This blog chiefly seeks to collate materials available elsewhere on the net by or about J Gresham Machen

Thursday, 20 August 2015

PCUSA General Assembliles 1921-1936

Year Venue Moderator
132nd GA, 1920 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Samuel S. Palmer
133rd GA, 1921 Winona Lake, Indiana Henry C. Swearingen
134th GA, 1922 Des Moines, Iowa Calvin C. Hays
135th GA, 1923 Indianapolis, Indiana Charles F. Wishart
136th GA, 1924 Grand Rapids, Michigan Clarence Edward Macartney
137th GA, 1925 Columbus, Ohio Charles R. Erdman
138th GA, 1926 Baltimore, Maryland William Oxley Thompson
139th GA, 1927 San Francisco, California Elder Robert Elliott Speer
140th GA, 1928 Tulsa, Oklahoma Hugh Kelso Walker
141st GA, 1929 St. Paul, Minnesota Cleland Boyd McAfee
142nd GA, 1930 Cincinnati, Ohio Hugh Thomson Kerr
143rd GA, 1931 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Lewis Seymour Mudge
144th GA, 1932 Denver, Colorado Charles William Kerr
145th GA, 1933 Columbus, Ohio John McDowell
146th GA, 1934 Cleveland, Ohio William Chalmers Covert
147th GA, 1935 Cincinnati, Ohio Joseph Anderson Vance
148th GA, 1936 Syracuse, New York Henry Buck Master

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Iain Murray on Christianity and Liberalism

In a footnote in his essay on How Scotland lost its hold of the Bible (see here) Iain Murray says
Christianity and Liberalism (repr. 1997, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans), p. 178. This has to remain one of the most important books of all times.
This refers to Machen's statement about Liberalism that is is ‘a movement which is anti-Christian to the core.’ (He also quotes Machen saying ‘There is sometimes a salutary lack of logic which prevents the whole of a man’s faith being destroyed when he has given up a part.')
Earlier in the body of the essay Murray says
In 1933, through the Presbytery of New Brunswick, J. Gresham Machen appealed to the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of the USA, that the personnel of their Foreign Missions Board should only contain men who held to ‘the full trustworthiness of Scripture’. To support the appeal, Machen produced a publication of 110 pages, which gave evidence of the extent to which unbelief was being tolerated and promoted on the mission field. He showed that the ‘inclusivist policy’, which was being allowed in the churches at home, was proving a disaster in China where some church leaders had come to deny the bodily resurrection of Christ. He cited the literature of liberals then being published in Chinese. In one of these books, the author spoke of how a mother was reading part of the Old Testament where the destruction of the Amalekites is commanded. The mother sought to explain the judgment to her daughter by saying ‘that revelation was progressive, and now in Jesus we were told to love our enemies and to do good to them that despitefully use us. The little girl thought for a moment and then her face lighted up and she said, “Now I understand … this back here was before God was a Christian.” (Modernism and the Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church in the USA, J. G. Machen (privately published, 1933), pp. 74-5.)
Despite all that Machen wrote and said, the General Assembly gave the personnel of the Board of Foreign Missions ‘whole-hearted’ support. The inclusivist policy was upheld. When Machen and others then formed an Independent Mission Board, the General Assembly ordered it to be disbanded and forbade any of its church to be members. Machen did not obey the direction, upon which, he was tried, not allowed to question the legitimacy of the Assembly’s order, found guilty, and suspended from the ministry.
The so-called inclusivist policy was in reality an anti-biblical policy. Machen had quoted teachers in China who expressed the hope that modernists and not fundamentalists would come to that mission field. The likes of Machen would not be welcome; and now he was not to be welcomed in the church which he had served all his life.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Shorter Writings

Selected shorter writings available in ebook format here

New Biography of Machen

Gresham Machen by Sean Michael Lucas

US Price $10.99
Bitesize Biography
Author Sean Michael Lucas
ISBN 9781783970575
Pages 130
Dubbed at his death "Doctor Fundamentalis," J. Gresham Machen (1881-1937) was one of the most significant defenders of evangelical Christianity in the early twentieth century. Raised in American Presbyterianism, he wrestled deeply with the challenge of Protestant Modernism and provided some of the most significant responses to it, particularly his classic book Christianity and Liberalism. He pointed the way forward toward a Christianity that was both intellectually rigorous and spiritually satisfying, one that was rooted in a trustworthy Bible and in a confessional tradition which in turn produced a genuine faith in Christ. As a result, Machen continues to provide lessons today for those who desire to be valiant for truth in the midst of a hostile world.
In the battle against vital doctrinal declension in the early 20th century, Gresham Machen played a very significant role in defending classic Christian orthodoxy. But it is a role few are acquainted with since biographies of him have been scarce and hard to obtain. This new study of his life is therefore welcome indeed. Highly recommended.
Dr. Michael Haykin, Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality and Director of The Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Sean Michael Lucas (Ph.D., Westminster Theological Seminary) is senior minister at the First Presbyterian Church, Hattiesburg, Mississippi, USA, and associate professor of church history at Reformed Theological Seminary, Jackson, Mississippi, USA. He is the author of several books, including Robert Lewis Dabney: A Southern Presbyterian Life and For a Continuing Church: The Roots of the Presbyterian Church in America.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Machen and the faculty

Portrait of the founding faculty of WTS - (L to R) Ned Stonehouse, O.T. Allis, John Murray (standing), J. Gresham Machen, Allan McRae (standing), Paul Woolley, Cornelius Van Til. From here. Machen, Allis and Van Til had served in Princeton (as did Murray as an instructor for one year). Also Robert Dick Wilson, missing from this picture, as is R B Kuiper.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Machen's Wars - Consolations in the midst of battle

3. Machen's wars – Consolations in the midst of battle
The final thing I would like to do is to consider a short address that Machen gave to the second batch of outgoing students from Westminster Seminary in 1931. It is of interest to us here because it is headed in published form (see Hart's Selected shorter writings) Consolations in the midst of battle. It is interesting because the battle that Machen has in mind is not World War I and, although he clearly has in mind the battle for the truth that he and others were then involved in that was still raging at the time, what has to say has relevance to every age. It is the same theme as that which he touched on in his last address to the Princeton students. Then he said
God grant that you … may be fighters, too! Probably you have your battles even now; you have to contend against sins gross or sins refined; you have to contend against the sin of slothfulness and inertia; ... against doubt and despair. Do not think it strange if you fall thus into divers temptations. The Christian life is a warfare after all. John Bunyan rightly set it forth under the allegory of a Holy War; and when he set it forth, in his greater book, under the figure of a pilgrimage, the pilgrimage, too, was full of battles.
Early on in the Westminster address he mentions the twin evils of opposition from the world and from a worldly church, enemies we still face today. “The world today” he says “is opposed to the faith that you profess and the visible church, too often, has made common cause with the world.”
He reminds them that this has always been the case and that the Saviour warned us that it would be so. In light of this, Westminster, he says, was looking for men willing to bear the reproach of Christ and to work hard at studying God's Word.
The consolations or comforts he offers are twofold. First, and not to be underestimated, there is “the affections and prayers of the little company of men, unpopular with the world, who you have called your teachers”. He reminds them that these comrades stand with far more than seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.
He reminds them, secondly and more expansively, that his was not the first period when the Christian church was tempted to be discouraged by events. “Again and again” he says “the gospel has seemed to be forever forgotten; yet always it has burst forth with new power and the world has been set aflame.” He wants them to be expectant then and meanwhile not to be unduly impressed “by the pomp and power of this unbelieving age”.
He then describes how a week earlier he had looked down on the city from the 102nd floor of the then newly completed Empire State Building in New York. He states how impressed he was by it all but he says that his mind then went to other buildings he had seen before. He thought particularly of the great cathedrals of England and the continent, living expressions of the human soul and act of worship to Almighty God.
He suggests that while modern builders may be good at lifting the body (1240 feet in record time) they do not compare with the ability of builders in former times to lift the soul. In a flight of fantasy he continues his contrast between the virtual Tower of Babel that he had more recently visited and the ancient cathedrals built over centuries designed to lift ones faith on wings to “the very presence of the infinite God”.
He is eager for his enthusiasm not to be construed as anti-modern or as a call for obscurantism and narrowness. Quite the opposite. No Machen dares to dream of a future time when God will send to the world “something far greater than genius – a humble heart finding in his worship the highest use of al knowledge and all power”. He longs for the rejection of materialism and the embrace of a true view of man.
Meanwhile it is “a drab and empty age” they are in when God's law is forgotten and men are in slavery. Hungry souls are thirsting and hungry for bread, a hunger these men could still by preaching the Word. His desire is not for a novel sect but for a company of men steeped in the Word and in the best scholarly traditions, who labour, mediate and pray in order to faithfully preach.
He wonders aloud
Perhaps you may be the humble instruments, by the use of whatever talents God has given you, of lifting preaching out of the rut into which too often it has fallen, and of making it again, by God's grace, a thing of power.
He closes by saying
Remember this, at least – the things in which the world is now interested are the things that are seen; but the things that are seen are temporal, and the things that are not seen are eternal. You, as ministers of Christ, are called to deal with the unseen things. You are stewards of the mysteries of God. You alone can lead men, by the proclamation of God’s word, out of the crash and jazz and noise and rattle and smoke of this weary age into the green pastures and beside the still waters; you alone, as ministers of reconciliation, can give what the world with all its boasting and pride can never give – the infinite sweetness of the communion of the redeemed soul with the living God.

Machen's Wars - The battle with modernism

2. Machen's wars – The battle with modernism
Even as far back as 1918 there were concerns with modernism in the Presbyterian church and other Protestant churches. The 90 essays that make up the 12 volume work The Fundamentals (from which the word fundamentalist is said to be drawn) had been published in the period 1910-1915 as a clarion call in defence of orthodox Protestant beliefs, attacking higher criticism, liberal theology and geological evolution, among other things.
In his letter of December 28 1918 Machen says to his mother (243)
If my conscience were quite at rest on the matter of principle, upon which Dr Stevenson and I differ so widely, I should be happy now.”
Dr J Ross Stevenson was principal of Princeton and the reference is to curriculum changes that were to put less emphasis on the biblical languages and apparently on the Calvinism in which the seminary had been steeped. The problems at Princeton can in many ways be dated from this curriculum change.
Some of what Machen had to say about Stevenson was removed from the letters but he wrongly assumed that in his YMCA role Stevenson had prevented or delayed his involvement in the religious work in France, In fact it was Dr Henry King who had him moved to Paris as some had complained that Machen's sermons were “too long and too deep”.
Waugh comments that at this time Machen was able to come to peace of mind with regard to Stevenson but “his assessment of the situation with Dr Stevenson would change over the course of the next decade”. (317).
What happened, as we have intimated, was that there was a series of battles between so called modernists and fundamentalists with the moderates between them also having quite an important impact. Machen was the focus of much of the controversy.
In 1922 Liberal Baptist Henry Emerson Fosdick, supplying First Presbyterian Church, New York preached a notorious sermon called Shall the Fundamentalists Win? The sermon has been cited as “the signal for a new and public outbreak of the conflict between the forces of historic Christianity and modern liberalism within the Presbyterian Church in the USA.” (Rian, Presbyterian Conflict, 17). Long before, before Machen had returned from France, Fosdick had published a strongly unbelieving article entitled The Trenches and the Church at Home in the Atlantic Monthly for January 1919. Attacking biblical Christianity he declared that the church had lost the soldiers because it proclaimed a negative religion of outmoded doctrines that failed to measure up to their self-sacrifice at the front. “The only use of the church is to gather up humanity's best,” he declared, to unite people in common cause of progressive social aims.
Machen probably knew of Fosdick's article when he addressed the Princeton alumni on May 6, 1919, on The Church in the War. He declared that the church had failed in the war because it had abandoned the reality of sin, the gospel of personal salvation and the sanctified life. He wrote, “One drop of the precious blood of Jesus is worth more, as a ground for the hope of the world, than all the rivers of blood which have flowed upon the battlefields of France”. It was not merely a matter of learning more about Jesus but of believing in his divine holiness as distinct from our sinfulness. The self-satisfaction argument declared that the soldiers' sacrifice kept God happy, since the Germans were the real sinners in the war and the Allies had won a great victory by their stupendous efforts.
For Machen
The roots of modern self-satisfaction lie far deeper than the war. During the past century a profound spiritual change has been produced in the whole thought and life of the world - no less a change than the substitution of paganism for Christianity as the dominant principle of life.
He defined paganism as “a healthy and harmonious and joyous development of existing human faculties” which is the opposite of Christianity, the “religion of the broken heart”. For the Christian, it is only after repentance that joy comes in being the Lord's steward in all of life.
Some time later in 1924 he wrote similarly
At this point we find the most fundamental divergence between modernism and the Christian faith; the modernist assertion that doctrine springs from life, and may be translated back into the life from which it came, really involves the relinquishment of all objective truth in the sphere of religion. If a thing is merely useful it may cease to be useful in another generation; but if it is true, it remains true to the end of time. ... It makes little difference how much or how little of Christian doctrine the modernist affirms since whatever he affirms, he affirms as a mere expression of an inner experience, and does not affirm any of it as fact.
Machen's great ability was to see liberalism not as a variant form of the gospel but as another religion altogether. This he brought out in his book Christianity and liberalism. The book began as an article in 1921 and was published in 1923. “The author is convinced” wrote Machen “that liberalism on the one hand and the religion of the historic church on the other are not two varieties of the same religion, but two distinct religions proceeding from altogether separate roots.”
Machen's last address to the Princeton students was on fighting the good fight. He said
You will have a battle ... when you go forth as ministers into the church. The church is now in a period of deadly conflict. The redemptive religion known as Christianity is contending, in our own Presbyterian Church and in all the larger churches in the world, against a totally alien type of religion. As always, the enemy conceals his most dangerous assaults under pious phrases and half truths. The shibboleths of the adversary have sometimes a very deceptive sound. "Let us propagate Christianity," the adversary says, "but let us not always be engaged in arguing in defence of it; let us make our preaching positive, and not negative; let us avoid controversy; let us hold to a Person and not to dogma; let us sink small doctrinal differences and seek the unity of the church of Christ; let us drop doctrinal accretions and interpret Christ for ourselves; let us look for our knowledge of Christ in our hearts; let us not impose Western creeds on the Eastern mind; let us be tolerant of opposing views." Such are some of the shibboleths of that agnostic Modernism which is the deadliest enemy of the Christian religion today. They deceive some of God's people some of the time; they are heard sometimes from the lips of good Christian people, who have not the slightest inkling of what they mean. But their true meaning, to thinking men, is becoming increasingly clear. Increasingly it is becoming necessary for a man to decide whether he is going to stand or not … If you decide to stand for Christ, you will not have an easy life in the ministry.
He also says
I do not think that we shall obtain courage by any mere lust of conflict. In some battles that means may perhaps suffice. Soldiers in bayonet practice were sometimes, and for all I know still are, taught to give a shout when they thrust their bayonets at imaginary enemies; I heard them doing it even long after the armistice in France. That serves, I suppose, to overcome the natural inhibition of civilized man against sticking a knife into human bodies. It is thought to develop the proper spirit of conflict. Perhaps it may be necessary in some kinds of war. But it will hardly serve in this Christian conflict. In this conflict I do not think we can be good fighters simply by being resolved to fight. For this battle is a battle of love; and nothing ruins a man’s service in it so much as a spirit of hate. No, if we want to learn the secret of this warfare, we shall have to look deeper; and we can hardly do better than turn again to that great fighter, the Apostle Paul. ...
Where are you going to stand in the great battle which now rages in the church? Are you going to curry favor with the world by standing aloof; are you going to be “conservative liberals” or “liberal conservatives” or “Christians who do not believe in controversy,” or anything else so self-contradictory and absurd? Are you going to be Christians, but not Christians overmuch? Are you going to stand coldly aloof when God’s people fight against ecclesiastical tyranny at home and abroad? Are you going to excuse yourselves by pointing out personal defects in those who contend for the faith today? Are you going to be disloyal to Christ in external testimony until you can make all well within your own soul? Be assured, you will never accomplish your purpose if you adopt such a program as that. Witness bravely to the truth that you already understand, and more will be given you; but make common cause with those who deny or ignore the gospel of Christ, and the enemy will forever run riot in your life.