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Posts Tagged ‘J. Gresham Machen’

Parting Regrets : Reflection on a Letter

In J. Gresham Machen, J. Oliver Buswell, Jr. on 31/05/2012 at 16:41

In our previous post, we provided some background for an article currently posted at the OPC web site. The article was written by the Rev. Charles Dennision, who was at that time serving as the OPC historian.  The article is titled “Cornelius Van Til and the Identity of the OPC“. Our last post provided the text of the letter by J. Oliver Buswell, writing late in 1936 to Dr. J. Gresham Machen. Dennison also mentions a fragment of a letter, a working draft that Machen intended in reply to Buswell, but Machen died while on a speaking engagement in North Dakota and the reply was never finished. I presume that draft fragment is preserved among the papers of Dr. Machen, in the archives at the Westminster Theological Seminary.

What we do have is the other side of the conversation, found among the papers of Dr. Buswell, and in addition to the previously posted letter, there is another interesting letter that sheds further light on the situation, and which also contains an interesting admission by Dr. Buswell.   In both of these letters, I think there is much that can be gleaned as to how Christians can and ought to conduct themselves in debate and disagreement.

In this letter, Dr. Buswell is writing to the Rev. Harold Samuel Laird, a highly-regarded pastor in Wilmington, Delaware.


Rev. Harold S. Laird
R. D. #3
Wilmington, Delaware
My dear Dr. Laird,

I told you in conversation the other day of my conference with the West-

minster faculty Monday evening, January twenty-fifth.  I feel that you
as a trustee of Westminster and as one who has sacrificed so much for the
cause we all love, should be informed, and therefore I am writing down
certain conclusions which I think were reached.

(1)  The faculty stand by Professor Murray’s attitude towards alcoholic
liquor.  They defend him not only in theory but in his practice.  Pro-
fessor Murray drinks liquor and insists upon the principle of personal
liberty in doing so.  The faculty insist that he is right.  This none
of them will dispute, I am sure.

We did not exactly agree on definitions of terms in regards to the emphasis

Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

Rationale for the Independent Board

In Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions, Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. on 28/06/2011 at 18:38

When Machen and his associates formed the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions, they thought they had firm ground on which to stand, basing their actions on prior acts and decisions of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. In the following letter [from the Buswell Papers, Box 276, folder 15]Dr. J. Oliver Buswell, Jr., writing to Dr. Peter Stam, makes some of those reasons clear. There’s a lot going on in this letter and the main thrust of the letter has to do with things that were going on in the Bible Presbyterian Church at that time. However, for our purposes I want to highlight the statement that it was in the Concurrent Resolutions of 1869 that Machen found precedent for the organization of an Independent Board. Though Buswell says in the letter that he has Machen’s correspondence on the subject, I have not yet been able to locate that correspondence among Buswell’s papers. Buswell may have pulled that material and somehow it never returned to his files. If that is the case, it might be possible to access the Machen Papers at Westminster and find a copy of Machen’s letter to Buswell.

May 30, 1955

Dr. Peter Stam
c/o Rev. Donald J. McNair [sic]
2209 North Ballas Road
St. Louis 22, Missouri

Dear Dr. Stam:

Replying to your request for references on data given at Presbytery, here are a few notes which I hope may be helpful.

The “Concurrent Resolutions” as they have been called or the “Concurrent Declarations of the General Assemblies of 1869” as they are designated in the Presbyterian Digest are found in Volume II of my old edition, (1930) under the head “Separations and Reunions” page 37 ff.

The particular section referred to is in the middle of page 38, number 6, “There should be one set of Committees or Boards for Home and Foreign Missions, and the other religious enterprises of the church; which the churches should be encouraged to sustain, though free to cast their contributions into other channels if they desire to do so.”

Machen explained this to me as based upon the fact that the majority of members of the new school had been supporting the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions.

I am sure I have Machen’s correspondence on the subject somewhere but I am not sure that I shall be able to dig it out before Synod.

Sections 7, 8 and 9 of the Concurrent Resolutions might be interpreted as swinging the balance toward denominational control. However, it could be argued that “supervision” of the seminaries (paragraph 9) did not necessarily mean anything more than visitation by Committees of Accreditation, as under the system which we now have. Certainly it is clear in paragraph 9 that the theological seminaries were perfectly free to do what they pleased under the different Synods and not under the General Assembly, although Princeton certainly was under the General Assembly in the days of our experience.

It certainly corresponds to recent history, that is the history of our particular movement, to leave the questions of boards and agencies perfectly open as your resolution does.

[Editor’s note : cf. Minutes of the Bible Presbyterian Church, 1955, pp. 78-79, Overture from the Presbytery of the Philadelphia Area, which reads in the first paragraph:
“Whereas the concurrent resolution of 1869, adopted by the Old School and New School Churches before they united in 1870, allowing liberty for both independent agencies and agencies within the church were held by Dr. J. Gresham Machen and others to be the logical basis for the formation of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions, both being considered within the freedom of conscience, and both being within the Presbyterian structure;…” Also, see the end of this post for the text of the referenced Concurrent Resolutions of 1869.] Read the rest of this entry »