March 2: Rev. Hall McAllister Griffiths [1900-1957]

An Answer to the Charge of Being Unloving

There is a relevant editorial in the March 2, 1936 edition of The Presbyterian Guardian.  Historically minded readers will recognize this magazine as the voice of conservative leaders who were at that time still members of the Presbyterian Church, USA.  However, their remaining time there was but short, for in that year, trials and suspensions were taking place at an alarming rate for no other charge other than refusing to desist from the support of an Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions.  J. Gresham Machen was still alive and writing vigorously for the defense of the Christian faith.  Others were taking their stand for the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.

On the editorial page of that issue (Volume 1, Number 11), H. McAllister Griffiths writes in defense of the need to expose modernism in the church at large.  Specifically, he answers why such an exposé is not unloving.  Listen to his words, which even today are apt in addressing the errors of today, both inside and outside the church:

“Why then do we present the facts concerning modernism . . .?  Only because it is our duty.  We find no happiness in the betrayals of which we must tell.  No one in his right mind could gloat over them, or be other than sorrowful.  But — if we love the souls of men we must warn them.  We must warn a sleeping church, largely uninformed about the nature of its official boards.  And finally, if we care anything about the honor of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the place due His Holy Word, we are under a solemn obligation to speak.

“This speaking, let it be understood, is in love. But what, exactly, is speaking in love?  Is it to speak lovingly?  Yes—in part.  But there is more to it than that.  We speak most in love when the motive that prompts us is love, and when the end desired is the supreme good of the one addressed.  The most loving words to a blind man approaching an unsuspected precipice would be ‘Stop! Stop! Stop where you are!’  What would you think of anyone who criticized the speaker of those words because he ‘didn’t have a good spirit,’ did not speak ‘lovingly,’ and who advised the blind man to go on, paying no attention to such an un-Christian fellow?

“(We see the church moving) on toward the precipice. The ground will feel solid beneath its feet until it gets to the edge. After it steps over it will be too late.  That is why we cry ‘Stop!’ now. And the cry of those who would save is the most loving cry in the world, even if unadorned with honeyed words.”

The Presbyterian stalwarts for the faith back in the 1930’s were praying and working for the elimination of unbelief in the Presbyterian church.  As we know now from history, such was not to be.  And those who were standing for the faith once delivered unto the saints were expelled from the church.

Words to Live By: The apostle Paul wrote 2000  plus years ago that all true Christians are to “take no part in the  unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.”  Ephesians 5:11 (ESV)

  1. Vaughn Hathaway’s avatar

    What irony! Was it not McAllister Griffiths who refused to leave the PCUSA in order to retain his pastorate in Pittsburgh?

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