Westminster Theological Seminary

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dillard_ray“He Did Not Die Too Soon; No Christian Ever Does.”

I remember what a shock it was, back in 1993, to hear of Ray’s death. A beloved friend and professor was seemingly snatched away in the prime of life. It is almost as jarring to realize that twenty-two years have now passed. The following obituary was written by J. Alan Groves and appeared as an insert page in the Westminster Seminary Bulletin, volume 32, no 3 (Fall 1993).

Raymond Bryan Dillard, Professor of Old Testament Language and Literature at Westminster Theological Seminary, died October 1 while working in the woods near his home. Bom in Louisville, Ken­tucky he was 49 years old.

Professor Dillard graduated from Westminster Seminary in 1969 and completed his Ph.D. at Dropsie College of Hebrew and Cognate Learning in 1975. He did other post-graduate work at Temple Univer­sity, the University of Pennsylvania and Tel Aviv University. His teach­ing career spanned 24 years, all of it at Westminster. He held adjunct positions at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary and Reformed Theological Seminary and served as guest lecturer in numerous other institutions.

An exacting and careful scholar, a revered teacher, Professor Dillard was a master of classroom drama. Sought after for his lecturing gifts, he spoke throughout the United States, Europe, Israel and the Far East. Over the past five years he led lay seminars in the U.S. and Britain on the significance of the Old Testament.

The author of numerous articles and monographs, Dillard’s earliest scholarly work was as a transla­tor of the New International Version of the Bible, the most widely selling Bible in the English language today. He was the author of a commentary on 2 Chronicles in the Word Biblical Commentary as well one on the book of Joel in the Exegetical and Expository Commentary (Baker). At the time of his death he was working on the book of Esther for the Biblia Hebraica Diplomatica, a new critical edition of the Hebrew Bible being produced (under the auspices of the United Bible Societies) by an international team of biblical scholars. He was also the co-author, with Professor Tremper Longman of Westminster Seminary, of the forthcoming Introduction to the Old Testament (Zondervan).

Chairman of the faculty for much of the past 12 years, Dillard had the respect and esteem of his colleagues older as well as younger. He was an ordained minister of the gospel in the Presbyterian Church in America and preached regularly in their churches. His professional memberships included the Society of Biblical Literature, the Institute for Biblical Research, and the Evangelical Theological Society.

Besides his academic interests, he loved the outdoors and hunting. Dillard was a master cabinet­maker and handyman. One was as likely to find him with a hammer in his hand as with some tome. A pilot, sometimes judo instructor and radio broadcaster, Professor Dillard still found time for raising three boys and for listening to students.

Professor Dillard was the son of Raymond Eugene and Ruth Wallace Dillard of Fayetteville, North Carolina who survive him. Also surviving him are his wife Ann Albrecht Dillard, with whom he celebrated their 27th anniversary this past June, and his three sons, Joel B., Jonathan B. and Joshua A., all of whom are at home. Dr. Dillard is survived by a brother Bruce of Raleigh, North Carolina, three nieces, one nephew, and his aunt Madeline Wallace of Louisville, Kentucky.

Words to Live By:
We will all come to that moment when this life must end. Are you prepared for what will follow? Are you prepared to enter into the presence of the Lord of all creation? Have you learned to welcome each day as if it might be your last? So pray and so live as to stay ever close to your Lord and Savior.

For Further Reading:
The Death of a Christian, a sermon by Charles H. Spurgeon.

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clowneyEPEdmund Prosper Clowney met his Lord face to face on Sunday, March 20, 2005, having passed into glory at the age of 87. He was survived by his wife of 63 years, Jean Wright Clowney; by his five children: David Clowney, Deborah Weininger, Paul Clowney, Rebecca Jones, and Anne Foreman; by twenty‑one grandchildren; and by eleven great grandchildren.

Born in Philadelphia, on July 30, 1917, Ed received his B.A. from Wheaton College in 1939, a Th. B. from Westminster Theological Seminary in 1942, a S.T.M from Yale University Divinity School in 1944, and a D.D. from Wheaton College in 1966. Ordained in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, he served as pastor of several churches from 1942 to 1946 and was then invited to become assistant professor of practical theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in 1952. He became that institution’s first president in 1966, and remained there until 1984, when he took a post as theologian‑in‑residence at Trinity Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Charlottesville, Virginia.

In 1990 Ed and Jean moved to Escondido, California, where Ed was adjunct professor at Westminster Seminary California. In 2000, he took a full‑time position as associate pastor at Christ the King Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Houston, Texas. After two years, he moved back to Charlottesville, where he once again became part‑time theologian‑in‑residence at Trinity Presbyterian Church. He remained in this role until his death.

Ed was a compassionate counselor; a devoted servant of Jesus Christ, his Word, and his church; a peacemaker; and a true visionary. He dreamed for Christ’s kingdom and was instrumental in the birth or furtherance of such ministries as the Reformed Theological Seminary in Aix‑en‑Provence, France; Westminster Seminary California; Trinity Church, Charlottesville; the Lausanne Conference; InterVarsity ministries, both in the United States and in England; and “The Westminster Ministerial Institute,” an inner‑city training program for pastors in Philadelphia, out of which the Lord developed the Center for Urban Theological Studies. He also had a life‑long interest in children’s Christian education materials.

In material written in 2002 for the publisher of one of his books, Ed revealed his creativity and educator’s heart: “The biggest job of my life was the production of the Vacation Bible School materials for [the original] Great Commission Publications [in the 1950s]…I had valuable assistance [from a number of people]…I wrote and illustrated the workbooks for children and the manuals for the teachers for the grades up to junior high….To strengthen my figure drawing, I [had] attended Saturday classes in the Chicago Museum school of art for two semesters.”

clowneyEP_03Ed will be supremely remembered by many as a preacher, perhaps the most gifted proponent and practitioner of redemptive‑historical preaching of this generation. He was unique in his ability to pick up the threads of redemptive history and to weave a rich expositional tapestry that brought Christ in all his perfections and glory before God’s people so that they were drawn to love and worship the Redeemer.

He was also a faithful churchman, serving first in the courts and many committees of the OPC and then in the courts and several committees of the PCA. He was a tireless proponent of improvement in the inter-church relations among the conservative Presbyterian denominations in this country. He had a significant role in the genesis of the “Joining and Receiving” process whereby the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod joined the PCA in 1982.

His writing displays the great theme of his life, namely Christ’s presence in the whole of Scripture and his present work in the church. His books include Preaching and Biblical Theology, Called to the Ministry, Christian Meditation, Doctrine of the Church, The Message of I Peter, The Unfolding Mystery, and Preaching Christ in all of Scripture. Some of these titles have been translated for the benefit of the worldwide church. His last book, How Christ Transforms the Ten Commandments, was accepted by his publisher only days before his death.

EutychusEd left behind a legacy not only of written books and articles, but a great number of sermons and lectures, as well as magazine columns such as the humor column “Eutychus and His Pin” for Christianity Today and Bible studies for Tabletalk. His sense of humor and his love for people left a mark wherever he went. In the last week of his life, one attending nurse, laughing as she left his room, exclaimed, “What a sweet man!” Those who knew and loved him would agree. His tender‑hearted encouragement and wisdom will be greatly missed, but his work will be established by his Master who has now welcomed him with those reassuring words: “Well‑done, good and faithful servant, enter now into the joy of your Lord!”

[The above tribute was compiled at the time of Dr. Clowney’s death by Ms. Mindy Withrow, Associate Director for Communications of Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, PA, with additional material from Rev. Bill Johnson. Used by permission.]

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wilsonrw04A Noble Example

Robert Dick Wilson was the fifth professor, and last apparently, who first served at Western Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh and then went on to a career at the Princeton Theological Seminary. The fourth such professor was Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield.

Dr. Wilson had received his A.B. and his M.A. from Princeton University and his Th.B. from Western Theological Seminary. Then he had studied for two years at the University of Berlin prior to receiving his Ph.D. from Princeton University, whereupon he took up his teaching position at Western Theological Seminary, first as an instructor, 1883-1885, and then as a professor, 1885-1900.

While teaching at Western, Dr. Wilson gathered a group of students about him and breathed into them, even the least promising, the spirit of research and adventure in the study of the Word of God. Undoubtedly he carried this same enthusiasm and pedagogy with him when he left for Princeton in 1900. It was said of Dr. Wilson, that “he seemed to fit into Princeton as an old glove fits the hand.”

Born in Indiana, Pennsylvania on February 4, 1856, Robert Dick Wilson was the son of a wealthy merchant. Like his brother, he was a voracious reader, and his parents encouraged their children in their studies. Well before graduating from college, Robert was adept in reading nine languages and already had his Latin, Greek and Hebrew well in hand. Over the course of his life, he would come to master several dozen languages, focusing primarily on ancient near-eastern tongues. Wilson’s linguistic talents were judged comparable to those of an earlier Princeton professor, J. Addison Alexander, and in his own day, Wilson was judged by many as the world’s greatest Old Testament scholar.

He devoted all of this vast learning to the defence of Holy Scripture. He believed with all his mind and heart that the Bible is true, and he supported his belief with a wealth of scientific material which even his opponents could not neglect. Only a short time before his death he
was engaged in an answer to a notable mono­graph, published at Oxford, which had recently devoted itself to a consideration of his views.

He was greatly beloved as a teacher and as a friend. With the simplicity of a true scholar, he was always ready to cast reserve aside and receive
his students into his heart. He called them his “boys”, and they responded with affection as well as with respect.

But great as were Dr. Wilson’s achievements throughout a long and fruitful life, his greatest achievement was his last. It was the achievement
by which, putting selfish considerations and unworthy compromise of principle aside, he left his home at Princeton and entered the Faculty
of a new institution devoted unreservedly to the Word of God. It is arguable that no one man sacrificed more in establishing the new school.

Many arguments might have been adduced to lead Dr. Wilson to remain at Princeton Seminary after the reorganization of that institution in 1929. He was at that time in his seventy-fourth year. An honorable and advantageous retirement awaited him whenever he desired. He had a good salary and a comfortable home. He had the friends that he had made at Princeton during a residence there of nearly thirty years. Might he not retain these advantages without being un­faithful to the cause to which he had devoted his life? Would not the new Board of Princeton Seminary keep in the background, for a time at least, the real character of the revolution that had been wrought? Would not the doctrinal change be gradual only, as at so many other institutions, formerly evangelical, which have conformed to the drift of the times? Could he not, meanwhile, serve God by teaching the truth in his own class-room, no matter what the rest of the institution did? Could he not round out his life in peace? Could he not leave to younger men the battle for the Faith?

Those considerations and many like them were no doubt presented to Dr. Wilson in very per­suasive form. But he would have none of them. His Christian conscience, trained by a lifetime of devotion to God’s Word, cut through such argu­ments with the keenness of a Damascus blade. He penetrated to the real essence of the question. He saw that for him to remain at Princeton would be to commend as trustworthy what he knew to be untrustworthy, that it would be to lead Christ’s little ones astray. He knew that a man cannot have God’s richest blessing, even in teaching the truth, when the opportunity to teach the truth is gained by compromise of prin­ciple. He saw clearly that it was not a time for him to think of his own ease or comfort, but to bear testimony to the Saviour who had bought him with His own precious blood.

He did bear that testimony. He left his home at Princeton, and all the emoluments and honors that awaited him there. He cast in his lot with a new institution that had not a dollar of endow­ment and was dependent for the support of its professors upon nothing but faith in God.

wilsonRD_grave_closeupDr. Wilson was supremely happy in that decision. He never regretted it for a moment. He entered joyfully into the life of the new seminary, and God richly blessed him there. Then, having rounded out more than the allotted period of three-score years and ten, a Christian soldier without tarnish of compromise upon his shield, he entered into the joy of his Lord. He died early in October of 1930, at the beginning of Westminster’s second academic year.

Words to Live By:
The gospel cannot well be preached unless there be a school of the prophets to train men to preach it in all its purity and all its power. And these schools must be found consistently faithful to the Lord if they are to properly fulfill their role. Pray for these schools. Pray for the men who are being raised up to proclaim the precious Gospel of saving grace in Christ Jesus alone. Pray that they would be courageous, sparing no effort in giving all their time and talents in serving the Lord. Pray for those who teach, for those who administer, and for those who serve. Pray that together all their efforts would serve to expand the kingdom of our Lord and Savior throughout all the earth.

[A large portion of the above is taken from “The Power of a Noble Example,” a tribute published by Westminster Theological Seminary upon the death of Dr. Robert Dick Wilson. To view that document and other tributes to Dr. Wilson, click here.]

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Our God Is Faithful, from Generation to Generation.

On this blog, now nearing the end of its second year, we have on numerous occasions made use of the news clippings preserved in seven scrapbooks gathered by the Rev. Henry G. Welbon. Henry had a keen eye for the value of history, and those scrapbooks contain valuable coverage of the modernist controversy of the 1930’s. Additionally, Rev. Welbon also wrote histories of two churches that he served.

welbonHenryGHenry Garner Welbon was born in Seoul, Korea on September 28, 1904. His father, Arthur Garner Welbon [1866-1928], was a missionary sent to Korea under the auspices of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. Upon arriving in Korea in 1900, a year later he married Sarah Harvey Nourse, a missionary nurse who had arrived on the mission field a few years earlier.

The Welbons served at several mission stations, raising a young family there on the field, until Mrs. Welbon’s declining health forced the family to return to the United States in 1919.

Up until that time, Henry had attended the P’yongyang Foreign School in Korea. He then completed his secondary education in California, before the family relocated to Maryville, Tennessee. Henry graduated from Maryville College in 1927, though he had suffered the death of his mother in 1925, and his father returned to the mission field shortly thereafter.

Pursuing a call to the ministry, Henry entered Princeton Theological Seminary in 1927 and was there during those turbulent years that witnessed the reorganization of Princeton and which in turn led to the formation of Westminster Theological Seminary. Henry was one of those that left Princeton to complete his education at Westminster, graduating there in 1931. He was licensed just before graduation and ordained in September of 1931 by the Philadelphia Presbytery (PCUSA), being installed in what some term a “yoked” pastorate, serving both the Head of Christiana PCUSA church in Newark, Delaware and the Pencader Presbyterian Church in Glasgow, Delaware. Now settled as a pastor, he married his dear wife Dorothy the following June of 1932.

Following his convictions, Rev. Welbon led his congregations to take a stand for the gospel, though it meant the loss of their respective buildings. This was in 1936, and Rev. Welbon became one of the founding ministers of the Presbyterian Church of America [later renamed as the Orthodox Presbyterian Church]. Then in 1938, he was among those who left the PCofA to form the Bible Presbyterian Church, with Rev. Welbon serving the BP congregation in Newark, DE until 1942.

Our own records do not tell how he spent the years between 1942 and 1946, but in post-war years, his facility with the Korean language became important to the U.S. government. The government eventually wanted to relocate him to Korea, but wise friends there urged him not to take that appointment. Wise advice indeed, in the late 1940’s. Later in life, Rev. Welbon returned to missions, serving first as a teacher in Japan, 1966-69, and then as pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Boatswain Bay, Grand Caymans, 1969-71. Thereafter, he was honorably retired as a member of the Delmarva Presbytery of the RPCES.

In the closing years of his life, and after the death of his beloved wife Dorothy, Rev. Welbon got on a train in the Spring of 1999 and left his home in Tucson, Arizona to travel across the country to research his family history. This had been a life-long project, and he hoped to finally locate some of the last necessary bits of information. St. Louis was one stop in his journey, and I was honored to meet him at that time. He continued on to Washington, D.C. to complete his research and then returned home to finish writing his family history. Completing that work, he took it to the publisher and died the very next day, on December 11, 1999.

Words to Live By:
Arthur and Sarah Welbon had six children, two of whom died in Korea while still quite young. They lived their lives in service to our Lord, as did their son Henry. Time does not permit us to search out the lives of their other children, but of the surviving children, one of Henry’s sisters, Mary, was the ancester—the great-grandmother—of Gabriel Fluhrer, a graduate of Greenville Seminary who served for a time at Second Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Greenville, and who now serves as an OPC pastor in Cary, North Carolina. And as Rev. Fluhrer himself once said, as he reflected on his family’s heritage,

“Praise God for His covenant faithfulness to generation after generation.” 


Rev. Welbon authored four books, of which the first two are currently preserved at the PCA Historical Center:

A History of Head of Christiana Church. (1933).
A History of Pencader Presbyterian Church,. (1936).
A History of Christian Education in Delaware. (Univ. of Delaware, M.A. thesis, 1937).
A History and Genealogy of a Welbon Family which Came from Lincolnshire, England to Detroit, Michigan in 1854. (1999).

[with gentle humor, it’s hard not to notice, that when Rev. Welbon found a title he liked, he stuck with it!]

The grave site of the Rev. Henry G. Welbon can be viewed here.

 

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HodgeAA

It was on this day, November 8th, in 1877, that the Rev. Dr. Archibald Alexander Hodge was inaugurated as Associate Professor of Didactic and Polemic Theology at the Princeton Theological Seminary. With an eye to the value of the tradition, some schools, like Westminster Theological Seminary, continue the practice of the inaugural address. As Dr. Hodge notes in his opening paragraph, the address makes for an opportunity to display both theological convictions and theological method of the teacher.

While perhaps a bit long for a weekday post, hopefully the busy reader will at least bookmark the page and return over the weekend. As one could only expect from A.A. Hodge, this is an excellent composition, worthy of serious, careful consideration.

Dogmatic Christianity, the Essential Ground of Practical Christianity

The Inaugural Address of Archibald Alexander Hodge,
upon his installation as Associate Professor of Dogmatic and Polemic Theology
at Princeton Theological Seminary, November 8, 1877.

FATHERS AND BRETHREN OF THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS:

In obedience to your call, I am here to assume the solemn trust involved in teaching Christian theology in this Seminary. Doubtless the design of associating an inaugural address with the induction of a new professor into such a charge is to afford him an opportunity of satisfying you, as the responsible guardians of the institution, with respect to his theological convictions and method.

I therefore affirm my belief that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments in their integrity are the Word of God, as a whole and in every part infallible and binding the conscience, and the only divinely authentic informant and rule of faith in matters of religion. Christian theology is wholly in the Scriptures, and is to be drawn from them only by legitimate interpretation. This is true of systematic as absolutely as of exegetical or of Biblical theology. The system lies in the relations of the facts, and their relations are deteremined by their nature, as that is disclosed by the words of the Holy Ghost. The systematic theologian as well as the exegete is only an interpreter; the one interprets the words and develops the revealed truths; the other interprets these separate lessons in their mutual light and reciprocal relations, and develops the revealed system.

More definitely I affirm, not as a professional propriety, but as a personal conviction, that the Confession and Catechisms of the Westminster Assembly contain the system taught in the Holy Scriptures. Or rather, in the more absolute terms of subscription imposed upon intrants by the Scottish Presbyterian Churches, “I do sincerely own and believe the WHOLE DOCTRINE contained in the Confession of Faith, approved by former General Assemblies of this Church, to be founded upon the Word of God, and do acknowledge the same as the confession of my personal faith, and will firmly and constantly adhere thereunto, and to the utmost of my power will assert, maintain, and defend the same.” This is affirmed, not only because I believe this “whole doctrine” to be true, but because I also believe this “system of doctrine” to be the most complete and adequate presentation as yet attained by the Church of that truth revealed in the Holy Scriptures, which the Holy Ghost has declared to be “the power of God unto salvation.” For therein Christ and His work is exhibited in their relation to human needs, experiences, duties, and destinies, and it is, therefore, the efficient instrument of forming character, of ruling action, and of effecting salvation.

It is precisely this last position which in the present day is so earnestly and in such various quarters denied. Besides the numerous classes of professed unbelievers, who positively reject Christianity, or the integrity and authority of its records, or at least some of its essential doctrines, there are many more, because of their position of professed friendliness, doing incalculably more harm, who, expressing no opinion as to the objective truthfulness of the church system of doctrines, maintain that it is at any rate unessential because impractical and unprofitable. Hence, they insist that the careful elaboration, and the prominent and ceaseless emphasis which the Church gives to doctrine imperils the interests of religion, by dividing those otherwise agreed, by rendering the candid examination of new truth impossible through the bias of foregone conclusions, and by diverting the attention of Christian people from the great practical and moral interests of life to matters of barren speculation. They charge the Church with exalting creed above morals, and faith above character. They insist upon it, that the norm of Christianity is to be found in the Sermon on the Mount, and as such it is proved to be a religion of character, not of creed; and hence, that it is the duty of the Church to regard immoral action as the only heresy.

This tendency to depreciate the importance of clearly discriminated views of religious truth, rests in the case of different objectors upon very different grounds, and is carried to very different degrees. But against this entire tendency, which opposes creed and morals, faith and character, in all its forms and intensities, we protest, and proclaim the opposite principle as fundamental,–that truth is in order to holiness, and that knowledge of the truth is an essential prerequisite to right character and action.

The force of the objections against the importance of clearly discriminated truth in the sphere of religion is mainly the result of the vagueness with which the objections are stated. When it is charged against the Church, as its record stands in history, that it has subordinated moral and practical interests to those of scholastic specualtion and party contests, there is a coloring of truth in the charge which commands attention, and disguises the real animus and ultimate aim of the objectors.

In order to clear the question of accidental complications, which constantly confuse the current discussions of it, we make the following admissions and distinctions:

1st. We concede that one of the sins most easily besetting theologians has been a tendency to over-refinement in speculation, over-formality of definition, and an excess of rigidity of system. Logical notions, creatures of the understanding, have too often been substituted for the concrete form of spiritual truth presented by the Holy Ghost to faith. Theologians have often practiced a rationalism as real as that of their modern opponents, when their ambition to be wise beyond what is written has urged them to explore and explain divine mysteries, to philosphize on the basis of scriptural facts, and to form rational theories, as, for instance, of the relation of the divine and human natures in the person of Christ, and of the concursus of the first with the second causes in Providence.

2d. We admit also that zeal for doctrine has in too many instances been narrow and prejudiced, mingled with the infirmities of personal pride and party spirit, and has hence led to the unnecessary divisions and alienations of those who were in reality one in faith, and to the conditioning of communion, and even of salvation, upon unessential points. Human nature has operated among earnest theological advocates with the uniformity and blindness of a physical law, leading each to choose a position as far as possible from his opponent–to unduly emphasize some Scriptures and depreciate others–to confine his attention to the fragment of truth he champions, exaggerating its proportions, and denying or minimizing the qualifying truths represented by his antagonist. This law has led to the multiplying of special theological tendencies, and to their development in all possible directions and to every possible extent, and has thus been providentially overruled to the extension of our knowledge, and to the ultimate establishment of the truth in wider relations. but the habit is in itself obviously evil, since for the individuals immediately concerned it sacrifices the truth as a whole to special elements, which by exaggeration or dissociation from their natural relations become virtually untruths. This is illustrated in the whole history of controversies, e.g., between Nestorians and Monophysites, Lutherans and Reformed as to the person of Christ, between Supralapsarian Calvinists and Arminians, Churchmen and Puritans, Mystics and Formalists. It is plainly the duty of the individual to understand, as fully as possible the position of his respondent, and to incorporate the other’s fragment of truth with his own into the catholic whole.

3d. We must admit also that some advocates of theological dogma have lacked the courage of their convictions, and have betrayed their want of perfect confidence in the foundations on which they have builded by a disposition to discourage the fearless investigations of new truth in all directions, and to put an ungenerous interpretation upon all opinions to which their own minds were unaccustomed.

We claim to be sincere advocates of free investigation, in the true sense of that word, in every direction open to man. The believer in the supernatural revelation contained in God’s Word is place on a higher and more central point of vision than that of the mere naturalist, and he is thus rendered free of the whole sphere of truth. The true relation of the successive realms of the universe of being and knowledge can be read by one looking upon them from within outward and not from without inward, from above downward and in the direction in which the supreme light of revelation radiates, and not from below upward upon the side on which the shadows fall.

But it is absurd to suppose that true intellectual progress consists in a mere change of opinions, or that it is consistent with the destruction of the foundations which have been laid in the verified knowledge of the past. Truth once adequately established must be held fast forever, while we stand prepared to add to it all new truth substantiated by equal evidence. And it is a law which all educated men should be ready to acknowledge as axiomatic, that truth in any department once established must ever after hold the place of valid presumptions, influencing the course of new investigations in every department. Ruskin well testifies, “It is the law of progressive human life that we shall not build in the air, but in the already high-storied temple of the thoughts of our ancestors,” and that any addition successfully made can “never be without modest submission to the Eternal Wisdom, nor ever in any great degree except by persons trained reverently in some large portion of the wisdom of the past.”

It cannot be doubted that what is held by men as truth in any one department of knowledge must, in the long run, be brought into conscious adjustment with all that they hold as truth in every other department. That which is false in philosophy cannot long be believed to be true in religion, and conversely, that which is false in religion can never be rightly regarded true in philosophy. Consequently, in the rapid development of the physical sciences which characterizes the present age, it is inevitable that there should be serious difficulty in so adjusting all the elements as to allow us to become clearly conscious of the congruity in all respects of the new knowledge with the old. It is not to be wondered at even that at several points there is an apparently irreconcilable antagonism. But when we recall the obvious distinction between facts and theories, between established knowledge and provisional hypothesis, we are readily reassured by the recollection it suggests that the historic track of human thought is strewn with the wrecks of systems, of cosmogonies, and anthropologies, as certainly believed and as influential in their day as any of the anti-theological systems of the present day.

We should unquestionably open our doors wide, with a joy equal to her own, for all the facts which science gathers in her harvest-time. But is it not absurd to ask the believers in the great Church Creeds of Christendom to abandon, to modify, or to mask that ancient and coherent mass of knowledge which roots itself in the profoundest depths of human nature, and in all human history, which has verified itself to reason and every phase of experience for two thousand years, which has moulded the noblest charcters, inspired the most exalted lives, and inaugurated the very conditions which made modern science and civilization possible–to modify or abandon all this in deference to one or the other of the variant and transient speculations which each in his little day claims to speak in the venerable name of science?

We admit also that all Christian doctrine, like all other truth, rests on evidence appropriate in kind and adequate in degree. Nor is it denied that human reason legitimately exercised is the organ by which alone this divine truth is to be apprehended and its credentials examined and verified. These evidences ought to be subjected to the most thorough legitimate examination. He is a false or a mistaken advocate of the truth who would impede such investigation or who fears the result. Most of those who depreciate Christian dogma as incapable of certain verification, or as impractical and unprofitable, simply beg the question as to these evidences. All such we refer to the Christian Apologist, who is fully prepared to meet all reasonable demands. At present we assume the truth of our dogma and claim, that being true, every fragment of it is of transcendcent importance as to the God-appointed means of effecting the moral and spiritual regeneration of human character and life.

4th. We moreover admit without hesitation that theologians must themselves be held to their own principle that truth is in order to holiness; that the great end of dogma is not the gratification of the taste for speculation, but the formation of character and the determination of the activities of our inward and outward life in relation to God and our fellow-men. There is a patent distinction between the logical and the moral aspects of truth, between that manner of conceiving and stating it which satisfies the understanding and that which affects the moral nature and determines experience. Neither can be neglected without injury to the other. For if the laws of the understanding are essentially outraged, the moral nature cannot be either healthfully or permanently affected; that which is apprehended as logically incongruous by the understanding, cannot be rested in as certainly true and trusthworthy by the heart and conscience and will. But all the great doctrines of the Scriptures may be apprehended on the side and in the relations which immediately determine the moral attitude of the soul in relation to God. It is possible, for instance, to treat the Biblical teaching as to the sinful estate into which man has fallen and from which he has been redeemed by Christ, as a metaphysical or a psychological problem, in which its reality and bearings, as a matter of experience, may be to a great degree disguised. On the other hand, it may be set forth, as it always is in Scripture, as it is realized in consciousness, and as it enters into all religious experience. If, as is asserted, religious experience is only the personal experience of the truth of the great doctrines of Christianity, as we are personally concerned with them, it follows that they must be conceived and stated in a form in which they admit of being realized in the experience. Any theological method which sacrifices the moral and experiential aspects of the truth to a metaphysical and speculative interest will soon lose its hold upon the consciences of men, and itself experience that law of change which determines the fluctuations of all mere speculative systems.

With these admissions and distinctions, we return to our theme, that the truth revealed in the Scriptures, and embraced in what evangelical Christians style Christian dogma, is the great God-appointed means of producing in men a holy character and life. at present neither the general truth of Christianity nor that of any particular system of theology claiming to represent it, is the question. but the truth of Christianity being assumed, we affirm that the truths set forth in the Word of God in their mutual relations, are necessary means of promoting holiness of heart and life. That is, that dogmatic Christianity is the essential ground of practical Christianity.

1st. This will be made evident when we consider what Christianity really is and what is the essence of Christian doctrine. Unlike all philosophies, it is not a speculative system built up on certain principles or seminal ideas. It is, on the contrary, a divinely authenticated statement of certain facts concerning God, His nature, His attitude towards man as fallen, His purpose with regard to man’s redemption from sin, and several stages of His actual intervention to effect that end. This redemptive work Christ has been, and is now engaged in accomplishing by several actions in chronological succession. The revelation of these purposes and redemptive actions has been evolved through an historic process, the separate facts of which are as definitely ascertainable as those which constitute any other history. Christian doctrine, therefore, is just God’s testimony with regard to certain matters of fact, with which the religious life of the race is bound up. A distinction has been pressed, beyond all reason, between the matter of fact taught in Scripture and doctrines which, it is asserted, men have inferred from or have superadded to the facts, as hypothetical explanations of them. By matters of fact the liberal school means the external events of Christ’s history as these were observed by the bodily senses of human witnesses, and assured to us by their testimony; and these external facts of sense, perception, and nothing more, they admit to be valid objects of faith, forgetful that a more advanced and consistent school of their fellow-rationalists overset these external facts just as confidently as they themselves flippantly relegate dogma to the religion of the unknowable. These men admit, for instance, that we know, as a matter of “fact,” that Christ died on the cross, and rose from the dead the third day; but they hold that the design with which he died or that the relation which His death sustains to man’s restoration to the divine favor are matters of speculative opinion, but no matter of “fact.”

The word “fact” in universal usage signifies not merely an action, a thing done, but as well any objective reality, and by way of eminence, a reality of which we have adequate certainty, in distinction from a matter of opinion or probably reality. Now that Christ died and rose again as our representative, that His death was a vicariously endured penalty, is plainly as purely a matter of fact, i.e., objective reality, as definitely and certainly verifiable on the direct testimony of God, as the dying and rising again themselves. All that a witness in the Hall of Independence on the 4th of July, 1776, would have seen with his bodily eyes would have been the physical acts of certain men subscribing their names to a written paper; that was the optical perception, and nothing more. But no man would be absurd enough to deny that it is just as much a “fact,” and just as certain a “fact,” that they subscribed their names as the representatives of certain political communities, with the design and effect of changing their political constitutions and relations. The sensible transaction, and its legal intent and effect were equally matters of “fact” and ascertainable with equal precision and certainty upon adequate evidence. Now the matter of fact of which Christian dogmas are the revealed expression and attestation are those which more than any other conceivable facts are of transcendent importance and of immediate practical interest to mankind. The tri-personal constitution of the Godhead, and His essential attributes and eternal purposes–His relation to the world as Creator, providential Ruler, and moral Governor–His judgment of man’s present guilt, corruption, and impotence as a sinner–His purposes of grace, and the provision made for their execution, in the incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity, and in the life, death, resurrection, and ascension to universal dominion of the God-man–the resurrection of the body, the judgment and eternal condemnation of the finally impenitent and glorification of believers–these are the FACTS.

In every department of life all practical experience and activity is constantly determined by the external facts into relation to which we are brought, and upon our knowledge of and voluntary conformity to these facts. All modern life, personal, social, and political, is notoriously being changed through the influence of the facts brought to our knowledge in the advances of the physical sciences. All moral duties spring out of relations, as those of husband and wife, parent and child, citizen and community. All religion is morality lifted up to the sphere of our relations to God, as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, as Creator, Moral Governor, Redeemer, Sanctifier, and Father. Our question, at present, is not whether our theological dogmas are true, but whether, being true, they are of practical importance. Much of the cavil against their use is only a disingenuous begging the question as to their truth. We prove them to be true in the department of Apologetics, which draws upon all the resources of philosophy and historical criticism. And having proved them to be true, we now assert, in advance, that morality and religion are possible only so far as these facts are recognized, and our inward and outward life adjusted to them. It would be incomparably more reasonable to attempt to accomplish all the offices pertaining to the departments of agriculture, navigation, and manufactures, while ignoring all the ascertained facts of the natural world, than it would be to attempt to accomplish the offices of morality and religion while ignoring the facts of the spiritual world signified and attested to us in Christian dogma.

2d. Again, our proposition that knowledge and belief of scriptural truth is the essential means of the production of holiness in heart and life, may be demonstrated upon universally admitted psychological principles. Knowledge is the act of the subject knowing, apprehending the truth. Truth is the object apprehended and recognized in the act of knowledge. In every act of apprehension there is required the object to be apprehended, and the apprehensive power upon the part of the agent apprehending. “The eye sees only that which it brings with it the power of seeing.” All truth of every kind stands related to the human mind, and the mind is endowed with constitutional faculties adjusted to it, and effecting its apprehension. As an actual fact, however, in the present state of the race, many individuals are found incapable of apprehending and recognizing some kinds of truth. for the apprehension of some truth a special endowment and cultivation of the understanding is necessary; for the recognition of other truth a special temperment and cultivation of tast is requisite, and for the apprehension of other truth again a special condition and habit of the moral and spiritual nature. In the actual condition of human nature the truths revealed in the Scriptures cannot be discerned in their spiritual quality as the things of God. But when the sould is quickened to a new form of spiritual life by the baptism of the Holy Ghost, this very truth, now discerned, becomes the insturment whereby the new spiritual life is sustained and developed. This accords with the analogy of the constitutional action of the soul in every sphere of its activity. The perception of beauty depends upon the possession of the aesthetic faculty. But that being possessed, the aesthetic culture of the soul depends upon the contemplation of beautiful objects, and the knowledge of the law of beauty in the endless variety of its forms. It is a law having no exception that the exercise of the perceptive faculty necessarily precedes and conditions the exercise of the affections and the will. Beauty must be apprehended before it can be appreciated and loved. Moral truth must be apprehended before it can be loved or chosen, and only thus can the moral affections be trained and strengthened. Mere feeling and mere willing without knowledge are absolutely impossible experiences, and if possible, they would be irrational and immoral. It is the grand distinction of Christianity that it is ethical and not magical in all its processes and spirit. It rests on facts. It moves in the sphere of personal relations. It is a spiritual power acting through the instrumentality of truth addressed to the reason, and made effectual upon the soul by the power of the Divine Spirit. And the truth, through the medium of knowledge spiritualized, acts on the emotions and will, and transforms character and governs life.

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Old Memories, Faded but True

macrae05Today, we’ll take the liberty of cutting ourselves free from the moorings of the calendar, to look at some new material recently received here at the PCA Historical Center. The Rev. John MacRae, son of Dr. Allan A. MacRae, is soon to move into a new field of ministry in Australia. As he prepares for that move, he understandably has been clearing out some files and has recently donated some materials of his father’s. The PCA Historical Center already had received the Allan A. MacRae Manuscript Collection several years ago, but these several files look to be an important addition to that collection.

Among those documents, one caught my eye. The following is the larger part of that document, in which Dr. Allan A. MacRae recounts his memories of Dr. J. Gresham Machen. MacRae first knew Machen as a professor at Princeton Theological Seminary, and later as both men were part of the founding faculty at Westminster Theological Seminary. There is no claim that these recollections constitute great literature, but I think you should be able to read past that and enjoy the telling of the story:—

machen03I never had beginning Greek from Machen but I used to hear about his beginning Greek class, how he would make it easy for students by doing all kind of silly pranks, like standing with a book on his head, balanced on his head; standing on a chair and marking something on the blackboard….

During my second and third years I saw a good deal of Machen and got to know him rather well. I believe it was during my first year that I took his very famous course on the book of Galatians, in which he went through the book showing how strongly Paul felt about the importance of redemption through Christ being at the very center of Christianity, and how opposed [Paul was] to anything that would give to anything else a priority [over] our relation to the Lord. It was a very famous course and I enjoyed it very much. Unfortunately Machen’s time was largely taken up with beginning work as he had to give all the elementary courses in Greek and he did not give many advanced courses, so I did not have many courses from him. However, I got to know him very well.

I remember very vividly, after my second year, at the meeting of the General Assembly in Baltimore. There the action of the Board of Directors of Princeton electing him to be professor of apologetics was presented and turned down by the assembly. Union Seminary [New York] could appoint who they wanted, but Princeton Seminary was under control of the General Assembly, and no one could be appointed to a professorship in it without action of the General Assembly. When I came across Henry Sloane Coffin, who had recently become president of Union Seminary, I asked him, when will your election as president of Union be considered by the General Assembly? In answer, he declared, “Union Seminary is not subject to any ecclesiastical denomination.” Dr. Machen used to say, that Union had twenty years before thrown off all control of the General Assembly, and declared itself independent, but having done so, for Union Seminary men to work hard in the General Assembly to prevent his [Machen’s] election as professor of apologetics and to vote against it seemed to him to be utterly wrong.

When I came to Westminster to teach, naturally I had considerable contact with Dr. Machen. At that time Dr. Machen had an apartment high up in a building on 13th Street in Philadelphia, and there he used to hold his checker club, which was really an evening of being at home as he used to have at Princeton Seminary when he would have lots of candy and soft drinks around and boards for chess and checkers and other games. Once I played chess with him and he was thinking of something else, I guess, and I beat him. When I check-mated him, he was quite shocked and immediately said, “We must play again,” and now he beat me completely. I never claimed to be much of a chess player. A short term memory is very important for chess and mine has never been at all good. Machen was certainly far out of my class as a player. I remember Bob Marsden once telling me how he went to see Machen one afternoon in his apartment and Machen talked very cordially to him and seemed perfectly peaceful and at rest and relaxed in every way, and then he looked at his watch and said, “Oh my, I have to go now, I have to catch the train for Chicago.” Marsden was greatly impressed that a man would be so relaxed when he was actually ready to head for a long trip.

In the summer of 1936, I went to the Canadian Rockies and while there, Dr. Machen arrived. I was staying at a little inn a short distance from Lake Louise and he was staying at the Chateau. Dr. Machen was there for vacation, being very busy, but he spent most of his time there working and trying to write and answer for the Christian Reformed paper to a professor in the Seminary of the Dutch Reformed Church, who had criticized Machen’s statement that he was not for prohibition because he did not figure that such practices and habits were the proper area of government to enter into.

Later on Dr. Machen went to South Dakota at the request of one of the ministers of one of the little churches in South Dakota, to speak. It was winter and freezing cold. He had these tiny churches that were maybe fifty miles apart and this man took him in his car and Machen got a bad cold which went into his chest and somebody said you should stop and recover from this. He said, “No, I must meet my appointments.” So he kept going. The result was he got pneumonia and died from it. It seemed to me that his death at that time was really the result of a false conscientiousness that refused to take care of himself when he had made an appointment that would have to be broken otherwise. Actually it meant that many occasions later when he could have given great Christian messages that would have been greatly blessed of the Lord, were lost because of his giving his life at that time for what seems to me to be an insufficient cause.

We used to remember that sermon that Machen gave frequently on the hymn, “There is a Green Hill Far Away.” It was a wonderful presentation of the atonement of Christ and we loved it.

Machen had been a member of the Benham Club. In this Club at the Seminary, which claimed to be the finest social club in the Seminary (they had four eating clubs by the way), in that club everybody had to do stunts. Machen had stunts he made, and whenever there was any gathering where Machen was present, he was always asked for a stunt. He would make those funny faces and say things so interestingly. His great thing they used to ask for was how Bill Adams won the battle of Waterloo. Then he had another one on eloqution in which he made fun of the pronunciation of certain sounds. There was one he gave once which impressed me greatly about the tiger that ate up every member of the family one by one and the father could not bear to kill the tiger because when he saw its fine mild eyes he was just unable to hurt it. I used to love him give this. He gave it only rarely, but after Westminster was founded, when he would give a stunt and the opportunity came to ask for one, I asked for this. Though I had heard it comparatively seldom, while I was in Seminary, we began to hear it rather frequently. Then one time Dr. Dodd was present and Dr. Dodd spoke about the tiger which was the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Mission. It was very effective the way Dr. Dodd used it. I have not known anybody since who could give stunts the way Dr. Machen could.

Dr. Machen gave talks on radio and used to work all week over these talks. Then he said to me once, “I have been working over these for colloquial language and it is a tremendous job to work over them for a book.” Of course, they published the series in a book, called The Christian Faith and the Modern World. He said, “I have decided to write them as if they were for a book.” Actually they were every bit as effective then as before. They were wonderful talks and his series on that subject was very excellent.

Dr. Machen was a very fine Christian, a lover of the Lord and a lover of the great doctrines of salvation. He had been conditioned by his training and he did not have the realization of the centrality of the Word of God that I wished he might have, though he thoroughly believed in its inerrancy. I remember one time he told me of a minster who had left the denomination he belonged to, and had because he was irritated at their creedal statements and wanted to build his ideas already from the Bible. He was rather amused at this, but he said, “It really is strange what fine theology this man had derived simply from the Bible.”

I remember once hearing of Dr. Machen’s telling of his crossing of the ocean in which Shailer Matthews of the University of Chicago Divinity School was also there. He had many talks with him and said, “We came to the conclusion in the end that there was one point on which we agreed, that both of us liked Boston Baked Beans.” Actually this illustrates Machen’s clear vision of the errors of modernism.

My introduction to Machen came when I came across his book Christianity and Liberalism. I started to read it and could not let it down till I finished it. It was surely a clear presentation of the fact that liberalism belongs not to another religion than Christianity, but to an entirely different type of religion. Machen was a very fine Christian, a fine gentleman, a lover of the Lord, a man with fine personal qualities, but a man who was ridiculed and criticized by those who hated what he stood for and some of their criticisms and attitudes were passed, taken up unthinkingly by other people. It was a great privilege to have had the association that I had with Dr. Machen.

Words to Live By:
J. Gresham Machen is yet another of those who finished the race well. As such, he is a part of that cloud of witnesses, examples to us of those who held fast to the promise of the Gospel. They persevered in looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. May we follow in their example. May our eyes be kept fast upon Jesus Christ our Lord.

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” – (Hebrews 12:1-2, KJV).

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Two Documents and a Digression

Today’s post is something of a modest exercise in exploring the archives, with two documents—both having the same date—drawn from two separate manuscript collections preserved at the PCA Historical Center. Nothing earth-shattering here, though there is some discovery along the way. In this case, the documents connect only in a minor way, though sometimes such connections can shed valuable light.

The first is the bulletin from the 1936 convocation service at Westminster Theological Seminary. Our copy of this bulletin is part of scrapbook no. 4 in the Henry G. Welbon Collection. The second item is a copy of a letter from J. Gresham Machen, found in the J. Oliver Buswell Manuscript Collection.

Pictured below is the service bulletin from the Eighth Annual Opening Exercises of the Westminster Theological Seminary, held on Wednesday, September 30, 1936 in Witherspoon Auditorium. This auditorium was capable of seating one thousand people, and was part of the Witherspoon Building, home of the PCUSA’s Presbyterian Board of Publications. 

To digress a bit, the Witherspoon Building was named for the Rev. John Witherspoon [1723-1794], and is located at 1319-1323 Walnut Street in Philadelphia’s Market East neighborhood. It was designed by architect Joseph M. Huston [1866-1940] and the work was commissioned by the Presbyterian Board of Publications and Sabbath School Work. An eleven-story, steel frame “E”-shaped building, faced with brick and granite, the structure was built between 1895 and 1897. Exterior features include Corinthian and Ionic columns, and terra cotta decorations of statues, medallions, and seals of various boards and agencies of the Presbyterian Church as well as those of related Reformed churches. The famous sculptor Alexander Stirling Calder [1870-1945] designed six of the statues and some of the medallions that graced the building. An additional ten statues of various Biblical figures, were later cast by Samuel Murray and Thomas Eakins and installed in the exterior arches on the eighth floor. All of the statues were removed in the early 1960’s for fear of deterioration and were relocated to the courtyard of the Presbyterian Historical Society. The Witherspoon Building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.

For the commencement exercises that year, the Seminary had invited Professor H. Henry Meeter of Calvin College, His message, “Thank God and Take Courage,” was subsequently published on the pages of The Presbyterian Guardian, and can be read here (part 1), pp. 6-8 and here (part 2), pp. 27-29.  [It should also be noted that The Meeter Center for Calvin Studies is named in honor of Dr. Meeter.]

WTS_1936_convocation
A Second Document: Machen’s Advice on Deciding Moral and Ethical Conflicts

At some point on that same day, Dr. Machen set to answering some of his mail. How it was that Dr. J. Oliver Buswell, Jr. came to have a copy of this letter, is something that will have to remain a mystery. In the letter, Dr. Machen replies to an inquiry from a young woman, giving his advice on how to decide moral and ethical conflicts:

[From the J. Oliver Buswell, Jr. Papers, Box 286, File 16, file copy on green paper, 8.5” x 11”]

J. Gresham Machen
Westminster Theological Seminary
206 S. 13th St., Philadelphia, Pa

September 30, 1936

TO:
Miss Mary J. Gushard
1220 Lincoln Ave.
Prospect Park, Pa

Dear Miss Gushard:

Your letter of Sept. 24th, addressed to me at the Seminary, which I do not visit very often in vacation time, did not come into my hands until yesterday evening. In reply to your inquiry, please let me say that I do not think it to be wrong to attend the theatre. My position regarding these matters is rather c1ear, and. I have held. it for a great many years. It may be set forth in part briefly as follows:

1. It is wrong to do things that are expressly forbidden in the Bible.
2. Where things are not expressly forbidden in the Bible, the individual Christian must determine, in the light of the Bible, whether they are wrong or not, and must act accordingly.
3. It is wrong for one Christian to tyrannize over the conscience of another in these matters.

That being so, I respect very greatly the conscience of a fellow-Christian who cannot conscientiously go to the theatre. I should hate to see him do what he thinks is wrong. I certainly cannot ask him to submit his conscience to mine. On the other hand, he ought not to ask me to submit my conscience to his. With re: to the “separated” life, I should just like to say two things. In the first place, worldliness is a great danger to the Church and consecration is the thing for which we ought to strive with all our might. No mere man, since the Fall, has ever in this life been perfectly consecrated to God; but we ought to strive always to be more and. more consecrated to Him. In the second place, however, there is also an opposite danger. It is the danger of a false asceticism. It is the danger into which those persons in Colosse fell, when thoy said in a way which the Apostle rebukes: “Touch not, taste not, handle not.” We ought to strive against that danger also. Particularly ought we to avoid subjecting our fellow-Christians to rules of our own choosing that go beyond what the Word of God contains.

Such are my principles. I do not claim to have followed them perfectly. Far from it. There have been times beyond number when I have fallen short of them. certainly need to ask God daily to forgive me for my sins. But the principles that I have set forth do seem to me to be in accordance with God’s holy Word, and they are principles which I think we ought to keep before our eyes.

Very sincerely yours, (Signed) J. Gresham Machen

Image source: Henry G. Welbon Manuscript Collection, Scrapbook number 4, p. 412.

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machen_ShallWeObeyIt was yesterday actually—September 17th, 1936—and not today’s date of September 18th, when Dr. J. Gresham Machen spoke in Westfield, New Jersey on the subject “Shall We Obey God, or Man?”. But as we didn’t want to pass up mention of this occasion, so you will please forgive a bit of backtracking.

This appears to be one of Machen’s messages which is now lost. I did not find any title close to “Shall We Obey God, or Man?” among Dr. Machen’s published works, but if I missed something, please bring it to my attention. Like so much of Machen’s writings, this too would have remained a timely message for our own day. Perhaps there are still some notes, an outline, or even a transcript preserved among the Machen Papers at Westminster Theological Seminary?

DR. J. G. MACHEN SPEAKS HERE SUNDAY.

“Shall We Obey God, or Man?” is the subject to be discussed by Rev. Dr. J. Gresham Machen of Philadelphia on Sunday at 8 p.m. in the Masonic Temple. This meeting, the last in the series of three sponsored by a local committee interested in the newly organized Presbyterian Church of America, has been planned to bring before the public some of the outstanding issues before the Presbyterian Church today.

Dr. Machen, who is Professor of New Testament in Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia and long identified with the fundamentalist group in the Presbyterian Church, today is a national figure. IN 1928 he headed a group of men that left Princeton Seminary and about four years later was instrumental in the founding of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions. It was the establishment of this board that brought to a head the fast growing differences between the two groups, for from this board, termed illegal by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., Dr. Machen and others were ordered to resign. Their refusal to do so lead finally this year to their withdrawal from the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. and the formation of the Presbyterian Church of America.

Why the matter has been doctrinal rather than administration as claimed by the General Assembly that met in Syracuse last May, in what way the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. has placed the word of man above the word of God and why Conservatives cannot expect to purify the church from within are among the things which will be explained by Dr. Machen.

Acclaimed by his friends and foes alike as the outstanding Greek scholar of the world today, known as an ardent defender of Fundamentalism and the author of numerous well-known books, Dr. Machen will come prepared to state authoritatively the position of the new Presbyterian Church of America.

This same news clipping, pictured at right, can be found in context on the front page of The Westfield, New Jersey Leader, here :
http://archive.wmlnj.org/TheWestfieldLeader/1936/1936-09-17/pg_0001.pdf . Our copy of this clipping is from the scrapbook collection gathered by the Rev. Henry G. Welbon.

Words to Live By:
In every age and era, there are challenges that confront the Christian. There is always the contest, whether to obey God or man. Strive to obey God daily, moment by moment, while the challenges may still be simpler and less painful. Set the habit now. Walk in the light of His Word and make a practice of remembering God’s faithfulness. For one, make a habit of noting His answers to your prayers. Then, when real challenges to obedience come, you should be able to say, “How can I deny Him now, when He has been faithful to me all these years?”

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Born this day on September 9, 1880,

allis01Oswald Thompson Allis was born in Wallingford, Delaware county, Pennsylvania to Oscar Huntington Allis, M.D. and his wife Julia Waterbury Thompson Allis, on this day,September 9, in 1880. He was raised in the family home at 1604 Spruce Street, in Philadelphia. Decades later, this same location was to serve as the cradle for the newly formed Westminster Theological Seminary.

His education included an A.B. degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1901; the Bachelor of Divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1905; the A.M. degree from Princeton University in 1907; and finally the Ph.D. degree from the University of Berlin in 1913, with a dissertation focused on the study of selected Babylonian cuneiform texts.

Dr. Allis first served as Instructor in Semitic Philology at the Princeton Theological Seminary from 1910-1922 and then as Assistant Professor of Semitic Philology at the same institution, from 1922-1929. Reorganization of the Princeton Seminary placed modernists in control of the school and so prompted the resignations of Drs. Allis, J. Gresham Machen, Robert Dick Wilson and Cornelius Van Til. Over the summer of 1929, plans were laid for the organization of Westminster Theological Seminary. Classes began in that autumn and Dr. Allis served as Professor of Old Testament History and Exegesis at Westminster from 1929-1930 and then as Professor of Old Testament from 1930-1936. When Dr. Machen and others were forced in 1936 to leave the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. denomination over their involvement with the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions, Dr. Allis chose to remain in the denomination, but retired from his teaching post. Independently wealthy, he was able to devote the remainder of his life to research and writing.

Dr. Allis was the editor of The Princeton Theological Review from 1918-1929 and, beginning in 1929, maintained a position as Editorial Correspondent for The Evangelical Quarterly up until the time of his death, with many of his articles appearing in that publication.

A 1931 promotional brochure for Westminster Theological Seminary prepared by the Student Committee on Publications had these comments regarding Dr. Allis and his teaching:

“It is the painstaking and thorough accuracy of Dr. Allis in whatever he does, that causes his students to marvel. We watch him unravel the intricacies of Hebrew syntax, and his patience is a constant example and inspiration to us.”
“Dr. Allis’ favorite class room pastime is to answer critics who seek to prove the Old Testament untrue and unreliable. He shows how these would-be Bible destroyers are often false or inaccurate, and frequently so even in the realm of sheer facts. To sit under his teaching is to have one’s faith renewed in the Old Testament as the altogether reliable inspired Word of God.”

Words to live by: The Word of God is sure and reliable, and the Christian can rely fully and completely upon His every promise to the believer. In all that comes against us in this life, He is our refuge. The very character and nature of God is our strong sanctuary in times of trial.

A Sample from the Writings of Dr. Allis:
That the Bible is a self-consistent, self-interpretive book has been the belief of Jews (as regards the Old Testament) and Christians alike throughout the centuries. It is clearly set forth in the Westminster Confession of Faith in the following significant statement: “The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture in the Scripture itself; and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any scripture (which is not manifold, but one,) it may be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.” A distinguished theologian, Dr. Charles Hodge, has expressed it as follows: “If the Scriptures be what they claim to be, the word of God, they are the work of one mind, and that divine. From this it follows that Scripture cannot contradict Scripture. God cannot teach in one place any thing which is inconsistent with what He teaches in another. Hence Scripture must explain Scripture.

[Excerpt from “The Law and the Prophets,” as published in The Evangelical Student 4.1 (October 1929): 11-28. To read the full article, click here.

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Time did not permit me to put together a proper sketch of the life and ministry of Dr. Edmund P. Clowney this past July 30th, which was the anniversary of his passing, in 2005. However, in what time I was able to invest in trying to prepare that sketch, I came across the following message, which is presented today as our Sunday Sermon. The message is titled “Hear Him!,” and this is the substance of Dr. Clowney’s message on Journal Day, in 1972. For several decades, the Presbyterian Journal sponsored Journal Day as an annual event, a time of fellowship, a time of conference, and a time of planning for the future.

As best I can determine, this message has not been reproduced since its publication on the pages of The Presbyterian Journal, in the September 6, 1972 issue. The message we have here is classic Clowney—so typical of the depth and power of his best sermons—and it is a message that deserves to be dusted off and read again.

Behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ! —

Hear Him!

clowneyEPSmog has become a national hazard in industrial America. The evening news report includes a pollution index, made graphic by a gray veil drawn halfway across the city pictured on the television screen. Smog is the more dangerous, of course, because we take for granted the smoke of the city along with its noise and dirt. In the grayness we have forgotten the glory of sparkling sunlight.

A more deadly smog pollutes the atmosphere in America’s Churches, a noxious miasma that is the more lethal when we take it for granted. It is the smog that obscures the difference between truth and error, between the faithfulness of God and the wiles of the devil. The light of glory has departed from contemporary theology, and the experts warn against its return. Doctors of theology tell us that final answers spell disaster, because they close our minds to the changing shapes of truth for today.

Half a century ago controversy raged in the major American denominations as those dubbed “fundamentalists” contended for the faith against the ecclesiastical power of theological liberalism. Today we are assured that this struggle was not only hopeless but meaningless. Imagine the naivete of arguing about whether the virgin birth of Jesus is essential to Christian faith!

Did Jesus have a human father, or was He conceived by the Holy Ghost in the womb of the virgin Mary? Both the old-fashioned liberal and his contemporary successor seek to avoid that question. An unequivocal answer would make all too clear who confesses the historic Christian faith and who denies it. Liberalism old and new has therefore sought to make the question irrelevant. Religious truth, we are told, does not communicate objective matters of fact. It is a structure of symbolism, “a human expression in propositional language of some deeper pre-positional or not-yet-thematized level of experience . .

The older liberalism rather baldly found the meaning of the symbols in religious consciousness. The newer liberalism seeks a more ambiguous point of reference in the existential encounter of the individual (or, perhaps, of society) with the “ground of being.”

Modern Ambiguity

Inhaling this new formula of truth, the contemporary liberal both affirms and denies the virgin birth. As religious symbolism it is “true.” In the Hellenistic age it was understood literally, for such things could happen in the ancient world. In the modern age it is a myth which must be translated if its religious meaning is to be interpreted. There is no need to deny that it could have occurred; after all, anything can happen in an open universe. But there is also no need at all to affirm that it did happen, since its meaning is religious, not scientific.

In the darkening twilight of our age it is easy to be persuaded that the old antitheses are gone, that truth changes with the times, and that we should be grateful to those who offer a believable version of the Gospel to modern man.

Then we turn to Scripture and our dimmed eyes are dazzled by the glory. Neither poets nor philosophers, the apostles were eyewitnesses to glorious events. On the mount of transfiguration Jesus was praying while Peter, James and John kept watch. The scene was monotonously familiar to the disciples, and mystic ecstacy was far from the experience of these fishermen. No existential angst troubled their hearts. In fact, they were almost asleep.

Peter’s Confession

Suddenly their heavy eyes were wide with amazement. Jesus stood before them as they had never seen Him before, His robe white with unearthly brilliance and His face shining with the glory of God. They saw His glory, and the light of that cloud of glory still dispels the smoke of our doubts. In this day when the glory has departed from the Church of Christ, the command comes again: “Arise, shine, for thy light is come and the glory of the Lord is upon thee” (Isa. 60:1). To see the glory now we must behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

The mount of transfiguration stands in the midpoint of Christ’s ministry. Jesus had refused to lead Israel’s revolution and the crowds were leaving Him. Peter confessed the distinctive faith of the Christian Church in sharp contrast to the flattering unbelief of the crowds. The people called our Lord a prophet, Peter called Him the Christ; the people hailed Him as the greatest of God’s servants, Peter worshiped Him as the Son of the living God. When the Church says of Jesus what all men will say of Jesus, it denies Him. When it says what flesh and blood cannot conceive, then it confesses Him whom only the Father in heaven can reveal.

The disciples who confessed the divine Sonship of Jesus Christ were thereby prepared to hear the heavy tidings of His sufferings and death. Here was the acid test of the obedience of their faith. Jesus was not to be the political messiah of worldly hope. Instead, He was the suffering servant of Old Testament prophecy. Whoever would follow Him must take the path to the cross. Peter promptly failed the test. He dared to rebuke Christ for taking the cross. Peter, who had been taught by the Father in heaven, became the mouthpiece of the devil. Called to be an apostolic rock of foundation, he became a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.

But what the Father had revealed in illumining Peter’s mind had to be manifested before the apostle’s eyes. The glory of heaven shone from the Saviour as He turned to the cross. A week after Peter confessed Christ by revelation of the Father, the Father himself confessed His Son before the three apostles. The glory of the mount calls us to worshiping faith, to receive the Lord on His terms, not ours, to confess Jesus Christ as the divine Son fulfilling in His life the will of the Father, displaying in His person the nature of the Father. From the cloud of glory came the voice of God, “This is my Son, my chosen: hear ye Him.”

Hear Him! This command must pierce our ears and our hearts and shape our obedience to Jesus Christ. We must hear Him who is the prophet of glory, the priest of glory, the king of glory.

The Prophet of Glory

clowneyEP_02The scene on this mount of revelation attests the glory of the prophetic authority of Jesus Christ. True faith in Christ cannot reject the revelation on the mount. One of the confusions of contemporary theology is to set Jesus Christ as the living Word against the Bible as the written Word. However, no such contrast is possible when the real Jesus of the Bible is taken seriously. He is not an enigmatic Christ-event to which various witnesses point with fallible and conflicting utterances.

No, He is the living Son of God and He speaks the words given Him by the Father. No man receives Christ the living Word who does not receive His spoken words. Hear ye Him! God who spoke of old by the prophets has now spoken by His Son, and that which was spoken by the Lord was confirmed to us by them that heard, God bearing witness with them (Heb. 1:1-2; 2:3-4).

The mount of transfiguration revealed Christ as the final prophet. Moses and Elijah, the two pivotal prophets of the Old Testament history of redemption, appeared with Him in glory. The great model of God’s revelation was the giving of His covenant on Mount Sinai. The living God kept His promise to Abraham when He redeemed Israel from Egypt and assembled the people before Him to hear all the words of His gracious covenant.

When the people could not bear to hear the voice of God, the Lord called Moses alone up into the mountain to receive the words of God’s covenant, spoken in His ears and written on tablets of stone by the finger of God (Exo. 24:18; 31: 18).

Moses, the mediator, receiving the words spoken and written by God, provided the pattern for the office of the prophet. When the prophets said, “Thus saith the Lord . . . they were doing what Moses had done: receiving the words of God and giving them to the people. Moses, with whom God spoke “mouth to mouth” (Num. 12:8), towered above all the prophets who were like him — until the promised prophet came.

Warning, Loving

With Moses was Elijah. He, too, had heard God speaking on Mount Horeb. Jealous for God’s holy name, Elijah was bitter because the fire that fell at Carmel did not consume all the idolaters. But God revealed Himself to the prophet, not in the fire or the storm, but in the whispered word of His counsel. God’s Word appointed Jehu, Hazael and Elisha as instruments to destroy the worship of Baal.

Moses and Elijah on the mount with Jesus again heard the word from the cloud, but God did not speak ten words nor promise the coming of other prophets. Rather, He said: “This is my Son, my chosen: hear ye Him.”

Hear Him, for the Word of the Father is spoken by the beloved Son in glory and in grace.

Hear Him as He declares the holy will of His Father: “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, and pray for them that persecute you; that ye may be sons of your Father who is in heaven . . Hear Him, too, as He warns, “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my sayings, hath one that judgeth him; the word that I spake, the same shall judge him in the last day” (John 12:48).

Hear Him, for “how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? Which having at the first been spoken through the Lord, was confirmed unto us by them that heard . . . See that ye refuse not him that speaketh” (Heb. 2:3, 12:25).

Hear Him as He calls “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). Hear Him, for the words that He has spoken are spirit and are life (John 6:63).

The wind and the sea hear Him: “Peace be still!” The deaf hear him: “Ephphatha” “Be opened!” (Mark 7:34). The dead hear Him: “Lazarus, come forth!” Whoever has ears to hear must hear Him, for He who speaks is the Word of God alive.

Do not divide between Christ and the Bible. He who turns from the words of Christ turns from Christ the Word. See Him in His glory, standing between the prophets and the apostles, and you see the speaking Lord who unites the apostles and the prophets in the Amen of His mighty word. The Bible is one because Christ is one, and He fulfills all things that are written in the law of Moses, and the prophets, and the psalms concerning Him (Luke 24:44). Whoever does not believe Moses’ writings will not believe Christ’s words (John 5:47).

No Choice

The Bible is not primarily a human witness to God’s redemptive acts. It is God’s own witness, God who spoke from the cloud, from the lips of prophets and apostles through the Spirit of His Son, and from the lips of the Lord of glory. It is true that prophets and apostles bear witness to what they have seen and heard, but they do so as they are borne along by the Holy Ghost. Even the prayers and praises given by the Spirit are part of God’s testimonies, given as His witness to His people (Deut. 31:19; II Sam. 23: 1-2).

To describe Scripture as the product of the reflection of the “faith- community” evolving from its experience and approved in its use is to substitute reflection for revelation, the word of man for the word of God, the faith of the community for the authority of the Son of God. Between the apostles and the prophets stands Jesus Christ, and God says, “Hear HimI”

To suggest that after God’s final word in Christ we are to hear as God’s word the sentences of Chairman Mao or the ancient darkness of the Bhagavad Gita is to reject the voice of the living God. God is jealous for His name. He will not give His glory to another, and there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

No doubt much more than we imagine is at stake when men refuse to believe that God can speak words to men. We begin to see the corrosion in our literature when words are cut off from ultimate meaning. Fabricated truth, formed for the day, cannot undergird the mind of man or establish his heart. But we are not adrift in empty galaxies babbling verbal signs without meaning. We are God’s creatures, lost in our rebellion, vain in our thoughts, but to us God says, “This is my Son, hear Him!”

Priest of Glory

Yes, hear Him, for the Son of God is the priest of glory. Moses on the mountain was the great mediator between God and the people. When Israel sinned, Moses stood before God to intercede for a rebellious nation. Elijah built an altar on Carmel, and after the fire fell kept vigil in prayer until the promised rain came. These great servants of God fulfilled priestly roles as they stood between God and the people.

When Jesus was transfigured He was praying. He who is a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek poured out the agony of His soul as He looked from the mount of transfiguration to the mount of Calvary. Made like His brethren, Jesus prayed then as He prays now, the representative priest. What Moses and Elijah prefigured, Christ fulfilled.

The glory was given not only for the disciples’ sake, but as part of Christ’s strengthening for the conflict. As angels ministered to Him after the temptation in the wilderness and later in Gethsemane, so the heavenly glory came to refresh His human nature on the way to the cross.

Hear Him as He talked with Moses and Elijah. They spoke of His death and resurrection, for toward this their ministries had pointed. They could not join in His priesthood. Theirs was a passing ministry and it was over. Christ is the abiding priest who ever lives to make intercession for them who come unto God by Him. Priest and sacrifice, He put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. There is one God and one mediator between God and man, Christ Jesus.

King of Glory

When He had made purification of sins, He sat down on the right hand of the majesty on high (Heb. 13). Hear Him, for He is the king of glory.

The radiance of the Saviour’s face was not like the luster of Moses’ countenance when he came down from Mount Sinai. That glory had so dazzled the people that Moses had put a veil over his face. Yet for all of its brilliance it was reflected glory, the afterglow of encounter with the glory of the Lord. The glory of Christ on the mount was His own glory, a bursting forth of the glory that He had with the Father before the world was. The glory of God did not first appear in the cloud, as on Sinai, and then by reflection on the Saviour’s face. Instead, it shone forth like the sun from Christ himself, the true light who came into the world.

God’s glory came down in the cloud to rest upon the tabernacle in the wilderness. Glory dwelt among the people, but Israel rebelled in the land of the promise, and Ezekiel saw the glory of the Lord departing from the temple. Yet the glory dawned again with the coming of the Lord, and the disciples were witnesses of the presence of the Lord of glory. Who is the king of glory? The Lord of hosts, He is the king of glory.

Moses had prayed on Mount Sinai “Show me, I pray thee, thy glory.” He knew that when God’s glory was manifested all the blessings of the covenant were secure. On Sinai God passed by Moses, covering him in the cleft of the rock, but Moses who once saw the glory of God’s back in the theophany later saw the glory of God in the face of Jesus

Christ. The glory of the true tabernacle streamed forth from the light of the world.

Reflecting on Christ’s kingship, we better understand the tabernacles Peter proposed to build. The feast of booths or of tabernacles was the last great feast of the sacred year, the harvest-home of God’s salvation. Peter may have concluded that the time for the feast of the kingdom of God had come.

The king had come in His glory, but it was not time for the feast of glory. From the mount of transfiguration Jesus went to the cross. Have you reflected on the testing of Christ on this mountain? It was completely different from the temptation, when Satan had taken Christ into a high mountain to show Him the glory of the kingdoms of this world. Yet in another way, Christ’s dedication to the path of His kingship was searched out more deeply. Christ was tasting the glory of heaven. How He must have yearned to return with Moses and Elijah to the glory of the Father! Chariots of fire had carried Elijah to heaven.

Could not the Son of God have ascended from the mount of transfiguration rather than from the Mount of Olives? We catch something of Christ’s yearning when He came down from the mount to confront His disciples who could not perforin a healing because of their little faith. “O faithless and perverse generation,” said Christ, echoing the words of Moses, “how long shall I be with you, and bear with you?”

Peter Knew

Jesus might have returned to heaven from the mount, but not with Moses and Elijah. Christ is the way to heaven for Moses and Elijah, as well as Peter, James and John. Only because the king of glory went willingly to the cross is there salvation for any man. Moses and Elijah departed, but the king remained. He descended the mount of transfiguration and climbed the mount of Calvary where the superscription on the cross read, “This is the king of the Jews.”

Only after Calvary’s conquest did the cloud again appear. Christ was lifted up on the cross before He was lifted up to the throne of heaven. Yet the glory of His transfiguration is a pledge of the glory that will be revealed when Christ comes again as He promised.

Listen to the witness of Peter as he knows his death is near: “For we did not follow cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming (that word is “presence” — parousia) of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the Father honor and glory, when there was borne such a voice to Him by the majestic glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased: and this voice we ourselves heard borne out of heaven, when we were with Him in the holy mount” (II Pet. 1:16-18).

No, these are not fables. God speaks to us and we have the word of prophecy made more sure. He says concerning His Son: “Hear ye Him!”

Have you heard and heeded the Word of Christ? Have you heard Him as He speaks of His death and the glory to follow? Will you hear Jesus, Jesus only, forever? For your life, for your Church there is one Lord who rules by His revealed Word in the power of His present Spirit.

His Word is not gray, not a yes and no. His Word is truth and glory, the light of heaven to our path. “For how many soever be the promises of God, in Him is the yea: wherefore also through Him is the Amen, unto the glory of God through us” (II Cor. 1:20).

Presbyterians may have been too restrained to say, “Amen” in the past. But the time has come when we must confess Christ by saying, “Amen” to His revealed Word. In our lives and in o u r Church, we must hear and obey Him who is the Lord of the Word and who speaks to us the Word of the Lord. Not counting the cost, we must obey God rather than men, and hear Him, the final prophet, the eternal priest, the returning king of glory!

Text source:
“Hear Him!,” [the substance of Dr. Clowney’s message on Journal Day in 1972], The Presbyterian Journal, 31.19 (6 September 1972):

Image sources:
Photos from the Presbyterian Journal Photo Collection, Box 245, file 27, preserved at the PCA Historical Center, St. Louis, MO.

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