Machen During World War I

The Christ the Center panel met with Dr. Barry Waugh, editor of the recent publication Letters from the Front: J. Gresham Machen’s Correspondence from World War I, about the fascinating topic of Machen’s service as a YMCA secretary near the frontlines of action in France during WWI. Dr. Waugh discussed the content of some of the letters, Machen’s reasons for service, how Machen sought to situate himself in the midst of French culture, his desire to serve as a faithful gospel minister, and the discussion concluded with consideration of some of the legacy of Machen’s wartime service.

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Christ the Center focuses on Reformed Christian theology. In each episode a group of informed panelists discusses important issues in order to encourage critical thinking and a better understanding of Reformed doctrine with a view toward godly living. Browse more episodes from this program or subscribe to the podcast feed.

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Mark N.

6 years ago

Hey guys, I love your show.

I must say that the discussion regarding Machen and the war was pretty weak, in my mind. I’m concerned that it might leave your listeners with a distorted picture of Machen’s view of World War I and conscription.

It may have been the way Dr. Waugh interposed some of his own perspectives in the conversion, or the way he emphasized Machen’s ‘struggling’ or perhaps the way the questions were framed.

Machen showed an incredible amount of resolve and determined conviction against militarization, World War I, interventionism, imperialism, the treaty of versailles, and conscription. I don’t find Dr. Waugh, at least in this interview, conveying that. It’s almost as if it seems like the discussion was about a different man.

Anyways, just my 2 cents (Canadian).

Camden Bucey

6 years ago

I’d like to do a followup focusing on Machen’s political views and how he related the church and the state.

Steve in Toronto

6 years ago

If you do it would nice to hear more about why Machen choose not to serve as a chaplain and chose instead an ecumenical para-church organization. Do we know anything about where he worshiped during this period? or if he had an opportunity to preach or witness to either soldiers or French civilians?

Camden Bucey

6 years ago

I believe the intro to the book says there weren’t any openings for the chaplaincy. He didn’t serve in the ambulance corps because there was the possibility of being transferred to combat. I don’t know where he worshipped. That would be interesting to hear.

Bill Doolittle

6 years ago

The guest mentioned the poor penmanship of B.B. Warfield in contrast to Machen. Does anyone know if there is a collection of Warfield letters, either published or unpublished?

Camden Bucey

6 years ago

I would venture to say that something of the sort exists. This is a question for Fred Zaspel!

Bill Doolittle

6 years ago

After posting the above comment, I found in the recent work “B.B. Warfield’s Scientifically Constructive Theological Scholarship” (2011, by David P. Smith) a letter from A.A. Hodge to Warfield while a student is quoted, footnoted as “B.B. Warfield Papers, box 13, PTS archives” (p. 51). So something of the sort does seem to exist.

Mark G

6 years ago

Here is a link to the Warfield Manuscript Collection at Princenton:

http://libweb.ptsem.edu/collections/ead/warfield_benjamin_b.html

Bill Doolittle

6 years ago

Very interesting and much appreciated!

Steve

6 years ago

Hi Bill,

You probably already know of the following publications but they may contain some references you can check out for Warfield’s letters:

A Bibliography of Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield, 1851-1921, by John E. Meeter and Roger Nicole (Nutley, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1974).

Meeter, John E., ed. Benjamin B. Warfield: Selected Shorter Writings. 2 vols. Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1970, 1973.

Warfield, Ethelbert D., William Park Armstrong, and Caspar Wistar Hodge, eds. The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield. 10 vols. New York: Oxford University Press, 1932; reprint, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 2000.

Steve

Bill Doolittle

6 years ago

Thanks Steve. I didn’t check the 10 volume set, but the bibliography and SSW didn’t seem to offer any help. A footnote in another work did confirm that some boxes of Warfield archive material does exist at Princeton. I started reading Warfield a few years ago and have really enjoyed him. I appreciate the help.

Steve

6 years ago

Hi Bill,

Back again. Here’s the description of the Warfield archive at PTS. Doesn’t look like there are many Warfield letters.

Creator:Warfield, Benjamin Breckinridge, 1851-1921Dates:1877-1920Extent:54 boxes (23.6 linear feet)

Summary:The bulk of this collection consists of sets of correspondence maintained in the original order that Warfield once bundled them. The titles of the original bundles, as labeled by Warfield himself, have been transcribed at the box level. Correspondence sets contain mostly letters to Warfield, with the rare letter from Warfield. The collection also includes lecture and research notes on biblical criticism, systematic theology, and various readings. It includes manuscript works on Augustine, Calvin, and other topics. Also included are scrapbooks of articles and postcards, genealogical information on the Warfield, Breckinridge and Kinkead families, and facsimiles of letters collected from other institutions or individuals.

Steve

Jeff Waddington

6 years ago

I have personally worked through the Warfield materials at PTS and photographed a fair bit of them, but I do not remember thinking Warfield’s handwriting was particularly bad. But then again, after reading Edwards manuscripts not much would be that hard to read.

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