Machen’s Warrior Children

Darryl G. Hart visits with the panel of Christ the Center once again. On this episode Dr. Hart speaks about his latest essay found in Always Reformed, a festschrift written in honor of Dr. Robert Godfrey.


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Christ the Center focuses on Reformed Christian theology. In each episode a group of informed panelists discusses important issues in order to encourage critical thinking and a better understanding of Reformed doctrine with a view toward godly living. Browse more episodes from this program or subscribe to the podcast feed.

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Tweets that mention Machen’s Warrior Children - ReformedForum.org -- Topsy.com

9 years ago

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Joe Coker, The Reformed Hub. The Reformed Hub said: REFORMED FORUM: Machen’s Warrior Children http://bit.ly/gRIuag […]

Christ the Center – Machen’s Warrior Children « Pilgrimage to Geneva

9 years ago

[…] Machen’s Warrior Children […]

Machen Wasn’t Nice: Darryl Hart on the Rise, Fall, and Resurrection of Machen’s Warrior Children « Heidelblog

9 years ago

[…] Warrior Children Posted on January 7, 2011 by R. Scott Clark Darryl Hart’s latest interview on Christ the Center is available now. He’s discussing his chapter in Always Reformed, “Make War No More? […]

Dr. Hart on Christ the Center « Johannes Weslianus

9 years ago

[…] Darryl G. Hart discusses his essay in Always Reformed with the panel of Christ the Center. Download it […]

Steve in Toronto

9 years ago

Don’t you think we may have heard enough Machen hagiography? I know that the man has played a pivotal role in both the formation of Westminster and the OPC but even a casual student of Presbyterian history is likely to realize that you are painting a very one sided portrait of the man. It is a continuing mystery why so little time was spent examining Machen’s views on the race and the American civil war. I don’t think that these views discredit his many virtues but like Luther’s anti-Semitism they have to be honestly engaged with. Similarly he seemed to have a very unusual personally. There nothing wrong with being a life time bachelor but it is odd and I have never really seen a thoughtful explanation of why this might have been (and no I don’t think he was gay his close relationship to his mother not withstanding) and from what we know from his private correspondence I think Dr. Hart might be unwise to hold him up as a model for civility. I would also like to hear a more full explanation as to why Machen served in the YMCA instead of as an army chaplain (or even as a regular soldier). What about arranging a discussion about Machen legacy between Dr Hart and Mark Noll (a former OPC ruling elder I believe) or even John Frame? It would be great to hear Dr. Hart push back agent a less sympathetic interlocutor then your host.

Thanks for all your hard work I rarely miss a show

Steve in Toronto

Tim H.

9 years ago


Machen Wasn’t Nice: Darryl Hart on the Rise, Fall, and Resurrection of Machen’s Warrior Children (via Heidelblog) « Pilgrimage to Geneva

9 years ago

[…] Hart’s latest interview on Christ the Center is available now. He’s discussing his chapter in Always Reformed, “Make War No More? The Rise, […]


9 years ago

Steve, you will see in my book a discussion of Machen’s views on race and on the War between the States. If race is going to disqualify folks, don’t you think most people born before 1940 would fail? Also, since you seem to judge that Machen’s views of the political contest of 1861, are you suggesting there is an orthodox view of wars, one side right, the other wicked? But I am most intrigued by your understanding of civility. Would you say that you, in your private moments, have never let loose with words or behavior that you would not do in public? I mean, have you ever passed gas? So isn’t it a sign of civility when one seeks relief from intestinal or emotional discomfort in private rather than in public?

And here I thought Canadians were more sensible.

Steve in Toronto

9 years ago

Thanks for your response Dr. Hart.
I am not trying to discredit Machen (although I am not sure that I would so easily characterise him as “mister stand fast for truth” either) just understand why he and by extension so many people in the reformed world could be so wrong about race and/or slavery. As you know this is not an exclusively American phenomenon. My wife grew up in Rhodesia / Zimbabwe in the 70’s and the heady mix of religion, nationalism and I am afraid racism that was found among the Dutch reformed citizens of that country (and neighbouring South Africa) scarred her deeply. Civility is of course a slippery concept but it’s always good practice not to say something behind someone’s back that one would not say to there face (I sadly fail frequently in this regard but I don’t hold myself up as any kind of spiritual ideal either). I understand your point about pulling people out the there historical context and judging them by modern standard of morality but Machen was not a man of the 18th or even 19th century, he was a very well educated man who came of age in the early 20th century who had traveled widely. In fact the most infamous account of Machen’s racism that I know of was his dispute with B.B. Warfield who was not only a much older man but also a southerner. When I looked more deeply into Luther’s anti-Semitism and discovered it was rooted in his disappointment that there were not more conversions from the Jewish community in the wake of the reformation as apposed to any intrinsic irrational hatred of Jews I felt a lot better about it (although I am not sure a Jew would feel the same way). I can’t say that I have been able to completely overlook his anti-Semitism but I continue to hold him in very high esteem (perhaps even higher then Calvin who as you know did not have an anti-Semite bone in his entire body). As far as the Civil war is concern I am convinced that the right side won (although a have no doubt that there were more of less the same percentages of righteous and wicked on both side of that tragic conflict). I still don’t feel that I really understand what made Machen tick and suspect that the reason for this is that too many of his disciples are trying to make him into a plaster saint. Last week I had the privilege of visiting the home of anther great protestant hero Oliver Cromwell who famously insisted that his portraits always be painted “warts and all” I wish more Christian biographers would follow his advice. What any of this has to do with flatulence is a complete mystery to me.

Steve in Toronto


9 years ago

So Steve, are you also concerned that Americans (of certain political persuasions) exalt Martin Luther King, Jr., and don’t ever address his philandering or plagiarism? The right of course looks at those moral failings to discredit King. But what exactly do those failings have to do with what he was trying to do to gain equality for blacks? Was he sleeping with female congresswomen in order to secure favorable legislation? That might discredit some of his stand. But for the most part, his failings were personal and private and represented the afflictions that cling to most human beings not born of a virgin.

So the question for you is whether Machen’s warts were essential to the composition of his face? You seem to think they were. In which case, you have not shown how Machen’s views on race undermine his Reformed convictions. All you have seemed to do is show your lack of comfort with some of Machen’s opinions (he hardly went out of his way to practice them). In which case, if I knew more about you (and I suspect your wife could tell me some things as most wives do), would I be able to discredit your opinion of Machen? Are you above reproach?

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9 years ago

[…] “Machen’s Warrior Children” on Christ the Center […]

John D. Chitty

9 years ago

Is CTC planning to anytime soon interview some author who is promoting a book written to coincide with the KJV quadricentennial?

Just wondering…


9 years ago

Good question, John. I saw Justin Taylor’s interview with Leland Ryken, which was interesting. No one has really popped up on our radar yet but it would be cool to do a segment on that.

Steve in Toronto

9 years ago

Thanks for your responce Dr. Hart sorry it has taken me to long to get back to you. I don’t worry too much about Dr. King because I think the “Mythic” image that we have of him is far more useful to the United States then the real man ever was. It’s not the plagiarism and the philandering that concern me it’s his Marxism that I am most anxious to suppress. But a serious historian and a mature citizen needs to grapple at least with the Marxism that has (I think) proved to have been a such a pernicious influence on the civil rights movement and it’s evil twin “identity politics” .
As a student of human nature I am interested in Machen’s war record because it seem odd that a man that is famous as a both fighter and a minister did neither during a war that was too many men of his generation the defying event of their lives. His bachelorhood is a mere curiosity but like CS Lewis personal life has the potential of shedding light on the spiritual life of the man. I am glad I know at least a bit about Lewis’s (still very murky) private life because it makes him seem more like a fellow human being. His intellectual and spiritual accomplishments seem only brighter because they came from a man that realy know about sin, suffering and depravity.
I don’t need to say to much about Machen’s temperament (I would just be repeating the opinions of partisans but I think it is telling that men like Noll and Frame that one would expect to be sympatric to him are not unanimous in their praise) I don’t think it’s a big deal either way but Machen’s racism is another matter. For reasons that are a complete mystery to me the orthodox reformed community seems to repeatedly find it’s self on the wrong side when ever this issue arises. The Quakers look betters then the Puritans in New England with regards to the Native Americans. It was the “Evangelical” Armenians who championed the abolition of slavery in England and America and the most vocal defenders of the instruction were the “Old School” Presbyterians of the old south (men like Dabney and Thornwell). As recently as 20 years ago it was not uncommon to find Dutch Reformed Afrikaners studying theology in Toronto who would make apologies for apartheid. Why this is is this so? Is it just a coincidence? The reformed community in North American (and I suspect in the rest of the world as well) is overwhelmingly white middle class and well educated. I do not think that this is because God loves the decedents of the Dutch and the Scots better then he loves the children of African slaves.


8 years ago

King never preached the Law or the Gospel to his people, never called them to repentance and faith, and his sermons were designed to reduce Negroes to victims who would look to the government for solutions.

That Dr. Hart would so mis-characterize MLK as some kind of non virgin born “secular” saint gives us a hint at how much we should trust his analysis of J. Gresham Machen.

Wayne Sparkman

8 years ago


While admitting that hagiography is an easy trap to fall into, the best way to answer your questions about Machen as mere human being and average Joe would be to get yourself down to Philadelphia and spend some time reading through his papers, preserved at the Montgomery Library on the campus of Westminster Seminary. Don’t go looking for dirt, but do go looking to see the record of a sinner saved by grace.

If time and expense don’t permit that travel, get a copy of Dr. Barry Waugh’s article, “Mr. Machen’s Protege,” Westminster Theological Journal 71.1 (Spring 2009): 21-51. Waugh uncovers a little seen side of Machen, patiently encouraging and discipling a man for decades.

Also, you might read some of what his contemporaries thought of him:


Or you could read of his other interests:


These help to give a fuller picture of the man. A sinner, to be sure, but well used of the Lord.

[apologies here and now for pointing to my own blog, etc.]

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