Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Affirmation

The reaction in American Protestantism rose to militant activity after the First World War, in a time congenial to such a movement. A widespread and powerful body of opinion charged the Churches with weakness and failures, and located the cause in "modernism," which meant modern Biblical study and religious thought accepting scientific truth, in particular "evolution." In this temper fundamentalism was organized as the great World Conference on Christian Fundamentals in Philadelphia in May, 1919. The conference issued a doctrinal declaration including the five points and also the imminent return of Christ, the tenets of which were the "fundamentals." It adopted a broad program of measures of war on "modernism" and modernists, aimed at Churches, theological seminaries, colleges, missions, boards, religious periodicals, the Y.M.C.A. and Y.W.C.A., and planned extensive means to spread the theology of the fundamentals. The avowed ultimate object was to secure control of the great Churches.

The first attempt of this kind was made in the Northern Baptist Convention of 1922. Before this Dr. Harry Fosdick preached in the First Presbyterian Church of New York his celebrated sermon on "Shall the Fundamentalists Win?" Defeated with the Baptists, fundamentalism turned to the Presbyterian Church. The General Assembly of 1923 by a narrow vote expressed disapproval of Dr. Fosdick's teaching, without mentioning his name, and directed the Presbytery of New York to bring the teaching in the First Presbyterian Church into conformity with the doctrinal standards of the Church and report to the next Assembly. It accompanied this with a reiteration of the five points as essential doctrines. A question of the whole Church had thus arisen, and now the fundamentalist effort to control the Church was fully launched. The propaganda seeking to make the five points the Church's effective creed was much intensified, with unceasing denunciation of all ministers and laymen known to hold liberal theological views as enemies of Christian faith. Vague but very positive assertions were made to the effect that there was in the Church a large body of ministers who had forsaken evangelical Christianity. The words "materialist," "rationalist," "infidel," "pagan," were cast about without much regard for their meaning, but so as to strengthen this suspicion. After some months of this fomenting of theological panic there appeared a proposal designed to accomplish fundamentalist domination. To the General Assembly of 1924 came an overture asking it to require that all members of the General Council and the Boards of the Church and all professors in its theological seminaries declare their assent to the doctrinal deliverances containing the five points. This would involve giving to utterances of the General Assembly an authority equal to that of the Church's creed, and also binding the five points practically on the Church.

Just before this same General Assembly of 1924 there came from the liberals an instrument destined to repulse the fundamentalists, in the framing of which Henry Coffin bore a leading part. Early in 1923 they had begun to organize and prepare. Out of long consultation among them emerged the memorable Affirmation, prepared to be signed by ministers. In this document, which has become a symbol of liberal Presbyterianism, the signers affirmed their loyalty to evangelical Christianity and their adherence to the Church's Confession, as given at their ordinations. From its history and law they showed that the Church assured to its ministers liberty in the interpretation of the Confession and the Scriptures. They rejected Biblical inerrancy as not a teaching of the Bible, the Confession of Faith, the ancient creeds or those of the Reformation, and as in fact impairing the authority of the Bible. They met the assertion of "essential doctrines" by denying on constitutional grounds the General Assembly's authority to declare doctrine for the Church. Then they continued, in words which were the main strength of the Affirmation: 'Furthermore, this opinion of the General Assembly attempts to commit our Church to certain theories concerning the inspiration of the Bible, and the Incarnation, the Atonement, the Resurrection, and the Continuing Life and Supernatural Power of our Lord Jesus Christ. We all hold most earnestly to these great facts and doctrines; we all believe from our hearts that the writers of the Bible were inspired by God; that Jesus Christ was God manifest in the flesh; that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, and through Him we have our redemption; that having died for our sins He rose from the dead and is our ever-living Savior; that in His earthly ministry He wrought many mighty works, and by His vicarious death and unfailing presence He is able to save to the uttermost." --Robert Hastings Nichols from "Leader of Liberal Presbyterianism" an essay in "This Ministry: The Contribution of Henry Sloane Coffin," ed. Niebuhr, 1945

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

"they upheld liberty for the gospel's sake"

Liberal Presbyterianism at once answered in the protest of many commissioners to the General Assembly of 1893 against the suspension of Dr. Briggs, which rejected the Assembly's assertion that "the inerrancy of the original autographs of the Scripture" was "the faith of the Church," and "the imposing of this new interpretation of our Standards upon the Church, to bind men's consciences by enforced subscription to its terms." The liberals were further aroused by the exercises of ecclesiastical authority in 1894 and 1899 against Dr. Henry Preserved Smith of Lane Seminary and Dr. Arthur C. McGiffert of Union Seminary, on the same general ground as the action against Dr. Briggs. In these years many Presbyterian ministers and laymen determined that in the Church there must be freedom of study and thought and speech, so that it could preach the gospel with power in a time of changed conceptions of the Bible and of new light upon it and upon Christian truth from science and history. Evangelicals, they upheld liberty for the gospel's sake.

These same years were the time of the rise of the social gospel. Not all, but many Presbyterian liberals came under its inspiration and gave its message, as it was understood in those early days. They were profoundly persuaded that the gospel commanded a more righteous industrial and economic order and that such an order must needs be to give the gospel free course. These same years saw also the coming with power of the impulse for Christian unity. Many Presbyterians caught the vision that was rising before the Christian world, caring supremely for the one gospel, above denominational particularities.

Thus about 1900 a body of liberals had formed in the Presbyterian Church. Many were younger men, but by no means all. Some of the most convinced and courageous were older. For this body held the old liberal evangelical position, in new conditions. Among the younger men was Henry Sloane Coffin. --Robert Hastings Nichols from "Leader of Liberal Presbyterianism" an essay in "This Ministry: The Contribution of Henry Sloane Coffin," ed. Niebuhr, 1945

"It was the height of the 'jazz age'"

In the wider orbit of the world's life, the hopes which had inspired sacrifice in the "war to end war" were crumbling before resurgent power politics. The League of Nations still struggled to redeem international chaos; but, to those with eyes to see, its doom was already foreshadowed by futility. The course of the United States was wellnigh irretrievably set in recoil from responsibility. Those who cared deeply for social advance had not yet surrendered to the rising despair, but they felt their backs against a wall and confessed to one another their helplessness in the face of reaction and brute force.

In the meantime, in the day-by-day life of men, wealth multiplied, fortunes were made (and lost) almost overnight, sensuality softened the native fibre of youth, a new leadership unschooled in traditions of culture and social trusteeship gloried in irresponsibility, life whirled with ever faster tempo and was at once coddled and demoralized by ever more refined luxuries and amusements. It was the height of the "jazz age."   --Henry P. Van Dusen, on the year 1926, from "Theological Education" an essay in "This Ministry: The Contribution of Henry Sloane Coffin," ed. Niebuhr, 1945

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Francis B. Sayre

from The Washington Post, 26 November 1913:

He went as the personal assistant to Dr. Wilfred T. Grenfell to do hospital work along the coast of Labrador in 1909, and it was in those days when young Sayre joned him in holding services on the rocks for the Labrador fishermen, that an affection and close friendship developed, which was reflected in the selection of Dr. Grenfell as best man at the wedding.

Was Secretary to Peary 

When returning from the Grenfell camp in 1909, Sayre missed his steamer, but found the arctic ship, ROOSEVELT, with Peary aboard, at Battle Harbor, and acting as secretary for the explorer. At another time, in Newfoundland, he tramped 100 miles in ten days with a friend. They could not keep the route planned, and, after much suffering from black flies in the forest underbrush, reached the habitation of a friendly hermit, exhausted from want of food and rest. Sayre’s companion on this expedition was Dr. DeWitt Scoville Clark, jr., of Salem, Mass., one of the ushers at the wedding.

Once the same two traveled 2,300 miles down the Yukon River, in Alaska. And when they got to Nome they wanted to get to Siberia across the Bering Strait. Most folk told them it couldn’t be done, but they set out in a 15-ton schooner, which they happened to pick up, and after a thrilling adventure in a deep fog, hauled up against Asia. Sayre got as far north as 86 degrees.

"The sea tugged at his heart--"

(Gentlemen—I didn’t mean to preach. This was written primarily for my children. I have hoped they would catch some of my enthusiasm that Grenfell gave to me.)

The last time we talked (in Spring of 1940), we both wished that we were young enough to go to the English Channel now. Twenty years ago we went as did our ancestors three hundred years before us. We also reluctantly admitted that our boys are not so eager to go as were we, or their ancestors twelve generations ago. They do not see the treat—to Dover sands and all else besides that we covet dear. We (old fellows) wondered if the stock is running out.

For thirty years he was my hero—and still is. He spoke of life and treated it as “An Adventure.” He could steer his ship by the stars or the sun or by dead reckoning. He used to say that a poor chart was worse than none at all. Many poor charts he revised, and many a storm he has outridden (these things are a parable). He wrecked some boats and bumped the bottom of others, but he built a ship railway to repair his own and those of all others.

The sea tugged at his heart—He’s off on another voyage. That’s what he believed. And I believe it too; he taught me. The first books he ever gave me were on immortality. He used to talk about it—quite naturally, just as he talked of other things. I listened, but I wasn’t entirely interested. But now . . . well, one gets older . . . things gain perspective . . .

"In the Early Days: A Presbyterian Sermon"

Sir Wilfred Grenfell

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

"the octopus of Modernism had gotten its tentacles around every Board and Agency of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A."

"Paving the Way for the Exodus" 
Merril T. MacPherson | Church of the Open Door, Philadelphia, PA | from Voice, April and May 1945

On Easter Day, 1930, I began my pastorate of the Central North Broad Street Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia, PA. Located on Broad Street, just a few blocks north of City Hall, this downtown church had a substantial brown stone building, with Sunday school rooms, offices, etc., on the ground floor, and a large auditorium upstairs. It was not only debt-free, but had an endowment fund of a quarter of a million dollars. Here we proclaimed the Gospel, both in the pulpit and over the radio, and soon had the joy of seeing great crowds, and best of all, souls saved at practically every Sunday evening service. Great monthly meetings of the Philadelphia Fundamentalists were held here, and annual conferences were conducted by the Moody Bible Institute. Before long, the newspapers referred to the Church as the "Citadel of Fundamentalism."

The financial crash of 1929 began to paralyze our Nation, and Philadelphia really felt the "Depression." Bank after bank crashed, many never to open again. Some of you "old-timers" will also remember the beginning of what happened "again and again and again." Booze then began to flow once more in America, but even a deadlier poison had devitalized the visible Church. For years godly men had warned against the encroachment of Modernism. We of the Presbyterian Church knew that it was becoming more powerful and brazen year by year. Through the General Council and the Boards of the Church, Modernism was beginning to dominate the Denomination.

The political power of the Auburn Affirmationists and other Modernists had become evident, and increasingly so since 1925. The Boards of the Church were going modernistic. While the modernism of the Foreign Board was specifically attacked, for reasons which we shall explain, yet all were guilty. Space will not permit me to give the evidence, but a few examples will suffice to show how the octopus of Modernism had gotten its tentacles around every Board and Agency of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.

Blatant Blasphemy

The Board of Christian Education was surely a transgressor. Many had pointed out the growing apostasy evidenced in the Sunday school helps, which stressed the "Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man." In the Twelfth Annual Report of this Board, we read: "The occasional and fleeting moments of insight and power that all of us have known may be transformed into more frequent and enduring periods of illumination and victory. The high achievements of persons like Gandhi and Kagawa in our own age bear eloquent testimony to the ability of modern man to recover the spirit and technique of Jesus of Nazareth and Francis of Assisi." As one said: "This scarcely requires comment. The paralleling of Gandhi, Kagawa and Francis of Assisi with Christ is blatant blasphemy."

A pamphlet published in 1935 revealed that there were twenty-two Auburn Affirmationists connected with the National Board, either as Secretaries, Board Members, or Synodical Executives, among whom were Henry Sloan Coffin and George A. Buttrick, the Modernistic writing and teachings of whom are well known. It was revealed that even the Board of Pensions had a President, Andrew Mutch, and a Board Member, Jesse Halsey, who were Auburn Affirmationists.

But the Board of Foreign Missions became the "storm center" in 1933. Both Pearl Buck and "Re-Thinking Missions" were in the limelight. Because of public sentiment concerning the rank modernism of both, the book was furiously attacked all over our nation, and Mrs. Buck resigned as a Presbyterian Missionary. In the Minutes of the Board of Foreign Missions, we read: "A letter was presented from Mrs. J. Lossing Buck, of the Kiangan Mission, requesting to be released from responsible relationship to the Board. The Board had hoped that this step might be avoided, but in view of all the considerations involved and with deep regret it voted to acquiesce in her request. The Board expressed to Mrs. Buck its sincere appreciation of the service which she has rendered during the past sixteen years and its earnest prayer that her unusual abilities may continue to be richly used in behalf of the people of China."

Independent Board Formed

Dr. J. Gresham Machen then printed a booklet giving documented evidence of the Modernism of the Board of Foreign Missions, in which he dealt with such chapters as "Re-Thinking Missions"; Mrs. J. Lossing Buck; the Auburn Affirmation; Modernistic Propaganda by the Candidate Department, the Secretary of which was an Auburn Affirmationist; Cooperating Agencies; Modernism in China, etc. Great protest rallies were held, in Philadelphia and other places, against the Modernism of the Foreign Board, requesting that the modernists be recalled and the Board purged. The General Assembly of 1933 was overtured in this respect. When the overture was disregarded and the Board "white-washed," announcement was made that an Independent Board would be formed for the purpose of propagating truly Biblical Foreign Missionary work. Shortly thereafter, the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions was incorporated, with Dr. J. Gresham Machen, Pres., Merril T. MacPherson, Vice Pres., H. McAllister Griffiths, Secy., Murray Forst Thompson, Esq., Treas., and a long list of Board Directors. Charles Woodbridge, because of the modernism on the foreign field resigned as a Missionary under the Foreign Board in Africa, and returned to America to become the General Secretary of the Independent Board. We were off to a good start. Fundamentalists were rejoicing in the new Board, both as a testimony for Christ, against the current modernism, and as a channel through which they could give to help support sound missionaries.

Machine "Cracks Down"

We were sure of our Constitutional rights to form such a Board, and little dreamed of the strategy which the "machine crowd" of the Church would use in an attempt to destroy the New Board. But when they saw that money was rolling in for its support, they felt it was time to "crack down." Just before the General Assembly of 1934, Dr. Machen and three other members of the Independent Board were asked to meet with the Administrative Committee of the General Assembly. They were handed a document which contained the following words: "We wish to make known to you that after a most careful study the General Council is of the unanimous opinion that the following inferences may be drawn from this study: 1) That the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions in its organization and operation is contrary to fundamental principles of the Constitution of the Church. 2) That you and your associates in this organization are violating your ordination or membership vows or both." They were informed that a 43-page pamphlet entitled "Studies in the Constitution," was already on the press, and would be placed in the hands of all the Commissioners to the General Assembly. Dr. Machen asked for an advance copy of this document, in order that a reply might be made to it, and also placed in the hands of the Commissioners, but he was informed that this could not be had. It was a stab in the back, for at the strategic moment the pamphlet was mailed so as to reach the Commissioners just before they left their homes for the General Assembly, and before a reply could be sent to them by Dr. Machen and his associates.

Only a person who has made some study of Presbyterian law and polity can fully understand the significance of this circularization, for its purpose was to prejudice minds and incite action, yes, illegal, unconstitutional action, against the members of the Independent Board. How well this was accomplished is now a matter of history--history which makes unscrupulous modernists to gloat and bloat, but still causes fundamentalists who once stood with us in the fight for Christ to blush and hang their heads in shame.

Frederick A. Isham 1895

From: The Adirondack Enterprise Supplement, Vol. I, No. 1, Thursday, February 21, 1895, page 2.

No name is more intimately associated with Saranac Lake than that of Frederick A. Isham, attorney, and present counsel of the village. Mr. Isham came here when the town was in its infancy, and he has been foremost among the energetic ones who pushed forward enterprises for the welfare of the town, assisting greatly in bringing this beautiful mountain village to the place of its present occupancy among the villages and cities of the State.

Frederick A. Isham was born in Plattsburgh, N.Y., on May 22, 1860. He attended schools in that vicinity and, after graduating from Plattsburgh Academy, went to Columbia Law School, New York, from which institution he graduated with the degree of L.L.D. in 1883. He was then in the buoyant flush of youth and, having been admitted to the bar in Jan. 1884, began the practice of his profession in New York. There he became very successful and he had the promise of a still brighter future when ill health compelled him to leave the city in 1889.

Mr. Isham arrived in Saranac Lake in June, 1889. The population was then [. . .t] 200, yet Mr. Isham, believing that the place was destined to grow and flourish, at once invested heavily in real estate and decided to remain here permanently.

Mr. Isham was married in 1885 to Miss Laura Haynes, of Plattsburgh, a daughter of one of the best known men of that town. Three bright children bless the union.

Transcribed from a poor photocopy by Mary Hotaling, 3/31/2010. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Auburn Heresy

Gordon H. Clark

When future historians of the Church evaluate this present age, the publication of the Auburn Affirmation will stand out in importance like Luther's nailing up his ninety-five theses. But it will be important for a different reason.

The reason the Auburn Affirmation is so important is that it constitutes a major offensive against the Word of God. It, or at least its theology, is the root of Presbyterian apostasy.

Officials in the Presbyterian Church in the USA have commonly spread the rumor that there is nothing doctrinal involved in the Auburn Affirmation. This rumor, regardless of its source, is untrue. It is true that the Auburn Affirmation is a cleverly written document with some pious phraseology slightly obscuring its real intent. But once a person has seen exactly what it says, there is no disguising the fact that it is a vicious attack on the Word of God.

The five doctrines involved are the truth of Holy Scripture, the factuality of the virgin birth of Christ, his miracles, his sacrifice on Calvary to satisfy divine justice and reconcile us to God, and his resurrection.

The real purpose of the document is partially obscured because it states that some of the signers believe some of these doctrines. That is true. Some of the signers believe some; but they all deny the inerrancy of the Holy Scriptures. They all hold that the basis of the Westminster Confession is harmful and that the Bible contains error. This attack on the Bible is of fundamental importance because obviously if the Bible be rejected, why should the religion of the Bible be retained? You cannot well impugn the veracity of the Scriptures and then accept the content of the Scriptures.
Because this point is so serious, evidence is not to be omitted. On page five of the Auburn Affirmation you may read these words: "There is no assertion in the Scriptures that their writers were kept 'from error.' The Confession of Faith does not make this assertion.... The doctrine of inerrancy, intended to enhance the authority of the Scriptures, in fact impairs their supreme authority for faith and life, and weakens the testimony of the Church to the power of God unto salvation through Jesus Christ."

Now kindly note this strange fact. The Auburn Affirmation states that to believe the Bible is true impairs its authority and weakens the testimony of the church. Or, in other words, in order for the Bible to be authoritative, it must contain error; and, no doubt, the more erroneous it is, the more authoritative it can be.

But what does the Confession say? In Chapter I, Section 4, you may read: "The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed and obeyed, dependeth ... wholly upon God (who is truth itself) the author thereof; and therefore it is to be received, because it is the Word of God."
Study also Chapter XIV, Section 2. "By this [saving] faith, a Christian believeth to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word, for the authority of God himself speaking therein...."

The Auburn Affirmation says it is wrong and harmful to believe to be true whatsoever is revealed. Thus the signers of the Auburn Affirmation are seen to be antagonistic to the very basis of Christian faith. In denying the truth of the Bible, they repudiate their own Confession, and so have no rightful place in the Presbyterian ministry. Do they perchance reply that they agree with the Confession that the Scriptures are the Word of God, and that they deny only that the Scriptures are inerrant? God forbid that they make that reply. For if they say that they believe the Bible is the Word of God, and at the same time claim that the Bible contains error, it follows, does it not, that they call God a liar, since he has spoken falsely. Either they have openly repudiated the Confession, or else they have called God a liar. In either case they have no rightful place in the Presbyterian ministry.

The Auburn Affirmation is more generous toward the other four points. The virgin birth, the miracles, the resurrection, which orthodox Presbyterians regard as historical facts, the Affirmationists regard as permitted theories.

On page six of the Auburn Affirmation, after referring to the five points emphasized by the General Assembly of 1923, it states:
...this opinion of the General Assembly attempts to commit our Church to certain theories concerning the inspiration of the Bible, and the Incarnation, the Atonement, the Resurrection.... Some of us regard the particular theories contained in the deliverances of the General Assembly of 1923 as satisfactory explanations of these facts and doctrines. But we are united in believing that these are not the only theories allowed by the Scriptures and our standards as explanations of these facts and doctrines of our religion, and that all who hold to these facts and doctrines, whatever theories they may employ to explain them, are worthy of all confidence and fellowship.
Now to be concrete, what "theory" other than the historical fact of the virgin birth, can you think of to explain the incarnation? There is one which the anti-christian Celsus used in his effort to defame Christ. If Christ be not virgin-born, and if, as both Joseph and Mary claim, Joseph was not Jesus' father, whose son is he? Does the Auburn Affirmation really mean that one who accepts this view of our Lord's birth is worthy of all confidence and fellowship? That is exactly what the Auburn Affirmation means. It says definitely that ministers are worthy of confidence "whatever theories they may employ to explain" the incarnation.

Consider next Christ's sacrificial death by which he satisfies divine justice and reconciles us to God. This, too, is declared unessential, and Christians are asked to put confidence in men who deny this doctrine, who so long as they use the word 'atonement' may employ any random theory to explain it. Christ's death, then, may be nothing but an example, and our salvation may depend on our efforts to imitate his good deeds. No longer will salvation be entirely by grace. And we are told that these men are worthy of confidence "whatever theories they may employ to explain" the Atonement.
Is there time also to refer briefly to the resurrection? This too is reduced to a permitted but unessential theory. The signers of the Auburn Affirmation may have in mind some theory of a spiritual resurrection as opposed to the fact that Christ rose from the grave with the same body with which he suffered. The Auburn Affirmationists, on the one hand, may hold to some sort of spiritual resurrection; but on the other hand, Jesus Christ said: "Handle me and see, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye behold me having." Apparently Jesus would not have been eligible to sign the Auburn Affirmation. The signers of the Auburn Affirmation say the bodily resurrection—and that is the only kind of resurrection worth talking about—is unessential. But Paul says: "If Christ hath not been raised, then is our preaching vain, your faith is also vain." You will note that Paul's name does not occur among the signers of the Auburn Affirmation. No, you will not find Paul asking us to put confidence in men "whatever theories they may employ to explain," or better, to explain away the resurrection.

If, now, the Auburn Affirmation had been signed by only two or three persons, it would still be incumbent upon Presbyterians to ask them to repent and recant, or to remove them from the ministry. But if only two or three had signed, there might be little cause for alarm. As a matter of fact, 1300 ministers in the USA church signed this heretical document. And yet this number, large as it is, does not of itself reveal the full significance of the situation. One must see also to what extent this type of theology controls the boards and agencies of the Presbyterian Church in the USA. From time to time there have been prepared lists of Auburn Affirmationists who hold responsible positions in the ecclesiastical machinery. These positions include the moderators of Presbyteries, of Synods, and of the General Assembly; directors of seminaries; at one time 22 members of the Board of National Missions were Affirmationists; and so on through the various important positions in the Presbyterian Church in the USA.

But not even this list of positions indicates the total depravity of that church. Realize also that there are numerous other office-holders who, although they have not signed the Auburn Affirmation, approve its principles, and, far from protesting against it, cheerfully cooperate with its signers in the work of the various boards and agencies. Try to mention any secretary of any board, try to mention any official who has attempted to defend the Word of God against this Auburn attack. None can be named; there are none; they cooperate with the Affirmationists, they approve the same policies, and have thus taken their stand against the Holy Scriptures and against the Confession they vowed to defend.

In addition to these office holders who cooperate with the signers of the heretical Auburn Affirmation, there are the ministers who take their orders from headquarters, who in their Presbyteries regularly vote with this Bible-dishonoring band. They may not have signed the document, but they have voted its principles into effect and have banished the orthodox from their denomination. Try to mention any minister who has made any serious, public attempt to discipline the signers of the heretical Auburn Affirmation. When has anyone in the Presbyterian Church in the USA heard a sermon defending the atonement and the resurrection against this attack? What minister has brought the matter before his presbytery?

Some years ago the modernists used to talk in favor of an inclusive church. The church, they said, was big enough to include all brands of theology. Today, however, they have changed their tune. They now have excommunicated the orthodox. The Affirmationist officials and their supporters decreed that those who remained true to the Word of God, those who objected to the General Assembly's placing its own authority above that of the Bible, those who would not obey an order to support modernism, those who took their ordination vows seriously, had to be expelled from the church.

The most important of these expulsions was that of the late J. Gresham Machen. He had been accused of disobeying a legal order and of telling lies about the Board of Foreign Missions. He was brought to trial. He wanted to defend himself by arguing that the order to support modernism was illegal, and that what he had said about the Board of Foreign Missions was true. It was supposed to be a judicial trial, but his judges absolutely refused him the right to present his defense. On the Permanent Judicial Commission, which made final disposal of his case, half of the ministers had signed the Auburn Affirmation. No wonder the Bible-believing Christians were expelled from the Presbyterian Church in the USA.

This, then, in brief is the situation conservative Christians must meet. Shall the truth of the Bible be upheld, or shall orders to support modernism be made the supreme authority over men's conscience? This is no trivial matter; it is rather a life and death struggle between two mutually exclusive religions. One religion can without harm to its integrity reject the infallible Word of God, deny the virgin birth, repudiate Christ's propitiatory sacrifice, and deny the resurrection. That religion will remain complete even if all these things are eliminated; but that religion is not Christianity.

The other religion is Christianity because it accepts the Bible as the very Word of God, who cannot lie, because it makes Christ's sacrifice to satisfy divine justice the only basis of salvation, and because it glories in the historical fact of the resurrection.

Dr. Clark was an elder in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, formerly an elder in the Presbyterian Church in the USA. This was a revision of an address delivered February 28, 1935 at a mass meeting of Presbyterian Laymen of Philadelphia and vicinity, and later published in tract form by the Committee on Christian Education.

"Why I Am a Conservative"

By the Rev. Frederick N. McMillin, D. D.,
Minister, First Presbyterian Church on Walnut Hills, Cincinnati, Ohio

For almost thirty-four years I have been an
ordained minister of the Presbyterian
Church in two city pastorates. For more
than twenty-one years I have been the
pastor of the First Presbyterian Church
on Walnut Hills in the City of Cincinnati.
Had I been a so-called modernist
or liberal minister I would have gone
from my present pastorate long ago:
During these twenty-one years I have
seen four ministers come and go in a
church in this city which boasts itself of
its so-called liberalism. This is not a
pastorate in such a church, this is a procession.
The pitiful weakness of the
Universalist and the Unitarian Churches
is due to a very large degree to their so-
called liberalism. I have often wondered
why some of the ministers of our Evangelical
churches do not grasp the significance
of this fact. If you desire to read
the record of the sad influence of a so-
called liberalism upon an ecclesiastical
institution read the history of Andover
Theological Seminary.

I am a conservative because it be-
comes increasingly evident that a so-called
liberalism is a sinister menace to
what is best, most precious and most
necessary in the lives of men, in the life
of our beloved country, in the life of our
respective communities and in the life
of the church of Christ. Conservatism
gave way to liberalism in financial
circles and the stock market crashed,
bringing sorrow, loss, despair and hopelessness
to many.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Open Prayer

Journal of Bible and Religion, Vol. 20, No. 2 (Apr., 1952), p. 144

Open Prayer. Compiled by JESSE HALSEY. Nashville
2, Tenn.: Abingdon-CokesburyP ress, 1951. $7.50.

This is a unique and useful aid to worship leadership.
It has been prepared, apparently, by a clergyman
for use in his own conduct of worship services,
but it contains a wide variety of material that can
be used effectively in churches, at religious conferences,
or anywhere else that inspiring materials
for devotional leadership are needed. The "kit" consists
of three kinds of material: a loose-leaf file for
worship material, the worship material itself, printed
on separate sheets of sturdy paper, and an imitation
leather folder into which the particular sheets of
printed aids may be placed for inconspicuous use in
the pulpit or on a table. The aids include calls to
worship, invocations, prayers of confession, assurances
assurances and prayers for pardon, affirmations of faith,
prayers of thanksgiving, collects and short prayers,
prayers of petition and intercession, pastoral prayers,
offertory prayers, prayers before and after
the sermon, benedictions, and prayers for dedications.
Authorship of aids to worship ranges from
Alcuyn to Thomas Wilson, exclusive of the Bible and
other book sources.


D. G. Hart and John R. Muether

Progressive Presbyterians were not content with the revisions to the Westminster Confession that 
were approved in 1903. There was more work to be done to bring the Presbyterian Church into
greater harmony with the modern world. The center of the progressive movement was in the
Presbytery of New York, which pressed the liberal agenda on three fronts. First, on May 21, 1922,
Harry Emerson Fosdick, the Baptist supply pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in the City of New
York, rallied liberals with his famous sermon, "Shall the Fundamentalists Win?" Although the sermon
wasa plea for tolerance, most Presbyterians, liberal and conservative, would have answered the
title's rhetorical question in the affirmative, because it appeared that the conservatives were strong
enough to force the liberals out of the church. 

A year later, the Presbytery took the provocative step of ordaining two graduates of Union Seminary 
who could not affirm the virgin birth of Christ.

Finally, the Presbytery convened a gathering in Auburn, New York, in December 1923. It produced
"An Affirmation designed to safeguard the unity and liberty of the Presbyterian Church in the United
States of America." The Auburn Affirmation questioned the constitutionality of General Assembly
deliverances that proclaimed certain doctrines as necessary and essential beliefs for
Presbyterian ministers, and it went on to describe those doctrines (the inerrancy of Scripture, 
the virgin birth of Christ, the vicarious atonement, Jesus' resurrection, and his miracles) merely 
as theories about the Bible's message. Within a year, the Auburn Affirmation 
secured the signatures of 1,300 Presbyterianministers.

Conservatives fought back in the General Assembly of 1924, when they narrowly elected a
conservative moderator, Clarence Macartney, and managed to secure the dismissal of Fosdick from
the First Presbyterian pulpit. The Assembly failed to take action against the Auburn Affirmationists,
however, as many conservatives believed that they lacked sufficient votes to win that battle.
Instead, a showdown took place a year later at the General Assembly of 1925, meeting in Columbus,
Ohio. Many commissioners were convinced of the creedal infidelity of the Presbytery of New York.
Henry Sloane Coffin, however, was prepared to defend the Presbytery. He preached the preceding
Sunday at the First Congregational Church of Columbus, the former pulpit of social gospeler
Washington Gladden. In his sermon, "What Liberal Presbyterians Are Standing For," he put forth his
case: "We question whether we have any right to call ourselves a Christian Church, if we exclude
from its ministry any whom Christ manifestly does not exclude from the gift of His Holy Spirit."
The Assembly elected Charles Erdman of Princeton Seminary as its moderator. Although Erdman's
theology was evangelical, J. Gresham Machen considered him to be the candidate of modernists and
indifferentists. Upon his election, Erdman quickly proved Machen right. He held a two-hour private
meeting with Coffin, listening to his plan to lead the Presbytery of New York and its sympathizers out
of the Assembly, should the Judicial Commission rule unfavorably.

Desperately seeking to avoid a walkout, Erdman agreed to permit Coffin to read a protest if the
Judicial Commission ruled against the Presbytery. The Commission did, in fact, 
determine that the Presbytery had acted improperly in ordaining men who could not affirm 
the virgin birth of Christ, which was "the established law" of the Church. 
Conservatives seemed to be on the brink of victory, and liberals prepared to leave.

Then Coffin approached the platform of the assembly, as his biographer describes:
He was pale and showed the effects of the strained and sleepless nights during which he had
been in conference seeking to avert this action. In a firm voice he read a prepared statement
on behalf of the Commissioners of the Presbytery of New York protesting the decision as
contrary to the constitution of the church and declaring the purpose of the New York
Presbytery to maintain its constitutional rights in licensure.

But Coffin's threatened exodus did not take place, because of a bold and desperate move by
Erdman. Yielding the chair to the vice moderator, Erdman proposed from the floor that the Assembly
establish a special commission "to study the present spiritual condition of our Church and the causes
making for unrest, and to report to the next General Assembly, to the end that the purity, peace,
unity and progress of the Church may be assured."

Erdman's stroke of parliamentary genius was unanimously approved. Later that night he met with
liberal commissioners and urged them not to leave the church until the Special Commission reported
to the next assembly. Erdman then appointed fifteen committee members, mostly "respected
loyalists." The most well known and influential member of the committee was his close friend, Robert
E. Speer, secretary of the Board of Foreign Missions, who would later clash with Machen over the
latter's claim of modernism on the Board.

In the ensuing year, the Special Commission met four times. Machen argued before the Commission
that the cause of the unrest in the church was "reducible to the one great underlying cause," which
was the presence of modernism in it. Coffin countered that the differences were due to
"misapprehension." Fighting this battle would "plunge the church into calamitous litigation and
hinder us from doing our work and building the kingdom of God." "It is ruinous," he continued, "to
divide existing forces. We ought to work harmoniously together and emphasize those things in which
we agree."

In the unanimous report that the Commission presented to the 1926 Assembly, it agreed with Coffin
that there was "evangelical unity" in the church. American Presbyterianism stood for toleration and
progress, shaped by "two controlling factors":

One is, that the Presbyterian system admits to diversity of view where the core of truth is identical.
Another is, the church has flourished best and showed most clearly the good hand of God upon it,
when it laid aside its tendencies to stress these differences, and put the emphasis on the spirit
of unity.

Coffin could not have authored a more agreeable conclusion. "It seems to be everyone's wish to
keep the peace," he wrote.

When the Commission presented its report, Clarence Macartney, two years removed as the
Assembly moderator, moved to excise certain sections and to dismiss the Commission. His older
brother, Albert J. McCartney, rose in rebuttal with withering words of ridicule: "Clarence is all right,
friends. The only trouble is he isn't married. If that old bachelor would marry, he would have 
less time to worry over other people's theology.... I know that if mother could come back, there would be
room for him and for me to say our prayers in the same words on her knee at that old home of ours
in western Pennsylvania. I believe there is room for him and for you and me, to say our prayers in
identical language in the Presbyterian Church."

The younger Macartney's motion was denied, and in 1927 the General Assembly approved the final
report of the Commission with only one dissenting vote. The effect was to grant freedom to the
Presbytery of New York to reject the virgin birth of Christ as an essential tenet of the church, and to
vindicate the signers of the Auburn Affirmation.

The report underscored that Presbyterian unity required the end of "all slander and misrepresentation" 
within the church. The focus of attention, then, fell on one particular source of recent unrest: 
the factions within the faculty of Princeton Seminary. The school's reorganization in
1929 brought two signers of the Auburn Affirmation onto its new, thirty-member Board. Convinced
that this would lead the school into a decline into theological liberalism, Machen left Princeton and
formed Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia.

The General Assembly of 1925 marked the decline of conservative strength in the Presbyterian
Church; no subsequent assembly elected a conservative moderator. It also raised Henry Sloane
Coffin's visibility in the church. Together with Erdman, he forestalled the liberal exodus that most
observers regarded as inevitable. According to Time magazine, Coffin went to the General Assembly
"as he had gone before, one of the many commissioners from the Presbytery of New York. He
returned the acknowledged leader of the liberal elements of his church."

Nearly two decades later, in 1943, the General Assembly would elect Coffin as moderator, a symbolic
vote in two respects. First, it confirmed Coffin's role in the church he nearly walked out of in 1925.
Second, since he was president of Union Seminary at the time, the vote represented a healing of the
breach between the Presbyterian Church and the Seminary in the liberal Presbytery of New York,
and a vindication of Charles A. Briggs, fifty years after his heresy trial.

Dr. Hart is the director of fellowship programs and scholar in residence at the Intercollegiate Studies
Institute in Wilmington, Del.; Mr. Muether is the librarian at Reformed Theological Seminary in
Orlando, Fla., and the historian of the OPC; both are OP ruling elders and members of the
Committee on Christian Education. Reprinted from New Horizons, October 2005