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Archive for January, 2012|Monthly archive page

Academic Freedom, by G. Aiken Taylor (1963)

In G. Aiken Taylor on 17/01/2012 at 16:46

Working through some pamphlets and other materials donated by Dr. Will Barker, I came across this little tract, which may be of interest. It is a reprint of an article that first appeared in THE PRESBYTERIAN JOURNAL, on 30 January 1963.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM
Examining the idea that teachers are above the rules
ordinary mortals go by—

by G. Aiken Taylor, Ph.D.

The issue of “academic freedom” is rapidly becoming a major one. In some denominations there is no greater. A poll of 30 Baptist editors—for instance—placed the dismissal of Dr. Ralph Elliott from Midwestern Baptist Seminary, and the appointment of a special committee by the 1962 Southern Baptist Convention to re-study its statement of faith, as the two top news stories of 1962. Both stories had to do with the issue of academic freedom.

Dr. Elliott was dismissed from the seminary on account of his book, The Message of Genesis, which allegedly treats Biblical history lightly. His dismissal was hailed as a victory by conservative forces in the never-ending struggle between liberal and conservative elements which is going on in all Churches today.

Unfortunately, the outcome of the incident is not yet clear. Although the action against Dr. Elliott was supported by most state conventions we heard from, the liberals—mostly the academic community in this case—have shown no intention of letting it go at that. While the conservatives rest on their oars, confident in victory, the campaign to discredit them gradually increases in vigor and will probably win out in the end.

Conservatives are notoriously like the hare in the fable of the tortoise and the hare. They get excited but tend to relax again just as easily. The liberals, on the other hand, patiently keep up their subtle pressures until the resistance is overcome.

Latest development in the Elliott case is a paper signed by 37 religious professors in eight Southern Baptist colleges, condemning the seminary for “sacrificing” its “integrity in Biblical scholarship” and “denying” the “seminary’s freedom to interpret Scripture under the authority of Christ in Scripture” (which usually means, “the right to teach students to mistrust people who take the Bible to mean what it says.”)

We can predict the outcome of this controversy with a fair degree of assurance. Dr. Elliott will be reinstated—or elevated to something better—the book will be brought out by another publisher and will become an approved text in schools and colleges. The whole Baptist denomination, which supported his dismissal, but which ran out of steam as soon as he had left the seminary, will stand by helplessly wringing its collective hands.

A   SECULAR   EXAMPLE

Down in Florida another example of controversy over academic freedom has been unfolding, this time in the world of secular education. The whole state has been in an uproar over something which developed at the University of South Florida, in Tampa, where the atmosphere in some classes was alleged to have attained almost incredible depths of depravity and irreverence. One professor was dismissed. A legislative investigation of the whole state university system was held, resulting in some new statements of policy by the Board of Control. But after the dust had settled the professor was reinstated and business has continued pretty much as usual in Florida. Read the rest of this entry »

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Recollections of Archibald Alexander [1772-1851]

In Princeton Theological Seminary on 12/01/2012 at 15:40

Two recollections on the Rev. Dr. Archibald Alexander, first professor of the Princeton Theological Seminary. The first of these is found on page 1 of THE CHRISTIAN OBSERVER, vol. 48, no. 45 (10 November 1869), though the author of the piece is identified solely by the pseudonym “Memor.” The second account is drawn from RECOLLECTIONS OF USEFUL PERSONS AND IMPORTANT EVENTS, by S.C. Jennings, D.D. (1884), pp. 99-100. The portrait of Dr. Alexander is taken from Nevin’s PRESBYTERIAN ENCYCLOPEDIA.

For the Observer and Commonwealth
REV. DR. ARCHIBALD ALEXANDER

Dear good old Dr. Alexander! How we loved him in New Jersey! Many a time have I seen people stop and look at him as he passed—even those who had never seen him loved and admired. The true Christian knew why. In the pulpit he was very different from many of the present day, but we all felt that he was indeed a minister of Jesus Christ unto us, and in the sacred desk, and at the communion table we seemed to be brought near to God and to Heaven. In this respect few were his equals and this power is a great gift. Many living servants of God know that they feel his influence to this day and thank God for it. Sabbath afternoon we met in the lecture room for conversation up on some subject before announced. Any student said what he wished, and they spoke freely, moderately and well. But our spiritual feast was when Dr. Alexander and Dr. Miller, and young professor Hodge, as he was then, sitting in their chairs would give us the essence of their matured thoughts. At the time I admired and relished it, but in riper years only could I really appreciate our privilege. There was no apparent effort, but the spring of living thought seemed to pour forth spontaneously. In this exercise Dr. Alexander excelled, and I thought could condense more ideas in a few sentences than any man I ever met. He was so devout and spiritual and earnest that we felt his words. “Pray”—on one occasion, he said, “pray on. And if in the closet alone with God you desire to remain longer and God seems indeed to be there,—Pray on; and if your heart inclines you to tarry longer—pray on and hour after hour—hour after hour. It is a heavenly gale, and you may make more advances than you have in a year, ‘Pray on.’ ”  —Memor.


The Christian Observer 48.45 (10 November 1869): 1.

“Between the years 1824 and 1827, Drs. Alexander and Miller and Professor Hodge were (in the Presbyterian Church) the only public instructors of theological students. Dr. Alexander commenced this work in 1812. Twelve years afterward he was still vigorous in mind. In body he was rather small, with some gray hairs. As he sat in the recitation room, reclining his head upon his hand, small, piercing eyes looked upon the students, ready to approve their performances; or, when need be, to correct their mistakes. He appeared rather reserved, and yet in private was very paternal, exercising his thorough knowledge of human nature with great skill.

“A peculiarity in him was the clearness of his style in teaching and preaching. His great learning enabled him to use the very wordsmostly of Saxon originby which his hearers comprehended the truth easily. This example of his should be imitated by young ministers of our time. While he adapted language to his subject, as when he wrote his volume on the Canon of Sacred Scriptures, and that on the Evidences of Christianity, his manner of preaching was more like his admirable book of Christian Experienceclear, practical and searching. There was no going outside of the themes of the Bible to find something new and entertaining. He condemned unprofitable speculations in the class room, and never practiced them in the pulpit. In his lectures on pastoral care to the students, he recommended special seasons of labor to promote revivals, wisely chosen, with the choice of proper persons to give aid in the preaching. I remember when there was a revival at Princeton, he went to give instruction to the young.”


— Jennings, S.C., Recollections of Useful Persons and Important Events within Seventy Years. Vancefort, PA: J. Dillon & Son, 1884. Pp. 99-100.

Thank You For Knox Smoking

In Uncategorized on 06/01/2012 at 15:38

Every once in a while you see the odd item that you just have to snap up. Apparently this was produced by an English tobacco company as part of a larger series and one of many such series regularly issued by the Ogden division of the Imperial Tobacco Co. as promotional items. This card was number 27, from a set of 50, in their “Leaders of Men” series.

I’m just impressed that Knox made the cut. But of course, that was an earlier day . . .

Reverse side of the card, with legend:

A Southern Presbyterian’s Tribute to Spurgeon

In Moses Drury Hoge on 05/01/2012 at 20:55

In what he describes as a Sunday afternoon sermon, the Rev. Dr. Moses Drury Hoge delivered a sermon titled in publication, “Liddon, Bersier, Spurgeon”. The sermon is found in the volume THE PERFECTION OF BEAUTY, which was issued posthumously five years after Hoge’s death in 1899. Preaching from the text of First Samuel 25:1, Hoge first treats of the Anglican Canon, William Perry Liddon and then the Presbyterian Frenchman, Eugene Bersier. Lastly, Hoge turned his attention to the English Baptist, Charles Haddon Spurgeon [1834-1892]. Here excerpted is that portion of the sermon where Dr. Hoge paid tribute to Spurgeon:

One of the greatest lessons that I want to derive from this discourse, and one of the greatest truths that I want to impress is this, that there ought to be a very earnest looking for a different class of men from many of those who are coming upon the stage now, and we ought to be praying that God will raise up men of great endowments, of splendid gifts and large scholarship, and devoted consecration to his cause ; men qualified to become the leaders of the great sacramental army for the conquest of the world. There never was a time perhaps when there were as many mediocre men as there are now, men who do not attain, and who have no prospect of attaining that learning which makes the leader of the church, and which makes the whole church to rejoice that God has honored such men with such powers. That is the great want of the day in which we live. Read the rest of this entry »

Recollections of Ashbel Green

In Philadelphia, Princeton Theological Seminary on 04/01/2012 at 10:14

One recent accession to the research library at the PCA Historical Center proves interesting. The title is Recollections of Useful Persons and Important Events, within Seventy Years, by the Rev. S.C. Jennings, D.D. [Vancefort, PA: J. Dillon & Son, 1884]. Rev. Jennings was a member of the Presbytery of Pittsburgh (PCUSA), and over the term of his long life apparently had opportunity to meet and get to know just about everybody in early nineteenth-century Presbyterianism.

To give a small sample of what I’m finding in this volume, here are his recollections regarding the Rev. Dr. Ashbel Green, the prominent Philadelphia pastor who was so instrumental in the establishment of the Princeton Theological Seminary. Dr. Green also served for a time as co-chaplain of the U.S. Congress.

Dr. Ashbel Green was chaplain to Congress during the Revolutionary war, and was once a pastor in Philadelphia. He was for a time President of Princeton College, New Jersey; which position he resigned, and was elected Moderator of the General Assembly in 1824, where I heard him deliver the opening sermon the next year with a good deal of vigor and oratorical power. He became the editor of the Christian Advocate, a sound, conservative monthly magazine, which had great influence in the Church, though the editor was not so severe in his condemnation of error as some when the troubles were brewing which divided the Presbyterian Church. He was paternal and mild. In person he was rather large, with full face and swarthy complexion, wearing his diminished hair (not entirely gray) somewhat long. Though I had often seen him at the Princeton Seminary, I found when in the Assembly with him in 1834, that he was enfeebled. He sat thoughtfully and moved his face as though he was chewing, and yet I believe he eschewed the vile stuff—tobacco.

Many such short snippets in this little volume, and I will share more soon. The value of these recollections is the way in which the author relates the humanity of his subjects.