J. Gresham Machen

You are currently browsing articles tagged J. Gresham Machen.

Tis’ the Season

You may have noticed that “everyone” is currently considering how they will read through the Bible in the coming year–what plan they will use.

The first rule of success is to have a plan. And there are a number of good plans out there for reading through the Bible.

I’d like to suggest a rather straight-forward way to accomplish this most necessary and commendable goal.

It all boils down to just reading 3-1/2 to 4 chapters of the Bible each day, and that typically takes about fifteen minutes. With this plan, there is no specific text for a particular day. Just pick up the Bible and read. Start where you want and keep reading.

Another key to accomplishing this goal is to do your reading at the very start of the day, before other things intrude. Email will wait and so will social media. Breakfast will wait as well. 

Stay after this schedule of 3-1/2 to 4 chapters per day and you will have read through the entire Bible by year’s end.

But if you feel ready to tackle a bigger accomplishment, I’d like to suggest that you consider taking that same fifteen minutes for reading the Word, not just at the start of the day, but again before bedtime. With a second reading of the same text you are more likely to better understand and remember something of the content. And at the end of the year, having kept after your daily readings, you will instead have through the whole Bible TWICE!

Finally, with this plan it’s easy to see how you could also add another reading at lunch time, another fifteen minutes set aside to spend with the Word of God. And at the end of the year, you would have read through the Bible THREE times. Think what that would do for your comprehension, your understanding, and your ability to find and turn to portions of Scripture when needed.

I leave it to you to decide what fits your schedule best. And it any of the above options don’t fit, please review the many other plans presented by Ligonier Ministries over on their blog—truly something to suit every possible preference or schedule: http://www.ligonier.org/blog/bible-reading-plans/

May our Lord richly your time spent in His Word in 2020.

Tags: , , ,

These were tumultuous times in the history of the church, and in the midst of them Brumbaugh moved to Tacoma to become the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church. He was forty-one years old and had a wife and four children. The First Presbyterian Church of Tacoma boasted a formal membership of 1,850, with about 1,000 attending regularly; it was one of the largest in the denomination on the West Coast. The church edifice was a grand structure, and the church was organized with programs for everyone. The church had been without a pastor for a year, and there were some strong elders on the session of the church who were in charge of the program. One of the foremost programs of the church was the Scofield Bible Study classes conducted by the elders. Dr. Brumbaugh came to Tacoma by car from Philadelphia, which was an exciting trip at that time. During most of the trip, his son Roy stood in the front passenger compartment with his hand on the top of the windshield. The issues that were present on the East Coast were also present on the West Coast to some degree.

The Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions (IBPFM) was formally organized on October 17,1933, and the Rev. J. Gresham Machen was elected as its first president. As new revelations continued to appear pertaining to the modernism in the Board of Foreign Mission, more and more people converted over to support of the IBPFM. This support of the new board worried the denomination so that it became a major issue at the next general assembly held in Cleveland, Ohio, in May 1934. That general assembly adopted a deliverance that stated that every member of the church is required by the constitution to support the missionary program of the church in the way that each member must take part in the Lord’s Supper. Each Presbytery was mandated to take action against its members who were also members of the IBPFM. The deliverance became known as “The Mandate” and the consequences of it would play out over the course of the next year. Finally the controversy that had simmered for more than a decade was going to be decided in the church courts.

Back in Tacoma, the First Presbyterian Church prospered in many respects, and Brumbaugh, the evangelist, preached the gospel, and many people made professions of faith. However, there was an undercurrent of dissension in the local church that was a microcosm of the denominational controversy. In the local church there was a group of elders who had their plan for the church and a strong pastor who had his plan. As the controversy intensified nationally, it intensified locally and small differences that might have been overlooked in a more peaceable climate became big issues. The lines of demarcation were established and it became apparent that there would eventually be a showdown. It took over a year for the Mandate to trickle down to the local level. It was the presbyteries that were instructed to implement the mandate and there were periods of notification in accordance with the Book of Discipline, and procedures that carried over till the summer and fall of 1935. All the while, sides were taken in the First Presbyterian Church and it was a difficult time to carry on the work of the church. If Brumbaugh left the church, he would lose the building, his pension, the prestige of being pastor to one of the largest churches in the denomination, and other attendant privileges.

In spite of all of this, on August 21, 1935, Brumbaugh informed the denomination of his withdrawal from the PCUSA. Finally he was free. On Thursday night, August 22, 1935, the first meeting of the First Independent Church of  Tacoma was held with over 700 in attendance. Ironically, the only facility available to accommodate the new church was a Scottish Rites Temple, right across the alley from the First Presbyterian Church. A new church had begun, fresh and free from denominational control. It was a wonderful feeling of excitement and expectation. As the different presbyteries dealt with other members of the Independent Board, many were suspended, some were admonished or rebuked; and one presbytery, the Presbytery of Chester, refused to take action against the Rev. Wilbur M. Smith, who had followed Brumbaugh at the Coatesville Presbyterian Church. Brumbaugh was tried in absentia and suspended from the PCUSA. On March 29, 1935, Dr. J. Gresham was declared guilty in a sham of a trial and suspended from the ministry of the PCUSA. A sad chapter in Presbyterian church history had come to an end. The same church that had suspended Dr. Charles A. Briggs for heresy in 1893, had, in 1935, suspended Dr. J. Gresham Machen from its ministry for his FAITHFUL ADHERANCE TO THE WORD OF GOD.

Dr. Roy T. Brumbaugh continued on as Pastor of the Tacoma Bible Presbyterian Church until his death on January 3, 1957. The last twenty years of that ministry, although not without controversy, saw an active, enthusiastic, evangelistic church, with a special emphasis on the military personnel from the local military bases.

Tags: , , ,

This day, January 18th, marks the publication in 1937 of H.L. Mencken’s now famous obituary in memory of Dr. J. Gresham Machen. Here was perhaps a fine example of Proverbs 16:7—”When a man’s ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.” As James Daniel Barr has noted elsewhere:

Even the atheist Mencken, who often wrote caustically against those who held the Christian faith, actually defended Machen’s stance. After a cogent analysis of Machen’s argument, he completely sided with him, saying: “The body of doctrine known as Modernism is completely incompatible, not only with anything rationally describable as Christianity, but also with anything deserving to pass as religion in general” (Mencken, 1937, p. 15). Furthermore, he said, the efforts of modernists to square their positon with the faith in the Bible “is a vain enterprise” (1937). Mencken concluded by saying that though Machen tried to persuade his fellow Presbyterians throughout his career, “he failed–but he was undoubtedly right” (1937).

H. L. MENCKEN’S OBITUARY OF MACHEN

The Rev. J. Gresham Machen, D. D., who died out in North Dakota on New Year’s Day, got, on the whole, a bad press while he lived, and even his obituaries did much less than justice to him. To newspaper reporters, as to other antinomians, a combat between Christians over a matter of dogma is essentially a comic affair, and in consequence Dr. Machen’s heroic struggles to save Calvinism in the Republic were usually depicted in ribald, or, at all events, in somewhat skeptical terms. The generality of readers, I suppose, gathered thereby the notion that he was simply another Fundamentalist on the order of William Jennings Bryan and the simian faithful of Appalachia. But he was actually a man of great learning, and, what is more, of sharp intelligence.

What caused him to quit the Princeton Theological Seminary and found a seminary of his own was his complete inability, as a theologian, to square the disingenuous evasions of Modernism with the fundamentals of Christian doctrine. He saw clearly that the only effects that could follow diluting and polluting Christianity in the Modernist manner would be its complete abandonment and ruin. Either it was true or it was not true. If, as he believed, it was true, then there could be no compromise with persons who sought to whittle away its essential postulates, however respectable their motives.

Thus he fell out with the reformers who have been trying, in late years, to convert the Presbyterian Church into a kind of literary and social club, devoted vaguely to good works. Most of the other Protestant churches have gone the same way, but Dr. Machen’s attention, as a Presbyterian, was naturally concentrated upon his own connection. His one and only purpose was to hold it [the Church] resolutely to what he conceived to be the true faith. When that enterprise met with opposition he fought vigorously, and though he lost in the end and was forced out of Princeton it must be manifest that he marched off to Philadelphia with all the honors of war.

My interest in Dr. Machen while he lived, though it was large, was not personal, for I never had the honor of meeting him. Moreover, the doctrine that he preached seemed to me, and still seems to me, to be excessively dubious. I stand much more chance of being converted to spiritualism, to Christian Science or even to the New Deal than to Calvinism, which occupies a place, in my cabinet of private horrors, but little removed from that of cannibalism. But Dr. Machen had the same clear right to believe in it that I have to disbelieve in it, and though I could not yield to his reasoning I could at least admire, and did greatly admire, his remarkable clarity and cogency as an apologist, allowing him his primary assumptions.

These assumptions were also made, at least in theory, by his opponents, and thereby he had them by the ear. Claiming to be Christians as he was, and of the Calvinish persuasion, they endeavored fatuously to get rid of all the inescapable implications of their position. On the one hand they sought to retain membership in the fellowship of the faithful, but on the other hand they presumed to repeal and reenact with amendments the body of doctrine on which that fellowship rested. In particular, they essayed to overhaul the scriptural authority which lay at the bottom of the whole matter, retaining what coincided with their private notions and rejecting whatever upset them.

Upon this contumacy Dr. Machen fell with loud shouts of alarm. He denied absolutely that anyone had a right to revise and sophisticate Holy Writ. Either it was the Word of God or it was not the Word of God, and if it was, then it was equally authoritative in all its details, and had to be accepted or rejected as a whole. Anyone was free to reject it, but no one was free to mutilate it or to read things into it that were not there. Thus the issue with the Modernists was clearly joined, and Dr. Machen argued them quite out of court, and sent them scurrying back to their literary and sociological Kaffeeklatsche. His operations, to be sure, did not prove that Holy Writ was infallible either as history or as theology, but they at least disposed of those who proposed to read it as they might read a newspaper, believing what they chose and rejecting what they chose.

In his own position there was never the least shadow of inconsistency. When the Prohibition imbecility fell upon the country, and a multitude of theological quacks, including not a few eminent Presbyterians, sought to read support for it into the New Testament, he attacked them with great vigor, and routed them easily. He not only proved that there was nothing in the teachings of Jesus to support so monstrous a folly; he proved abundantly that the known teachings of Jesus were unalterably against it. And having set forth that proof, he refused, as a convinced and honest Christian, to have anything to do with the dry jehad.

This rebellion against a craze that now seems so incredible and so far away was not the chief cause of his break with his ecclesiastical superiors, but it was probably responsible for a large part of their extraordinary dudgeon against him. The Presbyterian Church, like the other evangelical churches, was taken for a dizzy ride by Prohibition. Led into the heresy by fanatics of low mental visibility, it presently found itself cheek by jowl with all sorts of criminals, and fast losing the respect of sensible people. Its bigwigs thus became extremely jumpy on the subject, and resented bitterly every exposure of their lamentable folly.

The fantastic William Jennings Bryan, in his day the country’s most distinguished Presbyterian layman, was against Dr. Machen on the issue of Prohibition but with him on the issue of Modernism. But Bryan’s support, of course, was of little value or consolation to so intelligent a man. Bryan was a Fundamentalist of the Tennessee or barnyard school. His theological ideas were those of a somewhat backward child of 8, and his defense of Holy Writ at Dayton during the Scopes trial was so ignorant and stupid that it must have given Dr. Machen a great deal of pain. Dr. Machen himself was to Bryan as the Matterhorn is to a wart. His Biblical studies had been wide and deep, and he was familiar with the almost interminable literature of the subject. Moreover, he was an adept theologian, and had a wealth of professional knowledge to support his ideas. Bryan could only bawl.

It is my belief, as a friendly neutral in all such high and ghostly matters, that the body of doctrine known as Modernism is completely incompatible, not only with anything rationally describable as Christianity, but also with anything deserving to pass as religion in general. Religion, if it is to retain any genuine significance, can never be reduced to a series of sweet attitudes, possible to anyone not actually in jail for felony. It is, on the contrary, a corpus of powerful and profound convictions, many of them not open to logical analysis. Its inherent improbabilities are not sources of weakness to it, but of strength. It is potent in a man in proportion as he is willing to reject all overt evidences, and accept its fundamental postulates, however unprovable they may be by secular means, as massive and incontrovertible facts.

These postulates, at least in the Western world, have been challenged in recent years on many grounds, and in consequence there has been a considerable decline in religious belief. There was a time, two or three centuries ago, when the overwhelming majority of educated men were believers, but that is apparently true no longer. Indeed, it is my impression that at least two-thirds of them are now frank skeptics. But it is one thing to reject religion altogether, and quite another thing to try to save it by pumping out of it all its essential substance, leaving it in the equivocal position of a sort of pseudo-science, comparable to graphology, “education,” or osteopathy.

That, it seems to me, is what the Modernists have done, no doubt with the best intentions in the world. They have tried to get rid of all the logical difficulties of religion, and yet preserve a generally pious cast of mind. It is a vain enterprise. What they have left, once they have achieved their imprudent scavenging, is hardly more than a row of hollow platitudes, as empty as [of] psychological force and effect as so many nursery rhymes. They may be good people and they may even be contented and happy, but they are no more religious than Dr. Einstein. Religion is something else again–in Henrik Ibsen’s phrase, something far more deep-down-diving and mudupbringing, Dr. Machen tried to impress that obvious fact upon his fellow adherents of the Geneva Mohammed. He failed–but he was undoubtedly right.

[H.L. Mencken’s eulogy for Dr. J. Gresham Machen originally appeared in The Baltimore Evening Sun on January 18, 1937, second section, page 15.]

 

Tags: , , ,

On this day, Neovember 20: 

janeway_sm021774 — Birth of Jacob Jones Janeway, in the city of New York, the eldest child of George and Effie (Ten Eyck) Janeway. The year 1797 found the young man diligent in the use of the means of grace, and seeking growth in the divine life. “In reviewing my conduct, I felt that my sins were pardoned. In the morning exercise, on Monday, I was somewhat earnest in pleading with God. Towards the end of the week too much absorbed in study.” “This week my soul has been somewhat refreshed. I see that my heart is deceitful and easily ensnared by the world. Though we depart from God in our affections, yet if we strive to return he will accept and help us. Remember, O my soul, the exhortation, Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God that worketh in you, both to will and to do of his good pleasure. To this end I must be circumspect in my conduct, diligent and active.”

alexander_jw_sm1849 — Inauguration of the Rev. James W. Alexander, D.D., as professor of ecclesiastical history and church government in the theological seminary at Princeton. Born near Gordonsville, Virginia, in 1804, the eldest son of Archibald Alexander, James was raised in a household filled with theological giants of the faith. His father was the president of Hampden-Sydney College at that time. But by the time that schooling had begun for James, his father had taken the pulpit of the Third Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1807. Then in 1812, as the new seminary called Princeton began in New Jersey, the Alexander family moved there and Archibald Alexander became the first professor of that new divinity school. Young James graduated from the College of New Jersey in 1820. And while he studied theology at Princeton Seminary from 1822–1824, he would not be ordained by the historic Hanover Presbytery until 1827, having first served about three years as a tutor. He died on July 31, 1859.

league1925 — The First Annual Conference of the League of Evangelical Students was held in Grand Rapids, Michigan, November 20-24, 1925. At this conference nineteen schools were represented, eleven theological seminaries and eight Bible schools, and these represented student bodies from Texas to Canada and from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The Conference, with its keynote on unswerving loyalty to the Bible as the only authoritative rule of faith and practice, was held on the campus of Calvin Theological Seminary and Dr. J. Gresham Machen spoke on the theme, “The Church’s Historic Fight against Modernism from Within.” An early 20th-century campus ministry, the League ran its course in a brief fifteen years, overtaken by the wider appeal of InterVarsity.

Harold Samuel Laird1936 — The Rev. Harold S. Laird, pastor of the First Independent Church, Wilmington, was elected president of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions [IBPFM], succeeding the Rev. Dr. J. Gresham Machen. Dr. Machen had also retired that same year as Moderator of the First General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of America. The IBPFM had been organized in 1933 in response to the failure of the PCUSA to remove modernists from the foreign mission field. In reaction, the PCUSA’s General Assembly had, in 1934, issued a “Mandate” forbidding PCUSA ministers and laity from involvement with the IPBFM. Their refusal to step down from their participation with the IBPFM led to Machen and about a dozen others being defrocked or otherwise kicked out of the denomination.

soltau_addison_sm021952 — Addison Soltau was ordained on this day in 1952 and installed as pastor of the First Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Memphia, Tennessee. Born in Seoul, Korea, the son of missionary parents T. Stanley and Mary Cross (Campbell) Soltau, Addison came from a long and illustrious line of noteworthy Christians. He graduated from Wheaton College in 1949 and prepared for the ministry at Faith Theological Seminary, later earning a Th.M. degree from Calvin Seminary in 1966 and the Th.D. from Concordia Seminary in 1982. Leaving his pulpit in Tennessee, he labored as a missionary in Japan from 1953-1970, served as a professor at Reformed Bible College and at Covenant Theological Seminary, and has, since 1989, served on the pastoral staff of several churches in Florida. He is currently an associate pastor at the First Presbyterian Church of Coral Springs, in Margate, Florida.

Words to Live By:
I suppose we could simply have stretched out the events of this twentieth day of November into the next six years with the six posts listed above, but it seemed good to explore some of the notable events and people for this date all at once. In that way, we behold the Lord’s providence of sovereignly governing both good and bad events on this day in Presbyterian history. James reminds us of the significance of one day when he asks and answers, “What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” (James 1:14, ESVOpen in Logos Bible Software (if available)) To be sure, who among the people and events mentioned above ever wondered what else occurred on their day of November 20? That is why all of us need to take the words of James to heart when he wrote in verse 15, “Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:15, ESV). Use this last biblical thought as a prayer today as you read this post, and venture out into your world.

Tags: , , ,

An Assembly of Great Blessings

With over four hundred attendees, the Second General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of America met in the large auditorium of the Manufacturers’ and Bankers’ Club in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, beginning on Thursday,November 12, 1936.  Present were 64 teaching elders and 26 ruling elders, with numerous guests. The photograph below serves to document that occasion. To my knowledge, no photograph has been discovered of their first General Assembly, which met in June of 1936.

The first Moderator of the new denomination, J. Gresham Machen, preached from2 Corinthians 5:14, 15.  The text reads, “for the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.”  Speaking on the love of Christ being a constraining force, Dr. Machen, in a message not soon forgotten by those who heard him, stated that Christians should not live to themselves but live unto Christ.

Taking the position of Moderator was the Rev. J. Oliver Buswell, D.D., president of Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois.  He was to moderate the meeting in good fashion as a moderator should do, without fear of discipline or the ridicule of biblical positions.

This General Assembly adopted the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms as they stood before the 1903 additions enacted by the P.C.U.S.A. general assemblies.  Thus the Presbyterian Church of America put itself on record as being a truly Reformed church.

Various reports came on this day and over the next two days, from committees set up by the previous Assembly in June of 1936. These included Home Missions and Church Extension, with report of 13 home missionaries already at work in the field.  Present among them was one home missionary to South Dakota, the Rev. David K. Myers, this writer’s father. The Committee on Foreign Missions also reported, encouraging support for the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions. However, it also spoke about the establishment of an official  Board  of  Foreign  Missions  from the denomination at the next General Assembly.

Westminster Seminary was recommended to the pastors and congregations as worthy of their prayers and financial support. Held over to the next General Assembly was the adoption of a Form of Government, Book of Discipline, and Directory for Worship. The assembly was dissolved on Saturday evening, November 14, 1936

Also on this day, November 12, in 1886, Archibald Alexander Hodge died in Princeton, New Jersey.

PCofA_2dGA_MinutesWords to live by:  This writer can read the minutes of the Second General Assembly, as he has a copy of them before him, but the spirit of the meeting was only to be enjoyed by those who were actually present.  It must have been a joyous meeting to realize that since just that previous June of 1936, the number of ministers had increased from 35 pastors to 107 ministers in the Presbyterian Church of America.  God was doing a great work in this spiritual successor to the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.  Take time to look at your church choice, and if it is an Evangelical and Reformed Church, rejoice in what is happening in it as a sign of God’s blessings.  Indeed, support it with your tithes and offerings.  It probably is not perfect.  No church this side of glory is perfect. But if it is committed to the Scriptures, the Reformed faith, and the Great Commission, then give thanks for it, pray for it, and support it.

Tags: , , ,

« Older entries

%d bloggers like this: