Meet Donald Grey Barnhouse

Donald Grey Barnhouse

In the past 72 years, Philadelphia’s handsome and historic Tenth Presbyterian Church has had two senior pastors, Donald Grey Barnhouse and James Montgomery Boice. Founded in 1828, the church itself predates their tenure by another hundred years. Tenth Presbyterian Church lies in the very heart of the city and today has about 1,200 members.

Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse was one of the most influential Christian leaders of his time. Few have had such an extensive outreach and influence—his 33-year pastorate at Tenth Presbyterian Church, longtime Bible Study Hour radio and television programs, some thirty books, and his founding of Eternity magazine.

Barnhouse attended the Bible Institute of Los Angeles (now Biola University), Princeton Seminary, the University of Chicago, the University of Pennsylvania, and Aix-en-Provence, France. He became the pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in 1927 and served there until his death in 1960.

Having been exposed to radio during his service with the Army Signal Corps, when he accepted the call to Tenth Presbyterian he stipulated that broadcast equipment be installed in the pulpit. In 1928, he signed a $40,000 contract and became the first evangelical preacher to purchase airtime on a national radio network. Within a few years, his Bible Study Hour broadcast was heard on more than 100 stations nationwide.

In theology and temperament Barnhouse was always a fundamentalist, but he never conformed to "the party line." He became a leading figure in the fundamentalist-modernist controversy within the Presbyterian Church, USA, and his fiery defense of fundamentalist doctrine led to an official reprimand by the Philadelphia presbytery in 1932. His favorite sword thrust at his own denomination was Revelation 3:1, "I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead." In the 1950s, he sought to heal breaches with the presbytery, the World Council of Churches, and liberal Christianity, bringing unofficial reprimands from other fundamentalists and evangelicals.

Calling for a "new evangelicalism" which held to the conservative central beliefs of the Christian faith, but which was also "intellectually respectable, socially concerned, and cooperative in spirit" (The International Dictionary of the Christian Church), he helped found the National Association of Evangelicals with Harold Ockenga, Billy Graham, and Carl Henry.

Dr. Barnhouse established himself as one of the finest of expository preachers, uncompromising and unwavering in his stand on the verbal inspiration of the Bible. He was a master storyteller, and published many of these illustrations in books such as Let Me Illustrate, Bible Truth Illustrated, Illustrating Great Themes of Scripture, and Illustrating the Gospel of John.

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