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Respite for Weary Souls: Machen on the Church

If the old adage has it that you should not judge a book by its cover, that raises a question about evaluating a book by its table of contents.  J. Gresham Machen’s Christianity and Liberalism has gone through many editions since its original 1923 publication, and with those versions have come many different covers. But the significance of the book’s contents has remained fixed. For historians and conservative Protestants both—not audiences that often agree— Christianity and Liberalism is, in the words of Yale University historian Sydney Ahlstrom, “the chief theological ornament of American fundamentalism.” Some Presbyterians may balk at putting Machen in the fundamentalist camp, since he preferred to call himself a Calvinist. But on the grounds that fundamentalism was mainly an expression of opposition to theological liberalism (or modernism), Machen well qualifies as a fundamentalist. After all, his book walked through the basic dogmas of Christian teaching—God, man, Christ, ... Read more

The Glory of the Church: R. B. Kuiper

Of the ministers who founded the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Rienk Bouke (“R. B.”) Kuiper (1886–1966) is among the least familiar to Orthodox Presbyterians today. The Dutch immigrant studied at Princeton Seminary and served seventeen years in pastoral ministry (in the Christian Reformed Church and the Reformed Church in America) before joining the OPC and excelling as a teacher of preachers at Westminster Theological Seminary for two decades. He also enjoyed tenures as president of Calvin College and Calvin Theological Seminary. As his biographer and son-in-law Edward Heerema noted, retirement was a remarkably productive time during which Kuiper penned five books. The most popular (and his “masterpiece,” according to John Murray), was a comprehensive study of the doctrine of the church, The Glorious Body of Christ , published by Eerdmans in 1958. Organized in fifty-three short chapters that originally appeared as a series in the Presbyterian Guardian from 1947 to 1952, the book contains ... Read more

A Biblical Doctrine of the Church: Edmund P. Clowney

In the culturally turbulent year of 1968, Edmund Clowney, then an Orthodox Presbyterian minister and president of Westminster Theological Seminary, wrote the landmark article, “Toward a Biblical Doctrine of the Church” ( Westminster Theological Journal 31, no. 1, November 1968). Over against contemporary Protestant notions that sought to politicize the church—namely through the socializing and secularizing of the church—Clowney maintained that it is only as the church is under the headship of Jesus Christ and the authority of the Word of God that it can be true to its spiritual nature and calling. He believed that in the balance was not only the church’s evangelism, edification, and worship, but also whether the church would stand for apostolicity instead of apostasy, holiness instead of worldliness, unity instead of division, and universality instead of sectarianism. Socializing of the Church Clowney observed in the article that a primary trend of the new ecclesiology was the socializing ... Read more

The Church’s Power: James Bannerman

Every winter, James Bannerman taught the doctrine of the church to the fourth-year students at New College in Edinburgh, Scotland—the divinity school for the Free Church of Scotland. As the last lecture of the course came to its end, one can picture the grey-whiskered Scottish professor gathering up his papers, looking up to his waiting students, and dismissing them with the closing verses of Psalm 122: Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee. Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces. For my brethren and companions’ sakes, I will now say, Peace be within thee. Because of the house of the Lord our God I will seek thy good. (KJV) [1] This passage conveys the heartfelt conviction of a churchman who wanted his students to linger over the Word of God in their future ministries in which they would guard “the peace of Jerusalem” and seek its good. Few Presbyterian scholars have done more to explain such biblical ideals, as well as the fundamental ... Read more

“Not a Visible Society”: Charles Hodge

Charles Hodge (1797–1878) graduated from the recently established Princeton Theological Seminary (founded 1812) in 1819, proceeded to teach there as an instructor and then as a longtime professor in biblical (later theological) studies, and became its head in 1851. During his almost six decades of labor at Princeton, Hodge taught thousands of Presbyterian pastors, missionaries, and those in other fields of ministerial service. Though, due to health concerns, he attended few general assemblies (serving as moderator in 1846), he wrote extensively each year on the general assembly of the PCUSA, publishing his writing in the July issues of the Biblical Repertory and Princeton Review , of which he was editor for many years. Hodge never served as a pastor, but he was, in many respects, a consummate churchman. Hodge’s views on the church were formative for so many in the Old School (1837–1869) Presbyterian church in the nineteenth century, and he left his mark on the wider Protestant church as well. At ... Read more

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