The Tulip Driven Life Podcast

Thursday, April 26, 2012

B.B. Warfield Writes to J. Gresham Machen: A Fictional Letter

This is my paper for Church History class on the development of modern liberal theology and Arminian/ free will theology. It had to be written in a letter format, so I thought it would be neat, and fitting, to write it as a letter from B.B. Warfield, near his death, to Machen, regarding his concerns for Princeton, which was beginning to slip into liberalism around the time of his death in 1921.



REFORMATION BIBLE COLLEGE







LETTER PAPER


PASSING OF THE TORCH


CHURCH HISTORY













BY

THOMAS BOOHER



SANFORD, FLORIDA


APRIL, 2012



My dear friend and colleague,
                There is a churning in the pit of my stomach. My bones grow weak, and as I approach seventy years of age, I cannot help but wonder with fear and trepidation what the next seventy will hold. I write this letter as a passing of the torch from me to you. Read carefully and take to heart what I have to say, and if the Lord wills, you may be able to turn the tide and preserve reformed orthodoxy even at this dark hour. The state of the church is declining, and has been for quite some time, as you well know. Liberalism has a tendency to spew its deadly poison through the hearts of unregenerate men, and the devil is propagating its message widely and effectively. The 19th century brought great upheaval and theological activity, and from my vantage point here in the early 20th century, I cannot say that it has resulted in much good.[1]
The great awakenings, especially the second as it reached the less educated and filtered out west to the frontiersman, have produced an emotionalism and individualism within the hearts of Christians that tend toward compromise and devaluing of sound thinking and true doctrine.[2] Jonathan Edward’s own grandson, along with others, softened the Calvinist theology of our Puritan forbears.[3] This has produced a trickle-down effect that has turned Harvard and Yale to liberalism.[4] Now I fear, dear professor, for Princeton. I believe it is on the brink of following that same seductive harlot toward rebellion against the great truths of God revealed in His inerrant, inspired Word.[5] Princeton’s motto from its inception has been, “piety of the heart and solid learning.” When our first professor, Archibald Alexander, was inaugurated, Samuel Miller said:
We have more reason to rejoice, and to felicitate one another on the establishment of this seminary, than on the achievement of a great national victory, or on making a splendid addition to our national territory. It is the beginning, as we trust, of an extensive and permanent system, from which blessings may flow to millions, while we are sleeping in the dust.[6]
I have struggled mightily during my tenure here at Princeton to make good Miller’s hope, but once we have lost faith in an inspired Bible, we do not have anything on which to hang our hats, we have no higher authority, and Princeton is on the brink of crossing this point of no return.
Many liberal scholars have searched, though in vain, for the historical Jesus, reducing our Savior to nothing more than a great man who claimed to be a prophet.[7] Likewise, source critics have sought to further undermine the inspiration, reliability, and consistency of Scripture with their piecemeal documentary hypothesis.[8] It remains to be seen what legs Darwin’s theory of evolution may grow, and how the liberals may use it to shred orthodoxy. Such have been the virulent nature of the attacks against the Christian faith and God’s Word in the last century up to our present time.
Then there is that Charles Grandison Finney, who epitomizes the revivalist, emotionalist leaven that is sickening our nation. Indeed, many of his followers in the last half century have fallen into full-blown apostasy. The despicable heresy of sinless perfectionism is prevalent among them, along with Socinianism and simple moralism.[9] Finney denied original sin, and fed the masses with the lie that they had enough goodness in themselves to desire God and produce saving faith. The man practically reduced the cross of Christ to nothing but a wonderful moral example to follow, an encouragement rather than atonement![10] As I have shown in one of my own books, Finney himself admits to producing false converts by the droves:
 I was often instrumental in bringing Christians under great conviction, and into a state of temporary repentance and faith . . . . [But] falling short of urging them up to a point, where they would become so acquainted with Christ as to abide in Him, they would of course soon relapse into their former state.[11]
                This simple appeal to the will and playing on the emotions can never replace real conviction, and real salvific conviction only comes when the Holy Spirit moves through the proclamation of the gospel. Finney, along with many others, has abandoned the true gospel, blunting the sharp point of the Sword with sentimentality and/or do it yourself bootstrap theology. In New England, there is the burnt over district, again thanks largely to Finney. His mass hysteria and whipping people into a frenzy has produced little to no lasting results, evoking a highly skeptical, calloused response within the hearts of the people, and I do not half blame them.[12] Finney himself saw problems with his evangelism, which is in part why he gave it up to try his hand at pastoring, then developing his doctrine of perfectionism.[13] Yet, others follow in his footsteps and continue to try and propagate his insidious evangelistic methods. It is with much chagrin that I acknowledge he started out and was actually ordained as a Presbyterian minister, claiming to adhere to the Westminster Confession of Faith.[14] That fact will be a blight against our denomination for quite some time.
                Strange as it may sound, God has used the World War to expose liberalism’s lies and the futility of its optimism about the human condition.[15] It is a shame it took something as horrid as a world war with millions of lives lost to repaint the liberal’s fairytale into the tragedy that our world and condition really is. God may have used this destruction to uproot the tares and fertilize the soil. Perhaps now, after so much pain, while human depravity is imprinted so blackly on people’s conscience, the masses will be open to hearing the good news of a Savior from sin. Perhaps there is a ray of light, perhaps the tide is turning, and a passageway has been opened that can stem the threats of liberalism and free will theology, and a robust, biblical, evangelistic Calvinism can make headway once again.
                But that task is left to you, and those who remain faithful at Princeton, dear Machen. I am frail, but a shadow of my former self. Soon the Lord will be taking me home, this dark night of my soul will at last be at peace, the joy of the Lord will be upon me in full, and I will understand God’s purpose in our present predicament, and give Him the glory for it.
                                                               
         May the Lord grant you strength and courage to do all His holy will,
                                                                                                                          B.B. Warfield

New Words Used
All definitions are from www.merriam-webster.com
1.)    Trepidation: a nervous or fearful feeling of uncertain agitation; apprehension
2.)    Forbears:  Ancestor, Forefather
3.)    Trickle-down: relating to or being an effect caused gradually by remote or indirect influences
4.)    Piecemeal: done, made, or accomplished piece by piece or in a fragmentary way
5.)    Virulent: marked by a rapid, severe, and destructive course


[1] Justo L. Gonzalez, The Story of Christianity: The Early Church to the Present Day, Prince Press ed ed. (Oxford: Prince Press, 1999), 293
[2] Ibid., 245
[3] Professor Adamson, “The 19th Century Church and Theology in America” (lecture, Reformation Bible College, Sanford, FL, April 26, 2012).
[4] Ibid.
[5] Michael Horton, “The Truthfulness of Scripture,” Modern Reformation, March/April 2010, 26-29http://www.modernreformation.org/default.php?page=articledisplay&var1=ArtRead&var2=1126&var3=main (accessed April 26, 2012).
[6] Professor Adamson, “The 19th Century Church and Theology in America” (lecture, Reformation Bible College, Sanford, FL, April 26, 2012).
[7] Justo L. Gonzalez, The Story of Christianity: The Early Church to the Present Day, Prince Press ed ed. (Oxford: Prince Press, 1999), 292
[8] Professor Adamson, “20th Century Protestantism (Christianity and Liberalism)” (lecture, Reformation Bible College, Sanford, FL, April 26, 2012).
[9] Phil Johnson, “A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing,” Spurgeon Archive, http://www.spurgeon.org/...phil/articles/finney.htm(accessed April 26, 2012).
[10] Ibid.
[11] Ibid.
[12] Ibid.
[13] Ibid.
[14] Phil Johnson, “A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing,” Spurgeon Archive, http://www.spurgeon.org/...phil/articles/finney.htm(accessed April 26, 2012).
[15] Professor Adamson, “20th Century Protestantism (Christianity and Liberalism)” (lecture, Reformation Bible College, Sanford, FL, April 26, 2012).

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