This Day in Presbyterian History:
A Voice from the Past on a Present Issue
The Psalmist David in Psalm 11:3 asks the haunting question, “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” That is the same question many evangelical Presbyterians are asking in the light of the Presbyterian Church, USA, having opened the door to gay and lesbian ministers last year. Yet if the truth be told, this sad decision was the natural outcome of an attack upon the authority of the Word of God some 88 years ago, when the infamous Auburn Affirmation was signed, sealed, and delivered to the Northern Presbyterian Church. A past devotional on January 9 spoke of it. We refer to it again, because on this date, February 28, 1935, Dr. Gordon H. Clark addresses a group of Presbyterian laymen in Philadelphia on the significance of the Auburn Affirmation. Remember, he was writing a mere eleven years after its presence in the church. Note the following words of Dr. Clark on it.
“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. The five doctrines involved are the truth of Holy Scripture, the factuality of the Virgin Birth, His miracles, His sacrifice on Calvary to satisfy divine justice and reconcile us to Christ, and His resurrection.”
Dr. Clark would deal with each of these five doctrines one by one, pointing out how some 1250 signers of the Affirmation [over 10% of the ministers in the denomination at that time!] went on to use familiar language with respect to them, but denying their importance in historic Christianity. They were, in their words, just theories, and denials of them were acceptable to them and should be acceptable by the church at large.
Gordon Clark set the matter to the laymen long ago by stating “This is not a 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.”
The entire article can be found at the PCA Historical Center, to which we recommend the reader to reference. But what can the righteous do, when the very foundation of historic Christianity is being destroyed? Our Presbyterian fathers fought that destruction from 1923 to 1936 to reclaim the church from the inside. Failing that, they voted with their feet and sought to form a more perfect union with a separate Bible-believing, gospel-preaching denomination.
Also on this date:
In 1638, Scottish Presbyterians signed the National Covenant on the grounds of Greyfriars Church in Edinburgh.
Words to Live By: There is always a call for the righteous to uphold the foundation of biblical Christianity. Are you among the righteous heeding that call?
Through the Scriptures: Deuteronomy 1 – 2
Through the Standards: Punishment of sin here and hereafter.
“What are the punishments of sin in this world?
A. The punishments of sin in this world are either inward, as blindness of mind, a reprobate sense, strong delusions, hardness of heart, horror of conscience, and vile affections; or outward, as the curse of God upon the creatures for our sakes, and all other evils that befall us in our bodies, names, estates, relations, and employments; together with death itself.”
“What are the punishments of sin in the world to come?
A. The punishments of sin in the world to come, are everlasting separation from the comfortable presence of God, and most grievous torments in soul and body, without intermission, in hell-fire for ever.”
Additional responses to the Auburn Affirmation :
- 1924 – J. Gresham Machen, “The Virgin Birth“
- 1925 – David S. Kennedy, “Liberty Within Evangelical Bounds”
- 1925 – J. Gresham Machen, “Shall the General Assembly Represent the Church?”
- 1925 – David S. Kennedy, “An Inclusive Christian Church”
- 1932 – H. McAllister Griffiths, “The Heretical ‘Auburn Affirmation’: A Menace to the True Peace and Purity of the Presbyterian Church.”
- 1935 – Gordon H. Clark, “The Auburn Heresy“
- 1942 – Daniel S. Gage, “The Auburn Affirmation“
- 1944 – Wm. Childs Robinson, “The Effect of the Auburn Affirmation“
- 1944 – Rev. Willis Thompson, ” ‘Timely Topics’ and the Auburn Affirmationists”
- 1944 – Daniel S. Gage, “Dr. Lingle and the Auburn Affirmation”
- 1946 – Wm. Childs Robinson, “The Liberal Attack Upon the Supernatural Christ“
1. Dr. Clark’s message, “The Auburn Heresy,” was originally delivered on 28 February 1935 before a meeting of Presbyterian laymen in Philadelphia. It was subsequently then published in Christianity Today [original series], 5.11 (April 1935): 259-261. Pictured above is the cover of a tract form of the address issued by The Southern Presbyterian Journal which itself went through at least three printings.
2. Photograph of Dr. Clark from the back cover of his work, Lord God of Truth. The Trinity Foundation, Hobbes NM, 1994.
Remembering Our Fathers and Brothers:
The Rev. Alan David Mohrenweiser died on this day in 1970, at the age of 37 years. A graduate of Covenant Theological Seminary, he was ordained in 1958. Though he suffered severely from arthritis, his love of the Lord and His people led him to pastor the Bible Presbyterian Church in Cambridge, Iowa for three years, until that affliction forced him to step down from that pulpit. Dr. Robert Rayburn delivered the sermon at Rev. Mohrenweiser’s funeral.