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A History Lesson, by Robert Strong

In Auburn Affirmation (1924), Importance of History, J. Gresham Machen, Presbyterian Church in America, Presbyterian Church in the U.S. [PCUS], Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., Presbyterian Journal, Robert Dick Wilson, Westminster Theological Seminary on 29/07/2013 at 09:28

I often come across the most interesting and useful things while searching out a patron’s request for some article or other material. For context, this article was written in the midst of those years leading up to the formation of the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. Strong’s audience would have been those men who were considering leaving the old Southern Presbyterian denomination in order to form a new, faithful Church.

A History Lesson
by ROBERT STRONG [1908-1980, and pastor of the Trinity Presbyterian Church, Montgomery, AL, 1959-1973]

[The Presbyterian Journal, 27.42 (12 February 1969): 9-11.]

The struggle for the faith in the Presbyterian Church USA has been protracted. I grew up in that church and was ordained in it years ago when it was called the “Northern Presbyterian Church.” Thus I knew at first hand the issues as well as some of the people involved in the conflict.

Beginning in the nineteenth century, the strife deepened in intensity in the twentieth century and came to a climax in the 1920’s. Awareness of the rising tide of unbelief, and resistance to it, occurred in a spectacular way:

In 1923 the General Assembly endorsed adherence to five cardinal points of doctrine: the verbal inspiration of Scripture, the virgin birth of Christ, His mighty miracles, His substitutionary atonement and His bodily resurrection.

In reaction came the Auburn Affirmation, so-called because men of Auburn Seminary were its authors and from Auburn, New York it was distributed to gain additional signatures. In time, these amounted to 1100 names.

Cause and Effect

The Auburn Affirmation was in two parts: The first was an attack upon the right of the General Assembly to single out certain doctrines when the Northern Presbyterian Church was already committed to a system of doctrine as set forth in the Westminster Confession of Faith. This was specious logic. This was illogic! This was evasive action. Read the rest of this entry »

This Still Preaches

In Auburn Affirmation (1924), Bible Presbyterian Church, Modernism on 12/03/2012 at 08:29

Another of the many tracts found as a collection among the papers of PCA pastor “Bud” Moginot was one titled “The Crime of the ‘Auburn Affirmation’ (A Sermon)”. This tract was authored by the Rev. Ira Miller, and is dated 4 February 1942. Miller had been a minister in the Presbyterian Church,U.S.A., from around 1906 until 1942, at which point he was entered on their rolls as honorably retired. He attended the Fifth General Synod of the Bible Presbyterian Church in 1942 and in November of that year, transferred his credentials to the BPC. He was active in the BPC Presbytery of the Midwest, and served as the moderator of Session when the First Bible Presbyterian Church of St. Louis was without a pastor, up until that church called the Rev. Francis A. Schaeffer. Rev. Miller even participated in Schaeffer’s installation as pastor, with Miller giving the Charge to the Congregation. By 1948 he was no longer on the roll of Presbytery and we think he may have moved to California.

THE CRIME OF THE
“AUBURN AFFIRMATION”
(A SERMON)

But if any provideth not for his own, and
specially for his own household, he hath
denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever.”
(I Tim. 5:8, R.V.)

I

Let no one suppose that I am ignorant, or seeking to take advantage of your ignorance, in denying that Paul is here speaking of provision for the PHYSICAL and TEMPORAL needs, especially of a man’s parents, widow and children. He is exposing to well-deserved contempt the conduct of a man who would be indifferent to these while at the same time pretending to be devoted to the service of God. His faith, says Paul, is worse than NO faith ; his service worse than NO service ; his state worse than an unbeliever’s state. The condemnation is severe.

II

But let us suppose this same man, or the men of an entire Christian congregation, or the minister of that congregation, or the entire denomination to which that congregation belongs, is equally indifferent to proper provision for SOULS under their care? Is that not a greater fault? Consider that the soul, unlike the body, is not for a fleeting day, and then dissolves into dust. No, it is for ETERNITY, and must live eternally, or die eternally. Then consider that God has constituted each father a shepherd and provider for the souls of his household, each congregation for its people, each pastor for his flock. If they neglect this duty, would not the guilt be greater, seeing that eternal, and NOT temporal loss, would be the certain consequence? Then should not the condemnation be more severe even than this of Paul here? Read the rest of this entry »

Abiding Themes

In Auburn Affirmation (1924), Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions, J. Gresham Machen, Modernism on 18/06/2011 at 12:02

William Childs Robinson’s Reports on the Southern & Northern Presbyterian Churches 

Among the Papers of William A. McIlwaine there is a letter preserved in which his father, William B. McIlwaine, wrote to J. Gresham Machen, lamenting the spiritual decline of the Southern Presbyterian Church. Perhaps I will post a transcription of that letter here soon. But I mention that letter by way of introducing the following two reports issued by Dr. William Childs Robinson and published in volume 5 of CHRISTIANITY TODAY, reports which mirror McIlwaine’s letter of concern.

Robinson was one of the shining academic lights in the Southern Church (perhaps a singular light, according to Rev. James E. Moore) and a committed evangelical, Reformed Christian. His first article for CHRISTIANITY TODAY appeared in the July 1930 issue and he also served as a correspondent for the magazine, writing reports on conditions and events within the Presbyterian Church, U.S.  Following are two of his reports, reflecting on then current events in the Southern Presbyterian Church, while in the second report he turns his attention to the Northern Presbyterians, the IBPFM trials and the Church’s continual struggle against spiritual decline.  As William Iverson is fond of saying, “God has no grand-children.” — the urgent work of evangelism must be done afresh in every generation.

Shall We Keep the Faith?
By the Rev. Prof. Wm. Childs Robinson, Th.D., Columbia Theological Seminary
[Christianity Today 5.1 (May 1934): 26]

According to news items appearing in the religious press the Rev. Donald H. Stewart who was twice refused admission to West Hanover Presbytery on account of his modernism is undertaking the pastorate of the University Church at Chapel Hill, North Carolina. This item raises several questions. Has Mr. Stewart changed the views he so emphatically re-affirmed before West Hanover Presbytery? Did the Presbytery which dismissed him satisfy itself as to his doctrinal soundness; that is, did it observe the requirement of the Constitution of the Church and examine into his reported unsoundness as required in paragraph 183 of the Book of Church Order? Did the Presbytery which received him for the North Carolina work satisfy itself as to his doctrinal fitness to renew the ordination and installation vows? The reports of the former examination indicated that Mr. Stewart accepted religious experience as his rule of faith rather than the Scriptures as set forth in the first ordination vow.

While the pamphlet issued and now being circulated by Dr. Wm. M. McPheeters was called forth by the actions of Arkansas Presbytery, it is a message which other presbyteries need to hear and heed. It is not too much to say that every presbytery and every presbyter ought to reconsider the solemn truth of the ordination vows before men and especially before the God of truth. Now as ever an honest man is the noblest work of God. The Book still pronounces its blessing upon the man that sweareth to his own hurt and changeth not; and still excludes those who make and love the contrary. Rev. 22:15.

Standing in the shadow of eternity the eighty-year-old Southern Prophet, Dr. Wm. M. McPheeters, has issued a clarion call for a more faithful observance of the third and the ninth commandments–for truth and the keeping of vows made to the Holy God. Will the Church of today hear this word and gird herself to keep the faith before man and before God; or will she stone another prophet and leave it to the generations to come to build him a monument?

If you are following current events among NAPARC Churches, McPheeters’ words bring to mind the exhortation of another patriarch, the Rev. John P. Galbraith, at the recent 75th anniversary of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church: Read the rest of this entry »

Chalmers #8 : The Cause of Doctrinal Troubles

In Auburn Affirmation (1924), Benjamin B. Warfield, Chalmers W. Alexander, J. Gresham Machen, Modernism, Old School/New School Division, Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., Princeton Theological Seminary, Robert Dick Wilson, Samuel G. Craig, Southern Presbyterian Journal on 02/06/2011 at 21:47

The Cause Of The Doctrinal Trouble In The Northern Presbyterian Church

(“Exploring Avenues Of Acquaintance And Co-operation”)
By Chalmers W. Alexander
Jackson, Miss.
[THE SOUTHERN PRESBYTERIAN JOURNAL 8.13 (1 November 1949): 9-11.]

This is the eighth in the series of articles by Chalmers W. Alexander under the heading, “Exploring Avenues of Acquaintance And Co-operation.” This is an informative new series of articles written by one of the most able laymen in the Southern Presbyterian Church.

What has been the principal cause of the doctrinal disturbance in the Northern Presbyterian Church?

Origin Of The Doctrinal Disturbance

In order to understand fully the answer to that question it is necessary to look back briefly over some of the events which took place in the early history of Presbyterianism in America. By the close of the eighteenth century, the Presbyterian Church in this country found itself working side by side with the Congregational Church in trying to build churches and furnish ministers for the nation’s expanding population, which was spreading throughout the Middle West. And in 1801 a plan of union was adopted whereby the Presbyterian General Assembly and the General Association of the State of Connecticut (Congregational) should work together, rather than in competition.

Old School” Theology Versus “New School” Theology

This union of 1801 marks the earliest discernible beginning of the decline of what we now refer to as the Northern Presbyterian Church, for the Congregational churches adhered to the liberal “New School” theology. This liberal “New School” theology differed from the Presbyterian, or conservative “Old School,” theology in several important points of doctrine.

The conservative “Old School” theology of the Presbyterians rested solidly on the teachings of the Holy Bible as they are outlined in the Westminster Confession of Faith and in the Larger and Shorter Catechisms. The liberal “New School” theology differed from its teachings, for instance, with reference to the extent of the guilt of Adam as it is imputed to his descendents, and with reference to the Calvinist doctrine of the definite atonement of Christ.

The New England theologians, who were the trainers of the Congregational ministers, were not inclined to consider very seriously the principles which meant much to the Presbyterian ministers who, for the most part, came from Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Consequently friction developed between the two denominational groups, and in 1837 they severed their relationship.

The Presbyterian Groups Separate

But prior to 1837, the liberal “New School” theology of the Congregational Church had been embraced by some of the Presbyterian ministers. Accordingly, within a few months after the separation of the Congregational Church and the Presbyterian Church, there occurred a separation between the conservative “Old School” and the liberal “New School” groups which now existed in the Presbyterian Church. Read the rest of this entry »

Chalmers (1949) – #5 : Northern Aggression

In Auburn Affirmation (1924), Chalmers W. Alexander, J. Gresham Machen, Modernism, Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., Southern Presbyterian Journal on 21/05/2011 at 15:03

This continues our series on the Auburn Affirmation and its after-effects, as told by Chalmers W. Alexander, a lawyer and ruling elder at First Presbyterian Church, Jackson, MS.  These next several parts of the series specifically concern Dr. J. Gresham Machen.

What The Northern Presbyterian Church Did To Dr. J. Gresham Machen
(“Exploring Avenues Of Acquaintance And Co-operation”)
By Chalmers W. Alexander, Jackson, MS
[excerpted from The Southern Presbyterian Journal 8.10 (15 September 1949): 6-10.]

In 1936 Dr. J. Gresham Machen (pronounced “may chin”) was kicked out of the ministry of the Northern Presbyterian Church.

On January 1, 1937 Dr. Machen died of lobar pneumonia, after an illness of only four days, in Bismark, North Dakota, while on a preaching tour for the Lord Jesus Christ. At the time of his death he was no longer a minister in, or a member of, the Northern Presbyterian Church.

Dr. Machen was fifty-five years old, and at the height of his intellectual powers, when he died. He had never married, and he left an estate estimated at $175,000.00.

What H. L. Mencken Said

Dr. Machen’s sudden death evoked comments by newspaper and church paper commentators all over America, and from Christians and non-Christians alike.

What Dr. Machen had fought for, and what his opponents had been doing in recent years in the Northern Presbyterian Church which had aroused his opposition, were very clearly summarized, strange to say, by H. L. Mencken. H. L. Mencken has never professed to be a Christian, and no one has ever accused him of being very reverent in matters of religion. But no one can deny that he has a keen, incisive mind, and that he is one of America’s best known critics. Writing in the January 18, 1937 issue of the Baltimore Evening Sun, of which he himself was at one time the Editor, he remarked (the emphasis in the quotation is added): Read the rest of this entry »

Chalmers (1949) – #4. Popular Attitudes

In Auburn Affirmation (1924), Modernism, Presbyterian Church in the U.S. [PCUS], Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., The Presbyterian on 16/05/2011 at 11:56

Some Popular Attitudes Toward The Auburn Affirmation Today

(“Exploring Avenues Of Acquaintance And Co-operation”)
By Chalmers W. Alexander

Jackson, MS Read the rest of this entry »

Chalmers (1949) – #3. Their Influence Today

In Auburn Affirmation (1924), Chalmers W. Alexander, Modernism, Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., Southern Presbyterian Journal on 11/05/2011 at 23:58

The Influence Of The Auburn Affirmationists Today

(“Exploring Avenues Of Acquaintance And Co-operation”)
By Chalmers W. Alexander

Jackson, Mississippi

This is the third in the series of articles by Chalmers W. Alexander under the heading, “Exploring Avenues of Acquaintance And Co-operation.” This is an informative new series of articles written by one of the most able laymen in the Southern Presbyterian Church.

The heretical Auburn Affirmation, bearing the names of almost 1,300 ordained ministers in the Northern Presbyterian Church, was published in 1924.

Since that time the Auburn Affirmation signers and their theological fellow-travelers have got hold of much of the machinery which controls the affairs of the Northern Presbyterian Church.

Now what have the Auburn Affirmationists and the other Modernists been doing in that denomination in recent years? Have there been any recent evidences of their far-reaching influence?

You do not have to look very far to find the answer to those questions. Read the rest of this entry »

Chalmers – #2. Discipline Found Wanting

In Auburn Affirmation (1924), Chalmers W. Alexander, Modernism, The Presbyterian on 10/05/2011 at 22:07

What Happened To The Signers Of The Auburn Affirmation?

(“Exploring Avenues Of Acquaintance And Co-operation”)
By Chalmers W. Alexander
Jackson, Mississippi 

This is the second in the series of articles by Chalmers W. Alexander under the heading, “Exploring Avenues of Acquaintance and Co-operation.” This is an informative new series of articles written by one of the most able laymen in the Southern Presbyterian Church.

According to the heretical Auburn Affirmation, a Northern Presbyterian minister might believe that the Holy Bible contained many errors, that the Lord Jesus Christ was an illegitimate child, that His body still rests in the grave in Palestine until this very day, that He most emphatically did ‘not offer up Himself a sacrifice to satisfy Divine justice and reconcile us to God, and that He never performed a single miracle during His entire life—a Northern Presbyterian minister might believe and proclaim these views and yet be worthy of all confidence and fellowship.”

Why The Affirmation Was Published  Read the rest of this entry »

And Now For Something Completely Different

In Auburn Affirmation (1924), Cartoons, Christian Beacon, Modernism, Periodicals on 10/05/2011 at 17:28

A Different Look at the Auburn Affirmation

In the first year of its existence, Carl McIntire’s publication, THE CHRISTIAN BEACON, included a four panel comic strip drawn by Hal Veech.  The strip was titled THE “CHRISTIAN” FAMILYThe strip certainly did not major in subtlety.  In these two installments, the two central characters, Wurldlee and his wife Trustphul discuss aspects of the Auburn Affirmation.  Click on the image of the cartoon to view a scalable pdf version.

The "Christian" Family

[Veech cartoons excerpted from The Christian Beacon 1.28 (20 August 1936): 6 and 1.29 (27 August 1936): 7.]

Coming Up

In Auburn Affirmation (1924), Chalmers W. Alexander, Southern Presbyterian Journal on 09/05/2011 at 09:59

Continuing our series on conservative Presbyterian responses to the Auburn Affirmation, I’ve just located a long series by Chalmers W. Alexander and will post the first article today.

I’ve also set up a permanent page for resources concerning the Affirmation over at the PCA Historical Center’s web site.  Besides the initial conservative Presbyterian response to the Affirmation (1924-1926), there were at least three waves of response in the following decades, first in the 1930’s in connection with efforts to bring some of the Affirmationists to trial, and then as part of the successful effort to defeat the merger of the PCUS and the PCUSA, both in the early 1940’s and again in the late 40’s and early 50’s.  Alexander’s articles fall into that latter context. Read the rest of this entry »

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