J. Gresham Machen on the age of the Earth

John Gresham Machen was a professor at Princeton Seminary in the early 1900s, and was founder of Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. He is best known as a defender of Christian orthodoxy in the face of rising theological liberalism in the churches of his day. Perhaps his most famous book was Christianity and Liberalism, in which he made the case that theological liberalism, with its de-emphasis on human sin and denials of the power of God, is not just a different form of Christianity, but is actually a rival of Christianity.

And he was another fundamentalist who had no problem with an old Earth. Here’s a quote from Machen’s The Christian View of Man:

The meaning of “day” in Gen 1 has been debated in the church at least since the days of Augustine. The literary form of the passage in its relation to other scriptures is important for its interpretation. Responsible Reformed theologians have differed as to whether Gen 1 teaches a young earth or allows for an old earth. While one of these interpretations must be mistaken, we believe that either position can be held by faithful Reformed people.

Grace and Peace

Quote from Todd S. Bordow: The Debate Over The Days of Creation

5 thoughts on “J. Gresham Machen on the age of the Earth

  1. Richard

    You know, when I point out these views to my PCA pastor–and the views of the Hodges and B.B. Warfield, they get pooh-poohed as the views of those who were unduly influenced by the scientific community of the world in which they lived; whereas we live in more biblically enlightened times. It’s like talking to a brick wall.


  2. Richard


    I will check these out. I have read Vern Poythress’ excellent book, “Redeeming Science,” and have heard him speak on the subject, and I am going through some of Meredith Kline’s works as well. Also, one of the better books which just came out recently touching briefly on the subject is Scott Clark’s “Recovering the Reformed Confession.” Being new to this PCA church, my wife and I were frankly flabbergasted at my pastor’s view, and you can’t be an elder in our church unless you hold to this view. As Dr. Clark points out, this means Machen, the Hodges, Warfield would not be accepted as elders in our church–but Seventh Day Adventists are just fine. This is insane.


  3. geochristian


    I’m sorry you’re having this challenge. In regards to the Scriptures, I think the age of the Earth definitely falls in the “not alike plain” category of chapter 1 of the Westminster Confession of Faith:

    “VII. All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all: yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.”


  4. Richard


    I agree with you. My pastor’s counter-argument is the writers of the Confession uniformly believed in 24-hr day creation, and didn’t explicitly say so since it was uniformly understood at the time this is what “in the space of 6 days” meant. It was only in the 19th century and the age of Darwin that the church caved into “secular” beliefs on the subject. My pastor is a very intelligent, godly man, but on this issue, he is something else. And he isn’t the only one out there on this issue.


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