Sunday, March 28, 2010

Van Til on The Reformed View of Education

The Reformed community, we conclude, must follow its own educational program. Much as it appreciates what is done by brethren of non-Reformed Christian persuasion, it is on the Reformed basis alone that a comprehensive Christian view of life can be set over against the world of unbelief. Only the Reformed view shows the full power of Christianity in meeting the challenge of the wisdom of the world and in offering men, with the pleading voice of the Christ who wept over the multitudes of Jerusalem, the reward of their labor for this life and the life to come. The Reformed community takes no delight in building alone. It takes no delight in living in ecclesiastical isolation. But if there is reason for it to live and to work alone ecclesiastically then there is the same reason for working alone educationally. And yet our hope is not to work alone forever. Our aim is the ultimate good of all who love the gospel and all those who should love the truth.
Cornelius Van Til, Essays in Christian Education

HT: Christian Nuture

Saturday, March 27, 2010

ARPTalk, E-mail 3

Rev. Chuck Wilson has published the latest ARPTalk E-mail. You can read it here. In it, he raises some interesting questions regarding the court proceedings from this week, as well as the motivations of those former Erskine Board members who are suing the ARP. Take for example the seemingly contradictory testimonies of Drs. Young and Taylor. Dr. Young affirmed that Erskine was a Christian college. But, says, Rev. Wilson:

In contrast, Dr. Taylor stated that the Erskine Board/College is NOT a “Christian institution.” If that is the case, that news is going to be a surprise to the General Synod of the ARP Church. The Editor seems to remember that Erskine trustees are asked to give assent to a document concerning adherence to evangelical Christina faith.

The disagreement of Drs. Taylor and Young on this matter was interesting to hear. Neither man seems to understand the stated mission of Erskine.
Rev. Wilson goes on to write:

The attorneys for Drs. Taylor and Young and Mr. Chesnut contended that “irreparable harm” had been done to them and the other trustees who were removed from the Board by the action of General Synod. The nature of this “irreparable harm” then became clear from the testimony of Drs. Taylor and Young: THEIR FEELINGS WERE HURT because they were not chosen to serve on the Interim Board. Is this nothing more than a nuisance lawsuit by two angry ARP elders against the very Church to which they have vowed submission!
Head on over to ARPTalk to read the whole thing.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Erskine Court Decision within 10 Days

Looks like we will have to wait no more than 10 more days to hear the judge's ruling in the case of the temporary restraining order by the Erskine Alumni Association against the ARP. Per this report, it seems there was new evidence presented by both sides today and both sides agreed that more time was needed to respond. So, we are waiting for the judge's ruling, which will be in a maximum of 10 days. Continue praying!

HT: The Aquila Report

Two Articles Dealing with the Office of Elder

There are two articles at The Aquila Report right now, dealing with the office of elder. The first is entitled "Elders--We Are Servants First and Foremost" by Dr. D. Thomas Owsley. Its title gives away that it focuses on the servant role of elders in Christ's church, and although Dr. Owsley focuses his article on Pastors, the same can be applied to Ruling Elders. Of the use of the title "slave" or "servant," he has this to say:
Paul uses doulos-slave and diakonos-servant at least as often as the title apostle. This is because more than anything else he is called to serve God, the saints (Rom. 15:25; 2 Cor. 8:19), and even Gentile unbelievers. He is a doulos-slave (Rom. 1:1; Gal. 1:10, Phil. 1:1; Ti. 1:1) and a diakonos-servant (Eph. 3:7; Col. 1:23, 25).
Dr. Owsley ends with this thought:
Since “servant,” and not “pastor” is the most important and prominent, biblical term for a Christian believer in church leadership it would do all of us well to take that to heart. How should those of us who are ruling and teaching elders think about our roles? Like servants of Christ. How should those of us who are ruling and teaching elders function in our roles? Like servants of Christ.

The second article is by Ken Sande, president of Peacemaker Ministries (not to be confused with the Colt Peacemaker, I'm sure). His article is entitled "Training Left Offensive Tackles for the PCA". In it, he describes the role of "peacemakers"--elders and members of the local church specially trained to resolve conflicts, biblically--and how they can aid in the life of the church. This highlights two important aspects of the Ruling Elder's role: First, that of peacemaker. Christ said, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God" (Matt. 5:9) and Paul exhorts us, "If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men." (Romans 12:18). And when describing the qualification of elders to Timothy, Paul includes the characteristics of being "gentle, not quarrelsome." (1 Tim. 3:3). So, there is a lot to be said about being a peacemaking elder.

The second important aspect of the Ruling Elder's role that Sande highlights (though somewhat indirectly) is that of support for the Pastor of the congregation. Sande, relaying the account of a pastor writes:

Through her tears, she [a member of the Pastor's church] said, “Pastor, my husband’s been drinking and gambling again, and last night he didn’t come home.” What was I to do? In less than 20 hours, I was to board a plane for a week of meetings in Dallas. Should I cancel my trip? Where could I turn for support? At that moment, I remembered that this couple had connected well with one of our peacemaking-trained elders...Can you imagine my sense of relief?
Mark Ross has prepared a video for the training of Ruling Elders in ARP congregations and one thing I remember him saying is that if you want a good pastor who is not so over worked that he barely has time to prepare his Sunday morning sermon, then you need to have Ruling Elders that are taking care of other responsibilities in the congregation. Being a peacemaker is one way Ruling Elders can support their Teaching Elder.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Remember the ARP in Prayer

Tomorrow (Thursday, March 24) is the court date to see if the temporary restraining order issued against the ARP should be extended or not. Please be in prayer that it not be extended, so we can move on past this ugliness and get on with the business of reforming Erskine.

Latest Issue of ARPTalk is out

Included in this issue is:


(27.1.1) Resolution of Commendation of the Investigatory Commission on Erskine College and Seminary Passed by Northeast Presbytery (ARP)

(27.1.2) Letter from Andy Putnam – The Editor wishes to thank the Rev. Andy Putnam for his clarifications.

(27.1.3) A Love Letter Straight from Bill Crenshaw’s Heart – The Editor has heard of Dr. Crenshaw’s love notes, and now he is the recipient of one of them.

(27.2) A FEW THOUGHTS CAPTURED FROM FACEBOOK – These leave the Editor nearly speechless.

(27.3) A JUSTIFICATION FOR LAWSUITS: Paul and the Issue of Litigation in 1 Corinthians 6, by James Hering, PhD – This article in Erskine Action is nothing more than self-serving tripe in a pitiful attempt to cover disloyalty to the ARP Church. Does Dr. Hering make legitimate points? Of course! However, the main point of his writing must not be missed. The promulgation of such nonsense by Dr. Michael Bush, the blog-master on the Erskine Theological Seminary website, makes it abundantly clear that drastic and far-reaching changes at Erskine Seminary are necessary.

(27.4) AN OPEN LETTER TO THE EXECUTIVE BOARD OF SYNOD BY DOUG PETERSEN: Reflections on the Special Commission on Erskine College and the March 2-3, 2010 Called Meeting of General Synod, by Rev. Doug Petersen – Incredible!


Get it here.

Remember our brothers in the PCA

TE Wes White (PCA), has posted an article at his blog describing the opinion of one PCA pastor who thinks we need to be reconciled to Rome. Literally. As in, recognize the Pope as "first among equals" and put ourselves under the authority of bishops (in the episcopal sense, not the biblical sense).

We in the ARP have our own issues we need to work through, but let's not forget that our brethren in the PCA also have significant battles they are waging. I know there are many PCA members and elders praying for the ARP, right now. Let us also remember the PCA in our prayers, that they would be able to deal justly with these false teachings.

Just one comment on TE White's article. It is not surprising to me that FV teachings lead to Rome. What is surprising is the unbridled openness with which Craig Higgins (the PCA pastor who is the focus of Rev. White's piece) makes his proposal. Has he no fear of consequences? Does he not remember a single one of his ordination vows? Are his fingers still crossed? Or is he just testing the limits, seeing what exactly he can get away with? It is my hope that the PCA lets him know exactly how much of this nonsense they will tolerate, and I hope it is a very, very small amount.

William Evans Responds to Richard Burnett

William Evans, professor of Bible and Religion at Erskine College and former moderator of the ARP has written a reply to Richard Burnett's piece about inerrancy.

Some highlights from Dr. Evans' article include:

Burnett’s article exhibits two persistent misunderstandings about inerrancy. First, he contends that the doctrine of “inerrancy” in the “original manuscripts” is a novelty of recent vintage. Such arguments were all the rage in the 1970s, but careful historians now recognize that inerrancy language can be traced back to the early and medieval church periods.
But why does inerrancy matter? The ARP Church rightly recognizes that a denial of the full authority of the Bible inevitably leads to the sort of “cafeteria Christianity” that now characterizes the mainline churches in this country, as people pick and choose those aspects of the Christian tradition that they find congenial and ignore that which conflicts with the broader culture. That sort of subjectivism destroys the mission and witness of the church, and the ARP Church objects to it with good reason.
You can read Dr. Evans' entire article here.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

In Defense of deWitt

At The Aquila Report, Rev. Ken Pierce (PCA) has written a reply to a certain blog (that I will not link to) that has sought to drag Dr. deWitt's name through the mud. You can read Pierce's piece here. Rev. Pierce correctly notes the differences in Dr. deWitt's current denomination (the ARP) and his former denomination (the RCA):

What Seventh Reformed [Dr. deWitt's previous congregation] did was take a stand for historic Christian and Reformed orthodoxy in the midst of a denomination that had drifted away from those things --precisely the opposite of the current situation.
It is interesting to note that Dr. deWitt, in all the actions that led to him leaving the RCA, never sued the RCA--an example current members of the ARP could learn from.

So, it sounds to me that we in the ARP are blessed by the presence of Dr. deWitt, a man who has stood for the truth of the Gospel before and is now doing the same, again.

Monday, March 22, 2010

But You're Just a Ruling Elder!

Has anyone ever told you this? "You're just a Ruling Elder." Perhaps not with those exact words. Perhaps they phrased it more delicately (as a matter of fact, I'm pretty sure they would have). Maybe it wasn't phrased using the second person singular, but the third person plural: "Scholars disagree with that point of view." Of course, "that point of view" is the one you are advocating. Or perhaps it was said in the first person: "I, Dr. Smith, have studied these ancient cultures for so many years, that surely we can't so easily discount my advice." As a matter of fact, perhaps this sort of disdain for Ruling Elders was phrased so elegantly and so subtly that you bought into it. You thought to yourself, "Maybe Dr. Jones/scholars/this guy in front of me with an advanced theology degree knows better than I do." Perhaps this sort of speech was used to counter a point you made or perhaps it was used to prevent you from even speaking at all. A preemptive strike in the debate, if you will.

Ruling Elders, I write to encourage you to see through this sort of speech. And I hope to give some antidote to these kinds of attacks.

First, I want to address these sorts of attacks. I say attacks, because that's what they are. It doesn't sound like one, though, does it? Stating "Dr. Jones has done post-doc work in Ancient Mesopotamian cultures and as a result of years of study has reached conclusion X." does not sound the same as saying "Sit down and shut up, stupid." But in reality that is what is being said. By saying Dr. Jones has years of knowledge that contradicts your point of view, what is being implied is that you do not have years of knowledge, nor a PhD to back up your point of view. You don't know as much as Dr. Jones, therefore your point is invalid, therefore you should not be speaking. Or, to put it another way: "Sit down and shut up, stupid!" Have you encountered this line of reasoning before? I have. And now that I have encountered it, I am all the more able to see it the next time I come into contact with it.

Second, the solution to these attacks. The best solution is Scripture. Our Lord was no respecter of persons (Matt. 22:16), but all too often, we are. We shouldn't be. Jesus also told us not to call any man "teacher" (Matt 23:10), but all too often we call men "doctor" (meaning "teacher") and hold them in high regard and value their words more because of this title. We shouldn't. We should, though, remember that first great church council in Jerusalem, where apostles and elders came together, as equals, to settle matters pertaining to the faith (Acts 15:6). If the early church did not regard the Apostles as more able to settle this matter than the elders, and if the Apostles did not take such a high view of themselves that they sought to belittle the elders, why then do we uphold doctors of theology (or masters of divinity) as better able to instruct us than an "ordinary" Ruling Elder?

The reason is a low view of Scripture. "A low view of Scripture," you may ask yourself, "how do you reach that conclusion?" Here is how: when we honor the view of a man with a PhD or even an MDiv who has read Calvin in the original Latin or translated Turretin himself or held the original Dead Sea Scrolls in his hands, more than the elder who simply quotes Scripture (properly exegeted), we reveal that our view of Scripture is less than that of these artifacts. After all, he held the original Dead Sea Scrolls! You just can't argue with that! I mean, any sucker can quote 1 John, but this man is a scholar. You're just a Ruling Elder! Sit down and shut up, stupid.

This approach to questions of doctrine is evil, subtle, and deceitful. Those are attributes of Satan, not of Christ's undershepherds (1 John 3:8; Gen. 3:1; John 8:44). What this view does is dismiss Scripture in favor of man's opinion. And pay close attention, because although the men who do this may reference or quote Scripture, their final authority will not be Scripture. If their final authority were the Bible, they would be humble, deferring to others and listening to you, Ruling Elder, because you are an Elder in the Church of God, and that is the highest office one can be called to.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Erskine and ARP News Roundup, Part 2

As the week winds down, I feel it necessary to highlight the week's news regarding Erskine and the ARP.

Rev. Wilson at ARPTalk, posted another e-mail on Monday: ARPTalk(E-Mail-2)

The details of the suit against the ARP have been posted on the Aquila Report: Erskine College, Plaintiff, vs. General Synod of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian General Synod, Inc., Defendant

That same day, the Erskine Alumni Association joined the suit, as reported here: Erskine Alumni Association joins lawsuit against ARP Synod

The Greenwood, SC newspaper reported on some of the details of the Called Meeting of the ARP Synod, that had heretofore not been made public: Synod meeting began Erskine power struggle

Rev. Fred Greco, Senior Pastor of Christ Church PCA in Katy, TX published an opinion piece in The Aquila Report based on 1 Corinthians 6: What is at Risk in the Erskine Lawsuit?

In what seems to be a direct reply to Rev. Greco, Dr. Hering, a professor at Erskine Seminary, wrote a paper on 1 Cor. 6: Dr. Hering examines litigation in 1 Corinthians 6

On Tuesday, the Erskine Board voted to drop the suit: Erskine Board affirms need to find answers, but votes to drop lawsuit

But, then the Alumni Association voted to go forward with the suit: Christian College Trustee Withdraws Suit Against Founding Denomination

A couple of Erskine Alumni expressed their disgust with this action of the Alumni Association. One response is here: An Open Letter to Mr. J. David Chestnut, President of the Erskine College Alumni Association, Regarding Erskine College-v-ARP Synod

And another, though much, much more brief, is here: Letter to Alumni Association

On Wednesday, Dr. Richard Burnett, professor of Systematic Theology at Erskine Seminary wrote an opinion piece defending Erskine: Has Erskine 'gone secular'? (my own thoughts on this piece, as well as comments from others, can be found here and here.)

Also, on Wednesday, Ken Wingate, Ruling Elder in the ARP and member of the Moderator's Commission which investigated Erskine, was the guest on the "Knowing the Truth" radio program. You can listen to the audio here: Knowing the Truth, Audio (the program was entitled "Restoring Erskine").

The Heidelblog mentioned the radio program, and got some comments on it:
The Latest on the ARP/Erskine Saga-Wed 1PM (Eastern) Live On Air

Christianity Today published a piece on the ARP/Erskine issue (although, to be honest, it didn't include much new information): Fight Between Erskine College and Its Denomination Will Head to Court

Finally, in what seems an appropriate end to the week's news regarding this issue, the Moderator of the ARP, Dr. John de Witt has expressed his shock at the way events have unfolded: Moderator of ARP Synod breaks silence; expresses shock at pending lawsuit

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Richard Burnett and Inerrancy

Richard Burnett is a professor of systematic theology at Erskine Seminary. He has been at the forefront of the entire Erskine/ARP issue, due to his denial of the inerrancy of Scripture. Dr. Burnett has been interviewed by The Greenville News. Part of the article reads:

Many are wondering whether Erskine has “gone secular.” I certainly understand why. Many colleges in my own denomination, the Presbyterian Church USA, were secularized in the last century. This has been a terrible loss. But Erskine College and Seminary, which were founded by the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, have resisted this trend. Indeed, Erskine has become much more conservative and evangelical in the last couple decades and I know of no alumni who would disagree.

I’m firmly committed to Christian liberal arts education and believe we should certainly continue to require commitment to Christian faith for employment here at Erskine. I know no one here who wishes otherwise. The problem is that the ARP Synod has introduced a new litmus test of orthodoxy. Employees are now being asked to affirm that the Bible is “inerrant in the original manuscripts.”

The problem is that we don’t have any original manuscripts of the Bible. We’re told we should “take it on faith.” But this, I believe, is a misunderstanding of faith. Faith, according to the Reformed-Calvinistic tradition, is always a matter of knowledge based on that which has been revealed and never merely a matter of trust.

I believe, unreservedly, that the Bible is the Word of God. And based upon what it says about itself, I believe there is warrant for saying the Bible is “the only infallible rule for faith and practice,” as Presbyterians, traditionally, have been taught to believe. But we believe this not on the basis of original manuscripts but, as the Westminster Confession says, “by the inward work of the Holy Spirit.”

This new standard shifts, or at least confuses, the true source of Scripture’s authority and does so on the basis of an argument that is relatively new in the history of the Church (an appeal to “original manuscripts”). The entire Erskine seminary faculty publicly rejected this argument in 1977.

Now this argument is being resuscitated. Given its track record, I believe it will do more to undermine the Bible’s authority than to safeguard it since it seeks to establish the authority of a Bible we do not have for the Bible we do have. Of course, the easiest thing to do would be to affirm this new litmus test. But some of us cannot do this in good conscience.
Here are some of my thoughts on Dr. Burnett's comments:

1. Of course, this is just a bunch of Barthian mumbo-jumbo. Burnett says we are trying to "establish the authority of a Bible we do not have for the Bible we do have." But what sort of an authority is the Bible we do have, according to him? After all, it isn't inerrant. Inerrancy means that the very words of Scripture are inspired by God, and therefore true (plenary verbal inspiration). The reverse of that (Burnett's position) is that every actual word carries with it the possibility of being false. So then, what authority is Burnett's Bible? If any word or group of words could, in fact, be false, how are we to know what is true? By the inward illumination of the Holy Spirit, he would answer. But that is just subjectivist nonsense. The Holy Spirit confirms the Word of God. How do we know what the Word of God is? The Holy Spirit confirms it. But what if the "Holy Spirit" confirms the truth of a passage of Scripture to me, but not to Burnett (like, I don't know, Isaiah 59:21)? Whose Holy Spirit do we trust? Burnett substitutes the confirming nature of the Holy Spirit for the authority of the Word of God, itself. We judge truth by Scripture (and we judge Scripture by Scripture (WCF 1.9)), not by the confirming of the Holy Spirit.

2. Burnett says that we do not possess the original manuscripts and therefore he cannot affirm their inerrant nature. But, this is only true if one rejects the divine preservation of the text. The WCF explicitly affirms that God's word has been "kept pure in all ages" (WCF 1.8). If this is true, then we do possess "pure" copies of the original manuscripts. Will Burnett affirm one part of the Confession while denying another?

3. Lastly, I would note the redefinition of the term "infallible." Webster's 1828 Dictionary (which, I understand is not the dictionary of the Westminster Assembly) defines infallible as [emphasis added]:
1. Not fallible; not capable of erring; entirely exempt from liability to mistake; applied to persons. No man is infallible; to be infallible is the prerogative of God only.

2. Not liable to fail, or to deceive confidence; certain; as infallible evidence; infallible success.

To whom he showed himself alive after his passion, by many infallible proofs--
Webster's 1828 does not contain the word "inerrant". Why? Because it is a new word. Don't get me wrong, by our modern use of language, I affirm inerrancy and infallibility, but our modern language is not what is being questioned. The question is, what did the Westminster divines mean when they wrote of "the infallible truth" of Scripture? They meant what we would call "inerrant". So for Burnett to "agree" with the WCF on the infallibility of Scripture, but to disagree with the ARP on the inerrancy of Scripture is a contradiction. The WCF's "infallibility" is the ARP's "inerrancy."

A few more Erskine and ARP links

Christianity Today has picked up the Erskine/ARP story, here: Fight Between Erskine College and Its Denomination Will Head to Court

Dr. Chuck Wilson has sent out a couple of e-mails and posted the texts of those on the ARPTalk site, here and here.

Ken Wingate, RE in the ARP and member of the Moderator's Commission on Erskine will be on the "Knowing the Truth" radio show today at 1:00pm eastern time. You can listen online, here. (The audio from the radio show has been posted here, in case you missed the live show.)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Erskine and Biola

In addition to the many other hats I wear, I am a graduate student at Biola University. I point that out for two reasons: first, in the interest of full disclosure, and second, because I believe it gives me unique perspective in this whole Erskine/ARP fiasco.

Time and time again, opponents of the ARP's oversight of their own college and seminary bring up the accusation that the ARP wants to turn Erskine into a Bible college or that if the ARP has their way, Erskine will lose its reputation as a liberal art college, or that integration of the Christian faith with the subjects taught at Erskine is not possible. I find all these scare tactics on the part of the anti-ARPers quite intriguing. And here's why:

Biola (or The Bible Institute of Los Angeles, as it was originally called), has been around for more than 100 years. It was founded in 1908 with money donated by Lyman Stewart, an oilman who also helped to fund the printing and distribution of The Fundamentals, which were used to counter the onslaught of Modernist theology which was gaining momentum at the time. It's interesting to note that what started out as a Bible college has grown into a University.

Biola is not reformed in doctrine, although there are plenty of professors on campus who have reformed sympathies, but one thing they do stress, and I believe they get right most of the time is the integration of the Christian faith with all areas of life. That is, Biola teaches every subject from a Christian worldview. (This includes the sciences.) So it astounds me, being a reformed graduate student at a not-reformed University to hear claims that it isn't possible to teach a certain subject from a Christian worldview, especially when that claim is coming from what is supposed to be a Reformed College! I look around the classes I am in and I see evangelicals from a variety of backgrounds learning philosophy, history, and science as it is taught by evangelical professors! How can this be? I thought it wasn't possible to teach science or philosophy or history or English from a Christian worldview? And yet, here we are, learning these things.

And then there are the accusations that Erskine will become a Bible college. Often, the boogeyman that is brought out to scare folks is "Bob Jones". But, I offer an alternative: Biola. No, I do not want to see Erskine turn into another Bob Jones University, but I really wouldn't mind seeing it become a little more like Biola. After all, Biola for over 100 years has defended the doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture, a doctrine, which if you read what certain professors at Erskine say, will only reduce Erskine to a laughing stock, an unaccredited fourth-rate Bible school. But, here is Biola, for over a century upholding the doctrine of inerrancy, and they have never worried about losing their accreditation. And look at some of the scholars and notable alumni that have passed through Biola's halls: Donald Barnhouse (former pastor of Tenth Presbyterian, Philadelphia), John MacArthur (noted pastor and author), Scott Derrickson (Hollywood screenwriter/director/producer), David Kinnaman (President of the Barna Group), John Thune (U.S. Sentor from South Dakota), Michael Long (2008 California Teacher of the Year). Do these men get every aspect of their theology right? Maybe not. But, the point is that this "Bible college" has produced more men and women who have impacted the world for Jesus Christ than Erskine has. And they've done it all while Biola was teaching that Scripture is inerrant, and while Biola taught their subjects from a Christian worldview.

And so, here I am, sitting across the country from Erskine quite puzzled at what I hear coming out of Due West. Science can't be taught from a Christian worldview? Teaching the doctrine of inerrancy will damage Erskine's reputation? Well, my oh my, don't let the faculty and administration at Biola know that! After all, for over a century, they've been quite content doing just that all the while cranking out men and women with well-rounded educations who go on to do great things for God. And I'd hate for that to change.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Lest we become too distracted

Taking a break, for the moment, from the Erskine news, I'd like to point out something that was recently brought to my attention. The Northeast Presbytery of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (of which my church is a part) is active in seven church plants at the moment, with two new plants in the works. I am told that this does not take into account the work of our Korean brothers in our Presbytery. The plants are located in Arizona (1), California (1), Maryland (2), Pennsylvania (2), and West Virginia (1).

I hope this little bit of news will be an encouragement to those in the ARP (and others) who feel overburdened by all that is going on with Erskine right now. Christ's Church continues to conquer! Praise be to God!

(HT: Backwoods Presbyterian)

A Letter from an Erskine Almnus

In case you missed it, the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees of Erskine voted last week 4-3 to not proceed with the lawsuit against the ARP. You would think that would be the end of the issue, but, in fact, the Erskine Alumni Association has apparently decided to take up the suit anyway. How they have any legal standing in this issue, I'm not sure, but they seem to think they do.

On that note, here is an excellent letter by an Erskine Alumnus named Drew Collins who is not in the ARP. Part of what he writes is (emphasis added):

It was with deep sadness and profound concern, then, that I learned of the decision of the Board of Trustees of the Erskine College Alumni Association, on behalf of the entire membership, to join in the action Erskine College-v-ARP Synod, unilaterally filed by Mr. Scott Mitchell, Esq., Chairman of the Board of Trustees -- an action that the Board of Trustees as a whole refused to join. Quite frankly, sir, I resent you speaking for me!
I encourage you to read the whole thing.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Erskine Alumni Association Joins Suit against ARP

The latest update on the Erskine lawsuit against the ARP:

The Index-Journal: Erskine Alumni Association joins lawsuit against ARP Synod

Erskine and ARP News Roundup

The news (and rumors) out of South Carolina are flying around fast this week. In an attempt to keep it all in order (a very Presbyterian thing to do), here are links to the most relevant/latest news items:

As I mentioned yesterday, Erskine (specifically, the chairman of the former Board of Trustees of Erskine, Mr. Scott Mitchell), attained a restraining order against the ARP on Wednesday.

That, of course, generated a flurry of commentary/news items. Here are some of those:

The Aquila Report: BREAKING NEWS: South Carolina Judge issues temporary restraining order against the ARP Synod from calling meetings of the Interim Board of Trustees

Heidelblog: Erskine College Officials Obtain TRO Against ARP Synod

ARPTalk: Extra 7!

Gairney Bridge: Modern Day Corinthians?

Gairney Bridge: Breaking News

The Aquila Report: Update on Erskine College Lawsuit - Thursday Afternoon

Then, yesterday, the ARP's Moderator's Committee held a Q&A on the campus of Erskine. Here are links describing what happened there:

Greenville Online: Erskine Meeting Gets Heated Over Board Ouster

Gairney Bridge: The Culture of Intimidation

Today there is a rumor that the whole lawsuit by Erskine against the ARP may be dropped. The rumor is apparently based, at least in part, on a comment left on this article on "The State" newspaper's article on the Erskine issue:

The State: Dispute at Erskine leads to lawsuit (see the comment by "AttorneyinSC" whose comments on other stories related to Erskine are not supportive of the ARP).

That comment generated the following:

The Aquila Report: BREAKING NEWS: Erskine Lawsuit may be withdrawn

That comment, plus some other, unnamed sources, resulted in this:

Gairney Bridge: Please Pause for Prayer

In the midst of all this, I'd like to point out two good articles on the whole Erskine Issue. The first from an Erskine grad (Mackay Smith, class of '06):

Mackay Smith: Thoughts on Erskine College and Seminary

The second is a piece by Joel Belz in World Magazine (who had previously published the article "Looking for a Miracle" commenting on the Erskine issues last year):

World Magazine: Reclaiming Erskine

So, as you can see, there is a lot going on in ARP-dom this week. Much prayer is needed and appreciated!

I'll be sure to update if the rumor about the lawsuit being dropped is confirmed.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

We aren't the first to go down this road...

...let us learn from those who have gone before us.

For example, Southern Seminary and the Southern Baptist Convention has been through what the ARP and Erskine is going through.

And don't forget Concordia Seminary and the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod have been through what we are going through, as well.

It is interesting to note that the common theme connecting Southern, Concordia, and Erskine is the issue of inerrancy.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Erskine Granted Temporary Restraining Order Against ARP

I was in the middle of typing up a different post, when I saw this.

I had long suspected that those who hate the ARP would attempt to steal Erskine from us, so this doesn't come as a total surprise. I am somewhat surprised that a judge actually allowed this restraining order to be issued. (I guess "separation of church and state" only goes one way, huh?)

I am, however, confident, that the ARP will come out on top of all this.

But, remember this, ARP: Discipline is ugly, painful, and long. And those being disciplined know this. Yes, they may have deluded themselves into thinking they actually have a chance to win this thing, but I do not believe that is the actual, underlying motive. The root motive is this: the ARP doesn't like to discipline Erskine (or anyone else: Pastors, missionaries, etc). But, the ARP is taking action on the Erskine issue. Therefore, make the Erskine issue a bitter taste in the mouths of the ARP, and they will be that much more reluctant to handle issues of discipline in the future. The outcome? 30 more years of doing whatever one wants without denominational interference.

Elders in the ARP (I'm talking to both Teaching and Ruling Elders): Steel yourselves. Understand that discipline is necessary for the health of the church. You have done well thus far with the Erskine issue, but do not let this tantrum being thrown by the former Board and Administration (and whoever else may be involved) make you hesitant, even for a moment, to exercise discipline in the future.

And: See this through to the very end. Those who sought this restraining order ought to be looking for new employment. Not one more dollar of ARP tithe ought to be used to fund this sort of open mockery of the ARP.

PS- The Heidelblog has also picked up on this story, and you can read some good comments there. Here is the link.

Monday, March 8, 2010

A Ruling Elder at Presbytery

Ruling Elders, here is an example follow. RE Terry Altstiel (PCA) gave a speech on the floor of Presbytery against the non-action of his Presbytery in a certain case. TE Wes White prefaces the speech by stating that all too often there is a pack mentality amongst TEs: If one is "attacked" they close ranks, no matter what the accusation or if the accusation is true.

This reminds me a story my dad has told me many times. When I was a young child, we lived in Stockton, California. Every year, a certain reformed church in Sacramento (about 30 minutes drive from Stockton) would have a "Reformation Day Conference". They would bring in "big names" in the Reformed community. After one such speaker gave his talk, my dad (a Presbyterian TE) approached him to question one point he had made which my father did not believe was correct. Immediately, this speaker was surrounded by a swarm of supporters who questioned my father: "How dare you question this man!", "Who are you to question him?!?", etc. The speaker never answered my father's question. My dad uses this as an illustration of this very same pack mentality, which I have seen first hand. Teaching Elders must be questioned, they must be held accountable, no matter how nice of a guy they happen to be, or how "successful" their ministry is, or how many academic degrees they have accumulated, or how many books they've written. Ruling Elders play a vital role in keeping TEs accountable, for their own sake, our own sake, and the sake of those under our care.

Oh, the speaker my dad wanted to question? Harold Camping.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Chile's Presbyterian History

Chile has been in the news a lot this week, due to the massive earthquake that struck that country on February 27. What you may not know is that Chile has a long history of Presbyterianism, despite being a majority Roman Catholic country.

Due to the missionary work of David Trumball, the Reformed faith was established in the first half of the 19th century. Today, several Presbyterian denominations exist (although, when I was there four years ago, I couldn't find a church to worship with!). Chile even observes October 31 as a national holiday, calling it "Día Nacional de las Iglesias Evangélicas y Protestantes" (National Day of the Evangelicals and Protestants).

All this to say, keep Chile and Christ's church therein, in your prayers. If you are inclined to donate to charities in Chile, I can point you to World Vision. If you know of another worthy charity, let me know and I will add a link.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Thoughts on the Results of the Called Meeting of the ARP

Yesterday and the day before, the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (ARP) held a special Called Meeting of its Synod for the purpose of receiving the report and acting on the recommendations of a Moderator's Committee that had been tasked with investigating certain issues at Erskine College and Seminary. Below are some initial thoughts about the results of this meeting.

First, I believe the meeting to have been a huge success. All four recommendations of the Commission (which I will talk about individually below) were adopted, with minimal amendment. This shows that the denomination was willing to do the work that needed to be done, up to this point. I say "up to this point" because there is still more to do, and the task of overseeing our college and seminary requires constant vigilance. But, God has blessed the ARP, thus far, with willingness to do the difficult work required to reel in an institution that had begun to drift away.

The four recommendations adopted by the Synod yesterday were:

1. To reduce the size of the Board of Trustees of Erskine from its current size (30 members) to just 16 members.
2. To dissolve the current Board and install an Interim Board.
3. To revise the nominations process for Board members.
4. To revise the criteria to determine eligibility for Trustees.

Reducing the size of the Board
I don't have much to say about this recommendation besides that it is obvious that it was needed. The old Board was unable to effectively function, due to its size, which resulted in a subcommittee of the Board doing much of the work and as a result there were entanglements between the administration and the Board that should not have been happening. Reducing the size of the Board is a great move and makes sense.

Dissolve Current Board/Install Interim Board
This is the recommendation I had hoped would be coming from the Commission. Not that every Board member was performing poorly, but I think a complete starting over sends a clear message to all parties involved, that Erskine can expect something different from now on. The ARP will not be content to be uninvolved.

Revise the Nominations Process
This is the recommendation I am the most concerned about. Or, if not concerned, at least have the most questions about. Here is my concern: There will be a new committee made up of the current moderator of the ARP synod plus the four most recent past moderators. This committee will make nominations to the synod's Committee for Nominations for new Board Members, as needed. I don't like bureaucracy (committee of moderators->Committee on Nominations->Synod), and this new structure seems rather bureaucratic, to me. Yes, the current moderator is a good man, as are the four most recent moderators, but that's beside the point. I also don't like having a committee set up whose members are not elected by the Synod. Again, I am very glad for the work of the Commission, but I'm not sure about this new process for nominating Board members.

Revise the Criteria to Determine Eligibility for Trustees
It is a good thing that subscription to the ARP's definition of an "evangelical Christian" (see page 9, point 4 of this PDF) will be required of Trustees. However, why stop with this definition? Why don't we require subscription to the Standards of the ARP? There is nothing wrong in the Synod's definition of an evangelical Christian. The problem is, there are a lot of people who can subscribe to it who have no business overseeing a Reformed seminary or college. Again, I think this is a step in the right direction, but if we stop here, we leave ourselves open to future problems.

As I said at the beginning of this post, I am thankful for the work of the Commission. Overall, I think they made the right choices. My concerns are minor compared to the greater issues that it was facing and I am glad that the Synod adopted their recommendations. I look forward to the future success of Erskine College and Seminary as they, once again, embrace the doctrines and teachings of the ARP.

PS- A detailed summary of the Called Synod's proceedings can be read here.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

One Less Ruling Elder, and...

...there would not be any news coming out of Bonclarken right now.

One of the reasons I've started this blog, is to encourage Ruling Elders to be more involved in church issues beyond their local congregations. That is, I believe Ruling Elders ought to take a more active role in the Presbytery and Synod/General Assembly levels of the church. I think I am justified in this by the news that the Called Meeting of the ARP Synod, taking place right now in Flat Rock, NC, was only one Ruling Elder away from not having a quorum. That means, if one less Ruling Elder had shown up, if one of those Ruling Elders had decided that family issues, work, or the weather were too much, the tremendous issues arising from Erskine College and Seminary would not have been dealt with.

It has been said that for evil to triumph all that is required is for good men to do nothing. Thank the Lord there were just enough men willing to show up for this meeting to happen. I continue to pray that they may do some good.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Erskine Issue in a Nutshell

Inside Higher Ed has published an article here on the issues at Erskine College and Seminary. The piece is quite revealing, in that the attitudes of those opposed to denominational oversight of the denomination's institution are clearly revealed.

Take, for example, William Crenshaw, tenured professor of English at Erskine College. He says, "There are elements of the church that want to purge the college and church of everyone who doesn't think as they do." In other words, Prof. Crenshaw believes that the ARP should not be allowed to define it's own identity by setting standards of belief. To paraphrase, "You (ARP) do not have the right to say what we (Erskine) believe or teach."

Prof. Crenshaw goes on to say, "We can't put dogma before questioning and still be an educational institution." In other words, the religious beliefs of the ARP are secondary to the "questioning" he does in the ARP's educational institution (Erskine).

The article goes on to attribute the following of Bradley Christie, faculty chair and professor of English: "Faculty members, he said, would welcome an effort by the board to attract more resources to the college, and welcome ideas from the board and the church. But as to the [Erskine Commission's] report's suggestion that the faculty are in need of much more guidance, he said that 'faculty never feel that way anywhere.'" In other words, the ARP is appreciated when they give us resources, but don't tell us what to do!

This sentiment is echoed by Robert Elsner, associate professor of psychology at Erskine, when he expresses hope that the Commission and action by the ARP would be an opportunity to improve the college, but not "in the sense of being told what to do."

After all, as another (unnamed) professor said "this campaign was not in fact coming from people who really understand church teachings, but from those who think they do." Make no mistake, peons of the ARP: this professor knows better than you! After all, he has a PhD and you don't. We are "extremists" who want Erskine to actually teach the doctrines of the ARP, according to this anonymous professor. He's not sure want the ARP wants, "except control."

There you have, in a nutshell, the whole Erskine controversy. We have professors who receive a paycheck from our denominational funds telling us we don't get to tell them what to teach. They are the ones with the PhDs. They correctly understand the teachings of the church. They have the freedom to do as they wish at their college and seminary.

In less than 48 hours, we could have a decision from the ARP as to how it will move forward with this problem. Will these professors who mock the ARP with their mouths while their hands extract cash from the ARP be allowed to continue to do so? Or will the ARP remind Erskine that, in fact, the ARP owns Erskine, funds Erskine, defines what Erskine is, and therefore has the right to enforce its own standards at its own institution?

Only time will tell.

Called Meeting of ARP Synod

Today, a called meeting of the ARP Synod will begin in Flat Rock, NC. The business to be discussed will be the findings of a Commission that has investigated Erskine College and Seminary. You can read background information here, detailed information here, and the initial report of the Commission here. Pastor Tim Phillips (of Midlane Park ARP in Louisville, KY) will be blogging updates as he is able, here.

Keep this meeting in your prayers. There are parties beyond the ARP interested in Erskine, for good and evil.