April 16: Rev. George S. Christian

Called to an Uncompromising Stand

One reward that comes from researching and writing these posts is the discovery of details previously unknown to the writer. Plus, with having to find something attached to a given date, we are often prompted to address people or events that we might have otherwise overlooked. Today we have one such example.

The name of George S. Christian shows up a few times among the collections preserved at the PCA Historical Center, and I’ve often thought of trying to find out a bit more about him. We have no known photographs of him, and from the few writings and items of correspondence that we have, there is enough to spark some interest and make us wish we knew more about the man. George Spaulding Christian was born in Philadelphia, PA, on April 16, 1917. He completed his undergraduate education at both Lehigh University and the University of Pennsylvania, graduating in 1941. From there, he next attended the Princeton Theological Seminary, 1941-43, and completed his seminary education at Faith Theological Seminary, graduating with the Bachelor of Divinity degree in 1947. A gap in the biographical record may indicate a term of military service during the years 1943-1945. Further work was completed at Westminster Theological Seminary, where he earned the Th.M. degree in 1951.

Rev. Christian was ordained by the Presbytery of New Jersey (BPC) in June of 1948, but there is no record at hand as to where he might have served from 1948 until 1951, when he was called to serve as pastor of the Faith Presbyterian Church of Fawn Grove, Pennsylvania. This was an unaffiliated church, one of many which seemed to hover in the Bible Presbyterian orbit, but which never formally became part of the Bible Presbyterian Church. George served this church from 1951 until 1957. Then on April 23 of 1957, he transferred his credentials into the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, being received by their Presbytery of New Jersey.

Again, the available record has a gap from 1957 to 1959. Leaving pulpit ministry for a time, he worked as an instructor at the Bell Telephone Laboratories from 1959 to 1965. The time from 1966 to 1983 is also lost to our record, but in 1984 Rev. Christian returned to pulpit ministry with a call to serve as teaching minister at the Emmanual Presbyterian church (OPC) in Morristown, New Jersey. He remained at this point until 1991, at which time we presume he retired. George breathed his last and entered glory on February 26, 2008, at the age of 90.

To give a sample of Rev. Christian’s writing, here below is the first chapter from his work, Dispensationalism, Arminianism, Lutheranism and the Reformed Standards of the Bible Presbyterian Church, in which Rev. Christian wrestled with a problem facing the BPC at the time, whether to receive and ordain men who did not whole-heartedly agree with the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms.

For context, the Table of Contents from this work is as follows:

Chapter I — The Bible Presbyterian Church Is Facing One of Her Greatest Crises

Chapter II — Hodge’s Statement On The Seriousness of The Ordination Vow: and His Statement On Zeal For Orthodoxy

Chapter III — There Have Been Three Historical Views as to The Terms of Subscription to The Westminster Confession

Chapter IV — Subscription “Ipsissima Verba” Has Never Been Historically Acceptable

Chapter V — Subscription to The “Substance of Doctrine” Has Never Been Historically Acceptable

Chapter VI — Subscription to The “System of Doctrine” Has Alone Been Historically Acceptable

Chapter VII — Arminianism Is Excluded

Chapter VIII — Lutheranism Is Excluded

Chapter IX — The Great Turning Point Between The Systems

Chapter X — Dispensationalism Is Excluded

Chapter XI — Is The Bible Presbyterian Church Going to Depart From Presbyterianism? If So A Change In Standards Is Nevertheless Better Than Dishonesty

Chapter XII — The Synod of The Bible Presbyterian Church Can Prove The Bible Presbyterian Church True to Her Standards.


Chapter I — The Bible Presbyterian Church Is Facing One of Her Greatest Crises:

Every Bible Presbyterian minister and elder at the time of his ordination was asked the following question: “Do you sincerely receive and adopt the Confession of Faith of this Church?” It was a solemn occasion, one of life’s most sacred moments. Surely no Bible Presbyterian minister or elder would consider himself worthy of the name if he did not take this solemn public vow with all the seriousness of which his soul was capable.

Since it is such an important matter, an occasional reminder as to the meaning of the vow is highly in order. And it is especially in order at the present juncture of the history of our church.

At the meeting of the Philadelphia Presbytery this year, the chairman of the National Missions Committee of our church brought to the attention of Presbytery a letter received from a minister of another denomination. The letter, it seems, bean by the writer’s announcement that he was a Dispensationalist. The writer then asked if he would have liberty to preach his beliefs in the Bible Presbyterian Church should he join. In view of the fact that an increasing number of such requests are anticipated, the National Missions Chairman felt that the Bible Presbyterian Church should adopt a definite, standard policy on the matter. A committee to study the matter to prepare an overture to Synod was accordingly appointed.

What is the Bible Presbyterian Church going to do?

Is the Bible Presbyterian Church going to change her present standards to suit the beliefs of the clamoring outsiders or with all diplomacy, self-sacrifice, and love will she stick to her precious Presbyterian heritage and endeavor to bring the outsiders to her doctrinal position?

Will the Bible Presbyterian Church be as valiant and as uncompromising in clinging to her Scriptural doctrine position as she has clung in the past to her Scriptural ecclesiastical position? God has blessed our church in the past for clinging to Scriptural separation: will He not bless her in the future for clinging to Scriptural doctrine? She has suffered for the one:  will she be willing to suffer for the other? She has already confessed that her doctrinal position is the Scriptural position: she can not go back on her word. This decision she made at her founding after full deliberation and public profession. “The Westminster Confession of Faith as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures” has been her proud doctrinal statement all down through the years, just as separation from apostate denominations and all entangling alliances has been her proud position on separation all down through the years.

When a large Presbyterian denomination by changing the terms of subscription shamefully set aside her Confession some years ago that she might let down the bars to Modernism she deceived no one. That whole world knew. Everyone knew what her terms of subscription had been historically.

Our own historic terms of subscription have been the same every since 1729. We in the Bible Presbyterian Church, the true Presbyterian Church we claim, will likewise deceive no one if we should change our terms of subscription. There is no question as to Bible Presbyterian terms of subscription to the Westminster Confession of Faith. It has been the same for over two centuries. When a Bible Presbyterian elder or minister under oath and by solemn vow before God today says “I do” during his ordination service in answer to the question: “Do you sincerely receive and adopt the Confession of Faith of this Church, as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures?” he is subscribing to just that. He is not subscribing to every word, nor is he subscribing to “the substance of the doctrine,” but he is subscribing to “the system of doctrine.”

What is the Bible Presbyterian Church going to do? Is she under the present pressure going to change her terms of subscription letting down the bars to let in the Dispensationalists, or is she going to stand fast in love?

“In love” we say, Yes! There are many ways of winning outsiders to our doctrinal as well as to our separated position. Why should we not have a fund, for instance, to assist earnest inquirers? Why could we not help them to look over our doctrines for a semester at our seminary? With a strong desire to come our way doctrinally, we may be sure that we would win most of them and bless their souls at the same time in getting them to see that the Augustinian plan of salvation actually & really is the plan of salvation of Scriptures. They would bless us throughout eternity for bringing them to this light.

This is the question of the year before the Bible Presbyterians.

From the writings of Charles Hodge, revered spiritual father of us all, let us see the significance of subscribing to the Westminster Confession of Faith “as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures.” Let us see reflected herein the answer which centuries of Presbyterian history gave to this question. Let us look into a matter settled long ago, a matter which admits of no question, of no doubt.

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