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The History of Presbyterianism in the United States Part 6: Modernism E – Ecumenism & Neo-Orthodoxy.

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Presentation on theme: "The History of Presbyterianism in the United States Part 6: Modernism E – Ecumenism & Neo-Orthodoxy."— Presentation transcript:

1 The History of Presbyterianism in the United States Part 6: Modernism E – Ecumenism & Neo-Orthodoxy

2 Master Timeline United StatesEurope 1620 – Mayflower lands 1730s-1743 – 1 st Great Awakening 1776-1783 – American Rev. 1790-1840 – 2 nd Great Awakening 1830 – Book of Mormon 1850-1900 – 3 rd Great Awakening 1861-1865 – American Civil War 1870 – Scottish Common Sense 1889 – Moody Bible Institute 1891 – Briggs’ address 1909 – Scofield Reference Bible 1910 – Pres. G.A.: 5 Fundamentals 1914-1919 – World War I 1922 – “Shall Fund.s Win?” 1923 – The Auburn Affirmation 1925 – The Scopes Trial 1929 – Westminster Theo. Seminary 1936 – Orthodox Presbyterian Ch. 1936 – John Mackay, Princeton Sem. 1643 – Westminster Confession of Faith 1650-1800 – Age of European Enlightenment & of Scottish Common Sense Philosophy 1770s-1900 – Rise of German Higher Criticism 1789-1799 – French Revolution 1827 – Plymouth Brethren begin meeting 1833 – Slavery Abolition Act of England 1859 - Charles Darwin – Origin of Species 1862-77 – Darby travels to the United States United States (cont.) 1937 – Death of J. Gresham Machen - Bible Presbyterian Ch. (McIntyre) 1966 – RTS, Jackson, MI 1967 – Confession of ‘67, Book of Confessions 1973 – PCA 1983 – Union of UPCUSA & PCUS

3 Strategic Theological Compromises Within Conservative Presbyterianism Adopting Act of 1729 Scottish Common Sense Realism Neo-Orthodoxy

4 Karl Barth, 1886-1968 Swiss Reformed Theologian “Neo-orthodoxy” was a faith that looked both ways: it was rooted in the Protestant Reformation and yet relevant to a modern age. It affirmed the authority of the Bible, but also the findings of biblical higher criticism, and thus rejected the doctrine of biblical inerrancy. The creeds of the church, as well, were valuable statements of faith, though time-bound and historically conditioned. H&M

5 Neo-Orthodoxy – A Theology of Compromise Stresses the subjective experience of the individual and regards propositional truth as either irrelevant or indeterminate. Existential truth transforms the individual in his concrete here and now. Propositional truth, on the other hand, may increase one's information but leaves man essentially unchanged. The Bible is said to contain within it an inspired witness, but it is a mistake to directly identify Scripture as the Word of God; Jesus, the person, is the Word of God. The Bible can become the Word of God only when God chooses to use it to reveal himself. Therefore, the actual text and words of Scripture are not identified as the Word of God. Rather, it is an instrument to communicate and witness to the true Word, Jesus. Neo-Orthodoxy accepts higher criticism of the Scriptures but believes exegesis must move beyond mere historical inquiries.

6 John Mackay, President, Princeton Sem. 1936-1959 Mackay sought to go beyond the fundamentalist- liberal impasse by hiring several neo-orthodox faculty, including Elmer G. Homrighausen and Emil Brunner. “[At the heart of Presbyterianism is a] great- heartedness [that recognizes] it is a right and duty of a living church to restate and interpret its faith as occasion may require.” H&M

7 Neo-Orthodoxy A new solidarity emerged after 1936. Presbyterians met the demands of their time by following “the example of that great neo- Calvinist, Karl Barth. … Although Barth may have chastised the zeal of liberalism in the Presbyterian Church, he was no obstacle for its progressive impulse.” H&M

8 Cornelius Van Til Prof. of Apologetics, Westminster Seminary Philadephia, PA Van Til was relentless in insisting that Barth was no ‘neo-Calvinist’ but represented a radical break from Calvin and the Reformed tradition.

9 Cornelius Van Til Prof. of Apologetics, WTS, Phil. “If the late J. Gresham Machen spoke of the necessity of making a choice between liberalism and Christianity, we should be doing scant justice to his memory if we did less today with respect to the new Modernism and Christianity.” H&M

10 New Appointments to Princeton The resurrection of Christ does not belong to history but to eternity. E.G. Homrighausen “[T]he pronouncements of Dr. Homrighausen are … hopelessly confusing. His trumpet gives forth an uncertain sound. … his Barthianism … is absolutely destructive of the notion of an infallible Bible.” C. Van Til

11 “The Flourishing Fifties” “The postwar baby boom and the growth of suburban life ushered American culture and its mainline churches into a period of unprecedented growth and prosperity. Presbyterian Church buildings and membership increased at a pace that exceeded population growth in the United States. Sunday school attendance and benevolence giving rose to their highest levels in denominational history.” H&R

12 Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower Joined the PCUSA in 1953 upon his election to the presidency. Added “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance Started the annual Day of Prayer and the Presidential Prayer Breakfast Entertained visits from Billy Graham and others. Americans in the Eisenhower years displayed “a very fervent faith in a very vague religion.” (Martin Marty) H&R

13 The Ecumenist Agenda Continues Through the 20 th century “To be ecumenical is as Presbyterian as predestination.” (R.M. Brown) Evangelical Alliance => Federal Council of Churches, 1908 => National Council of Churches, 1950 & the World Council of Churches, 1948 United Nations is founded, 1945

14 The Ecumenist Agenda Continues Through the 20 th century Several attempts to unify the Presbyterian churches were made. 1958 – A merger between the PCUSA and the United Presbyterian Church, North America United Nations is founded, 1945

15 “The UPCNA was a conservative church that was expanding beyond its parochial Covenanter past, evidenced by its membership in the National and World Council of Churches.” H&R

16 The Feminist Agenda Continues Through the 20 th century It is my vision that the day soon will come when we will not be debating ordination of women, nor rejecting the use of inclusive language... 1922 – Ordination of women as deacons 1930 – Ordination of women as elders 1956 – Ordination of women as ministers 1970 – G.A. approval of abortion on demand Margaret Towner

17 1949 Commencement, Princeton Seminary “Any Presbyterian church that does not … ally itself with every other truly Christian church … is not a Presbyterian church. It has become a Presbyterian sect. … There is no future for a sectarian church, … no future – period!” Eugene C. Blake

18 The Confession of 1967 Neo-orthodoxy was given confessional standing. ▫affirmed God’s transcendence over creation, ▫affirmed humanity’s fall into sin, ▫affirmed the call to faith as a response to God’s grace in Jesus Christ. The Bible is the word of God, subordinate to the Word of God incarnate. Presbyterians are instructed to read the Bible historically and not literally (rejecting inerrancy).

19 The Book of Confessions The UPCUSA subscribed to a multiple confessional base, incorporating many historic creeds. The Neo-orthodox Barmen Declaration and Confession of 1967 were included and are the “last word”. The Westminster Larger Catechism was dropped as being legalistic.

20 Ministerial Ordination Vow From: “Do you sincerely receive and adopt the Confession of Faith and Catechisms of this Church as containing the system of doctrine taught in Holy Scripture?” To: Do you sincerely receive and adopt the essential tenets of the Reformed faith as expressed in the confession of our church as authentic and reliable expositions of what Scripture leads us to believe and do, and will you be instructed and let by those confessions as you lead the people of God?

21 “Mainline Presbyterians created a creedal museum and put the Westminster Standards under glass.” Dr. Ed Clowney, President, Westminster Seminary

22 Dr. Cornelius Van Til Westminster Seminary “Neo-orthodoxy proved to be more triumphant in the Presbyterian church than liberalism. The triumph of neo-orthodoxy was the broadening of the church which, in effect, did not embrace but rejected all the historic Creeds it claimed to affirm. The Book of Confessions is a collection of mutually exclusive gospels.”

23 A plurality of contextual issue-oriented theological ventures has replaced doctrine: feminist theology, black theology, theologies of liberation and process. Presbyterians began identifying themselves less by their denominational affiliation and more by the interest group they supported. The call to social activism transformed Presbyterians into a church of “pure doing” – from the scandalous to the mundane. When all of life was mission and every member a minister, Presbyterians lost their consciousness of special office and holy vocations. Angela Davis

24 First Presbyterian Church, Pittsburgh the Rev. Tom Hall





29 New Covenant Presbyterian Church Preaching God’s Sovereign Grace to a World of Need 128 St. Mary’s Church Rd., Abingdon, MD 21009 410-569-0289

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