R. Scott Clark has an insightful recent post at Heidelblog on J. Gresham Machen’s segregationist views. We posted at The Machen Seminar in 2011 on this issue, and Clark’s post can serve as a useful follow-up. In 1913, Machen wrote his mother about a black student moving into the student dormitory at Princeton Seminary. Machen strongly objected to the racial integration that his mentor B.B. Warfield (apparently alone among the faculty) supported. He did more than complain to his mother—he had a two hour argument with Warfield on the matter.
Clark writes, “I have previously indicted Machen for his racism and addressed the question of how we, who are the beneficiaries of the civil rights movements of the 1950s and 60s, should think about him. I have urged us 1) not to repeat Machen’s sins; 2) not to be anachronistic.”
In the early 1920s, when J. Gresham Machen was in the thick of the battle for the orthodox Christian doctrines in the Presbyterian Church and Princeton Seminary, he faced frustrating and damaging opposition from moderates, which Machen referred to as “indifferentists.”
Machen wrote Christianity and Liberalism in response to liberals like Harry Emerson Fosdick. Fosdick objected to the conservative “Five Point Deliverance” of 1910, a PCUSA statement requiring new ministers to adhere to the Westminster Confession of Faith and specific points of orthodox doctrine, which included the inerrancy of the Bible, the virgin birth of Christ, substitutionary atonement, the miraculous works of Christ, and Christ’s bodily resurrection. Allowing attacks like Fosdick’s to go unchallenged threatened to replace the truth of Scripture with a false gospel, and yet the indifferentists preferred to preserve a superficial peace. In Stephen Nichols’ J. Gresham Machen: A Guided Tour of His Life and Thought, he writes:
In Crossed Fingers: How the Liberals Captured the Presbyterian Church, Gary North discusses the problem of Princeton Seminary’s shift toward academic credentialing as opposed to the covenantal authority of the Church over seminary faculties. North points out that the “most important screening device for entrance into ministry” became academic examination, undermining ecclesiastical governance. Machen’s appointment to the seminary is an example. From chapter 10:
The extent of Princeton Seminary’s later commitment to technical scholarship above the authority of the Church is best seen in Machen’s appointment to a teaching position: instructor. He received the appointment in the fall of 1906. He was not ordained to the teaching eldership until June 23, 1914. He was elevated to assistant professor in May, 1914, to begin in the fall of that year. The faculty was self-conscious about this, as Stonehouse’s language indicates: “Acting on the background of Machen’s licensure, the Faculty of the Seminary was not slow to recommend his election as Assistant Professor of New Testament in its report to the Board of Directors at its meeting during the first week of May, 1914.”
This excerpt from Machen’s Education, Christianity & the State reminds us that truly edifying preaching is based on the rich content of the Bible–and that study of the Bible is a suitable specialty to be developed in seminaries.
One thing that impresses me about preaching today is the neglect of true edification even by evangelical preachers. What the preacher says is often good, and by it genuine Christian emotion is aroused. But a man could sit under that kind of preaching for a year or ten years and at the end of the time he would be just about where he was at the beginning. Such a lamentably small part of Scripture truth is used; the congregation is never made acquainted with the wonderful variety of what the Bible contains. Continue reading “The Importance of Christian Scholarship (XIV)”→
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
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.