Have You any Woolley?

Yes sir, yes sir, three posts full! (and probably more)

The OPC is a bit of a black sheep of a denomination, so I guess it should be no surprise it would have some Woolley, but I had never heard of him, probably because he didn’t publish much (book-wise). But in the opening article of Confident of Better Things, John Muether introduces this too-little known, but very important character Paul Woolley, who was right there alongside Machen in the Independent Missions Board, filling all sorts of roles at Westminster Seminary, in addition to teaching every historical subject for years.

One of the two books that Woolley did publish was called The Significance of J. Gresham Machen Today (whence the title of Muether’s article, “The Significance of Paul Woolley Today”, which by the way can be found online, I guess as a preview of the book, which by the way is pretty cheap as books go). This will be the first of a series of at least three quotes from this article, relevant to this blog’s focus on 2K and confessionalism.


After his retirement from full time teaching at Westminster in 1972, Woolley wrote The Significance of J. Gresham Machen Today. As slim as this book was (a mere eighty-four pages), it was a timely response to some unfounded rumors. Machen, Woolley felt, suffered from a bad press, and he was zealous to correct the record about particular episodes in Machen’s life. One surrounded the Machen family’s alleged involvement in illegal liquor traffic. Machen himself was puzzled by the constant rumor that his family’s fortune was secured from the liquor trade, and he searched his father’s investments thoroughly on the matter. A variant of this story, that spread even to the classrooms of Harvard Divinity School, had to do with a distillery that was located somewhere in the basement of Westminster’s original campus on Pine Street in Philadelphia.

However fanciful, the origin of these tales lay in Machen’s conviction that the church should not engage in political acts. When the New Brunswick Presbytery of the PCUSA debated a resolution to support the Volstead Amendment, Machen spoke out strongly against the resolution. From that point on, Machen was dismissed as a “wet” by liberals and even by some fundamentalists, both of whom were eager to promote the cause of Prohibition.

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This entry was posted in Books, Calvinism, Church and State, Civil religion, Culture War, Fundamentalism, Legalism, Liberty, Liberty of Conscience, Machen, Paul Woolley, Pietism, Prohibition, Quotes, Reformed Confessionalism, Reformed piety, Transformationism, Two-kingdoms, Westminster Seminary. Bookmark the permalink.

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