Monthly Archives: September 2013

Death Takes No Holiday

Men die each day. But in certain instances, an intriguing coincidence occurs. For instance, former U.S. Presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died within four hours of each other — on the 4th of July, no less. On a smaller scale within the Evangelical community, two notables passed on January 1, 1937: Dr. George H. Smith, the “Grand Old Man of Wheaton College Athletics” and Dr. J. Gresham Machen, who staunchly defended theological orthodoxy in the face of encroaching liberalism during the 1920s.

The larger world little noted their passing, but the event was splashed on the front page of the January 6, 1937, student newspaper, The Wheaton Record. Death Takes Drs. Smith, Machen over Holidays announces the headlines in large, bold lettering.

SmithSmith, “…the kindest, friendliest of men,” was Retired Head of the Classics Department. In addition, he was instrumental in founding the Athletics Department at Wheaton College, encouraging intercollegiate sports in an era when it was disparaged by educators. As professor of classical languages and head of the department of foreign languages, he was noted for “untiring zeal.” An ordained Congregational minister, he served churches in California, Hawaii, Ohio and Illinois. Dead at 89, his funeral was conducted at Gary Memorial Church in Wheaton.

J. Gresham Machen, founder of Westminster Theological Seminary, was not associated with Wheaton College, but wrote such classics as What is faith?, The Origin of Paul’s Religion and The Virgin Birth, used during theology classes. Dr. J. Oliver Buswell, President of Wheaton College and fellow Presbyterian, likened Machen to Athanasius, whose witness, if accepted by the church, would have precluded the dark ages. Machen died of pneumonia in Bismark, North Dakota.


rappingsDr. Robert Webber, former professor of theology at Wheaton College, expressed deep concern for Christian youth entering the 1970s, an era of tremendous political and sociological upheaval. In 1971 he published Rappings, a compilation of poems by Wheaton College students. He writes:

I find that Wheaton College students are far ahead of many of their peers in feeling the problems of modern man. They are awakening out of the isolationism of the previous generation and questing toward a new Christian consciousness, and to this end they are willing to examine their faith to the roots and to purge it of externalism in search of the central dynamic of Christianity.

Their generation is not satisfied with easy answers or with people who avoid hard questions. These young people would join me in saying that hope for mankind is found only in the recovery of the gospel — namely, that in Jesus Christ alienated mankind is forgiven, accepted and called into a new way of life.

The emphasis of the new generation of Christian youth is on the living of the Christian life, not in the sense of adhering to subcultural rules and regulations but in returning to a biblically oriented life, continually deciding to be Christ-followers. The young Christians are intent on taking the teachings of Jesus seriously, feeling that the alternative to a lifestyle centered in things and self is a life like that of Jesus, emphasizing the matters of the Spirit and the enduring values of life.

Rappings does not intend to give a final answer to the world’s problems. It is, rather, a record of young adults honestly expressing their Christian experience as it concerns themselves, their world and their faith.