You can’t tell the players without a scorecard. And you can’t really make sense of Presbyterian history if you don’t know something of the various people who played out this grand story.
So Ad fontes! (To the sources!) — There is probably no better way to assess the character and mentality of an era or a group of people than to read what they themselves have actually written. Don’t be satisfied with reading secondary sources! And in the case of Christians, churches, and denominations, read or listen to their sermons, their discourses, and their theology.
The following address, delivered in 1941 by Dr. Carl McIntire on the occasion of the dedication of a new property and home for Faith Theological Seminary, at the beginning of the school’s fourth academic year. The Seminary was later to move to yet another location, the old historical Widener estate. While eventually the school fell on hard times and had to leave the Widener property, it has managed to continue on unto this day.
Dr. McIntire was always a “scrapper,” ready for a fight and unafraid of any opposition. Clearly he had his faults, some of them glaring, but he was a most remarkable and interesting character in this story that was conservative Presbyterianism in the twentieth century. The address that follows provides us with some rich insights into American Presbyterian history, into the mentality of theological conservatives, and in particular, some better insight into just who Carl McIntire was.
ADDRESS AT THE DEDICATION OF THE PROPERTY GIVEN TO FAITH THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY
1303 Delaware Avenue, Wilmington, Delaware
September 23, 1941.
by the REV. CARL MCINTIRE
President of the Board of Directors.
Text: “Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men.” (1 Cor. 7:23)
Faith Theological Seminary is not just “another seminary.” It stands as a pivotal citadel against a decaying Protestantism. It is not a small stream off a great river, but it moves in the very center of the current of the Christian faith.
The founding of this institution in 1937 was occasioned by the apostasy in the visible church, particularly the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., and the need for ministers and missionaries would would stand without compromise for the faith once delivered unto the saints. It is not “another seminary” because of its cause. It is not “another seminary” because of its scholarship. It is not “another seminary” because of its consecration.
EARLY SCHOOLS OF THEOLOGY
The same motive that led to the establishment of the early schools of theology, such as Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, which was the need of a trained and sound ministry, was behind the establishment of this institution. The roots of this institution go back to the previous century and can be traced clearly in the rise of what is popularly called Modernism, the infiltration of the conclusions of destructive higher criticism into the theological seminaries, the colleges, and then down into the churches.
Harvard turned aside to another gospel, and the valiants of the faith broke from Harvard and established Andover Theological Seminary, but in time the termites of unbelief left only an outward shell at Andover, and it was joined again to Harvard. Satan focuses his strongest attacks on sound seminaries. Union Theological Seminary, New York City, at the close of the last century, was in the death throes of the same struggle. Men had crept in unawares, even denying the Lord who bought them. Their craft, their wiles gave them that institution, and it has since been a leading spokesman for a naturalizing and humanizing message. The last of these great institutions to fall was Princeton Theological Seminary, and it is in the succession to the stalwart, unyielding Princeton that Faith Seminary stands. But the softening and deadening effect that the infiltration of Modernism has had on Christianity in America had so affected the life of the church that when men objected to the presence of Modernism and cried out against it they could do nothing more than pass resolutions affirming their faith, when what the hour required was the discipline and rejection of those who denied. This was the hour of real defeat, and the fifth column’s victory. The struggle in the Presbyterian Church over the historic Auburn Affirmation was a weak, flimsy struggle compared to what that occasion required,, but the spirit and temper of the church easily explained the result. America in its dismal despair and desperate need can never be saved by that kind of leadership.
THE PRINCETON SEMINARY BATTLE
It was into this mist, with a deepening fog, that the storm broke over Princeton. God raised up several brilliant leaders, among them Dr. J. Gresham Machen and Dr. Robert Dick Wilson. They cried against Modernism, inclusivism, and indifference. Their cry was protected by a Board of Directors who stood with them. Though the great Northern Presbyterian Church, to which they belonged, straggled in response to their cry, the leadership of that body, under the spell of the voices of inclusivism, found that they could only silence the Princeton testimony by a reorganization. This was done in 1929. Princeton was made subservient to the inclusive trend of the church. Men were placed on the board of control who had said it was not necessary for preachers to believe in the essentials of the evangelical faith, such as the virgin birth, the blood of Christ, the miracles of our Lord, and His bodily resurrection, and they denied the inerrancy of the Bible.
THE LOSS OF PRINCETON
The change in Princeton since 1929 has been obvious to all. It ceased to be a militant contender for the faith; peace and quiet has been the order of the day. The hatchet between Union and Princeton has been publicly buried, and a recent General Assembly delighted in the union in fellowship and purpose of their presidents. Barthianism, with its relativism and subtle denial of the unique authority of the Scriptures as an objective deposit of truth, fills the halls where formerly the voices of the Alexanders, the Hodges, and the Warfields blazed forth in defense of the faith. Inclusivism is victorious.
But at the reorganization in 1929 those who were of the spirit of Athanasius and Augustine, Luther and Calvin, walked out. They could be no party to the capitulation. Fifth columnists had captured Union in New York and Harvard, but it took a siege by politicians of the church to win Princeton.
Princeton was the last of the old-line seminaries to go down, and the hopes of men turned toward Westminster Theological Seminary which was then organized in Philadelphia. There, under the leadership of Dr. Machen, the battle in the church continued. The same issues, loyalty to the Word of God, were raised by the publication of the pagan “Rethinking Missions” and its blanket endorsement by Pearl Buck, Presbyterian missionary. This opened the whole question of Modernism in the Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A. and its loyalty to the Word of God and the constitution of the church. The Presbyterian Assembly refused to reform the Board, or to order an investigation. Thus, in 1933. the famous Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions was organized to receive the gifts of God’s people for the sending forth of missionaries, true and sound, and the lifting up of an uncompromising testimony to the Word of God. In 1936, our own Dr. Harold S. Laird succeeded Dr. Machen in the presidency of this historic and missionary testimony.
But the fagots of ecclesiastical persecution were lighted in the Presbyterian Church. Machen and those associated with him on the Independent Board were tied to the stake, branded rebels, “cancers in the life of the church,” and because they would not bow their conscience to a mandate of the Assembly to disband their independent agency and support the compromising Board they were read out of the church, unfrocked, deposed. Some of us standing here have read the church fiats against our souls, telling us that we are no longer worthy to preach the Gospel, and forbidding us to partake of the Communion of Jesus Christ. But we have also read the Word of God telling us of God’s favor in obeying Him and standing for the precious blood of His Son. The Modernists, the inclusivists, the indifferentists, and some trembling, silent “Fundamentalists” joined in thus restoring the “peace,” not by purifying the church, but by disrupting it, and making it secure for the Modernists.
A new church was started and the movement had wide appeal. In the midst of the battle the emphasis of the defenders had been upon the Bible as the Word of God—the faith. But it is one thing to stand against apostasy, and it is another thing to build a church. Church history is replete with this lesson. Dr. Machen’s work was done. God called him Home at this crucial point. Had he lived, perhaps the turn of events would have been different. However, it is clear that God in His providence did not want them to be different.
THE FALL OF WESTMINSTER
There were elements smoldering in the movement closely associated with Dr. Machen which were not in accord with the historic position of American Protestantism and particularly of the historic Presbyterian Church in regard to the Christian’s position on certain vital matters of conduct. After Dr. Machen was removed there came to the fore an element in Westminster Seminary which told the students that they were not loyal to Christ if they did not substitute for the ordinary grape juice of the Communion cup fermented, intoxicating wine. Certain professors declared that they used intoxicating beverages, not, of course, to become intoxicated, but for their own pleasure. Under this influence certain students held drinking parties, and some even went so far as to become intoxicated. As this situation became known, the leaders of Westminster Seminary took refuge in the doctrines of Christian liberty. As to the validity and reality of those doctrines none in the movement disputed them, but there was question as to the expedient use of such liberty, particularly in our mechanized, high-tempered, present-day American life. In such an atmosphere the Seminary leaders practically forgot the old issue of Modernism and apostasy, and the young students were filled with the arguments for liberty. They went out as flaming apostles for liberty in the use of intoxicating drinks. Expedience, as taught in the Bible, was buried.
In a near-by community where there was a referendum being held against the saloon, one of the students arose and preached on Sunday morning a sermon in which he explained to the people their liberty in the use of intoxicating beverages. Church members broke down crying, some left never to darken the church door again.
THE CHRISTIAN LIFE
In the midst of such a situation, in love these brethren were approached and talked with, and urged to change their conduct as a matter of expediency, to consider the weaker brother, and to use not their liberty for an occasion of offense. They refused. These matters were raised in the new church, and to the amazement of so many, when a simple resolution by way of counsel and advice was presented, stating that it was the wisest policy for young people to abstain from the use of intoxicating drinks, the Westminster force rose and fought It as Satan. Also in such an atmosphere students who never had smoked began to use cigarettes.
Coupled with this, after the death of Dr. Machen, to the bewilderment of others there came to the fore an intolerance of those who believed in the premillennial return of Jesus Christ, and a Seminary spokesman accused those who loved this view of holding anti- Reformed heresy. Then there was a harsh intolerance for various opinions. The new church, they were determined, would be an amillennial body. The Seminary was going to present the “Biblical view,” which they held to be amillennialism. But many of the churches believed in the premillennial return of Christ, and young men were sent to them who immediately took up the battle against the premillenarians.
It seemed that one cannon after another was exploded by the Seminary to confuse and drive from the movement all who did not agree with the new leadership of the Seminary after Dr. Machen’s removal. A hyper-Calvinism even criticized former students who in their zeal for evangelism gave pulpit invitations for men to come forward and accept Christ. They seemed to make their emphasis on the “Reformed Faith” almost a fetish.
In the midst of such confusion utter despair and defeat seemed imminent. The enemies of the Gospel rejoiced and chortled. This new conflict was minor in comparison to the issues of Modernism, yet it was real and valid, for it represented the birth pangs of a new church, a continuation of the true Presbyterian succession, and a body free from Modernism. The enemies of the faith deliberately misrepresented the facts to justify their unrighteous stand and to misguide uninformed Christians. Many of the weaker brethren who had gone along with the struggle for the faith fell by the wayside, or turned back to the material comforts of an established church organization. But all this was a testing, a sifting, and purging. There were some who were ready to be made a spectacle All this was pain, but also a blessing!
FAITH THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY RISES
It was in this hour that Faith Theological Seminary was born. There was a Gideon’s band who saw the battle through!
I shall always thank God that I was privileged, together with many of my colleagues here on the Seminary Board and Faculty, to be in the thick of the historic struggle for the faith.
For the most confused hours God gave men faith, and this institution came forth with a conviction that the struggle for the faith against apostasy had to continue, with a proper emphasis on first things, and a sane balance on secondary issues. Faith Seminary would continue the defense of the faith represented by Dr. Machen in his celebrated works, such as “What Is Faith,” “Christianity and Liberalism,” “The Origin of Paul’s Religion,” and “The Virgin Birth.” It would sound the call to a consistent Calvinism, to an appreciation of the Reformed Faith in its warmth and zeal for the salvation of the lost, its implicit reliance on the sovereignty of God, and its full honoring of the grace of God. There is no other institution in existence with this single purpose and clear vision of America’s need. It is important whether ministers drink or do not drink, and whether the influence of the church be on the side of separation from worldliness. Since Westminster took the amillennial position, Faith Theological Seminary would lift a banner in behalf of premillennialism, granting full liberty to those Christians who differ.
FOR THE FAITH—BY FAITH
Faith Seminary has come through blood and fire, thunder and tears, and in those hours of battle there was one thing that kept and held it. It Was faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, faith in His ultimate victory. Thus the institution was given its name and motto, “Faith Theological Seminary—for the faith—by faith.”
It was in this hour also that the Bible Presbyterian Church, a true successor to the Presbyterian Church, came into being. It has been singularly blessed of God, and many are rallying to its testimony. There is a chapter that perhaps should not be left unmentioned, for the sake of the record. Faith Seminary was not announced until the middle of July, 1937. In June of that year, a month and a half before, plans were being made for a seminary at Wheaton College under the direction of the Board of Directors of the College, but when the plan was presented to the Board they turned it down because they did not want to be too closely associated with the controversy. This action has proved to be a blessing. However, one prominent Philadelphia attorney who knew confidentially of the plans for the Wheaton seminary in June changed his will, leaving a substantial sum for the Wheaton project, and before he heard that the College had turned down the seminary he died. The Wheaton Board lost an opportunity of a century, and then later turned out its fearless leader, Dr. J. Oliver Buswell, for a more mollifying attitude toward the Modernistic larger denominations. Men everywhere seem to be afraid to get too close to the Seminary and the movement which it represents for fear of losing something, or being hurt in some measure. What a compliment to the Seminary! And what a sad commentary upon the superficiality of present-day Fundamentalism. Fundamentalists need to take a deeper view of the Scriptures. There, too, is Elijah versus Ahab, Nathan versus David, John the Baptist versus Herod. This hour, called by some leading liberals the twilight of Christianity, this day of darkening apostasy calls to high heaven for such prophets.
A DOUBLE BLESSING
When the decision was made in the middle of July, 1937, that Faith would be started, those who had the institution at heart thought that twelve students would be a token of the Lord’s blessing. It was to open the last of September. He sent twenty-four. We had no buildings, no money, few friends, but a great God, and a group of men who knew how faithful is Elijah’s God. What precious days these were, yea, what precious days these are!
God has given a Faculty—consecrated, scholarly, self-sacrificing. These men see the issue. They love the cause. This is the spirit of our fathers who forsook all and worshiped in caves, and instructed their students in blackouts. That spirit is more priceless than all earth’s treasures. God has given us distinguished men of gifts and vision, willing to suffer and bleed for the truth. Dr. Robert Dick Wilson groomed his successor for Princeton in Allan A. MacRae. He has nobly and ably picked up the mantle that fell from the old prophet’s shoulders, having seen also the chariot of fire. He is excelled by none in America as an Old Testament scholar and authority. Under the careful scholarship of Dr. Machen, Alfred W. Eppard was prepared for a teaching ministry and sent abroad for further preparation. He was ready when the opportunity came to present the historical, exegetical apologetic of the New Testament in the tradition of Machen. A younger, brilliant student, R. Laird Harris, was also being groomed in a similar manner for such a ministry while a student at Westminster, and God gave him to Faith. It was by an irresistible whirl of God’s providence that J. Oliver Buswell, Jr., was available to command the Chair of Theology for which God had qualified him. When God decides to build a Seminary, He first provides for spiritual needs. Buildings come later.
God has provided us directors with a determination, “This one thing I do.”
It is out of the welter, the heat, the smoke of battle that we meet this afternoon to receive this gift of God’s choosing. He makes great and important decisions for us. He wants this Seminary to be here at Wilmington close to the influences of the ministry of our secretary of the Board, Dr. Harold S. Laird. Here is visible a half million dollar church building from whose pulpit Dr. Laird was ejected—to remain there would have meant to deny Christ—in order to take his flock to an empty church by the railroad where they could worship Jesus Christ freely and fully with no yoke with compromise and unbelief in the Presbyterian Church.
America needs the prophets of Faith Theological Seminary. I see four varieties of seminary students and ministers today, but there is only one of these four that is worth having.
THE FIRST YOUNG MAN
First, there is the young man, trained in a liberal school. He is a liberal and not ashamed of it. He comes from such a school as Union in New York. He does not believe the Bible to be the inerrant Word of God. He cannot accept the virgin birth, and openly says so. He has one credit to himself, and that is, he is honest. But he is doubly dishonest when he goes into a denomination whose creed affirms the things he denies. But there he easily cajoles his conscience, for the leaders of the church in letting him in are just as dishonest as he is in denying the creed; and besides, honesty, like all values in the new order, is only a relative matter. It is just thus with so many of the agreements of the world. They mean nothing more than the moment requires. So it is with the constitution of many of the larger churches. They are words written on paper, but not in the courts of the elders.
THE SECOND YOUNG MAN
Second, there is the young man who comes out of a compromising seminary, such as Princeton. He wants to be fundamental. He has learned the lingo of the Fundamentalists, but he has caught a vision of a great church, a church which is the hope of the hour. He sees great buildings and equipment ready for his use. He does not think they should be turned over to Modernists. He is ready to go in and work With them, to be a fellow traveler with the Modernists. He is willing to vote along with them, to keep the peace of the church. Such & person is a miserable servant of man. His vision is of the glory of the church, of the great good he can do, and not of Christ. He is no servant of Christ. He must take his cue from the higher authorities or make his own. He cannot take his orders from the Word of God. If he did, he would be out and be done with the wicked, adulterous fellowships of Modernists and believers. He would see that obedience to the commands of Christ calls for separation.
THE THIRD YOUNG MAN
Third, there is the young man who is outside of the present modernistic and compromising denominations. He delights to be called a Fundamentalist. He even loves to preach the premillennial return of Christ. But he is done with any controversy of any kind. That word is poison. He wants to be left alone to carry on his own work quietly here or there and not to worry about what is taking place elsewhere. Such a young man is to be commended in his separation from the sinful yoke of indifference and apostasy, but he has only embraced half of the demands of the Gospel. He does not stand in the succession with an Isaiah or a Jeremiah, an Augustine or a Savonarola, a Luther or a Knox. He will have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, nor will he reprove them. He will not lift up his voice like a trumpet and cry aloud and spare not, showing God’s people their transgressions. He wants only a so-called positive Gospel. He fails to see that his mission is only partially fulfilled. There are many today who would delight to see Faith Seminary turn out such men, and see the leadership of the Seminary change to that end. But pray God that we may never fall in that slough!
THE FOURTH YOUNG MAN
The fourth man, the kind of man we have envisioned stepping through the corridors of this institution in Wilmington, has vision which is not limited to the few square feet upon which his own little church will stand. Here we see young men trained to face the issues of our day, disciplined in study, drilled in doctrine, experienced in sacrifice, separated in life, going out to build a new church. The status quo of a decaying Protestantism must be changed. That sturdiness, that drive, that passion which have been absent from American Protestantism for so long must be rekindled and restored in Faith. The future of our democratic liberty in America is involved also! Faith is not ashamed to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints.
We must have men who can say with Paul when life’s journey is nearing its end, “I have fought a good fight,” and not be ashamed of the word “fight”; “I have finished my course”—and know that he has had a course, straight and clean; “I have kept the faith,” and rejoice that God’s grace enabled him to recognize the subtle forms of compromise and denial of our day. We are not ashamed of controversy, when it is in behalf of the honor and glory of Christ. We are not afraid to be despised, abused, When it is in behalf of the Gospel of Christ. We are not afraid to be poor, locked out, and alone, when it is in behalf of the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free.
It takes men such as these to turn the world upside down, to endure afflictions, to do the work of an evangelist. These are dark days, and they are getting darker. It is more difficult as the days go by to be Christians. The harder the times, the stronger the leadership needed. It is not saying too much to say that the hope of American Protestantism at the present time rests in the type of leadership that Faith Theological Seminary is able to give—leadership in evangelizing the lost; leadership in establishing new churches; leadership in opening new mission fields; leadership in preaching on the streets and in halls; leadership in calling people out of sin unto Christ; leadership in exposing apostasy and Modernism in the visible church; leadership that convinces those of the faith that they are a heavenly and a peculiar people; and leadership which lifts the eyes of born again ones into the heavens from whence they look for their Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ!
SOME PROPERTY GIVEN
But, now, God has given us some property. It feels strange to have some. There are many perils in this. Do not think we are going to return the property, for God who gave it will give the grace to keep it in its proper place while we look away from things that perish. May the lessons which have been learned in the brief period of fiery trial ever be kept paramount in the hearts of those who teach in these halls and those who study here.
The struggle to maintain this institution true to the faith must ever be vigorous. The men who lead must be those who know the issues and see the demands of God’s Word. The future is challenging and commanding. We must occupy until Christ comes. We thank God for Faith Theological Seminary. He established it. He undergirded it. He leads it. We thank Him for the property. We thank Him for those who have been His instruments in giving it. May He give us faith to endure to the end. Amen.
McIntire, Carl, Address at the Dedication of the Property given to Faith Theological Seminary, 1303 Delaware Avenue, Wilmington, Delaware, September 23, 1941. [Collingswood, N.J. : Christian Beacon Press,
1941.  p. : ill. ; 20 cm. A published copy of this address is preserved in Box 458 at the PCA Historical Center, St. Louis, Missouri.