The Story of the Bible Presbyterian Church
Dr. Allan A. Mac Rae
President, Faith Theological Seminary
The Bible Presbyterian church is a comparatively new organization, yet it represents a tradition which goes back to the very beginning of Christian history.
Before our Lord ascended into heaven He commanded His people to witness to the truth regarding His deity and His Saviourhood and to spread the testimony as widely as possible. In earlier discourses He had warned them that difficult times would come; that evil would enter their very midst; that Satan would endeavor to disseminate false teaching among them; and He had exhorted them to watch and be ready for His coming in order that He might find them faithful when He would return to them. Not many decades later the apostle Paul already saw the beginning of false teaching within the church and urged Timothy carefully to guard the doctrine that had been committed to his care. All through the history of the Church of Christ there has been a ceaseless struggle to maintain the truth. God has given us a marvelous deposit of soul saving truth, but Satan is very active. He is always trying to find his way into the professing church. He seeks to get control of it, in order that he may bring its testimony to an end.
The result has been that at times apostasy has won so strong a hold on the organization of some great denomination that Christian people have found it necessary to leave it, if they would be true to their faith in Christ. They have had to form new organizations, young in form but old in teaching, maintaining what God has revealed in His Word, and declaring His soul saving truth to the hungry multitudes.
This process was what made necessary the great Reformation of the sixteenth century, and in these days it is making necessary a great Twentieth Century Reformation.
One of the greatest attempts of Satan to gain control of the Christian church has occurred during the last one hundred years. Brilliant scholars in Germany originated a series of theories known as the Higher Criticism. These theories divided the Bible into many different parts alleged to have been written in different centuries and put together long after the time of the events recorded. The Bible was robbed of its claim to be an authoritative declaration of God's will and became instead a mere record of the fallible thoughts of sinful human beings. Gradually these ideas permeated the theological institutions of Germany, of Great Britain and of the United States. Many a theological seminary ceased to build up the faith of its students, and devoted its energies to tearing down what faith they had. The ministers thus trained did not accept the Bible as God's infallible Word. Old fashioned doctrines, such as the Deity of Christ and His substitutionary Atonement, they considered as out worn shibboleths, good to mention piously at times, in order to keep their people contented, but not worthy of serious attention. Ministers proceeded to attempt to build a world according to their own ideas of what was desirable, and ceased to feel that their great purpose in life should be to present the saving truth that God has declared in His Word.
Turning to a specific denomination, we follow with interest the course of events in the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., popularly known as the Northern Presbyterian church. This church had been, throughout its history, a staunch upholder of the teachings of the Bible. In 1893 its General Assembly had declared its belief "That the Bible as we now have it, in its various translations and versions, when freed from all errors and mistakes of translators, copyists, and printers, is the very Word of God, and consequently wholly without error." , In that same year it suspended from the ministry one of its most renowned Seminary professors, Dr. Charles A. Briggs of Union Theological Seminary, for denying the verbal inspiration of the Bible. The General Assembly of 1899 declared the full truthfulness of the Bible to be a fundamental doctrine of the Presbyterian church and this pronouncement was repeated by a number of subsequent Assemblies. Yet within a few years we find that those who had been a tiny minority, denying the historic stand of the church, had gained such control that they were able to determine the policies of its boards and agencies. and even to expel from its ministry men who desired to uphold the truth of the Word of God. In 1924 the Modernist leaders issued a statement which flatly denied that God's Word was free from error and declared that Presbyterian ministers need not believe in the substitutionary atonement of Christ or His bodily resurrection. This so called Auburn Affirmation was signed by nearly thirteen hundred ministers of the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A. Modernism had by this time gained such control that not one of the Affirmationists was disciplined. In fact some of them subsequently held the highest offices in the Presbyterian Church. Against this increasing tide of unbelief voices were raised. An outstanding leader in the stand for the Gospel was the late Dr. J. Gresham Machen, a beloved professor in Princeton Theological Seminary. This institution had been for over a century a bulwark in the defense of Biblical inerrancy. Yet in 1929 the General Assembly was induced to reorganize Princeton Seminary in the interests of theological liberalism, and today the Higher Criticism is actually taught in its classes.
The attention of Dr. Machen and his associates was directed to the fact that young men who desired to do foreign missionary work in line with the historic position of their denomination were often looked upon with suspicion by the Board of Foreign Missions, while graduates of Modernistic seminaries were accepted without difficulty. Abundant evidence came into Dr. Machen's hands that missionaries of the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A. were in some cases even denying Biblical truth instead of proclaiming it. It was seen that something positive must be done to advance the Gospel in foreign lands. In 1933 Dr. Machen united with other strong Christian leaders in forming the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions, a Board which avowed its purpose to send out missionaries who should preach the Gospel without hesitation or equivocation and to stand for the inspired Word of God. This Board has grown until now its numerous missionaries are preaching the Gospel on five continents.
After the organization of the Independent Board it speedily became evident that unbelief was no longer a small nose of the camel trying to push its way into the tent of the professing church. It already had two feet in the church and was ready to cast out the rightful owner. In 1934 the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A. passed a mandate ordering all Northern Presbyterians who belonged to the Independent Board to withdraw from that Board or face expulsion from the Church. What a change had occurred In 40 years! In 1893 a famous professor was suspended from the ministry for denying the inerrancy of God's Word. Only forty years later, in 1934 faithful ministers of the Word, anxious to uphold the truth of the Scripture, were ordered to desist from their efforts to send the Gospel to the lost.
Of course the members of the Independent Board did not obey the command to cease their effort to spread the Gospel. They felt that they were more truly Presbyterian than those who were persecuting them. Resolved to obey God rather than men, they stood by their intention, and in 1936 the General Assembly ordered eight of them suspended from the ministry of the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A. Among those suspended were Dr. Harold S. Laird, the beloved pastor of the First and Central Presbyterian Church in Wilmington, Delaware, Rev. Carl McIntire, pastor of the Collingswood Presbyterian Church in New Jersey and editor of the Christian Beacon, and Dr. J. Oliver Buswell, Jr., who was then President of Wheaton College, and is now President of the National Bible Institute in New York City.
Unable to obey the Word of God and at the same time to remain in the church of their forefathers, these men repeated the age old experience of going out to build a new work for God. They determined to carry on the testimony of Presbyterianism as it existed prior to the infiltration of Modernism. They resolved to hold the Bible at the very center of their work. Out of this situation the Bible Presbyterian Church was born. In its few years of existence it has grown until now it has churches from Pennsylvania in the east to California in the west, and from Texas in the south to the Dakotas in the north.
The founders of the Bible Presbyterian Church realized that the principal source of the apostasy of many old line denominations was the defection of theological seminaries. Consequently they took part with others in the forming of a new Seminary, which should stand four square for the Word of God. Thus was founded Faith Theological Seminary in Wilmington, Delaware, an institution which seeks to combine the highest scholarship with constant emphasis on vital spiritual life. The Seminary began with twenty-five students, all of whom were college graduates. While still maintaining its high standards for admission, it has grown until it now has over 70 consecrated students, preparing for effective service to Christ.
These are days when the ardor of many Christians has grown cold. Often churches emphasize human improvement and social betterment rather than the salvation of individuals. The true Christian is interested in human improvement and social betterment, but he knows that these objectives are best attained through saving souls from sin. God has given us a wonderful opportunity of Salvation, through belief in the substitutionary Atonement of Christ Are you making your life count to the utmost for the spread of this Gospel? Can you succeed in this objective if you belong to a denomination which includes men who deny God's truth? God will never bless compromise with apostasy and unbelief. Let us labor while it is day. Let us work and strive in order that the Word of God may be extended and that souls may be born again into the kingdom of Christ. This is the testimony of the Bible Presbyterian Church.
Reprinted by Permission
At the outset of the Bible Presbyterian Church, the need of a Committee for the expansion of the work was realized. With this in mind, the first Synod established the Committee on National Missions, which now has offices in Wilmington, Delaware. Those who read this story and are interested in the formation of such a testimony should correspond with:
COMMITTEE ON NATIONAL MISSIONS
of the BIBLE PRESBYTERIAN SYNOD
Box 947 Wilmington, Delaware