The Decline and Fall of Westminster Theological Seminary?

Dr. Tremper Longman has opined, along with Dr. Sam Logan, and Dr. Clair Davis about the supposed decline and fall of Westminster Theological Seminary. In their taxonomy of eras at WTS, there is a beginning era, a middle era, and a new era. For them, the middle era is the golden age. It is characterized by names such as Dillard, Longman, Enns, Groves, Kelly, Fantuzzo, Clowney, etc. In Clair Davis’s rather sweeping dismissal of the beginning era, the target is E.J. Young, who, according to Davis, relinquished pursuit of understanding the meaning of the OT in favor of crushing liberal arguments (I am sure Davis means this as a generalization, not an absolute statement).

I find it interesting that Van Til is not mentioned, who was certainly part of the beginning era. I also find it interesting that Gaffin was not mentioned much, who is really a bridge figure in some ways, having studied under Murray, and taught during most of the “middle” era, and having quite a large presence in the “new” era as well, given that Tipton and Garner are quite thoroughly cut from the same cloth as Gaffin. No one could conceivably learn about Paul from successors to Gaffin, could they? But then, the post is really about the OT department, isn’t it?

I find it sad that the generalized opinion is that WTS students really won’t learn much about the Bible from such (impliedly) pitiful scholars as Iain Duguid and G.K. Beale. I consider both of these men to be successors to Geerhardus Vos, and I can offer no higher compliment. I have learned immensely from them, about what the Bible means.

In my time at WTS, the OT department was Groves, Kelly, Enns, and Green. I learned from all of them. A lot, in fact. But I have also learned from Duguid, one of my very favorite OT commentators. I do not think that WTS has declined.

The real issue is whether the OT department respects systematic theology or not. In the “middle” era, I would say that the relationship of the OT department at WTS to systematic theology was ambivalent at best, antagonistic at worst. I heard many stories of “debates” between ST professors and OT professors where cardinal points of orthodoxy were challenged by OT professors, points such as the ultimate sovereignty of God over all creation, and the very validity of ST itself (if some OT profs were to be believed, then Gaffin, as professor of biblical AND systematic theology, ought to have been highly schizophrenic). To put it mildly, I never experienced any such schizophrenia from Dr. Gaffin, from whom I took five classes.

The publication of Vos’s Reformed Dogmatics could not come at a better time. Vos was a generalist theologian. He could do biblical theology (NO one better!) and exegesis, systematic theology (I have read the first three volumes, and am now in volume four of a truly masterful systematic theology), historical theology (his treatment of the history of covenant theology makes him look a lot like Richard Muller), and he could preach! The successors to Vos today are men like G.K. Beale and Iain Duguid. They, like Vos, respect the claims that systematic theology has to put a boundary around exegesis. The loss of the “creativity” that such boundaries supposedly stifle is, in my mind, what folks like Longman, Davis, and Logan mourn. Others like myself will consider the newfound respect for ST in the OT department to be a gain, not a loss. Creativity with regard to the boundaries of orthodoxy is not a virtue. We need to dig deeper into the Word, not shift sideways. True creativity comes in the context of boundaries that are clear and, yes, small, as any true artist knows.

29 Comments

  1. Reed Here said,

    December 8, 2015 at 11:43 am

    I’m going to do the best I can to differ without unkindness or disrespect with Drs. Longman, Tremper and Davis, the last who I am thankful to God for in teaching me a beauty to History (not just Church) that I knew was there but couldn’t put my fingers quite around it.

    I am a “late Middle” graduate of WTS. I am grateful for the learning to read the Bible I received even from those with whom I disagree with on some (vital) things. I am also grateful for Drs. Edgar, Oliphint, Poythress, Ferguson, and Gaffin, those who find themselves, even sadly, on the other side so to speak.

    And, while I respect the men who differ with the decisions of the last decade, I deeply admire and respect the Board of WTS who has had to address these difficult issues and discover God’s will for the future of WTS. I wish God had given a unity on the doctrinal differences. Yet I do NOT lament the departure of those who disagree with the course taken. Their departure DOES NOT mark the decline and fall of WTS. On the contrary, I look forward to even more years of great fruitfulness unto the glory of God. John 15:8

    And for those who’ve departed, I pray for a peace and joy in the sovereignty of God, even where there is honest disagreement. Let us lament the loss of those institutions who fall away from orthodoxy. Surely that is NOT WTS.

  2. December 8, 2015 at 2:13 pm

    Dear Green Baggins;

    I’ve been receiving your blogs for quite some time. And, I’d like to keep getting them. But answer me two questions?

    a) What’s your name and where do you do ministry?

    b) What’s your opinion of this book? “A Denomination in Denial: An Evaluation of the Report of the Committee to Study the Doctrine of Justification of the OPC” by Paul M. Elliot. http://www.teachingtheword.org

  3. Roy Kerns said,

    December 8, 2015 at 3:29 pm

    I read Clair Davis’ comments with appreciation. A ’74 WTS grad, I very, very much appreciate(d) him. He was a cherished mentor and beloved friend. I owe much to him and to nearly every one of those whom he names under whom I studied.

    His comments about what he called early WTS (before his tenure, including comments about his student days in the ’50s), led me to think of an observation about an analogous effort: one goes to war with the weapons available, not necessarily the weapons one wishes one had. I’d add that all too often historical hindsight enables one to realize that they had chosen less important battlefields or had chosen a less decisive overall strategy.

    Thus I appreciate Clair’s dismay at so much effort getting spent on refuting attacks on the Bible by pagans and even confused believers in contrast to the time spent on actually immersing students in the effort to understand and submit to the Bible. (Tho I admit my own inability and sloth a factor, I would add that my 2 aka B rather than A gpa reflected this appreciation. Realizing my limitations and the constraints of time, I tended to focus less on learning the higher and lower critics and refuting them than I did on mastering apologetics, systematics, and OTHT.)

    Yet that focus led to my very, very much appreciating fellows Clair did not mention: in particular, Van Til, Frame, Gaffin, Robertson. And, because of Gaffin, the Dutch, specifically Vos, Ridderbos, and Bavink. While I know that one cannot write a perfect paper, compose a perfect recollection, I am surprised…and dismayed…at that omission. Van Til provided the foundational equipment to understand how the Word makes itself supreme, a way of recognizing any opposition to that supremacy, and a fulcrum and lever to analyze and dismantle that opposition. The essays in his Festschrift, most of which “don’t get it”, nail to the wall the reality of Van Til’s unique place in church history. Frame’s central burden pivoted on insisting we students hear the Word and shape our thinking by it. Of course that does not mean John did this perfectly himself; I’m not denying quibbles and caveats. Just making an “oh, by the way” point. Dick Gaffin taught submission to scripture by doing so in unmatched exegetical effort. Palmer Robertson provided the companion teaching that enabled the mechanics of reading the Bible as one book. His contribution to not merely WTS students, but to the church seeing Christ in, well, the OT (witness the many books springboarding from his The Christ of the Covenants) , makes me very puzzled about commendations regarding WTS OT teaching somehow not mentioning him.

    The legacy of these guys, too, besides those whom Clair names is what I look for in the WTS future.

  4. greenbaggins said,

    December 8, 2015 at 11:03 pm

    Rick, welcome to the blog. My name is Lane Keister, and I minister at a PCA church in Winnsboro, SC called Lebanon Presbyterian Church.

    I have not read the book you refer to. Could you summarize it for me?

  5. Cris A Dickason said,

    December 9, 2015 at 1:09 pm

    Lane: I would be hard pressed to find fault with anything you have written here regarding WTS.
    We could however, always find a point to enhance, or another professor to mention. Let me name two men, each not quite fitting Dr. Davis’ categories.
    1. Meredith G. Kline – faithful upholder of the authority and inerrancy of Scripture, and attentive to ST, from within the OT department. I think our contemporary churchmen and academics (PCA & OPC) perhaps make too much of the differences between MGK and John Murray.
    2. Vern S. Poythress – faithful all these years in the NT department, and in his other, wider fields of theological reflection and writing.
    Both of these men were/are scary brilliant. Yet they use and subdue that brilliance under the authority of the whole counsel of God, and for the service of the Church. Both of these men, and Dr. Gaffin too, could have sought broader, wider fields of activity; they could have pursued larger institutions, larger paychecks, but they have stayed the course, and that course is for the Church’s benefit.

    Anyone who knows me and the details of my OPC/Canadian Reformed/OPC pilgrimage will know that I’m not a simple, start-struck fan-boy.

    Prodigally,

    -=Cris=-

  6. RGLeverett said,

    December 10, 2015 at 8:15 am

    I attended WTS in the late 80s & early 90s and am extremely thankful for the education received there. Honestly I believe the faculty was at it’s strongest then. I’ve been reluctant to jump in on the debate Pete Enn’s book not having a chance to read Pete’s latest works. The christotelic debate seems to me not very different than what has been taught for years in biblical & OT theology yet that has not been a major concern of mine.

    But I’ve been very disturbed by the slow decline in the PT department. When I made plans to attend WTS a number of RTS southern friends would always say WTS is good for academics but has nothing practical but the opposite was true. Back then we had heavyweights like: Harvie Conn, Manny Ortiz, Tim Keller, John Bettler & the whole CCEF crew. The supplemented by people like Carl Ellis, John Perkins, Jack Miller. I think I can say with confidence that we had the best PT department around.

    The urban missions program was one of the best in the world and was one of the declared distinctions of WTS. The relationship with CUTS brought a richness & diversity to the seminary But for some reason the urban missions program has been allowed to decline and then discarded without so much as an announcement. There appears to be no involvement at CUTS and there seems to have been no attempt to save a once vital part of WTS. But the frustrating part is when I as an alumnus asks questions about why this important part of Westminster’s heritage is being abandoned I get silence.

    I can understand Sam Logan, Clair Davis, Tremper Longman Will Barker’s frustration if they’re getting the same silent treatment when they are asking questions.

  7. Rick Phillips said,

    December 10, 2015 at 10:55 am

    RGL,

    I don’t know who you have asked for questions about WTS, but I am certain that if you contacted any current board member he would be happy to discuss these matters frankly and cordially. I certainly would.

    I will say, however, that the dividing line at WTS is clear, just as you mention it. You say that you are reluctant to comment on Dr. Enns’ works. That is telling, since it was the acceptance of Enns on the part of “Middle Westminster” that has marked the breach. If you read Enns’ more recent books, you will see that the trajectory made so clear in I&I has continued quite far outside the bounds of confessional Calvinism, or even evangelicalism. It is utterly rejected at Westminster. Moreover, your view that the christotelic hermeneutic carries on the WTS tradition is strikingly at odds with our view. Edmund Clowney taught the centrality of Christ to the OT. The christotelic approach teaches that Christ is not organically present in the OT at all. I realize that former colleagues have disagreed on these matters. But I would point out that they are not slight matters in the least. The current Westminster has no embarrassment in saying that we stand firm on the inerrancy and authority of Scripture and the centrality of Christ as alpha and omega of the entire Bible. Nor do we believe that we have abandoned our heritage in doing so, but rather are fulfilling it. Westminster has published a number of accessible works making clear our position, but there will soon be released a book titled “Seeing Christ in All of Scripture” that makes clear the current WTS hermeneutic and its fulfillment of our historic commitments, featuring chapters by Drs. Poythress, Duguid, Beale, and Gaffin.

    Lastly, you express concern that WTS’s illustrious critics have received no answers to questions. I can assure you that the reality is far from the true situation. Rather, they simply do not like the answers they have been patiently given and some have chosen to vent their frustration in the most public and personal manner. Meanwhile, those with close acquaintance with the current faculty give strong testimony to the outstanding instruction being given by long-serving professors you may remember — Gaffin (who is still around), Poythress, Trueman, Edgar, Oliphint, Lillback, and Witmer — together with the truly outstanding more recent additions, Beale, Crowe, Duguid, Tipton, Garner, Wynne, Jue, and R. Kent Hughes (not a bad homilectics teacher, I dare say). We are thrilled to be welcoming Johnny Gibson from Cambridge to the OT department, where he promises to make truly outstanding contributions.

    I hope this helpfully answers at least some of your concerns. If you contact me personally I would be happy to discuss any others.

  8. Rick Phillips said,

    December 10, 2015 at 11:08 am

    Adendum: I meant to say in the third paragraph: “I can assure you that what you have heard is far from the true situation.”

  9. RGLeverett said,

    December 10, 2015 at 11:24 am

    As I said I haven’t read Pete’s book and so I have not joined in the debate over I&I; I have read some of Doug Green’s works and see the debate over the christotelic approach as a tempest in a teapot and merely a supplement to Biblical theology taught before. But all that is ground that has been plowed over and over and I have little to contribute. That’s just how I see that debate; I see no need to debate that via blogsphere.

    But I can say that I did contact the seminary over a year ago via email about the dismantling of the urban missions program. I received a very generalized response but no answers when I asked followup questions. 10 months ago after receiving a donation request I followed up by asking again about the urban missions program yet received no response.

    I did have some communication from a trustee who said that the program was possibly discontinued because thee was no one of Harvie’s & Manny’s stature and scholarship to continue the program. That may be the reason but yet why weren’t alumni advised that WTS was changing a declared distinction of the school? Why was a search not conducted for new leadership? Of all the missionaries in the NAPARC churches & alumni of the Urban program at WTS there is no one to provide leadership to what used to be one of the premier urban mission programs in the world?

    I have nothing against the current faculty and still remember many of them with love and appreciation. Perhaps I shouldn’t have mentioned the remarks that others have made publicly about silence they received from WTS; if so I apologize. But my experience has been a reluctance to have a conversation about the dismantling of urban missions.

  10. Rick Phillips said,

    December 10, 2015 at 2:04 pm

    Thanks, RGL. My understanding was that it has been a struggle to find someone of the proper stature to continue the program. I’m not sure that it can be said at this time that there is a decision to “dismantle” urban missions, even though it is obvious that there has been great difficulty in sustaining that program. And I can well understand how that is disappointing. That’s probably all I can say, but I really would be happy to have a more extended conversation about it via email or the phone, if you are interested.

  11. RGLeverett said,

    December 10, 2015 at 2:25 pm

    As I said that was never explained to me by anyone at WTS but by someone else. When I asked I was not given that answer.

    But I also don’t recall ever hearing of a search or inquiries about a search for someone to direct the program. I find it hard to believe that with all the missionaries and ministers in the NAPARC churches as well as WTS alumni that there is not someone who can direct an urban missions program at WTS. If a program is an important distinctive then you make it a priority to find someone.

    Harvie Conn was an OPC missionary when he first came to WTS nor is every teacher who comes automatically a scholar of renown but they are given time to grow. I’m not sure what is meant by someone of proper stature.

  12. Sam Logan said,

    December 11, 2015 at 6:16 pm

    For whatever it may be worth, here are the names of some people who have signed a public letter in which they indicate agreement with at least some of the things which Clair Davis and Tremper Longman have said:

    Rev. Suler D. Acosta – Westminster M.Div. 2003

    Rev. Don Aldin – Westminster, M.Div. 1992

    Dr. Dan Allender – Westminster M.Div. 1978

    Dr. John H. Armstrong – President of the ACT3 Network and friend of Westminster

    Rev. Steven Badorf – Westminster M.Div. 2001

    Dr. Susan Baker – Westminster part-time lecturer 1991-1998; Westminster Adjunct Professor and Staff 1999-2008

    Dr. William Barker – Westminster Faculty member 1987 – 2000; Academic Dean / Vice President for Academic Affairs 1991 – 2000

    Dr. Tuck Bartholomew – Westminster M.Div. 1991; Westminster Board member 2005 – 2008

    Mr. Joel J. Bassett – Westminster M.Div. 2013

    Mr. Casey Bedell – Westminster student 2006-2009; Reformed Theological Seminary M.A. 2013

    Ms. Elisabeth Berger – Westminster Ph.D. student 1997 – 2004

    Ms. Cecelia J. Bernhardt – Westminster M.Div. 1996

    Dr. John Bettler – Westminster M.Div. 1967; Westminster Faculty member 1974 – 2006

    Rev. R. Nicholas Black – Westminster M.A.R. 1988

    Rev. Jason Bobo – Westminster M.Div. 2009

    Dr. Mark Boda – Westminster M.Div. 1991

    Mr. Steve Bohannon – Westminster M.Div. 2011

    Rev. Jonathan Bonomo – Westminster M.Div. 2011

    Rev. Geoff Bradford – Westminster M.Div. 2000

    Dr. Larry Bray – The North American Reformed Seminary, Administrator; The Urban Ministry Institute (World Impact), Academic Dean

    Rev. Alex Burgess – Westminster M.Div. 1997

    Rev. Bill Burns – Westminster M.Div. 2008; Westminster Teaching Fellow 2008

    Mr. Ben Byerly – Westminster M.Div. 2001

    Mr. Dan Cason – Westminster M.Div. 1996; Westminster Director of Admissions 2000 – 2008; Westminster Bookstore 2011 – 2014

    Mrs. Keeley P. Chorn – Westminster M.Div. 2009

    Mr. Daeil Chun – Westminster M.Div. 2012

    Rev. Bo Cogbill – Redeemer Theological Seminary M.Div. 2012

    Rev. Ben Coppedge – Westminster M.Div. 2013

    Rev. Chris Currie – Westminster M.Div. 2012

    Dr. Rob Dalrymple – Westminster Th.M. 2004; Westminster Ph.D. 2008; Westminster Teaching Fellow 2003 – 2006

    Dr. D. Clair Davis – Westminster M. Div., 1956; Westminster Faculty member 1966 – 2004

    Mr. Robert F. Davis – Westminster Director of Development 2008 – 2010

    Rev. Kyle Dillon – PCA Teaching Elder, Faculty member of Theology at Westminster Academy in Memphis, Tennessee

    Dr. Michael Emlet – Westminster M.Div. 2001

    Dr. John F. Evans – Head of Department and Lecturer, Department of Biblical Studies, Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology, Africa International University

    Dr. William B. Evans – Westminster M.A.R 1984; Westminster Th.M. 1986

    Dr. Chris Fantuzzo – Westminster M.Div. 2001; Westminster part-time faculty member 2002 – 2005; Westminster full-time faculty member 2009 – 2014

    Dr. Joseline Fugar – Westminster M.A. 2003; Westminster D.Min. 2006

    Dr. E. R. Geehan – Westminster M.Div. 1968

    Mr. Michael Gembola – Westminster M.A.R. 2012

    Dr. Michael Goheen – Westminster M.A.R 1984

    Rev. David Goneau – Westminster M.Div. 2001

    Rev. Alex Graham III – Westminster M.Div. 2008

    Chaplain Luke G. Heibel (U. S. Army) – Westminster M.Div. 2007

    Dr. Craig Higgins – Westminster M.Div. 1989; Westminster Board member 2002 – 2008

    Mr. Brian Hogan – Westminster M.Div. 2014

    Rev. Michael Hollenbach – Westminster M.Div. 1998

    Mr. Daniel Yongkee Hwang – Westminster M.Div. 2000

    Mr. Peter Jansson – Westminster Board member 2001 – 2008

    Mr. Nathanael Johnston – Westminster M.A.R. 2012

    Dr. Paul C. Kemeny – Westminster M.A.R. 1986; M.Div. 1987

    Dr. Laura Keyser – M.S. in Christian Counseling from Philadelphia Biblical University, Licensed Professional Counselor, Ph.D. in Human Services from Capella University

    Rev. Andrew Kim – Westminster M.Div. 2012

    Rev. Iron D. Kim – Westminster M.Div. 1994

    Mr. Michael King – Westminster student 2009 – 2010; Redeemer Seminary M.Div. 2014

    Rev. James C. Kirk – Westminster M.Div, 2002

    Rev. Steven Ko – Westminster M. Div. 2011

    Rev. Jean Young Lee – Westminster M.Div. 2010

    Dr. Kyuboem Lee – Westminster M.Div. 1997; Westminster D.Min. 2006; Westminster Adjunct Faculty, 2006 – 2011

    Rev. Rob Leverett – Westminster M.Div. 1991

    Dr. Samuel Logan – Westminster M.Div., 1968; Westminster Faculty member 1979 – 2006; President 1991 – 2005

    Dr. Tremper Longman – Westminster M.Div. 1977; Westminster full-time Faculty member 1981 – 1998

    Dr. Kin Yip Louie – Westminster M. Div. 1993

    Rev. James Lovelady – Westminster M.Div. 2009

    Rev. Gregg MacDougall – Westminster M.Div. 1995

    Ms. Rosalynn Mathews – Westminster M.Div. 2014

    Dr. Dan McCartney – Westminster Ph.D. 1989; Westminster part-time Faculty member 1983 – 1987; Westminster full-time Faculty member 1987 – 2009

    Dr. Gordon McConville, Professor of Old Testament Theology at the University of Gloucestershire; friend of the Westminster biblical tradition

    Rev. John McCracken – Westminster M.Div. 1999

    Mrs. Mindy McCracken – Westminster student 1999

    Rev. Glenn McDowell – Westminster M.Div. 1980

    Rev. Steve Meidahl – Westminster M.Div. 1993

    Mrs. Kimberly Vinal Monroe – Westminster M.A.R. 1989

    Dr. Philip Monroe – Westminster M.A.R. 1991; Westminster employee 1989 – 1994

    Rev. Justin Moore – Westminster M.Div. 2007

    Ms. Sara Morrison – Westminster M.A.R. 1988

    Rev. Bob Myers – Westminster M.Div. 1988

    Mrs. Elizabeth Lama Myers – Westminster M.A.R. 1989

    Mr. Jack Murphy – Redeemer Seminary M.A. 2011

    Ms. Frances Bragdon Nelson – Westminster M.A. 2005

    Mr. Jeffrey McRobbie – Westminster M.Div. 2004; Westminster employee 2005 – 2006

    Mrs. Nina McRobbie – Westminster M.A. 2004; Westminster Faculty Secretary, Educational Technologist 1998 – 2006

    Ms. Arlene Navarro – Westminster M.A. 2007

    Dr. Eko Ong – Present student at Redeemer Seminary

    Dr. Iain Provan – Marshall Sheppard Professor of Biblical Studies, Regent College

    Rev. Jacob Puckett – Westminster M.A.R. 2011

    Dr. Meredith Riedel – Westminster M.Div. 2002

    Mr. Austin Ricketts – Westminster M.A.R. 2004

    Rev. Sean Roberts – Westminster M.Div. 2009

    Mr. Jesse Robinson – Westminster M.Div. 2013

    Dr. Ronald W. Scates – Former Senior Pastor of Highland Park Presbyterian Church in Dallas and part-time student at Redeemer Seminary

    Ms. Karen Schoch – Westminster MABC 2009

    Dr. George M. Schwab – Westminster M.Div. 1994; Westminster Ph.D. 1999

    Mr. Cameron Shaffer – Redeemer Theological Seminary, expected graduation 2015

    Dr. Tim Sheridan – Westminster M.Div. 1999

    Dr. Scot Sherman – Westminster M.Div. 1989

    Dr. Jerry Shepherd — Westminster M.A.R. 1985; Westminster Ph.D. 1995; Westminster Adjunct Lecturer in Old Testament 1987 – 1992

    Rev. Jedidiah Slaboda – Westminster M.Div. 2005

    Dr. Adrian T. Smith – Westminster Th.M. 1997; Westminster Ph.D. 2006; Westminster Lecturer, 1998 – 2003; Westminster Faculty member 2006 – 2009

    Rev. Joel St. Clair – Westminster M.Div. 2009

    Rev. Tony Stiff – Westminster M.Div. 2007

    Rev. Stuart Stogner – Westminster M.Div. 1990

    Rev. Bryan Stoudt – Westminster M.Div. 1999

    Rev. Samuel Sutter, Westminster M.Div. 2006

    Mr. Jon Marq Toombs – Redeemer Theological Seminary M.A.R. 2012

    Rev. Ryan Tompkins – Westminster M.Div. 2004

    Mr. Gene Twilley – Westminster M.Div. 2013

    Ms. Jessica Wey – Westminster M.A.R 2010 and M.A.B.C. 2011

    Rev. Benjamin Wheeler – Westminster M.Div. 2008

    Mr. John Williams – Westminster student 1969 – 70; Westminster Board member 1994 – 2008

    Dr. Michael D. Williams – Professor of Systematic Theology at Covenant Theological Seminary and Adjunct Professor of Systematic Theology at Redeemer Seminary

    Mr. Thomas Wilson – Westminster M.A.R. 1981; Westminster Th.M. student 1982

    Rev. Kenneth Woo – Westminster M.Div. 2004

  13. Richard Lindberg said,

    December 11, 2015 at 11:20 pm

    I was at Westminster from 1976 to 1980, taking an MAR in Biblical Studies and a Th.M. in Church History. My professors were Frame, Gaffin, Shepherd, Strimple, Philip Hughes, Clowney, Dillard (Tremper was my tutor in Hebrew), Godfrey, Robertson, Davis and Poythress. I thought that was a stellar faculty who were committed to good scholarship and the Westminster standards. Later, during the Enns controversy, I was taken back to read comments by Tremper that he was not happy with the confessionalism that was required of the faculty. Enns did not strike me as one building on the work of Young and Stonehouse. While it was painful to read the turmoil over Enns’ work, it was necessary to deal with his views and dismiss him from the faculty. I cannot speak to events regarding Doug Green. However, it seems to me that the seminary has taken steps to maintain the scholarship and confessional position established by Dr. Machen.

    I look at the seminary faculty in terms of generations. The original faculty was the first. The professors I had I consider the second generation. That would make the current faculty either the third or fourth generation. There is a tendency in theological education for the commitment to wane as time goes on, but that does not seem to be true of Westminster from where I sit as an alumnus. Once the Enns matter was settled, the seminary returned to its confessional commitment. If other professors left at that time, then perhaps they did not belong on the faculty.

    Would Dr. Logan publish the letter he referred to?

  14. GLW Johnson said,

    December 14, 2015 at 8:34 am

    I studied at WTS from 1978 up to 1992. I was privileged to take classes with both Clair Davis and Sam Logan and I find it difficult to imagine that those two men would see Peter Enns (and those who defended him) as representative of what the seminary has historically stood for.

  15. rfwhite said,

    December 14, 2015 at 9:02 pm

    I’m with Gary on this one. He and I overlapped at Westminster from the early 80s to the late 80s, and even then there seemed to be a tug of war going on between faculty who viewed the seminary as “a playground of ideas for the academic elite” and faculty who viewed it as “a training ground for churchmen in a confessional-theologian mold.”

  16. December 16, 2015 at 11:57 am

    […] continuity comes from a post on Facebook at Tremper Longman’s page (made available at Greenbaggins). Tremper calls it Middle Westminster, an odd phrase if you think in historical categories of the […]

  17. dgwired said,

    December 16, 2015 at 9:44 pm

    Gary and Fowler, but Pete Enns in 1994 was not Pete Enns in 2005. And when you’re default mode is not to be one of Machen’s warrior children, then you show leniency — until it goes BOOM!

    Sorry, but I say Sam and Clair helped to extend that leash.

    But what do I know. I like Machen.

  18. GLW Johnson said,

    December 17, 2015 at 8:21 am

    DGH, I remember the shock that many of us experienced when we heard that Enns was being added to the faculty-even back when he was student he was known as a provocateur who took great delight throwing jabs at those of us who looked at WTS as the successor to Old Princeton.

  19. rfwhite said,

    December 17, 2015 at 10:47 am

    Darryl: I’m good with your point. My point was to describe the camps that were forming in the immediate aftermath of the Sheperd controversy and that came to clearer definition in the 90s.

  20. Dr. Mark W. Karlberg said,

    December 18, 2015 at 9:33 am

    Reading Daryl Hart’s comments on Longman’s point of view at http://oldlife.org/2015/12/westminster-ii/), is there a suggestion here that Westminster III (after the dismissal of Enns and Green by the Lillback regime) is back on track, having returned to the glorious days of “Machen and the fundamentalists, “i.e., those bearing the Westminster orthodoxy of the founding faculty? The prominent issues here are twofold: (1) biblical inerrancy; and (2) the doctrine of salvation (specifically, justification by faith alone). Of course, Westminster I came to an inglorious end with the departure of Professor Meredith Kline. Happily, he did leave an indelible imprint upon Westminster in California. This now raises the pressing question whether or not Westminster West remains unambiguously at odds with the new theological direction taken at Westminster East. What direction, you ask? Does Westminster West denounce unequivocally elements of semi-Barthianism that has gained widespread ground within Reformed circles today and within evangelical Protestantism more broadly, notably as regards the teaching on “eschatological” justification and election? The question is whether or not Westminster West will commit unreservedly and uncompromisingly to clear, consistent teaching upholding the fundamentals of Reformed orthodoxy, that borne by Old Westminster. The test case is now front and center in the dispute within the Orthodox Presbyterian Church regarding to the classic Reformed doctrine of “republication” (what is the peculiar role of “law” in the Mosaic Covenant). For more on this, see http://www.trinityfoundation.org/update.php?id=2.

    Dr. Mark W. Karlberg

  21. Bjohnson said,

    December 18, 2015 at 11:23 am

    Dr.Kalrlburg,
    I am confused by your perspective. It seems to me that your post would make more sense if the ‘West’ and ‘East’ were reversed in most sentences. Are you really wondering if WSCal is equivocating on justification, law gospel distinctions, and republication as classically understood? Horton and Clark certainly seem to stand uniquivocally steadfast. Can you point out others who are taking an opposing side to these matters on the same facutly?

  22. Trent said,

    January 5, 2016 at 11:51 am

    Hey Rev Keister,
    Its the first real article on The Aquila Report I read today and though you might be interested. Again it deals with WTS this time from William Evans’ view.
    It is on his blog, I was going to post it but the new browser on my kindle will not let me….

  23. GLW Johnson said,

    January 6, 2016 at 7:57 am

    Bill has been grinding an axe against Westminster West for sometime now. It was only a matter of time before he started swinging at WTS. His distorted assessment of Vern Poythress shows him to be very agnosia about the whole matter.

  24. January 7, 2016 at 12:10 pm

    Here is the link to the Dr. Evans piece.

    http://theaquilareport.com/is-the-spirit-of-old-princeton-finally-dead/

  25. Stuart said,

    January 7, 2016 at 2:42 pm

    I, for one, am glad that the period at WTS that involved teaching Enns and anyone sympathetic to him is over. The reasons probably need not be set forth. I would suggest another frame of reference for thinking about the ebb and flow at WTS. Though there were practical reasons for WTS not starting out as a church seminary, the diverse denominational sources for faculty and leadership were both a blessing and a problem. At first, the OPC and WTS closely overlapped in leadership and a militant stance against liberalism. The OPC continued to produce some scholars (e.g. Gaffin, Kline) and there was no PCA until about 1973. As the first generation of faculty and leaders left this world, and as Reformed Ecumenicity emerged as a major concern of Dr. Clowney, it became natural to tap the gifts of other good scholars outside the small compass of the OPC. Having OPC or PCA credentials still was an important confidence builder; the next two presidents of WTS, though WTS grads, switched from liberal denominations to NAPARC churches before assuming major roles at WTS. I think a less militant mood was inevitable under these circumstances and thus the “middle period” began. Those extolling this period feel solidarity with it and that “their” seminary has since been lost. I feel more emotional and spiritual solidarity with the first period even though I was at WTS from 1971-74 (relatively late for the first period). I felt “my” seminary was lost when Enns, et al. came along. I suspect most of first generation WTS, including Machen, would have felt the same way.

  26. Joe said,

    January 10, 2016 at 8:33 pm

    Nice ad hominem, Dr. Johnson. Usually when I write things like that the editors won’t publish it but I guess I’m not one of the guys with white hats.

    Stuart, I love how you write “I suspect” because I have a sneaking suspicion that we don’t really know how Machen would feel or at least could, potentially, be surprised if he were here today to comment. What am I basing this off of? Well, when I was at WTS I fished a number of documents that used to belong to Machen out of the trash. The library was culling their collection and the antiquated literature caught my eye. It has led to bit of an interesting perspective into the Machen’s life. The guy was a great conservationist and an avid mountaineer, a world traveler, went to the theater like it was going out of style, and even had what could be considered nazi friendly literature from his travels in his collection. I guess my only point is that the WTS founding faculty were more complex people then we give them credit for and I think we make them too one dimensional through our veneration of them.

  27. Stuart said,

    January 13, 2016 at 3:00 pm

    Joe, Though I too believe Machen was complex and not in the conventional mold of a lot of conservative thought, he was more militant than ecumenical (in the sense of broad church ecumenism). My remarks simply accept for the sake of argument the three phase paradigm offered by current critics of WTS and hence my “suspicions.” I make no pretension to being able to read minds–especially of those departed for decades. Yet my “suspicions” are not idle ones but rooted in the presumptive difference between first and second phase WTS. I think the concept of a “president” of the seminary would have been “suspect.” My understanding is that this position was not one Van Til thought should have the powers it had (cf. the PTS history). CVT and Clowney were “rumored” (not idle rumors IMO) to have had some conflicts. I “suspect” there are living witnesses to this from both the pro second phase and the pro third phase WTS faculty. Further, Machen was not particularly happy with those who kept ties with the old PTS (post 1929) and the PCUSA (post 1936) . About the day he died he had been in an animated exchange with some guy from the old PCUSA who came to talk to him. Ironically, and as I remember the story, a nun at the hospital in ND removed the PCUSA guy for Machen’s health sake. I do not feel obligated to follow Machen down every path he took. I think his views about race that were not good (yet maybe no worse than Woodrow Wilson ‘s views). Warfield was better in this regard. Yet Machen was solid on historic Christianity. I do not see Enns that way. Machen valued good churchmen on the faculty of WTS. It is only in the third phase that I see WTS getting back to more ordained ministers from conservative Presbyterian denominations. I accept that Clowney blessed students–myself included–with a vital Biblical Theology rather than simply critiquing all the heretics. But the loss of the militant emphasis allowed serious errorists like Enns to creep in and I prefer the non academic doctorate faculty members like Clowney to the prestige degree member who teaches or insinuates error. Enns has come to embrace the error of Kuitert concerning an historical Adam (CVT roundly criticized Kuitert and the umkehr at Amsterdam). Machen was dedicated to the historical faith and a supernatural Christanity in a way that I find missing in Enns so perhaps my “suspicions” will not seem too wild to other paranoids on the list.

  28. GLW Johnson said,

    January 14, 2016 at 7:52 am

    Very well put, Stuart.

  29. stephenhague said,

    September 1, 2016 at 4:14 pm

    It seems a peculiar phenomenon about WTS that for all the years we have followed their varying trajectories, so MUCH discussion has centered on the faculty. Understandably, with the broad influence of WTS in the world, every conservative who wants to preserve orthodoxy and faithfulness watches and prays for such schools to retain those. And so, we rejoice at the (hopeful) ending of the many years of the Dillard-Enns historical-critical hermeneutical reign.This was necessary to preserve the gospel at WTS,

    My concern is that perhaps so much focus has been on the men who teach in such places because they have been put on pedestals for various reasons. Is it possible that we have an exaggerated sense of their importance, and thus they are tolerated when departing from orthodoxy for much too long, and then not held accountable? In reality, those of us who teach are just one among equals who have simply been given particular gifts to serve in building the church and expanding the gospel through helping equip others with tools for such work. Seminary professors are not somehow akin to OT prophets or NT Apostles. We are quite fallible, oftentimes missing the objectives of our mission, even erring, Yet, academic pride (oxymoron) is endemic to our enterprise, and we often fail to constantly remind ourselves and our students to zealously test all things (we teach) by the Scripture.

    As one dear friend and scholar, Allan MacRae, used to say to me, “Don’t you go writing any books about me or naming any buildings after me. Stick with the Word of God.” Such an attitude seemed so remarkable, but it should not be.

    Great IQs, extensive publication, and scholarly notoriety do not change the fact that we are but servants of the body of Christ. When students start to sing our praises, we must refuse to fall for it, or it may be time to retire.


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