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New Horizons

June, 2006: The OPC after Seventy Years

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The OPC's Heritage after Seventy Years

It was a mild, late-spring afternoon in seemingly business-as-usual downtown Philadelphia. But an event neither usual nor unprecedented for this historic city was shaping up for the day. Some people thinking about freedom were heading for the New Century Club at 126 South 12th Street. Virtually all, if not all, of them were members of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (PCUSA).

Just six blocks away was storied Independence Hall, where, 160 years before, the thirteen British colonies had culminated their crusade for liberty from a tyrannical government with a declaration of their independence and founded a nation. As we entered the New Century Club that day, though, we were more attuned to the Protestant Reformation of 400 years before than to civil freedom; we were concerned with men's immortal souls and what would be preached to them. A church was going to be founded. It was June 11, 1936. Read more

My OPC Upbringing

The best man at my parents' wedding on June 25, 1935, was Harold J. Ockenga. Carl McIntire officiated. They and my father, Robert S. Marsden (1905-1960), had left Princeton Theological Seminary with J. Gresham Machen in 1929 to be in the first class at Westminster Theological Seminary. Machen himself had been asked to officiate, but could not, because he had been suspended from the ministry of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.

Due to that crisis, his three protégés, then ministers in that denomination, would soon go their separate ways. My mother, Bertha Mish Marsden, later recalled that they argued church politics as they were waiting for the wedding to begin. Read more

Threescore and Ten: The OPC at Seventy

"The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away."

Psalm 90 instructs us that the human life span is about seventy years, a general rule yet to be overcome by modern medical and technological advances. Moses, the author of the psalm, reminds us that these are difficult years of toil and trouble. Moreover, we live sinful lives that are full of regret and short of accomplishment. This psalm underscores the precariousness of the human condition. However much we boast of our worldly attainments and deny that life is fleeting, wisdom reminds us otherwise. Read more

Coming In from the Outside

The word pilgrim should characterize all Christians, as the Scriptures say that the people of God from the earliest days and even now are "strangers and pilgrims" on this earth (Heb. 11:13; 1 Pet. 2:11 KJV). As the people of God, the church, we travel through this world until we arrive at the heavenly city, the new Jerusalem, the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God (Heb. 11:10).

While we journey together, each one of us takes a different road. Many who read this issue, which celebrates the Orthodox Presbyterian Church's seventieth anniversary, have traveled a road that started in the OPC from the very beginning. Others, like myself, started out in other corners of the church, and their journey has brought them into the OPC. In my case, I sought to find a solidly Reformed denomination, which I found in the OPC. For those born and raised in the OPC, there is an understandable devotion and commitment to one's alma mater. However, for those who come from the outside, what is there to commend the OPC? Read more

Communion with the Father in Love

My first "real job" after college, though short-lived, was working with physically and sexually abused children. If some of them were to see the title of this article, they would shake their heads with skepticism or irritation, seeing the words father and love appear in the same sentence. Similarly, for some Christians the title father recalls a painful past of neglect or abuse.

Other Christians resist the idea of God's loving fatherhood for other reasons. Some think of the almighty, sovereign, and holy Ruler of all the earth as so imposing and intimidating that any thought of him as accessible or caring is ruled out. Others are offended to hear God addressed with masculine terminology. Many ministers can testify to praying before a theologically diverse crowd of ministers and theologians, only to discover that the chill in the air was not a sudden draft in the room, but the bristling of mainline clerics at the offensively "chauvinistic" salutation. Read more

What Machen Meant

Shortly before his death on January 1, 1937, Dr. J. Gresham Machen dictated a final telegram to his friend and colleague, Professor John Murray. The words of the telegram were short and sweet: "I'm so thankful for the active obedience of Christ. No hope without it." That memorable message has been passed down through the generations and continues to inspire no small admiration for this great man. Yet how many of us can honestly say that we understand what Dr. Machen meant by his parting statement?

I must admit that I did not grasp the full import of Dr. Machen's declaration until just recently. In reading a collection of sermons and writings by Dr. Machen entitled God Transcendent, I ran across the manuscript of a radio address given less than two weeks before his death. The title of the manuscript was "The Active Obedience of Christ." In this radio address, I found the key to unlock the meaning of the telegram. Nowhere else have I encountered such clear thinking about the importance and value of the active obedience of Christ. It seems to me that Dr. Machen still has much to teach the members, ministerial candidates, ruling elders, deacons, and pastors in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Read more

Our Struggle to Establish Presbyterianism

The most recent presbytery meeting of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Uganda was the most encouraging one that I have attended. The brothers debated, making a real effort to focus on issues and not personalities. And they regularly asked what their governing documents said concerning the issues they were wrestling through.

At other times, I have witnessed these brothers screaming at each other and nearly coming to blows. I have witnessed power struggles for leadership in the church and have despaired. But in this most recent meeting, all the men were treating one another as equals. They were united in their commitment to be governed by the Word of God, the standards of doctrine, and the book of church order that they had sworn to uphold. In short, they were being Presbyterian. Read more

Helps for Worship #9: Psalms and Hymns (Part 1)

"Oh come, let us sing to the Lord!" (Psalm 95:1 NKJV)

God has created us to sing. Music enables us to take our deepest thoughts and feelings and give expression to them in a way that mere words cannot do. The ability to sing is even an aspect of our being made in the image of God. God sings! "He will rejoice over you with singing" (Zeph. 3:17). What a magnificent thought: Our singing out of delight in God is a reflection of his singing out of delight in his redeemed people! Read more

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