Arthur W. Pink and the Sovereignty of God in Australia: The Reception of Pink’s Calvinism in 1920s Australia

Published in Lucas: An Evangelical History Review, Series 3. No. 2. (December 2023), 52-74.

When Arthur W. Pink stepped onto Australian soil from the A.M.S Ventura at Circular Quay on the March 24, 1925, there was a tangible mix of anticipation and hope. Alongside his wife, Vera, Pink envisioned this Australian journey as the commencement of a grand international Bible teaching tour. In a note from his periodical, The Studies in the Scriptures, he had earlier written, “On the 3rd of March … we plan to sail from San Francisco for Australia…It is entirely a journey by faith…the call of God is clear.”

While he had not truly known anyone in Australia, Pink’s impending arrival in Australia was not unheralded. Figures like George E. Ardill, Secretary of the Evangelisation Society of New South Wales, had already laid some groundwork by advertising Pink’s ministry as early as 1923.1)The Methodist, November 17, 1923, 3. In this article, it is noted that “Mr. A. W. Pink … is the author of several large volumes, including The Sovereignty of God” …” William Lamb, the influential Pastor at Burton Street Tabernacle, expressed high expectations of Pink, remarking in the March issue of The Advent Herald that: “This well-known author and Bible teacher will arrive in Sydney from America on March 24. Nearly all of his books are on my shelves, and they are among the best I have. He is really a fine teacher of Divine Truth, and he is to take all the services for me at the Tabernacle in Sydney during my absence. I know the people here are then going to have a time of wonderful blessing.”2)The Advent Herald, March 14, 1925, 10.

Almost immediately after stepping ashore, Pink’s ministry began in earnest. By March 29 he was preaching at the Ashfield Baptist Tabernacle and Burwood Baptist Church, embarking on numerous Bible Campaigns, and engaging in a rigorous schedule that sometimes involved preaching up to ten times a week.

Yet, despite this promising start, Pink’s time in Australia would come to a sombre conclusion. Merely three years later, in 1928, he would depart from the nation, disheartened and seemingly defeated. In this short span, he would grapple with challenges from the Baptist Union, disputes with the Strict and Particular Baptists, and numerous other obstacles. The pressing question emerges: How did a ministry that began with such hope and promise unravel so quickly? To shed light on this enigma, it becomes imperative to delve into both the background of Pink and the religious tapestry of Australia during this period. It is against this backdrop that the events of 1925 to 1928 can be more comprehensively understood.

The Person: Pink’s Background

Formerly involved with the esoteric Theosophist Society, Arthur Walkington Pink had been converted in 1908, through the prayerful labours of his parents, Thomas and Agnes. Pink was to be briefly involved with the YMCA in Nottingham, before being encouraged to look at going into Christian Ministry. He travelled to Chicago, in 1910, to attend Moody Bible College after finding many of the English alternatives to be permeated by liberal theology and higher criticism. Armed with a reference from the Methodist Minister, Robert Moffat Gautrey, Pink was to attend Moody only briefly where he was observed as being both “quiet and very bright”,3)Moody Bible College Report Card. but found the teaching to be unsatisfactory in the level at which it was pitched. Pink, instead, desired to enter a pastorate, and through the assistance of the Principal of Moody, Dr. Howard Pope, obtained his first charge in a Congregational church in Silverton, Colorado.4)Iain H. Murray, The Life of Arthur W. Pink (Edinburgh, UK: Banner of Truth, 2017), 18.

Pink was to hold the pastorate for two years, but due to shifting theological convictions towards credobaptism, he left for Los Angeles in 1912, taking up the pastorate of the First Baptist Church of Garden Grove. It was while in Los Angeles that Pink’s writing ministry first started, with his first article, ‘Satan’s Gospel’, written for the periodical Our Hope in June 1912.5)Our Hope, June 1912, 768-776. In a letter from 1918, Pink was to remark to his friend and publisher, I. C. Herendeen, that “The Lord graciously inclined Mr. G’s heart towards me six or seven years ago, and he has always been most friendly.” Arthur W. Pink, Letters from Spartanburg, ed. Richard P. Belcher (Columbia, S.C: Richbarry Press, 1993), 55. Occasional articles followed. However, it was only after Pink’s relocation to Kentucky in 1915, where he was to hold several pastorates between 1915 and 1918,6)Samuel Emadi, “New Light on the Early Ministry of Arthur W. Pink (2),” Banner of Truth, June 2018, 15-21. that his writing career picked up considerably, with Pink becoming a regular contributor to the periodical, Our Hope, providing a monthly column on Genesisfrom February 1916 onwards.7)Our Hope, February 1916, 480-485. The monthly contributions would eventually be collected and printed as Gleanings in Genesis by Moody Publishers in 1922. Then under the helmsmanship of Arno C. Gaebelein, Our Hope was the flagship periodical in the United States for those who were of a fundamentalist, dispensational, persuasion. Its issues included articles regularly penned by a number of well-known conservative Evangelicals, such as W. H. Griffith Thomas, Lewis Sperry Chafer, C. I. Scofield, and William Pettingill.

It was Pink’s association with Our Hope which was to lift his national exposure and reputation within such circles. Pink became a noted Bible teacher, travelling and preaching at a number of conferences throughout the United States, including sharing a platform with R. A. Torrey.8)“Bible Conference Continues with Interesting Sessions,” Santa Ana Register, October 29, 1913. Descriptions such as “among the rising teachers … of the day”, “famous”, “an authority on the bible” were used to describe him in a number of newspaper articles that were announcing his activities.9)Harrisburg Telegraph, April 26, 1919; Daily Telegram, October 15, 1920; Oakland Tribune, January 15, 1921. Pink’s focus on writing would also lead to the publication of several books, his first two being the Divine Inspiration of the Bible and The Redeemers’ Return, published in 1917 and 1918 respectively.10)Arthur W. Pink, The Divine Inspiration of the Bible (Swengel, PA: Bible Truth Depot, 1917); The Redeemer Returns (Swengel, PA: Bible Truth Depot, 1918). Both fit within the ethos of the Our Hope circle that Pink was involved in and could be found promoted within its activities and pages.11)i.e. Our Hope, January 1918, 399; February 1918, 467.

However, it was to be his third title, The Sovereignty of God, published in the latter half of 1918, that would cause a disturbance. The idea for the title came as a result of some discussions between Pink and his publisher, I.C. Herendeen, when the latter stayed with him for ten days in March 1917. Pink was to express to Herendeen his desire for such a book, with Herendeen recounting: “One day as Brother Pink and I were talking, he said, ‘Brother Herendeen, I want to write a book on the sovereignty of God and I want you to publish it.’ Well at that time, I had no idea what the sovereignty of God was and what he would have to write, but I felt it was of the Lord, and I felt that I was to publish it. He found out how ignorant I was of the subject, so he indoctrinated me more or less, as we had opportunity while I was there.”12)I.C. Herendeen, “Oral Biography from the Dusty Rhoades Conference,” August 16, 1976.

Between then and July 24, 1918, Pink had also taken up a new pastorate in Spartanburg North Carolina, Pink set out to write the full manuscript of the first edition of the book. It was Pink’s hope that The Sovereignty of God would be a title that would revive both interest in and affection for classical Calvinism. Pink was to note in the Foreword that the book was an attempt to “…examine anew in light of God’s Word some of the profoundest questions which can engage the human mind. Others have grappled with these mighty problems in days gone by and from their labors we are the gainers.”13)A. W. Pink, “Foreword,” The Sovereignty of God (Swengal, PA: Bible Truth Depot, 1918), 5. However, Pink was not unaware of the reception that this work he would likely receive. He continues:

It would be foolish for us to expect that this work will meet with general approval. The trend of modern theology–if theology it can be called–is ever toward deification of the creature rather than glorification of the Creator, and the leaven of present-day Rationalism is rapidly permeating the whole of Christendom. The malevolent effects of Darwinanism are more far reaching than most are aware. Many of those among our religious leaders who are still regarded as orthodox would, we fear, be found to be very heterodox if they were weighed in the balances of the Sanctuary. Even those who are clear, intellectually, upon prophetic and dispensational truth, are rarely sound in doctrine. Few, very few, today, really believe in the complete ruin and total depravity of man. They who speak of man’s “free will,” and insist upon his inherent power to either accept or reject the Saviour, do but voice their ignorance of the real condition of Adam’s fallen children. And if there are few who believe that, so far as he is concerned, the condition of the sinner is entirely hopeless, there are fewer still who really believe in the absolute Sovereignty of God.14)Pink, “Foreword,” 5-6.

Although aware of the reception that the book was likely to receive, Pink was particularly desirous of knowing the thoughts of those whom he had taught and ministered alongside over recent years. Richard P. Belcher’s publication of 129 letters dating from Pink’s years at Spartanburg reveal a man who grappled with concern, anxiety, and worry as to how friends like Gaebelein, Pettingill, and Philip Mauro, would take the book. Several months after its release in November 1918, the responses would come flowing in. Gaebelein held that Pink had “made a big blunder in publishing ‘God’s Sovereignty’ and he condemn[ed] it in toto.”15)Letter to I. C. Herendeen, June 29, 1919. Pink, Letters from Spartanburg, 122-123. Other responses were not positive. While Pink’s teachings on Calvinism were warmly embraced by the Baptists of Kentucky, well-known as being proponents of the doctrines of grace, Pink was to receive continued criticism for his Calvinistic beliefs. The most infamous encounter was in 1920-1921, during Pink’s teaching ministry in California, when Pink and Harry A. Ironside clashed. The latter claimed that Pink’s understanding on reprobation was a “bottle of deadly poison.”16)Letter to I. C. Herendeen, January 17, 1921. Arthur W. Pink, Letters of an Itinerant Preacher 1920-1921, ed. Richard P. Belcher (Columbia, S.C: Richbarry Press, 1994), 38. He recommended that books authored by Pink be burned and accused Pink of teaching “damnable heresy.”17)Letter to I.C. Herendeen from Vera Pink, February 28, 1921. Pink, Letters of an Itinerant Preacher, 50.

The Landscape: Sydney

But what about Sydney? If this was the background of the man, what about the environment into which he was coming? In many ways, the theological climate of Sydney at the time resembled what was occurring in other parts of the Western world. The American Presbyterian, Edward H. Rian, summarised the landscape aptly a few decades later, when he stated:

Modernism … has entered the Protestant church in American a very subtle way. The theological professors in America began to accept these modern “higher critical” use of the Bible and the naturalism of unbelieving science and to teach these ideas to the ministerial students in the seminaries. In turn, many ministers assimilated these views, preached them from the pulpits, and convinced the laymen, who were not learned in the knowledge of the Bible and Christianity, that modernism is religion for this day. The colleges and universities aided in this process because they have accepted the dicta of modern science, which state that the world as it now exists is the result of natural processes. So today America, and for that matter most of the Western world, is experiencing almost complete spiritual bankruptcy. At a time when the strong, authoritative message of the Christian church is needed to call the nations and men back to the God of the Bible, there is no such clarion call, instead some feeble splutterings of confidence in the inherent goodness of man and the hope that somehow or other he will muddle through. Modernism has won a sweeping victory in the Christian church, no doubt, but it has also left the church feeble and spiritually decadent.18)Edward H. Rian, The Presbyterian Conflict (Horsham, PA: Orthodox Presbyterian Church, 1992), 197.

For as Pink disembarked from the Ventura in early 1925, the mainline churches in Sydney were in theological disarray. The Anglicans in Sydney Diocese, under Archbishop John Charles Wright and Moore College Principal David John Davies, had imbibed a certain amount of modernism.19)John A. McIntosh, Anglican Evangelicalism in Sydney 1897 to 1953 (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2018), 162. It was only later in 1933, which saw the election of Archbishop Mowll upon Wright’s death, that conservative evangelicalism once again came to dominate the diocese. Until then, Marcus Loane had remarked, “the Diocese was split from top to bottom over questions of Modernism.”20)Letter by Marcus Loane, March 1994, as cited in McIntosh, Anglican Evangelicalism in Sydney, 183. The Presbyterians, theological allies of Pink back in the United States, were themselves in a larger predicament than their episcopalian neighbours. Speaking of the theological erosion within the church, particularly with the appointment of Samuel Angus, the New Testament Professor at the Presbyterian Training Centre, St. Andrews College, Peter Barnes notes “The period from 1865 (the union of the Presbyterian Churches in NSW) to 1915 (when Angus that arrived in Sydney) must be seen as a crucial period in the history of the church which was confessedly Calvinistic but which was on the way to tolerating within her ranks the most extreme expressions of liberal Protestantism.”21)Peter Barnes, Theological Controversies in the Presbyterian Church of New South Wales, 1865-1915 (Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellon Press, 2008), 7. Presbyterians who held to the traditional, unabashed, position of the Westminster Confession of Faith were few and far between.22)Barnes, Theological Controversies, 224; Rowland S. Ward, The Bush Still Burns: The Presbyterian and Reformed Faith in Australia 1788-1988 (New Melbourne Press, 1989), 302, 345. As has been observed by Stuart Piggin and Robert Linder, it was the 1930s when the “fiercest battle against modernism was waged.”23)Stuart Piggin and Robert D. Linder, Attending to the National Soul: Evangelical Christians in Australian History 1914-2014 (Clayton, Victoria: Monash University Publishing, 2020), 120. But that time had not yet come.
 
It was with the Baptists that Pink had found an audience. The Baptists in New South Wales were, at the time, the most inoculated from modernism and liberalism, and were the heirs of a conservative biblical tradition that would aid the preservation of evangelicalism during this period.[6] Michael Petras would observe that their:

evangelical theological outlook was sustained by a firm belief in their fidelity to the teachings of the Bible to which they asserted a supremacy in all matters relating to faith and practice. At the same time there was for the most part a rejection of modern trends in theological thinking which were ill-defined but often referred to as ‘modernism’. The dominant outlook of the denomination was in part a legacy of British origins and more particularly that of those ministers who came to these shores in the late nineteenth century and shaped the outlook which characterised New South Wales in the new century.24)Michael Petras, Extension or Extinction: Baptist Growth in New South Wales 1900-1939 (Eastwood, NSW: Baptist Historical Society of New South Wales, 1983), 117.

It would be most predominantly this shared theological basis that would lead to the Baptists being among those who were most interested in George Ardill’s arrangements for Pink being brought out and explains why Pink had limited engagement with those from other denominations while he was here.

The Person Inserted into the Landscape

We now return to our discussion of Pink’s arrival. After he had preached at Ashfield Tabernacle and Burwood Baptist, the first remarks on his preaching were positive. It was noted in The Australian Baptist that:

“a deep impression was made by the addresses he delivered. Dr. Pink has an arresting personality; a man of medium build, clean shaven, and in the prime of life, with jet black hair brushed smoothly back, he is the impersonation of quiet power. He is a theologian, with a perfect mastery of his system, which may be designated as Calvinistic. His book on “Divine Sovereignty” reveals clearly his theological position, which is frankly that known as Particular Redemption. But Dr. Pink does not find his apparently somewhat forbidding creed any bar to a persuasive and winsome presentation of the gospel…25)“Dr. A. W. Pink,” The Australian Baptist, March 31, 1925.

Pink was then scheduled to be a principal speaker at the Second Great Advent conference held at Burton Street Tabernacle, where he was to teach alongside Baptist luminaries such as Stanmore Baptist Pastor, C. J. Tinsley, Burton Street’s Pastor, William Lamb, and Leonard Sale-Harrison, of Ashfield Tabernacle, on April 10. Pink was then to look after the pulpit at Burton Street, in Darlinghurst, between the April 12 and May 6 while Lamb was on a trip to Adelaide and Perth.26)“Mr A. W. Pink,” The Advent Herald, March 14, 1925, 10; June 15, 1925, 10. While the exact arrangements regarding the substance of his preaching were unknown, Pink took up a heavy load at Burton Street, preaching afternoons and evenings on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, as well as on Sundays.27)“Divine Sovereignty and Election,” The Advent Herald, July 15, 1925, 10.

It is clear that when Lamb returned he was not pleased with what he found. Instead, beginning a four-month endeavour, starting from his July issue of The Advent Herald, Lamb was to start critiquing Calvinism and its recently arrived proclaimer. He was to argue that the Calvinistic view of salvation was generally not desirous of salvation of others and that Pink’s position was both “hyper” and divisive.28)“Saved or Lost. Why?” The Advent Herald, July 15, 1925, 1. Spending considerable room in The Advent Herald in providing his first critique, Lamb noted that it was the effects of Pink’s teaching that had led him to begin “looking into the writings of Mr. Pink,” whereupon he was to “confess an utter astonishment regarding some of them…”29)The Advent Herald, July 15, 1925, 2. He then proceeded over the next five pages to give a critique of The Sovereignty of God and the theological framework of Calvinism, using such language as “unscriptural,” “awful,” and “terrible”.30)The Advent Herald, July 15, 1925, 3-4. Evidently, Lamb had taken offence at Pink’s teaching on election.31)The Advent Herald, July 15, 1925, 10. This is clearly and further elaborated in the following month’s issue, where upon receiving two letters criticising his July article on Pink and Calvinism, Lamb adds that he felt “a certain measure of what may be reasonably designated “righteous indignation” concerning a preacher who, having accepted the hospitality of one’s pulpit for a whole month, made it an opportunity to disseminate views we here believe to be entirely contrary to the Gospel of Christ.”32)“Mr A. W. Pink,” The Advent Herald, August 15, 1925, 9. While we cannot know for certain what Pink actually taught, Lamb was in obvious distress over Pink’s position and articulation of Calvinism. This is somewhat astonishing, given that Lamb had only months earlier publicly written that Pink was “a fine teacher” and that he had “[n]early all of his books” which were “among the best” that he had.33)The Advent Herald, March 14, 1925, 10. It was more astonishing still, considering Pink’s Calvinism was already generally known at the time. However, Lamb focused on criticising Calvinism in the issues of July, August, September and October. He made a number of claims ranging from the assertion that the modern mission movement only occurred through the unshackling of Calvinism34)The Advent Herald, July 15, 1925, 10. to the fact that the concepts of “elect sinners” and “sovereign God” were unbiblical.35)The Advent Herald, July 15, 1925, 3.

Through his encounter with Lamb, Pink was to learn that not all Baptists in Sydney were appreciative of his teaching on soteriology. Indeed, it has been noted that Calvinism was not a prominent feature of the Baptist scene by the early twentieth century. An earlier 1887 article in The New South Wales Baptist, remarked that “Arminianism and Calvinism are not now the better sources of division which formally they were. There is truth on both sides of the questions which cause division… Better and broader preaching are required to meet the altered conditions of society; and it will be a good thing for the church when we see the last of the class of men, who in the pulpit and the pew, are disposed to make division in the church.”36)“Denominational Progress”, The New South Wales Baptist, February 7, 1887, 43. Rather, a man-centred ethos had started to permeate into the Baptist landscape, made most apparent in a sermon given by a J. J. North at the first Australasian Baptist Congress, wherein it was recorded:

Man is essential to God. God cannot secure his kingdom or accomplish his will without us… Our ancestors were keen to defend divine majesty. They tied themselves up in knots of predestination and election. Luther was shamed before the world by his moral and spiritual inferior Erasmus, because his views of omniscience left no room for the Lord’s prayer. “Our Father, may thy will be done.” Trembling lest he should divest God of glory, he demeaned man and made him God’s puppet, and made the problem of human freedom a torment. Jonathan Edwards became a text-book of the Philistines for the same reason… To know being was a sense of God’s glory keener than to Jesus; and no one held more resolutely… the glory of free will.37)J. J. North, ‘Congress Sermon, J. A. Packer (ed.), First Australasian Baptist Congress (Sydney, 1908), 94, as cited in Michael Chavura, A History of Calvinism in the Baptist Churches of New South Wales, 1831-1914, Unpublished PhD (1994), 235.

Pink’s next ministry was at the Ashfield Baptist Tabernacle, under the Pastorate of Leonard Sale-Harrison. Harrison, a keen writer on prophecy and the second advent, was apparently undisturbed at what had happened earlier at Burton Street. Pink was to undertake several Bible Campaigns there, between the months of May and August. Preaching at least ten talks a week at the peak of these, Pink was to note in an open letter, marked 27 May 1925 (published in the July issue of his Studies in the Scriptures), that:

The meetings here afford much ground for praise to our most gracious God. The attendances are steadily increasing, the interest is most manifest, and goodly numbers are being blest. Many have been earnestly praying for months that the Lord would send a teacher to open to them some of the inexhaustible treasures of the Scriptures. Hundreds of eager souls are coming out five and six nights a week with Bibles and notebooks. God is granting most blessed liberty of utterance with joy of heart in ministering His precious Word. We are receiving more invitations than we can accept. There is every indication that a great and effectual door is opened unto us. Join us in continued prayer, dear friends, that the sheep of Christ may be fed, that He may become increasingly real and precious to His own, and that His unprofitable servant may be made and kept humble before Him who deigns to place His treasure in earthen vessels.38)Studies in the Scriptures, July 1925. 167.

Perhaps due to his earlier encounter with Lamb, Pink did not touch on the subject of election or God’s sovereignty until towards the “close of the second campaign in Ashfield” whereby on June 18 he began to deliver “a series of addresses on the much-neglected but most important truths of God’s sovereignty and divine election.”39)Studies in the Scriptures, September 1925, 216. Pink was to note in the August edition of Studies in the Scriptures, that, regarding his ministry at Ashfield, “Of course, there is opposition from those who object to man being laid in the dust. It is ever thus: when the absoluteness of God and the nothingness of man are pressed, the pride of the human heart and the enmity of the carnal mind are soon manifested.”40)Studies in the Scriptures, August 1925, 192. He was to include the first sermon in the September issue of Studies, also stating: “The weather was wet and cold, yet from four hundred to five hundred came out, Monday to Friday inclusive, and on Sundays the Tabernacle was packed, many extra seats having to be brought in. The Lord most signally honoured his word, saints being edified and sinners saved.”41)Studies in the Scriptures, September 1925, 216. Pink was also to note the continued ongoing opposition that he was facing for his teaching: “Of course there has been opposition and bitter persecution, as there always has been when these man-humbling but God-honouring truths have been preached.”42)Studies in the Scriptures, September 1925, 216. However, Pink was to praise both Sales-Harrison, and the pastor at Auburn Baptist, Cleugh Black, as being “devoted, humble, and zealous souls.”43)Studies in the Scriptures, September 1925, 216. Neither, it would seem, had specific issues with Pink’s Calvinism.

Matters were to come to a head, however, in early August, due to the rising opposition to Pink’s views. This included the vocal criticisms of Lamb who had felt “the burden of responsibility of warning our readers everywhere in regard to this visitor’s teaching”.44)“Hopeless Confusion,” The Advent Herald, September 15, 1925, 11. Pink was then invited to address the members of the New South Wales Ministers Fraternal, a group that was made up of Baptist Union Pastors. Stephen Sharp, the Pastor of Burwood Baptist, recorded the meeting on behalf of The Australian Baptist and provided the backdrop for the meeting. He notes that the invitation came as a result of Pink’s many meetings at Ashfield and the divergence in opinion that his teaching on the subjects of divine sovereignty and human responsibility had caused. Pink was to choose the topic of human responsibility for his paper, and at the start of the paper made known that he denied any thought that he was a Hyper-Calvinist but was instead a “strict and staunch Calvinist.”45)“N. S. Wales Ministers’ Fraternal.” The Australian Baptist, August 11, 1925, 10. Sharp was to acknowledge that in Pink, Calvin had “a very capable expositor.”46)The Australian Baptist, August 11, 1925, 10.

A vote of thanks to Pink was carried, motioned by Sharp and seconded by Dr. A. J. Waldock, and a lunch was to occur, before a further meeting was to be held. Here Pink, Sharp records “for upwards of an hour .. was submitted to a further series of questions, all of which he answered with unfailing courtesy.”47)The Australian Baptist, August 11, 1925, 10. Sharp proceeds to also note that:

The great themes brought into prominence by Dr. Pink have exercised the profoundest thought of Christendom from the earliest days of Christianity, although in recent years they have been overshadowed by problems of a less obstruse character. In the great Revival of the 18th century, the rival schools represented by such giants as Augustus Toplady and John Wesley, debated these questions with considerable warmth, and the ethics of controversy were at times wholly lost sight of in the heat of battle. Perhaps the consciousness of the issues involved was keener then than in these days of easy-going tolerance of all creeds, however divergent they may be from the teaching of the New Testament, and a re-examination of the themes which our fathers deemed worthy of volumes of erudite reasoning may not be altogether undesirable. The undeniable fact that Calvinism produced a race of stalwart believers who were the very salt of the earth is strong presumptive evidence that the stern creed had elements of Divine truth in it, otherwise we are confronted with the unheard-of phenomenon of a corrupt tree bringing forth good fruit.48)The Australian Baptist, August 11, 1925, 10.

Sharp then moves on to express the difficulty and mystery of the relationship between human responsibility and divine sovereignty, before suggesting that “Dr. Pink would probably agree to leave the matter there, and his hearers will be wise to do so, too.”49)The Australian Baptist, August 11, 1925, 10.

Yet despite Sharp’s optimism and the congeniality shown during the meeting, the result was to be made known with a short statement published in the late September issue of The Australian Baptist. It was there mentioned that, having “heard conflicting statements concerning the doctrinal position of Dr. A. W. Pink, the Baptist Ministers’ Fraternal of New South Wales, invited him to state his views in a paper at a meeting held on Tuesday, 8th September. As a result of this paper and the questions and discussion which followed, the Ministers’ Fraternal unanimously resolved that they could not endorse Dr. Pink.”50)“N. S. Wales Ministers’ Fraternal.” The Australian Baptist, September 25, 1925, 6. As a result, the doors of ministry for Pink became closed with regard to further opportunities with the Baptist Union. Perhaps apocryphally, it was heard that, soon after, someone had written “Ichabod” with white paint on the main door and notice board of the Ashfield Tabernacle.51)Alan McKerrell, Early Reminiscence of A. W. Pink (Alan McKerrell, n.d.), 7.

Pink’s direct public acknowledgment of this turn of events was to come almost nine months later. After printing his address on Human Responsibility in full, Pink cites both a small part of Sharp’s rather rosy review of the address, followed by the official statement that had been issued by the Chairman and Honorary Secretary of the Fraternal. Pink was to make only two remarks, the first, simply pointing out the “care for accuracy” regarding the date of the meeting – the official statement placed the meeting on September 8 as opposed to August 4. The second, was to just point out a solemn and vivid illustration it furnishes of that declaration of Holy Writ: “The legs of the lame are not equal” (Prov. 26:7)!”52)Studies in the Scriptures, July 1926, 163. Yet, it is likely that Pink also referred to the events at an earlier point – particularly, in his yearly review of 1925, printed in the December issue of Studies. After noting the large attendance at his addresses on divine election, he goes on to continue: “Of course there has been opposition, which is ever been the case where this doctrine has been scripturally presented; and, as in our Lord’s day, the fiercest persecution comes from those who make the most pretensions. …Some who stood by us while the crowds were in attendance have now deserted.”53)Studies in the Scriptures, December 1925, 265. Pink was to express gratitude to Ardill, who had put so much effort in helping organise the seven Bible Campaigns that Pink had spoken at, also noting: “When others have turned from us, he has stood by us. … We are deeply indebted to him: the Lord himself reward for all he has done on our behalf.”54)Studies in the Scriptures, December 1925, 288.

Indeed, Pink’s language seems to betray someone who had felt both let down and abandoned. Pink had been in fellowship with several ministers who not only were fully aware of his Calvinism, but were even appreciative of his articulation of it, and allowed it to be preached from their pulpits. Sale-Harrison, after all, had continued to have Pink preach for another two months in his pulpit after Pink’s series on election, and Sharp, at Burwood, had shown a deep and knowing appreciation of Pink’s theology. Yet, when the official statement was issued by H. Halmarick, the Fraternal’s Chair, Pink’s disendorsement was said to be “unanimous”. How much was this due to internal pressures and politics, we cannot say. However, that there was obvious and heated opposition to Pink’s theology was abundantly clear, and was, perhaps, most notably represented by Lamb’s continued public haranguing of Pink throughout this time in the pages of The Advent Herald. Lamb’s influence during the time cannot be overstated. He was the pastor of one of the larger and more influential Baptist Union Churches, oversaw a significant yearly conference on the second advent – then a major point of focus among many conservatives – and was the editor of The Advent Herald, which had a circulation of, at least, a few thousand.55)Michael Petras, “The Life and Times of the Reverend William Lamb (1868 -1944),” The Baptist Recorder, No. 101 (May 2008), 6.

However, with the doors closed with the Baptist Union, Pink was to instead find an opportunity with a Baptist church in Surry Hills.56)Interestingly, Lamb suggests that Pink should join that very same church in an August 1925 column in The Advent Herald!: The Advent Herald, August 15, 1925, 10. Belvoir Street Particular Baptist as it was then known, was part of the smaller Strict and Particular Baptist group of churches that, for some time, had denied the responsibility, or duty, of unsaved sinners to repent or put faith in God. Pink’s unapologetic Calvinism must have come to their notice, for they were to invite him to preach for them, which he accepted, starting on the September 20, 1925.57)Daily Telegraph, September 19, 1925, 8. Pink was to note in a column for his U.S. and International readers, published in the May 1926 edition of Studies, that:

At the end of September we were invited to preach in the Strict and Particular Baptist Church, in Sydney, a Church which by Divine grace has faithfully stood for all the counsel of God for over sixty years, but which had been pastorless for twelve months. During that time, rather than invite the preachers who were not thoroughly sound in the faith, different “lay” brethren of their own number supplied the pulpit. When we arrived in this country we had no knowledge at all of this Church, but the Lord, who doeth all things well, brought us to it, though “by a way that we knew not.” The name of this Church defines its creed. They are “strict” insisting upon a regenerated church membership and in guarding the Lord’s table, and they hold fast to Particular Redemption rather than General Atonement-theory of the Arminians. For the past six months we have ministered God’s word in this Church every Sabbath and each Wednesday evening, and there has been a joyous response in the souls of its members. … Never before, during our sixteen years ministry, that we experienced such blessing and joy in our own souls, such liberty of utterance, and such an encouraging response as we have in this highly favoured portion of Christ vineyard. … [O]n the first Sabbath in March the editor and his wife were received into the membership and fellowship of the Strict and Particular Baptist church in Sydney. Having carefully examine their Articles of Faith and found them in thorough accord with the word of truth, having personally seen that the Lord was pleased to manifest himself in their midst, having the scriptural example of the apostle Paul who “assayed to join himself to the disciples” (Acts 9:26), desiring their more intimate fellowship for our spiritual welfare, hoping to strengthen their hands and desiring to encouraging others to do likewise, we felt clear before God that was both a privilege and duty to apply for membership and belong to a church which is patterned after the New Testament Churches in its order, teaching and discipline.58)“In Regions Beyond,” Studies in the Scriptures, May 1926, 117.

Pink’s Pastorate during Belvoir Street is not well documented. However, it is clear that by September 1927, a particular issue had become unavoidably apparent in the church with a number of the members, including the diaconate, challenging Pink on a few of the sermons that he had given. It would appear that, while Pink’s Calvinism was to earn the ire of many within the Baptist Union, for the Strict and Particular Baptists, he was now seen as not being “Calvinistic” enough. Pink’s preaching on human responsibility and his pressing of the need of the sinner to come to Christ were not received well. Pink had earlier impressed upon the Church that there:

…is something more in this Book, brethren and sisters, beside election and particular redemption and the new birth. They are there, I would not say one word to weaken or to repudiate them, but that is not all there is in this Book. There is a human side:  there in man’s responsibility: there is the sinner’s repentance: there is the sinner’s believing in Christ: there is the pressing of the gospel upon the unsaved: and I want to tell you frankly that if a church does not evangelise it will fossilise: and, if I am not mistaken, that is what happened to some of the Strict Baptist Churches in Australia. Numbers of them that once had a healthy existence are now no more: and some others are already dead but they are not yet buried: and I believe one of the main reasons for that is this:–they failed at the vital point of evangelism.59)“Christian Fools,” Studies in the Scriptures, January 1927, 18.

Pink had hoped to labour slowly in his journey of helping the Belvoir Street congregation come to a balanced understanding of the truth, preaching only “two sermons on ‘Man’s Responsibility – Gospel Responsibility’, as well as a dozen on Election, Particular Redemption, and Effectual Calling” between October 1926 and July 1927.60)Letter to Brooks, December 27, 1927. However, a sudden issue arose whereby the other two churches that were in fellowship with Belvoir Street – Ryde and Smithfield – demanded Belvoir Street to adopt the same Articles they had for the sake of unity and ministry, those Articles being that approved by the ‘Gospel Standard’ branch of the Strict Baptists in the United Kingdom, which were almost the same as those held by Belvoir Street, but “explicitly and emphatically denied human responsibility.” Pink was to further note that had “…those ‘Articles’ been included in the Belvoir Street Church’s, I most certainly would never have ‘joined’ their membership.”61)Letter to Brooks, December 27, 1927. Recognising his position, amid accusations of being a “rank ‘free willer’”, Pink was to resign after having been at the congregation for almost precisely two years.

However, without his urging, about forty percent of the membership was also to resign. Twenty-six of them were to rally around Pink to establish a new church,62)Murray, The Life of Arthur W. Pink, 116. the first meeting occurring in the home of a Mr. Ted Grice on the September 27, 1927.63)McKerrell, Early Reminiscence of A. W. Pink, 8. The newly formed church was to take a lease of the Masonic Hall on Liverpool Road, Summer Hill. However, Pink remained uneasy about the establishment of a new church and announced his resignation on March 25, 1928. The Pinks were to stay in Sydney only for another four months, but eventually set sail for England on the July 20, 1928. Pink was to write to two congregants, as they were approaching Fremantle, “We shall never forget the many seasons of happy fellowship which God so graciously granted us with you all in Sydney.”64)Letter to Colemans, July 29, 1928.

Conclusion

Arthur W. Pink’s brief tenure in Australia serves as a testament to the intricate dynamics of Sydney’s theological landscape in the mid-1920s, and it compels us to ask the question: How did a ministry that began with such hope and promise unravel so quickly? The answer, it seems, lies nestled within the interplay of denominational engagements and the evolving theological nuances of the era.

Upon his arrival, Pink appeared poised for a broad interdenominational engagement. Despite Pink’s wider storied history of engaging with a diverse array of denominations, his Australian chapter seems conspicuously limited to his interactions within the Baptist community. Save for a solitary event where he joined Anglican Minister Robert B. S. Hammond on the dais during an Open-Air Campaigners gathering at Town Hall in April 1923, his interactions outside the Baptist circle remain sparse. This, perhaps, can be attributed to the times, as the era predated the rise of conservative Evangelicals like Archbishop Mowll and Moore College’s Principal, T. C. Hammond. The Presbyterians, for their part, were yet to commence the journey to reclaim their evangelical essence.

But the heart of Pink’s Australian narrative is ensconced within the Baptist community’s reactions to his ministry. The Baptists of the 1920s, despite many being alumni of Spurgeon’s College who were, presumably, steeped in Calvinistic doctrines, presented a surprisingly resistant front to Pink’s brand of Calvinism. Figures like William Lamb became emblematic of this resistance, vocally opposing Pink’s teachings. The Baptist Union, as mirrored by the stance of the Ministers’ Fraternal, also appeared unwelcoming to Pink’s Calvinistic beliefs.

Michael Chavura, in his unpublished PhD, A History of Calvinism in the Baptist Churches of New South Wales, 1831-1914, sheds light on this dichotomy. While the Calvinistic roots imbibed at Spurgeon’s College were theoretically foundational, they were conspicuously dormant in practice on Australian shores. The evangelistic fervour, synonymous with Spurgeon, overshadowed his deep-seated Calvinism.65)Chavura, A History of Calvinism in the Baptist Churches of New South Wales, 281. This selective adoption effectively saw the Australian Baptists embracing Spurgeon’s evangelism but distancing themselves from the Calvinist underpinnings.66)Chavura, A History of Calvinism in the Baptist Churches of New South Wales, 283; Ken R. Manley, “The Magic Name’: Charles Haddon Spurgeon and the Evangelical Ethos of Australian Baptists – Part 2,” Baptist Quarterly, 40:4 (2004): 215-229. Furthermore, Chavura’s insights paint a broader picture: for the Baptists of New South Wales, the way forward seemed to be a deprioritisation of Calvinism’s unique attributes, emphasising instead a broad-based evangelical unity.67)Chavura, A History of Calvinism in the Baptist Churches of New South Wales, 331. Pink’s disendorsement underscored this prevailing sentiment, reflecting a conscious decision to side-line potentially divisive theological stances for the greater ecumenical good.

Pink’s encounters with the Strict and Particular Baptists further complicate his narrative. Any insinuations of Pink’s leanings towards Hyper-Calvinism, which typically distanced itself from evangelism and downplayed individual sin and repentance, were dispelled. Pink’s Calvinistic stance, deeply influenced by Spurgeon, was distinctly different, but such nuances seemed lost or deliberately ignored.68)Murray, The Life of Arthur W. Pink, 305 c.f. 220.

In conclusion, Pink’s Australian chapter, filled with initial promise, found itself ensnared in the evolving theological currents and denominational dynamics of the 1920s Sydney. The rapid unravelling of his ministry serves as a poignant reminder of the challenges that often lie beneath the surface of religious engagements and discourses.

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References

References
1 The Methodist, November 17, 1923, 3. In this article, it is noted that “Mr. A. W. Pink … is the author of several large volumes, including The Sovereignty of God” …”
2, 33 The Advent Herald, March 14, 1925, 10.
3 Moody Bible College Report Card.
4 Iain H. Murray, The Life of Arthur W. Pink (Edinburgh, UK: Banner of Truth, 2017), 18.
5 Our Hope, June 1912, 768-776. In a letter from 1918, Pink was to remark to his friend and publisher, I. C. Herendeen, that “The Lord graciously inclined Mr. G’s heart towards me six or seven years ago, and he has always been most friendly.” Arthur W. Pink, Letters from Spartanburg, ed. Richard P. Belcher (Columbia, S.C: Richbarry Press, 1993), 55.
6 Samuel Emadi, “New Light on the Early Ministry of Arthur W. Pink (2),” Banner of Truth, June 2018, 15-21.
7 Our Hope, February 1916, 480-485. The monthly contributions would eventually be collected and printed as Gleanings in Genesis by Moody Publishers in 1922.
8 “Bible Conference Continues with Interesting Sessions,” Santa Ana Register, October 29, 1913.
9 Harrisburg Telegraph, April 26, 1919; Daily Telegram, October 15, 1920; Oakland Tribune, January 15, 1921.
10 Arthur W. Pink, The Divine Inspiration of the Bible (Swengel, PA: Bible Truth Depot, 1917); The Redeemer Returns (Swengel, PA: Bible Truth Depot, 1918).
11 i.e. Our Hope, January 1918, 399; February 1918, 467.
12 I.C. Herendeen, “Oral Biography from the Dusty Rhoades Conference,” August 16, 1976.
13 A. W. Pink, “Foreword,” The Sovereignty of God (Swengal, PA: Bible Truth Depot, 1918), 5.
14 Pink, “Foreword,” 5-6.
15 Letter to I. C. Herendeen, June 29, 1919. Pink, Letters from Spartanburg, 122-123.
16 Letter to I. C. Herendeen, January 17, 1921. Arthur W. Pink, Letters of an Itinerant Preacher 1920-1921, ed. Richard P. Belcher (Columbia, S.C: Richbarry Press, 1994), 38.
17 Letter to I.C. Herendeen from Vera Pink, February 28, 1921. Pink, Letters of an Itinerant Preacher, 50.
18 Edward H. Rian, The Presbyterian Conflict (Horsham, PA: Orthodox Presbyterian Church, 1992), 197.
19 John A. McIntosh, Anglican Evangelicalism in Sydney 1897 to 1953 (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2018), 162.
20 Letter by Marcus Loane, March 1994, as cited in McIntosh, Anglican Evangelicalism in Sydney, 183.
21 Peter Barnes, Theological Controversies in the Presbyterian Church of New South Wales, 1865-1915 (Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellon Press, 2008), 7.
22 Barnes, Theological Controversies, 224; Rowland S. Ward, The Bush Still Burns: The Presbyterian and Reformed Faith in Australia 1788-1988 (New Melbourne Press, 1989), 302, 345.
23 Stuart Piggin and Robert D. Linder, Attending to the National Soul: Evangelical Christians in Australian History 1914-2014 (Clayton, Victoria: Monash University Publishing, 2020), 120.
24 Michael Petras, Extension or Extinction: Baptist Growth in New South Wales 1900-1939 (Eastwood, NSW: Baptist Historical Society of New South Wales, 1983), 117.
25 “Dr. A. W. Pink,” The Australian Baptist, March 31, 1925.
26 “Mr A. W. Pink,” The Advent Herald, March 14, 1925, 10; June 15, 1925, 10.
27 “Divine Sovereignty and Election,” The Advent Herald, July 15, 1925, 10.
28 “Saved or Lost. Why?” The Advent Herald, July 15, 1925, 1.
29 The Advent Herald, July 15, 1925, 2.
30 The Advent Herald, July 15, 1925, 3-4.
31, 34 The Advent Herald, July 15, 1925, 10.
32 “Mr A. W. Pink,” The Advent Herald, August 15, 1925, 9.
35 The Advent Herald, July 15, 1925, 3.
36 “Denominational Progress”, The New South Wales Baptist, February 7, 1887, 43.
37 J. J. North, ‘Congress Sermon, J. A. Packer (ed.), First Australasian Baptist Congress (Sydney, 1908), 94, as cited in Michael Chavura, A History of Calvinism in the Baptist Churches of New South Wales, 1831-1914, Unpublished PhD (1994), 235.
38 Studies in the Scriptures, July 1925. 167.
39, 41, 42, 43 Studies in the Scriptures, September 1925, 216.
40 Studies in the Scriptures, August 1925, 192.
44 “Hopeless Confusion,” The Advent Herald, September 15, 1925, 11.
45 “N. S. Wales Ministers’ Fraternal.” The Australian Baptist, August 11, 1925, 10.
46, 47, 48, 49 The Australian Baptist, August 11, 1925, 10.
50 “N. S. Wales Ministers’ Fraternal.” The Australian Baptist, September 25, 1925, 6.
51 Alan McKerrell, Early Reminiscence of A. W. Pink (Alan McKerrell, n.d.), 7.
52 Studies in the Scriptures, July 1926, 163.
53 Studies in the Scriptures, December 1925, 265.
54 Studies in the Scriptures, December 1925, 288.
55 Michael Petras, “The Life and Times of the Reverend William Lamb (1868 -1944),” The Baptist Recorder, No. 101 (May 2008), 6.
56 Interestingly, Lamb suggests that Pink should join that very same church in an August 1925 column in The Advent Herald!: The Advent Herald, August 15, 1925, 10.
57 Daily Telegraph, September 19, 1925, 8.
58 “In Regions Beyond,” Studies in the Scriptures, May 1926, 117.
59 “Christian Fools,” Studies in the Scriptures, January 1927, 18.
60, 61 Letter to Brooks, December 27, 1927.
62 Murray, The Life of Arthur W. Pink, 116.
63 McKerrell, Early Reminiscence of A. W. Pink, 8.
64 Letter to Colemans, July 29, 1928.
65 Chavura, A History of Calvinism in the Baptist Churches of New South Wales, 281.
66 Chavura, A History of Calvinism in the Baptist Churches of New South Wales, 283; Ken R. Manley, “The Magic Name’: Charles Haddon Spurgeon and the Evangelical Ethos of Australian Baptists – Part 2,” Baptist Quarterly, 40:4 (2004): 215-229.
67 Chavura, A History of Calvinism in the Baptist Churches of New South Wales, 331.
68 Murray, The Life of Arthur W. Pink, 305 c.f. 220.

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