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A Fiery Gospel: The Battle Hymn of the Republic

The new Trinity Psalter Hymnal includes only two hymns under the topic “The Nation.” The first is national only by implication. It pleas for “God the all-terrible” to have mercy and grant “peace in our time.” The second appeals to the “great King of nations,” again to show mercy to a repentant, humble, and needy people. Neither is specific to America. Both can be sung by Christians in any land. The OPC/URC psalter-hymnal takes an appropriately cautious approach to the nation’s place in public worship. But that caution has not always characterized Presbyterians in the United States. A century ago, songs about America and America’s wars provoked controversy among Presbyterians, in part due to the nation’s intervention in World War I and the desire evident among many pastors and congregations to mobilize themselves for earthly warfare. J. Gresham Machen still had one of these hymns in mind in 1933 when he reviewed the new hymnal of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of ... Read more

The Christianity of Woodrow Wilson

Woodrow Wilson, the twenty-eighth president of the United States, was also a ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (PCUSA). In fact, for a seven-year period, Wilson served on the session at First Presbyterian Church in Princeton where J. Gresham Machen attended. Sadly, however, Wilson left behind the doctrinal content of the historic Presbyterianism that Machen embraced, as Barry Hankins, professor of history at Baylor University, demonstrates in his short biography, Woodrow Wilson: Ruling Elder, Spiritual President . Hankins examines the impact of Wilson’s progressive ideology, supported by his liberal theological convictions, on American culture and the Presbyterian Church in the early twentieth century. Making of a Statesman Wilson’s father, Joseph, was a Presbyterian minister who served from 1861 to 1898 as the permanent clerk of the Southern Presbyterian Church. Wilson himself studied for gospel ministry at Davidson College in 1873 but withdrew and ... Read more

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