Westminster Seminary Rift

Discussion in 'General Baptist Discussions' started by swaimj, Jul 10, 2008.

  1. swaimj

    swaimj
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    This story: http://www.philly.com/philly/hp/news_update/20080710_Bible_professor_suspended_over_teachings.html

    from today's Philadelphia Inquirer (it made the bottom of the front page) has prompted several questions from co-workers today. I saw an article in Christianity Today about this and have seen some comments on other blogs. I wonder what people on the BB think of this controversy? BTW, moderaters, I know this is a Presbyterian issue, not a Baptist one, but I prefer to have this in a Baptist section of the board since so many of the Baptists here hold to reformed theology to one degree or another.
     
  2. dan e.

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    This was a funny reply on the comments section of the article:

    "This is about as important (and interesting) as watching two nerds arguing about whether Superman's underwear is red or light crimson."

    I found myself chuckling at a few of them.
     
  3. Bible-boy

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    The main question that came to my mind is:

    Why can't Liberal Theologians be content to teach their liberal views at professing liberal universities and seminaries? Why must they try to force their way into professing conservative schools and seminaries (I guess that is actually two questions ;))?
     
  4. Deacon

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    There are plenty of sites that discuss this situation that has been going on for quite some time now.
    The controversy centers around his book, Inspiration and Incarnation, Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament [LINK]

    Peter Enn's website is a good place to being your investigation into the problems;
    A time to tear down/A Time to Build Up [LINK]

    A negative review was published in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society in June of 2006.

    Myth, History, and Inspiration: A Review Article of Inspiration and Incarnation by Peter Enns [LINK]

    Follow the links to see more articles related to this controversy.

    Rob
     
  5. J.D.

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    I think WTS is doing the right thing. If you give a liberal an inch, he'll eventually take over. Just look at the PCUSA - what a sham it is now. You can be nice to liberals and talk to them on the street, but don't let them in your church.
     
  6. Jarthur001

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    That's hard core..

    but I agree. I have seen it happen before.
     
  7. ReformedBaptist

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    A little leaven leavens the whole lump. Your spot on here. And Hoo-rah to Westminster!
     
  8. Joseph M. Smith

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    Where I fault Mr. Enns is in accepting so rigid a clause in his initial teaching contract. The allegiance of a professor ought to be to the pursuit of truth and not to some a priori formulation of truth.

    The charge of liberalism is not fair. It sounds to me as though Enns has only lately come to the kind of conclusion that many scholars reached years ago -- that the Bible's authority does not depend on the historical or scientific accuracy of every jot and tittle, but on its revelation of the character of God and particularly of the nature of Christ. Enns has not denied the nature of Christ, nor has he in speaking about the human aspect of the Bible claimed a compromised anthropology. Therefore, there is no liberalism involved.

    I hope some seminary that is interested in genuine academics rather than in perpetuating a calcified creed will pick him up.
     
  9. Deacon

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    Good comments Joseph!

    While I’m not of the Reformed tradition I have respect for nearby WTS.
    I think they made a dreadful mistake that may effect their scholastic prominence in the future.

    Too often we here it said, “The Bible says it, I believe it”.
    Enns writes, “…ometimes evangelical defenses of the Bible are exercises in special pleadings, attempts to hold on to comfortable ideas despite evidences that makes such ideas problematic.”

    “I&I is … written mainly for lay readers for whom standard critical issues are obstacles for their faith, and for whom conventional explanations are not helpful.

    His purpose in writing the book was to direct this type of evangelical thinker to engage important issues on an academic level rather than having them disengage or give up.

    Enns was dismissed because he challenged old ideas concerning our view of the Bible within its historical context, theological diversity within the OT Scriptures, and the way in which the NT authors handled the OT.

    Rob
     
  10. Tom Butler

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    Dr. Enns job is to teach Westminster students from the Westminster point of view. He is not free to advocate a new set of theological ideas. If his pursuit of truth leads him in a different direction, then he should resign. Then he will be free to try to pursuade any who will listen.

    Seminaries should not be basitions of academic freedom. Professors should be teachers of truth as held by those who write their paychecks.

    W\estminster is not stopping Dr. Enns from holding his views or advocating them. He is free to teach and pursuade, just not on Westminster's dime.
     
  11. JDale

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    Enns has been entrusted with the task of preparing young men and women for a lifetime of ministry. He is acting as a mentor, a guide, a coach to them, and what these young folks are hearing is appealing to them. It makes their faith "compatible" with what they see of the world -- with what the wisdom of the world declares as "truth," or "fact."

    It is disquieting that after a generation of striving to restore a proper understanding of Scriptural inspiration and authority, there seems to be some even here on the Baptist Board who are willing take a bite of the fruit Satan first offered to Eve in Eden. "Hath God said..?" "Surely God hath not said..."

    Dr. Jerry Vines said many years ago: "The Bible is not a science book -- but when it speaks on science, it does so accurately. The Bible is not a history book -- but when it speaks on history, it does so reliably. If the Bible is wrong about creation, can we be sure it's right about salvation? You cannot ascribe inspiration to one portion of Scripture and deny it to another portion of Scripture. You either have a Bible full of holes, or you have a whole Bible."

    It may be fashionable once again to question the parts of Scripture we don't understand, or that human scholarship tells us their "facts" contradict. But I was not ready to concede that ground in the 1980's, and I'm not ready to concede it now. I am thankful that not a few Presbyterians share that conviction.

    All else that we affirm as believers in Christ rises and falls on the inspiration and infallibility of Scripture. Anything less than that conviction -- even when we may disagree on some interpretations and applications -- is unacceptable. It is unacceptable in the Church, it is unacceptable among Baptists, and it is unacceptable to the whole of the Body of Christ.


    JDale
     
  12. Bob Alkire

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    So very true. This is what has taken many a school from where it started, look at Harvard and many of the early schools.

    I have to agree. I recall while in seminary, to pass a class I had to answer the questions the professor wanted from his point of view. I could answer as I felt but I didn't pass if I disagreed with him. If one had to do as the professor wants to pass he should teach as the school wants, or find a place that he can agree with.

    As with most work places. I went to a Calvinistic seminary ( changed my view while in seminary)but today I do not believe in that theology and they didn't stop me, but if I was going to pass, I had to answer questions in accord of their theology.

    I believe the school is correct.
     
    #12 Bob Alkire, Jul 12, 2008
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 12, 2008
  13. Baptist Believer

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    If that's what Enns agreed to do, I agree with your assessment.

    This assertion troubles me on several levels. While I believe there should be parameters for the theological stance of seminary professors, I don't think they should be overly rigid, nor be much tighter than some fundamental affirmations regarding the basic nature of divine revelation, anthropology, polity, empowerment of the Spirit, and the nature of discipleship. It is also extremely important that a seminary professor have a pastoral heart that seeks to build, not to needlessly belittle or condemn students for holding unsophisticated viewpoints.

    For students, I believe very strongly in academic freedom so they can ask the difficult questions in a supportive atmosphere. When I earned my undergraduate theological degree, it was in an environment of diversity. I had classes with professors that spanned a spectrum all the way from a passionate and fairly articulate right-wing professor to a professor that was one of the few liberals I have ever met in Baptist life. In that atmosphere of diversity and mutual respect, I learned theology according to what I am convinced the Bible teaches, not an agenda. Since I don't have an agenda-driven, I routinely upset the left-wingers with my "fundamentalism", the right-wingers with my "liberalism" and some moderates with my willingness to affirm certain positions of one side or the other with some regularity. :laugh:

    I take comfort in the fact that Jesus usually managed to upset just about everyone at one time or another.

    Yet those who write the paychecks often consider "The Prayer of Jabez" to be a deep theological treatise. Certainly professors need to teach within certain parameters, there also needs to be qualified trustees on the seminary boards who also have a theological education and a pastoral heart. In the SBC, over the last 30 years, the Convention has stacked the seminary trustee boards with a shockingly large number of people who are "politically reliable", yet may not understand the nature of theological education.

    Absolutely.
     
  14. Joseph M. Smith

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    I want to affirm what Baptist Believer has said about academic freedom and intellectual integrity. If an institution is so insecure about its stance that it cannot permit its scholars to explore, then it is not preparing people for ministry in the real world. Though I have not read Dr. Enns' book, from all accounts he is not challenging the core of the Christian faith, but is asking for a reassessment of our theological methodology. That is a task that has to be done in each generation, and it really has little to do with basic Christian teachings; it has much more to do with being equipped to face our culture on its own terms and to give a reason for the faith that is in us.

    Some of us interpret the Southern Baptist conservative surge as one which sensed and capitalized on a rural, isolated people's growing discomfort with having to engage a wider world than the one they had known in the relatively homogeneous southland. Those who could pluck the heartstrings of a frightened people won the day, within that framework; but rigidity will not win the day over time, in the larger context of a skeptical world.

    If Dr. Enns crossed a line, so be it. He was honest and he is concerned for the Gospel. I pray that some institution will treat this as "finders keepers, losers weepers."
     
  15. Tom Butler

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    It so happens that I am the chairman of the trustees at a Baptist university. Trustees require all faculty to teach from a biblical world view, from a view of inerrancy of scripture. We also require them to agree with the Baptist Faith and Message, or, in the case of a few non-Baptists teaching in the arts and sciences, not teach contrary to it.

    There is room for some diversity of views within that framework. The university is theologically conservative, and Baptist, and the trustees intend for it to stay that way.

    The parameters of Mid-Continent University are that classes be taught from a biblical world view and from a Southern Baptist perspective. They are firm but not rigid, nor are they fundamentalist.

    Our professors do not make fun of unsophisticated theological views. But they teach them the Baptist viewpoints.
     
  16. Tom Butler

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    Those who teach relgious studies at MCU are not forced to teach from a perspective of inerrancy. They teach it because they believe it. They also teach from a Baptist perspective because they are Baptists. Their intellectual integrity is unquestioned, and they are free, both as faculty and as individuals, to seek truth.
    ------------------------
    Yep, it was pretty easy to get the hicks bent out of shape after finding out how many seminary professors and pastors denied the authority of scripture, believed the great flood was a myth, denied eternal security, and even held that there were several paths to God. And of course, support for abortion. Not only did they believe it, they were allowed to teach it to Baptist young men and women preparing for Christian service.

    At Southern Baptist Theolical serminary, every professor had signed the Abstract of Principles, the parameters within which they could teach. Some of them then went on to ignore them. One taught falling from grace. Another advocated abortion. And their president protected them, until those frightened country bumpkins found out about it.

    Academic freedom run amok.
     
  17. JDale

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    As one of those who was there, I can say unequivocally that this statement is utter baloney.

    JDale
     
  18. Crabtownboy

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    Fundamentalists Moslems could not agree with you more when it comes to their schools either.:laugh:
     
  19. swaimj

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    I've tried to read up on this subject a little since I first started this thread. Here are my thoughts--very unrefined, but my thoughts.

    I don't think Enns is making up problems in regard to the biblical text. Two of his issues I am not that familiar with. However, the third, the use of the OT in the NT and the hermenuetic involved, is pretty problematic. If you believe in a literal, historical, grammatical, contextual hermenuetic, and most evangelicals do, it is hard to demonstrate that NT writers are using such a hermeneutic in their quotations of OT passages. Some very capable minds are attuned to this problem and are wrestling with it; Enns being among them. I may not agree with what he is saying (I certainly do not know the solution), but I think he is wrestling honestly with the issue and is trying to make a helpful contribution. In doing this, he is NOT a liberal.

    The problem with Westminster Seminary is that they are so steeped in presuppositionalism, that the very idea of wrestling with the hermaeneutic of NT writers the way Enns is, is outside of their parameters. I don't see how they can abide him. This doesn't make him a liberal. It simply means that he is outside of their historical theological position. They cannot have him on their faculty any more than they could have Charles Ryrie on their faculty. I think there are evangelical schools that do not have the commitment to presuppositionalism that Westminster has where Enns could teach.
     
  20. JustChristian

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    What is a "liberal?" If it's someone who doesn't believe in the divinity of Christ or that we are save through accepting Him as our Lord and Savior I agree. I'm talking about heresy with respect to fundamental Christian beliefs. What other things would make a person a liberal in your eyes to the extent that you wouldn't accept them into your church?
     

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