Presbyterians of the Past

Manners, Sitting in Company

The following comments have been gleaned from a Presbyterian of the past who was responding to what he believed was discourteous and ill mannered seminary student behavior in his day. He offers observations...

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John H. Livingston, 1746–1825

With this biography the meaning of “presbyterian” is expanded to include other denominations that are Calvinistic in theology, ruled by elders, and are ordered by connectionalism. Presbyterian means most basically rule...

Francis Herron, 1774–1860

Francis was born on June 28, 1774, the son of David Herron and his wife whose name was possibly Mary. David was a ruling elder in the Middle Spring Church. The family lived about three miles northwest of the church on...

James A. Lyon, 1814-1882

James Adair was born to Ezekiel L. and Mary Adair Lyon near Jonesboro, Tennessee on April 19, 1814. His early education was obtained at home and in a local academy. The Lyons attended the Presbyterian Church in...

David J Beale, 1835-1900

David was born the son of Joshua and Milly (Milliken) Beale on July 1, 1835 in the village of Honey Grove which is located about forty-five miles west-northwest of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. While David was a boy his...

Notes & News (see Notes & News category for previous entries)

I have finished reading Dr. Gundlach's Process and Providence [read Notes and News entry for 7/5/2019 first] and was not disappointed in his astute and well-thought-out presentation of A. A. Hodge, B. B. Warfield, J. Gresham Machen, and others. Throughout the book the author analyzes the key figures with objectivity as he worked through primary sources to show that the fences sometimes built by historical theologians between the views of thinkers of the past are not always board and batten but are rather in some cases closer to chain link. Despite the author's historical objectivity, I came away with the impression--reading between the lines--that he did not care much for Francis L. Patton. As the controversies of the 1920s dawned, Dr. Gundlach believes the appeal of B. B. Warfield and J. Gresham Machen for the fundamentalist movement was their theological supernaturalism. Warfield could be relied on for his strong defense of the God-breathed Word, and Machen, also holding a theopneustosic view, became the voice of the supernatural for the virgin birth, the message of Paul, and Gundlach's selection for emphasis, Christianity and Liberalism. The gist of Dr. Gundlach's analysis is that the period of his study was unified in thought from Alexander through Machen by its defense of supernaturalism against the reoccurring manifestations of naturalism, whether it was the deism of the early days or the theological liberalism of the later years. The fundamentalists could not accept Princeton's views on evolution, but if the issue involved the supernatural, fundamentalism and Princeton could get along in a common cause. I find this analysis beneficial, but I also think the author downplayed the fact that Princeton's supernaturalist perspective was delimited by the Westminster Standards' interpretation of the Bible. It is the work of Westminster that drew out the Word's supernatural emphasis which was adopted and used for interpretation by the Princetonians as confessionalists. A reading of chapter one on the Word of God in the Confession sets the tone for the supernatural summary provided in the Westminster Standards. The Princetonians were supernaturalists because they subscribed to a confession that gushes the works, nature, and word of God as revealed in Scripture. However, despite my contention, the book is superb and it is necessary to read this book along with the work of Mark Noll and others if an understanding of Princeton Seminary and University, 1845-1929, is to be achieved. [posted 7/15/2019]

According to Bradley J. Gundlach's Process and Providence: The Evolution Question at Princeton, 1845-1929, the antipathy between Charles Hodge and President James McCosh of Princeton College has been overstated. Hodge was president of the college board when McCosh was called to the quaint-village of Princeton, but at the time of his call he had not adopted his evolutionary Darwin-based view. It seems the sea trip between Ireland and the United States rocked his perspective sufficiently to persuade him to find anchor in the port of Darwin. I have not finished reading the book but through page 172, I have found it thoroughly researched, fascinating reading, and composed with skill. I am looking forward to his perspectives on J. G. Machen and B. B. Warfield. However, a final assessment can be made only when completed. As some reviewers have found with embarrassment, books should be read in their entirety before publishing a review. [posted 7/5/2019]

In 1985, Neil Postman published Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, which considered the media, its influence on views, and the "sound bite" world of the time. Dr. Postman taught in the School of Education at New York University until his death in 2003. Following release of the book, it was quoted and referred to by some ministers and teachers as they illustrated the problems television, movies, and entertainment in general were creating to dampen Evangelicalism's grasp of and interest in theology. With thirty-four years gone by and other titles on the subject by Dr. Postman, not only is the media of his era continuing its mortification of theology, but now the Internet's social media is having a similar effect. The brevity of social media may tend to limit the attention spans of individuals and inhibit their ability to contemplate the nuances of doctrine and develop sound instruction for Christian living. Nearly ten years after Postman's book, David Wells included some incites from Amusing in his critique of Evangelicalism titled, No Place for Truth, or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology? If Dr. Postman were with us today and could issue a revised edition of Amusing crafted for the twenty-first century would it be re-titled Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the age of Social Media? [posted 7/1/2019]

From the Archive

J. W. Alexander, 1804-1859

James Waddell Alexander was born to Archibald and Janetta Waddell Alexander in Louisa County, Virginia, on March 13, 1804. The infant had been named for Janetta’s father, James Waddell, D.D., who had ministered in the...