Chapter OneJanuary 1
STANDING FOR "THE FULL
TRUTHFULNESS" OF THE BIBLE
He fought for the faith.
Born in 1881, J. Gresham Machen grew up in an educated, well-to-do Presbyterian
family in Baltimore. He majored in classics at Johns Hopkins University
and graduated first in his class in 1901. He then entered the graduate
program but after one year enrolled in Princeton Seminary. Following his graduation
in 1905, he studied in Germany for a year and then returned to Princeton
Seminary as a professor of New Testament in 1906.
Gresham Machen was known for his serious research and scholarly writing
on various New Testament topics. He also became known for his defense
of conservative theology, especially the authority of Scripture. After publishingChristianity and Liberalism in 1923, he became a nationally recognized figure.
He maintained that liberalism was not a variety of Christianity but was
instead an entirely different religion.
"Liberalism appeals to man's will, while Christianity announces, first, a
gracious act of God." He argued that historical Christianity had always been
rooted in the saving acts of Christ's death and resurrection, whereas liberal
Protestantism reduced Christianity to a set of general religious principles regarding
the moral teachings of Jesus.
These beliefs caused Machen to become a controversial figure both at
Princeton Seminary and within his denomination, the Presbyterian Church
U.S.A., as these institutions were beginning to shift toward a more liberal
theological stance. Princeton's drift into liberalism was heartbreaking for
Machen, who fought hard to keep the seminary committed to the creeds of the
Presbyterian Church. He pleaded with the seminary faculty to stand for "the
full truthfulness of the Bible as the Word of God and for the vigorous defense
and propagation of the Reformed or Calvinistic system of doctrine, which is
the system of doctrine that the Bible teaches."
It was a losing battle. Princeton officially reorganized in 1929 to ensure a
more inclusive theological curriculum. This left Machen and other Reformed
professors worried about the lack of evangelical training for future Presbyterian
ministers. In response, Machen and other Reformed faculty members left
Princeton and founded Philadelphia's Westminster Theological Seminary, an
institution that would stand for theological orthodoxy and academic excellence.
Gresham Machen was a professor of New Testament there until his death.
At Westminster, Machen continued to fight liberalism within the Presbyterian
Church. In 1933 he helped form the conservative Independent Board
for Presbyterian Foreign Missions in order to counteract the liberalism that
was infiltrating Presbyterian foreign missions. The Presbyterian General Assembly
rejected this new mission board, and in 1935 Machen was tried and
suspended from the ministry of the Presbyterian Church for refusing to break
his ties to the Independent Board.
Machen then played a central role in founding a new denomination, the
Presbyterian Church of America (later the Orthodox Presbyterian Church),
which over time continued to uphold theological orthodoxy.
While speaking in Bismarck, North Dakota, in December 1936, Machen
came down with pneumonia, yet he continued preaching even though it was
extremely cold and he was very sick. Finally he was hospitalized. When a
friend visited him New Year's Eve, Machen told him about a vision of heaven
he had had in the hospital: "Sam, it was glorious, it was glorious." He died the
next day on January 1, 1937.
Respond to Gresham Machen's statement that "liberalism appeals
to man's will, while Christianity announces . a gracious act of God."
Where does your church or denomination stand on the conservative/ liberal theological continuum? Where do you stand?
* * *
Yes, by God's grace, Jesus tasted death for everyone in all the world.
And it was only right that God-who made everything and for whom
everything was made-should bring his many children into glory.
Through the suffering of Jesus, God made him a perfect leader, one
fit to bring them into their salvation. Hebrews 2:9-10
January 2 AN APPOINTMENT
He wept with those who wept.
Edward D. Griffin resigned his pastorate at the Newark Presbyterian Church,
one of the largest churches in the nation, to become professor of pulpit eloquence
at the newly established Andover Theological Seminary in Massachusetts.
When Griffin moved from New Jersey to Boston to assume his new
position, he was accompanied by five students who would attend the new seminary.
One of them, Lewis LeCount Conger, soon fell seriously ill, and Griffin,
who had grown to love the young man deeply, sought to inform and comfort
the family of the ailing seminary student. Griffin's poignant correspondence
with those who loved Lewis Conger began:
January 2, 1810
My Dear Sir,
How often have you and your dear family said, "The Lord reigneth, let
the earth rejoice." What a blessing it is that he has the appointment of all our
changes and trials You have given a son to Christ, and if he has work
for him on the earth, he will preserve him and make him a blessing to the
church; but if he has other designs, he will, I doubt not, take him to himself.
. Lewis has the typhus fever. His mind is weak; but he loves to hear of the
name of Christ, and will listen with deep interest and tender affection to
every thing that is said about that blessed Savior I beseech you, my dear
friends . Prepare for every thing which God has in store for you May
God Almighty support you, my dear friends, under this trial, is my prayer.
January 3, 1810
We do little else but pray for him; and the whole college is crying with tears, "Spare him, spare him!" . I cannot but humbly and earnestly pray that
God will spare him for your sakes, and for ours, and for the sake of Christ.
January 6, 1810
The Almighty God support you, my dear friends, under the trials you must
feel. I wish with all my heart that I had something agreeable to communicate.
And I have-Jesus of Nazareth reigns. The infinite God is happy. And our
dear Lewis is happy. Ah, my heart, why this aching and trembling? The will
of God is done. Lewis himself wished that the will of God might be done. And
I am confident that he does not wish to oppose it now Lewis left these
abodes of pain this morning at 10 o'clock
No young man was ever more beloved He has not lived in vain.
. He has been the means of good to some souls; and by his influence
on the college, has probably been indirectly the means of some good to
January 7, 1810
My friends, it is all the appointment of heaven. Eternal wisdom fixed it that
he should die at this time and place
Think not my dear friends, that you have lost your pains in giving him
an education. No, you have been fitting him for more than a pulpit-for a
higher throne in heaven There he is! Think not of him on a bed of sickness, in a land of strangers Think of him on Mount Zion. There is all
that is Lewis. The rest is mere dust. We have not lost him. He is only gone
a little before us There we shall soon find him and enjoy him again, and forever-far more than we ever did in this world
Your afflicted and affectionate friend, E. D. Griffin
Have you lost a friend or loved one in the prime of life and wondered why
God took that person? Can you think of any reasons why he took Lewis
Conger? Is it really necessary for us to know why?
* * *
The righteous pass away; the godly often die before their time. And
no one seems to care or wonder why. No one seems to understand that
God is protecting them from the evil to come. For the godly who die
will rest in peace. Isaiah 57:1-2
January 3 CHOOSING WHOM
YOU WILL SERVE
Some choices have high stakes.
Deliver us, Lord Jupiter!" shouted Trajanus Decius, emperor of Rome, as
stones and arrows showered around him. "Deliver us, Lord Jupiter, for I have
delivered all of Rome into your hands and the hands of our ancient gods!"
cried the beleaguered monarch, as his horse stumbled forward through the
dark waters of the tangled marshes of Dobruja. His men followed grimly,
fighting as they fled.
Pressed violently on their left, assaulted mercilessly on their right, and
pursued from behind, Decius's Roman troops bowed wearily and gradually
succumbed to the fatal blows of the barbarian Goths of King Kniva. Decius fell
at last, one dark form among so many, trampled underfoot by panic-stricken
horses and pulled down by the sucking waters of the steaming swamp. His
body was never found.
Decius had been emperor for fewer than three years. Coming to power in
a time when political turmoil, military crisis, and economic instability threatened
the Roman Empire, Decius sought to unite his subjects through forced
submission to the ancient Roman gods. "Perhaps," he reasoned, "the gods will
favor us once more, give us final victory over the pestilent Goths, and restore
the glory of the empire."
On January 3, 250, he published an imperial edict commanding all citizens
of the empire to sacrifice to the Roman gods. Those who did so were
given certificates as evidence of their compliance while those who refused
were imprisoned or executed.
Decius's edict initiated the first universal Roman persecution of the Christian
church. Untold numbers of believers suffered the loss of family, freedom,
and life itself. Among those martyred over the next two years were the bishops
of Rome, Antioch, and Jerusalem.
When Decius died in battle against the Goths in June of 251, the pogrom
ended, but the lull revealed a spiritual war within the ranks of the Christian
Many believers had sacrificed to the gods to save their lives, and others
had illegally obtained certificates without sacrificing. And now thousands of
lapsed Christians begged to be received back into the fellowship of the
A great controversy ensued. Some of those who had been imprisoned for
their faith wrote letters of pardon to large numbers of those who had denied
Christ. Some dishonest individuals produced amnesty papers in the name of
Bishops were divided over how to treat the lapsed Christians. Some called
for rigid excommunication. Some demanded a general amnesty. Eventually,
they agreed that those who actually sacrificed to the gods should be readmitted
to communion only when dying. Those who obtained a false Roman certificate
but had not actually sacrificed to the gods could be readmitted upon
repentance and penance. Without sorrow for their unfaithfulness, they would
receive no grace. However, bitter dissensions over the matter continued with
When another great persecution arose under Emperor Valerian in 257, a
wider amnesty was offered to those who had defected during the days of
Decius. This was not the sign of a weakened standard but rather a gracious opportunity
for the shunned to stand where once they had fallen. Many returned
to the fold. Many, in turn, sacrificed their lives for Christ.
How do you feel the church should have dealt with Christians who
sacrificed to the Roman gods or who obtained counterfeit certificates
of compliance? How should churches today deal with members engaged
in egregious sin?
* * *
Dear brothers and sisters, if another Christian is overcome by some
sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person
back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same
temptation yourself. Galatians 6:1