Monthly Archives: December 2012

God So Loved

This Christmas meditation, written by V. Raymond Edman, originally appeared as a tract called “Meet Mr. Scrooge,” published by Moody Press.

Ebeneezer Scrooge. Who has not met him? To be sure, he never really existed except in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, one of the most delightful Christmas stories ever told. Scrooge is so vividly portrayed that his name has become a part of our language. Since we first learned about him, we have known every stingy old miser as a scrooge. But our acquaintance with him may be superficial. We meet so many characters in Dickens’ immortal story that we may fail to follow Mr. Scrooge to the end, and the conclusion is the real point and climax of the tale. We are intrigued by Marley’s ghost with his clanking chains. We are pleased with the cheerful nephew of Ebenezer who at first had no warming influence on his greedy old uncle. We are stirred by Bob Cratchit and his delightful family, especially Tiny Tim with his enthusiastic word, “God bless us every one!”

Then there are those ghosts, each with a message to Scrooge. The Ghost of Christmas Past brought back the recollection of happy schooldays and the reminder of merry Christmas Eves of long past when Scrooge was an apprentice in the office of old Fezziwig. There was even the reminder of an old love affair that never materialized. The bittersweet nostalgia of the yesterdays! The Ghost of Christmas Present took the old skinflint to the happy scenes in the humble Cratchit home the preparation for dinner, the arrival of Father Bob and his little crippled son from the church service, the gratitude of all for God’s goodness despite Bobs poor wages. A delightful scene in merry old England! But the Ghost of Christmas Future had only sadness for Scrooge. The Cratchit home was silent and tearful, and Tiny Tim, who might have lived had there been money for medical help, was no longer there. From there the Ghost took the penitent and fearful Scrooge to a deserted cemetery and pointed to a solitary grave marked with the name Ebenezer Scrooge.

No, never! How could he ever face the dismal and doleful prospect pictured in that headstone? As Scrooge poured out his protest and clung to the arm of the Ghost Future, he came to consciousness, clinging to the bedpost in his own room. It had all been a dream. But life is not a dream. It is very real. For us there is the memory of yesterday’s Christmases with the message: “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). We have today, and the Bible reminds us, “Now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (II Cor. 6:2). “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31). For the future the Bible goes on to say, “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Heb. 9:27). The time to prepare for that certainty is right now.

Meet Mr. Scrooge.
Meet yourself.
Of course you are not the stingy, grasping old miser of A Christmas Carol, but like him you face the prospect that ahead lies the grave and the beyond! Like old Scrooge, you can be transformed, not by New Year’s resolutions but by becoming a child of God in receiving the Lord Jesus Christ. Then the present takes on joy and new meaning, and you can face the future unafraid! “As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God” (John 1:12).

Rev. John Timothy Stone and Wheaton College

Fourth Presbyterian Church, situated directly across from Hancock Tower, is a Gothic limestone anachronism amid the sleek high rise condos, trendy shops and high-tech offices of downtown Chicago. Displaying spire, cloisters, fountain, gabled roof and stained glass windows depicting biblical scenes, Fourth Presbyterian, designed by renowned architect Ralph Adams Cram, presents an austere dignity to Michigan Avenue. Since its founding in 1871, the old church has seen a succession of qualified ministers occupy its pulpit. Among these was the gifted Reverend John Timothy Stone, Fourth’s seventh pastor. Stone had been serving at Brown Memorial Church in Baltimore when he finally accepted Fourth Presbyterian’s persistent invitation, officially installed by the presbytery in 1909. Under his leadership the church’s lay ministries greatly increased as his eloquence attracted swelling crowds. In 1928 Stone was elected as acting president of Presbyterian Theological Seminary (now McCormick Theological Seminary), assuming full-time duties in 1930. Situated so prominently, Stone interacted with the chief ecclesiastical figures of the era, including Dr. J. Oliver Buswell, then-president of Wheaton College, who had in 1918 received his divinity degree from the seminary. These were transitional years not only for Stone and Buswell in their roles as college educators, but the battle between theological “modernists” and conservatives was just beginning to heat up, boiling toward a crisis which would shiver institutions and divide loyalties. According to historian Ovid R. Sellers, “The theological controversy which threatened to split the Presbyterian Church in the USA during the twenties had no repercussions on the McCormick campus.” This assertion is not quite accurate, as seen in the following correspondence.

Relations between Buswell and Stone began cordially, each occasionally inviting the other to Chicago or Wheaton for a friendly lunch. However, Buswell in 1930 explains his hesitance in advising ministerial candidates to attend Presbyterian Theological Seminary. The issue, he writes, is that he had recently heard a lecture at the seminary delivered by a Professor Hays, seemingly mounting a “virulent attack upon the doctrine of the infallibility of the Bible..,” in addition to advancing an “un-Presbyterian” appeal to the “inner light.” Buswell had also heard from several witnesses that a Professor Frank was teaching doctrines “strongly opposed to evangelical standards in theology.” Further, he feels that Stone has “misrepresented me as a loyal alumnus of McCormick Seminary.”

Stone replies graciously, including written responses from Hays and Frank. “Please dismiss from your mind any spirit other than cordial toward Wheaton College or toward yourself,” he writes, hoping to disarm Buswell and put the matter to rest.

Unconvinced, Buswell is far from finished. In his response, dated November 1, 1932, he bluntly challenges Stone’s alleged good cheer toward Wheaton College:

A considerable number of Wheaton students and graduates have told me directly and at different times of statements made by yourself and by other members of your faculty reflecting upon me and upon Wheaton College. I was told within the past month of a remark which you made to one of our graduates slurringly referring to me as a disloyal alumnus. Another member of your faculty some time ago referred to my direct and straightforward criticism as “throwing mud as his Alma Mater.”

He goes on to address Hays and Frank’s objections to his criticism of their theology, reiterating his suspicions that these teachers are, indeed, liberal in their appeals to authoritative sources beside the Bible, and disparages their suggestions that the Old Testament prophets, along with Jesus, simply re-packaged existing pagan customs to suit their immediate ministerial needs.

Buswell, summing up, informs Stone that he is too busy to fully respond to all his concerns, but will do so when he returns from an engagement in Buffalo. He writes somewhat threateningly, “I am wondering whether it is not my duty to prepare an article, making my position in regard to the seminary as clear as possible. I do not like to be called a disloyal alumnus or one who throws mud on his Alma Mater, without having it known that I have sufficient reason for my criticism.”

Stone’s reply, if such exists, is missing from the record; but history demonstrates that Wheaton College anchored herself largely to the right of the theological center, as McCormick bobbed ever leftward.