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Archive for August, 2011|Monthly archive page

Several Centuries Before “BR’s”. . .

In Uncategorized on 30/08/2011 at 22:33

Seems we’ve always been drawing distinctions among ourselves. A while back I posted a compilation of material on the “truly reformed” debates, as that issue first arose on the campus of Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson,  MS and then took on a life of its own. At root, we have to admit that it is human nature to label and to describe. We’ve always been doing this sort of thing. Some times its merely descriptive and perhaps helpful. Other times there is a hurtful intent and in some cases such terms are at least meant to be humorous.

Once the “TR” tag was in play, somebody decided to come up with tags for folks elsewhere on the theological spectrum. Thus we have “BR,” which was supposed to stand for ” barely reformed,” or more charitably, the ” broadly reformed.”  Recently on the H-AMREL discussion group, someone asked about an expression they had come across, making reference to ” horse protestants and house protestants”. What? What are “horse protestants?”

Horse Protestants and House Protestants

Of the Continental Army, Adams wrote, “There were among them, Roman Catholicks, English Episcopalians, Scotch and American Presbyterians, Methodists, Moravians, Anabaptists, German Lutherans, German Calvinists,  Universalists, Arians, Priestleyans, Socinians, Independents, Congregationalists, Horse Protestants and House Protestants, Deists and Atheists.”

Thankfully one sharp person located this explanation :

“Horse Protestant: As good a Protestant as Oliver Cromwell’s horse. This expression arises in a comparison made by Cromwell respecting some person who had less discernment than his horse in the moot points of the Protestant controversy.”

[Source: Brewer, E. Cobham, Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (1894).]

To which we must ask, “Why the long face?”

Live Dangerously (1927)

In Foreign Missions, The Presbyterian on 30/08/2011 at 20:46

This on missions in Persia in the late 1920’s. At that time the editor added the following prefatory note.

Persia is in the midst of many upheavals both political and religious. The Moslem world is at last awaking to the pressure of Christianity, and is realizing that it must fight to maintain its position. For this reason there is active danger to the Moslems who venture to become Christians.

And as much as I was struck by the editor’s note in our previous post, those words, though the national reference would be changed, seem all the more appropriate here, as an added preface to the following brief report.

…In this article Miss Brook emphasizes the thought that God’s key-men are “even His witnesses that He is God.” It was precisely because missionaries failed to realize that it is a greater privilege, and a greater obligation, to witness to God than to lead a soul to Christ, that there was so much evasion of that primary obligation in the Japanese Empire. Missionaries and Christians alike failed to realize that in trial comes priceless opportunity, and therefore, save for a very few, missed a glorious opportunity to testify to the very highest officials in Japan that Jehovah alone is God.

by a Persian Missionary
[THE PRESBYTERIAN, 6 January 1927, pp. 12-13.]

As is usually the case, the story of the experiences of our converts is the story of our work for the past few months. Three of them in three different places have been hazarding their lives for the sake of Christ and thrilling us with joy and anxiety. One of these men we will call A. His father was a very popular religious leader a few years ago, to such an extent that his name still survives as indicative of the location of the bath, street, bridge, and what not, most closely associated with him. Once the son of such a man accepted Christ, he would not keep the fact a secret. Almost immediately this convert requested permission to speak on his new faith in the meeting of the Sabbath-school at the city chapel. Following two such talks, brief and to the point, and marked by no disturbing consequences, he asked permission to speak at a larger public service. Read the rest of this entry »

God’s Key-Men in World Situations

In Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions on 30/08/2011 at 20:43

I’ve recently begun preparing an author-title index to the THE INDEPENDENT BOARD BULLETIN, the official publication of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions, an organization formed by Dr. J. Gresham Machen and others in 1933. THE BULLETIN was first issued in January of 1936 and continues to this day as the primary newsletter of that organization. I was particularly struck with the thought expressed by the editor in the opening comments (in bold type).

His Provisions and Equipment
Isaiah 44:1-8
by Miss Frances Brook 

…In this article Miss Brook emphasizes the thought that God’s key-men are “even His witnesses that He is God.” It was precisely because missionaries failed to realize that it is a greater privilege, and a greater obligation, to witness to God than to lead a soul to Christ, that there was so much evasion of that primary obligation in the Japanese Empire. Missionaries and Christians alike failed to realize that in trial comes priceless opportunity, and therefore, save for a very few, missed a glorious opportunity to testify to the very highest officials in Japan that Jehovah alone is God.

How intimately God speaks in all these passages to His prostrate servant, the captive people in Babylon, the one who is heir to this situation, the people for whom it has been created. What loving personal words, to rouse him from his indifference and apathy! “But thou, Israel,” 41:8. “But now, saith the Lord” 43:1. “Yet now hear, O Jacob my servant,” 44:1. And is He any less intimate with us? True power of intercession lies in such close heart intercourse with God! Read the rest of this entry »

Christ Is Risen Indeed!

In Apologetics on 21/08/2011 at 18:44

A friend asked a question recently about the Rev. Arthur J. Diffenbacher, a Grove City College and Dallas Seminary graduate who spent six years on the mission field in China and another two in Manchuria before WWII drove him from the field. After a time back in the States engaged in ministry, he entered the service as an Army chaplain in the summer of 1943. His approach to the chaplaincy was to be always with the troops in everything they endured. So it was perhaps not surprising when he became one of the early casualties of D-Day, dying on the battlefields of Normandy on July 5, 1944.

As I’ve recently been compiling an author-title index for THE INDEPENDENT BOARD BULLETIN, I came across an obituary for Rev. Dieffenbacher, published in the October 1944 issue of the BULLETIN. But I also noticed that just a few months earlier, in the April issue, there was published this short article by Rev. Dieffenbacher—

Chaplain Arthur J. Dieffenbacher

“Now is Christ risen from the dead.” — I Cor. 15:20.

What but such a miracle could cause pious Jews, with fifteen centuries of tradition and the command of God Himself, to cease observing the seventh day of the week, and suddenly begin to worship on the first day?

What but such a manifestation of power could transform the disheartened, fearful apostles into courageous, powerful protagonists of One Who had but a few days before died a shameful death on a cross ; and what else could produce similar transformations in heart-broken, wrecked lives for the last 1900 years?

What but such a victory over death could prevent that cross from being more than the final failure of another self-styled messiah, and produce a faith in millions, that through His death there is forgiveness of sins?

What but the actual event can keep Christ Himself, who offered only His resurrection as a sign and proof, from being a fake, or His apostles from being liars, who based their preaching on the fact that, contrary to their expectations and hope, they had seen Him after death, and talked with Him, and touched His nail-pierced, spear-riven body? What but the fact itself can prevent Christianity from being a colossal hoax?

What but the assurance that His resurrection is a sample of that of all who die trusting Him could cause martyrs to go to death for their faith in Christ, steady and unafraid, as they did in the days of the early church, in the middle ages, and as they do even today under the Japanese rule? And what but this could give hope to a soldier who dies on the field of battle trusting in Christ?

What but such a conclusive triumph of right can, in the midst of injustice, give the assurance held out in the Scriptures that Christ will yet reign in righteousness and peace on the earth?

Macartney and Machen

In Clarence E. Macartney, J. Gresham Machen, Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. on 17/08/2011 at 21:46

While searching out a question today for a patron of the PCA Historical Center, I came across this letter to the editor of CHRISTIANITY TODAY [the new series, for a change!] In this letter, Ned B. Stonehouse, professor at Westminster Theological Seminary and biographer of Dr. J. Gresham Machen, writes to offer a corrective to a statement in a previous issue of the magazine.

[Christianity Today 6.5 (8 December 1961): 16 [240].]

Please permit a brief footnote to G. Hall Todd’s attractive review of the new autobiography of Clarence E. Macartney (Oct. 13 issue). The book should be widely read because of its firsthand report of the doctrinal controversies of the twenties and thirties as well as for many other features to which the reviewer draws attention.

Particularly gratifying in my judgment is Macartney’s evaluation of the character and witness of J. Gresham Machen which may serve to correct certain persistent distortions. Yet one statement of Macartney’s in this context is highly disturbing. It is that after Macartney offered to act as Machen’s counsel before the Permanent Judicial Commission in 1936, Machen declined, “saying that if I defended him, he might be acquitted, and that was not what he wanted” (p. 189). The full correspondence is available to myself and shows that at this point Macartney’s memory failed him. In a letter of about 1200 words Machen, while expressing deep gratitude for the offer, declined on the ground that he felt that his counsel, who would be his spokesman in connection with the subsequent appraisal of the trial regardless of the outcome, had to be a person who would “represent my view in the most thorough-going way,” which, to Machen’s distress, Macartney did not do.

At this time indeed (May 9, 1936), after many years of struggle for reformation from within, Machen had come to believe that the denomination was apostate and he longed for a separation. Nevertheless, as this letter also emphasizes, Machen’s sense of obligation to fulfill his ministerial vows was such that he could not condone the evil involved in his anticipated condemnation even though it might become the occasion of good. In his own words in the letter, “But I cannot acquiesce in that evil for a moment, and therefore I am adopting every legitimate means of presenting my case even before the Modernist Permanent Judicial Commis-sion.”

Westminster Theological Seminary
Philadelphia, Pa.

Missionary Tributes to Machen (1937)

In Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions, J. Gresham Machen on 16/08/2011 at 20:15

Lately one of my projects is working to compile an index to the THE INDEPENDENT BOARD BULLETIN, the newsletter of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions, intending at least to compile that index through the period of 1955-1956.  As I am now working through volume 3 (1937), I have come across the following, which provides a bit of material that many haven’t previously seen. The Independent Board, as most are aware, was founded in part by Dr. Machen as response to his own denomination’s willingness to send modernists into the mission field.

[Independent Board Bulletin III.4 (April 1937): 10-11.]

These spontaneous tributes on the part of some our missionaries will be of great interest to friends of the Independent Board.

Mr. Hamilton, of Korea, writes :

“It seems impossible to realize that our dear friend, counsellor, teacher and guide has been called Home to Glory. What a loss to us all it will prove to be!

I can’t put into words all that the friendship and teaching of Dr. Machen has meant to me personally. In all our close and intimate friendship I have never heard him enter upon a tirade against any man who was opposed to him in the theological fight. He never went into personal attacks against his foes, but always attacked the principles and practices of those who in any way deviated from the teaching of the Word of God. Vituperation he left to his enemies, and I suppose there has been no man of our generation more unjustly maligned and misrepresented by those who were supposed to be orthodox than he.

Dr. Machen called forth a passionate loyalty on the part of his friends and pupils that few even of those most closely associated with him in the church at large realized. It was not so much personal loyalty, however, as it was a loyalty to the Christ whom he worshipped, and whom he constantly held before the minds of his pupils. Read the rest of this entry »

Remembering Premise Magazine Online

In Periodicals on 13/08/2011 at 19:27

At my request, Dr. David W. Hall has very kindly provided a brief history of PREMISE, an exceptionally early web-based magazine which ran from 1994-1999.  Some exceptional content posted under the PREMISE banner, and the PCA Historical Center has providentially been able to preserve that content. Select portions will post either on this blog or elsewhere on the Historical Center’s web site in the future.  And now to Dr. Hall’s telling of the history of that effort.

The Short History of CAPO and Premise

by Dr. David W. Hall

August 13, 2011

In what seems like a land far away and in a time long ago, there once was publishing without the internet. Moreover, few reformed organizations seized that day. Thanks to a providential location for ministry and being surrounded by some very talented people, this pastor of a small church was able to participate in some of the unfolding of a new medium.

I was called to pastor the Covenant Presbyterian Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, in the spring of 1984. Possessing only low-tech skills and a humanities orientation, ironically I went to this historically high-tech community, filled with scientists and world-class technical researchers. I was steeped in liberal arts courses but a technical illiterate. My elders dragged me onto the information highway in its infant days, and with their support, we were able to form the first Reformed online journal, Premise, in 1994 (and continued through 1999). The Kuyper Institute started publishing its online briefings and analysis in the late summer of 1994, just prior to a sweeping congressional sea change.

Premise, however, was but one feature of the work of the larger domain: The Center for the Advancement of Paleo Orthodoxy (then We chose the name to make two statements: first, we were not headed toward “neo”-anything. The content of our publishing was decidedly old school and traditionalist. In fact, anticipating our critics’ parries, our first banner logo featured a dinosaur. Our intent (and confession) was this: “Okay, yes, we’re old school. Got it. Now, what’s the rational argument after we’ve been pegged?” Second, CAPO was an online think tank, with seven different divisions. Each of those seven departments, aptly named after a great theologian or practitioner from our tradition, needed, we thought, a revival of reformed theology to renew its core. The seven different Institutes (see more below) were: Read the rest of this entry »

The Meaning of Subscription

In The Presbyterian on 12/08/2011 at 13:03

The following article appeared in an October issue of THE PRESBYTERIAN, authored by the Rev. Benjamin McKee Gemmill. Rev. Gemmill was a graduate of Lafayette College and Princeton Theological Seminary, and pastor of the Presbyterian church in Hartsville, PA at the time of writing this article. He had previously served on the staff of THE PRESBYTERIAN from 1904-1908.
Full context would require looking at the work and issues behind the Special Commission of the PCUSA’s General Assembly referenced at the start of Gemmill’s article. But not having the time for that here, I think the reader should be able to make sufficient sense of the article without that background. Gemmill is writing as a conservative northern Presbyterian.

The Meaning of Subscription to the Presbyterian Standards

By Rev. Benjamin McKee Gemmill, Ph.D., D.D.
[The Presbyterian 96.43 (28 October 1926): 6-7, 26.]

THE report of the Special Commission, on pages 10 and 15, respectively, says:

“Among those who take a different view of this matter are some who think that there is need for revision of our terms of subscription or for some clearer declaration of the rights of those who subscribe to the Standards, and of their obligation only to the system of doctrine which the Standards contain; but others think that the present terms and declarations and guarantees are adequate and that all that is necessary is a spirit of trust among us and a recognition of divergencies of view which are within our just liberties and do not affect our essential evangelical faith”; “The first of these controversies within the American Presbyterian Church ended with the acceptance of the Adopting Act of 1729. The first presbytery, formed in 1706, and the first synod, organized in 1716, fell heir to the discussions over subscription to the Confession of Faith which had distressed the churches in the motherland and had brought division into the Irish Church. Before 1729, the American Presbyterian Church was divided in its sentiment regarding subscription to the Confession of Faith. . . . The matter was keenly debated and in the end a compromise was effected. The Adopting Act was worded so as to be acceptable to everyone and laid the basis of a creedal church.” Read the rest of this entry »

Their Finest Hour

In Bible Presbyterian Church, J. Oliver Buswell, Jr. on 10/08/2011 at 09:07

The Seventeenth General Synod of the Bible Presbyterian Church convened in Greenville, South Carolina on Thursday afternoon, June 3rd, 1954. The whole of the next day, Friday, was given to worship and prayer. Following devotional exercises that morning, the Rev. Francis A. Schaeffer brought a message. Then in the afternoon, the Rev. John W. Sanderson spoke and the Synod broke out for group prayer meetings. Finally, the Rev. Robert G. Rayburn brought the concluding message that evening, followed by a united prayer meeting.

So much for what you can tell from the official Minutes.  To my knowledge there were no tape recordings made as the General Synod met that year.  If we were left with the official record, we might be impressed that they spent the day in prayer and worship, but that would be about it.  But stored away among the Buswell’s papers, in Box 283 there is a half sheet of onionskin paper with this typed report prepared by his son, the Rev. John Buswell, who was at that time the pastor of a church in Philadelphia:

From the Church Bulletin
Bible Presbyterian Church of West Philadelphia

The Pastor’s Paragraph * * * The Seventeenth General Synod of the Bible Presbyterian Church experienced the reality of revival in their midst. On the second day of meeting no business was allowed, and three messages were given, followed by three seasons of prayer. The morning message was concerning Reformation and Revival, the afternoon one concerning Prayer and Revival, and the evening message was on the Holy Spirit and Revival. The times of prayer were characterized first by tears of confession. Person after person got to his feet to pour out his soul in repentance before God. Then the prayers turned to praise : praise for the great and marvelous opportunity God had set before the Bible Presbyterian Church for evangelism. Then the prayers centered on the need to take advantage of that great opportunity. There settled on the Synod a great and binding hunger for greater love among God’s people; love which would unify our hearts and churches for the glory of God. Then there was a greater hunger for the compassion and love for lost souls that they might find Christ. A year passed and not enough souls had been saved by the work of the Bible Presbyterian Church. Seventeen years have passed and we stop and consider where are we going? A firm and settled conviction that the stand of the Bible Presbyterian Synod for the Word of God and the Testimony of Jesus Christ was the right one, pervaded the body of ministers ; and yet there was dissatisfaction. Dissatisfaction with progress, dissatisfaction with the brightness of our testimony. We must go forward with the proper balance for the TRUTH of God and for the LOVE of God. We must maintain the purity of the Testimony and at the same time we must allow the Holy Spirit to pervade the Testimony of our church with compassion for our brethren in Christ, as well as those who are unsaved. Romans 12:5—”So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another . . .” ; Philippians 2: 15, 16—”. . . in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation among whom ye shine as lights in the world, holding forth the word of life . . . ”  Read the rest of this entry »

“Brains in the Pulpit”

In Pastoral Ministry, Roy T. Brumbaugh on 06/08/2011 at 15:40

As we approach the Lord’s day, here is a reminder for pastors, and an encouragement for congregations to support their pastors in the good, but difficult work of sermon preparation. At the time he wrote this, Rev. Brumbaugh was serving his second pastorate, in the pulpit of the Presbyterian church in Coatesville, PA.

“Brains in the Pulpit”
by Rev. Roy T. Brumbaugh
[The Presbyterian 96.6 (11 Feb. 1926): 8.] 

“WANTED—brains in the pulpit.” The caption caught my eye while reading the Christmas number of The Literary Digest. I found that President Butler was again on a rampage ; yet there may be some reason in his madness. Dean Inge, in a recent article, deplored “the inferior intellectual quality” of the clergy. Perhaps the “gloomy Dean” has something concrete on which to base his accusation.

Observation leads me to believe that not so many ministers really study. Usually not because they do not want to, but because they do not have time to. The ordinary minister cannot be a strong pastor and a strong preacher at the same time, and so following popular demand and ofttimes the line of least resistance he abandons study, and takes to the street.

An ordinary minister cannot handle the executive responsibilities of a good-sized congregation with the variety of programme demanded by the average church, plus community duties, and at the same time sound the depths of profound thought ; so, succumbing to the cry of the hour, he builds up a splendid ecclesiastical machine and participates actively in the secular interests of the community. Oh, they starve to death.

Pastoral visitation has its place, and many are called to specialize therein. The Church needs good executives, and God bless the man who is thus endowed ; but are not Christian ministers over-emphasizing these things to the neglect of constructive Bible instruction?

All ministers must do some pastoral work ; all must organize their parishes, at least after a fashion, yet the study is still the place where soul food is prepared and the spiritual life of the minister built-up. Read the rest of this entry »