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The Fundamentalist Political Vacuum of the Mid-20th Century

June 17, 2012 1 comment

J. Gresham Machen’s contest against theological liberals was not a contest against political involvement per se, though political action among professing Christians had become almost synonymous with “social gospel” liberalism. Machen was also opposed to the pietistic retreat of fundamentalists from political affairs. Though Machen was not a fundamentalist in the pietistic sense, his commitment to the inerrancy of the Bible and confessional orthodoxy put him in that category as far as the theological liberals were concerned. He had therefore become the de facto intellectual leader of conservative fundamentalists by the time of his death in 1937. Gary North explains the political vacuum existing among fundamentalists in the mid 20th century in this selection from the essay “The Intellectual Schizophrenia of the New Christian Right”: Read more…

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Greenville Seminary conference on Old Princeton Seminary

February 9, 2012 Leave a comment

Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, in Greenville, SC, is hosting a conference on Old Princeton Seminary, A Commemoration of Princeton (1812-2012), March 13-15. Many excellent speakers will be giving talks, including:

  • Dr. Tony Curto
  • Dr. James Garretson
  • Dr. Darryl Hart
  • Dr. Paul Helseth
  • Dr. Joseph Pipa
  • Dr. Benjamin Shaw
  • Dr. Carl Trueman
  • Andrew Webb
  • Dr. C.N. Willborn
  • Dr. Fred Zaspel

J. G. Machen fans may be particularly interested in Darryl Hart’s talk Thursday, “Machen and the End of Old Princeton.”

From GPTS’s page:

Praised, maligned, and misunderstood, the effects of Old Princeton Seminary have towered over theological discussion for a century. From the time God raised up this school in 1812 until 1929, the Princeton theologians were the stalwarts of experimental, Calvinistic theology. The founders of Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary consciously adopted the Princeton Plan as the foundation of instruction for the seminary. Therefore, it is our pleasure to devote our 2012 Spring Theology Conference (the 200th anniversary of Princeton’s founding) to an assessment of Princeton and the practical lessons for the church today. Our aim is to shape the discussion in a practical way that will benefit all who attend.
‘From 1812 to 1929, Princeton Theological Seminary represented a coherent, continual effort to teach and practice what the Princetonians believed was historic Reformed Christianity… They taught theology as they found it in the Bible, and as they received it from Augustine, Calvin, Turretin, and, especially, the Westminster Standards. Their lives proved that they were not only scholars teaching the faith-they were Christians living it.’
~ David B. Calhoun ~
Be sure to sign up early for this popular annual conference and save. Early Bird registration cut-off is Monday, February 13th, 2012.

Machen and Creation in Six Days

J. Gresham Machen was apparently not a six-day creationist. Dr. John Byl at the bylogos blog has written an interesting assessment of the issues surrounding Machen’s and B.B. Warfield’s acceptance of non-literal views of Genesis. Most of the discussion is on Warfield’s ideas about “theistic evolution,” but Machen apparently concurred. In The Christian View of Man
(1937 – a quick review here), Machen wrote, “It is certainly not necessary to think that the six days spoken of in that first chapter of the Bible are intended to be six days of twenty four hours each. We may think of them rather as very long periods of time.” Westminster Theological Seminary, the seminary that Machen founded, holds today to that view.

Dr. Byl also mentioned an article from January 2000 by Machen scholar D.G. Hart and John Muether in which the authors state that Warfield’s and Machen’s views “offer a better opportunity for credibly engaging the scientific community and meaningfully defending the truth of Christianity than the one now promoted by scientific creationists.” I hope that this does not mean what it appears to imply–that our interpretation of the Bible should be influenced by what would be palatable to scientists or make apologetics less daunting. Regardless of one’s view on creation, this would be a dangerous hermeneutic.

Dr. Byl concludes,

“…one cannot argue that, since Warfield and Machen were orthodox, we should accept all their teaching. I think it fair to say that Warfield and Machen were generally soundly Reformed. They were great theologians from whom there is still much to learn. Nevertheless, regretfully, they did depart from Scripture in their treatment of evolution. Hence some of their teaching is non-Reformed.”

This is a matter of current relevance for Protestants standing in Machen’s theological tradition. In another post, Dr. Byl points to two articles from 2010, one by a PCA author and the other by an OPC author, objecting to young-earth creationism. The OPC author, according to Dr. Byl, “contemptuously dismisses creationists as ‘preachers in lab coats,’ ‘charlatans,’ and ‘a caricature of religion.'” Dr. Byl notes,

“…waffling on the Bible to appease mainstream science is futile. The wiser strategy is to firmly uphold the Sola Scriptura of the Westminster Confession, proclaiming all that the Bible teaches. Christian faith is undermined not by biblical consistency but, rather, by unbiblical compromise.

“And if that causes us to lose credibility in the eyes of the worldly intelligentsia, so be it.”

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