Counsel of Chalcedon
You are here:Home-Resources-Counsel of Chalcedon Magazine-1998 Issue 3

1998 Issue 3

Eschatology is the branch of systematics that summarizes the Christian philosophy of history and the prophesied events leading up to Christ's Second Advent. Its topics range from personal eschatology (death, the intermediate state, and heaven or hell) to the course of history and progress of the gospel, the final judgment, and the consummated state. This essay will deal exclusively with the future of the world and Church as understood by the leading Southern Presbyterians of the 18-19th centuries.

"Moses Drury Hoge (1818-1898) was the beloved pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church in Richmond, Virginia for 50 years. Known for his pulpit skills, hundreds would flock to hear him each Sunday, and many were converted under his ministry. The sermon that follows is characteristic of Hoge's pulpit style: polished, clear, practical, and thoroughly Reformed. This particular sermon was chosen as a good illustration of the victory oriented, postmillennial preaching of the Southern Presbyterians. We heartily commend it to the reader." - Chris Strevel

"That thou mayst know the certainties of those things wherein thou hast been instructed." - Luke 1:4.

My theme for two Sunday afternoons was "the certainties of religion" and those who were present may remember that I had occasion to allude to a very pathetic incident in the history of one of the most eminent citizens of this commonwealth - a man of the staunchest patriotism, a man of the most indomitable courage, and who was honored by his fellow-citizens with one of the highest offices within their gift. He was sadly troubled with skeptical doubts, and one day, in conversation with me, he told me of the particular one that greatly distressed him. He said that if jesus Christ was what he represented himself to be, that the birth of the Son of God was the most important event in all the procession of the ages; that if Christ died on the cross for the redemption of the world, then there was no fact comparable to that, either in this world's history or the history of any other world, because the birth and death of the God-man, of the Redeemer of the race, was the greatest fact that could possibly exist in the universe of God.

"We are pleased to welcome Stephen N. Barnes, Jr. as a special contributor for this issue. Mr. Barnes is a graduate of Vanderbilt University and the law school at the University of Georgia. He was recently married to Miss Jennifer Christian Rogers, the daughter of Wayne and Judy Rogers, church planters for the RPCUS. It is our prayer that Mr. Barnes' paper expositing James Henley Thornwell's views on slavery will be appreciated by our readers and clarify the issue in the minds of many." - Chris Strevel

The Christian church has often wrestled with its place in society. Since the early persecution of the church during the Roman empire, Christians have struggled to understand the relationship of the church militant to the world in which it resides. The biblical call to be in the world, but not of the world - "to keep oneself unspotted from the world" - has spawned many interpretations, ranging from Anabaptistic dichotomies between church and society to medieval Roman Catholic notions of church over state. American Protestant Christianity, resting on the shoulders of the Reformers, has not been oblivious to these questions. The American religious experience, complex and diverse, has provided a unique environment from which distinctly American perceptions of the relation of the church to the world have emerged.

A Century Ago, and for long afterward, the Presbyterian Church in the United States ("the Southern Church") made a complete isolation of the church from secular and political concerns its distinctive doctrine. Adherents of the "spirituality" or "non-secular character" of the church have regarded it as an old Presbyterian tradition, and have attributed the founding of a separate southern church in 1861 to the national (Old School) General Assembly's adoption of "political" resolutions supporting the Federal war effort in 1861. Critics of the doctrine have attributed it to an otherworldly tendency of southern white Protestantism or to fear of national church pronouncements on slavery. Adherents have insisted that the Southern Church never wavered from strict spirituality before 1900; critics have pointed to proslavery and proConfederate pronouncements during the Civil War as deviations from the church's apolitical professions. All writers have agreed, however, that Southern Presbyterians embraced "the spirituality of the church" before 1861, and that their great theologian, James Henley Thornwell of South Carolina, made it one of his principal emphases.

"John B. Adger (1810 - 1899) was a Southern Presbyterian Theologian from South Carolina. He is perhaps best known for his defense of Presbyterian government. With his close friend James Henley Thornwell, he vehemently resisted the creation of church boards and agencies as extra-Scriptural, unnecessary, and ultimately destructive. The sermon reprinted here is a wonderful, warm presentation of biblical Presbyterianism and response to some of its critics. Dr. Adger's views are greatly expanded in his autobiographical Life and Times, and the reader is encouraged to find this volume and carefully peruse it." - Rev. Chris Strevel

"The Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth." - 1 Timothy 3:16.

Writing to the Ephesians, Paul says the Church is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets." Calvin points out how this signifies that the Church is founded on the doctrine of the apostles and prophets, so that if this foundation of true doctrine be subverted, the edifice itself must fall. So, by this Scripture, Calvin proves that there is no true Church where there is no true doctrine.

The purpose of this article is to set forth the rich heritage of Southern Presbyterianism, to document its rise, and to note its tragic fall. Accordingly, it will be necessary to give a general survey of the formation of the Presbyterian Church in the United States. We will then observe that the fall of the Southern Presbyterian Church occurred as it departed from its original fidelity to the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms.

This departure took place in the official rulings of the General Assemblies of the Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS). Sadly, we see the beginnings of a similar departure in the largest conservative Presbyterian Church in the United States today, the Presbyterian Church In America (PCA).

"Grace is heaped upon grace, and mercy banked upon mercy, and love is laid over upon love with more than ten-fold thickness, when the sinner is reclaimed and transplanted in the bosom of the Father, made an inmate in the eternal and fadeless home of God, and appointed an heir to all that glory which is incorruptible, undefiled and fades not away." These are the words of R.A. Webb, Southern Presbyterian Theologian of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, celebrating the glorious doctrine of adoption. While the doctrine of adoption had been included as a distinct doctrine in the Westminster Standards, it was Southern Presbyterians, John L. Girardeau and R.A. Webb, who developed the doctrine of adoption as a separate and distinct locus in systematic theology.

The most formidable opposition to the democratization of Christianity by the Unitarians and Transcendentalists came from the Old School Presbyterians, particularly in the South.

In the South, Old School Presbyterianism constituted a far greater majority of Presbyterianism than it did in the North, and it had much great influence on southern thought than the Old School had in the North. As a result, there was in the South a far greater consciousness of the theological radicalism lurking behind the anti-slavery crusade, and also a much keener insight into the growing radicalism in northern thought in its many and varied implications for constitutional government in the country, and its effect on the American way of life. - Singer, p. 82.

The root of our English word "culture" is the' Latin "cultus", which to the Romans signified worship of the divine. This reminds us of the foundation of culture which is so often forgotten in our day. As Russell Kirk and others have noted, "culture arises from the cult; that is, people are joined together in worship, and out of their religious association grows the organized human community," (America's British Culture, p. 1).

Culture implies far more than a common food, dress, or accent. It implies a common way of life, common standards, a common worldview if you will. But this commonality Is founded ultimately not upon economic status, race or nationality, but, as our word indicates, a common faith. Christopher Dawson puts it this way, "It is clear that a common way of life involves a common view of life, common standards of behavior, and common standards of value, and consequently a culture is a spiritual community which owes its unity to common beliefs and common ways of thought far more than to any unanimity of physical type.... Therefore from the beginning the social way of life which is culture has been, deliberately ordered and directed in accordance with the higher laws of life which are religion." (Ibid., p.2)

Len Auton is a ruling elder at Covenant Presbyterian Church. He is married, has two sons; and is a material planning manager at the Boeing Co. Along with the editor he shares the blessing of having married into the same family.

"Be sure that the former issues are really dead before you bury them." - R.L. Dabney

On March 12, 1998, in a quiet suburb just outside Greenville, South Carolina, an event took place that may one day mark the rebirth of Old School theology in the South. On that date, Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary (GPTS) installed their first president, Dr. Joseph A. Pipa, Jr. So what does that have to with Old School Theology? In its short 10 1/2 years of existence, GPTS has stood unwaveringly on the side of orthodoxy and in the historical stream of Old School Theology. The seminary's unabashed emphasis on Old School Theology was borne out by the lecture series topic. The inauguration service was preceded by a series of lectures on Old School versus New School Theology. It was impossible to come away from the event without a deep appreciation that this school, like no other of its kind today, is firmly grounded in Old School Theology. We live in a day in which the spirit of compromise reigns supreme and no place has this spirit been more evident than in the once great reformed seminaries of our land. The installation of a president not only signifies a major milestone in the history of GPTS but it marks another significant step toward a return to biblical Christianity in the South.