Save Our Seminary: What’s Wrong with WTS Philly?

The natural question that follows the statement Save Our Seminary, is: “From What?” The two most common responses are: (1) The school is facing a financial crisis and an urgent letter appealing to alumni and friends goes out asking them to save the seminary from having to close its doors. (2) Concerned alumni notice that the school is starting to slide down the slippery slope of Liberalism. Recent graduates are starting to proclaim the views of their professors that core doctrines like the virgin birth, the bodily resurrection of Christ and the inerrancy of Scripture are out-dated myths. A letter alerting the seminary’s constituency to this sad state of affairs goes out with the hope that pressure can be put on the administration to address these concerns.

As an alum of WTS (ThM, class of 1987) I was greatly relieved to learn that neither of these two concerns were presently applicable to my alma mater. Well then, exactly what is the nature of the peril confronting WTS? A recent graduate of the seminary took the initiative (on his own?) to put up a website, announcing that the seminary is in danger of being lost, and falling into the hands of some very unsavory characters. Two particular threats were highlighted. One, this group is upset with Peter Lillback, the president of WTS for being the keynote speaker at an event hosted by Vision Forum, which, we are told, is “an extremely dubious organization” that has, among other things, an extremely right-wing political agenda. Second, and given the nature of the fifty-plus responses, the really big concern centers around the Biblical Studies department at the seminary, especially the future status of Peter Enns, Doug Green and Michael Kelly. The recent departure of Steve Taylor appears to signal that additional purges are forthcoming.

As a result, the faculty, we are told most assuredly, is deeply divided and as such an atmosphere of suspicion and distrust pollutes the entire campus. The gravity of this situation, we are warned, cannot be ignored, and so we are told,

Many of us have tried repeatedly to address these problems, to little avail. Private conversations with faculty and administrators, verbal and written statements at our WTS exit interviews, letters and emails to board members and administrators, etc., have produced no publicly discernible change in the school’s atmosphere. While the faculty works out its theological disagreements, we alumni continue to receive only cheery letters from the seminary president that downplay the problems (while asking for our donations), while the current students have been told publicly not to concern themselves with the faculty’s internal debates (an attitude both impossible and undesirable, since teachers—and their firings—deeply affect the quality of one’s education).

If WTS continues on its present course, it may well end up as a tiny, ineffective institution talking to itself and hiding from the world. It may cut itself off from the living tradition that has nourished it, and from the larger church and world that need its unique contributions. If the decision-makers there continue to dismantle the Westminster that has meant so much to us, how will we be able to donate to the seminary, to endorse it, or to recommend it to potential students? We hope it does not come to that! We plead with the administration, faculty, and board of WTS to show a watching world how Christians behave when they disagree: not pretending that theological differences are unimportant, but not needlessly ripping the school to pieces, either. Surely Reformed orthodoxy can foster both stability and vitality.

It turns out, according to SOS, that the turd in the punch bowl was put there by the sad sacks in the departments of theology, church history and apologetics. These black-hatted villains are guilty of a vast array of crimes against humanity. They are charged with being unscholarly, avoiding the hard questions, conducting a witch-hunt, sowing division and most serious of all, demanding that the school fall in line with their ultra-strict and exceedingly narrow interpretation of the Westminster Standards.

What are we to make of this? A number of things come to mind. First in importance is that a course on the history of Westminster Seminary should be mandatory for all incoming students. The people behind this website and the majority of those who posted comments are terribly misinformed when it comes to the seminary’s history.

WTS was NOT founded to represent the broad “Reformed tradition” that the SOS crowd is advocating. It was founded to carry on the tradition of Old Princeton, which was lost when the seminary was reorganized in 1929. J. Ross Stevenson, who succeeded Francis Patton in 1914 as president of Princeton, sought to do with Old Princeton exactly what this misguided bunch wants to do to Westminster! The events that led to the changes at Old Princeton has been well documented by, among others, B. J. Longfield, who wrote, “The controversy at Princeton, Stevenson declared, stemmed not from doctrinal disagreement but rather from conflicting attitudes toward Princeton’s mission. What was at stake was whether Princeton would teach Old School scholasticism alone or tolerate divergent theological views. ‘We are the agency of the combined old school and new school,’ he argued, ‘and my ambition as President of the seminary is to have it represent the whole Presbyterian Church and not any particular faction of it.’” (‘The Presbyterian Controversy: Fundamentalists, Modernists, and Moderator,’ Oxford, 1991, p. 163.) Longfield also cites Stevenson claims that the doctrinal distinctives of Old Princeton would not change…immediately. But change they did and in short order as evidence by Emil Brunner being invited to be a visiting professor in 1938-39. Another recognized historian on the subject concurred and noted that the strife in the faculty centered around Machen’s insistence on Princeton maintaining Confessional Orthodoxy.

But Stevenson and Erdman placed the unity of the church above strict doctrinal orthodoxy and promoted peace and tolerance in the interest of the church’s mission. Machen stood for strict adherence to Christian orthodoxy as set forth in the Confession of Faith. Whereas Stevenson and Erdman reflected ‘the non-confessional character of American evangelicalism and the Victorian tendency to sentimentalize faith,’ Machen stood in the Old Princeton doctrinal tradition of Charles Hodge and B. B. Warfield. Without an uncompromising belief in the true gospel, Machen insisted, the Presbyterian church would have no message to preach and could offer no hope to a lost world. (David C. Calhoun, Princeton Seminary: The Majestic Testimony 1869-1929, Banner of Truth, 1996.)

SOS complains about how much internal dissention this has created amongst the faculty and the larger seminary community and of course, the blame is placed exclusively on the previously mentioned sad sacks outside the department of Biblical Studies. This too has a very interesting parallel with Old Princeton. Longfield documented this.

Stevenson’s diagnosis of the conflict painted a radically different picture. ‘There has been in the faculty,’ he argued, ‘suspicion, distrust, dissension and division, and as I stated before the Assembly, in this Dr. Machen is involved.’ A censorious spirit among the faculty had given birth to a ‘divisive spirit among the students and . . . a departure from the historic position of the institution.’ In a statement Machen later contested, Stevenson condemned the League of Evangelical Students because it connected Princeton with ‘small institutions and sects which are committed to separation and secession.’ The solution to the controversy engulfing the seminary, he concluded, would be the triumph of a spirit of inclusivism, which, while not tolerating modernism, would make the seminary representative of the theology of the entire Presbyterian Church.” (Longfield, p. 166)

Another historian, and one not kindly disposed to Old School theology that Old Princeton stood for, described Machen and his followers as “extreme conservatives” and “ultra-strict confessionalists” (cf. Lefferts A. Loetscher, ‘The Broadening Church: A Study of theological issues in the Presbyterian church since 1869,’ University of Pennsylvania Press, 1954). Note the similarities in describing Machen and Co. and the language used by SOS to describe the threat posed by the meanies at WTS.

It does appear, judged by the stunning parallels between Old Princeton and today’s WTS, that the SOS crowd is actually advocating that WTS become what Princeton became after Machen and company left!

Wait! I am not done. There is another historical scenario that provides us with some instructive parallels. In 1936, J. Oliver Buswell and Carl McIntire had a similar complaint about WTS strict confessional stance.

“Buswell and McIntire hoped to build a fundamentalist separatist movement with a broader base than the strict Calvinism at Westminster Seminary. In the fall of 1936 they fell into intense fighting with Machen and his closest Old School confessionalist followers. These Old School Presbyterian traditionalists differed with the new-style fundamentalists on a number of the distinctives of fundamentalism. Old School Presbyterians believed in the ‘Christian liberty’ to drink alcoholic beverages and, contrary to almost all other American evangelicals, would not condemn their use. A more substantial rift was the intensification of the Westminster faculty’s opposition to dispensationalism.

These issues split the Independent Board. McIntire and his more purely fundamentalist group wrested control from Machen and his Westminster allies. In the midst of this painful internal struggle, Machen, only fifty-five, died suddenly on January 1, 1937. The more fundamentalistic group, though in control of the Independent Board, was in the minority in the new Presbyterian Church of America; so they soon split off to found the Bible Presbyterian Church. In the meantime, Allan MacRae, who had taught at Westminster since its beginning, had resigned shortly after Machen’s death and in the fall of 1937 became president of the new Faith Theological Seminary organized by the McIntire group.” (George Marsden, ‘Reforming Fundamentalism: Fuller Seminary and the New Evangelicalism,’ Eerdmans, 1987, p. 43.)

For an informative recent analysis cf. Scott Clark’s post ‘Three Ways of Relating to American Religion.’ I have some personal perspectives on this. In addition to being a graduate of WTS, I am also an alum of the now defunct Faith Theological Seminary. Interestingly enough, Faith did require all faculty members to subscribe to the Westminster Standard (amended so as to shoe-horn in a distinctive form of premillennialism). When MacRae and McIntire had a falling out in the early 70’s, MacRae and most of the faculty left and founded what is now called Biblical Theological seminary in Hatfield, PA., which up and until MacRae’s death still required its faculty to adhere to the Westminster Standards. But it no longer does. By the way, there is a website that hosted by the alumni of BTS who are none to happy about what has happened to their seminary when a coup similar to that which occurred at Old Princeton took place stealthily at BTS.

Second, the complaint about Peter Lillback’s speaking itinerary. In addition to his work as a theologian, Lillback has written a very well received book on George Washington and has been asked to speak on the subject in all sorts of venues, including Doug Wilson’s Trinity Fest and rallies organized by the late D. James Kennedy. I personally don’t have a problem with this. It’s not as if Lillback is going over to Syria like Rick Warren and making statements on foreign policy!

Finally, among the fifty-plus people who signed on, a large number did so anonymously for fear of reprisal from the goon squads that do the bidding of the evil forces in the other departments of the seminary that have already been identified. The only thing worse than these rhabdophobic folk were the ones, like John Armstrong who have no direct connection to WTS whatsoever. Despite the claims that he has spent near fifteen years ministering at Westminster, Armstrong has never served the seminary in any official capacity – either as a adjunct or visiting professor or even guest lecturer. Yet he felt compelled to chime in and amen the concerns expressed by this website. Over the last few years, Armstrong has gone out of his way to lecture everyone about the dangers of the TR’s (the Truly Reformed, which he also calls the Angry Reformed or the Vicious Reformed). He did this with the PCA and the recent actions taken by this years GA. He disapproved and let everybody know it. He took umbrage with the action of the PCA SJC in the Steve Wilkins case. He has publicly reprimanded the Southern Baptists and individuals associated with A.C.E. It is well known that Armstrong underwent a theological paradigm shift a while back and has burned his bridges with his past associates, but feels the constant need to return and stand on the charred remains and scream at us over the chasm. Even though he likes to claim that he is a irenic peace-loving soul, he comes across as militant in his views as any old time fire-breathing fundamentalist. WTS does not need any advice from Armstrong on what direction the school determines is most faithful to that envisioned by Machen and the men who founded the seminary.

So here is my proposal to the individuals up in arms about WTS being lost to the Machen type Neanderthals in the departments of Theology, Church History and Apologetics – go over to Biblical Theological Seminary (where, interestingly enough, John Armstrong serves on the board). Chances are, you will never run into anyone on the faculty who has an agenda to enforce an ultra-strict interpretation of the Westminster Standards on the rest of the faculty. Or simply go back to Princeton.

Posted by Gary Johnson


  1. February 7, 2008 at 3:34 pm

    Should we be concerned when it seems that a quest for ‘truth’ has eclipsed a concern for following Christ in Christ-like character? Does not a truly faithful concern for ‘truth’ entail living faithfully as well–conducting ourselves in humility and charity especially in the midst of doctrinal disagreement?

    I guess I find Johnson’s functional dismissal of this concern through comparisons with those who raised this issue at Princeton Seminary and through sensationalist rhetoric (“black-hatted villians [sic?] are guilty of a vast array of crimes against humanity”) disconcerting. Is there a way we can engage this concern without making it sound as though those who raise it have relinquished their commitment to also following what the Bible says–doctrine, among other things?


  2. greenbaggins said,

    February 7, 2008 at 3:56 pm

    Stephen, welcome to my blog.

    It has not eclipsed a concern for following Christ in Christ-like character. Are you accusing Gary Johnson of un-Christlike character? The concern for truth and unity is not a zero sum game. It is not as if someone who pursues truth has to pursue it at the expense of Christian unity. Indeed, true Christian unity can only be had as it is embedded in truth itself. You seem to be pitting truth against unity.

    Secondly, the issues are those issues surrounding the infallibility, authority, perspecuity, and necessity of the Bible. These issues are fundamental (i.e., the realm of truth), not secondary (requiring unity). For the critics of Enns and others, The Reformers died for the truths that now appear to be under attack from within our own ranks.

  3. Andrew Webb said,

    February 7, 2008 at 6:27 pm

    You know its uncanny how similar the call for “conversation” we are hearing in this circumstance sounds to the calls for conversation you hear from Open Theists and other groups in the middle stages between evangelicalism and liberalism. We are to assume that almost everything rather than being settled is in a gray area, that feminism and women’s ordination might be a blessing, that plenary verbal inspiration can be dispensed with, that the first three chapters of Genesis are poetry (and who takes poetry literally?), that cessation is mean spirited and intolerant, and so on.

    After a while, you realize that the non-essentials about which we “may differ” have become a huge category, and that the essentials have shrunk to a tiny inner core that is only going to get smaller over time. And that the only people we really dislike are the “intolerant.” And one has to ask why? We’ve gone this route before at places like Princeton and Columbia, and in organizations like the RCA, PCUSA, EPC, UMC, ABC, and of late in the CRC etc., etc., etc. When has it ever produced greater orthodoxy, piety, fidelity to and trust in God’s Word?



    As the PCA BCO wisely reminds us, “Godliness is founded on truth. A test of truth is its power to promote holiness according to our Saviour’s rule, “By their fruits ye shall know them” (Matthew 7:20). No opinion can be more pernicious or more absurd than that which brings truth and falsehood upon the same level.

    On the contrary, there is an inseparable connection between faith and practice, truth and duty. Otherwise it would be of no consequence either to discover truth or to embrace it.”

  4. David Gilleran said,

    February 7, 2008 at 8:43 pm

    This is why the seminary model, in the end, is a failure. Rather than preparing men to pastor, it prepares men to be academics. Far better to go back to the mentoring model than to wring our hands of WTS or any other seminary.

  5. thomasgoodwin said,

    February 7, 2008 at 9:37 pm

    You know, I’m not against Seminaries per se, but I think #4 is something that needs reconsidering. And I, too, think that a lot of students come out academics rather than preachers, not that they are mutually exclusive of course. And academics typically do not make good preachers.

  6. David Gilleran said,

    February 7, 2008 at 9:53 pm

    Let me say that I am graduate of a seminary RTS now RTS Jackson. I had some very good teachers some average ones and some poor ones. I can count on one hand with fingers leftover about the ones who taught me what it meant to be a cure of souls. That is something you cannot learn in a classroom or read it a book. Also, I am not anti-scholarship. I think in today’s world what I learned at RTS can be learned in a in different way and more effectively.

  7. February 7, 2008 at 11:53 pm

    […] 8, 2008 by David Gary Johnson at Green Baggins has posted an overview of the issues at Westminster Philly with historical back drop that puts into […]

  8. pduggie said,

    February 7, 2008 at 11:54 pm

    “that the first three chapters of Genesis are poetry (and who takes poetry literally?), ”

    Almost everyone in the PCA and most of the OPC wants to believe that. Its marginally better than believing that Genesis is errant.

    “turd in the punch bowel” [sic]

    Awful on two counts!

  9. Towne said,

    February 8, 2008 at 12:28 am

    I finally agree with pduggie on something….that’s awful on two counts!

  10. February 8, 2008 at 2:26 am

    In our post-Christian culture, the seminary institution was once a respected part of Christian culture; but alas, it doth appear that our bastions of academic investigation are becoming increasingly culturally irrelevant and look more like quaint icons of a day gone by. I agree with the mentoring model; plenty of men who have a sense of call cannot uproot themselves from their current jobs, amass a gross amount of debt to the department of education and matriculate for three years in a sea of Barthian nihilism. Perhaps, TE’s in our churches would do well to mentor and train young potential clergy through the oversight of their sessions by cultivating training centers and recommend these folk to presbytery for ordination. These are thoughts I’ve had for some time. I know several PCA RE’s that are in this very boat and scoff at the idea of being expected to uproot their families. It could be that the seminary as a vestige of Christendom will soon be a useless institution, particularly if the PC police have their way via the department of education. Who knows . . .

  11. GLW Johnson said,

    February 8, 2008 at 7:08 am

    My response so far.
    Steve Young, you are one of the people who signed on to this saying how ‘strongly’ you resonated with the concerns expressed by this website and complaining in a way that echoes the voices of Charles Erdman, Robert Speer and a host of others who opposed Machen by calling into question Machen’s lack of Christ likeness. You sound just like them in claiming that ,’ Christianity is ultimately about Christ and not simply doctrine, or being right’. Have you actually read much of Machen? He responded to that exact charge , by rehearsing Warfield’s remarks that of course Christ is a person and our devotion is to the person of Christ but when the apostle Paul spoke of his devotion to Christ he begin by focusing on a particular doctrine about Christ and that was ‘Christ and him crucified'(1 Cor.2:2). There is a very real danger , as the same apostle warns us , about accepting a different gospel with a distinctively ‘different Jesus’ (2 Cor. 11:4). How would you tell the difference? As for the old pietitistic complaint that WTS is not really training pastors as such but is to occuppied with producing academicians- well it all depends on one’s understanding of what a pastor should be. I for one, having studied at five different seminaries, found that my time at WTS with its rigorous stress on academics, did more to prepare me for the pastoral ministry than all the others combined. Again, Warfield encountered this same kind of mentality when he once said that there should not be any seperation between the devotion and academic preparation for the ministry. Here are his words: ” Sometime we hear it said that ten minutes on your knees will give you a truer, deeper, more operative knowledge of God than ten hours over your books. ‘What!’ is the appropiate response,’than ten hours over your books,on your knees?’ Why should you turn from God when you turn to your books, or feel that youu must turn from your books in order to turn to God? If learning and devotion are as anatagonistic as that, then the intellectual life is itself accused, and there can be no question of a religious life for a student,even of theology. The mere fact that he is a student inhibits relion for him. That I am aske to speak to you on the religious life of the student of theology proceeds on the recognition of the absurdity of such antitheses. You are are students of theology;

  12. GLW Johnson said,

    February 8, 2008 at 7:17 am

    Hey, something went wrong – I hit the wrong key- here is the rest of the quote-
    and, just because you are students of of theology, it is understood that you are religious men -especially religious men, to whom the cultivation of your religious life is a matter of the profoundest concern-of such concern that you will wish above all things to be warnedof the dangers that may assail your religious life, and be pointed to the means by which you may strenthen and enlarge it.In your case there can be no ‘either-or’ here=either a student or a man of God. You must be both.” This is from BBW’s address delivered at the Autumn conference at PTS entitled, ” The Religious Life of Theological Students” and is found in vol.1 of his Selected Shorter Writings.

  13. David Gilleran said,

    February 8, 2008 at 7:57 am

    Glad your experience did, mine didn’t. It was only after being in the pastoral ministry did the experience come. Yes I read Warfield in seminary about the Religious Life of a Theological Student and found it very helpful. Still the brick and mortar seminary should be a dying breed.

  14. GLW Johnson said,

    February 8, 2008 at 8:22 am

    Actually, David, this issue is really not about our differing seminary experiences. The same kind of anything can be ,and has been said about college-or high school right on down the line to pre-school!. Why, heck this applies with equal force to the responses people have to their good/bad experiences with churches. Rather, this has to do with whither or not WTS will, in the words of Mr. Young, “reverse this distressing trajectory” and become a seminary that looks strikingly like Princeton post Machen or one that continues the Old Princeton tradition that Machen sought to carry on.

  15. Tom Wenger said,

    February 8, 2008 at 8:47 am


    I have to disagree with you when you say, “Still the brick and mortar seminary should be a dying breed.” Not because your mentoring model can’t work, but because the brick and mortar concept is not the problem.

    I find it amusing that the very SOS voices that are crying out about training pastors are also the ones who are upset about WTS not remaining true to its commitment to be “cutting edge” and a place of academic freedom. THIS is the problem; when seminaries make those their values and not training men to understand the Gospel in all of its glory. I am not saying that Westminster Philly HAS made those commitments; rather, that any seminary that does place academic freedom and being cutting edge at the top of their list will to that degree fail in their pastoral focus.

    TO that end the candidates need to be experts in biblical studies, knowing the languages and contexts of the Scripture very well. They need to be trained in the history of the Church’s development, seeing her successes and failures over the years in order to interpret Scripture within that context rather than on their own apart from tradition. They need someone who can explain to them the beauty of the Reformed system and all its implications, and then instruct them in how to make this tradition their own for the next generation.

    Often a TE, if he is being true to his flock cannot master all of these specifics let alone have the time to teach them and observe the students progress in them properly.

    I went to WSCA and I can say without a doubt that there was a pastoral focus in every class, even the languages. We were constantly pointed back to the Gospel or implications of it, and I’ll suggest that our program was the most academically rigorous out there. But rigor was never the point: the gospel was. We were never simply probing the depths of a particular topic for its own sake, or for originality’s sake, but rather to prepare us for the ministry.

    One of the reasons for this success is that WSCA has not desire to be big, and they have refused to establish a PhD program specifically because that detracts from the pastoral focus. The professors thus have a lighter teaching load and can spend time with the students doing the very mentoring that is so important. They demand that all faculty be ordained pastors as well as possess excellent academic credentials which brings a certain kind of person to the seminary; one who teaches with a pastoral focus.

    I can say that in my entire time there, I had lunch with a professor on average once every other week, and often more than once a week. And often the faculty members were asking US to lunch. It was rare when a couple of weeks went by without being invited to a professor’s home, and as a result of being smaller in size the fellowship among the students was second to none.

    Bricks and mortar aren’t the problem. A desire to be big, and/or cutting edge is because it immediately supplants the pastoral focus. And these things aren’t wrong for academic institutions; in fact, I think that they are crucial. But a seminary should desire to make expert preachers and defenders of the Gospel, not simply innovative scholars.

  16. Dustin said,

    February 8, 2008 at 10:27 am

    I’m young and no expert but I think Tom’s 3rd paragraph is very insightful. Maybe the solution is not a whole-sale rejection of seminary for the mentoring model but a realization of how both can benefit us in our ministries. Our churches and those leaders over us are much more capable of helping us become better pastors and preachers (through their mentoring, observation, and actual service) than a classroom setting. Being involved in your church and being mentored by another elder or pastor is of primary importance, but as Tom notes, this does not mean the seminary (academic) setting is obsolete. The seminary is able to provide in-depth teaching in numerous areas at a level most churches simply cannot. The church is must be primary and it is unfortunate that some have let the academic realm supplant the role our churches and mentoring should have played. Nevertheless, if we understand the different natures of the church and the seminary, which comes first, and how each is able to prepare us in different ways we will better off.

    It seems a growing solution has been the development of extension sites (RTS or the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) for seminaries as well as individual churches starting their own education programs (such as the Bethlehem Institute). This allows men to stay where they are and remain in their churches while still receiving invaluable training at the academic level.

  17. Bill Carson said,

    February 8, 2008 at 12:04 pm

    From #8:

    “Almost everyone in the PCA and most of the OPC wants to believe that. Its marginally better than believing that Genesis is errant.”

    While I cannot address the PCA, do not think this quite accurate in the OPC. I think it would be more correct to say that a vocal minority of the OPC ministers do believe what he describes, and a majority simply want to get along and not make waves.

    The reason for this is exactly as described above. Men are trained in seminary to be academics, and for some ministers this sets them on a road to seek intellectual respectability and novelty for its own sake. In the presbytery, the other ministers hear odd-sounding things, but out of a spirit of modesty and forbearence, they decline to inquire where these odd-sounding words and phrases are leading.

    It seems that a certain proportion of candidates from the seminaries are dumbfounded to discover that ministers and elders actually hold outmoded and old-fashioned ideas. Once a candidate patiently explained to our C&C committee that Genesis 1-3 was not intended to tell us how God created the world. When we told him that perhaps, indeed, Genesis 1-3 could be understood as history, he exclaimed, “But I hardly know anybody at my seminary who understands it that way!”


  18. February 8, 2008 at 12:31 pm

    Lane, Andrew, and Gary (I hope you do not mind me calling you by your first names)—I appreciate your taking time to read and to respond to my comment. Also, Lane, thank you for welcoming me to your blog. This is clearly a place of lively interaction with a view to wrestling with important issues for our church.

    I feel as though, despite my best efforts, my comment has been misunderstood. Lane, my very point was that one cannot set the quest for ‘truth’ in opposition to Christian character. One of my questions was if it is possible for someone, such as myself, to raise this concern without being labeled as a person who has abandoned the task of following the Bible wherever it leads us in what it does and teaches (again, sound doctrine, among other things). Is it possible for me to raise this concern without being thought of as ‘pitting truth against unity’?

    Let me get at this from another angle, which more directly addresses the comments of Andrew Webb and Gary Johnson as well. One of the concerns of many is that some of the people so zealously questing after sound doctrine—-and seeking to turn the current seminary upside-down in so doing (though, from Johnson’s point of view they are restoring WTS to its original place)—-are not doing so in a faithful Christ-like manner. They are not faithfully exhibiting Christ-like character in how they seek to accomplish their end. So, from my point of view, their quest for ‘truth’ has eclipsed a concern for Christ-like character. I should clarify here that those of us raising this concern are not doing so simply with a cry for (false) ‘unity.’ We are exercised about the often rude, imperious, and triumphalist tones that predominate up here at WTS. We are concerned about how rather than resolving issues through attempting the difficult (narrow?) path of Spirit-filled, charitable, and humble interaction and listening that still could result in major disagreement that should not be ignored—rather than this, resolution is being attempted through Machiavellian behavior and political posturing. The concern to win arguments has led people on all sides into behavior that is not honoring to our Lord. I hope that I am cognizant of my own failings in these and other ways when it comes to following Christ.

    My point is THIS IS HAPPENING. It saddens me when this point is responded to not by addressing the lack of Christian character in the WTS community, but by comparing those of us who raise this concern with liberals, such as ‘those from Princeton Theological Seminary.’ Such a parallel may or may not be accurate. Regardless, it remains the case that those drawing the parallel have not addressed the character concerns. Functionally and rhetorically dismissing them through sensationalist discourse (“black-hatted villians [sic?] are guilty of a vast array of crimes against humanity”) still does not change anything. From my point of view, this represents yet another Reformed example of doctrine displacing discipleship from its place as a partner.

    Gary Johnson, I have actually read a great deal of Machen. I agree that claiming to hold to Christ while rejecting, for example, the Cross, stands as a hollow claim. On the flip side, I question how one can claim to be holding to Christ through correct doctrine, for example, when one shows by his or her life a lack of commitment to following Christ in Christ-like character. Again, why are we not exercised by this as much as we are about faithlessness in doctrine? Lane, you brought up how Reformers died for such important truths as the ones you listed. When will we start using rhetoric about the importance of being willing ‘to die for’ humility and Christ-like character?

    The energetic zeal I see on this blog for serving Christ by refusing to compromise on what His Word does and teaches is commendable. My hope is that it could be matched by—and that it would not displace—an energetic commitment to following Christ when it comes to the manner and character of our interactions. Is there a way that we can center on doctrine such that, seemingly subtly, we are not centered first and foremost on Christ? Again, I suspect something like this has happened when concerns for character do not match concern for doctrine.

    Thank you again for your interactions and comments.

  19. greenbaggins said,

    February 8, 2008 at 12:44 pm

    Stephen, let’s posit a hypothetical situation in which someone is teaching something that is obviously false. What is the loving thing for the rest of the faculty to do? Patiently explain their position while allowing such teaching to go on unchecked? How is that loving to the students? Unfortunately, any opposition to error whatsoever is usually seen as unloving, because it is peremptory. I wonder if Jesus’ statements about the Pharisees being whitewashed tombs, brood of vipers, etc. would not be labelled unloving today. It is our definition of “loving” that is the problem here. The kind of dialogue that you are talking about has happend in abundance at WTS. I know: I’ve talked with many professors about how they’ve approached Enns and co. to talk about these things. It has been happening since Enns got there. So I deny that this is any kind of hasty Machiavellian plottings and plannings (how is that a loving statement of yours?). Instead, it is people standing for the truth, and being loving towards the students.

  20. Towne said,

    February 8, 2008 at 12:53 pm

    Has anyone else observed the troubling way in which Mr. Young keeps referring to truth, consistently setting that word apart with quote marks?

    I would like to hear Mr. Young’s explanation, and hopefully an affirmation that he admits to and holds to the reality of objective, absolute truth, and that he would also provide us with a firm denial of the possibility that he is instead a relativist and one who denies the reality of absolute truth. I would prefer to think that I’m misreading his prose style, but for now, I’m quite concerned.

  21. Bret McAtee said,

    February 8, 2008 at 12:57 pm

    Anyone who thinks that Lilliback spoke to an “‘extremely dubious organization” that has, among other things, an extremely right-wing political agenda,” has informed me of their extremely left-wing political agenda. This is confirmed by their extremely left-wing theological agenda. It is completely consistent that they would complain about their President speaking at a putatively right-wing political organization while complaining that things are to right wing theologically speaking at their Seminary.

    I don’t abide by everything that Vision Forum stands for but it is just tripe to say it has a extremely right wing political agenda


  22. GLW Johnson said,

    February 8, 2008 at 1:02 pm

    I used a colorful metaphor ( I’ve been reading lot of Doug Wilson over the last couple of years and find myself kinda captivated by his style-blame DW) with the reference to the ‘ black-hatted villiains’ in the departsments of ST,CH, and AP- but were they not portrayed as the culprits in the SOS site and castigated in many of the responses?

  23. GLW Johnson said,

    February 8, 2008 at 1:21 pm

    I went back and read your comments and it appears you misunderstand the identity of the people being portrayed as ‘ black-hatted villains’- that is not my assessment of th SOS folks- but ,if you look at that paragraph you will see that the ‘These black-hatted villains…’ are a continuation of the previous mentioned ‘sad sacks’. This was my way of capturing the way the SOS folk portrayed the opposition to the profs in the BS dept.

  24. GLW Johnson said,

    February 8, 2008 at 1:35 pm

    I must ask, given your last comment, would you agree with the way Machen opponents described him?

  25. Sam Steinmann said,

    February 8, 2008 at 1:52 pm


    I’ll answer some of the questions you are putting to Stephen, as I share some of his concerns (but not in the WTS matter, where I’m an ignorant neutral party.)

    It’s possible to contend for “truth” (true doctrine), and not to be rightly contending for truth (Jesus Christ.) For example, the Inquisition in dealing with non-Christians was contending for true doctrine (Trinitarianism), but I would argue that it was not contending for truth.

    I’ve seen this up-close in one extremely poisonous church fight; one of the men involved, whom I continue to respect and consider a Godly man and a father in the faith, acted in very difficult circumstances in an extremely abusive way (exceeding his legitimate authority to get the right result); 20 years later, the damage that did is still very evident in many lives. He was contending for “truth” and right, but he didn’t do it rightly–and as a clear consequence, Christ the Truth was not clearly shown or contended for.

  26. GLW Johnson said,

    February 8, 2008 at 1:57 pm

    Are you then saying that Machen and those that followed him in establishing WTS ‘didn’t do it rightly’?

  27. Sam Steinmann said,

    February 8, 2008 at 3:24 pm


    Not at all. I am simply not familiar enough with the history to have an opinion.

    I am merely stating that one CAN contend in an ungodly fashion for true doctrine.

  28. pduggie said,

    February 8, 2008 at 3:30 pm

    Someone once made the note that Machen never said boo about female ruling elders in the old PCUS.

    I don’t’ know if thats true or not, but its interesting.

  29. GLW Johnson said,

    February 8, 2008 at 3:52 pm

    My point in the post is that the SOS people are complaining about the same kind of thing that Machen’s critics did- Machen was accused of being mean-spirited and divisive in his battle to maintain the Old Princeton tradition. When Old Princeton died, Machen help to found WTS and it is historical dishonesty to claim, as the SOS website does, that Machen envisioned that WTS would represent the kind of ‘broad’ Reformed tradition that he deliberately opposed. It is stunning to me to think that Machen and especially Van Til ,would warm to the proposal that would include views as distance to Old Princeton as those espoused by NT Wright or Karl Barth would now be deemed acceptable at WTS. Biblical seminary has taken that route and I for one would hope that WTS does not.

  30. Jim Cassidy said,

    February 8, 2008 at 10:40 pm


    I don’t think there’s a disagreement here. No one here is saying that we ought to contend for the truth in an ungodly manner. The Scriptures says that we must speak the truth in love.

    I think that where SOS goes wrong is to believe that just because someone is contending strongly for the truth that such a contending is itself ungodly. The problem with SOS and the post-conservative evangelicals it represents, is that contending – ITSELF – is an ungodly and un-Christ like behavior.

    However, it seems to me that those who are concerned about the doctrine at WTS are carrying themselves in a way similar to that of Machen in the 1920’s. They are contending earnestly, but are doing so in a cordial way. The doctrinal issue has been made the concern and not the person holding the doctrine. This is the way Van Til carried out his polemics. From what I heard, the one time Barth and Van Til met, Barth said to him “you condemn me in your writings”, to which Van Til responded, “no, not you, but your theology”. Now, we can banter about how wise (or unwise) it is to separate the man from his theology like this. But the point is this: un-Christ likeness comes in when a contender for the truth makes the debate personal and attacks the character of the person in question. However, the little that I have seen and heard about the current situation has shown me that they, like Machen before them, are trying to speak the truth in love (I’ve studied under most of these men and am sure it would be in no other way. They are some of the most gracious and charitable Christian men I know). Certainly, I know of no evidence to the contrary.

    So, the point is this: contending for the truth is not ITSELF un-Christ like. After all, our Lord himself contended against error; so did Paul. But the postmodern minded folk seem to think that to contend at all is wrong (after all, that is a fundamental doctrine of postmodernism). Well, if it is wrong, then not only does Machen stand condemned, but so does Paul and Jesus. I don’t think we wanna go there.

  31. David Gilleran said,

    February 9, 2008 at 8:09 am

    Gary,I have been away from the desk so I have now just read your post. I have no disagreement about what you said about Machen and the reason for the start up of WTS. Anyone who goes to school there should know WTS was started to continue Old Princeton i.e. Calvinism in the Princeton tradition. Who ever thinks that it was started for another reason is wrong.

  32. GLW Johnson said,

    February 9, 2008 at 8:19 am

    I think you have hit the postmodern nail squarely on the head. When all is said and done this is what the SOS folks are really upset about. And I am afraid that we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg. Time will tell, but given the overwhelming tone of the people who signed on to the SOS site, anyone who actually opposes the direction that this group wants the seminary to go will be labelled, as Machen was, as a mean-spirited, nasty, argumentative, and decidedly unChrist-like individual who deserves to exiled on some remote island in the South Pacific distanctly removed from contact with civilization.Of course their own attitudes are never subjected to the same analysis. They can freely heap contempt on the heads of the professors in the other departments of the seminary ( and I was not the only one who was disconcerted about this-Temper Longman signed on but said that casting aspersions on the other professors was totally unnecessary) with total immunity. The double standard is quite glaring.

  33. February 9, 2008 at 6:06 pm

    Gary, glad you are enjoying the style!And, just for the record, I think Gary’s recounting of the issues with Machen and the liberals in the formation of WTS is dead on. And I believe he is exactly right that the same forces of liberalism are at work in our denominations and seminaries today, and that this “save our seminary” site provides a good representative sample, as I have noted on my blog.But, having exhausted myself in this agreement, let me go on to raise a pertinent question. Is Peter Lillback’s book The Binding of God now within the pale? Is he okay then? Because I have taken a pounding for some years now for accepting his scholarly account of the Reformers’ theology. You want to know where Wilson is on a bunch of this FV stuff? Read Lillback. I am not here representing Peter Lillback as a member of any faction, but that book was simply first-rate — and whether it was first rate or not, it does represents my views on a number of the controversial FV issues. Or is Lillback okay because he has aroused the ire of some quasi-feminists (because he spoke at an “ultra-right” conference that way)? If that is so, then maybe someone can explain why, when we in Moscow have aroused the ire of leftists, screamers, and intoleristas, we get conservative evangelicals piling in on their side. If we were following the same play card, the TRs should be calling for Lillback’s head, along with all and sundry who have made their accusations against him for whatever reason.This is simply another way of saying that, in these controversies, we have more than black hats and white hats going on here. We have red hats and green hats and yellow hats, but some folks have just a black and white tv. This whole thing is more than screwy.

  34. greenbaggins said,

    February 9, 2008 at 6:38 pm

    Doug, I for one do not accept Lillback’s view of many things. I especially dispute his driving a wedge between Lutherans and the Reformed on the doctrine of justification. Further, the Lutherans held to the third use of the law, as is clear from their confessions. I don’t know that I would call for his head. However, I do disagree with him on a fair number of issues.

  35. thomasgoodwin said,

    February 9, 2008 at 6:43 pm

    Not sure Lillback’s work is “first-rate”. Certainly not according to several scholars. “The Binding of God” reveals a serious lack of formal analysis, in my opinion. Plus, the feeling among some Reformation scholars is that he ‘over-read’ Calvin in certain areas. So, as a “TR”, I appreciate the *amount* of work Lillback put in, but I don’t share all of his conclusions.

  36. February 9, 2008 at 10:16 pm

    I agree with Wilson: this thing is screwy – primarily because the web site is alarmed about Lillbeck speaking at a Vision Forum conference. I’m less creative than the poster on this one, and so I personally have a hard time imagining what this has to do with the now notorious Machen Warrior tradition of rejecting the substance of true religion for the sake of academic, political, arrogant, and vicious bickering among faculty and students over theological propositions (often not historically essential propositions at all). An easy place to attack perhaps; and perhaps some of the analysis in the primary post and some of the comments here are correct; there seems to be a fundamental incoherence between wanting love within the seminary while publicly criticizing ecumenical relations between the seminary community and other Christian traditions.

    However, Steven Young speaks wonderful sanity. I think it is a shame that his explanations here have been explained away along with the web site in question. I think he has been handled a bit unjustly in fact, and his arguments left largely untouched. What would a group of people have to do to persuade WTS defenders there might be a big moral issue going on at the seminary? Young writes:

    “resolution is being attempted through Machiavellian behavior and political posturing. The concern to win arguments has led people on all sides into behavior that is not honoring . . . My point is THIS IS HAPPENING.”

    I think Young’s point is clear and simple enough. Is this happening or is it not? Are WTS defenders willing to address THIS question directly before getting out the guns of assassination aimed at the person posing the question? With so many current and recent associates of WTS claiming that it not only is happening but happening to such a degree that they can no longer in good conscience support the seminary, explaining this all away as merely the rise of liberalism, or postmodernism, or sentimentalism seems like an unjust game of conspiracy theory. Suggesting some possible explanations might be fair enough, although I wonder if just staying out of it and not grabbing a dog by the ears is the safest path. But an entire dismissal of all the concerns through imputation of motives and poisoning the well with labels like “liberal”? This reply seems to just prove Young’s point.

    I disagree with Wilson on this related point: “If that is so, then maybe someone can explain why, when we in Moscow have aroused the ire of leftists, screamers, and intoleristas, we get conservative evangelicals piling in on their side.”

    Many people, including X-members of Wilson’s church and even his own brother, have offered cogent explanations of why it is that Douglas Wilson – and not a more general “we in Moscow” — has aroused unusual ire from such a broad spectrum of people (i.e. just about everybody, as Wilson here seems to admit).


  37. Ron Henzel said,

    February 9, 2008 at 11:07 pm

    Stephen and Michael,

    Now both of you have accused people at WTS of “Machiavellian behavior.” Are you aware that you are essentially leveling charges of deception and manipulation? What evidence do you have of this?

  38. Darryl Hart said,

    February 9, 2008 at 11:26 pm

    From my perspective, the point being lost here is that neither side in the WTS embroglio is the Machen party. I haven’t even seen any of the conservatives there claim him. That may be okay. The flower fades, times change. But it is important to consider that WTS has distanced itself from the form of Reformed Christianity that Machen articulated. That form of Presbyterianism was orthodox (with systematics central as opposed to biblical theology), it was militant and polemic (contra the laments about Machen’s warrior children), and it was ecclesial (it took office and ordination seriously, not every member ministry, word and deed ministry, or parachurch energy).

  39. February 9, 2008 at 11:33 pm

    Michael who? Me?

  40. Ron Henzel said,

    February 10, 2008 at 12:06 am

    Yes, Michael, you. First you declare that, “Steven Young speaks wonderful sanity, and then you quote his charge that, “resolution is being attempted through Machiavellian behavior.” You are essentially endorsing his charge of deception and manipulation. Or would you now like to take the opportunity to distance yourself from what you wrote?

  41. February 10, 2008 at 12:19 am

    You know, I wonder how different this discussion would look if we could all sit down–face to face–over a meal together. I realize this is difficult in view of how geographically spread out all of us are from each other.

    So, that said, if any of you, especially those of you who have taken issue with what I have written here, are ever in the Philadelphia area–drop me an email ( Stephen.L.Young at gmail dot com ). My wife and I would love to have you over for lunch or dinner.

    For now, I am tired and ready to sleep. I hope and pray we all worship our Lord well today. He who gave himself for our sins in order to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father–he is certainly worthy of all our praise.

  42. February 10, 2008 at 1:17 am


    I thought I was pretty clear on what my point was, but perhaps not. I don’t distance myself from what I intended to write, but I do distance myself from your reading of it! I recommended the best course of action was to not grab the dog by the ears. What the web site in question offers is a good deal of eye witness testimony and seems to be sincerely expressed. It is also consistent with what I think countless others have observed in the Westminster tradition, including myself. Frame’s ‘Evangelical Reunion’ was one of the first theology books I ever read. However, I do not know what in the world a web site like this is doing on the world wide web at this stage of the discussion/concern. At best, these people have not taken judicial steps in their launching of this site, or else they are getting harassed about this issue a good deal more than they have let on.

    Further, at my quick glance, I only saw disorderly eye witness testimony, and some of it was anonymous (although the anonymity does not seem a big deal in this context given how sincere and charitable the comments have been). But I have not seen example, argument, primary document, evidence, etc. So, no, I’m not claiming to know what Stephen claims to know. My point is that the truth value of his proposition is what is at issue here; if you want to defend WTS, then argue for the falsity of this claim. But conspiracy theories, ad homs, name calling, imputation of motives, and character assignation, are, in my humble opinion, only lending credence to Stephen’s claim: that intimidation and arrogance will the be the response to questioning the leadership of this reformed institution that current students are currently under. Hope that helps.

  43. Ron Henzel said,

    February 10, 2008 at 6:36 am

    Stephen and Michael,

    Why can’t either of you two gentlemen take responsibility for the words you either use or endorse?

  44. GLW Johnson said,

    February 10, 2008 at 9:09 am

    Doug I fail to see how Lillback’s ThD diss. factors into either my post or the complaint of the SOS crowd. What would you do if someone came along used the same kind of reasoning and drew the conclusion that since I mentioned David Calhoun ,and he wrote a glowing endorsement of Guy Waters’ book critiquing the Federal Vision, therefore any reference to Calhoun’s work on Old Princeton is a de facto refutation of the FV? By the way, your son Nathan is also a gifted writer.
    Daryl, I concur with your analysis, but would suggest as I tried to make plain in my post, that the SOS crowd are woefully in the dark about Machen and the purpose for founding WTS. Second, while every nuance of Machen’s WTS can not be duplicated (and this would apply equally with any seminary over time, i.e. MacRae’s BTS or L.S. Chafer’s DTS) the direction that those sympathetic to the concerns of the SOS website and to the indiviuals in the Biblical Studies dept. that the site defends,- this is NOT the kind of seminary that Machen & Co. envisioned when they founded Westminster.

  45. February 10, 2008 at 11:52 am

    Gary, my point about Lillback was a simpler one. Sorry for being confusing. Here it is again.

    Lane and someone else say they don’t agree with Lillback on everything, which is fine. But “not agreeing” can occur on a range of issues. I can “not agree” with a brother over the south Galatian or north Galatian issue, and I can “not agree” with the Archbishop of Canterbury’s views on Sharia law. I can “not agree” with Arius on the Deity of Christ. Sometimes not agreeing is followed by going out for a beer, and other times it is followed by a heresy trial.

    If Lillback is the kind of president for WTS that TRs can support in this dust-up, over against the SOS website, then I think that is fine and great. I am not questioning it, and am glad for it. He is apparently not going to be charged with “denying the gospel,” even though a number of people in the FV camp are in agreement with the basic take on Calvin represented in that book.

    Put another way, Calhoun’s expertise on old Princeton and his views on Guy Water’s book are neither here nor there. But a glowing reference to Calhoun’s work on Princeton is at least an indication that you believe him to be within the pale, even when he is blurbing Waters’ book. For this reason, Lillback cannot simultaneously be a defender of the grand old seminary on the one hand, and an mentor of heretics on the side. I think he is a fine leader for the seminary, and I think he wrote a fine book. You might differ with the book, but if you support him as president, this means you believe his work on that book is within the pale. If it is within the pale, even though you differ, then it follows that we who agree with that book are also within the pale — even though you differ with us. Which is what I have been trying to say throughout this controversy.

    Let me end with a couple notes of thanks. Thanks for your kind words about Nate’s writing. I agree with you. And when I said earlier that I appreciated your analysis of the problem of creeping “academic respectability” in Reformed institutions, I really did.

  46. GLW Johnson said,

    February 10, 2008 at 12:22 pm

    Doug. It appears that the stress and strain of the FV controversy is beginning to take its toll on you.Again, your are grasping at straws here- just because ‘some’ in your FV camp appreciate Lillback’s work on Calvin cannot be taken to imply that Lillback therefore would put his imprimatur on the FV distinctives. You do know that Lillback is in the OPC and that the OPC report on the FV passed(like the one in the PCA) overwhelmingly- and that Lillback did not often a dissenting opinion.

  47. GLW Johnson said,

    February 10, 2008 at 12:34 pm

    correction: I got my letters inverted- Lillback is in the PCA

  48. February 10, 2008 at 12:45 pm


    I think you are further supporting Stephen’s paradigm in your approach to this discussion. I have not endorsed his truth claim, but rather the spirit in which he writes; but since I defend his right to express his opinion — something it seems to me he is willing to take responsibility for — I begin getting the same treatment. Since your last comment is clearly not a direct interaction with my two paragraph reply to your criticism, I’ll now bow out of this conversation, leaving you again with my last statement:

    . . . But conspiracy theories, ad homs, name calling, imputation of motives, and character assassination, are, in my humble opinion, only lending credence to Stephen’s claim: that intimidation and arrogance will the be the response to questioning the leadership of this reformed institution that current students are currently under.

  49. greenbaggins said,

    February 10, 2008 at 3:18 pm

    Stephen, I edited your email address, because trolls take advantage of any fully written out email address on the web to send spam.

  50. February 10, 2008 at 3:23 pm

    Thanks Lane.

  51. Tim Harris said,

    February 10, 2008 at 3:26 pm

    I think Darryl Hart’s very important point (#38) is getting buried by a sea of nattering noise.

    I would caveat his claim by noting some exceptions. Prof Lane Tipton anchored his teaching in the Confession from time to time. While he claimed, if I remember right, primacy of Biblical Theology, he subtly turned it to the de facto service of ST, along the lines outlined by Warfield and Murray. However, it is true that very few of the faculty see themselves as propagating a confessionally anchored inheritance — or if they do, they are very quiet about it.

    Several professors acknowledge the need for teaching-ordination of professors, and presbyterial accountability, though that view is far from universal.

    The right wing is held by the old and the young, while the left wing is middle-aged (I am simplifying of course). This might seem to bode well for dealing with the current problem, since “age and guile always beats youth and enthusiasm,” and the very young will be there the longest. However, the elderly Right is not “militant and polemic” to use Darryl’s terminology. Therefore, the Left wing will soon be inheriting the mantle of the ancients, unless something very unusual happens soon.

  52. GLW Johnson said,

    February 10, 2008 at 4:42 pm

    Tim H.
    ‘I am simplifying of course’- do you think? That breakdown is not the least bit helpful and in fact clouds the issues. Is that grid applicable to other theological controversies, like say the one that involves the current one whirling around the Federal Vision or does your crystal ball need polishing before you can tell us the outcome of that one?

  53. Ron Henzel said,

    February 10, 2008 at 4:45 pm


    Stephen accuses people of “Machiavellian behavior.” You quote him approvingly (your spirit-versus-letter disclaimer notwithstanding). I point out that “Machiavellian” is an adjective meaning “marked by cunning, duplicity, or bad faith,” and now you use me as an example of “Stephen’s paradigm” concerning un-Christ-like character? I see how it works with you, Michael. Thanks.

  54. Tim Harris said,

    February 10, 2008 at 4:54 pm

    Dr Johnson,
    I recently finished the MAR at WTS, which I took over a several year period in parallel with my career — my experience with the entire faculty is what I based that taxonomy on. It was not meant to “clarify the issue,” but to shed some light on the political lineup, which is an unfortunate but inescapable aspect of every institutional struggle. No offense intended, sir. If it is not helpful, ignore it.

  55. GLW Johnson said,

    February 10, 2008 at 5:37 pm

    I didn’t take offense- I just think that your analysis was simplistic and does injustice to both parties involved. Age demographics , the kind employed by Harris and Gallop in their polls, are not all that helpful when applied to ‘institutional’ controversies like the one we are discussing. To begin with the most obvious, it ignores dynamics like confessional identity and theological conviction-which are not determined as such by those kind of demographics.

  56. D G Hart said,

    February 10, 2008 at 7:07 pm

    Gary, agreed that SOS is not the trajectory of old WTS. I tried to write as much over at their blog but my post was graciously bounced.

    The problem is that I don’t think the current right wing is either the direction of old WTS. I’ll give one basic example — Tim Keller. In my time there Keller walked on water in everyone’s estimation. I see few there now who would not want to embrace Keller as one of them. And yet for the life of me I can’t see any resemblance between Keller’s and Machen’s Presbyterianism — aside from the glue usually used by experimental Calvinists to include Whitefield, Tennant and Edwards in the Reformed fold. To put it another way, I don’t think New Life was the sort of Presbyterianism that old WTS represented.

    This makes it hard to know how to root.

  57. GLW Johnson said,

    February 10, 2008 at 7:31 pm

    It comes down , I think, to whither or not the SOS concerns as expressed by their claims that the seminary needs to be preserved along the lines that are represented by the trajectory presently being pursued by individuals such as Peter Enns. As I sought to make clear in my critique of Enns in the chapter of the Warfield book that edited for P&R, it is difficult for me to harmonize Enns proposals with those of Old Princeton’s doctrine of Scripture.In that regard I cast my lot with those identified as the ‘right wing’ element of Westminster. Van Til, for one, would be most distressed by the developments that have occurred in the Biblical Studies department.

  58. John Ronning said,

    February 11, 2008 at 3:41 am

    Quite a striking difference between this site and the Save Our Seminary site — the latter (with all the broad minded rhetoric) apparently doesn’t allow comments disagreeing with their goals, their view of Peter Enns, etc. — at least they didn’t post my comment and I don’t see any others on there. Ironic isn’t it?

    Thanks, Gary, for also linking to our BTS alumni web site, where people are also free to comment in disagreement.
    John Ronning

  59. GLW Johnson said,

    February 11, 2008 at 8:17 am

    They have a statement saying that only comments that reflect their concerns will be posted. DG Hart had a similar experience.Equally as troubling were the instructions about posting anonmously and the sinister cloak and dagger ‘ Deep-throat ‘ suggestion that the atmosphere around WTS resembled the Nixon White House. Allowing the likes of John Armstrong-who as I pointed out not only did not attend WTS but greatly embellished his association with the seminary, but this probably did not surprise you since you are very much aware of Armstrong’s behavior and activities in relationship to Biblical.

  60. Tim Black said,

    February 11, 2008 at 12:21 pm

    Lane and others,

    You may be interested in my brief reflections on the SOS petition at

    Tim Black

  61. greenbaggins said,

    February 11, 2008 at 2:43 pm

    Thanks, Tim. I really appreciated what you wrote.

  62. snubnosedinalpha said,

    February 11, 2008 at 5:40 pm

    I get the sense that we are operating with a slightly less-than-realistic picture of what the Old Princetonians and WTS founders were actually like. Here are some questions that I posed on Mark T’s blog (to which I received no answers):
    The question swirling around WTS is this: What is the place of historical-critical scholarship within Reformed theology? Punching-bag? Tool? Now, with respect to Old Princeton you have a mixed bag. You have Robert Dick Wilson and co. strenuously attacking Wellhausen’s hypothesis. But then you have E.J. Young and William Henry Green rejecting Solomonic authorship of Ecclesiastes. Of course you have A.A. Hodge and Warfield insisting upon the infallibility of Scripture’s didactic content (however, note that in Old Princeton lingo “errorless,” “infallible,” and the like are used more or less interchangeably and do not carry the technical meaning they do today in our post-Chicago Statement world). But that fact cannot be divorced from the fact that Warfield saw Calvin’s doctrines of creation and the accommodated character of Scripture (a notion very similar to Enns’ idea of inspiration, I might add) as precursors and precedents for his own theistic evolutionism. Nor can Old Princeton’s high view of Scripture be cordoned off from, say, Vos’ contention that both Jesus’ and Paul’s thought was dependent upon and structured by Second Temple Jewish apocalypticism.
    A second big question is: What does it mean to carry on the Old Princeton tradition? What does that look like? Does it mean continuing to teach theistic evolution in the name of Warfield? Does it mean taking non-traditional, critical stances on questions of special introduction, if the evidence so leads, as Young and Green did? Or does it mean fighting with all our might against source-critical hypotheses like Wilson did? Does it mean abandoning Van Til to return to Warfield’s evidentialist apologetic? Does it mean setting Jesus and Paul in their Second Temple context like Vos did? What does it mean?
    The issues surrounding our relationship to the tradition of Old Princeton are manifold and complex no matter which side of the debate one falls on. But, frankly, the two big questions I raised above leads to one more: What do we owe Old Princeton? Why this easy assumption that “Old Princeton” (whatever that even means) embodies orthodoxy and any fresh grappling with the data (particularly data to which Old Princeton had no access) constitutes a lapse into heterodoxy? I don’t think anyone can or wants to employ a crass axiom of “Warfield said it. I believe it. That settles it.” Sooner or later we’ll have to come to grips with the fact that the diverse theological solutions offered by the Old Princetonians don’t satisfactorily handle many of the problems that have cropped up over the past century. Do we really do them justice by sweeping such issues under the rug in their names? More importantly, do we honor Jesus and serve His bride well in so doing?
    I haven’t any great answers to any of these questions. For my part, when I look at WTS’s current biblical studies faculty I see men faithfully asking: What would Vos say about the Dead Sea Scrolls, about Covenantal Nomism and Paul? What would Warfield say about Genesis and Enuma Elish? What would Green say about the authorship of 2 Peter? Given the ways the Old Princetonians did their scholarship, if they had access to the information that has been dug up in this century, would they say the exact same things they said then or would they say something else? Perhaps asking such questions represents a departure from Old Princeton. Perhaps not.

    As my Greek prof used to ask us: Thoughts? Feelings? Snide remarks?

  63. D G Hart said,

    February 12, 2008 at 6:26 am

    Snubnosedinalpha (I regret having to type that): Yes, Old PTS and WTS were open to a host of critical issues and were engaged with contemporary scholarship — Just like Enns. But you fail to see a huge difference. They were churchmen and bound by the claims of the confession and catechisms on their scholarship while also being bound by the communion in which they were ministers of the word. No offense to the bib. studies faculty at WTS, but I don’t see that concern for the church (visible as opposed to invisible, which is really ethereal and makes no claims) in their efforts to engage the academy. Theirs is academic work disengaged from the assemblies of the church.

    Another important difference — Old PTS and WTS had no fears about polemics. For all of Save Our Seminary’s concerns for cutting-edge scholarship, it lacks an edge that actually cuts because the folks there want peace almost at any price. I thought the point of scholarship was in part to argue your way to truth or wisdom. Instead, like so much biblical scholarship today, the attitude of SOS seems to be scholarship for the sake of whatever.

  64. GLW Johnson said,

    February 12, 2008 at 6:49 am

    # 62
    The last I checked, Lane does not allow anonymous comments. Who are you? It is obvivous that you are more than bit little sympathetic to the concerns of the SOS gallery. Since you did ask for snide remarks,I must say that your comments are also a taint superficial even a bit supercilious to boot .They have the appearance of relying on what amounts to theological ‘Cliff notes’.You did ask for snide remarks.

  65. snubnosedinalpha said,

    February 12, 2008 at 10:44 am

    Sorry, gents, didn’t realize that this was a no-anonymous-comments zone. I thought my name would link to my blog but, alas, I have again betrayed my technological illiteracy. My name is David Williams. I just finished at WTS last December.
    Dr. Hart, I’m a bit baffled by your taking the Bib studies faculty at WTS to be unconcerned with the church. Apart from the practical theology dept at WTS, they are the most pastorally and missionally-oriented dept in the school. I know you’ve read the SOS website and (at least some of) the comments there. Everyone who’s signed that site has been impressed by the bib studies faculty’s laboring to edify the church and not just engaging in sterile academics.
    Further, the Bib studies faculty members are active churchmen. Al Groves, a profoundly pastoral man, was an elder at New Life Glenside. Doug Green and Mike Kelly still are elders in their respective churches. Steve Taylor has long been noted for his service at Tenth Pres. I’m just not sure what you’re counting as “churchmen.”
    You do have a point about the polemics of old PTS and WTS. I’m not sure that the SOS crowd really wants peace at any price, however. It’s not like theological arguments haven’t been made by the bib studies folks (e.g., Enns’ I&I) and likeminded WTS students and alums. The point of SOS is to get the attention of and voice our concerns to the WTS board.
    Mr. Johnson, thanks for the snide remarks. The sources of my comments are mixed. For Warfield’s evolutionism I am relying on B.B. Warfield, Evolution, Science and Scripture: Selected Writings, edited by Mark Noll and David N. Livingstone (Baker, 2000). My Vos comments come from his Pauline Eschatology (P&R, 1979). Admittedly, the rest were picked up from various and sundry secondary sources (or “theological ‘Cliff notes'”, as you say).
    Perhaps my comments are a taint supercilious and superficial. But my comments were framed by questions which I, personally, find quite difficult. Have you any penetrating and insightful answers to those questions to add to your snide remarks?
    Yours ever,

  66. D G Hart said,

    February 12, 2008 at 3:42 pm

    David (I thought it was Art); would you ever go to Pete or Doug or Steve for an explanation or defense of Presbyterian polity, or why this is a biblical form of government? This is partly what it meant to be a churchman at Old WTS and PTS. It meant having a sense that Presbyterianism was the best expression of Christianity, not simply because of Calvinism, but also because of its form of govt. and worship.

    I don’t doubt what you say about Pete et al as far as their care for others in the church. But my mother cared for others in the church. That didn’t make her a churchman. (She wasn’t Presbyterian either.)

  67. GLW Johnson said,

    February 12, 2008 at 3:56 pm

    Hello, nice to meet you. You are relying on a secondary source for your take on BBW and evolution. I had Noll for a PhD course on Old Princeton at WTS. I challenged him to show from BBW writings where he ever identified himself as a ‘theistic evolutionist’. Warfield never did. He affirmed the special creation of Adam and argued for what we would call macro-evolution as over against micro-evolution- please consult the book on Warfield that I edited for P&R for further details. Your take , or reading of Vos do not support your claims and more importantly( in my opinion) do not support Enns’ claims that ‘stories that are made up’ are embedded in the OT.

  68. snubnosedinalpha said,

    February 12, 2008 at 6:22 pm

    Dr. Hart, I can’t say as I’ve ever gone to Pete or Doug to ask about Presbyterian polity. That’s not necessarily because I think they would have a quarrell with Presbyterian polity. I assume that since Doug, Mike and the late Al Groves are elders in Presbyterian churches, they likely endorse Presbyterian polity (though, I don’t know if they would say or even why they should have to say that that is the only faithful form of church polity).

    Dr. Johnson, Evolution, Science and Scripture is a collection of B.B. Warfield’s articles, lectures and book reviews touching on the subjects of creation, evolution, science, etc. Hence, primary source. Noll only contributes a 31 page introduction and brief introductions to each of the articles, etc. contained in the book.
    I may have spoken a bit carelessly in saying that Warfield affirmed “theistic-evolution.” Again we butt up against the shifting semantic values of phrases. For Warfield, “theistic-evolution” denoted the conjunction of theism with the doctrine that speciation occurred solely through the outworking of potentialities latent in the primordial world-stuff (all under God’s providential guidance, we might add). Warfield repeatedly rejected time and again “theistic-evolution” in this sense because he objected to the ‘solely’ bit of it. So, yes, in a sense, he denied “theistic-evolution” as a sufficient explanation of all the data.
    However, nowadays (at least in my experience) “theistic-evolution” usually denotes any doctrine of creation that allows for newer/higher species to emerge/derive from older/lesser species. Warfield clearly allowed for that which “theistic-evolution” denotes today.
    For example, Warfield argues that “the scriptural account fo the origin of man cannot be satisfied by any evolution pure and simple, that is, by any providentially led process of development, but requires the assumption of a direct intervention of power from on high productive of something that is specifically new.” However, says Warfield, “This conclusion does not necessarily involve the denial of the interaction of an evolutionary process in the production of man. It involves only the affirmation that this evolutionary process, if actual in this case, is not adequate for the production of the effect, even though the evolutionary process be theisticaly conceived, i.e., as the instrument of the divine hand in producing man. It requires us to call in, at least at this point, an act of God analogous to what we know as a miracle, a ‘flash of the will that can,’ and to insist that in man God created something new, the elements of whose being were not all present even potentially in the precedent stuff.” (Warfield, “The Manner and Time of Man’s Origin,” in Noll & Livingstone, pp. 215-16) Here we have a great example of Warfield’s nuanced approach to the question of human origins. That God specially created man does not entail that man did not evolve. Evolution could be part of the story, says Warfield. It cannot be the whole story, though. He makes room for mankind deriving from lower species so long as that, at the point where we transition from ape to Adam, God imparts to man properties “not all present even potentially in the precedent stuff.” Such an account intentionally leaves room for Lucy in Adam’s family tree. In our present day context, such a position qualifies as an instance of “theistic evolution.”
    As for Vos, see Pauline Eschatology, pp. 27-28, n. 36, where he writes:
    “Of course, the Jewish eschatology has its basis in the OT. This, however, can not wholly account for the agreement between it an Paul as to data going beyond the OT. There is no escape from the conclusionthat a piece of Jewish theology has been here by Revelation incorporated into the Apostle’s teaching. Paul had none less than Jesus Himself as a predecessor in this. The main structure of the Jewish Apocalyptic is embodied in our Lord’s teaching as well as in Paul’s.” I’m not sure how my claims for Vos (i.e., the one’s I actually made) fail to be supported by this and like passages. Ad fontes!
    As for Enns’ and “made up stories” embedded in the OT, I’m just not sure what you’re getting at. Please, elaborate.

  69. snubnosedinalpha said,

    February 12, 2008 at 6:27 pm

    ps. Nice to meet you too, Dr. Johnson.

  70. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 12, 2008 at 7:04 pm

    SNiA (#68):

    However, nowadays (at least in my experience) “theistic-evolution” usually denotes any doctrine of creation that allows for newer/higher species to emerge/derive from older/lesser species.

    Theistic Evolution has a more technical definition. It generally refers to the belief that all of life (save, perhaps, man) came about through the process of evolution, which was guided at (some or all) points by God.

    Jeff Cagle — cites Warfield as “accepting of or open towards” T.E.

  71. GLW Johnson said,

    February 13, 2008 at 9:28 am

    I hope you don’t put too much stock in the generic data compiled by Wikipedia. They rely exclusively upon secondary sources for their information. I have encountered ‘experts’ on Plato,Augustine,Kant,Barth, who never read a single page that any of these men-but got all their information from Wikipedia- and actually consider themselves competent authorities!
    There is one more misperception that was raised that I didn’t address that needs to be corrected – the claim that if the Old Princeton men had the ‘new and up to date’ scholarship that we have today , they would quickly get into lock-step with the times and low and behold they would embrace the views of, say an Enns or a NT Wright. In addition to falling into the kind of arrogance that C.S. Lewis referred to as ‘chronological snobbery’- this mentality assumes that the reason people don’t accept their veiws is because they stick their heads in the sand and refuse , like the laughable advocates of the Flat Earth Society, to deal with the real world of scholarship. Here is an interesting tidbit-Charles Briggs threw that very charge at Old Princeton. He triumphantly declared that the if the Westminster divines had known about all the discoveries that he had at his disposal-particularly the Graf/Wellhausen school of higher critism- then they would have sided with Briggs over against the Old Princeton men. He even enthusiastically embraced the findings of ‘modern’ Feudian psychology and pure undiluted Darwinism claiming that the doctrine of man and sin as stated in the Westminster Standards needed to be updated along these lines.It was the Old Princeton OT scholars like Robert Dick Wilson and OT Allis that responded to the critics like Briggs. How many OT scholars today embrace the views that Briggs so confidently championed? Sadly, the one who most resembles Briggs views, especially regarding the concept of ‘inspired ‘OT myths, teaches at WTS of all places.

  72. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 13, 2008 at 9:46 am

    No, I don’t. I agree with you; it was just a convenient Google-hit at hand, and its basic definition of T.E. seemed agreeable to my experience with the term.


  73. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 13, 2008 at 10:00 am

    Oh, sorry, I missed the import of #71.

    No, I agree that Wiki is not an expert on Warfield’s views. I mentioned that simply as an aside, but I can see how it came across as an endorsement. Note to self: be more careful in expression.

    Jeff Cagle

  74. John Ronning said,

    February 13, 2008 at 10:01 am

    #68; “As for Enns’ and “made up stories” embedded in the OT, I’m just not sure what you’re getting at. Please, elaborate.”

    I believe this was directed to Gary, who I hope won’t mind me interjecting an answer. On pp. 54-56 of Enns’ book he says that Genesis 1 is a made up story; made up by the Babylonians, modified by God when he revealed Genesis 1 to Abraham. God changed the theology when he revealed in to Abraham, but not the cosmology (that would be too hard for Abraham to accept). So acc. to Enns, Genesis 1 presumes a flat disk earth with a solid dome above, waters above and below (he’s even got the picture!). This means, necessarily, that God could not have said “Let there be a raqia`” because there is no raqia` (the solid dome in this view). So, according to Enns, God told Abraham that he said “let there be a raqia`” when in fact he said no such thing at creation. Strange that if someone says that’s not the Westminster Confession view of Scripture, such is regarded as an exceedingly narrow view of the confession.

    Enns also says that it is well known that references to Philistines in Genesis are anachronistic. If Enns means something different than what most people mean when they say this (anachronisms are a feature of poorly made up stories), he doesn’t tell us.

    I’m also left wondering if Peter Enns and other scholars play pope to tell us what parts of the Bible we can really believe or if we all get to be popes?

  75. GLW Johnson said,

    February 13, 2008 at 10:31 am

    Thanks, John- that is it exactly.

  76. snubnosedinalpha said,

    February 13, 2008 at 11:09 am

    Good morning, all!
    Mr. Cagle, thanks for the link.
    Dr. Johnson, I’ll take your silence on the Warfield and Vos passages I adduced as a tacit concession of my points concerning them. As for your allegation of “chronological snobbery,” well, it betrays a fundamental misperception of the issue. The central problem is not that old PTS lacked access to today’s scholarship. The problem is that they lacked access to concrete historical data. They totally lacked access to the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Epic of Atra-Hasis. Enuma Elish and Gilgamesh were fresh out of the dirt and had hardly been studied when the century turned. We could go on and on. It’s not so much that we’re now privy to new theories about the Bible (although, that is, of course, true). Rather, we are now privy to lots of heretofore unknown information about the Bible’s historical and literary context.
    The current WTS Bib studies crowd has pointed out time and again that whenever old PTS had access to such contextual information, they allowed it to inform their exegeses and theology (see, e.g., Vos above). Such contextual information is all one has to go on when identifying a text’s genre, a word’s semantic value, and so on. Sometime’s such data leads one to revise or reject traditional readings. Old PTS wasn’t averse to such revisions if the data so indicated (e.g., Green and Young on the authorship of Ecclesiastes). The fact is that the current Bib studies faculty at WTS has plenty of old PTS and old WTS precedent for what they’re doing.
    I’m just not sure what to make of your comments on Briggs. Do you really think that the extent of our knowledge has not changed, that the pool of data has not expanded in the past century? Do you really think that the grounds of the debate are precisely where they were when Allis and Wilson took issue with Briggs, such that all we need now do is pick one side or the other of that old controversy?
    Let’s try this again. Given the ways Vos, Green, Young, Warfield, etc., handled information from the historical and literary context of the Bible, what does it mean to follow their example when presented with fresh information of that sort? Secondly, if we’re going to adhere to the letter of what the old Princetonians said, why shouldn’t WTS endorse “theistic evolution” (in the modern, wikipedia sense) or non-Solomonic authorship of Ecclesiastes?

  77. Tim Harris said,

    February 13, 2008 at 11:21 am

    JR (#74) — excellent statement. However, re anachronism — this term can loosely be used for “proleptic reference,” for which we should have no problem. Kind of like saying, “the Vikings lived in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark,” even though those names and political entities weren’t current until long after the Vikings.

  78. snubnosedinalpha said,

    February 13, 2008 at 11:53 am

    Nice to meet you, John. I have to admit that I’m a bit confused by your taking Genesis 1 to have been revealed to Abraham. I can’t find that written anywhere in my Bible, much less in Enns.
    Anyways, I guess the cosmology issue is as good as any to illustrate what the Bib studies guys are trying to do. ‘Raqiya’, as Enns notes, doesn’t mean ‘expanse.’ It means something more like solid dome. That’s why the LXX translates it ‘sterowma’ and the Latin translates it ‘firmamentum’ (hence the KJV’s ‘firmament’). Job 37:18 refers to it, writing, “Can you, like Him, spread out the skies, hard as a cast metal mirror?” It has windows in it (see Gen 7:11 and 8:2) and waters above it (Gen 1:6-7; Psalm 104:3; 148:4; Proverbs 8:27-28). This cosmology was pretty common in the ancient Near East. We find it, for example, in Enuma Elish:
    “Then the lord (Marduk) paused to view her (Tiamat’s) dead body, that he might divide the monster and do artful works. He split her like a shellfish into two parts: half of her he set up and ceiled it as sky, pulled down the bar and posted guards. He bade them to not allow her waters to escape….”
    Enns is just saying that there’s no reason why God shouldn’t feel free to employ the common ancient Near Eastern genre that we today call “myth” to assert His authorship of and dominion over the earth. In so doing, why shouldn’t God speak in terms of the cosmology with which His audience was familiar? What if God doesn’t care whether His hearers have a modern, scientific cosmology or not? What if He is more concerned about procuring their undivided loyalty and worship than about given them lessons in astronomy?
    Calvin pretty much thought more or less along these lines. Commenting on the waters above the heavens in Genesis 1:6, he writes:
    “Moses describes the special use of this expanse, “to divide the waters from the waters,” from which words arises a great difficulty. For it appears opposed to common sense, and quite incredible, that there should be waters above the heaven. Hence some resort to allegory, and philosophize concerning angels; but quite beside the purpose. For, to my mind, this is a certain principle, that nothing is here treated of but the visible form of the world. He who would learn astronomy, and other recondite arts, let him go elsewhere.”
    He says something similar about the greater and lesser lights in 1:16:
    “I have said, that Moses does not here subtilely descant, as a philosopher, on the secrets of nature, as may be seen in these words…. Here lies the difference; Moses wrote in a popular style things which, without instruction, all ordinary persons, endued with common sense, are able to understand; but astronomers investigate with great labor whatever the sagacity of the human mind can comprehend…. Nor did Moses truly wish to withdraw us from [astronomy] in omitting such things as are peculiar to the art; but because he was ordained a teacher as well of the unlearned and rude as of the learned, he could not otherwise fulfill his office than by descending to this grosser method of instruction….. Moses, therefore, rather adapts his discourse to common usage.”
    Enns has good precedent in Calvin (and Warfield, I might add) to say, in effect, that “that Moses does not here subtilely descant, as a philosopher” but rather adapts his discourse to common (ancient Near Eastern) usage. You might disagree with Enns. That’s fine. But it’s just silly to point out his take on Genesis 1 as a radical departure from the Reformed tradition. Again, I say Ad fontes!

  79. GLW Johnson said,

    February 13, 2008 at 12:18 pm

    I did in fact address the very sources( particularly your reliance on a flawed secondary source) you mentioned- as for your claim -‘Ad Fontes’, please show me from BBW own writings support for your defense of Enns. It is also obvious that you are totally unfamiliar with Briggs.

  80. Tim Harris said,

    February 13, 2008 at 1:18 pm

    Calvin is describing phenomenal language, not language caught up in contemporary mythology.

  81. GLW Johnson said,

    February 13, 2008 at 1:56 pm

    Have you read the chapter I wrote in the book I edited for P&R on Warfield?
    Among other things I demonstrated that BBW rejected the incarnational approach to Scripture that is at the heart of Enns’ model. I also sought to show that Old Princeton did indeed rejected Briggs’ notion of ‘inspired’ myths in the OT-Enns’ proposals are strikingly similar to those of Briggs. I am not the only who views Enns’ project with raised eyebrows as the critical reviews of D.A. Carson, Greg Beale and Paul Helm bear out.

  82. snubnosedinalpha said,

    February 13, 2008 at 2:31 pm

    Dr. Johnson,
    I’m not sure how to make this any clearer: the article I cited, “The Manner and Time of Man’s Origin,” was written by B.B. Warfield himself and first published in the November 1903 edition of The Bible Student (n.s. 8.5:241-52). The passages I gave you are Warfield’s words, not Noll’s or Livingstone’s. The article in its entirety (along with about 40 other of Warfield’s lectures, articles and book reviews) is contained in the copy of Evolution, Science and Scripture sitting on my desk right here in front of me. Now, the fact that Noll and Livingstone compiled these writings of Warfield’s and republished them in their entirety does not diminish the fact of these writings being none other than Warfield’s and nothing less than primary sources. I might add that I offered you a passage from one of Warfield’s writings (a primary source) and you referenced a book you edited full of essays about Warfield (a secondary source).
    But perhaps the hang-up is that I only showed that Warfield allowed for “theistic evolution” (in the modern, wikipedia sense). While I have given ample illustrations of old PTS precedent for Enns’ approach from Vos, Young and Green, I have not shown that Warfield affords similar precedent. I did not belabor the ways in which precedent for Enns’ approach can be found in Warfield. Allow me to reproduce a passage from Warfield’s article “The Divine and Human in the Bible,” (May 3, 1894, Presbyterian Journal):
    “Recent discussion of the authenticity, authorship, integrity, and structure of the several biblical books has called men’s attention, as possibly it has never defore been called, to the human element in the BIble. Even those who were accustomed to look upon their Bible as simply divine, never once thinking of the human agents through whom the divine Spirit spoke, have had their eyes opened to the fact that the Scriptures are human writings, written by men, and bearing the traces of their human origin on their very face….
    The human and divine factors in inspiration are conceived of as flowing confluently and harmoniously to the production of a common product. And the two elements are conceived of in the Scriptures as the inseparable constituents of one single and uncompounded product. Of every word of Scripture it is to be affirmed, in turn, that it is God’s word and that it is man’s word. All the qualities of divinity and of humanity are to be sought and may be found in every portion and element fo the Scripture. While, on the other hand, no quality inconsistent with either divinity or humanity can be found in any portion or element of Scripture.”
    Conceptually, this is precisely the same as Enns’ “incarnational analogy.” Beyond that:
    “[The Scriptures] are written in human languages, whose words, inflections, constructions and idioms bear everywhere indelible traces of error. The record itself furnishes evidence that the writers were in large measure dependent for their knowledge upon sources and methods in themselves fallible, and that their personal knowledge and judgments were in many matters hesitating and defective, or even wrong.” (B.B. Warfield & A.A. Hodge, Inspiration, pp. 73-82)
    There is more that could be said, but I have errands to run. Basically, Warfield’s take on Scripture and inerrancy was extremely nuanced, far more nuanced than the folks who normally invoke (and criticize) realize. Did Warfield say everything Enns is saying? Of course not! Would Warfield be comfortable with everything Enns is saying? I don’t know. Can Enns find precedent for his method of handling the Bible in its historical context in Warfield’s approach to Scripture’s humanity? It sure looks like it.
    I am unfamiliar with Briggs. And no, I haven’t read your chapter. If you’d like to send me a complimentary copy of the book, I’d be glad to. Please, explain how that gets you off the hook with my questions from 62 and how your invoking Briggs is not a red herring.

    Yes, Calvin invokes phenomenological language rather than the literary genre “myth” to explain Genesis 1:6 and 16. Calvin could not have invoked the myths contemporary with the writing of Genesis because, as I’ve already pointed out, they were underground when Calvin wrote his commentary. Those myths were not, however, underground when Genesis was written and they are not underground now. Calvin’s basic point is that Moses’ intention in writing Genesis was not to offer a scientific, astronomical account of the world and was concerned to frame his message in terms his audience would understand. Calvin thought the terms that they would understand were phenomenological. We now know, because we have writings from around the time when Genesis was written, that the terms in which cosmogony was spoken of in that time and culture were mythological ones as much as they were phenomenological ones. That is to say, if Moses were to “[adapt] his discourse to common usage” and the common usage of the day was mythological, then Moses’ discourse would be adapted to mythology.

  83. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 13, 2008 at 4:02 pm

    SNiA (#82):

    Conceptually, this is precisely the same as Enns’ “incarnational analogy.”

    Isn’t that the issue at hand? Whether Enns’ work is in accord with Warfield’s, or goes beyond it in an unacceptable manner?

    Not having read Enns, I don’t want to speculate. But certainly, I would want to see close argumentation that Enns stays within Warfield’s bounds — better, Scriptural bounds — rather than a raw assertion. Just because most of Enns’ ideas can be mapped to Warfield’s does not mean that all of them can.

    Here’s one way in which I would want close attention to be paid:

    Warfield was operating in what we in the sciences call the “pre-Einsteinian” period of scientific thought. Thinking in that period ran roughly like this:

    * There is empirical data that we receive with our senses.
    * And we can then process it with our reason in order to discover the rules that govern it.

    A lot of interpretive water has passed under the bridge since then. We are more attuned to issues like “theory-laden observations”, “paradigms”, and so on — issues that inform Enns’ thought in ways that Warfield would not have recognized (immediately, at least).

    Here’s one way in which this is relevant. Warfield assumed that when science is fully explored and Scripture likewise, that there will be a harmony between the two.

    Post-Einstein, I’m not sure that this will necessarily be the case. Science, as a human endeavor, is profoundly influenced by the noetic effects of sin, and our trajectory in science seems to diverge from, rather than converge with, exegetical methods.

    In other words, Warfield wanted a two-track method for truth based on the assumption that “truth will out.” In our day, it appears more that “‘truth’ will be constructed.” The concern I read in the comments above about Enns is that he is shaping exegesis in order to fit within the current paradigms of today.

    Again, without having read Enns, I can’t say for sure. But if I were to read his book, that is the question I would want answered.

    Jeff Cagle

  84. GLW Johnson said,

    February 13, 2008 at 5:36 pm

    You are begging the question with your assertion about BBW and his article on the Divine and human elements in Scripture. Enns commits this same non sequitur. He jumps from BBW emphasis on the human element and ergo his incarnational model is now valid! One major problem. Warfield emphatically reject the incarnational model. Send you a complimentary copy? No can do-check the library at WTS.I am sure that have copy, or ask Enns if you can borrow his copy.

  85. GLW Johnson said,

    February 13, 2008 at 8:16 pm

    p.s. if all else fails check with that diabolical Englishman Carl Trueman.

  86. D G Hart said,

    February 13, 2008 at 10:20 pm

    David (Art, Snubnosed, whomever), the difference between Old PTS and current WTS was that folks like Warfield did engage with current scholarship (cutting-edge?) and he defended the Westminster Standards against attempts to revision. I know you think the current bib studies folks are churchmen and all that. But in my interacation with those folks, I did sense they were more on the side of creedal revision (a la Briggs) than they were with Warfield in studying, teaching and defending the Westminster Standards.

  87. Tim Harris said,

    February 14, 2008 at 12:20 am

    David (#82) — I think we took Enns’ course at the same time, and chatted about it a few times in the hallway of van Til. You have the philosophy background, special interest in Plantinga, right? If so… hello again!

    Anyhow, let me focus on Calvin for a moment. You grant that the passages cited are talking about phenomenal language, not an explicit concession to mythology; but you speculate that if he had access to the ANE documents that we do, he would have extended that method to the broader notion of accommodation as well. I submit a few considerations against that speculation:

    1. First, there is a qualitative, not merely quantitative difference between those two kinds of accommodation. Phenomenal language is linguistically atomic by which I mean, it is not coupled to a world-view; it is of the essence of language-extension by metaphor. Whereas, accommodation to surrounding myths is conceptual, philosophical, and theological.

    2. The absence of ANE documents is not as telling as it might appear at first blush; for, the biblical documents testify to the idolatry of the surrounding nations, and it does not take very much imagination to assume that they had an attendant cosmology. So formally, Enns’ hypothesis could have been entertained without the ANE documents. The answer that the orthodox would have given, is that the surrounding cosmologies, where they differ from the one revealed, were created out of whole cloth by the imagination of men, and where they are similar, were either (a) corruptions of the original memory by descent from Noah, or (b) borrowings from the people of God at any time. The examination of the actual ANE documents does not require any other theory than those.

    3. There is one area where Calvin could have adopted a kind of philosophical accommodationism, namely, to follow Augustine’s view of instantaneous creation. Given his reverence for Augustine, this would have been a happy route to take. But Calvin stuck with the narrative literalism of creation in six days, against Augustine.

    4. Moreover, Calvin also was cognizant of the “day 1/day 4 problem,” anticipating that triumphant “discovery” of the framework hypotheticers. But instead of seeking a solution along the natural-law orientation of the frameworkers, Calvin opted for intentional literalism: God created light without source bodies to show his sovereign independence of ordinary means. You can read that in the commentary ad loc.

    For all these reasons, it seems quite unlikely that Calvin would have gone Enns’ route if the ANE documents had been available to him. At no point is there the slightest movement in that direction. The statements about “going to the astronomers to learn astronomy” is fully consistent with the point about phenomenal language, e.g. the sun rises and sets, etc.

  88. John Ronning said,

    February 14, 2008 at 7:58 am

    Tim (#74) – I take your point that there are different kinds of anachronisms, so let me expand. Enns supposedly is writing for the benefit of Christians who are faced with all kinds of attacks on the inspiration, truthfulness, etc. of the Scriptures. Part of such attacks is the line of argumentation that the patriarchal narratives are just a bunch of made up stories, exhibit A being the reference to Philistines, who weren’t in Canaan until about 1200 BC, thus Abraham and Isaac could not have had any dealings with Philistines in the early or middle bronze age. Iron age Israelites, so the argument goes, made up stories about the patriarchs dealing with Philistines because they assumed (wrongly) that the Philistines were always there.

    Someone trying to be helpful might point out that the Bible is actually the only ancient source that tells us where the Philistines came from, and might write something like what Bryant Wood has, pointing out the evidence for Minoan peoples throughout the Levant (including Gerar) well back into the bronze age:

    Enns does none of these things, he simply concedes the point. What Bryant Wood writes on this issue is indeed helpful; Peter Enns is not, unless one finds it helpful to have a “who cares if what is recorded in the Bible is actually true” attitude.

  89. John Ronning said,

    February 14, 2008 at 8:46 am

    here’s the quote from Enns: “the stories of Israel’s early ancestors contain many well-known anachronisms, particularly the references to the Philistines, who do not arrive on the scene until several hundred years after the time of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” (p. 42). Enns says this as part of his argument that “It is also true that the biblical stories were likely recorded in their present form sometime in the first millennium” (ibid). For there to be any logical connection from (1) anachronisms to (2) 1st millenium date for composition, he must mean that the anachronism is a false assertion, there were no Philistines in the time of the patriarchs, they got the facts wrong in the first millenium (botched oral transmission, maybe, so how can this be said to be an evangelical westminster confession type of view of inspiration?). Raises issues of honesty and integrity, doesn’t it, to hold a view of scripture like this and then claim to be in line with the confession?

  90. GLW Johnson said,

    February 14, 2008 at 8:55 am

    We are told that since E.J. Young questioned the Solomonic authorship of Ecclesiastes then Enns is free to pursue this line of reasoning all the while remaining in the Old Princeton/Westminster tradition-even if he sounds like Charles Briggs while doing it.The leap would have made Evel Knivel jealous.

  91. John Ronning said,

    February 14, 2008 at 9:23 am

    David (#78), you said, “I have to admit that I’m a bit confused by your taking Genesis 1 to have been revealed to Abraham. I can’t find that written anywhere in my Bible, much less in Enns.”

    I don’t take Genesis 1 as having been revealed to Abraham, Enns does (and yes, that’s very bizarre):

    Enns, pp. 52-53: “So how is it that Genesis can look so much like other Ancient Near Eastern texts? I propose a simple scenario that begins with Abraham. . . . “ Enns goes on to describe God taking this Babylonian man [which is an error, all of the internal evidence of Genesis puts Abraham’s homeland in northern Mesopotamia, not southern] and establishing a relationship with him; “As God entered into a relationship with Abraham, he ‘met’ him where he was–an ancient Mesopotamian man who breathed the air of the ancient Near East” Abraham shared the worldview (i.e. cosmology) of his neighbors, it was too much for God to expect him to abandon this cosmology (but not too much to expect him to abandon idolatry – but wait a minute, doesn’t God being God mean he expects us to believe and even die for whatever he tells us?)

    On the meaning of raqia`, a couple of points. (1) Job 37:18 records the opinion of Elihu, for what that is worth; it would be helpful to remember that God says to Job that his friends have not spoken of him rightly, neither must we assume Elihu has spoken for God in his opinion of cosmology. (2) That raqia` “means something more like a solid dome” is usually taken from etymology and ancient opinions, neither of which constitute proof. I could very accurately describe the earth’s atmosphere using prescientific language as a protective shell around the earth (and a very good one, as it blocks almost all meteors that encounter it on their way to the planet’s surface). An unlearned (or pre-scientific) person might assume by “shell” I meant something hard, solid, etc., but that is not the same as saying shell must “mean” something hard. It seems strange to me that Enns wants to allow a view of accommodation in which God lies to his people (again; in your and Enns’ view, God could not have really said let there be a raqia` because there is no such thing), but he will not allow an accommodation in which God accurately describes the creation of the universe using pre-scientific language (when, for example, it would be impossible to describe the atmosphere since there was no vocabulary or conception of atoms, gasses, etc.).

    Simply calling something accommodation (Enns, p. 56) does not make Enns’ view in line with Calvin et al. If we speak “baby talk” to our children (I believe Calvin used this analogy), that is accommodation. If we tell them to believe in Santa Claus, that’s lying, not accommodation.

    (3) David I take it that you agree with what Enns implies, God did not say at creation, “Let there be a raqia`” because there is no such thing. So, am I free to also affirm, God did not really say “Let there be light”? (even though Paul affirmed that he did say that?). May I also affirm he did not really say “Let us create man in our image, and let them rule . . .”? If you object to such affirmations, on what grounds are you going to do so? Thus my previous question, who is going to play pope and tell us what parts of “God said” are we free to disregard and what parts are we bound to believe? My reading of Enns is that what he says leaves him free to disregard all of Genesis 1-11 as baloney, though I can’t be sure because he often writes very poorly (perhaps intentionally so).

    (4) The raqia` is called “sky” (or heaven) in Gen 1:8. It is not said to be something solid above the sky.

    (5) The first three days of creation are symbolically re-enacted at the crossing of the Red Sea, light shining on Israelites, darkness on Egyptians (1st day), Israel going through on dry ground, Egypt drowns in the sea (3rd); the second day is when the angel of God and the pillar of fire comes between the two camps (horizontal separation analogous to the vertical one on Genesis 1; note the similarity in syntax and use of “between” in the two accounts). In this symbolic re-enactment, there is nothing solid between the two camps, but rather what we associate with sky and heaven, i.e. the angel of God and the cloud.

    To adequately critique Enns’ book would take something longer than the book itself. Its unorthodoxy is only part of the problem, it also reflects out of date scholarship and plenty of poor reasoning. His book is helpful for what? Making a post-modern god? “Save our Seminary” from critics of Enns? We’re in big trouble.

  92. GLW Johnson said,

    February 14, 2008 at 10:41 am

    In answer to my heading on the post- the SOS folk are trying to make sure WTS doesn’t revert back to what Machen intended it to be.It is really ironic that two of the great OT scholars from Old Princeton-Wm. Henry Green and Robert Dick Wilson, (one of the men that left Princeton to help found WTS with Machen ), actually addressed some of these very same historical claims and came out on the opposite side of Enns. cf. Green’s ‘General Introduction To The Old Testamnet: The Text’ (Scribner’sSons, 1899) and his ‘General Introduction To The Old Testament: The Canon’ Scribner’s Son, 1906) and Wilson’s ‘A Scientific Investigation of the Old Testament’ with revisions by E.J. Young (Moody1959).

  93. snubnosedinalpha said,

    February 14, 2008 at 11:37 am

    My, my, my…you guys have been busy this morning! That’s a lot of posts to have to try to respond to.
    Hey, Tim! We took CVT’s Trinitarian Theology together, right? Good to chat with you again.
    I don’t mean to insinuate that I know what Calvin would or would not say about data to which he had no access. It’s probably unwise to speculate on what Calvin or the Divines or Warfield would say about the new data. What I want to say, however, is that we are now faced with information about which, due to historical serendipity, they did not have to worry. The best any of us can do, with respect to our theological forebears, is to look to their example for conceptual equipment for dealing with the new data. But we MUST deal with the new data.
    With respect to the question of cosmology, I find your statement, “The answer that the orthodox would have given, is that the surrounding cosmologies, where they differ from the one revealed, were created out of whole cloth by the imagination of men, and where they are similar, were either (a) corruptions of the original memory by descent from Noah, or (b) borrowings from the people of God at any time” quite puzzling. Are you suggesting that ancient Near Easterners got the idea that there’s water above the sky/raqiya/heavens from the Israelites? Is the idea that God meant it solely metaphorically or phenomenologically and all the surrounding cultures mistook Him to be making a scientific statement? The fact is that the idea of there being waters (not “clouds” but waters) above the heavens is all over the Bible. That is the operative cosmology of the OT.
    And the fact is that none of us operates with that cosmology today, John. This is not me or anyone else playing pope and telling you which parts of the Bible to believe (though, I do like to wear big hats and red robes on occasion). You legitimate your disbelieving in the waters above the heavens by appealing to phenomenological language. I, similarly, appeal to the Bible being framed in an ANE cosmology. At the end of the day, however, neither of us really believes that God ever opened literal windows in the heavens (Gen 7:11; 8:2).
    But why should the OT have a modern scientific cosmology, anyways? What if God didn’t care to quibble with His ANE audience’s ideas about what lie in the great blue yonder? What if God had different priorities? Why is God beholden to speak in terms congenial to modern scientific discourse in Genesis 1? You don’t hold Him to that linguistic standard in the Psalms? Why here? Why can’t He here employ a genre that does not call for literalistic interpretation?
    I get the sense that the real issue for a lot of folks is that we just can’t be comfortable with God using the genre “myth.” First off, it’s important to point out that the ANE genre of myth is not the same as ANE myths. We have a type token relationship here. Myths like Atra-Hasis and Enuma Elish are tokens of the genre-type “myth.” If God employs the genre of myth in the OT, it does not follow that the OT has adopted Enuma Elish.
    The genre of myth is, to borrow a phrase of Nicholas Wolterstorff’s, discourse-generating discourse. The idea is that by producing one sort of discourse, you communicate something else. So, for instance, by telling a story of a man’s travels, Bunyan communicates certain truths about the Christian life. By telling a story about a man being mugged on the Jericho road and then helped by a half-breed, Jesus critiques contemporary approaches to Torah-keeping. If you get hung up on whether there is any such geographical local as “Hill Difficulty” or whether there is a historical good Samaritan, you miss the point of and misunderstand the logic of allegories and parables.
    So also with myth. If Genesis 1 is a myth, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t communicate truth. Calling Genesis 1 false because it’s myth is like calling Pilgrim’s Progress a pack of lies because it is an allegory. By narrating Genesis 1, the author of Genesis intends to communicate to his ANE audience certain facts about God and His relationship to the world, but not necessarily facts about cosmology, chronology, or whatever. In that case, your question, John, about whether God in space and time said “Let there be a raqiya” is a category mistake.
    Now, the question is whether or not Genesis 1 is a token of the genre-type myth? The only way to answer that question is through comparative literary analysis, not through presumptuous a priori decisions about how God is and is not allowed to speak.
    Anyways, John, E.J. Young, in his Studies in Genesis 1, takes a different view of the raqiya. On page 90, in footnote 94 he writes, “raqia [he has it in Hebrew letters], i.e., that which is hammered, beaten out. Cf. Isa. 42:5; Ps. 136:6 and the Phoenician mrqy [in Hebrew script] “planting” (Cooke: North Semitic Inscriptions, Oxford , 903, p. 75). Note also the LXX sterewma [in Greek letters] and Vulgate firmamentum, which are satisfactory renderings. I am unable to accept the opinion that the waters above the expanse refer to the clouds, for this position does not do justice to the language of the text which states that these waters are above the expanse.” On page 90 he notes the parallels between Genesis 1 and Enuma Elish and takes the view (which I believe you endorsed above, Tim?) that Enuma Elish represents a mutilation of the story (though Young says nothing about the cosmology itself). Anyways, Young told Paul Seely (see p. 39 of “The Firmament and the Water Above: Part II: The Meaning of ‘The Water above the Firmament’ in Gen 1:6-8”, WTJ 54 [1992]: 31-46) that he followed Luther’s view. Luther said, “I might readily imagine that the firmament is the uppermost mass of all and that…the waters separated from the waters would be understood as clouds which are separated from our waters on earth. But Moses says in plain words that the waters were above and below the firmament. Here, I take my reason captive and subscribe to the Word even though I do not understand it.” I wonder if any of us are prepared to go all the way with Young on these matters?

    I know I haven’t touched on all of your concerns, fellahs, but I have to run for now. I haven’t forgotten about you, Drs. Johnson and Hart, and Mr. Cagle. It probably would be good for me to pour over Warfield a bit more. But, thus far, altogether, I think this has been a stimulating and, I hope, fruitful conversation. Thanks for keeping it cordial, guys.

  94. GLW Johnson said,

    February 14, 2008 at 11:55 am

    It boggles the mind to think that the Old Princeton/Westminster tradition would in anyway sanction the concept of ‘myth’ or ‘stories that made up’ as being compatible with their emphasis on the historical reliablity of Scripture. Warfield , in particular, is very emphatic about this in his review of Henry P. Smith, cf. BBW ‘Limited Inspiration’-I cited this in my chapter in the aforementioned book on Warfield.
    I remain cordially yours.

  95. Tim Harris said,

    February 14, 2008 at 11:09 pm

    David — that what I thought. We also took Oliphant’s Intro together.

    I could follow you on the genre argument if there was the slightest textual evidence that that is what was intended. I don’t see it. The linkage to Adam, and then to the genealogies of all mankind, is too seamless.

    Imagine if the story of the Good Samaritan continued into a longer discourse in which it turned out that the Samaritan had married a nice jewish girl whose brother was the father of Paul. And moreover, the old ancient Samaritan subsequently moved to Jerusalem, and (think of the scene when Woody Allen produces Marshall McLuhan in Annie Hall) “in fact, he is standing right here.” In toto, that would tip us away from regarding the Good Samaritan as merely a parable.

    A year or two before we took Enns’ course for credit, I audited the course, and at the end, I asked, given his hermeneutical pivot point of the “empty tomb,” how does he know the tomb was empty? Evidentialism? (which would be a denial of Westminster’s heritage). All Dr Enns could say was, “good question.” Other students chimed in: the testimony of the church; or “my experience.” No one was moved to point to the authority of Scripture as the precondition for all intelligibility. I’m afraid, they learned the lesson of that course very well.

    Don’t get me wrong, I like Dr. E and love rapping with him — that’s not the point, you understand.

  96. John Ronning said,

    February 15, 2008 at 5:08 am

    David (#93) — Hope you don’t mind me pursuing this, my purpose is not to win an intellectual argument, but because I think there is a very crucial pastoral issue involved. If it is a “category mistake” to ask whether God really said “let there be a raqia`” then it is of necessity a category mistake to ask whether he really said anything else that Genesis 1 says he said (and by extension, is it not also a category mistake to ask whether anything that Genesis 1-11 tells us happened really did happen? If it’s OK for Genesis 1 to be myth, then Genesis 3 also could be myth, right? If you say it’s not OK, does it not logically to the question, who made you pope to decide such things? And why limit such maneuvers to Genesis 1-11?).

    The fact that you won’t come out and say “God didn’t really say let there be a raqia`” in spite of the fact that your position of necessity leads to such a conclusion suggests you are uncomfortable stating the implications of your own position, which you avoid by calling the question “a category mistake.” Why can’t you answer such a simple question?

    So, what answer do you have, not to me, but the man in the pew, who looks at what you (and Enns) have said, and asks “So, when I read in the Bible about God saying something or about something happening, maybe he didn’t really say it, or maybe it didn’t really happen?”

    Should WTS alumni really be alarmed that some of the Lord’s people are concerned about Enns’ teaching, which logically leads to such church damaging teaching and to a view of a God who doesn’t care whether he speaks truth or not?

    A couple of other misc. comments (1) I think you know that Pilgrim’s Progress was written and always assumed to be an allegory, so it is irrelevant to this discussion unless you are saying that Genesis 1 is like Pilgrim’s Progress an allegory and we are foolish to think it should be taken otherwise.

    (2) you say “At the end of the day, however, neither of us really believes that God ever opened literal windows in the heavens.” That’s right — and there’s no reason to think that anyone in Bible times took it literally either. Or that there were literally pillars of the earth (shaped like pillars of temples etc.). In fact 2 Kings 7:2, 19 suggests a disbelief in windows in heaven “Should the Lord make [`asah, NIV xlates ‘open’ for some reason] windows in heaven, could such a thing be?”

    (3) You ask, “Why is God beholden to speak in terms congenial to modern scientific discourse in Genesis 1?” What I am suggesting is simply that God is able to speak in pre-scientific terms to pre-scientific people, limiting himself to their current vocabulary (i.e. not inventing words for hydrogen, etc.), without lying to them (and to us). Are you suggesting he is not able to do so?Recall that 100 years ago Genesis 1 was ridiculed for having light before the sun, and vegetation before the appearance of the sun in the sky, yet modern cosmology has come to those very same positions. Not surprising if the one true God really is the author of Genesis 1 and he told the truth.

    Enns, p. 54: “Genesis — as other stories of the ancient world — thus portrays the world as a flat disk with a dome above.”

    Enns, p. 55: “The biblical account, along with its ancient Near Eastern counterparts, assumes the factual nature of what it reports.”

    Notice Enns does not say, “Genesis portrays the earth as a flat disk but it’s a category mistake to ask whether Genesis was meant to be taken as factual.” Put the two quotes together and (if words mean anything) Enns is saying that Genesis 1 is teaching as factual, things that are not factual.

  97. GLW Johnson said,

    February 15, 2008 at 10:05 am

    Tim H.
    I pointed out in the Warfield book(p.226) that Enns’ implicit denial that the Bible was self-authenicating -but needed to be harmonized with ANE in order to establish its character and relevance( authority as well?) was a significant departure from VanTil.

  98. snubnosedinalpha said,

    February 15, 2008 at 4:16 pm

    Dr. Johnson, my point with Young and Green on the authorship of Ecclesiastes is that the old PTS guys did not simply tow the most conservative line no matter what. They went where they thought the evidence led. With respect to the Graf-Wellhausen hypothesis, they didn’t think the evidence led there and so they took a pretty conservative stance on the Pentateuch (although Green does acknowledge that the Pentateuch contains some post-Mosaic expansion and revision). With respect to the authorship of Ecclesiastes, they thought the linguistic evidence did not favor Solomonic authorship, and, thus, they took a critical, non-conservative stance. However, in no way did their adoption of this critical conclusion undermine their confidence in the inspired character of the book. No, longer could Ecclesiastes be read as a straightforward memoir of Solomon. Their perception of the book’s relationship to history shifted but their confidence in the book’s inspiration did not.
    I submit to you that WTS’s current bib studies faculty is following their example by following the evidence and trusting that God knows better than we do how to put together Sacred Scripture. Perhaps that claim boggles your mind. I can’t say that I don’t find it paradoxical at times, either.
    John, when I approach the Bible or any other ancient book, I try not to decide a priori what the genre can or cannot be (except when complete historical improbability rules a genre out; so I assume that whatever genre Gen 1 is, it is not a movie script or a newspaper editorial). I try to be sensitive to and follow the cues of the text so as to read the text as it was designed to be read. So, in principle, if Gen 1 or 3 or all of 1-11 appears designed to engender a reading strategy consonant with that appropriate to myth rather than, say, American newspaper editorials or dictionaries or modern biography or ancient historiography, then I will adopt that reading strategy and draw my exegetical and theological conclusions accordingly. I don’t limit such maneuvers to Gen 1-11. I don’t think Proverbs is myth, not because I think myth somehow inappropriate for divine employment but because all the cues point to it being a book of–you guessed it–proverbs. Similarly, when set in it’s ancient literary context, it would be very difficult to take the third Gospel to be myth, not because the genre of myth is incurably profane, but because Luke seems rather more like ancient historiography.
    Pressing questions about the usefulness of some books for making modern historical reconstructions makes a good deal of sense. Asking what we can learn about the historical Jesus from Luke’s Gospel makes sense. But posing questions about the historical reliability of Proverbs is like asking what flavor the color nine smells like. But that’s not ot say that Proverbs doesn’t have anything valuable to say. It’s the same thing with myth, allegory, parables, fables, laws and so on. Such genres can stake claims. But not all claims are historical claims. So to answer your point 1, John, Genesis is myth which is not really quite like allegory but is not really like historiography either.
    But to cut to the chase, John, no, I don’t expect that had I been standing on the face of the earth some 4.5 billion years ago that I would have heard a booming voice declare ‘Yehi raqiya’ or ‘Fiat firmamentum’ or ‘Genetheto sterowma’ (some of the Medievals debated what language He would have said it in).
    Now as for your 3rd point in post 96 and your take on the raqiya, you need to be aware of how arbitrary you are being about what you do and don’t take literally. The fact is that Genesis 1 does not say that vegetation existed before “appearance” of the sun and the moon but rather before the existence of the sun and the moon and the stars. What’s more, when you say, “I could very accurately describe the earth’s atmosphere using prescientific language as a protective shell around the earth (and a very good one, as it blocks almost all meteors that encounter it on their way to the planet’s surface),” it should be born in mind that Gen 1 does not say that the raqiya deflects meteors but rather that it holds back the waters (and, again, it’s “waters”, not “clouds”) above it. The fact is that you are bending the text to square it with modern cosmology, not me. Trying to read the text in a historically plausible and hermeneutically responsible way is an entirely different endeavor.
    As for the troubled congregant (and I’ve chatted with my fair share), I tell them that when reading the Bible or any other book, the crass interpretive axiom of “If narrative, then historiography plain and simple” is not a particularly good one. You have to learn to pick up the signals in the Bible that direct you towards an appropriate reading strategy. Kind of like when I hear English narratives beginning with phrases like “Once upon a time…” or “A priest, a parson and a rabbi walk into a bar…” or “On October 23, 1492…” I know that the subsequent narratives are to be taken in certain specific ways. For the layman/woman who lacks the time or perhaps education necessary to aquire a literary ear, s/he is dependent upon teachers and interpreters to help him/her along. Anyways, at the end of the day, our hope should depend on whether God raised Jesus rather than whether Joshua razed Jericho.
    This brings us to your point, Tim, about how do we know that Jesus is risen? I, like Machen, think the historical evidences are pretty convincing. Just because Van Til had a gripe with pure evidentialism, that doesn’t mean that historical arguments are as good as no arguments. I don’t see any reason why the internal testimony of the Spirit shouldn’t warrant a Christian’s belief in the resurrection, either. I’m a Plantinga fan, remember? But anyways, I don’t think Van Til’s notion of the “authority of Scripture as the precondition of all intelligibility” is either intelligible or really scriptural.
    But you raise a good question about the genealogies, context and genre identification of Gen1. But it’s worth noting that other ancient myth’s drift from the a-historical to historical realities (so, Enuma Elish moves from inter-deity feuding to the establishment of the historical Babylon and back again). That’s actually part of their point. Myths frame the world as we know it in a much larger symbolic world. The part that causes us trouble is that myths employ a great deal of personification, narrative and metaphor to produce that wider symbolic world. But that symbolic world is supposed to refer to realities (though not necessary historical realities).
    Anyways, all that’s to say, just as we find other myths connecting their stories about divinities with the establishments of historical temples and monarchies (thereby legitimating and loading them with symbolic freight), so also we find myth flowing seamlessly into the establishment of God’s chosen people. You’d do well to look at some other ANE myths before deciding whether genealogies and connections with historical realities signal their absence.

  99. GLW Johnson said,

    February 15, 2008 at 4:35 pm

    Do you know who John Davis was? He taught at Princeton and was one of the first to enter act with the newly discover ANE. Do a little research on Davis. You will be surprised at what you find.

  100. Tim Harris said,

    February 15, 2008 at 11:59 pm

    David — though “biting the bullet” and embracing a form of evidentialism may be a way out for you, it is not for Dr Enns — for all WTS faculty are required to subscribe to vantillism.

    (Also, it’s a minor point but your view of Machen needs correction — see Bahnsen’s essay on the subject in Pressing Towards the Mark.)

    Second, it is certainly not the case that a myth-genre treatment would not be equally plausible when applied to the gospels. In fact, there are plenty of You-tubes out there arguing that there was a plethora of ancient legends alleging virgin birth, descent from a god, 12 disciples, etc etc. The point being that this is the genre of the gospels. Even ancient historiographers allowed the gods to creep in here and there, so why not say that Luke did the same?

    Moreover, if we reject that Caesar was descended from Venus via Aeneas, why not reject Luke’s similar claim? (that he was claiming kingly prerogative not genetic descent since tying to Joseph is not telling here)

    You might say, “Luke’s claim is similar to Virgil’s, and that’s ok.” We say, no it’s not. If that genealogy is mere myth to “make a point” then where does it end?

    I would not accept Christianity if it was just a mythic claim about some guy that appeared in Palestine, with no people of God setting the stage (having the stage set for them) going back to the beginning of mankind.

    Also, it is not really honest for men of that school to declare the a priori that the resurrection of Christ is unassailable from analysis of the text. I would have more respect for them at one level if they would bite the bullet and say, “yes, we need to examine that question as well.” Instead, we take them at their word that the resurrection of Christ is a non-negotiable, but we have to say that the source of that non-negotiability is something other than the testimony of the word of God.

  101. GLW Johnson said,

    February 16, 2008 at 5:36 am

    I have it on good authority from someone who was there -that one of the individuals in question from the Biblical studies dept. at WTS said at the Princeton conference on Karl Barth( held this past Fall) that he was embrassed by the way WTS had in the past treated Barth. Could that have been a shot a Van Til? I am curious if the members of the BSD at WTS, (outside of Poythress and McCarthy) are more inclined toward Barth than VanTil?

  102. Todd Bordow said,

    February 16, 2008 at 12:55 pm

    # 98

    It doesn’t seem to me questioning Solomonic authorship was considered un-conservative in the Old Princeton days. Martin Luther stated in his preface to Eccl. that Solomon did not write the book, and that the book was written much later reflecting Solomon’s thoughts. In the next century Hugo Grotius wrote in his Old Testament Commentary: “I believe [Ecclesiastes] is not the production of Solomon, but was written in the name of this king, as being led by repentance to do it. For it contains many words which cannot be found except in Ezra, Daniel and the Chaldee paraphrasts.” Later on more and more doubted Solomon’s authorship, both conservative and liberal. By the time of the Princeton men, no one doubted Luther’s committment to inerrancy simply because he doubted Solomon’s authorship. I just don’t think you can compare Enns and company to the Old Princeton men based upon their question of the authorship of Eccl, especially considering Solomon’s name is never mentioned in the book.


    Todd Bordow
    Fort Worth, TX

  103. Tim Harris said,

    February 16, 2008 at 9:27 pm

    GW (#101) — not even limiting the comment to WTS, I would not expect more than about 1 in 20 Biblical specialists as that term is defined today to be able to read past page 1 of Barth with understanding; so I suspect the comment was an example of pure emoting. (The incredible polymath Prof Poythress is of course excluded from all such generalizations.)

  104. GLW Johnson said,

    February 17, 2008 at 8:38 am

    I used that analogy to point out that they are NOT the same- it is Enns’ defenders you like to compare apples to oranges.

  105. Todd Bordow said,

    February 17, 2008 at 9:30 am


    right – that’s why I was responding to #98 in my comments


  106. GLW Johnson said,

    February 17, 2008 at 9:44 am

    Yes -I was pointing out the obvious. I do have a question for David ‘snubnose’. Do you think Enns’ incarnational model for Scripture is more in keeping with Barth than VanTil and Old Princeton? It strikes me that it is.That does not meant it is neccessarily wrong but it does depart from the school’s tradition.

  107. John Ronning said,

    February 17, 2008 at 12:39 pm

    David (#98), you wrote, “John, when I approach the Bible or any other ancient book, I try not to decide a priori what the genre can or cannot be”

    You’re right in your implication that I do bring an a priori to Genesis 1, namely, that God cannot lie. But you also do in fact bring an a priori to Genesis 1, that God might lie, which you’ve acknowledged, he did: he said that he said “Let there be a raqia” but he didn’t. Granted, you probably won’t agree with my characterization of your view, but I believe the Bible clearly backs me up, giving us only two options (truth-telling and lying, no mushy mythical middle). John for example asks us to accept his testimony on the basis that he is tells the truth (John 19:35; 21:24). I.e., John does not give one the option, “OK John, I’ll accept that this is true for you but it’s not true for me,” or “John I think that what you testify to didn’t really happen, maybe you’re just using the genre of myth to communicate to us your beliefs in Jesus, so I don’t mind you saying the false things you did.” Rather, if you deny that what John said happened really happened, you are calling him a liar. Same with Moses, same of course with God himself.

    I take it from your answer that you are likewise prepared to say not only did God not say “Let there be a raqia” but everything else in Genesis 1-11 and in fact most of the rest of the Bible is up for grabs as well.

    We must express thanks, David, for giving us a window into the thinking of a disciple of Peter Enns, showing better than any book review critique could, what are the results of his teaching. I hope very much that the trustees are paying attention. As for me, with your view of Scripture I would not allow you to teach kindergarten Sunday School, much less do I think your mentor should be training ministers of the gospel.

    Some other cosmological points:
    You wrote: “The fact is that Genesis 1 does not say that vegetation existed before ‘appearance’ of the sun and the moon but rather before the existence of the sun and the moon and the stars.” Genesis only says that if you assume that “And God said” in v. 14 follows the time of v. 13. Such an assumption is not required by the Hebrew (i.e. it’s illegitimate). I take all of the decrees as prior to creation, which allows overlap in the fulfilment of the decrees, thus God said prior to creation, “Let there be lights in the sky” etc. and this decree was brought to completion after “there was evening and there was morning, the 3rd day.” I note that NONE of the creative acts are said to be accomplished “on” a particular day, as is commonly assumed (such language is not used until the seventh day and God’s rest).

    Also to your point: “it should be born in mind that Gen 1 does not say that the raqiya deflects meteors but rather that it holds back the waters (and, again, it’s “waters”, not “clouds”) above it.” Yes but this begs the question, how would God speak in pre-scientific language to his people in a way that is nevertheless accurate? What word would he use for hydrogen, for example? Water is oxidized hydrogen, the word hydrogen is made from the Greek word “water” and modern Hebrew likewise uses meyman, derived from mayim (water). The waters above could therefore include not only the water which comes down as rain, and everything else which is “out there,” all of which comes ultimately from hydrogen “The waters above.” The atmosphere does indeed protect us very well from many things, not just meteors, with the magnetosphere and the ozone layer, and read as above Genesis 1 fits quite nicely with modern cosmology. You could, like the atheist, dismiss this fit as coincidental.

  108. snubnosedinalpha said,

    February 17, 2008 at 5:14 pm

    Gents, I think this is going to be my last post. This has been a stimulating and sweeping conversation.
    Tim, you say, “You might say, “Luke’s claim is similar to Virgil’s, and that’s ok.” We say, no it’s not. If that genealogy is mere myth to “make a point” then where does it end?” The only response I can muster is to remind you that slippery-slope arguments are fallacious. As for why we ought not put Luke and Virgil in the same bin, I refer you to the works of J.D.G. Dunn, N.T. Wright, John Meier, Dale Aune, Scot McKnight, Brant Pitre, Marcus Bockmuehl, Richard Bauckham, Martin Hengel, Raymond Brown, Dan McCartney, David deSilva and other NT historians who argue on historical grounds for the core historicality of the Gospels.
    Of these scholars, Wright has done the most substantial work on the resurrection. Frankly, Tim, so long as your only concern is inter/intra-Presbyterian polemics, treating the historicity of the bodily resurrection of Jesus as a non-open question is a live option. For those of us concerned to evangelize non-believers, for whom the bodily resurrection is (at best) an open question, looking at the historical evidences for the resurrection is indispensible.
    By the way, Tim, Dr. Trueman’s no Van Tilian, either. You wanna oust him too? (For the record, I don’t have anything against Dr. Trueman. I have kept my nose out of most of the controversy at WTS and I don’t know much about his role in it. What I do know is that he cared for me well as my prayer-group leader and served my church and community well when I had the privilege of accompanying him to Wilmington, NC. If we’re on different sides of this controversy, it hasn’t had any adverse consequences for our relationship thus far and I trust that it won’t).
    Todd, glad to meet you. Thanks for the references. You raise a good point. But I wonder what you’d think of the following: Deut 34:6 reads, “He buried [Moses] in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, but to this day no one knows where his grave is.” St. Jerome comments on the verse, “We must certainly understand by ‘this day’ the time of composition of the history, whether you prefer the view that Moses was the author of the Pentateuch or Ezra reedited it. In either case I do not object.” (The Perpetual Virginity of Blessed Mary, 7 (385 AD)) Now, I suppose that I could argue that, since some folks from as early as the time of the church fathers have thought that the Pentateuch might be a monarchic, exilic or even post-exilic document, that therefore looking askance at total Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch was by no means thought to be a liberal position by the time of old PTS. Indeed, W.H. Green conceded that the Pentateuch contains post-Mosaic expansions and redactions. But many people did think that wavering at all on Mosaic authorship constituted a concession to liberalism.
    None of that really matters. Whether the views in question have been painted with the ‘liberal’ brush or not, they are arrived at by means of critical scholarship, literary and linguistic comparison and so on. My point is that such methods were employed by the old PTS crowd, though they typically arrived at relatively traditional positions. The “typically” and “relatively” bit is important. Green’s take on the Pentateuch, Vos’s take on Jesus and Paul’s relationship to Jewish apocalypticism, Warfield’s endorsement of textual criticism and take on evolution, and Young and Green’s take on Ecclesiastes were hardly the most traditional positions on offer and were, in fact, pretty edgy even by today’s standards.
    Dr. Johnson, I’ve not read John Davis. I’ll look him up sometime. But whatever he said, it’s not like he’s representative of the whole of old PTS. I don’t deny that the old PTS guys held relatively traditional positions on things. But it’s not like Davis somehow erases Vos, Young, Green and Warfield. You have consistently ignored Vos’s take on apocalypticism, which is just as much a comparative literary judgment as anything juxtaposing Genesis and Enuma Elish. If Davis had a different approach, then that just goes to show that old PTS was more diverse than you give it credit for. And that only helps SOS’s case.
    John, I think it’s pretty obvious that you and I are operating on different hermeneutical planets. Though, I do not deny (and never meant to imply) that I do not come to Scripture with certain assumptions. Of course, I do. I assume that the texts will employ modes of communication that will be familiar to their contemporary audiences, among other things. I don’t think God lies. But employing the genre of myth is no more lying than employing parables or metaphors or hyperboles.
    I find your take on Genesis 1 to be pretty forced. Taking “Let there be a raqiya” to be a pre-creation divine decree strikes me as a pretty far-fetched reading, to say the least.
    But you should know that most of the guys in the Systematics, Apologetics and History departments at WTS hold to some permutation of Kline’s framework view, which is about as far removed from your quasi-scientific reading as is Enns’. In fact, I don’t think anyone on the WTS faculty would have any time for your approach to Genesis 1.
    Anyways, if you ever need a kindergarten Sunday school teacher, shoot me an e-mail. Always glad to corrupt the youth.
    Blessings, all.

  109. Tim Harris said,

    February 17, 2008 at 8:47 pm

    David — I don’t “wanna oust” anyone, nor is that my place. And my “only concern” is not “inter/intra-Presbyterian polemics.” Such speculations are unwarranted.

    I think you’re going to have a hard time saying the Genesis genealogies are mythic but Luke’s are not — since the latter couple seamlessly into the former.

    I’m going to forgive your name-dropping — you have caught a bad case of seminaryitis — but like a bad cold, it will go away eventually. The point though is whether everything hangs in the balance as it were with your cadre of evidential gospel-defenders. And will they really be regarded as unbiased investigators by the anthropologists who are making hay over the “similar myths” allegedly current at the time the gospels were written? I doubt it.

    Your us/them rhetoric “for those of us concerned to evangelize non-believers” is quite odious — however, for the record, yes, I do employ the vantillian method when evangelizing unbelievers, and am quite sure it captures the real issue even in the issues we are highlighting here.

  110. GLW Johnson said,

    February 18, 2008 at 6:46 am

    I didn’t know you could speak on behalf of Trueman and his rejection of Van Tillianism-I think this will come as a big surprize to Carl. I do agree with JR however and hope the trustees do take note of your comments and your indebtedness to Enns for giving them birth. I happen to know one of the board members and he told me he was reading this post and the comments .

  111. February 20, 2008 at 4:36 pm


    Sorry for butting in but I wanted to say a quick thank-you.

    Tim H, and John R – your posts have been quite careful and helpful in a very important issue. The statement over at SOS that the Bib. Studies department helps with the “hard” questions has baffled me. Do the ST, AP, and CH professors only deal with easy questions? Certainly not.

    Anyway, as a student at WTS I have found that those holding to a view of “inspiration” that presupposes God’s faithfulness and truthfulness; that asserts the divine authorship as the determining factor of “what the Bible IS”, are the ones dealing with “hard” questions.

    David – please see Vos’ “Mosaic Origins for the Pentateuchal codes”

    Thanks again,

  112. Paul Seely said,

    February 21, 2008 at 12:31 am

    I discovered this discussion list while seeking light on the controversy at WTS. I cannot speak to many of the issues raised in Enns’ book, but I have spent a couple of decades studying Gen 1-11, and independently of Enns and long before he wrote his book I reached very similar conclusions to his about those chapters. However, in spite of his defining “myth,” I do not think it is a good word for describing their genre. I agree with various arguments, such as the presence of genealogies, that the genre of the chapters is closer to history. However, there is sufficient ANE evidence to show that much of what we find there was basically inherited Babylonian traditions. These traditions may have been handed down from Abraham, who was from Ur which was in Babylonia. The mythological theology attached to those traditions, however, was replaced with theology revealed by God. The strong contrast of that theology with the Babylonian theology as well as its intrinsic superiority bears witness to its divine origin.

    The science found in Genesis 1-11, such as the cosmology, should not be labeled “myth” It is based upon empirical data, where what was observed in nature was taken at face value. It was the science of the times. The history similarly was the best historical traditions available to the biblical author, and he, under the inspiration of God, purged them of myth and replaced that myth with a true theology. Gen 1-11 consists then of traditional stories remodeled by God to teach a true theology. The historical traditions and the science of the times were divinely accommodated, not taught by God. Accordingly, God cannot be said to have lied or erred where they err because he was only employing these traditions and science in order to teach theological lessons.

  113. GLW Johnson said,

    February 24, 2008 at 8:09 am

    I don’t question your intentions-but there are unintended consequences to what you ( and Enns) are advocating. Are you familiar with the little book that Gaffin translated from Dutch-‘Is Adam a “Teaching Model” in the New Testament? An Examination of One of the Central Points in the Views of H.M. Kuiter and Others’ by J.P.Versteeg (P&R,1977)? This used to be available in the WTS bookstore. The last two chapters are of particular importance to this discussion-V. A Distance Between Intention and Significance?-VI. Consequences. Also, a close reading of Warfield’s critique of Henry P. Smith’s very similar approach to the question of ancient cosmogony/mythology in BBW’s ‘Limited Inspiration’ (rpt. ,P&R,1962) demonstrates that as far as the real Old Princeton/Westminster tradition goes, your ( and Enns) proposals mark a very significant departure.

  114. Paul Seely said,

    February 25, 2008 at 2:35 am


    I appreciate the book references. I have an article on Adam on a back burner, and the book you have mentioned may well be helpful. I read Limited Inspiration years ago, but will read again whatever I can find there on cosmology/mythology. I have already ordered your book with the chapter that discusses Enns vs. Warfield. I want to understand exactly what you are looking at.

    In order to see where I am coming from and to speak most effectively to my view, if you will, I would like you to carefully and prayerfully read my first two papers on cosmology (“The firmament and the water above, Part I: The Meaning of raqia’ in Gen 1:6-8,” Westminster Theological Journal 53 (1991) 227-240; “The firmament and the water above, Part II: The Meaning of ‘The Water above the Firmament’ in Gen 1:6-8,” Westminster Theological Journal 54 (1992) 31-46) You can find these papers respectively at
    and at Unfortunately, whoever put them on the web did not retain the endnotes, and since I went to great lengths to document everything I said, they are an important part of the papers. I can supply them as an email attachment sent to you (or any reader) personally, or perhaps you can find the full articles fairly easily.

    Because Enns’ book covers a lot of ground painted with a broad brush, it is not easy to discuss it on a list like this in the depth that I think is necessary to advance toward a solution. By starting with just the OT cosmology, which I have painted with a fine brush, I hope we can bring the controversy into better focus and hopefully advance the discussion toward a solution.

  115. GLW Johnson said,

    February 25, 2008 at 6:28 am

    Thanks-by the way are you related to the Seely family in Reading, PA.?

  116. Paul Seely said,

    February 28, 2008 at 9:55 pm

    My earliest ancestor to America (Massachusetts) came on the Arbella (1630), and most Seelies spell their name with an e between the final l and y, so I probably am related to the Seely’s in PA, but do not know them personally.

    I have a request. I spent an hour going through LImited Inspiration, but probably thanks to having the eyes of Leah, I could not find the section about cosmology/mythology. If you could steer me to the correct page, I would appreciate it. Thnak you.

  117. GLW Johnson said,

    February 29, 2008 at 7:11 am

    cf. p.36

  118. Tom Wenger said,

    February 29, 2008 at 10:06 am

    I wish that the SOS crowd would realize that there is something wrong with their picture.

    Why would it make any sense to be a confessionally reformed seminary that exists to train pastors, and yet prepare them by teaching unconfessional views?

    Haven’t they thought of the fact that if their students espouse the views of Enns, Taylor and Green, that there are very view presbyteries (if any) in the PCA and OPC that would ordain them?

    So why would you want to perpetuate the scenario of preparing men in a fashion that if they believe what they are taught, they will not get ordained?

    What these men are doing is perfectly acceptable FOR A UNIVERSITY. But it is completely antithetical for a seminary that states as a goal the preparation of pastors in the confessionally Reformed tradition.

  119. R. F. White said,

    February 29, 2008 at 10:35 am


    I believe you are highlighting one of the major challenges for all seminary faculties. What is the role of tradition for the institution and for each individual?

  120. greenbaggins said,

    February 29, 2008 at 11:00 am

    Paul, I had no idea that you had commented on my blog. Welcome indeed. I have read your two articles, and gleaned much helpful information from them, when I was preaching through Genesis.

  121. Tom Wenger said,

    February 29, 2008 at 11:28 am


    I agree with you that it is indeed a challenge. And, contrary to the SOS accusations, I do not think that the way to meet it is by sticking our heads in the sand, but rather by being familiar with and engaging with the scholarship that is opposed to our tradition, but doing so from within the tradition.

    If the professors themselves are confessional, then they will not do a disservice to those that they are seeking to send off to confessional denominations for ordination.

    If a seminary decides not be confessional, or decides not to focus on preparation for the pastorate, then fine, hire whomever you like, and teach whatever you like.

    But to be committed to what WTS has traditionally been committed to, precludes the SOS desires.

  122. Paul Seely said,

    March 1, 2008 at 2:05 am

    Thank you for the warm welcome. I appreciate it.

    I now have the books you mentioned plus the one comparing Enns to Warfield. I should be able to go through the relevant material by the middle or at the latest the end of next week.

  123. Paul Seely said,

    March 6, 2008 at 2:45 am

    Well, I have now read the materials Gary suggested plus a few more. I see from them that Old Princeton-Westminster understood that the Israelites believed the sky was solid, the earth was flat, and the sun literally moved across the sky. This is explicitly stated by Charles Hodge in his 1857 essay, Inspiration. It is also implied by E.J. Young.

    At the same time they consistently held that all Scripture is inspired, and when an inspired writer wrote Scripture he was kept from teaching anything that was scientifically or historically errant. (Inspiration–Warfield and A. Hodge; The Infallible Word, Wooley’s essay; Thy Word is Truth—E. J. Young.)

    Along this line, the statement most relevant to my papers on the Firmament and the Waters above is the statement made by Warfield in Limited Inspiration, that if one accepted Henry P. Smith’s view that Scripture was only infallible in matters of religion (faith and life) not in history or science, “the facts which he [a biblical writer] gives as natural facts may be of the order of the Oriental cosmogony, which stands the earth on the back of an elephant and the elephant on the back of a tortoise and the tortoise on nothing. Inspiration has nothing to do with this.” Warfield obviously rejected this view.

    This presents a problem because the biblical writer of Genesis gives as natural facts an ancient Near Eastern cosmology wherein the sky is solid and has a literal ocean above it. If one looks even more closely at the OT cosmology, as I did in my third paper dealing with the earth and the sea, one finds that the OT cosmology sets the earth on the back of the ocean, and the ocean is set on nothing. But, we need not discuss my third paper. The solid sky with the ocean above it, which we find in Genesis 1, is sufficiently errant scientifically to match Warfield’s example from “Oriental cosmogony.” So, if as Warfield assumes, divine inspiration would prevent a biblical writer from giving as natural facts the “Oriental cosmogony,” how is it that divine inspiration did not prevent the biblical writer from giving as natural facts the ancient Near Eastern cosmology? Indeed, if Warfield’s assumption is correct that inspiration would not allow such a thing, we are logically bound to conclude that the natural facts given in the cosmology in Gen 1 were not inspired.

    I think that conclusion, which logically follows from Warfield’s words, is quite wrong. And, it raises the question whether something in Warfield’s concept of inspiration is in need of some corrective qualification.

    Warfield himself on another occasion did offer a small correction in a statement, which Silva pointed out in his inaugural address and which I used in my first papers, that an inspired writer could
    “share the ordinary opinions of his day in certain matters lying outside the scope of his teachings, as, for example, with reference to the form of the earth, or its relation to the sun; and, it is not inconceivable that the form of his language when incidentally adverting to such matters, might occasionally play into the hands of such a presumption”

    I am glad Warfield at least made this statement, but I think much more is needed. For example, how do we determione what is and what is not “outside the scope” of a biblical writer’s teachings? To my knowledge no theologian or biblical scholar from either Old Princeton or Westminster ever addressed the problem of the scientifically errant cosmology in Genesis 1 in more than a passing manner. Charles Hodge said the Bible’s reference to a solid sky was an accommodation (Systematic Theology I:569-70), but did not give a clear explanation of his answer. E. J. Young acknowledged that the Hebrew word for “firmament” was properly understood as involving solidity (Studies in Genesis One, 90), but gave no explanation as to how this idea got into inspired Scripture. Warfield’s corrective statement implicitly allows for the Bible to speak of a solid sky, etc, but still leaves questions unanswered.

    We can be thankful for the solid foundation men like Hodge, Warfield and Young have laid down, but they did not give us an explanation of how the Bible can combine 100% inspiration with such things as its scientifically errant cosmology. Enns sees this combination as a part of the mythic context which Abraham shared with his Mesopotamian neighbors. I prefer to call it the proto-scientific context, but the point is the same. There is a thoroughly human cultural dimension to Scripture which has not been fully incorporated into orthodox thought. Enns may be wrong. If so, we still need a fuller explanation than the old stalwarts provided. I have some ideas, but I would like to hear from others on this list. Can anyone provide an explanation of how the scientifically errant cosmology in Genesis 1 is 100% inspired?

  124. GLW Johnson said,

    March 6, 2008 at 7:41 am

    I do not see how you can go off in that direction (with Enns) without ending up exacting where Henry P.Smith and Charles Briggs did-much of the OT is not based on historical reality-i.e. Adam and Eve not actually ever existing, they are part of the creation ‘story’ that was handed down from generation to generation and finally passed through the Hebrew culture with their own set of mythological characters who were then woven into the history of Israel. Thus we have a record of ‘made-up’ stories that were then incorporated into the fabric of the OT and assumed to have been true by the first century Jews of Jesus’ time (including Jesus and the apostles who must have ‘accommodated’ themslves to the prevailing mindset of the times)-alas,poor souls if only they knew the ‘truth’ about ANE ‘myths’.

  125. Ron Henzel said,

    March 6, 2008 at 8:26 am


    You wrote in comment 123:

    Well, I have now read the materials Gary suggested plus a few more. I see from them that Old Princeton-Westminster understood that the Israelites believed the sky was solid, the earth was flat, and the sun literally moved across the sky. This is explicitly stated by Charles Hodge in his 1857 essay, Inspiration. It is also implied by E.J. Young.

    At the same time they consistently held that all Scripture is inspired, and when an inspired writer wrote Scripture he was kept from teaching anything that was scientifically or historically errant.

    It seems they made a careful distinction between what the Israelites believed and what the Scriptures actually teach.

  126. Paul Seely said,

    March 7, 2008 at 7:58 pm


    The issue of Adam’s historicity is important, but it is more complex than the issue of the solid sky. By starting with a simpler issue, we have a better chance of finding a trajectory to a more viable solution to the more complex issues. Enns and I may be wrong, but if you and/or others can show us a better solution I am genuinely open to it, and I believe Enns is too.

    Here in a succinct form is what Old Princeton-Westminster held:

    1. ALL Scripture is God-breathed. All that Scripture says, God says. (Unlike Smith and Briggs, Enns and I absolutely believe this.)

    2. All that Scripture TEACHES –even in the realm of science and history, is inerrant.

    3. An inspired writer of Scripture may include a reference to a mistaken scientific idea that he holds (like the solid sky), but this lies outside of what the writer is TEACHING. (Warfield’s corrective statement)

    4. A mistaken scientific idea, such as that of the solid sky, may be found in Scripture as an accommodation (Hodge citing Calvin).
    [This is consistent with #3 since an accommodation would involve accepting an errant human idea into Scripture, but not teaching it.]

    These 4 points seem consistent to me. The problem is how to apply them. Ron’s post (#125) seems to answer my question (Can anyone provide an explanation of how the scientifically errant cosmology in Genesis 1 is 100% inspired?) by employing point #3, the errant cosmology is not being taught. And that is the answer which I adopted in my papers on the firmament. But, it still leaves some important questions.

    Let’s be more specific now.

    Gen 1:6, “And God said, Let there be a firmament (a solid sky)…” and Gen 1:7 “And God made the firmament (the solid sky)…”

    Here are the questions:

    1. Does v. 6 TEACH that God literally said, “Let there be a firmament (a solid sky)?
    2. Does v. 7 TEACH that God literally made a firmament (a solid sky)?
    3. Do vv. 6 and 7 TEACH literal history, i.e., first there was no solid sky, then God spoke and made a solid sky, and after that a solid sky existed?.

  127. GLW Johnson said,

    March 8, 2008 at 6:54 am

    I think you are missing the proverbial forrest for the trees, so let me once again pinpoint my concerns. Does the book of Genesis ( you earlier made reference to the author, but not to Moses-this poses additional problems) gives us what VanTil called ‘historie’ ( time and space events that actually tells what really occurred) in contrast to Barth’s ‘geschichte’-in which case it merely serves as a witness to divine revelation. Barth spelled this out:
    ” A witness is not absolutely identical with that to which it wittnesses. This corresponds with the facts upon which the truth of the whole proposition is based. In the Bible we meet with human words written in human speech, and in these words and therefore by means of them, we hear of the lordship of the Triune God. Therefore when we have to do with the Bible, we have to do primarily with this means, with these words, with the witness,which as such is not itself revelation, but only-and this is the limitation-the witness to it.” ( Church Dogmatics.,I,2,p.463)
    Barth felt comfortable with this decidedly unique and non-confessional configuration of the doctrine of Scripture which incorporated ‘salvation history’ -catagories of which consisted of ‘saga’ or ‘myths’- stories that were made up- since their inspired status had nothing to do with whether or not they were factual.
    How is this any different from what Enns is advocating? The end result is ‘inspired’ myths. Are you comfortable with that? Are thes myths restricted to the OT, particularly Genesis and other books which reflect ANE influences? Does it spill over into the NT as well? You will remember Carl F. H. Henry famous encounter with Karl Barth in Chicago in which he asked the Swiss giant if the empty tomb could have documented the way contemporary events could be by newspaper journalists. Barth mocked him by asking if he represented ‘Christianity Yesterday’? ( Henry was then the chief editor of Christianity Today). Like Van Til, I am most uncomfortable with this and see it as a significant error that will have a domino effect -the likes of which would be catastrophic.

  128. GLW Johnson said,

    March 8, 2008 at 9:08 am

    I am genuinely baffled by the notion that the Bible contains ‘inspired’ and ‘inerrant’ myths that are no different than the kind of creative imaginations that have produced in other cultures fairies,leprechauns, unicorns,sirens,satyrs,minotaurs, et. al.etc.

  129. Paul Seely said,

    March 9, 2008 at 3:21 am


    You ask, “Does the book of Genesis …give us what VanTil called ‘historie’ (time and space events that actually tells what really occurred)…? If you are concerned about this in others, why is it you seem not willing to answer the question yourself?

    My three questions are asking your question. When I say, “ Does v. 6 TEACH that God literally said, “Let there be a firmament (a solid sky)?
    2. Does v. 7 TEACH that God literally made a firmament (a solid sky)?
    3. Do vv. 6 and 7 TEACH literal history, i.e., first there was no solid sky, then God spoke and made a solid sky, and after that a solid sky existed?.” I am asking, “Do these verses in Genesis give us what VanTil called ‘historie’ (time and space events that actually tells what really occurred)?”

    You have reduced this complex issue to a simple dichotomy: either say Genesis is historie, or be classified as some kind of Barthian. So what do _you_ say? If you are going to claim you believe that all of Genesis is historie, then the answer to all three questions is obviously, Yes. So what is your answer to the three questions? Is it, Yes? And if not, does that mean you are some kind of Barthian?

  130. GLW Johnson said,

    March 9, 2008 at 6:49 am

    I resist as firmly as possible the notion that the Bible contains ‘myths’ – what Enns defined as ‘stories that are made up’. You on the other hand ,insist on delving into an interpretational swamp using the passage from Genesis as a litmus test to establish the notion that just such a catagory exists-and from this you seek to defend Enns. Call it what you wish-Barthian- or whatever, but one thing is perfectly clear-it cannot be harmonized with the Old Princeton/Westminster tradition. That is my point.

  131. reformedsinner said,

    March 11, 2008 at 11:25 am

    Like everyone here I find the SOS website interesting… and disappointing. Most people who signed have no idea what the issues really are, but they listen to one another and keep patting each other on the backs. This reminds me of Cultural Revolution in China: just make up a few propaganda issues, rally enough people to repeat them, and there, the bad guys are created and now we can go after them.

    Propaganda issue #1: there is a war between BT and ST at WTS. First off, there is no war between BT and ST, it’s between specific exegetical views of primarily the OT department + Stephen Taylor vs. other professors that have concerns. Vern Poythress and Dan McCartney didn’t subscribe wholeheartedly to the “OT+T views” either. Also, Dr. Gaffin has big issues with what is proclaimed, and just because he works in ST department doesn’t mean he isn’t a BT guy (he was trained as BT through and through, this is the WTS tradition: ST and BT are so intimately involved with each other that they are distinct and yet inseparable.) So the propaganda that WTS has a BT vs. ST crisis is dumbfounded and inaccurate at best. Whoever believes this obviously did not learn much from their years at WTS if they cannot see the uniqueness of WTS is that BT and ST are distinct and yet inseparable. Also, people are talking as if ST professors (Gaffin and Tipton specifically) don’t know their exegesis. Again that’s not the WTS tradition. One cannot sit through Gaffin and Tipton without being amazed how exegetical their courses are, and yet they are also big opponents against specific exegetical stance being promoted by OT+T, we have to think hard about that and not treat them like dummies that are “blindly bounded by Confessions”

    Propaganda Issue #2: WTS is losing its cutting-edge scholarship, and by implication stubborn ST folks don’t want you to answer hard questions! Again this is false. First, the sole-called “hard questions” have already been identified by Reformed Tradition long ago, and yes, answered. Now, you may disagree with their answers, challenge their answers, rebuke their answers, but you cannot simply make up propaganda that somehow defending the tradition means you ignore the hard questions. Sorry to Peter Enns fans but what Dr. Enns is proposing is NOT salvation in the way that somehow in the 21st century Christians can finally answer these questions. The supposively “tough questions” have been answered again and again within orthodox tradition. I wonder how many “signees” of SOS actually bother go read the answers that’s been battled tested for 400 years, but instead they talk as if nobody dare to touch these questions until heavens gave them Dr. Peter Enns.

    Second, about this slogan “cutting-edge scholarship.” It is not explicit but SOS definitely defined “cutting-edge scholarship” = “embracing new thoughts, even if it means going against orthodox tradition then so be it because I read directly the Bible unlike those orthodox duds who are limited by dead Confessions.” Again this is incorrect. WTS has always been about defending orthodoxy and further defined by defending Confessions, hence the name WESTMINSTER theological seminary. I read all of Machen, Van Til, Murray, Stonehouse, Young, etc. and I failed to find any “cutting-edge scholarship” in their writings. Now, no doubt they are using academic scholarly work against the Liberals and atheists, but what SOS proclaims as “cutting-edge scholarship” as in new thoughts are a foreign concept to the WTS founders and its tradition. Now, again you may not like it, and you may go against it. But you cannot deny it.

    Dr. Peter Enns tries to define it in his OTI class this way: “WTS founders concentrated on what the Bible did not say, but now 20-21st century Christians should spend energy on what the Bible did say.” Sorry Dr. Enns, it was an inspiring slogan, but wrong. WTS founders concentrated on defending orthodoxy, and while that involves rebuking that orthodoxy is not BUT(AND) it also involves extensive affirming of what it is. You may not like what they say about the Bible, but you cannot claim they did not say anything.

    Propaganda #3: Bible vs. Confessions. I find this the most interesting. Somehow Christians that are willing to humble themselves and submit to the wisdoms of Confessions are “limited”, but those that are willing to bravely go beyond the Confessions are “Biblical.” This is the worst propaganda of them all. What is the Confessions? The Confessions are the fruits of 2000 years of Church exegesis, summarize in practical ways for Christians to build their faith on, and also a good way for Christians to realize where they go right and wrong in their own pursue of Biblical knowledge. Now, of course the Confessions is not absolute (only Bible can make that claim.) However, neither is BT absolute and neither are OT+T folks absolute. The real choices are would you trust 2000 years of God inspired Christians including excellent exegeters like Dr. Gaffin and Dr. Tipton over against a handful of 20-21 century BT theologians?

    Dr. Longman lament the fact that one major reason he left is a collegue actually dares to tell him to submit what he finds under the Confessions. He found that insulting and demoralizing. But yet he does not see the arrogance of this testimony: he is trying to say that his findings of the Bible, all by himself, a single man (a genius I admit). is better than 2000 years of exegetical geniuses, and present exegetical geniuses?

    Propaganda #4: stubborn mean-spirited not-care about souls ST folks vs. loving pastoral down-to-earth BT folks. I find this part the most irresponsible. On the one hand they can innocently say they just want to highlight the loving and pastoral aspects of OT+T, which I personally wholeheartedly agree. But on the other hand they are slandering ST folks as stubborn, mean-spirited, and the forces behind the supposive evil plan to dump all the OT department beginning with Prof. Taylor (NT). All I can say here is if anyone really believes this, then they really haven’t learn any love and humility at WTS.

    ReformedSinner (DC)

  132. greenbaggins said,

    March 11, 2008 at 3:06 pm

    Longman is no genius.

  133. GLW Johnson said,

    March 11, 2008 at 5:55 pm

    Very perceptive, and more importantly ,you are correct in much that you have to say.

  134. Paul Seely said,

    March 12, 2008 at 2:21 am

    #131 says, Dr. Gaffin has big issues with what is proclaimed,

    Is this just hearsay, or is there some written statement from him as to what these big issues are?

  135. Ron Henzel said,

    March 12, 2008 at 5:22 am

    Tremper Longman wrote on the “Save Our Seminary” web site:

    I remember talking to one colleague, for instance, who told me that if I felt the Bible taught something that the Confession did not that I had to side with the Confession.

    reformedsinner’s take on this statement is:

    Dr. Longman lament[s] the fact that one major reason he left is [that] a colle[a]gue actually dare[d] to tell him to submit [to] what he finds under the Confessions.

    It would be nice to know exactly what that colleague actually said to Longman.

  136. GLW Johnson said,

    March 12, 2008 at 8:07 am

    Could you please get in touch with me? I have a few items that pertain to WTS that might be of some interest to you.

  137. reformedsinner said,

    March 12, 2008 at 10:58 am

    Dear GLW Johnson:

    I would love to get in touch with you if I have a mean to contact you. I went to your church’s webpage and it didn’t have your means of contact.

    Are there any way you may provide that information to me?

    ReformedSinner (DC)

  138. GLW Johnson said,

    March 12, 2008 at 12:05 pm

    Lane just forwarded your data-I’ll will be in touch.

  139. March 28, 2008 at 10:33 am

    […] at WTS, effective May 23. My thoughts on the matter are recorded here. Gary Johnson’s post is here. Few have commented, however, on the most recent development. One who has (and with whom I […]

  140. Frank J. Smith said,

    March 29, 2008 at 12:44 pm

    Some of the blog readers may remember that nine years ago, the newspaper which I edited, Presbyterian & Reformed News, published an article regarding the views of the OT professors at Westminster Seminary. You can find that article on pp. 11-12 at the following address:

    I know that many people (such as at the web site) have been lamenting the recent developments re Peter Enns, and vowing that they will never recommend WTS ever again because of its caving into fundamentalism. However, what needs to be recognized is that many of us alumni have struggled for years as to whether to recommend our beloved Westminster precisely because of the experimental theology which has characterized it for too long.

    Frank J. Smith, Ph.D., D.D.
    WTS grad (M.Div., 1979; Th.M., 1983)
    Editor, Presbyterian International News Service
    Pastor, Reformation Presbyterian Church, Oostburg, Wisconsin
    Stated Clerk, Reformation Presbytery of the Midwest (RPCGA)

  141. greenbaggins said,

    March 29, 2008 at 1:37 pm

    Welcome, Dr. Smith! And thanks for your comment. I suppose Chris Coldwell directed you to this blog?

  142. greenbaggins said,

    March 29, 2008 at 1:40 pm

    By the way, I have greatly appreciated your recent articles on the history of scholarship regarding the RPW.

  143. Frank J. Smith said,

    March 29, 2008 at 2:36 pm

    Thank you for the welcome, and your kind comments, particularly with regard to the articles on the regulative principle of worship. Actually, instead of through Chris Coldwell, I found you by means of Googling. And even before this recent controversy, I was aware of your site. Please allow me to take the opportunity to congratulate you on it.

    In case some of the readers are not aware, that series of RPW articles appeared in The Confessional Presbyterian (edited by Chris Coldwell); more information is available at that publication’s web site.


  144. March 29, 2008 at 3:47 pm

    Hi Frank, welcome to Lane’s blog. :-)

    To elaborate the plug for the RPW series, the articles are:

    “Reframing Presbyterian Worship: A Critical Survey of the Worship Views of John M. Frame and R. J. Gore.” By Frank J. Smith, Ph.D., D.D. & David C. Lachman, Ph.D. (this material belongs really with the two part survey). The Confessional Presbyterian volume 1 (2005).

    “The Regulative Principle of Worship: Sixty Years in Reformed Literature. Part One (1946-1999).” By Frank J. Smith, Ph.D., D.D. with Chris Coldwell. The Confessional Presbyterian volume 2 (2006)

    “The Regulative Principle of Worship: Sixty Years in Reformed Literature. Part One (1946-1999).” By Frank J. Smith, Ph.D., D.D. with Chris Coldwell. The Confessional Presbyterian volume 3 (2007)

    The 2005, 2006 &2007 issues are still all available. An brief history about how the RPW series came about is given here:

  145. March 31, 2008 at 2:56 pm

    I know this may seem silly to most the minds interacting here – but I have a question:

    Why do we need to have a problem with the actual history of Gen 1-11 even if there are things we cannot explain or observe in science as such?
    Many Christians freak out because they can fathom a created light that doesn’t have a body like the sun. Likewise, some cringe when they here of a firm sky and sea beyond it.

    Why do we assume “myth” when we can’t observe the revelation described – instead of assuming Truth (historical/scientific/theological/all the above) ?

    As far as I know, the actual laws of the science everyone is so enamored with cannot be applied to the events of Gen 1-11 because they are not repeatable and now are no longer observable. Yet people still insist that the Bible is un-scientific.

    For centuries Christians have thought about the issues of Gen 1-11. Many believed that the “Firmament” and the sea behind it described the antediluvian atmosphere that naturally changed after the flood. Whether they are right or not cannot be proved or disproved by science – So why not take it as a possible theory that allows the inerrancy of the bible to actually be with out error?

    If God says that he has done x, why don’t we believe him?

  146. STH said,

    April 15, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    See “Why I did not attend Westminster Theological Seminary”at

    And some thoughts on “Historical Criticism at Westminster Theological Seminary: the legacy of Raymond Dillard” at

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