Cornelius Van Til (1895-1987)

A Dutch Reformed theologian, philosopher and Presbyterian churchman best known for his presuppositional approach to apologetics. Born in Grootegast, Holland, Van Til spent his life and teaching career in the United States. After spending a year at Calvin Theological Seminary, where he studied under Louis Berkhof, Van Til transferred to Princeton Theological Seminary, where he became friends with Geerhardus Vos and completed his studies. After teaching for a brief period at Princeton, Van Til, together with J. Gresham Machen and other scholars concerned with encroaching liberalism, contributed to the founding of Westminster Theological Seminary, where he taught systematic theology and apologetics for over forty-five years.

Westminster Standards (1644-1647)

The confessional documents drawn up by the Westminster Assembly (1643-1649). The standards include the Westminster Confession of Faith (1646), Larger and Shorter Catechisms (1647), Directory for the Public Worship of God (1644), and Form of Presbyterian Church Government (1645). They continue in use as constitutional documents in several contemporary Reformed denominations around the world.

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The Westminster Assembly of Divines was the largest parliamentary committee during the English Civil War. It was convened by the Parliament and without the king’s permission for the purpose of reforming the Church of England. The assembly, which included members of the House of Lords and House of Commons as well as clergymen from across Britain, first met on July 1, 1643, in Westminster Abbey. Presbyterian, Independent and Erastian clergy debated over issues of doctrine, church polity, liturgy and worship, and a possible union of the Churches of England and Scotland. The assembly produced the Westminster Standards, which were adopted by the General Assembly of the Scottish Church and to varying degrees by the English and Scottish Houses of Parliament. After these standards were published, the assembly continued to serve as a committee to examine candidates for ordination and deal with other ecclesiological issues until its dissolution in 1649.

John Owen (1616-1683)

An English Puritan theologian and prolific writer. Owen was trained at Oxford and spent his life serving in a variety of different academic, political and pastoral capacities. His career included an army chaplaincy under Oliver Cromwell, the vice chancellorship of Oxford University (1652-1657), a post as dean of Christ, Oxford (1651-1660), and an enormously productive writing career as a systematic and exegetical theologian. In the authoritative nineteenth-century edition, Owen’s works include no fewer than twenty-four diverse and densely packed volumes, covering everything from trinitarian theology to an extended multi-volume commentary on Hebrews to some of the most penetrating devotional literature ever written.

Richard Baxter (1615-1691)

A prolific writer and English Puritan pastor. Baxter served the handloom worker community for nearly twenty years in Kidderminster, where he preached as “a dying man to dying men.” Predominantly self-educated, he was converted through his own private reading of the Scripture. After serving as a chaplain for a short period in Cromwell’s army and recovering from an illness, Baxter returned to Kidderminster to focus on writing. Some of his nearly two hundred works include The Saints’ Everlasting Rest (1650), a much loved devotional work he wrote during serious illness; The Reformed Pastor (1656), combating patterns of pastoral neglect; and some polemical works, such as his controversial treatise on justification.

Alexander Archibald (1772-1851)

The first professor appointed at Princeton Theological Seminary at its founding in 1812. Along with Charles Hodge and others, he helped establish what is now known as Princeton Theology, adhering to the Westminster Confession, arguing for the inerrancy of Scripture and advocating Scottish common sense realism. Alexander contributed regularly to the Princeton Review and published many works of his own. A Presbyterian pastor as well as professor, he placed great emphasis on piety and personal religious experience.

J. Gresham Machen (1881-1937)

A Presbyterian theologian who was a leading figure in the fundamentalist-modernist controversy in the early twentieth century. Machen was one of the stanchest supporters of Princeton theology at a time when American theology was becoming more modern and liberal. A professor of New Testament at Princeton, Machen left the seminary to found Westminster Theological Seminary in the hopes of preserving conservative, fundamentalist Presbyterianism, expressed most notably in Christianity and Liberalism (1923). After being suspended from ministry because of his support for the Independent Board for Presbyterian Missions, he helped form the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in 1936.