J. Gresham Machen

Today, the word “fundamentalist” is often used to refer to someone who is uneducated, ignorant, or uncultured. But the great fundamentalist scholar J. Gresham Machen was none of these. In this brief clip, W. Robert Godfrey describes Machen’s influence in the 20th century.


Machen is important on several fronts. He illustrates something of the character and role of Presbyterianism in America. But more importantly, he was recognized as the single most effective scholarly voice on the fundamentalist side of the controversies that were emerging in America in the first half of the 20th century. Dr. Machen, in that regard, helps us to see that fundamentalists in the early part of the 20th century were not at all what fundamentalism came to mean later, when it was used in a derogatory way. “Fundamentalist” today is often used to refer to uneducated, stubborn, ignorant, uncultured sorts of people, and Dr. Machen was none of those things. He was not always entirely comfortable with the label “fundamentalist,” but not because he thought it was too negative or too critical a label, but because he felt it was important for Christians to have a fuller theology than that represented by the fundamentals alone. And so, Dr. Machen was a Westminster Confession of Faith man. He wanted the whole confession, not just part of it, and that was his only reservation about fundamentalists. In fact, he came to be known by some as the “Doctor Fundamentalis,” the fundamental doctor, because he was seen as such an important voice in America in the 20s and 30s in defense of conservative Protestantism.

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