J. Gresham Machen was born in 1881 to a priveleged family in Baltimore, Maryland. His mother had been brought up in the Protestant tradition, and from the boy's earliest years, she taught him the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Although Machen's father was Episcopalean, the whole family attended Franklin Street Presbyterian Church.
Machen was able to attend a private college in his youth, where he learned Latin, Greek, and other classical subjects. In 1898, at the age of 17, he began attending John Hopkins University, majoring in the Classics. Later in his career, his mastery of the ancient languages would figure prominently.
In 1902, the young man began simultaneously studying theology at Princeton Seminary while working towards a Master of Arts degree in Philosophy at Princeton University. A few years later, he spent a year in Germany studying theology at the Marburg and Gottingen universities. While in Germany, his faith was seriously shaken by the liberal views of Wilhelm Herrmann, a professor whom he greatly respected. Eventually, with the help of his friends from Princeton, B. B. Warfield and Francis Patton, he rejected liberalism and reverted even more strongly to conservative and reformed ideas.
When Machen returned from Germany in 1906, he became the Instructor of New Testament at Princeton. In the following ten years he continued teaching and rising in the ranks of the Princeton faculty. By 1914, at the age of 34, Machen was ordained as a minister by the Northern Presbyterian Church. His teaching career was interrupted by the First World War, in which Machen served as a non-combatant volunteer through the YMCA. After the war, Machen returned to his responsibilities at Princeton, where he continually battled the emerging modernist and liberal ideas of his day. In 1921, he wrote "The Origin of Paul's Religion," a defense against those who touted the idea that Paul's religion was based on Greek philosophy. Not long after the publishing of that work, he published another anti-liberalist book, "Christianity and Liberalism." Almost immediately after the publication of the latter, Machen began experiencing conflicts with the Princeton faculty, who were becoming increasingly influenced by liberal ideologies. By 1929, events had escalated to the point that Machen and several other faculty left Princeton and formed Westminster Theological Seminary.
A few years later, in 1933, Machen was suspended from the ministry by the Northern Presbyterian Church over a disagreement regarding independent boards for missions work. In response, Machen left the NPC and founded the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Four years afterwards, Machen was struck down by pneumonia and died in the hospital. His final resting place is located in Greenmount Cemetery, in the city of his birth. The legacy of his fight against liberalism and modernism remains with us today, in his numerous books defending orthodoxy and conservative ideas.
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