Articles by Wayne Sparkman

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A Tale of An Unusual Providence

schaeffer02It was on this date, May 15th, in 1984 that Dr. Francis A. Schaeffer died. We have previously written of his death, and separately have posted a letter he wrote to Dr. Robert Rayburn during the time when both men were battling cancer.

But today, in observation of Schaeffer’s passing, we want to speak not of his death, but of his new life in Christ—some interesting archival evidence of his coming to faith in Christ. This is a bit of an unusual story, admittedly with some reading between the lines, with some previously unseen details of Schaeffer’s coming to faith in Christ.

About ten or twelve years ago, as I was leaving the PCA Historical Center for the day, a seminary student ran to catch up with me and asked if I had any samples of Dr. Schaeffer’s handwriting in the Archives. I indicated that we did, but inquired further. Often when people ask a question, that question doesn’t really get at what they’re actually after. As he began to explain further, the story became more interesting.

It was the habit of this particular student–I wish now I had made note of his name–when studying in the library, when he would get tired of sitting after an hour or so, he would get up and browse through the stacks of the books in the library. Notably, and to his credit, he said he tried to be methodical in his browsing, moving from one shelf to the next, range by range, in his review of the library’s holdings. Then one day, he came to a new shelf and as was his habit, began pulling down various books to inspect them closer. This particular day, in the book he opened, he was surprised to see the signature of Francis A. Schaeffer, with a date of 1929. [the comment “Not Sound” is in a different hand]:

Schaeffer_early_testimony_03

None of the other books on that shelf had that same signature, but there was a small slip of paper tucked into this book, with some writing on it. Putting the book back, the student had the presence of mind to seek out someone who might help confirm the signature as Schaeffer’s. On a following day, we met again and confirmed the handwriting from other examples in the Historical Center, and the student happily returned to his studies.

What is remarkable to me about this story is the background information. The book in question was a small hardback published by the Jehovah’s Witnesses! And there on the shelf with other JW publications, was another volume with an inscription from Aunt Mabel and Uncle Harrison, a couple who were in fact Schaeffer’s aunt and uncle.

Schaeffer_early_testimony_04

From this it is easy to surmise that as Fran Schaeffer began to be interested in spiritual matters (he is usually noted as having become a Christian in 1930), others in his family might have been aware of those stirrings. This aunt and uncle had probably heard that he had begun to read the Bible, and so looked around for something they could contribute. It might be a stretch to conclude that they were themselves JW’s, but it is at least curious that they apparently continued to gift several JW publications over the years.

And that slip of paper. Was this among Schaeffer’s earliest testimony to his new-found faith? Perhaps so. It reads:

Schaeffer_Early_Testimony_side01

If you can’t read it, this side of the paper reads:

“Studying his word, and doing his work is the only thing I enjoy now”

“The boy him-self must choose, no one can do any-thing but guide him”

“I don’t know what I will do, but I” [incomplete–there might have been a second piece of paper.]

On the back of this paper there is this:

Schaeffer_Early_Testimony_side02

The writing here is easier to read:

“All have sinned and must accept Christ to be saved.”

An evangelical confession of belief, to be sure.

Finally, it is remarkable to realize that Dr. Schaeffer had these books in his possession for some years, but most likely chose to leave them behind at his St. Louis church when he moved his family to Switzerland in the late 1940’s, beginning the ministry that would become L’Abri. Some seven years later, the church relocated to the suburbs, and when Covenant College was formed a few years later, these books must have been donated to the fledgling school’s library. The books were catalogued, labeled and placed on the shelf. Students must inevitably have looked at them from time to time. Someone might have even checked them out. And yet that little slip of paper stayed tucked in that book all those years until the seminary student at the top of our story came across the book.

Words to Live By:
To think that Francis Schaeffer could have been led astray by well-meaning relatives might be quite shocking. But the Lord has given us a promise. He knows those who are His, and He will never lose even one of His dear children.

This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.”–John 6:39-40, NASB.

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With sincere apologies, I must record a correction. The fact is that the local court case was ruled unanimously in favor of the Hull Memorial and Eastern Heights churches. My thanks to Rev. Todd Allen for his gracious correction.

 

On April 17, 1966, because of extreme liberal trends in their parent church, two Savannah Presbyterian churches, Hull Memorial and Eastern Heights, led by their pastors Clifford Brewton and Todd Allen, voted to sever all ties with the Presbyterian Church U. S. denomination. This Action resulted in the Presbytery attempting to take control of the property, and a court case, settled first by a local jury that ruled unanimously in favor of the two congregations. Rev. Todd Allen comments that:

“Savannah Presbytery then appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court who approved the Jury decision unanimously in favor of the two congregations. The case was then appealed to the United States Supreme Court who remanded the case back to the Georgia Supreme Court giving neutral principles of law for that court to use in adjudicating the case. The Georgia Supreme applied the neutral principle enunciated by the United States Supreme Court and by a  unanimous  decision awarded the two local churches their church properties. The presbytery again appealed to the United States Supreme Court. The Supreme Court declined to hear the case and that ended litigation after 3 ½ years of litigation in January of 1970. It should be noted that all court decisions were unanimous.”

The Savannah court case was an unprecedented, history-making event that overturned nearly 100 years of inequitable law practices in the United States and changed the way the civil courts in the future could deal with church property disputes. The case caused major church denominations to study their administration, relations, and rules relating to their connection with local church congregations. The specific and immediate effect of the case was a means for a somewhat peaceful withdrawal in 1973—with their properties—of some 250 churches from the Presbyterian Church U. S.  The case was a crucial element in the success of the Continuing Church movement that resulted in the formation of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA).

The significance of the historic event was, at least in that immediate historical context, that no longer could church tribunals exercise property takeover tactics to force compliance to certain disputed doctrines, or for any other reason the denomination may choose: Ended was the practice of stealing church property in the name of organized religion. This case liberated those local churches in the PCUS from denominational tyranny.

The heart of the Supreme Court ruling in the Savannah case was in favor of what are termed neutral principles of law, as opposed to the civil court being guided or even ruled by the doctrines (including bylaws and constitution) of the denomination.

During the time that the property issue continued to be debated and was sent to the Georgia Supreme Court, Pastor Brewton accepted an appointment as an aide to Governor Lester Maddox, resigned the pastorate at Hull Memorial, and moved to Atlanta. Meanwhile Pastor Todd Allen was at the forefront in the property struggle through the Georgia Supreme Court, which ruled for the local churches, and the case then went onward to the U. S. Supreme Court. Allen also was a leader in organizing Vanguard Presbytery in 1972, a new presbytery established for churches withdrawing from the PCUS, thus providing them a Presbytery to join while awaiting the formation of the new denomination.

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Leroy Tate Newman [1885-1969]LeRoy Tate Newland was born in Galva, Iowa on 7 March 1885 to James Tate Newland and his wife, Fanny Rosalia Maria (Miller) Newland. He was educated at Davidson College, attending from 1904-1908 and graduating with the B.A. degree, before attending the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary in preparation for ministry, 1908-1911.

Following closely on the heels of graduation, he married Sarah Louise Andrews of Charlotte, North Carolina on 5 May 1911, and then pursued his examinations under the Presbytery of Wilmington. He was licensed to preach on 11 May and ordained to the ministry on 12 June of 1911. The young couple then took up a foreign missions post in Korea, where Rev. Newland served from 1911 until 1940.

His term of service in Korea was broken into basically three phases, serving in Kwangju from 1911-1914, then moving to Mokpo from 1914-1918 before returning to Kwangju and remaining there from 1918 until the end of his missions work in 1940. In 1926, perhaps while on home missions assignment, Rev. Newland earned the Th.M. degree from Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, VA. It was during those years on the mission field that the Newland family grew to include seven children.

With war looming, Rev. Newland and his family children returned to the United States, and he answered a call to serve a group of smaller churches in and near Union Point, Georgia, from 1941 until 1954. Rev. Newland then took a call to serve as the pastor of the Rumple Memorial Presbyterian Church in Blowing Rock, North Carolina, laboring there from 1954-1957 before being entered on the rolls as honorably retired in 1957. In retirement, Dr. Newland was active in working with the Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship, a ministry headed up by the Rev. William E. Hill, Jr.. His reward at hand, LeRoy Tate Newland entered glory on 16 July 1969.

Among his distinctions and honors, Davidson College conferred the degree of Doctor of Divinity in 1933. Dr. Newland also authored at least two published works during his lifetime, both of which are noted by Harold B. Prince in A Presbyterian Bibliography: #2482 (p. 240), So Rich a Crown: Poems of Faith (Atlanta, GA: Gate City Printing Co., 1963), 85 p. and #2483 (p. 241), Illth or Wealth?: A Series of Four Bible Studies for the Men of the Presbyterian Church, U.S. (Chattanooga, TN: General Assembly’s Stewardship Committee, Presbyterian Church in the U.S., 1924), 48 p. Davidson College holds one copy of the former title and the Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, VA holds a copy of the second work.

Memorial Tribute by Sarah Bolton Lunceford, one of Rev. Newland’s daughters:
LeRoy Tate Newland, missionary to Korea, father of seven, man of many gifts, was born in Galva, Iowa, on March 7, 1885. His family moved back to North Carolina, to Chadbourne, where his father had a strawberry farm. James Newland made an unusual offer to each of his sons: a part of the farm or higher education. Roy Newland made his choice, and went on to graduate from Davidson, from Louisville Seminary, and to get his master’s from Princeton Seminary. His honorary doctorate was bestowed by Davidson.

In 1911, he married Sarah Louise Andrews of Charlotte, and the two went out as missionaries to Korea. She was 20, the youngest missionary in the field. He, as an evangelist, worked under the itinerating system: long journeys, lasting several weeks, exploring the Korean countryside out from Kwangju, their home station, establishing small house churches, to be visited again and nurtured. Eventually, he had set up over a hundred and twenty.

Because of his unassuming competence and dependability he became treasurer and secretary for the mission — the Southern Presbyterian compounds and work in South Korea. His sermons were admired for their content and his presentation of them. His commentary on Leviticus was used for years in the seminary at Seoul.

His children delighted in his company because of his simple, direct love and his pleasure in good humor and bad puns. Among their most cherished memories are summer days in the mountain cabin when he would read aloud Slappey and Glencannon stories from The Saturday Evening Post, with his reading getting ahead of his voice so that he was too convulsed with laughter to share the passage with his imploring audience. Then there were the long walks when he would name the plants and answer all the questions asked by seven lively children. There were the rousing family hymn-sings which he led with such enthusiasm even if not necessarily on key. And the “Dear Family” letters he so faithfully wrote over the years, sharing the news and his tender love, extracting a promise that letters would continue to bind the family even after he was gone.

One of Roy Newland’s gifts was a love for and facility with poetry. He wrote hundreds of poems —an original one for every birthday of every child and the wife he adored; one for her every morning that he made her breakfast and carried it in to her on a tray; frequently, in later years. He wrote about his struggles, about the work, about his unworthiness and Christ’s great love that had redeemed him. A collection of his poems was published, but it barely sampled the outpouring.

True to his background, he loved to garden, to hike, and to hunt, the latter a special pleasure in a country where weapons were forbidden so that game multiplied unchecked. (His permit came from Tokyo itself and was the occasion of frequent visits from suspicious Japanese inspectors.) He also loved to read, to learn, to explore the frontiers of knowledge. His probing mind wanted to know how the world worked, in all its fascinating aspects.

Gifted in mind, intellect, and soul, LeRoy Tate Newland was a man of parts. He was, truly, in the words of an English friend, “a lovely man.”

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chaferLS.Yep. Lewis Sperry Chafer, the founder of Dallas Theological Seminary, was a Presbyterian. As was Chafer’s mentor, C. I. (Cyrus Ingerson) Scofield, and as was Scofield’s mentor, James H. Brookes. Presbyterians all. Perhaps that helps to explain how it was the dispensationalism made such inroads into Presbyterian circles in the era from the 1880’s to the 1930’s. That, and the fact that dispensationalists did a fair job of defending the Scriptures when few others. apart from the Princeton conservatives, would or could.

Lewis Sperry Chafer was born in Ashtabula county, Ohio, on February 27, 1871. His parents were the Rev. Thomas Franklin Chafer, a Congregationalist pastor, and Lois Lomira Sperry Chafer, the daughter of a Welsh Wesleyan lay preacher. When Lewis was just eleven, his father died of tuberculosis. Lewis developed an interest in music while attending the New Lyme Institute as he prepared for college. At Oberlin College, he majored in music and met his future wife, Ella Loraine Case. After their marriage in 1896, he began to serve as an evangelist.

An invitation to teach at the Northfield Boys School in turn led to a close friendship with C. I. Scofield, and as they say, the rest is history. Dallas Theological Seminary, founded in 1924 as the Evangelical Theological College, continues to this day. Its founder, Lewis Sperry Chafer, died on August 22, 1952.

In a prior post we talked about Milo Jamison’s role in the split that created the Bible Presbyterian Church. Jamison was a dispensationalist, while the recently formed denomination that was renamed the Orthodox Presbyterian Church was quickly aligning itself against that system. In the last several decades, dispensationalism as a system has been going through a number of changes, but historically it has been anchored to three key tenets: (1) A “normal, literal” interpretation of Scripture; (2) A strict distinction between Israel and the Church; and (3) a scheme of dispensations or ages which divide up Biblical history. The latter two points are particularly where we find ourselves in disagreement with dispensationalism.

D. James Kennedy, when examining men for ordination, would routinely ask for the candidate’s views on dispensationalism, and whether the candidate approved or disapproved of the 1944 Southern Presbyterian report on dispensationalism. And Dr. Kennedy was right to use that Report in that way. However, the untold story behind that PCUS report is that in all likelihood, the Report was an attempt to split the conservatives in the Southern Presbyterian denomination, many of whom at that time were dispensationalists. As modernists were gaining power in the PCUS, the 1944 Report gave them an opportunity to set one camp of conservatives over against another and so dampen opposition to their own agenda.

In Sum:
Few conservative Presbyterians today consider themselves dispensationalists. The old Reformation doctrine—really the old Biblical doctrine—of covenant theology is being taught once again, and taught well in our seminaries and in our churches. How it came to be virtually ignored in the 19th-century is something of a mystery, but the general lack of such teaching in that era does help to explain the rise of dispensationalism during the same time period. Nature abhors a vacuum.

For Further Study:
One of the better popular-level works on covenant theology is O. Palmer Robertson’s Christ of the Covenants. Ask your pastor about other helpful materials on this important subject.

Image source: From a photograph on file at the PCA Historical Center, with the scan prepared by the staff of the Historical Center. The photograph lacks any indication as to who the photographer might have been.

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Warrior Presbytery Leaves the Southern Presbyterian Church

[text from an article in The Southern Presbyterian, vol. 1, no. 2 (February 1973):

Twenty-one churches and five ministers were dismissed, at their own request, from Tuscaloosa Presbytery (PCUS), on Tuesday, February 13, 1973 at Linden, Alabama. The Presbytery included the phrase “with their property” in each of the actions. It also passed a legally worded “quit claim” to cover all the churches dismissed. The congregations of these churches had voted to request this, most of them unanimously. The parent group is the Presbyterian Church in the United States, formed in Augusta, Georgia in 1861.

The Presbytery Meeting was, for the most part, congenial and quiet. There was a spirit of understanding and of helpfulness among the men of opposing sides. At the close, several shook hands and expressed Christian love for one another and wished the blessings of God upon the other. The Moderator of this meeting was a revered minister of the Presbytery who had recently retired, Rev. John Preston Simmons of Aliceville. His prayers and general spirit were used by God to bring about this separation in relative peace and clam.

Only one church and minister were disappointed. Although they were dismissed, the action was contested by a complaint addressed to Synod and will have to be settled before the action can become effective (under the rule that one-third of the members of Presbytery supported the complaint).

This is action is parallel to that which brought into being the first Presbytery in the Continuing Presbyterian Church, Vanguard Presbytery. The new Presbytery in West Alabama will be named Warrior because most of the churches are in or near the basin of the Black Warrior river.

Ministers and Churches of this new Presbytery include William C. Dinwiddie, pastor of Greensboro, Akron, and Newbern; Virgil Pino, pastor of Uniontown, Gastonburg, and Faunsdale; Willard W. Scott, pastor of Brent; Cecil Williamson, Jr., pastor of Crescent Hill and Valley Creek; and Charles L. Wilson, pastor of Aliceville and Pleasant Ridge. The following churches are at present without a pastor : Cedar Grove (Epes), Coatopa, Emelle (pastoral relation was severed at the time of dismissal), Gainesville, Geneva, Myrtlewood, Sumterville (Bethel I), Oxford, Linden and York.  The action which was suspended by the complaint involved Woodland Heights Church and William H. Rose, pastor.

This is the action for which much prayer has been made. The men insist that this is a positive action intended to preserve Biblical Faith and Presbyterian Order. It is a part of a much larger move planned by many churches and ministers across the South under the leadership of four organizations of conservative churchmen.

Words to Live By: Division is always something to be entered into with great trepidation. Schism can be defined as a sinful, prideful division. But there is a division that truth itself requires. Jeremiah Burroughs, a Puritan especially noted for his efforts at healing divisions, said that “It is not enough that we are one, unless we are one in Christ” and “The division that comes by truth is better than the union that comes by error.” The measure of a biblical separation will always be one where there is brokenness over our own sins as well as over the sins of the Church, when staying would require us to sin.

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Take Care How You Stand Against Error.

The following letter requires some introduction and explanation. The Rev. Gilbert Tennent was a prominent Presbyterian in the middle of the eighteenth-century. He took a strong stand against formalism and what is often termed “dead orthodoxy.” Gilbert Tennent had become one of the leading lights in what historians now call the Great Awakening. He favored the practice of revivals, but was opposed by some among the Presbyterians in the colonies. Eventually there was a division in the still rather young Presbyterian denomination, a division between the Old Side and the New Side, with Tennent one of the leaders of the New Side faction. But no sooner had this split occurred, than Rev. Tennent began to regret the division. For one, there were other, greater errors afoot.

Milton Coalter, in his book, Gilbert Tennent: Son of Thunder, explains:

Tennent was convinced that the Moravian system represented the greatest challenge to the Awakening’s integrity to date because it threatened to capsize the revival’s previous balance between a fervent experimental piety and sober theological reflection. But many Awakening supporters did not see these dangers in the Moravians’ theology. Indeed, they regarded the Unitas Fratrum as the truest expression of the movement.
The growing success enjoyed by Zinzendorf’s followers in attracting revival converts soon threw Tennent into a period of soul searching. The Awakening leader began to ask himself if the movement he had promoted was not the spur to doctrinal error and emotional enthusiasm that his opponents had claimed it to be from the start. Tennent expressed his inner turmoil over this question in a letter to Jonathan Dickinson during February 1742:

“February 12, 1742.

TennentG_02“I have many afflicting thoughts about the debates which have subsisted in our synod for some time.  I would to God the breach were healed, were it the will of the Almighty.  As for my own part, wherein I have mismanaged in doing what I did, I do look upon it to be my duty, and should be willing to acknowledge it in the openest manner.  I cannot justify the excessive heat of temper which has sometime appeared in my conduct.  I have been of late, since I returned from New England, visited with much spiritual desertion and distresses of various kinds, coming in a thick and almost continual succession, which have given me a greater discovery of myself than I think I ever had before.  These things, with the trial[2] of the Moravians, have given me a clear view of the danger of every thing which tends to enthusiasm and division in the visible church.  I think that while the enthusiastical Moravians, and Long-beards or Pietists, are uniting their bodies, (no doubt to increase their strength and render  themselves more considerable,) it is a shame that the ministers who are in the main of sound principles in religion should be divided and quarrelling.  Alas for it!  my soul is sick for these things.  I wish that some scriptural methods could be fallen upon to put an end to these confusions.  Some time since I felt a disposition to fall on my knees, if I had opportunity, to entreat them to be at peace.

“I remain, with all due honour and respect, your poor worthless brother in the ministry.

“P.S.—I break open this letter myself, to add my thoughts about some extraordinary things in Mr. Davenport’s conduct.  As to his making his judgment about the internal states of persons or their experience, a term of church fellowship, I believe it is unscriptural, and of awful tendency to rend and tear the church.  It is bottomed upon a false base,—viz.:  that a certain and infallible knowledge of the good estate of men is attainable in this life from their experience.  The practice is schismatical, inasmuch as it sets up a term of communion which Christ has not fixed.  The late method of setting up separate meetings upon the supposed unregeneracy of pastors is enthusiastical, proud, and schismatical.  All that fear God ought to oppose it as a most dangerous engine to bring the churches into the most damnable errors and confusions.  The practice is built upon a twofold false hypothesis—infallibility of knowledge, and that unconverted ministers will be used as instruments of no good in the church.  The practice of openly exposing ministers who are supposed to be unconverted, in public discourse, by particular application of times and places, serves only to provoke them instead of doing them any good, and declares our own arrogance.  It is an unprecedented, divi-sial, and pernicious practice.  It is lording it over our brethren to a degree superior to what any prelate has pretended, since the coming of Christ, so far as I know, the pope only excepted; though I really do not remember to have read that the pope went on at this rate.  The sending out of unlearned men to teach others upon the supposition of their piety in ordinary cases seems to bring the ministry into contempt, to cherish enthusiasm, and bring all into confusion.  Whatever fair face it may have, it is a most perverse practice.  The practice of singing in the streets is a piece of weakness and enthusiastical ostentation.

“I wish you success, dear sir, in your journey; my soul is grieved for such enthusiastical fooleries.  They portend much mischief to the poor church of God if they be not seasonably checked.  May your labours be blessed for that end!  I must also express my abhorrence of all pretence to immediate inspiration or following immediate impulses, as an enthusiastical, perilous ignis-fatuus.


[1] This letter was published in the Pennsylvania Gazette, and can also be found reprinted in Hodge’s History of the Presbyterian Church.

[2] Brainerd to Bellamy, March 26, 1743, writes as follows—“The Moravian tenets cause as much debate as ever; and for my part I’m totally lost and non-plussed about ‘em, so that I endeavour as much as possible to suspend my judgment about ‘em, for I cannot tell whether they are eminent Christians, or whether their conduct is all underhanded policy and an intreague of Satan.  The more I talked to Mr. Noble and others, the more I was lost and puzzled; and yet Mr. Nobel must be
a Christian.

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Given some recent discussion on the Web, over whether it is appropriate to speak on political matters from the pulpit, the following seemed an appropriate post today, an excerpt from the diary of the Rev. Jacob Jones Janeway, a prominent Philadelphia pastor in the early 19th-century.

J.J. Janeway

Politics ran high, and Philadelphia was the headquarters of the excitement. The old federal party was fast losing its power. “War with Great Britain was advocated by one party, and deprecated by the other. The rancorous debates were unfavourable to religion, and the hopes of the pious were mocked then, as they have been since. Dr. Janeway would have been more than than human, not to have felt some of the influences around him. But we see from his journal, the jealous guard he maintained over his heart.

January 10, 1808, Sabbath.

“Praise to God for prolonging my life to another year. Oh! may this year be spent in the service of my God. Make thy grace, O my God, sufficient for me, and thy strength perfect in my weakness. At the commencement of the year I felt not right; may the latter end be better than the beginning. In conversing on politics, I am too apt to be too engaged, and to feel too keenly. May God give me grace to govern my temper and conversation, and preserve me from taking too great an interest in them. In the heat of debate, I am urged to say what is imprudent and unbecoming. Two instances of such behaviour have occurred last week. May no more occur. I fear lest our expectation of a revival of religion, may not be realized. O Lord God, let the blessing come, and bestow on us a spirit of prayer, that we may wrestle and prevail. Hope, still hope, my soul.”

LIFE OF DR. J. J. JANEWAY, pp. 130-131.

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The Root of the Presbyterian Apostasy?

When church historians evaluate the history of American Presbyterianism, the publication of the “Auburn Affirmation” will stand out in importance like the nailing of Luther’s ninety-five theses on the Wittenberg Germany church door in 1517. Except this Affirmation, unlike that of the German reformer, constituted a major offensive against biblical Christianity.

The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in 1923 had repeated the earlier high court’s affirmations of five essential truths which made up the fundamentals of Christianity. They were the inerrant Scripture, the Virgin Birth, the substitutionary atonement of Christ, His literal bodily resurrection from the dead on the third day, and supernatural miracles.  However the very next year, on January 9, 1924, one hundred and fifty Presbyterian elders issued an affirmation in Auburn, New York which stated that these five fundamentals were not necessary and essential doctrines for the church. Eventually the number of ministers to sign it would increase to 1,294 ordained ministers, about ten per cent of the clergy on the rolls of the Presbyterian church.

[« The Auburn Affirmation as it appeared in its first edition, including a list of 150 signers.]

The Auburn Affirmation used many familiar terms on which unsuspecting Christians might be deceived. Thus, it affirmed inspiration, but denied Scripture to be without error. It affirmed the incarnation, but denied the Virgin Birth. It affirmed the atonement, but denied that Christ satisfied divine justice and reconciled us to God. It affirmed the resurrection of Christ, but denied Jesus rose from the dead with the same body in which He was crucified. It affirmed Jesus did many mighty works, but denied that He was a miracle worker.

The tragedy of this Affirmation was that not one of its signers were ever brought up for church discipline by their respective presbyteries. This sin of omission hastened the apostasy of the church, as many of the signers would later find placement in every agency of the church.

Words to Live By:  Beloved, my whole concern was to write to you in regard to our common salvation. [But] I found it necessary and was impelled to write you and urgently appeal to and exhort [you] to contend for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints [the faith which is that sum of Christian belief which was delivered verbally to the holy people of God”]—Jude v. 3 (Amplified)

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Try to Say Something Nice, and See What You Get

Through much of the later half of the 20th century, evangelical and conservative Presbyterians were almost constantly taken up with efforts at merger. By contrast, the 21st century has thus far seen an almost total absence of such efforts. In the closing of the 20th century, Dr. Robert Godfrey’s brief article, “A Reformed Dream,” seemed a last grasp at the goal of a more united Church.

mcleod01Reading in Samuel Brown Wylie’s Memoir of the Rev. Alexander McLeod last evening, I learned something. I did not previously know that in 1825 the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. resolved to confer through committee with the Reformed Presbyterian Church. This was a hand of fellowship extended to open up fraternal correspondence between the two denominations. Today the NAPARC denominations widely practice similar fraternal correspondence, but apparently it was a rare thing in that era. Still, what might we learn from this early effort at ecumenical unity?

When the Reformed Presbyterian Synod met later that same summer, they readily took up the proposal and adopted a favorable response, with the Rev. McLeod and Rev. John Gibson appointed to the committee to draft a reply. McLeod’s biographer comments on this effort:

This synodical tranaction might, indeed, be considered as a new era in our ecclesiastical concerns in this country. By the maxims of common sense, by our Covenant engagements, and by the obligations of the sacred oracles, we were bound to use all lawful endeavors to promote uniformity in the doctrine, worship, discipline and government of the church of our Redeemer. That church we found divided into various sections, cherishing prejudices, too often indulging animosities subversive of the interests of true godliness; and, although members of the same body—the body of Christ—laboring under alienation of affection from each other yet all holding the same head, and all acknowledging one Lord, one faith, and one baptism. How shall all these be brought to that uniformity requisite for organic communion and demanded by the unity of the truth? Will it not be by the cultivation of social communion and friendly correspondence? Does not a repulsive distance, on the part of brethren, promote alienation of affection, foment jealousies, rivet prejudices, and cherish unfriendly feelings? Shall we stand aloof, and with sanctimonious air, like the proud Pharisee, say, “Stand by, we are holier than you!” No; God forbid! such was not the conduct of our reforming ancestors. With other sentiments, they formed and swore the Covenant in 1648, by the spirit of which we still hold ourselves bound. But this subject will again present itself, when the report of the committee shall come under discussion.

It need scarcely be remarked here, that Dr. McLeod cordially concurred in the project of the contemplated correspondence between the General Assembly and our Synod. The current year had not come to a close before he had attended to and finished the business assigned to the committee of which he was appointed chairman. Doctor McLeod, in a letter, dated New York, January 2, 1826, says, “we met on Friday, and finished the business unanimously, ere we separated.”

The articles drafted by the Reformed Presbyterian committee were in substance as follows:

1. Maintaining the proper unity of the visible church, and lamenting its divisions, we mutually covenant to employ our exertions patiently and prudently to bring our respective churches together, to a uniformity in doctrine, worship, and order, according to the Word of God.

2. In the meantime, we covenant that ministries, elders, and people shall treat each other with Christian respect, that the validity of ecclesiastical acts shall be reciprocally admitted; and each of the contracting parties may, without offence, examine persons, and review cases of discipline, on points distinctive to the respective denominations.

3. That the superior judicatories shall appoint two members, as commissioners, to attend the meetings of the other, not as members of that other, but with liberty to deliver opinions on any subject of interest, whether in discussion, or otherwise, but in no case to vote on a question.

4. That the General Assembly shall, on ratifying, appoint their delegates, to meet General Synod, so soon as they [the General Synod] shall have ratified this covenant.

Wylie relates how McLeod summarized his own view of the matter:

“Thus,” continues the Doctor, “so far as I perceive, we give nothing up; we forego no privilege we now have, and we gain a public admission of truth in a respectable connection with a sister church, and a covenant with them for future reform, or, at least, for the use of lawful means to lead thereto. . . . I hope little more will be said upon this subject, until it rises up to view in the [PCUSA] Assembly.

“Yours sincerely,
“A. McL.”

And then Wylie adds the sad summary put upon the matter by Reformed Presbyterians in general:

The good Doctor’s hopes in this case were disappointed. It was spoken against, written against, decried from pulpit, press, and by private denunciation, as a violation of our covenants, long before it rose to view in the General Assembly. Every prejudice that could be excited was enlisted against it, and the tocsin [i.e., an alarm bell or signal] of incipient apostasy was rung over the length and breadth of the land.

Words to Live By:
It is interesting to compare Dr. McLeod’s earlier 1802 stand against slavery, a resolve which led his entire denomination to that same conviction, often at great cost. But nearly 25 years later, the seemingly simple effort to open up fraternal correspondence between denominations met with stiff opposition. How very curious. And sad. Perhaps the seeds of the 1833 RP split began in some respect with that widespread rejection in 1826.

So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.”—Romans 14:19, ESV.

But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.”—1 Corinthians 12:24-26, NASB.

Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”—Ephesians 4:3-6, KJV

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A Life, and Death, Surrendered to the Lord

This day, December 18th, in 1928, marks the birth of Cecil John Miller. Raised in California, he earned his BA at San Francisco State College in 1953 and a doctorate in English Literature at the University of Pennsylvania in 1968. He graduated from Westminster Seminary in 1966, but by an uncommon arrangement had previously been ordained by the OPC some seven years earlier, in October of 1959, whereupon he was then engaged in church planting work in Stockton, California from 1959 to 1963. He later began serving as pastor of the Mechanicsville Chapel in Pennsylvania a year before graduating from Westminster, serving that pulpit from 1965 to 1972.

Jack Miller was my pastor when I was a student at Westminster Seminary in the late 1970’s. The church at that time was still meeting in the rented gymnasium of a local YMCA. Every Sunday we’d get there early to set up folding chairs, and then prepared for a time of worship, typically up to two hours in length and including a sermon from Dr. Miller which might easily run up to 60 minutes long. But we never noticed the clock. We simply went home for lunch and spent the afternoon dwelling on all we had heard. Then we’d go back at the end of the day for more. Dr. Miller was the pastor of New Life Presbyterian Church from 1973 to 1990, and a number of other New Life churches sprang from the model he established. But his greatest legacy came from his heart for missions, which led him on frequent trips to several countries, most notably Uganda, and from this work, World Harvest Mission began, and Dr. Miller served as director of WHM from 1991 until his death, April 8, 1996. World Harvest is now known as Serge, a name change which was announced just this past summer.

Without recounting here his many books, which have been a great blessing to so many, I will simply note today that a new work has recently been issued under the title Saving Grace. This new book consists of 366 excerpts drawn from Dr. Miller’s sermons, portioned out for daily devotional reading. 

As a sample of the entries in this book, the following is the entry for December 18:

Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.)–John 21:18-19.

How do we develop character in ourselves and others? We can’t teach character unless we have it, and that’s a problem because the church often lacks character. We can only get it as we learn about Jesus’s holy, powerful, transforming love. But we want so many other things besides the love of Christ : an easy life, popularity, acceptance, good principles, and even sound theology. But without love to Christ forming the character, all of it is only self-will. And without the love of Christ shaping our will and character, even good things become demonic, divisive, and cruel.

So Jesus ends his message to Peter by saying, “Follow me. Follow me to your death and you will glorify God. Follow me and I will make you great.” Peter desired to be great and God is going to do that through his death. The heart of love for God is surrendering our will to him. Peter surrendered to Christ and became great. As we surrender to God’s love, our character is formed like Christ, and we also become great in God’s kingdom.

To find out more about the book and how to order from the publisher, New Growth Press, click the title here: Saving Grace.

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