Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Charles Wishart and William Jennings Bryan

The Philadelphia Overture addressing Fosdick came to the 1923 General Assembly meeting in Indianapolis. The two leading contenders for the office of moderator at this Assembly were Charles Wishart, president of the College of Wooster in Ohio, and William Jennings Bryan, three-time presidential contender, Presbyterian elder, and crusader against the theory of biological evolution. Bryan was convinced that the theory of biological evolution not only undercut biblical authority and Christian doctrine, but also cut the nerve of moral reform and destroyed the foundation of Christian civilization. His entry into the moderatorial race brought the issue of biological evolution front and center on the Presbyterian agenda. Moreover, inasmuch as the College of Wooster taught biological evolution in its curriculum, the issue provided a clear choice for the Assembly.33 In the words of one reporter for the New York Times, the Presbyterian Church was "being divided into evolutionists and anti-evolutionists."34

Though Bryan was considered the clear frontrunner early on, he lost the election by a narrow margin, signaling the church's unease with Bryan's strident opposition to evolutionary thought. Indeed, the Assembly later defeated a hotly contested motion to oppose the teaching of biological evolution in Presbyterian schools and adopted a much milder resolution that instructed church judicatories to "withhold their official approval from such academies, colleges, and training schools where any teaching or instruction is given which seeks to establish a materialistic evolutionary philosophy of life or which disregards or attempts to discredit the Christian faith."35 Most Presbyterians, even many theologically conservative Presbyterians like Machen, were willing to accept biological evolution to some degree.

The Committee on Bills and Overtures, which handled the Fosdick controversy, recommended no action pending the results of the investigation of the New York Presbytery. But militant conservatives were in no mood to leave Fosdick's fate in the hands of the liberal New York Presbytery. After long and acrimonious debate, the Assembly reaffirmed the five fundamentals of the faith first declared in 1910 and instructed the Presbytery of New York to bring the preaching of First Presbyterian Church, New York, into conformity with the Westminster Confession.36

Hard upon this decision, however, liberals mobilized a public counteroffensive to this conservative victory. Henry Sloane Coffin, for example, a prominent liberal and pastor of Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York, issued a statement claiming that he agreed completely with Fosdick and if Fosdick were disciplined he should be also.37 Liberals like Coffin were convinced that if Christianity was going to appeal to thinking men and women and transform the world into God's Kingdom then it had to present a united front based on doctrinal liberty. As proponents of the Social Gospel, liberals believed that true evangelism had to bring all of life -- industry, education, and government -- under the gospel in order to "make the world the kingdom of God."38 The liberal battle against fundamentalism was, therefore, not simply a fight for the tolerance of liberal theology but also a crusade to advance the Kingdom of God on earth.39

--"For Church and Country: The Fundamentalist-Modernist Conflict in the Presbyterian Church" by Bradley J. Longfield

"The Auburn Heresy"

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.

--Gordon H. Clark, an elder in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, formerly an elder in the Presbyterian Church in the USA, from an address delivered February 28, 1935 at a mass meeting of Presbyterian Laymen of Philadelphia and vicinity

The Auburn Affirmation of 1924

The Auburn Affirmation of 1924
A significant document in the history of American Presbyterianism was the "Auburn Affirmation of 1924," a document drafted and signed by many of the professors and clergy in Auburn, NY who were affiliated with the Auburn Theological Seminary which was located in Auburn at that time.

The Auburn Affirmation was written largely by Robert Hastings Nichols, who was a professor of church history at Auburn Theological Seminary, with the assistance of Henry Sloan Coffin of Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City.

The document was a reaction to a decision reached at the 1923 General Assembly, which required the Presbytery of New York to administer a doctrinal examination of Harry Emerson Fosdick, the preacher at First Presbyterian Church, who had openly expressed doubts about the five tenets of the faith espoused by fundamentalists within the denomination, and approved by its General Assembly, in a now-famous sermon titled: "Shall the Fundamentalists Win?"

The tenets were:
    The inerrancy of scripture
    The virgin birth of Jesus 
     The substitutionary theory of the atonement 
     The bodily or physical resurrection of Christ 
     The performance of miracles by Christ.

If Fosdick failed the exam, the presbytery was to sever the ties between Fosdick and First Church.
It was then that the drafters of the Auburn Affirmation met in Syracuse, arguing that deliverances of the General Assembly are not binding because they are not part of the constitution or the confession of faith.

Referring to the Five Fundamentals listed above as "particular theories", the Affirmation's argument is succinctly summarized in two sentences: "Some of us regard the particular theories contained in the deliverance 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."

The presbytery exonerated Fosdick and voted to license two other pastors who had refused to affirm the virgin birth; and the subsequent Assembly refused to discipline the signers of the Affirmation or to impose the "five fundamentals" on all church employees. It also told the presbytery that Fosdick could remain in his position at First Church.

Within two years, the fundamentalists' position was defeated, and within five years, the Assembly agreed that the unity of the Presbyterian Church is based not in uniformity, but in "the power of its faith to hold together diverse views and beliefs." The Auburn Affirmation was the culmination of the Fundamentalist-Modernist Controversy, which by 1924 had been a conflict of more than thirty years within the Presbyterian Church (USA). It is generally regarded as signalling a turning point in the history of American Presbyterianism, because it garnered the support of both theological traditionalists and liberals.

The Auburn Affirmation has come back in the limelight in recent years as an instructive tool for dealing with the theological and political rifts in the denomination over potentially divisive issues like ordination standards. The Auburn Affirmation of 1924 was significant in that it stressed unity through diversity, and allowed for varying ways of understanding and expressing essential doctrines of faith.

[The final pages, 6 - 13, of the document present a list of 150 signators to the Affirmation. In the second printing as produced by the Jacobs Press of Auburn, NY on May 5, 1924, the final listing of 1293 names was issued. No further names were added in any subsequent printings of the document.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

"Liturgical Source Book"

By Jesse Halsey
McCormick Speaking | c1950

The Bible is our greatest liturgical source book. “I will go unto the altar of God,” thus begins the Roman Mass, and there follow twenty or more quotations from the Psalms alone. Certainly Protestant non-liturgical worship ought to rely heavily on the Bible.

Many contemporary efforts to “adorn” the service fall miserably short because of inadequate musical facilities, but the use of Holy Scripture for the enrichment of worship never fails to accomplish its purpose. Invitations to worship, introductions to hymns, calls to prayer, use of passages in prayers, responsive readings, versicles, litanies, and benedictions—each and all in Scriptural language—help to lead the worshiper into the presence of God.

Such uses of Holy Scripture help to elevate the language of the petitioner. Phrases from ancient litanies, by sheer contrast, will expose the thinness of thought and relative crudity of expression in the language of the average minister, but the introduction of Holy Scripture never humiliate but rather tends to ennoble the verbiage and to redeem the angularities in the speech of the petitioner. Biblical language, with its main reliance upon strong verbs and nouns, will help to clip the wings of fancy and eliminate extravagant adjectives. Anyone who will live with the glorious language of the King James version for a month, reading aloud, devotionally, and appropriating the great phrases, will unconsciously be developing more meaningful and more beautiful forms of expression for himself.

The leader in public worship seeks, both for himself and for those who follow, to make the soul conscious of God. Words are his instrument, and a carefully chosen phrase of Holy Scripture that expresses some attribute of the Eternal, brought into the opening sentences of a petition, creates an impression, an idea, a thought-channel by which the Eternal God is in some definite way made available to human thought. “In whose hand our breath is and whose are all our ways,” immediately suggests the dependence of the creature upon the Creator. In a short phrase, it glorifies God, and at the same time, expresses a requisite humility on the part of the worshiper.

Relative phrases, linking one definite attribute in the character of the all-sufficient God and Father to a specific human need, tend to keep the thought from wandering and make the petition definite. Each succeeding portion of the pastoral prayer—adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication—may well be introduced by such a relative phrase.

The introduction of a hymn of praise might appropriately take some such form as the following: “O come, let us sing unto the Lord: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation.” (Ps. 95)

Instead of always saying, “Let us pray” (much better in the simple form than its uncertain variations), why not preface prayer with a word of Scripture: e.g., “they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; . . . they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31); or, “Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, ‘Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest’”; or, “The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in Truth” (Ps. 145:18); or, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Matt. 7:7). Then add, “Let us pray,” or, “Let us lift up our hearts with our voices unto God.”

The Versicle is a short responsive prayer. It is the most obvious way to give the people some part in the worship. It can be used effectively as a responsive call to prayer. For example:

V. “Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Ps. 124:8).
R. “Underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deut. 33:27).
V. “Create in me a clean heart, O God.”
R. “And renew a right spirit within me” (Ps. 51:10).

Responsive Readings, now generally included in all hymn books, give the whole congregation an opportunity to participate. Those who cannot sing, thus have an opportunity to take a vocal part in the worship.

Litanies of varying length with Scriptural responses such as “For his mercy endureth forever” (Ps. 136), or, “Bless the Lord, O my soul” (Ps. 103:1), or, “Lord, have mercy upon us” (Luke 17:13), (the response fitting the context), are cumulatively rewarding in deepening congregational participation and devotional expression.

No “man-made” exhortation can equal a Scriptural “cento” for emphasizing the obligations of stewardship and for introducing the Offertory: e.g. “Neither will I offer unto the Lord my God of that which cost me nothing . . .”; “Owe no man anything, but to love one another” (II Sam. 24:24, Rom. 13:8); or, “Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift”; “Freely ye have received, freely give” (II Cor. 9:15, Matt. 10:8).

The note of adoration should always be sounded early in the service. The Scriptures furnish an abundance of material such as: Thou, Lord, “of old hast laid the foundation of the earth: and the heavens are the work of thy hands . . .”; and “Thou art the same and thy years shall have no end” (Ps. 102: 25-27); “Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power . . .” (Rev. 5:13); “Great and marvelous are thy works, Lord God Almighty . . .” (Rev. 15:3). Numerous other passages suggest themselves: I Tim. 1:17; II Thess. 2-16; Eph. 3:20; Rom. 9:33-36. For thanksgiving in Scriptural form there is an abundance of material not only in Psalms like the 103rd, but in New Testament passages such as II Tim. 1:9-10; Col. 2:14-15; Eph. 2:14-21; Col. 1:12-13; Eph. 1:3-12.

Minor editing, such as changing pronouns to the plural, will make available numerous prayers such as those found in Eph. 1 and 3, Phil 1, Gal. 3, etc. What could be more effective than the confession of national sins in the words of Daniel 9:4-6, 17-19, or of Nehemiah 1!

Scripture lessons should be chosen, not only to emphasize the points of the sermon, but also to introduce the congregation to the broad compass of Holy Writ. Each service of any length should have an Old Testament lesson, as well as one from the New Testament, also some portion of the Psalms. This will require selection and study, and every leader of worship should begin to perfect his own Lectionary, wherein he records appropriate combinations of Scripture under special headings. For example, A Goodly Heritage, Ps. 16; Gen. 28: 10-19; Eph. 3; Fearlessness, Ps 27; Esther 4:10; 5:4; Acts 4:1-13; True Worship, Ps. 42; I Kings 20: 9-12; John 4: 15-26; God’s Presence, Ps 139; Rom. 8:35-39; God Over All, Isa. 40: 12-31; Acts 17:22-31.

Ascriptions, benedictions, and doxologies are numerous in the New Testament and should be introduced to break the monotony of the staid few that are constantly used. The exact use of the Scriptural wording is far superior to the profuse clerical improvisations so often heard! An ascription is an appropriate and impressive and reverential ending for the sermon: “Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory for ever and ever” (I Tim. 1:17); or, “now unto him that is able to keep you from falling . . .” (Jude 24, 25). Benedictions such as the following are suggested: “Grace be unto you and peace from him which is, and which was, and which is to come . . .” (Rev. 1: 4ff); or, “Now our Lord Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work” (II Thess. 2:16-17); or, “The Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patient waiting for Christ” (II Thess. 3:5); or, “Now the Lord of peace himself give you peace always by all means. The Lord be with you all” (II Thess. 3:16).

Searching the Scriptures in this manner, one develops increasingly a facility of expression and a devotional appreciation that elevates one’s own language and makes it more definite. A loose-leaf notebook should be kept, and as one reads the Bible for devotional or homiletical purposes, the verses that have liturgical value should be noted (and then used). There is nothing that one would like to say to God or about God, or concerning the deep things of the Spirit, that is not said better somewhere in the Old Book.

To “read, learn, mark, and inwardly digest” the great passages of Holy Writ is the most rewarding exercise for liturgical and devotional purposes in which the minister ever engages.

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