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“Liberty Within Evangelical Bounds,” by David S. Kennedy (1925)

In Auburn Affirmation (1924), David S. Kennedy, Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., The Presbyterian on 21/04/2011 at 16:29

Continuing with our recent series on conservative responses to the Auburn Affirmation, we’ve been searching out some of the earliest responses and have located the following editorial from The Presbyterian appeared in the 5 March 1925 issue (vol. 95, no. 10).  Another reply, by Dr. J. Gresham Machen, will post shortly.

“Liberty Within Evangelical Bounds,”
by David S. Kennedy, editor of The Presbyterian

Under the title, “For Peace and Liberty,” a committee of thirty-one ministers—all or most of whom signed the Affirmation of 1924 — have addressed an appeal to the ministers and people of the Presbyterian Church to “stand firmly for the maintenance of our historic liberties, to discourage un-brotherly judgments, to cherish the ideal of an inclusive Christian church, and to unite the whole strength of our communion in forwarding the work to which our Master has called us.”

The appeal for peace contained in this statement is incidental to its appeal for liberty. The question whether its appeal for peace is warranted, or whether it is merely a case of crying, “Peace, peace, when there is no peace,” is inextricably bound up with the question whether its appeal for liberty is an appeal for such liberty as is guaranteed by the Standards of the Presbyterian Church.  These thirty-one ministers unite in telling us that “the affirmation issued in, 1924, signed by over thirteen hundred of our ministers, asserted the historic freedom of teaching, within evangelical bounds, guaranteed to ministers of our communion.” Ostensibly, therefore, this is an appeal for the liberty of a Presbyterian minister to teach within the bounds of evangelical Christianity. Read the rest of this entry »

“Dr. Lingle and The Auburn Affirmation” by Rev. Daniel S. Gage (1944)

In Auburn Affirmation (1924), Modernism, Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., The Christian Observer on 20/04/2011 at 19:16


By Rev. Daniel S. Gage, D. D.

[Excerpted from THE CHRISTIAN OBSERVER, 29 November 1944]

The discussion of the Auburn Affirmation by Dr. Walter L. Lingle in the Christian Observer of October 11, in the opinion of this writer leaves much to be desired. Dr. Lingle says that it is a liberal document, but nothing in his discussion would so indicate. If it was issued solely to protest against an unconstitutional action of the Assembly, and if all the signers believed all the doctrines of the standards, including those included in the action of the Assembly, what could there have been in the document of a liberal nature? But it seems to this writer that Dr. Lingle has missed both the intent and the main content of the affirmation. We will let the document speak for itself.

To refresh our minds as to the circumstances: The U. S. A. Church being disturbed because some Presbyteries were ordaining men who did not accept certain doctrines of the standards, e.g., the virgin birth, the inerrancy of Scripture, the resurrection, and in response to various overtures, their Assembly three times declared that the following doctrines were essential elements of the faith: The inerrancy of the Scriptures, the virgin birth, the vicarious atonement in the sense thatit was to satisfy divine justice, that Christ worked genuine miracles, and His bodily resurrection. The last time this was done was in 1923.

In opposition to this action, there was issued the document known as the Auburn Affirmation. The intent of the document is stated in its opening words: “We feel bound in view of certain actions of the Assembly of 1923 and of persistent attempts to divide the unity of the Church and abridge its freedom, to express our convictions in matters pertaining thereto.” “Forthe maintenance of the faith of our Church, the preservation of its unity, and the protection of the liberties of its ministers and people, we offer this affirmation.” That the “unity” was not doctrinal will at once appear, but “purely organizational; that the freedom and liberties were the freedom to preach teachings contrary to the doctrines named in the action of the Assembly will also appear. While not stated in the affirmation, the Conservative and Liberal groups were reaching a point where division of the Church seemed threatened. Read the rest of this entry »

“The Effect of the Auburn Affirmation,” by Wm. Childs Robinson [1944]

In Auburn Affirmation (1924), Modernism, Presbyterian Church in the U.S. [PCUS], Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., The Christian Observer on 20/04/2011 at 13:16

Another in our continuing series, the following article is one of two penned by Dr. William Childs Robinson.  The context was the proposed merger between the PCUSA and the PCUS [aka, Southern Presbyterian Church].  Dr. “Robbie” wrote here in direct response to an editorial in
For more on the Auburn Affirmation, including both the text of that document, links to other conservative Presbyterian responses and a short bibliography, click here.


By the Rev. Wm. Childs Robinson, D.D.
[excerpted from The Christian Observer 132.44 (1 November 1944): 6.]

In the October 11 issue of The Christian Observer, Dr. Walter L. Lingle makes a mild case for the Auburn Affirmation based in part upon a letter in which Dr. Henry Sloan Coffin asserts that the contention of the affirmation was constitutional and not doctrinal. As our Church faces the question of union with the U.S.A. Church, our concern, however, is not with what may have been the intention of the affirmationists. It is rather with the effect that the Auburn Affirmation has had upon the U.S.A. Church and will have upon our Church if we unite without an adequate safeguard against the liberal theology which the affirmation protects.

Since Dr. Lingle goes back to the period of 1923-1928 for his argument, I shall go back to the same period for my answer. In that period Dr. Coffin, the leader of the liberal majority in New York Presbytery, used the Auburn Affirmation to protect the licensure and ordination of his students who did not accept the virgin birth of Christ. In due process these cases came before the Synod and the Assembly. The U.S.A. Assembly of 1925 condemned New York Presbytery for licensing two students who were unable to affirm their belief in the positive, definite statements of the Gospels on the virgin birth. That Assembly remanded the case to New York Presbytery for appropriate action.

Speaking for the liberal majority of New York Presbytery, Dr. Coffin took the floor and declared the action of the Assembly null and void. Other Auburn Affirmationists threatened to split the Church if the action against New York Presbytery were consummated. In the face of this Auburn Affirmation declaration of nullification and threat of secession, the moderator appointed a committee which so compromised the matter that nothing was ever done by the U.S.A. Assembly against either the Presbytery or the students. By this action and by continued pressure at the ensuing Assemblies, the Auburn Affirmationists prevented the General Assembly from requiring candidates to accept the virgin birth of Christ. Read the rest of this entry »