It has been a hectic year. I apologize that I have not been posting on a regular basis. I made choices with my time, and those choices have not included this blog. I will be endeavoring to expand the content that I put up on at least a once on every two week basis. I'll be doing museum visits, posting content from past site visits, and even highlighting some of my own research. I think this is going to be a big year, but this will also be a year of big uncertainties. Welcome to the ride.
The Virginia Museum of Transportation features several steam locomotives from the bygone era of the now defunct Norfolk & Western. The N&W was a major regional rail artery supplying the coal and consumer needs of Virginia and parts of the Midwestern United States. Massive, hundred foot long steel behemoths could be spotted on a day to day basis hauling trains into the Blue Ridge Mountains. However, by the 1950s, the steam era was drawing to a close, and railroads across the United States began to scrap their steam locomotives and replace them with simpler, more cost effective diesels. Norfolk & Western had held to the uncommon practice of designing and building many of their locomotives in their Roanoke, Virginia shops, not too far up the tracks from the museum. Now, the art of keeping such machines running has become forgotten and an expensive, difficult proposition. The relative few steam engines that have survived now sit, as N&W 1218 does, as silent memories of a day since long gone.
As the world sat behind a wave of optimism and peace following the First World War, Presbyterian theologian J Gresham Machen retreated deep into Calvinist Orthodoxy. As the church began to question once foundational doctrines, Machen took a step towards reliance on the scriptures and the gospel of Jesus Christ in an increasingly skeptical and academic world ready to doubt the claims of the Bible. Machen was a leading critic of the wave of optimism sweeping the West. Many thought that the First World War's end would lead to lasting peace and that human kind would be capable of overcoming its faults.
"Modern liberalism has lost all sense of the gulf that separates the creature from the Creator; its doctrine of man follows naturally from its doctrine of God," Machem wrote in his 1923 book, Christianity & Liberalism. "According to the Bible, man is a sinner under the just condemnation of God; according to modern liberalism, there is really no such thing as sin. At the very root of the modern liberal movement is the loss of the consciousness of sin."1 Machem saw that a denial of man's inherent tendency to sin and evil, according to the Bible was at the heart of this optimism.
Machen was no stranger to working against a rising tide. A New Testament scholar at Princeton theological seminary in the 1920s, Machen had been among the most prominent men to defend the historicity of the Bible, the Virgin Birth of Jesus, and the resurrection of Jesus in the Presbyterian denomination. His presence and dogmatism would eventually lead to the founding of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, out of his view that many mainline Presbyterians were either compromising or failing to make clear claims to what he believed were essential doctrines.
Some twenty years after the war, in 1935, Machem wrote, "Russia stands under the most soul-killing despotism, perhaps,.that the world has ever seen; . and despots rule also in Italy and in Germany."2 Machem would argue that, rather than avoiding an even more deadly war, some of the very despots he was alluding to were rushing headlong into an even more deadly conflict.
Machen was firm in his view that this optimism was fooling the wider world and the church itself into not taking the situation they were in more seriously. Believers were becoming more wrapped up in minor details of belief than actively preaching the gospel to a fallen world. The non-Christian was convinced that he didn't need the gospel. Modern liberals were all to ready to confirm the lost in their delusions. Another World War did come, and Machen's pessimism was proved well founded. Mankind was not so angelic.
1) Machen, Christianity & Liberalism, p 64.
2) Machen, “The Changing Scene and the Unchanging Word,” The Presbyterian Guardian (October 7, 1935)
J. Gresham Machen, Christianity & Liberalism (Chapter 7), http://www.reformed.org/books/chr_and_lib/
J. Gresham Machen, “The Changing Scene and the Unchanging Word,” The Presbyterian Guardian (October 7, 1935), 4 (http://www.opc.org/guardian.html)
D. G. Hart, “Machen and the OPC,” Committee for the Historian of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church: http://www.opc.org/machen.html
J Gresham Machen, Christianity & Culture, http://journals.ptsem.edu/id/BR1913111/dmd002
Since November 11th, 1919, the United States has observed Armistice Day ninety-seven times. Since 1954, it has been observed as Veterans' Day. Originally established to commemorate the end of the "War to End all Wars", it has become the day where the American public recognizes the men and women who have served in the United States armed forces.
War leaves its scars upon those who have served. The time spent overseas has often left the living with hearing loss, pain, and physical ailments. The separation from loved ones, and the violence to which many have been exposed can often affect how our servicemen cope in the civilian world.
As Eugene Sledge states in his book, With The Old Breed, "Until the millennium arrives and countries cease trying to enslave others, it will be necessary to accept one’s responsibilities and to be willing to make sacrifices for one’s country – as my comrades did. As the troops used to say, ‘If the country is good enough to live in, it’s good enough to fight for.’ With privilege goes responsibility.”
This Veterans Day, take the time to thank a veteran for their service. They earned it.
In the Spring of 1877, popular protestant evangelist D.L. Moody was in the midst of a travelling revival in New England. Overwhelming crowds flocked to hear Moody preach, the interest being piqued by newspaper headlines and stories about the self educated former shoe salesman. As Bruce Evanson states in his 1999 article on the New England revivals, "Moody's use of the media and the media's use of him anticipates the the century mass media revivals of Billy Sunday, Billy Grah and a coterie of televangelists." Moody was not himself a formally trained preacher. He had been born in Massachusetts. and had migrated to the Chicago area before the Civil War.
Having been involved in YMCA during and after the Civil War, Moody remained in the Chicago area until 1873. Building off of his experiences in services held by the Y in the 1860s, Moody borrowed that methodology as he went throughout the country. Most ministers had been reluctant to "force" a revival on the surrounding community. However, Moody's use of media was not completely without precedent. Both George Whitfield and John Wesley had used such methods in the 18th Century Great Awakening. Additional revivals, like those of Charles Finney, in the early 19th Century would go on to borrow from the methods pushed by Whitefield and others.
Moody was approaching evangelism from the perspective of a salesman. He had experience fundraising and approaching donors for support of his efforts with the YMCA. Also, Moody had begun to gather support for evangelistic work across denominational boundaries. This collaborative effort was something relatively new. When Moody preached in Boston in 1877, the Boston Journal stated that at least seventy-eight local congregations were supporting Moody's preaching effort. Moody would meet with the local press to promote the upcoming revival meetings. He was not afraid to use the tools available to him to spread the Gospel.
Later in life, Moody would go on to build three different schools using his fundraising network. A boys' and a girls' college were both built in Massachusetts, with a third Bible institute being built in Chicago. However, after 1880, Moody's star was descending. He was no longer the leading figure he had been. A rising generation of more sophisticated men were passing him by. Moody, after gaining such notoriety with his preaching method, was not too simple for an increasingly more complicated time.
Evensen, Bruce. "'It Is a Marvel to Many People': Dwight L. Moody, Mass Media, and the New England": The New England Quarterly, (Jun., 1999), pp. 251-274
Findlay, James. "Education and Church Controversy: The Later Career of Dwight L. Moody"
The New England Quarterly, (Jun., 1966), pp. 210-232
Findlay, James. "Moody, "Gapmen," and the Gospel: The Early Days of Moody Bible Institute" Church History, (Sep., 1962), pp. 322-335
Findlay, James F. "PREPARATION FOR FLIGHT : D. L. MOODY IN ILLINOIS AND THE MIDWEST, 1865—1873": Journal of Presbyterian History (June 1963), pp. 103- 116
Wells, Donald A. "D. L. Moody and His Schools: An Historical Analysis of an Educational Ministry" Church History, (Jun., 1973), pp. 272-273
American Christianity underwent significant changes during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Previously fringe theological perspectives like arminianism and Unitarianism were now much more mainstream. Catholicism became much more common by the 1850's due to an influx of German and Irish immigrants. Baptist and Methodist denominations grew at a huge rate due to the evangelistic work of those denominations. American Christianity was undeniably evangelical in its focus and outlook. Religious writing and revitalized seminaries would all play significant roles supporting churches and missionary work during this period in history.
Writing and publications were to have a significant role in evangelism efforts. As Archibald Alexander, a Presbyterian evangelist, would state in 1846, "The man who is enabled to write a truly evangelical and useful book, or even a single tract of first-rate excellence, may convey the saving truth of the gospel to a thousand times more persons, than the living preacher can ever instruct by his voice. And hundreds of years after the death of the writer, the production of his pen may be but just commencing its career of usefulness, only to be terminated with the end of the world." Alexis de Tocqueville, writing on American culture in this period would note that a large number of American books available at the time were religious texts. The American Tract Society would be founded in 1825 with the aim of distributing Gospel literature and combating social issues of the day.
Furthermore, religious education was to become a much more emphasized work, with seminaries being founded along the lines of those typically seen today. As Michael Paulus states in his essay on Archibald Alexander, "The nation, these and others argued, was facing a cultural crisis; and ministers, of which there were not enough anyway, needed to receive the best education possible to respond to 'books of many kinds' being written by 'the enemies of the cross of Christ.'" Andover and similar seminaries that followed would become associated with the growth in Biblical studies and literature that followed. These seminaries were a place where Christian scholars could focus on the writing of evangelical and helpful works for preacher and layman alike.
The "Christian" label was beginning to change in meaning across America. However, some circles were now becoming more sophisticated. They were beginning to adapt to the changing needs of a changing world. The rise of new seminaries and the proliferation of pamphlets and tracts on the faith and salvation were all a reflection upon evangelical commitments to protect and revitalize the society they lived in and to save the souls of the lost.
Cunliffe, Marcus. “American Religious History,” Journal of American Studies, 1:1 (Apr., 1967), 105-113.
http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/27552767.pdf Accessed 10/28/16
Hutton, James. “Religion and the New Republic,” in “Religion and the American Founding.” The Library of Congress: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/religion/rel07.html Accessed 10/28/16
Marini, Stephen. “Hymnody as History: Early Evangelical Hymns and the Recovery of American Popular Religion,” Church History (2002): 273-306:
http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdfplus/4146468.pdf?acceptTC=true Accessed 10/28/16
Paulus, Michael. “Archibald Alexander and the Use of Books: Theological Education and Print Culture in the Early Republic.” Journal of the Early Republic 31: 4 (Winter 2011): 639-669.
http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/41261654.pdf?_=1468338516028 Accessed 10/28/16
James Alexander, Life of Archibald Alexander (Chapter 3): http://commons.ptsem.edu/id/lifeofarchiba00alex
Colonial Virginia was an Anglican colony, that is the established church denomination was Anglican. Officially, only the Anglican church could officiate marriages, and they also controlled poverty relief and were tasked with caring for orphans. Taxes supported the Anglican church in Virginia. Dissenters were protestants not aligned with the Anglican church, and although these denominations had been present in Virginia from its earliest days, they came under increased pressure by the 1760's. The year 1768 saw dozens of dissenting pastors being imprisoned for the lack of a preaching license. In some parts of Virginia, humiliating public punishments were meted out to Baptist preachers.
Tax support of churches in America was nothing new, or anything particularly unique to Virginia. Massachusetts supported its congregationalist system in a similar manner. The reasons for this were steeped in a belief that religion and moral guidance would be needed to maintain a society. However, this lack of religious tolerance came to the forefront in the 1770's, as Virginia became deeply involved American War for Independence. What followed, as John Ragosta states in his work on Virginia dissenters, "What followed was not principled liberalization, but a complex negotiation for mobilization with piecemeal reforms paralleling military necessity as Virginia's political leaders sought to obtain the support of dissenters without wholly abandoning their established church. Anglicans objected vociferously, insisting that the contingent support offered by dissenters was unpatriotic. By the end of the war, the establishment had been forced to eliminate church taxes and penalties for nonattendance, to liberalize provisions on marriage, and to limit the civil functions of Anglican vestries."
In the immediate postwar era, various groups and individuals sought to re-implement some sort a church subsidy, led by prominent patriots like Patrick Henry. Unlike prior assessment configurations, however, the taxes could support the church of the individuals choice. This proposed bill was ultimately opposed and failed to become law due to the efforts of James Madison. Furthermore, dissenters worked to overturn previous laws that had been perceived to grant special privileges to the Episcopal church. Presbyterians and Baptists who had been on the receiving end of outright persecution were reluctant to give the Anglicans any room to reclaim their old official position. Subsequent endeavors as late as the 1840's to resurrect the earlier assessment laws also met heavy debate and opposition.
Thomas Jefferson assured a group of wary Baptists in 1802 that there was nothing that the Federal Government could legally do to interfere with the religious affairs of American citizens, citing a “wall of separation between church and state.” Religious dissenters had helped win their own freedom and security in Virginia during the period of the American Revolution, after which they sought to protect that hard fought recognition. It was through this struggle that the American ideal of religious toleration was finally realized in the early republic.
Benner, Dave: "Jefferson's True Wall of Separation" The Abbeville Blog, August 12th, 2016.
Buckley, Thomas E.: “After Disestablishment: Thomas Jefferson's Wall of Separation in Antebellum Virginia,” Journal of Southern History (1995): 445-480. http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/2211869.pdf?_=1469564858217
Dreisbach, Daniel: “A New Perspective on Jefferson’s Views on Church and State Relations: The Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom in its Legislative Context” The American Journal of Legal History (April 1991)
Hutson, James: “Religion and the State Governments,” in “Religion and the American Founding,” the Library of Congress: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/religion/rel05.html
Ragosta, John A.: “Virginians Dissent,” in Wellspring of Liberty: How Virginia's Religious Dissenters Helped Win the American Revolution and Secured Religious Liberty (Oxford, 2010)
The Battle of the Wilderness, which took place between May 5th and 7th, 1864, was a brutal, drawn out encounter between Union's Army of the Potomac and the Confederacy's Army of Northern Virginia. Aptly named, the battle took place on ground adjacent to the Chancellorsville Battlefield of 1863, and the fighting took place in thick, wooded terrain that neither army was at a truly great advantage. Although Robert E Lee's Confederate Army did come out as the technical winner, Ulysses S Grant took the Army of the Potomac to other ground, forcing Lee to move deeper into Virginia, breaking a long cycle of Union invasions and retreats.
More than a month ago, I was travelling to the US Marine Corps Museum in Quantico Virginia, and I saw the sign for a visitors site. At this place, a battery of Union 12 pound guns were unlimbered, firing into oncoming ranks of Confederate infantry, before being abandoned as the position was overrun. And I was standing there, getting goosebumps, as I thought about the events that had taken place in that field. Later, I drove past the site where General "Stonewall" Jackson had been shot by his own men during the Battle of Chancellorsville. I have been finding history all over Virginia, and I have only begun to explore it. Look forward to more in the coming months.
Undoubtedly, Iwo Jima was the United States Marine Corps' most famous battle of the Second World War. More than six thousand Marines and attached Navy personnel lost their lives wresting the heavily fortified island from the 20,000 man Japanese garrison. With the capture of Mount Surabachi in the first phase of the battle, the Marines quickly raised the American flag from the highest point on the island. The famous flag raising was captured twice in photographs, as the initial smaller flag was replaced by a larger flag donated by a ship from the invasion force. This larger flag is presently on display at the National Museum of the United States Marine Corps, in its unrestored, wind damaged state.