Great Christian thinkers – part 2

2010 Autumn Lectures

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
Romans 12:2a (NIV)

These lectures look at the life and work of five American theologians and apologists. Each one of these great Christian thinkers has had a significant impact upon the church’s thinking today. Warfield, Machen, and Schaeffer were involved in defending the infallibility of the Bible against the rise of liberalism in the church. Nevin saw charlatans and hucksters in the pulpit and sought to call the American church back to its historic Biblical roots. Jonathan Edwards defended the evangelical faith against the many false religious movements of his day.

The church in the 21st Century is in desperate need of those who are willing to stand firm against the onslaught of many false gospels and instead proclaim the genuine evangelical gospel which alone can truly transform lives and every part of society.

1. Francis Schaeffer

By Colin Duriez

One of the most influential Christians of recent times, Francis Schaeffer pioneered modern apologetics. Converted from agnosticism, Schaeffer went on to study at Westminster Theological Seminary under Cornelius Van Til. Throughout his life Schaeffer countered the philosophy of relativism by defending the existence of absolute truth. In his biography Colin Duriez describes Schaeffer’s teaching as being able to “deeply and personally influence people of every age and position… in a way that few others have.”

2. Jonathan Edwards

By Revd William Macleod

Jonathan Edwards is arguably America’s best known preacher and theologian, and one of the most influential evangelicals of all time. Under God his teaching was not only of a high intellectual calibre but was also used by the Lord in the widespread US revival known as the Great Awakening.Edwards is often called ‘the last Puritan’ and is described by J.I. Packer as “a Puritan born out of due time”. Shortly before his early death Edwards was made president of the College of New Jersey, which would later become Princeton University.

3. Gresham Machen

By Revd Dr Bill Schweitzer

J. Gresham Machen was a distinguished scholar, incisive theologian, and committed churchman who fought higher criticism and co-founded two of the most important institutions of American Presbyterianism. He was the leading voice for Reformed thinking during the fundamentalist-modernist controversy of the early 20th Century. He served as Professor of New Testament at Princeton until the seminary was overtaken by liberals, leaving to establish Westminster Theological Seminary. Likewise, after years of resisting liberalism within the Presbyterian Church, Machen helped form the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

4. John Nevin

By Dr Nick Needham

John Nevin was one of the most significant American theologians of the 19th century. The favourite student of Charles Hodge at Princeton University, he went on to become a professor of theology at the German Reformed Seminary at Mercersburg, Pennsylvania. He argued against the prevailing revivalist theology of Charles Finney and the individualism of his day. He helped Protestants nurture a high view of the Lord’s Supper. He also worked alongside his close friend and colleague Philip Schaff to promote the vital importance of church history.

5. B. B. Warfield

By Revd Dr Iain D Campbell

B.B. Warfield was one of a number of Princeton theologians who strongly held on to the infallibility of scripture in the context of an increasingly liberal church. Warfield wrote: “God speaks to us now, in Scripture, not only mediately through his representatives, but directly through the Scriptures themselves as His inspired word.” He was one of the leading defenders of the Bible in the history of the Christian church. Warfield is still widely read today and is responsible for a large collection of published articles, sermons and essays.