In 1926, J. Gresham Machen received nomination to the chair of apologetics and ethics from the Board of Directors at the Princeton Theological Seminary. In the normal course of things, this nomination would have been routinely approved by the General Assembly as it met later that same year. Machen, however, had previously opposed in 1920 the Philadelphia Plan for merging nineteen Presbyterian denominations into a single federated body. He had published two books, The Origin of Paul’s Religion (1920) and Christianity and Liberalism (1923), both of which presented strong arguments against modernism and unbelief. In short, Machen had become a very public voice raised against modernism, and so he had enemies. A campaign of opposition was raised against his nomination and the matter remained unresolved up until the reorganization of Princeton Seminary and the departure of Dr. Machen and other faithful professors.
In this brief series, we are presenting a few of the articles which appeared in defense of Dr. Machen during this troubling time.
Dr. Machen as Seen by Ex-President Patton.
[excerpted from THE PRESBYTERIAN 96.48 (2 December 1926): 13.]
There are few, if any, names that carry greater weight in Presbyterian circles than that of Dr. Francis Landey Patton, formerly president of Princeton University and Princeton Seminary, now living in retirement in Bermuda. What he thinks of Dr. Machen’s fitness for the chair to which the Board of Directors of Princeton Seminary has elected him is made clear by the following letter received from Dr. Patton by Dr. William L. McEwan, of Pittsburgh, Pa., which we are privileged to print. Some may be disposed to look askance at Dr. Patton’s reference to “an amicable settlement through a reasonable compromise,” but those who know Dr. Patton will not suppose that he would regard any compromise as reasonable that was gained at the cost of loyalty to truth. The fact that some have alleged that Dr. Patton is not in full sympathy with the supporters of Dr. Machen gives added significance to this letter. We quote it in full :
“My dear Dr. McEwan:
“I hope that, without seeming to be meddlesome, I may, as a director of the Seminary, say to a fellow director, what I would gladly say to the Board if it were possible for me to be present at their approaching meeting.
“I purposely avoid any reference to the painful controversy which exists within the Faculty, as being improper, in view of the circumstances under which the Board will meet, and as out of place because of my ignorance of all the facts which enter into the difficulties referred to. But I cherish the hope that those difficulties may find an amicable settlement through a reasonable compromise. I think that I may be pardoned for having an interest in the fortunes of the Stuart Chair — sentimental as perhaps you may regard it — and in the fitness of Dr. Machen, who has been called to fill it as the successor of Dr. Greene. I understand that some have called in question his fitness, but on that subject I have not the slightest doubt. Read the rest of this entry »