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Machen as Seen By…, Part I

In Francis Landey Patton, J. Gresham Machen, Princeton Theological Seminary on 27/04/2011 at 22:55

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 »

Machen as Seen by . . . Part II

In J. Gresham Machen, The Presbyterian on 27/04/2011 at 17:21

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.

This particular article is especially interesting for two reasons.  First, it is, I think, the earliest example in print of someone describing J. Gresham Machen in terms of Bunyan’s famous character from
Pilgrim’s Progress, Mr. Valiant-for-Truth.  Ned Stonehouse, in his Biographical Memoir of J. Gresham Machen, popularized this description, but apparently Rev. Lipscomb was perhaps the first to draw the association. Second, the manner in which Machen is described by comparison with other outstanding men of his era provides some unique insights into his character, though our modern ignorance of the men referenced saps the full force of the comparisons.
 


An Appreciation of Dr. J. Gresham Machen

By Rev. T.H. Lipscomb, of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South
[excerpted from THE PRESBYTERIAN 96.36 (9 September 1926): 9, 18.]

After five days of listening to sermons and addresses by Dr. J. Gresham Machen, we heartily endorse the statement in THE PRESBYTERIAN of June 10, that he is unsurpassed in his ability to impart knowledge to others, and that he is or should be one of the chief glories not only of Princeton Theological Seminary, but of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America.

Dr. Machen has been lecturing before a Methodist “Seashore Divinity School” at Biloxi, Mississippi, on “What is Christianity?” and preaching twice on Sabbath also.  We had expected to find him a thorough scholar and a thorough Christian, with what super-additions of genius and grace we know not.  To our delight and unceasing joy we find him endowed with an intellectual clarity and felicity of expression which causes to flow forth into the minds of even unlearned hearers a sparkling stream of pure truth, quickening and convincing out of a mass of detailed knowledge from which most scholars bring forth only negations or inconclusive theories.  His mental idiosyncrasy in this regard is quite marked—hitting the nail on the head, causing the sparks to fly ; and in the light of vindicated truth driving error from the field.  We recall, as we think of him, Bunyan’s Mr. Valiant for Truth, and we would that the ten thousand silver trumpets might sound to do him honor—they will some day if not now, as he, too, crosses over into the Celestial City.  Then woe to those who have said, “Let not such light of truth which also refutes and condemns error shine among us.  We must be tolerant and considerate of error nowadays.”  A graduate of a Northern theological seminary myself (Drew ’03), and having heard many of the ablest scholars of Europe and America, we affirm frankly and sincerely that we now of no man in any church so eminently qualified to fill a chair of “Apologetics and Christian Ethics,” provided you want that chair filled, the Christian faith really defended and Christian ethics elucidated and lived.  For, let me add that Dr. Machen is an humble saint, as well as a rare scholar, not a “saint of the world,” who stands for nothing and against nothing, but a saint of God who loves truth, seeks truth, finds truth, and upholds truth against all adversaries, however mightily ; in this respect like Paul, Peter and John, and following our Lord Jesus Christ, who “to this end was born” “to bear witness to the truth.”  You rightly say in an editorial, “The toleration of error within the churches means the persecution of truth.” Read the rest of this entry »

Sinful Opposition Manifested

In Westminster Confession of Faith on 27/04/2011 at 11:32

Study of the Confession of Faith and Larger Catechism
by Rev. John M. Minich

[excerpted from THE PRESBYTERIAN 96.16 (22 April 1926): 11.

At the present time, when so much sinful opposition is being manifested toward that marvelous document, our Confession of Faith, the question might rightly be asked, “How thoroughly do ministers who, by God’s grace, still remain true to the pure, full gospel of Christ and Jesus, and yearn to be deepened in their spiritual comprehension, study this disputed, but nevertheless, grand statement and pronouncement of belief?” Read the rest of this entry »

Should Controversy Be Suppressed?

In The Presbyterian on 27/04/2011 at 11:23

Echoing one of the three points in Rev. Ramsay’s sermon, this brief column from the Comments & Timely Topics section of the 5 May 1927 issue of THE PRESBYTERIAN asks, “Should Controversy Be Suppressed?

Impatience with controversy is one of the outstanding characteristics of the day–especially in religious circles.  To call a man a controversialist to-day is to condemn him in the eyes of multitudes calling themselves Christians–no matter if it be controversy in behalf of the gospel in which the only motive is love for Christ and those for whom he died.  We have no sympathy with this notion — a notion that finds, not sanction, but rebuke, from the example of Christ and his apostles.  In the midst of present-day cries for peace — cries which often mean an appeal to stop discussion, debate, controversy, it is refreshing to read the following manly, vigorous and healthy-minded editorial in Liberty, issue of April 30, under the title, “Now Argue About That!” : Read the rest of this entry »

Cry the Warning!

In Franklin P. Ramsay, Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., The Presbyterian on 25/04/2011 at 22:22

The General Assembly of 1926: A Warning

By the Late Rev. Franklin P. Ramsay, Ph.D.

[The following is part of a sermon preached by Dr. Ramsay on June 13, 1926, in his son’s pulpit at Calvary Presbyterian Church of Staten Island, New York, less than three months before his lamented death on September 30. After mentioning some of the outstanding features of the Assembly of 1926, Dr. Ramsay stated that he would confine himself for the most part, to thoughts suggested in connection with the Report of the Special Commission of Fifteen. After a careful analysis of the report, he said:]

The report was adopted almost unanimously.  I was present.  The report made a profound impression, and gave general satisfaction. Nevertheless, I fear that the church is headed toward a most dangerous conclusion.  The conviction did not come to me while I was under the spell of the report, but since I have come to reflect upon it.  There are three evils in the church to-day, against which I lift a voice of warning.

First. I warn against the suppression of discussion.

Read the rest of this entry »

The One-Hundred Years’ War

In Auburn Affirmation (1924), David S. Kennedy, J. Gresham Machen, Modernism, Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., The Presbyterian on 25/04/2011 at 12:43

CONSERVATIVE PRESBYTERIAN RESPONSE TO THE AUBURN AFFIRMATION:

Next in our series on conservative Presbyterian response to the Auburn Affirmation is this editorial from the 18 March 1926 issue of The Presbyterian.  The editorial comes from the pen of either Rev. David S. Kennedy or Rev. Samuel G. Craig, both men serving as co-editors at that time and the editorial is unsigned.  What is noteworthy in this particular editorial is the estimation by the author that the incursion of modernism into the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. was not severe.

Are There Two Religions in the Presbyterian Church?

It has long been recognized by leaders of Christian thought that the triumph of Modernism would spell defeat for Christianity.  That Modernism and Christianity are diametrically opposed, all along the line, has been set forth most fully and convincingly by Dr. Machen in his well-known book, Christianity and Liberalism.  It is not to be supposed, however, that Dr. Machen was the discoverer of this fact : it had found clear and cogent expression long before Dr. Machen had been heard of in the theological world.  For instance, as long ago as 1891, Dr. F.L. Patton is on record as saying : Read the rest of this entry »

A Brief History of The Presbyterian Magazine

In David S. Kennedy, Samuel G. Craig, The Presbyterian on 23/04/2011 at 15:20

With the start of its 96th year of publication, the editors of The Presbyterian saw fit to review briefly the magazine’s history.  On the front cover they published the following information:

ENTERING OUR NINETY-SIXTH YEAR

Early in 1831, a group of Presbyterian men in Philadelphia, and vicinity conceived the idea of founding a religious paper, to advance the interests of the kingdom in general and of their own denomination in particular.  Throughout these years the following have been the editors, in the order of their service:

  • Rev. John Burtt,
  • Rev. James W. Alexander, D.D.
  • Rev. William M. Engles, D.D.
  • Rev. John Leyburn, D.D.
  • Rev. Matthew B. Grier, D.D.
  • Rev. E.E. Adams, D.D.
  • Rev. Samuel A. Mutchmore, D.D.
  • Rev. W.W. McKinney, D.D., LL.D.
  • Rev. Edward B. Hodge, D.D.
  • Rev. Walter A. Brooks, D.D.
  • Rev. David S. Kennedy, D.D.
  • Rev. Samuel G. Craig, D.D.

and various leaders of the Church or active workers, who have served as associates or on the editorial staff. Read the rest of this entry »

“The Present Attack Upon Historic Christianity”

In Auburn Affirmation (1924), David S. Kennedy, Modernism, Rationalism, Samuel G. Craig, The Presbyterian on 23/04/2011 at 13:36

Continuing in our series on conservative Presbyterian responses to the Auburn Affirmation and events following, this editorial from The Presbyterian moves the discussion to the root of the matter, as seen by the editor.  There are references to other developments, such as the Committee of Fifteen, and these will have to be explored later.  Of particular note in this editorial is what might arguably be one of the first inklings of a general call for separation from unbelief.  The editor states in his concluding paragraph, “The necessity for all true evangelicals uniting in one solid body against these united and determined attacks is most apparent and vital…evangelicals will be most effective if each company or denomination proceed under their respective organization.”
I should also mention that in one of the next issues
[11 February], it is noted that the Rev. Samuel G. Craig took over the post of editor.  It is possible therefore that he, rather than David S. Kennedy, may have been the author of this unsigned editorial.   

The Present Attack Upon Historic Christianity [The Presbyterian 96-3  (21 January 1926): 2.]

No sincere, intelligent man, Christian or non-Christian, will deny that an open and avowedly destructive attack is being directed with violence against evangelical, historic Christianity. It is of the first importance that all true Christians be aroused and informed as to the nature and extent of this conflict and the consideration of the best means of resisting it.

This present conflict against evangelical Christianity is the first geographically universal conflict in the history of the Church. It appears in every continent, in every mission field, home and foreign, in the long-established churches, and in every denomination.

The purpose of this conflict is to destroy the very foundation of evangelical Christianity, including both doctrine and morals. Read the rest of this entry »

“The Mission of the Church,” by J. Gresham Machen (1926)

In Auburn Affirmation (1924), David S. Kennedy, J. Gresham Machen, Modernism, Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., Samuel G. Craig, The Presbyterian on 22/04/2011 at 16:38

The initial motivation in this series on conservative Presbyterian response to the Auburn Affirmation was to find if there was in fact any response prior to the 1930s.  The first critiques that I could locate were dated well into the 1930s.  But digging a bit deeper, the prevailing conservative Presbyterian voice of the 1920s turned out to be The Presbyterian, a long-standing publication whose final two conservative editors were the Rev. David S. Kennedy and  the Rev. Samuel G. Craig.  As it turns out, there was initial opposition to the Auburn Affirmation published on the pages of The Presbyterian (and perhaps elsewhere–time will tell).  It’s just that this particular publication is all but lost to history.  We are striving to bring back some of this important content, as it continues to speak abiding truths.

The Mission of the Church*
By Professor J. Gresham Machen, D.D.

[*An Address delivered under the title, “Safeguarding the Church,” before the Presbyterian Ministers’ Association in Philadelphia, 1 March 1926, and (under the title, “What the Church Stands For”) previously in the Washington and Compton Avenue Presbyterian Church, St. Louis, 12 February 1926.  Excerpted from The Presbyterian and Herald and Presbyter 96.14  (8 April 1926): 8-11.]

Before we can consider the mission of the Church, we must determine what the Church is. What are its limits? What forms a part of it and what does not? Where is the true Christian Church to be found?

According to the Westminster Confession of Faith of the Presbyterian Church, the invisible Church is to be distinguished from the visible Church. The invisible Church consists of the whole number of those who are saved; the visible Church consists of those who profess the true religion, together with their children. There is absolutely no warrant in Scripture for supposing that any particular branch of the visible Church will necessarily be preserved. Always, it is true, there will be a visible Church upon the earth, but any particular Church organization may become so corrupt as to be not a true Church of Christ, but (as the Confession of Faith puts it), “a synagogue of Satan.” Read the rest of this entry »

“Shall the General Assembly Represent the Church?,” by J.G. Machen (1925)

In Auburn Affirmation (1924), Harry Emerson Fosdick, J. Gresham Machen, Modernism, Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., The Presbyterian on 22/04/2011 at 00:20

This next in our series on conservative Presbyterian responses to the Auburn Affirmation affords the opportunity to see one of the rarer articles by Dr. J. Gresham Machen.  The subject here requires a bit of explanation.  The Auburn “Correspondence Committee” sought to extend the influence of the Affirmation statement and issued in 1925 a  letter titled “For Peace and Liberty”.  It is specifically that letter that Machen here addresses.  

Shall the General Assembly Represent the Church? : An Answer to Criticisms of the Letter of Eight Ministers
By Rev. J. Gresham Machen, D.D.

[excerpted from  The Presbyterian 95.10 (5 March 1925): 6-8.]

The Presbyterian Church in the United States of America is passing through a time of decision. For many years the danger was concealed; the undermining of the faith was covered by a misleading use of traditional language; and another religion was gradually being substituted for the religion of the Lord Jesus Christ, without any real knowledge, on the part of the rank and file, of what was taking place. But now the mists to some extent have been dispelled, and the church has been led to face the facts. Shall our Presbyterian Church desert the Bible, as many Protestant ecclesiastical bodies throughout the world have already done, or shall it hold to the Bible as the only infallible rule of faith and practice? Shall it merely admire and strive to imitate the reduced Jesus of naturalistic Modernism—the one whom the Unitarians and their co-religionists in other churches so patronizingly call “the Master”—or shall it hold to the Lord of Glory who is set forth in the Word of God? Shall it stand for Christ or against Him?

Some progress toward the answering of this question has been made during the past two years. But it would be the greatest possible mistake to suppose that the matter has now been settled, or that watchfulness is no longer in place. On the contrary, the attack upon the Christian faith within our church is, if anything, more acute now than it was in 1923 and 1924.

There are many evidences of this fact, but we shall now mention, by way of example, only two. One is found in the booklet, entitled “The First Presbyterian Church of New York and Dr. Fosdick,” which has been widely distributed by the clerk of session of that church; the other appears in the pamphlet, “For Peace and Liberty,” issued by “The Correspondence Committee” at Auburn, New York. Read the rest of this entry »