Danny E. Olinger
The Committee for the Historian and the Committee on Christian Education are pleased to announce that the Presbyterian Guardian is now online in its entirety on OPC.ORG. The completion of this project makes available the forerunner to New Horizons and the main source of information regarding the Orthodox Presbyterian Church from 1935 (the year prior to the church's founding) through 1979. (New Horizons began publication in January 1980.)
J. Gresham Machen, the first editor of the Guardian, believed it was important that a magazine exist which was devoted to the conservative cause in the Presbyterian conflict of that era. The name was chosen to represent the defense of the faith, the fight to preserve the truth of the historic Christian faithespecially the person and work of Christ. The magazine's stated mandate was to teach, propagate, and defend the system of faith and practice found in the Westminster Confession and Catechisms.
The magazine, like the seminary that Machen founded (Westminster), was independent, but the staff and content were thoroughly connected to the OPC. OP minister and Westminster professor Ned B. Stonehouse served as editor, as did OP ministers H. McAllister Griffiths, Charles Woodbridge, Paul Woolley, Robert Nicholas, Leslie Sloat, and John Mitchell. Stonehouse commented in a 1956 editorial that in the providence of God the editors of the Guardian had been especially devoted to the advancement of the Reformed faith as it had been expressed in the life and testimony of the OPC.
At its beginning, the Guardian had a cool reception by some. Time magazine announced: "From Philadelphia, Vatican City of Presbyterian Fundamentalism, issued a new semimonthly, The Presbyterian Guardian, the last word in undiluted orthodoxy, as expounded by Fundamentalist Dr. J. Gresham Machen" (Oct. 28, 1935).
Among the most prolific theologians contributing to the magazine over its forty-four-year history were R. B. Kuiper (62 articles), Cornelius Van Til (47 articles, 13 reviews), Edmund Clowney (41 articles), and John Murray (71 articles). But the Guardian also opened its pages to pastors like Robert Atwell (44 articles), Henry Coray (over 100 articles), Edwards Elliott (37 articles, 17 letters), Calvin K. Cummings (36 articles), Lawrence Eyres (70 articles), and Henry Tavares (83 articles). The topics covered ranged from Christmas (26 articles, including Van Til's 1971 open letter to Pearl Buck, "Christmas and the New Day") to eschatology (47 articles) to prayer (46 articles) to the Sabbath (25 articles) to racism (11 articles, 14 letters).
Even in the present issue of New Horizons, the influence of the Guardian can be seen in the "News, Views, and Reviews" section, which in the Guardian was represented by "Orthodox Presbyterian Church News" and "Here and There in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church." Interesting tidbits can be found in those Guardian features, such as this news from Bethel OPC in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in the July 15, 1954, issue: "On June 12 the Sunday school enjoyed a trip into the jungles of the Everglades, aboard the boat River Queen. The trip included a stop at a Seminole Indian village, where a young Indian wrestled an alligator, and where three young Seminole children sang "Jesus Loves Me" in their native tongue. The whole trip served to spark the D.V.B.S."
To read about other adventures and much more in the Presbyterian Guardian, visit the home page of OPC.ORG, and in the right-hand column under the photo of Machen click on "Presbyterian Guardian." Or you may go directly to the webpage at http://opc.org/guardian.html.
The author is general secretary of the Committee on Christian Education. Reprinted from New Horizons, Sept. 2010.