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Abiding Themes

In Auburn Affirmation (1924), Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions, J. Gresham Machen, Modernism on 18/06/2011 at 12:02

William Childs Robinson’s Reports on the Southern & Northern Presbyterian Churches 

Among the Papers of William A. McIlwaine there is a letter preserved in which his father, William B. McIlwaine, wrote to J. Gresham Machen, lamenting the spiritual decline of the Southern Presbyterian Church. Perhaps I will post a transcription of that letter here soon. But I mention that letter by way of introducing the following two reports issued by Dr. William Childs Robinson and published in volume 5 of CHRISTIANITY TODAY, reports which mirror McIlwaine’s letter of concern.

Robinson was one of the shining academic lights in the Southern Church (perhaps a singular light, according to Rev. James E. Moore) and a committed evangelical, Reformed Christian. His first article for CHRISTIANITY TODAY appeared in the July 1930 issue and he also served as a correspondent for the magazine, writing reports on conditions and events within the Presbyterian Church, U.S.  Following are two of his reports, reflecting on then current events in the Southern Presbyterian Church, while in the second report he turns his attention to the Northern Presbyterians, the IBPFM trials and the Church’s continual struggle against spiritual decline.  As William Iverson is fond of saying, “God has no grand-children.” — the urgent work of evangelism must be done afresh in every generation.

Shall We Keep the Faith?
By the Rev. Prof. Wm. Childs Robinson, Th.D., Columbia Theological Seminary
[Christianity Today 5.1 (May 1934): 26]

According to news items appearing in the religious press the Rev. Donald H. Stewart who was twice refused admission to West Hanover Presbytery on account of his modernism is undertaking the pastorate of the University Church at Chapel Hill, North Carolina. This item raises several questions. Has Mr. Stewart changed the views he so emphatically re-affirmed before West Hanover Presbytery? Did the Presbytery which dismissed him satisfy itself as to his doctrinal soundness; that is, did it observe the requirement of the Constitution of the Church and examine into his reported unsoundness as required in paragraph 183 of the Book of Church Order? Did the Presbytery which received him for the North Carolina work satisfy itself as to his doctrinal fitness to renew the ordination and installation vows? The reports of the former examination indicated that Mr. Stewart accepted religious experience as his rule of faith rather than the Scriptures as set forth in the first ordination vow.

While the pamphlet issued and now being circulated by Dr. Wm. M. McPheeters was called forth by the actions of Arkansas Presbytery, it is a message which other presbyteries need to hear and heed. It is not too much to say that every presbytery and every presbyter ought to reconsider the solemn truth of the ordination vows before men and especially before the God of truth. Now as ever an honest man is the noblest work of God. The Book still pronounces its blessing upon the man that sweareth to his own hurt and changeth not; and still excludes those who make and love the contrary. Rev. 22:15.

Standing in the shadow of eternity the eighty-year-old Southern Prophet, Dr. Wm. M. McPheeters, has issued a clarion call for a more faithful observance of the third and the ninth commandments–for truth and the keeping of vows made to the Holy God. Will the Church of today hear this word and gird herself to keep the faith before man and before God; or will she stone another prophet and leave it to the generations to come to build him a monument?

If you are following current events among NAPARC Churches, McPheeters’ words bring to mind the exhortation of another patriarch, the Rev. John P. Galbraith, at the recent 75th anniversary of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church: Read the rest of this entry »