Parting Words : Buswell’s Last Letter to Machen

Over at the OPC web site, there has been the recent posting of a 1996 article by Charles Dennison, the late historian for the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.
The article is entitled “Cornelius Van Til and the Identity of the OPC”, and in the opening paragraph, Rev. Dennison made reference to the last letter that Dr. J. Oliver Buswell wrote to Dr. J. Gresham Machen.

I thought our readers might like to see that letter, for added context and background to the Dennison article. A second letter by Dr. Buswell—written late in January of 1937 and bearing a significant comment on this first letter—will follow in our next post.


Dr. J. Gresham Machen
206 South Thirteenth Street
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Dear Dr. Machen

Since reading the last issue of the Guardian, I have been confirmed
in feeling that I ought to write you with reference to certain
points which I have not had time to discuss with you adequately.
(1) The first of these is the method to be used in correcting
dispensational error.  You are a far more experienced and more
capable Christian leader than I, but I have had certain experiences
with devout people misguided by dispensationalism, which I think
you have not had.  I have found that such people will generally
listen to specific arguments with definite references but they are
not convinced, and I think could not be expected to be convinced,
by general phrases such as “the dispensationalism of the Scofield
Bible.”  Professor Murray’s article last May and Dr. Allis’ two
articles in recent issues of the Evangelical Quarterly were more
definitely characterized by careful handling of detail.  The last
issue of the Guardian contained a very effective appeal on page
seventy-one, column two-b, but it is all in the realm of generalities
and hence in the realm most likely to cause irritation rather than
to bring conviction.  This is especially true since the doctrine
of a literal millennium is seen to be a particular within the
general phrase which Dr. Kuiper used. Continue reading “Parting Words : Buswell’s Last Letter to Machen”

Samuel Craig’s Review of Machen’s Virgin Birth of Christ

THE VIRGIN BIRTH OF CHRIST by J. Gresham Machen, DD., Litt. D., Professor of New Testament in Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia. Harper & Brothers, New York and London. 1930.
[Christianity Today 1.1 (May, 1930): 13.]

This volume sustains, and more than sustains, Dr. Machen’s reputation as not only one of the world’s foremost New Testament scholars but as one of the ablest defenders of historic Christianity. His former books, The Origin of Paul’s Religion (1921), Christianity and Liberalism (1923) and What is Faith? (1925), have so whetted the appetites of their thousands of readers that the announcement of a new book by Dr. Machen fills them with eager expectancy — whatever may be their theological position. It will be recalled that Mr. Walter Lippmann, whose theological position is about as far removed as possible from that of Dr. Machen’s, in his widely read book, A Preface to Morals, not only speaks of Dr. Machen as “both a scholar and a gentleman” but says of his book, Christianity and Liberalism:

“It is an admirable book. For its acumen, for its saliency, and for its wit, this cool and stringent defense of orthodox Protestantism is, I think, the best popular argument produced by either side in the current controversy. We shall do well to listen to Dr. Machen.”

Dr. Machen’s latest book, it is true, like The Origin of Paul’s Religion, moves throughout in the field of exact scholarship. It would be difficult to point to a book anywhere that is more thorough-going in its recital and examination of all that bears upon the subject with which it deals. But while this is the case, Dr. Machen writes so simply and lucidly that men and women of intelligence everywhere, whatever their standing as technical scholars, will be able to read it with understanding and profit. Certainly no minister or Bible teacher of adults can afford to ignore this book. To the reviewer at least it is a source of much satisfaction to know that what is confessedly the most exhaustive and most scholarly book on the problem of the Virgin Birth of Christ ever published, at least in English, has been written by a man who after having acquainted himself with everything of importance that has been written on the subject since the first century, no matter in what language, holds to the historic belief of the Christian Church that its founder was born without human father, being conceived by the Holy Ghost and born of the Virgin Mary.

It is impossible in the space at our disposal to do more than indicate the contents of this book — a book that is all but certain to remain the standard book on the subject for many years to come.

Dr. Machen begins by pointing out that whatever we may think of the virgin birth as a historic fact we cannot deny that the historic Christian Church has all but universally held to the belief that Christ was virgin born. Continue reading “Samuel Craig’s Review of Machen’s Virgin Birth of Christ”

Machen’s Love of the Alps

Several years ago we found some letters among the Papers of Allan A. MacRae that shed further light on J. Gresham Machen’s love of mountain climbing and especially his love of the Alps.  Machen was able to visit and climb in the Alps several times, with his last visit being in the summer of 1935.  A letter from Machen to MacRae details that trip and shares something of their mutual love of mountain climbing.   In 1933, Machen had prepared a talk on mountain climbing and this address has been reprinted several times. We even found a letter that MacRae wrote to his mother, recounting a social gathering where Machen gave a trial run of his newly prepared address.4164 Blick v. d. Wellenkuppe g. Matterhorn 4505 m. und Dent d'He Continue reading “Machen’s Love of the Alps”

First Commencement of Westminster Seminary

Shortly we will turn to other matters, but just now, here is yet another item regarding Westminster Seminary–this from 1930 and a report on the school’s first commencement:

First Commencement of Westminster Seminary

Before a great throng which began gathering long before the doors were thrown open, Westminster Theological Seminary held its first commencement exercises in Witherspoon Hall, Philadelphia, on the evening of Tuesday, May sixth. Continue reading “First Commencement of Westminster Seminary”