Primary Sources for the Presbyterian Masses

The Modernist Controversy through a Journalist’s Eyes, Parts 9 & 10 (1933)

In Uncategorized on 28/06/2009 at 21:37


Four months after Princeton was reorganized, Westminster Theological Seminary was established in Philadelphia.  Twenty-nine young men left the two upper classes at Princeton Seminary to become the nucleus of its student body; four teachers from Princeton volunteered to start the Faculty, and a fifth soon joined them.  The new Seminary prospered, thanks to an outpouring of prayers and gifts.  Seventy-nine students, seven professors, and not a dollar of indebtedness, March 1st, 1933, revealed an assuring stability in the unparalleled conditions of the fourth year of the new institution’s life.

Dr. Craig was a founder of Westminster Seminary.  He made The Presbyterian its unofficial press representative; gave the Church every paragraph of news about the ministers’ and laymens’ first meetings in its behalf; and printed a complete account of the opening exercises which some day may have historical value.  The response to the publication of the truth again confirmed his faith in the inherent worth of a free press that reaches the homes of God’s people.

Meanwhile there were developments on The Presbyterian.  After the St. Paul General Assembly Dr. Craig became aware of a shift in attitude on the part of the paper’s majority stockholders.  They did not say a great deal, but he felt that they no longer approved the editorial policy he had consistently maintained.  Dr. William L. McEwan, the President of The Presbyterian’s Board, soon was to be elected President of the coalition of widely varying elements that constitute the new board of control of Princeton Seminary, and he surmised that, too.  He was not deterred.  He had a duty to perform, a cause to plead, and his was Esther’s stout motto:  “If I perish, I perish.”  It was impossible for him to praise the re-made Princeton without sheer hypocrisy; and as an evangelical editor he was under the plainest obligation to promote Westminster.  He followed a straight course, was perfectly open about it, and took the risk of dismissal.  Six months passed before he was summarily removed.  In June, 1930, he began the publication of Christianity Today.  On The Presbyterian he was succeeded by Dr. Courtland Robinson.


Experiences of seventeen years fairly well prove four points.

First, every controversy dividing the Church has been doctrinal.  Carefully calculated and far-seeing efforts to change the Presbyterian Church into an organization that would countenance an unbelieving ministry were on the march.  Such forces as were available opposed them.  This was the reason for conflicts of such moment that they set ministers at variance against ministers, elders against elders, churches against churches, shattered the unity of mission stations in every foreign field, and left us at war in the House of God.

Second, having a paper capable of taking the lead, Bible-believing
Presbyterians overcame the defection of the Presbytery of New York; resisted the Inter-Church World Movement; stood steadfast during the Fosdick invasion; and were on the threshold of victory at Princeton.

Third, a conscientious and fearless journal made history; sound, honest, Christian history.  Until the journal was silenced, Princeton did not succumb.  And until Dr. Craig was dismissed as editor and placed, as his adversaries trusted, beyond the pale, the doctrinally indifferent section of the Presbyterian Church did not reach its present political ascendancy.

Fourth, the record is encouraging.  Conservatives may be too innocent to match wits with skilful Church politicians and they may be helpless in the arts of strategy and intrigue, but they have yet to lose a case when the laity and eldership of the Church have been informed fully of the issues.  The problem is to get the information to the people.

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