December 11, 1947: A Presbyterian Pastor-Teacher-Writer Entered Glory

One hundred and fifty years ago this month, John McNaugher (December 30, 1857 - December 11, 1947) was born, and seventy years ago today he entered into glory. Nicknamed "Mister United Presbyterian," he served the United Presbyterian Church of North America as a pastor, professor of New Testament literature, seminary president and as a writer and teacher. At the seminary he served -- Allegheny Theological Seminary, and its successors, Pittsburgh Seminary, and Pittsburgh-Xenia Seminary -- in his dual capacity of President and Professor, he led and shaped the theological education of over 1000 men in the UPC. Theological education was very much his primary mission in life, and he was to write an interesting book titled The History of Theological Education in the United Presbyterian Church and Its Ancestories. He was President and Professor Emeritus after his retirement in 1943 until his death. A hall at the seminary (now called Pittsburgh Theological Seminary) still bears his name: John McNaugher Memorial Hall.

He is known both for editing a remarkable compilation of papers presented at two 1905 conferences held in Pittsburgh and Chicago on the subject of exclusive psalmody -- The Psalms in Worship (1907) -- in which he personally wrote an exegesis of Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 that led to the conclusion that Paul's use of the terms "psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs" applied uniformly to the Psalter and not to the compositions of David and the imitations of Isaac Watts; and for serving as the principal drafter of the 1925 UPC Confessional Statement which, by omission of exclusive psalmody, allowed for the introduction of uninspired hymns into the worship of the UPC. He would go on to supervise the production of Psalter-Hymnals and Bible Song Books for the denomination. 

A prolific writer, his biographer (and former student of his), Paul R. Coleman, notes that his "finest" work was published shortly before his death of throat cancer in 1947: Jesus Christ: The Same Yesterday, Today and Forever. Its chapters cover the deity, humanity, virgin birth, miracles, atonement, resurrection, ascension and witnessing spirit of Christ. This writer has read this volume and concurs that it is an excellent summary of who Jesus Christ and what He has accomplished and continues to accomplish in the earth. It won a 1947 denominational book award as well. Another work by him, published in 1940, Quit You Like Men, is a rather interesting volume made up of valedictories to theological graduates which address various topics of interest, including aspects of the ministry and concerning worship. Other titles he wrote include The Virgin Birth, The Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and The Authorship of the Epistle to the Hebrews; the complete list of his writings, published and unpublished, is too long for purposes of this blog post, however. 

His life very much tracked in many ways that of the denomination he was affiliated with for essentially all of his 90 years. While McNaugher was born in 1857, the UPC was born in 1858; he served in the ministry from 1887 to 1943 (56 years); and while he died in 1947, his denomination would merge in 1958 with the PCUSA to become the UPCUSA. As of yet, Log College Press only has The Psalms in Worship available to read on our site. But we hope to add more works in the future by this most interesting theological educator ("Mr. United Presbyterian"), who is worthy of remembrance.