Foreword to Christianity & Liberalism

June 14, 2019

by Peter Lillback

A fitting way for Westminster Theological Seminary to celebrate our 90th anniversary is to hark back to the work that firmly placed our founder, and former Princeton Theological Seminary professor, J. Gresham Machen, on the turbulent path to becoming the leading biblically minded reformer of the liberalizing Presbyterian church in the early twentieth century.

The steps from the appearance of Machen’s groundbreaking work to the birth of Westminster can be traced with unbroken historical clarity.

Machen’s rigorous thinking, lucid communication, and trenchant criticism of liberalism endow his work with timeless character. Indeed, Christianity and Liberalism has become the seminal work that distinguishes historic Christianity from the subtly but utterly distinct and divergent theology of the modernizing church. For Machen, although Christianity and liberalism sounded much alike, they were, in essence, two different religions. The first was the revealed religion of the Lord Jesus Christ; the second was a manmade reconstruction of the former that intended to make that religion palatable to minds that had imbibed the tenets of autonomous reason trumpeted by post-Enlightenment theologians. The steps from the appearance of Machen’s groundbreaking work to the birth of Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia can be traced with unbroken historical clarity.

As this new edition of Machen’s revolutionary work appears, a word of explanation may be appropriate. After all, the volume has remained in print longer than most books of its vintage, and new translations continue to appear abroad. There are three primary reasons that Westminster has chosen to issue this new publication: (1) a new milestone; (2) a declaration of theological fidelity; (3) a unanimous theological consensus from faculty members.

What Machen passionately pursued—namely, to bring a full, biblical reformation to the theology of the church—is what our faculty strive to do today.

This new publication by Westminster faculty marks both the milestone of our 90th anniversary and the fact that, as of 2019, Machen’s classic work is now in the public domain and no longer protected by copyright. It is fitting to celebrate this second milestone and the volume’s new, unfettered stage with the anticipation that it will continue to offer its clarion witness to the historic truths of biblical Christianity.

The faculty reissues this book with a desire to do more than honor Machen in the 90th year of the seminary that he launched. The members of the Westminster faculty are keenly aware that the seminary was named for the Presbyterian Confession that most celebrates the inspiration and truthfulness of Holy Scripture. Indeed, the Confession begins by affirming that the Scriptures are the only sure foundation for theological truth. Thus we intend, by the new release of Christianity and Liberalism, to communicate collectively the vital significance that this work, as well as the Confession of Faith, has on our ministries and academic endeavors. We are proclaiming again Machen’s vision to establish a seminary with a faculty that consciously subscribe ex animo to the Confession, with a full commitment to the “whole counsel of God.” What Machen passionately pursued—namely, to bring a full, biblical reformation to the theology of the church—is what our faculty strive to do today. With this founding vision in mind—through rigorous, pastoral instruction based upon the inspired, infallible, and inerrant Word of God—the faculty daily train the next generations of leaders for Christ’s global church.

Westminster exists for nothing less than to train specialists in the Bible to proclaim the whole counsel of God for Christ and his global church.

The essays included here, one contributed by each member of the full-time faculty, reveal that Machen’s visionary theological commitments remain a shared and unanimous concern among our faculty. We believe this is critical to communicate openly and broadly, given the substantial theological testing the seminary experienced and addressed in the not-too-distant past. The unity of the Westminster faculty in its commitment to biblical theology and to the clarity, certainty, and authority of the Word of God, is herein unmistakably heralded by an integrated witness to Scripture in the tradition of Machen.

Please welcome the publication of these new essays along with this historic and magisterial work. We encourage you to share this new edition with many. In so doing, you join us in fulfilling the founding vision of Westminster, for Westminster exists for nothing less than to train specialists in the Bible to proclaim the whole counsel of God for Christ and his global church. Could there be any greater mission for a seminary today or in the coming generations until the King of glory returns?

 

Sincerely on behalf of the faculty,
Dr. Peter A. Lillback, President
January 3, 2019

Peter Lillback

Dr. Lillback (PhD, Westminster) is president and professor of historical theology.

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