to me. I finally got some first hand testimony from Clarence E. Macartney, who was then in the final years of his ministry at First Presbyterian Church. I will never forget his clear affirmation of Machen's faithfulness to the truth, and of his church's unjust dealing with him.

Today it is much easier for students—or anyone else—to get to know this remarkable man. In recent decades, several books have been written about him and his times, and now this fine study by Dr. D. G. Hart has been reissued.

The most important thing that I gained from this particular book was a better insight into the social and cultural context in which Machen labored. He was the number one foe of the modernists, who used the terminology of the Christian religion, but were in reality anything but Christian. This brought many fundamentalists to see him as the champion of their cause.

And yet, as Hart so brilliantly demonstrates, he was anything but a mere fundamentalist. Sometimes he made choices that still seem surprising. But even then he manifested his supreme virtue, which was to strive, in the light of God's inerrant Word, to do what he thought was right. If ever there was a man who did almost nothing just because everyone else was doing it—or at least favored doing it—it was Machen. And he was always prepared to give a reason for his actions (writing to prominent newspapers, giving testimony before civil magistrates, etc.).

If you want to better know the man who was so instrumental in the founding of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, then get this book. I highly recommend it.

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